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It was the 15th, August 1992. I remember this day very distinctly. Mani Ratnam’s block buster ‘Roja‘ opened that day. That night, I took a long bus journey from Madras, located in one corner of Tamilnadu, to what is probably both the geographic, as well as the cultural center of Tamil culture -Tanjavoor.

This visit had a dual-purpose. One of my friends had a reception to celebrate his engagement in Trichy.  Never having set my foot in this part of the country, I made it a point to visit a few  places, in addition to attending this party. The giant Ranganatha temple in Srirangam, the Brihadeeshwarar temple in Tanjavoor were on list. But most important of all, was the place where saint composer Tyagaraja lived and composed his kritis. Tiruvaiyyaru.

Aroud Tiruvaiyyaru

A location map of Tiruvaiyyaru 

Tiruvaiyyaru gets it’s name from the five branches of Kaveri that flow in the area. A few miles upstream, the river Kaveri splits up into five. The resulting branches are called Kaveri, Kollidam, Kodamurutti, Vennar and Vettar. Tiru+ai+ Aru means the sacred five streams. Or the town of five sacred streams. And this stands on the branch that retains the original name Kaveri.

Tiruvaiyyaru is about 15 km away from Tanjavoor. A small dusty non-descript little town that could be anywhere in south India. Except for the fact that it was the karma bhoomi of Tyagaraja.

Tiruvaiyaaru comes to the headlines once a year. During the annual Tyagaraja aradhana, that celebrates the passing away of the saint composer on the 5th day of dark phase of the lunar month Pushya, thousands of musicians and music lovers visit Tiruvaiyyaru to sing the saint’s ompositions near his samadhi.

However, the day I went there was a very quite day. Like the 360 non-Aradhana days in the town. Someone had told me that I can get the directions to Tirumanjana veedi is virtually from anyone from the town. And it was true.  I walked to the main temple in the town first. It was near noon, and the temples of Panchanadeeshwara – ‘the lord of five rivers’, and his consort Dharma Samvardhani were already closed.

Panchanadeeshwara Temple

Panchanadeesha Temple, Tiruvaiyyaru – Picture Courtey – National Informatics 

So I walked to Tirumanjana veedi, to the house where Tyagaraja lived, and spent some peaceful moments there. It felt great to walk in the same room where he sang his compositions. 


An artist’s imagination of Tyagaraja’s vision of Sri Rama  (Courtesy Google image search)

These smoky walls here  had heard Tyagaraja sing and had imbibed his every note, every phrase. They have had the fortune of being with the highs and lows of his life. They have been witness to him saying no to the royal orders to come to the court and sing for the king of Tanjavoor. They had seen how overjoyed he was when a deciple brought in a picture of Rama as a gift on his daughter’s wedding day. They had seen him pray to his lord Rama every day.   Before entering the house, I had thoughts of singing one of Tyagaraja’s compositions in the house, but after I went in my plans changed. Of course, I did not want to contaminate the peace and tranquility these walls enjoyed, with my singing! 


An idol of Tyagarja in the house where he lived,  sorrounded by those smoky fortunate walls!

(Picture courtesy- S Subramanian)

I walked out and  stood on the platform (jagali)  outside imagining how life would have been two hundred years before here in that house. Probably the master was inside praying to his lord Rama. May be one of the deciples would be here on the same platform where I stood, listening unobtrusively and making notes of the new raaga his master was exploring.  Or in the evening, as the utsava of the temple diety goes out in the street, it might be Tyagaraja himself standing where I stood now taking a look at the utsava moorti. Or it might be the master’s wife sitting on this very  platform and having a chat with her neighbour, telling how she is managing the household inspite of her husband not worrying about how the house is run. My imagination was running wild.

Later I walked to the Tyagaraja samadhi mantapa on the banks of the river. It is said that in his 80th year, Tyagaraja had a dream where he saw a vision of Sri Rama telling him that within ten days, Tyagaraja would come to his abode. After that Tyagaraja took to sanyasa, and as predicted he passed away on the 10th day after this dream. This was Pushya bahula panchami, 6th January, 1847. Because he was a sanyasi, he was not cremated, and had a samadhi brindavana built around him. This mantapa structure was built with the efforts of an artist in the musical lineage of Tyagaraja, Bengalooru Nagaratnamma  during the 1930s.

 Tyagaraja Samadhi on the banks of Kaveri

(Tyagaraja Samadhi – Picture by S Subramanian) 

I went in and had a darshana of the Samadhi. There were a few people visiting the samadhi at that time. One of them was a Sadhu who sang some Tyagaraja kritis. After that, I sang a couple of compositions of the saint, and finished with Balamuralikrishna’s composition praising the composer – Tyagaraja Gurum Vande.

