So, the fresh noxious stench that began its journey in Paramakudi—one of the cultural centres of the Pandyan kingdom—and is now emitting its venomous odours from Chennai is an odious remark about Nada Brahmendra, Swami Tyagaraja being a beggar. Whatever the context, the implication of the word “beggar” that the fallen Iyengar Kamal Haasan used for Tyagaraja Swami is clearly demeaning. It is also an insult to beggars who are at least honest about their vocation. By that token, Kamal Haasan’s remark equally applies to his friend S.P. Balasubrahmanyam’s father, a great Harikatha exponent and a devout Tyagaraja Bhakta, who followed the saint’s footsteps and performed the unchavritti (what Kamal derogatorily refers to as begging) on the annual Tyagaraja Aradhana.
Kamal Haasan’s record of self-loathing for being born a Brahmin is as protracted, voluminous and unbearable as the thickness and spread of its perverse vapours. The obvious extra layers have been added after he began his foray in Tamil politics. And who were some of the prominent people he sought blessings from at the outset? The dyed-in-cough Naxal Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the hardcore communist Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Kamal’s declared heroes include genocidal psychopaths like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro. In reality, Kamal wouldn’t have dared enter politics as long as Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa were alive, a telling story in itself. To put it bluntly, he’s basically trying to use the leftover crumbs of Dravidian politics to cook his own political dish. This political context is what informs his third-rate slur against Swami Tyagaraja.
Even if we take Kamal Haasan in the limited context of his long career as an actor, the same theme of incurable perversity stands out. The fact that he has not learnt any life lessons even after acting in a classic like Sagara Sangamam, a movie steeped in Sanatana values, one can only imagine the advanced stages his deviance has reached. Kamal dances to Swami Tyagaraja’s moving Kriti, Balakanakamaya, in which he beseeches Sri Ramachandra, using a string of beautifully woven adjectives. The fact that not even an iota of this divine lyric has seeped into Kamal Haasan's opaque psyche shows his lifelong rebellion against even the basic tenets of humane conduct.
Which really puts me in a bind because I had second thoughts before writing this piece…because, because Swami Tyagaraja had himself anticipated and immortalized the infamy of such social toxins more than 200 years ago in a mellifluous Mohana Raga Kriti, endukO bAga teliyadu:
kallalADi kaDupu pallamu nimpuTak-ellavAri dhanamella jErcukonipallavAdharulanella kani Sunakapupillala vale tirigi-voLLa rOgamulu koLLagA tagala…
Filling their stomachs and fattening their bodies;
Employing deceitful ways, they cheat others of their money;
Running behind women with blossomed lips
like dogs running behind bitches and
consequently acquiring plenty of diseases
Blazing words befitting a warrior saint, who followed the inspirational lead of say, Madhusudana Saraswati, one of the pioneers of the tradition of spiritual-military Akhadas that defied the might of Muslim tyranny. Now tell me, gentle reader, can I, can anyone outclass Swami Tyagaraja’s description of the likes of Kamal Haasan? The accompanying tragedy is the observable reality that few if any of the leading Carnatic classical musicians are aware of this side of Tyagaraja Swami. On the contrary, influential sections of this cozy club, especially in the Chennai circuit, have chosen not only to humiliate Swami Tyagaraja’s legacy by literally hawking their musical talent to the merchants of Christist soul-harvesters but some, like the musical urban Naxal, T.M. Krishna, are actively plotting its eventual destruction. Once again, Gana Rishi Tyagaraja has immortalized their infamy as well, in this well-known Pancharatna Kriti, the masterful reproach Dudukugala:
teliyani natavita kSudrulu vanithalu svavasha mouda kubadeSimchi santha silli swaralayambulerungakanu silaathmulai subhathulaku samaanamanu ||6||
I preached [spirituality, devotion, virtue, etc] to charm and obtain the favour of ignorant hypocrites, actors and pimps who sought prostitutes. I was happy doing so feeling proud and egoistic that I am an equal of any great Bhatka without even having the capacity of understanding swara or laya.
sathulakai konnaallasthi kai suthulakai konnallu dhana thatulakai thirigithinaiya tyagarajaaptha ituvanti || 10 ||
I wandered around in search of women,
In search of wealth that lasts just a few days,
A few more days I spent desiring children,
A few more days lusting after fame.
