Thyagaraja (17671847) was the greatest among the music composers of south India and one of the musical prodigies of all time. He was the father of modern Carnatic music and his works are of delicate spirituality, full of melodic beauty and in the highest sense artistic. As a child he was remarkable for his predilection for music and a gift for composing. He is stated to have written his first song when he was hardly 13. Soon he reached the loftiest pinnacle of musical fume and composed the grandest songs ever written and two musical plays of unequalled beauty. He exerted the greatest influence upon musical art in south India during the it and l9’’ centuries and revolutionized the very nature of Carnatic music. His songs are accepted today as the only adequate interpretation of classical Carnatic music from both the music and sahitya points of view.
In addition to nearly 600 songs of the nature described above, Thyagaraja composed two musical plays in Telugu, the Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam and the Nauka Charitam, crystallizing his views on Bhakti (Devotion to God) and saranagati (total surrender to him). Such compositions usually fall under category of ‘Yakshagana’ but as there is no dance in Thyagaraja’s two plays, they are called ‘Geya Natakam’ or Music Dramas’.
‘Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam’ (the victory of Prahlada’s devotion) is the longer of the two plays and is in five acts with 45 kritis in 28 ragas and 132 verses ;in different metres in Telugu. Thyagaraja does not narrate the traditional story of Prahlada but gives an imaginary version of the theme in which Prahlada’s faith is put to the add test by Lord Hari who is finally won over by the boy- devotee’s unfaltering devotion.
The Nauka Charitam is a shorter play in one Act with 21 kritis set in 13 ragas and 43 verses in the Telgu in different metres. It is the most popular of Thyagaraja’s operas as the story is of captivating interest. The Nauka Charitam is a creation of the composer’s own imagination and has no basis in the Bhagavatam. The opera is full of delightful music and beautiful poetry. Krishna has been depicted as a boy of about seven years of age.
Although the story of a boat excursion on the Yamuna river by Gopis in the company of Krishna has no basis in the Bhagavatam, there is a work called Nauka Vilas in Bengali on a similar theme. But there are no less than five works written in Marathi and Thyagaraja appears to have been influenced by a play called Naukanirupana written by one Anandatanaya which was prevalent in Thanjavur. But the inspiration was restricted to the theme alone and the content, form and presentation were fully Thyagaraja’s original contribution.
The Nauka Charitam is based on an imaginary excursion of Lord Krishna with the Gopis of Brindavan in a boat on the river Yamuna. The Gopis, in a delightful whim, got into the boat full of youthful exuberance and refused, in a haughty manner, the proffered help of Krishna because of his youth and inexperience in aquatic sports. Krishna ingratiated himself into their company by his clever persuasion and the journey started. The unmixed enjoyment of the Gopis was not to last long. Krishna by his Maya, created a terrific storm which overtook them in midstream and tossed the boat furiously, at one time threatening to sink it into the bottom of the river, It was only then that the Gopis turned to Krishna but all prayers clothed in the most beautifully embellished songs were of no avail. The waters were rising and making their way into the boat through the holes at the bottom. With a view to humbling their pride, Krishna gently advised them to remove their clothing and plug the holes. The Gopis in their conditions of absolute despair carried and his suggestion. The lord was immediately moved by their contrition and the Gopis found themselves safe on the bank of the Yamuna.
The esoteric significance of the story lies in the unqualified surrender or abandom of the devotee to the lord in his hour of trial. It is a delight to see how a puritan like Thyagaraja dexterously steers clear of the pitfalls of sringara while dealing with the erotic motif of the play.
Thyagaraja displays considerable poetic gifts in the Nauka Charittam which include his mastery over Telugu Idiom and the grandeur of his poetic conception. He was a master of Felicitous expression which made his songs virtually expression which made they are unrivalled for their sweetness musical beauty and simplicity of language.
The Nauka Charitam being a music drama the composer adopts a musical style different from his other kritis. In accordance with the Yakshagana tradition the opening and concluding songs are in the same raga Surati. The Raga Saurashtra has been employed in four songs while two songs are in rare raga Ghanta, Good Music Flows naturally and smoothly. Thyagaraja’s intimate knowledge of human psychology is revealed in many places.
The Nauka Charitam of Thyagaraja is a gem among musical compositions in Carnatic music and masterpiece and cherishing.