This year, the Tyagaraja Aradhana festival falls on 27th January, 2008, a few days from today. By now, musical celebrations might have already started at Tiruvaiyyaru. But if you ask me, you should not go to Tiruvaiyyaru during  the Aradhana, which has become more like a fair these days. Choose any other time of the year to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the place. 

You can still visit the Samadhi. You can still see Kaveri flowing nearby. You can still go to the Panchanadeeshvara temple. But unfortunately, the house of Tyagaraja stands no more in Tirumanjana Veedi in Tiruvaiyyaru. You will not be able to repeat the experience what I had fifteen years ago. I should thank my stars for visiting Tiruvaiyyaru before this happened.

What had become of Tyagaraja’s house in 2004

‘Renovation’ of Tyagaraja’s house – January 2006 (Picture: The Hindu)

Groups claiming to convert Tyagaraja’s house to a memorial, have pulled the house down and were building a concrete structure in it’s place as of 2006 January.  I am not sure of it’s current status. If I go by the report in the Hindu, a concrete memorial would be there in the place where the old house stood. Such a sad state of affairs.

So much for our historical sense 😦



Feb 1st, 2008 marks the conjunction of Venus, and Jupiter -the first planetary conjunction of the year. A conjunction is an event where two objects in the sky appear to come closer. All the stars except out own sun appear as fixed objects because of their great distances. So, we need at least one object such as the moon, or a planet that we can see moving, to see a conjunction.

Conjuctions are only visual phenomena.  That means the two objects that appear close, appear so only because they are in the same line of sight as seen from the Earth. In space, the two obects could be located anywhere. When we are talking about a planet in conjunction with a bright star, one of the pair is obviously light years away 🙂

Given that both the orbits of Venus, and Jupiter are not very much tilted with respect to the Earth’s orbital plane (the ecliptic), the conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter are not all that rare. However, since these are the third and fourth brightest objects in our night sky (after the Sun and the Moon), it is always an interesting to watch.

To see Jupiter and Saturn, all you need to do is to wake up about an hour to ninety minutes before sunrise and look to the east-southeast direction. Make sure you are at a place where you can see the horizon. It is really hard to miss these two planets, which are shining at magnitudes of -4 and -2.  The brightest object you see in the eastern sky, low on the horizon is Venus. And the other bright object is Jupiter.

If you start observing the pair from today, you will notice that these are getting closer and closer everyday. And on February 1st, they will be the closest. About half a degree apart (which is about the apparent diameter of the moon).

Is this something that is very rare? No. But since this is happening at a time when Venus is close to it’s brightest, I definitely recommend you to wake up early and look at the pretty sight. Also at this time, the pair is a comfortable 30degrees away from the Sun ( That means, they rise about 2 hours before the Sun) thus providing a good view, before the morning twilight sets in.

That reminds me, that it was another planetary conjunction during in my elementary school days that got me hooked to skywatching. And, once you get to skywatching, there is never going back!

I have attachced a sky map to aid your watching. Just remember that the horizon is the left side of the map. You can see how close Venus and Jupiter would be on February 1st in this chart.

The star map on 1st February, 2008

And on 1st February, you will also see a waning cresent moon  a little higher in the sky, close to the bright red giant star, Antares (Jyeshta).  If Anteres was located where the Sun is located, we would be literally inside  😉 it.  This supergiant is so big , it would even take the orbit of Mars inside it’s body!

Happy planet hunting, and I wish you a happier life-long skywatching!


Last year, Al Gore was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the year 2007 was announced, for supporting the cause of the environment.   His film “An Inconvenient Truth” has won an Academy award as well. Although I haven’t seen that film, I really appreciate Al Gore for the concern he is showing on the Earth’s environment.

What is this ‘Inconvenient Truth’? It is something that most of us know, but not willing to acknowledge. Our tendency is to push the mess under the carpet, unseen until it gets so big, and can not be concealed anymore. Well, the unpleasant, inconvenient truth is that the global warming caused by human activity has harmed the earth’s environment in the last 4 decades, probably more than what had happened in the previous forty centuries. And worse, we are turning a blind eye to that even after knowing the consequences of global warming.

The harm done to the environment is nowhere more visible than in the melting ice sheets and the receding glaciers. Over the years, glaciers are receding, and ice sheets in the Arctic and the Antarctic are melting away. In the last 25 years almost 20-30% of the arctic ice sheet has melted. Between 1850 and 1980 the glaciers in Europe have lost about a third of their landmass. Parts of the Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic Ocean are actually warming up at a rate twice or thrice that of the other regions in the world. The ice cover in Greenland has about 10% of the world’s supply of fresh water, and if all that melts, the sea level will increase by about 20 feet. In The frozen continent of Antarctica has about 99% of the land covered in thick ice sheets. If this would melt, the sea level would increase by about 200 feet. Overall, the sea level has increased by about 6 inches in the 20th century. This may further increase by about a foot in the 21st century. Considering a large population of the mankind lives on or near the coastal regions, any impairment would be of great consequence.