Swami Tyagaraja was able to compose, sing, and disseminate hundreds of such Kritis precisely because of the absolute independence his uncha-vritti gave him. If this be characterized as Brahminical patriarchy, I highly recommend it at least in spirit to every single Hindu irrespective of Varna and economic status. If not for anything, to at least prevent the spread of far left epidemics like Kamal Haasan.
There’s a deep reason Beethoven said that music is a higher revelation than philosophy because it originates in a place that really can’t be known and it is the reason the world’s greatest philosophers and artists have held music as the purest form of art because among other things, it is a striving within, a striving bereft of suffering and one which only culminates in joy. The innate impulse of music in us, once discovered, is akin to the fork in the road that leaves us with a choice between the divine and the human. The turn that the traveler takes decides to take will determine whether he moves closer to the immanent divine or closer to the barbarian. Music is also the most sublime of all creative powers given to us to renew ourselves, and this power attains its highest summit in direct proportion to the power of its appeal to divinity. Any education that doesn’t have place for nurturing this profound creative element will teach nothing of real consequence. On the contrary, the farther we move away from this, the more we lose this capacity for self-renewal and incessant regeneration of the inner life and descend to a state slightly better than barbarism.
Those attuned to Tyagaraja Swami recognize him as an emperor par none: his empire was Rama Bhakti Samrajyam, the Empire of Sri Ramachandra’s Devotion. And the weapon and writ he used in order to lord over it was just one word: renunciation. In the ancient and hoary tradition of all Bhaktas and Bhagavatas that came before him, whose path he followed. What is known as anuraagaat viraagah – by being immersed in devotion, one attains renunciation.
It is this that provided Tyagaraja Swami with peace at the level of the mind and absolute freedom in the realm of dealing with the “real” world. His “real” world was an awakened inner vision of eternity that permeated his being and several of the hundreds of Kritis in which he addresses his own mind (manasa etulo, manasuloni marmamulu, manasu nilpa shaktilekapote, paraloka sadhaname manasa etc), were composed the moment he felt even a slight blur in this inner vision.
Only such a vision can and will remind us of our own petty littleness, insignificance, and inconsequence. This comes alive, in fact, Tyagaraja comes alive before our closed eyes in almost all Kritis where he tirelessly emphasizes his own insignificance and thereby delivers a profound spiritual lesson: true renunciation occurs when we joyously, willingly invite the spiritual to conquer the worldly within us. This is exactly how Tyagaraja conquered Sri Ramachandra himself. In pain, sorrow, happiness, joy, ecstasy, devotion, worship, inviting him home, dressing him up, singing him lullabies, describing his childhood pranks, extolling his valour, describing Rama Rajya, arranging his marriage with Sitamma, celebrating just the glory of his name, taking him as a companion on a journey, seeking him, finding solace, holding him as the embodiment of the Upanishads, as the sweetest essence of music, teasing him, ranting against him, taunting him…the list is as ever-expanding as the lyrical meaning and musical possibilities of his Kritis.