In this world whoever has been fortunate enough to hear the Nauka Charitam (The Boat Epic) are blessed with long life good progeny, and prosperity. Lord Krishna the Mura Harudu destroys of the demon Mura mesmerizes all living beings with his mellflous music on the flute.
Ragam: Surati Talam Adi
Srungarinchukoni adorning themselves attractively the beautiful gopis strutted behind Lord Krishna. One of them Laughs in unrestrained glle while another combs his teases and places flowers and teases him gently.
Ragam: Pantuvarali, Talam Misra Chapu
Choodare See how enticing the river Yamuna’s charm is. The cuckoos are pouring out dulcet melodies. The atmosphere is ideal for cupid to unleash his flowery darts.
On the black waters of the river Yamuna the Gopis see a beautiful white boat and plan to take a carefree ride.
Ragam: Yadukuta Khamboji Talam: Misra Chapu
Adavarulella: The gopis invite Krishna to join them in fun and frotic. They try to distract him and sneak into the boat.
Krishna tells us the Gopis not to venture on this adventure without mae help.
Pasi Balundu: The Gopis Reply oh moon faced Krishna you are a mere chold. Do you think you possets the strength to row a boat?
Conversation between Krishna and the Gopis
Gopis: How can we trust you Krishna why this arguments?
Krishna: You are Blithering out of ignorance have you forgotten that when the Mandara hill drowned I took the form of a turtle and bore it on my back?
Gopis: When we were bathing in the river did you not conceal our clothes?
Krishna: Did I not show mercy when Gajendra was caught in the crocodile’s mouth?
Gopis: offering to put vermillion on the forehead of damels did you not bite their lips?
Krishna: in the poisoned Kalindi did I not subjugate
Ragam: Saranga talam: Adi
Odani Jaripe Behold the grand spectacle of the Gopis dancing around Krishna and steering the boat. Some are singing the glories and chanting the name of Hari while others in effervescent glee are praying to Yamuna with pearl necklaces dangling daintily.
Ragam: Bhairavi Talam: Misra Chapu
Tanayade each Gopi thought that Krishna was infatutated with her and raced in abondom. As passions mounted Krishna took multiple forms and played individually with each gopi. He gazed lovingly at one gopi and listened interity to antohe. He played with the colorful clothes of one and the dainty feet of another. He talked merrily in consonance with their minds and made each one feel special.
Ragam: Devagandhari: Talam: Adi
Evaru Manaku: The Gopis exclaim that nobody equals them in beauty even the trinity Brahma Vishnu and Shiva had to suffer because they succumbed to the beauty of women.
Pongutaduchu: The gopis murmer among themselves that Krishna knows only how to mesmerize and hypnotise women but lacks the talent to row the boat Krishna hears the sarcasm in their voice and decides to teach them a lesson to curb their arrogance. He creates a violent storm that frightens to gopis.
Ragam: Saurashtram, Talam, Adi
Allakallola: The boat is being tossed about and there is utter confusion. The Gopis pray to the river Yamuna to protect them.
Ragam: Pnnagavarli, Talam: Misra Chapu
Krishna Makemi the Gopis beg Krishna to show them a way out of this unbearable Situation
Ragam: Varali, Talam, Misra Chapu
Indukemi: The Gopis get upset with Krishna’s frivolous suggestion. How can be consider them so cheap when they price honor above their lives. Krishna tells them to stop grumbling and mumbling and assures them that they can return home if they take his advice.
Ragam: Mohanam. Talam: Misra Chapu
Veda Vakyanani Even though they are overcome with shame the Gopis accept Krishna’s advice as the gospel truth and unrobe themselves to plug the holes in the boat with their garments.
Ragam: Punnagavarali: Talam: Adi
Hari Hari: The Gopis pray to Hari to give them access to his lotus feet as they wish to renounce the meaningless pleasure of this world.
Ragam: Punnagaval: Talam: Adi
Gandhanu Puyyeru: The Gopis celebrates their safe return by adorning Krishan with sandal paste vermillion and gossamer clother and dance with abandom.
Mridangam: M. Balachandar
Violin: T.K. Padmanabhan
Veena: R. Kannan
Talavadyam: G. Parthasarathy
Vocal: Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, Kanakadurga, Sunada Vijayaraghavan
Krishna: Lavanya Venkat
Gopis: Rhadha, Sunanda Vijayaraghavan, Sumitra Vijayaraghavan