I have been visiting Thiruvaiyaru for some years now. Most trips have been to the samadhi of the saint composer Thagaraja and at a time when the aradhana is held.
Everytime, I have sought to explore different facets of this place.
On one occasion, when I chanced to meet Ram Bhatt we decided to look at the local food joints.
Ram Bhatt is a restauranteur who managed the hugely popular Matsya at the Hotel Udupi in Egmore.
He is also a aradhana regular. So exploring the local food was but natural. This year, Bhatt was here but I could not take him to the hall where Aduthurai Gopalan and his team were serving people some wonderful Thanjavur flavours, freely.
This year, I was led to all the art that surrounds the saint-composer. The images, the paintings, the sculpture . . .
It came accidentally.
I was shooting a video outside the shrine, taking in all the elements that went into this ritual when I noticed a class framed photo-drawing of the composer. I took a good look at it and asked a passing priest why it was lying in a corner.
I was told that this picture used to be taken out in procession till the time the present murti was made and taken out in the processions and blessed with abhishekams.
Starting with shots of this framed picture I slowly moved on to others inside the sannidhi complex. A popular handout poster, a framed picture of the composer and his guru, a large oil painting made in Kerala and donated by a rasika . . .
I took in the various forms of art used by banks and businesses to create the flexi banners to attract rasikas at the aradhana.
The colourful illumination and the large posters outside the mantap where artistes offered their musical tributes.
And as we left the place after the mass singing of the pancharatna kritis and came on to the busy side road, I took in a simple rangoli-styled drawing of the saint on the earthen floor outside a simple house. Little Dhanalakshmi, crouched in a chair told me that she had used the image in a handbill and spent half an hour to colour this image.
Here are all the images, the art of Thyagaraja that I managed to shoot. There could be more.
Do these images have stories behind them?
I know that the famed artist-singer-guru, the late S Rajam of Mylapore has been credited for the distinct drawings of the images of the Trinity.
But what was the first known image of Thyagaraja and how did it inspire the many shades of it that we see today?
Click here Aradhana 2012 Report and Video