Images of saint Thyagaraja at Thiruvaiyaru.


By Vincent D' Souza

Thyagaraja-artLike most people I was introduced to the visual face of saint Thyagaraja with the fanatstic paintings of late S. Rajam, actor, artist, singer and guru.

Rajam's images of the Trinity are now found the world over. As framed pictures, works of art or printed stuff.

So when I attended the saint Thaygaraja aradhana at his samadhi in Thiruvaiyaru, near Thanjavur last year I chose to move away from the stages and the pandal where rasikas in their hundreds sit and listen to artistes offer their musical tributes and roamed the space.

I had roamed around here in previous years but this time I had one focus in my mind - to zero in on all the images of the saint composer that I could locate here and around.

And there were lots of them. The illuminated mini bulbs of the image were here and there and obvious, hung across the pandal's exterior.

But it was around the sanctum where the saint's image is located that there were half a dozen pictures and prints, all framed and created at various points in time, in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Andhra.

We looked at them closely and photographed.

Pictures giftted by rasikas, arts bodies and such types. One a profile, another of him in meditation, another of him in a trance and with Lord Rama in front of him. . .

thyagaraja-art1The profiles begged questions - which was the first visual ever of this composer? Was this an image that grew out of oral descriptions? Or was it an artist's visualization?

Asking the questions even as abhishekams went on, music floated in the air from the twin stages at the opposite end and the rush of the town's people seeking a darshan seemed a nice diversion, rather indulgence.

Outside the happening place, the visuals were on the iron gates, on posters and on promo materials. Some pinkish, some natural, some mere outlines.

On the morning of the gosti singing, as we wandered from the town marketplace after a cuppa of coffee, we were greeted by lovely colour kolams designed on mud at the doorsteps of houses.

Here and there, in the kolams, which were more rangoli-ish, were the images of saint Thyagaraja - the one with him wearing the Tanjorean head cap.

Looking at all the images we had shot, we found that the images were not varied. But their usage was widespread and took on different hues.

So, which is 'the' image of this great composer?

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