Famous Personalities of India : Tyagaraja
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TYAGARAJA (1767 or 1759-1847). Tyagaraja was a devotee whose love of God was expressed through poetry and music of exceptionally high quality, profuse quantity, and immense variety of form. He made a great contribution to the musico-devotional movement of the Kaveri delta region of southern India that sustained Hindu culture there through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, after the collapse of the Vijayanagar Empire. His compositions, described as "fragrant gold," continue to be part of the contemporary repertoire in music of the Carnatic style, passed down through a lineage of disciples and pupils. Most popular among Tyagaraja's compositions are the bhajans, or devotional songs, for individual or congregational worship, but his full length musico-narrative plays with a devotional core are also performed.

Little detail is known about Tyagaraja's life, though a body of hagiography has sprung up around his name. He was born at Tiruvarur, an ancient site of pilgrimage, to a Telugu-speaking brahman family whose patrons were the Kings of Tanjore. He was learned in the entire opus of the Vedas and related literature in Telugu and in Sanskrit. He declined to live at the court and became a wandering mendicant instead; the literal translation of his name, appropriately, is "king of renunciation." This decision entailed some conflict with his family. Tyagaraja's mission in life was to sing in praise of Ram; the 24,000 such devotional songs attributed to him are often compared with Valmiki's Ramayana of 24,000 verses. His fame spread in his lifetime.

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