Glaciers on all the 6 continents have been receding and melting away. The glaciers on the Kilimanjaro in equatorial Africa have receded to less than 60% of what was there in 1975. In Glacier National part in Montana, more than 40 of the 137 glaciers have disappeared in the 20th century. In Greenland, new islands are breaking away from the mainland due to melting ice. Several pacific and Indian ocean islanders are always living is fear of being overtaken by the sea.

Glaciers in the Himalayas are drying up faster than those in the rest of the world. The Gangothri glacier, source of river Ganga, is receding so fast that it has lost about 3 kilometers in the last century. This comes to an alarming 83 feet every year. In case of Gangothri glacier, the rate of receding has been shown to be much higher in the last 3 decades. NASA pictures have shown that Gangothri glacier has receded about 850 meters in the last 25 years. If the same rate of depletion continues, it is feared that the glacier may totally disappear by the end of the 21stcentury.

If Gangothri glacier melts away, it will affect more than 1.5 billion people in India and Bangladesh directly. In the current world economic scenario, no country is shielded from the events happening elsewhere. Billions of more people around the world will be affected by a slow catastrophic event of this nature. When the glaciers recede, the oceans will swell and cities and mangroves near the coast will face the threat of getting submerged. Just remember what happened to New Orleans when hurricane Katrina hit. The fate could befall to any coastal, low lying city when the ocean level rises.

So, should we care about climate change? Yes, we should! Every one of us can, and has to do something to slow the negative impact on the environment. But how do we do that?

We can do several small things for the betterment of our environment. Every bit counts. Save energy wherever you can.When possible, take public transport, or walk, or bike instead of driving. When we drive, we can combine and reduce the number of trips. We could use renewable energy resources such as solar and wind power. We can also reduce garbage**, recycle, and compost  bio-degradable trash.

We can also plant more trees. More trees planted means more carbon dioxide taken out from the atmosphere, and less trapping of heat in the atmosphere.What is stopping us from doing these good things?

Let’s get rid of the resigning mentality that the actions one person change the earth. True, one person can not change the world. But it takes lots of drops to form an ocean. We are all but drops. But if there are no drops, where would be the ocean?


Mother Earth has been so kind to us. Isn’t time for us to be kind to her?


**p.s : As per today’s news KLIV, the city of San Jose is proposing a ban on plastic bags. Way to go!

The year 2007 got us a new set of Seven Wonders of the World. And, by a large vote, India’s Taj Mahal  became one of the new Seven Wonders of the New World on 07-07-2007. 

But I was surprised to see a news report that said as per the public opinion in India based on SMS polls for  Seven Wonders of India, Taj Mahal fared so badly, making it a distant Third! 

Here is a list of the 7 Wonders of India that this report mentioned. The numbers indicate the votes each place got.

 1.The statue of Bahubali at Sravana Belgola, Karnataka (49%)

2. The Golden temple at Amritsar, Puanjab (24%)

3.  Taj Mahal at Agra, Uttar Pradesh (8%)

4. The monuments at Hampe, Karnataka

5. The Sun Temple at Konarak, Orissa

6. The monunents of Nalanda, Bihar

7. Temples of Khajuraho, Madhyapradesh.

I am indeed glad to see two of the wonderful sevel to be from Karnataka. And even more, because I come from the viscinity of the #1  in the list.

After I saw this list, I made it a point to update the image on the top of this blog. Now it shows the lotus feet of Lord Bahubali atop the Vindhyagiri hill in Sravana Belagola.

For those interested in statistics, this monolith is 57 ft tall (who does not know that?), it was completed in the year 983 AD (well, many may know that too).

The letters you see in the picture on either side of the statue are proclaiming that the statue was made on the orders of Chavunda Raya, a General of Ganga Kings in no less than 3 languages ( Kannnada, Tamizh, Marathi – Some claim it is Konkani).

And this happens to be the oldest written record in Marathi language (or Konkani, if you belive those two languages had seperated out in 10th century AD). Now this may be some trivia that not many people know 😉

The other two scripts you see in the picture (Kannada, and Tamizh) have had a written records from much earlier times. So this edict at the feet of Bahubali, are not as significant to the history of these languages as it is to Marathi, and Konkani, and end up as just another number in Epigraphia Carnatica.