We feel the joyous eagerness of fulfilled anticipation when he asks Sri Ramachandra, nannu palimpa nadachivacchitivo – did you come by foot all the way towards me to protect me? Or asks Sri Rama to drop him home, rara maa inti daaka – come with me till my home, the word “daaka” (till) indicates the casual intimacy with a treasured companion and friend. Or offers a simple meal asking Sri Rama to savour it in Aragimpave…it’s no ordinary meal. The milk and butter has been sanctified by the touch of Janaki’s hands. Or puts the Sarvabhouma (Emperor) Sri Ramachandra to sleep as he rocks his cradle in Uyyalalugavayya. It is no ordinary cradle but a cradle of playful songs. Or beseeches him in the immensely popular and immortal, Nagumomu kanaleni – can’t you protect me realizing my plight of being unable to see your smiling face? Or the equally popular nanu vidichi kadalakura where he pleads Sri Ramachandra not to forsake him. Or accuses him of obstinacy in Adamodi galada…can’t you even talk to me, Ramayya, someone who has considered you as a companion and soothing shade? Or tasks him to task: ennaallu Urake – let’s see how long you’ll remain unmoved. You think you’re accountable to no one. Or taunts him brutally, Manamu leda? – have you no shame? And immediately challenges him: have you no pride that I am your devotee?
A person who isn’t moved, whose eyes don’t involuntarily summon tears upon listening to Tyagaraja’s Kritis is not human. He’s not even an animal because this is the fundamental nature of our musical inheritance:
Shishurvetti pashurvetti vetti vetti gAnarasaM phaNI |
The essence of music can be savoured by all creatures, from a child to an animal to a snake.
Given this, to which category does Kamal Haasan belong?
There is almost no one at least in South India who have remained untouched by Tyagaraja Swami’s everlasting influence. From the unlettered masses to eminent philosophers, saints, writers, poets, actors, and politicians, the Ksheerasagara of Tyagaraja Swami’s music has yielded nothing but precious pearls. The quality and number of these treasures were limited to the extent of these aforementioned seekers. It was Tyagaraja’s decisive Oka mata oka banamu that reaffirmed the contemporary Rishi, D.V.Gundappa’s decision to stick to his conviction in face of a great worldly temptation. Swami Tyagaraja’s entire life inspired the Sadhvi, Bangalore Nagarathnamma to spend all her savings, to dedicate her life itself to building a grand memorial for him in Thiruvaiyaru. Like him, she opted for the selfsame, time-honoured Sanatana method of uncha-vritti in this grand endeavor. One can multiply such examples. Indeed, Tyagaraja Swami is one of those rare saints whose biography can be narrated using his own Kritis.
When we realize that Tyagaraja Swami attained Sri Ramachandra’s abode as recently as 1846-7 and there has been no one who came remotely close ever since, we immediately discern a wide range of historical and cultural insights. One important historical insight is the decline and later, the wanton destruction of the pristine Sanatana culture of the Chola Desha in the Kaveri delta. Needless, this cultural massacre was deliberately caused by perverted ideologies like Dravidianism.
But for this Dravidian manure which fertilized the cultural wasteland (whatever remains of the original Tamil culture) called contemporary Tamil Nadu, deplorables like Kamal Haasan wouldn’t have dared exhibiting their serial perversities in public. His own cine friend, Rajnikanth went one step further and said that Dravidianism has reduced Tamil Nadu to a graveyard. Neither can Kamal escape responsibility for the deserved outrage he’s being battered with. When royal temptation came to him unasked, Tyagaraja Swami asked Sri Ramachandra in the timeless Kriti in the Kalyani Raga, “nidhichala sukhama, ramuni sannidhiseva sukhama?” – does enormous wealth bring enormous comfort or does seva at the feet of Sri Rama bring comfort? Needless, he chose Sri Rama’s feet. About 175 years after his death, we have the arch pervert, Kamal Haasan indirectly mocking Tyagaraja Swami’s choice by declaring that he chooses a lifelong pursuit of wealth and pleasure. That would have perhaps been okay had Kamal not invoked the Nada Muni’s example to justify his choice.
This 175 year-long journey shows the appalling extent of the inversion of the values that this sacred Sanatana land holds dear.
We recall a time-tested truism of our ancients: the notion of Paapa and Punya and the correspondent punishment that a person gets for indulging in Paapa. Whether we believe in these notions is immaterial at the moment. The notion itself acted as a great restraint and largely preserved the best of Sanatana traditions and conduct of people. Sans that, humans will consciously choose evil and depravity.
Kamal Haasan is the latest, living proof of this truth.
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