In the footsteps of 

Tyāgarāja Svāmi…

Bhavya Hari

 Śrī V. Govindan is a retired Army personnel. His keen interest in the lyrical essence of   Śrī Tyāgarāja's compositions led to the conception of lyrical blogs consisting of the compositions of great composers the Carnatic music trinity -  Śrī Tyāgarāja,  Śrī Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar and  Śrī Śyāma Śāstri, in the year 2003-4. The blogs, namely Guru Guha Vaibhavam, Thyagaraja Vaibhavam, and  Shyama Krishna Vaibhavam are exhaustive ready references of compositions with word by word meanings in English and script in all the South Indian regional languages. Kural magazine honoured his commendable contribution on the occasion of its first anniversary celebrations held on April 1, 2024 at Ragasudha hall, Chennai. A short conversation with this unassuming personality left us contemplating the lives of composers like Tyāgarāja, who revelled in Nādōpāsana. 

Q. Please tell us about your initiation into Carnatic music.

I belong to a Telugu speaking family hailing from Guntur, and settled in Tamilnadu. My father was musically inclined and my mother who was a native of Pudukkottai had ancestral connections with the famous Nāmasaṅkīrtana exponent Gopalakrishna Bhagavathar. My hostel days at Ramakrishna mission kindled my interest in Bhakti mārga and Gñāna mārga. I had a special attachment for Sadguru Tyāgarāja svāmi’s compositions. The lyrical essence is ever captivating. 

Q. How and why did you start the blogs? 

I was in the army for over 30 years. After retirement, I once visited a Brigadier, who lived in Mylapore (near Vivekananda College) where I happened to pass by a library. There I found this book of Tyāgarāja compositions compilation by  Śrī T K Govinda Rao which inspired me to start a blog of the Saint's compositions with meanings. I initially posted on the Sulekha website which had a lot of South Indian content. After the advent of Google, I started posting in blog format from the year 2003-04. It is a ten year long journey of doing Guru Guha Vaibhavam, Thyagaraja Vaibhvam, Shyama Krishna Vaibhavam blogs and various other non musical blogs. My computer knowledge (machine language and software development) helped me with the creation and conception of these blogs. I initially started with Thyagaraja Vaibhavam blog consisting of his compositions and meanings, as I felt that a singer should understand the meaning of the lyrics in order to bring out the Bhāva better. The compositions of the Trinity are timeless and rich in lyrical value. They evoke bhakti in the minds of both the learned and the lay. The lyrics (padam), their meaning (artha) and emotion (bhāva) that they evoke are as important as rāga/svara elaboration. I believed that the online platform could be beneficial to a lot of people. That said, I never expected any acknowledgement or appreciation for this. I just did this project for my own satisfaction, and due to my passion for music. 

Q. Features such as  transliteration into regional languages, and external links and references, are unique to your blogs. Please tell us about them.

The transliterations into the South Indian regional languages - Telugu, Tamiẕ, Kannaḍā and Malayāḷam are sure to help people from various language backgrounds to understand and effectively implement the proper pronunciation. I used special software to upload the same.  Apart from taking references from books, my Telugu knowledge helped me with the compositions of Tyāgarāja and Śyāmā Śāstri. The context of some kṛti-s kindled my interest to find references from epics like Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. Here, I must mention the Sanskrit scholar, Smt. Rajani Arjun Shankar, and her contributions in creating the Guru Guha Vaibhavam blog, containing compositions of  Śrī Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar. She helped me with the Saṃskṛtam meanings, word splits, additional references like Vibhakti,  Śrī cakra and Kṣētra. I could work on one composition per day and the journey was so enriching and satisfying. 

Q. Can you share some feedback/comments from the blog and also your message to society.

I have been receiving a lot of positive comments and feedback. Initially I used to respond to as many of them as possible, but now I am not active in responding. There have been discussions on pada bhēda (lyrical disputes) and a few lost kṛti-s of the Trinity. Currently I am working on a blog on Aṣṭavakra Gīta, which is an experience in itself. I would like to quote Sadguru Tyāgarāja’s masterpiece ‘Rāgasudhā rasa’, where he states that those well-versed in the Saptasvara-s, emanating from praṇava nāda (Nādōmkāra) which is of the nature of the Supreme Lord - parabraḥm, are indeed the living-liberated (jīvan-mukta-s). Such is the power of Nādōpāsana.