The relevance of Tyagaraja today is that a noble bhakta lived amongst us just 200 years ago. We have been fed on the Puranas’ description of great devotees such as Prahlada, Parasara, Narada and others. Prahlada has also stood as the devotee par excellence to be emulated by those spiritually inclined. The nearness of the saint to us perhaps has not appealed to us as one on par in devotion like Prahlada. It looks as if Tyagaraja composed the opera ‘Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam’ to place before us the agony and ecstasy of the young Prahlada as the echo of the saint’s own experience in life.
One who has gone through his opera may be able to recognise the soul of the saint taking the garb of the great Puranic devotee. This comes to mind because the sentiment expressed by Prahlada in the opera may open the eyes of music lovers today to the possibility whether what Prahlada says is perhaps what Tyagaraja himself had felt in life. To recall the particular sentiment, the Samudra Raja in the opera exclaims to Prahlada that casting aside the three worlds is of no consequence, he stands supreme in the galaxy of his devotees. This is Prahlada’s reply — “Naa jayamunu joochi nammare devuni” (Even after seeing the acme of my bhakti, people do not have any faith in God).
Can we take it as Tyagaraja’s doubt over whether the propagation of his bhakti for Rama through his Utsava Sampradaya pieces and Divyanama songs, has percolated into the minds of rasikas and vidwans for over two centuries. While this may be a fact in standard music concerts, the observance of aradhanas still brims with spontaneous Tyagaraja bhakti.
Listeners at the Tiruvaiyyaru festival and the recent celebration in Chennai city and even abroad, carry printed copies of the Pancharatna songs. They follow with rapt attention and deep devotion as the vidwans sing the songs of the bard. Tyagaraja wouldn’t have failed in his mission of spreading Rama bhakti among us because his avatara is destined by Rama Himself.