I have not seen many of these 7 seven wonders. So I thought why not make up my own list of Seven Wonders of India 🙂 among the places I have seen?

Here is my list of Seven Wonders of India:

1. The caves and frescoes at Ajanta, Maharashtra (1st – 7th century AD)

2. The Chalukya monuments at Badami, Aihole and Pattadakallu , Karnataka (5th – 8th century AD)

3. The Kailasa (Cave) temple at Ellora, Maharashtra (850 AD)

4. Monuments at Sravana Belagola, including the statue of Bahubali, Karnataka (3rd – 12th century AD)

5. Brihadeeshwara temple, Tanjavoor, Tamil Nadu (11th century AD)

6. Hoysaleswara-Shantaleshwara twin temple at Halebeedu, Karnataka (1117  AD)

7. The monuments (including the Stupa) at Saranath, Uttar Pradesh (3rd century BC – 3rd century AD)

No wonder you see more places from Karnataka than any other part of India – Because that is what I have seen most. There are still other places which I have seen, that could have made it to the list; like Hampe, which is in the list from the SMS opinion  poll.  But IMO, the art in cave temples in Badami, and temples of Aihole, and Pattadakallu rank much higher than that of the monuments in Hampi!


Today is 6th January. The day when Tyagaraja passed away. Or should I say the day he became contemporary with all music lovers of all times ?



Tyagaraja was named on the presiding diety of Tiruvarooru on the banks of river Kaveri, where he was born. Most of his life was spent at Tiruvaiyyaru, another town on the banks the same river upstream. 

Tyagaraja is probably the most prolific of all the composers Karnataka Sangeeta has seen.  I think he has been the greatest influence on the composers who came after him.  About 700 of his compositions are available. He has composed songs that can be easily sung by novice singers, as well as such compositions that can be a challenge even to experienced performers.

Tyagaraja is my musical hero. He took the challenge of composing in rAgas unknown before him. He was not afraid to tread untrodden territories in music. What else can I call him other than a hero? A dheera?

At the mention of this word dheera ( = heroic person in Samskrta, and many othe Indian languages) I am reminded of a grand composition of Tyagraja in mAyAmALava gouLa  – mEru samAna dhIra. As the majority of Tyagaraja’s compositions, this kriti  also addresses lord Rama.

For those interested, here is the sAhitya of this composition.


mEru samAna dhIra varada raghu
vIra jUtAmu rArA mahA || mEru samAna dheera||


sAra sAra vaiyArapu naDalanu
nIrada kAnti nI ThIvini ||mEru samAna dheera||


alakala muddunu tilakapu tIrunu
taLupu chekkiLachE danaru nemmOmunu
gaLamuna shObhillu vanaja bhUShaNamulanu
daLita durmAnava tyAgarAjanuta || mEru samAna dheera||

You can listen to a befettingly grand rendition by none other than Dr.Balamuralikrishna in the following link:

mEru samAna – DrBMK (Courtesy: Sangeethapriya)

If you are an instrumentophile ( Don’t ask me if such a word exists :-), listen to another equally great rendition on the violion by Mysore Nagaraj and Dr Mysore Manjunath.

mEru samAna – violin – Courtesy Sangeethapriya 

I would like to end this post with a translation of this composition in Kannada:


ಮೇರು ಸಮಾನ ಧೀರ ಕೊಡುಗೈ ರಘು
ವೀರನ ನೋಡುವ ಬಾರಾ! ಮಹಾ || ಮೇರು ಸಮಾನ ಧೀರ ||


ತಿರುಳಿನ ಸಾರವೇ ವೈಯಾರದ ನಡೆಯಲಿ
ಮುಗಿಲ ಕಾಂತಿಯಾಂತು ಠೀವಿಲಿ ಬರುವ ||ಮೇರು ಸಮಾನ ಧೀರ||


ಕಲಕಲ ಮುಂಗುರುಳು ಸೊಗಸಿನ ತಿಲಕವು
ಹೊಳೆಯುವ ಗಲ್ಲವು ಮುದ್ದಿನ ಮೊಗವು! ಕೊ-
ರಳಲಿ ಮೆರುಗುವ ಬಂಗಾರದೊಡವೆಗಳು
ತುಳಿವ ಕೇಡಿಗರನು! ತ್ಯಾಗರಾಜ ಮಣಿದ ಆ ||ಮೇರು ಸಮಾನ ಧೀರ||

If you have come so far, then I suspect you might like to read the following post on Sampada – a kannada portal.

ಸಂಗೀತ ರಾಜ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ಹೀಗೊಬ್ಬ ರಾಜ.

Once again, I salute Tyagaraja, my musical hero! 



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A Collection of  Samskrta Subhashitas, translated to Kannada

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