‘KALAU SANKEERTYA KESAVAM’ – It is firmly believed that in Kaliyuga, the easiest way of getting God’s grace is through the chanting of His name. One of the great propounders of the Nama Sankeertana ideology was Sri Narayana Tirtha (1675-1745). Like other proponents of Nama-Siddhanta, Narayana Tirtha was also a staunch Advaitic who took to sanyasa.
Sri Narayana Tirtha was born at Kaza in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh but was `drawn’ to Bhupatirajapuram near Thanjavur, in Tamil Nadu, by a boar, on divine command. The boar that led him vanished into a temple of Lord Srinivasa and Tirtha settled down there obeying the directions he received in his dream. The place came to be known as ‘Varahur’ (after ‘Varaha’ the boar). Here, Sri Tirtha was cured of his chronic illness and wrote ‘Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini’, in which he narrated the story of Sri Krishna from birth up to his marriage with Rukmini. It is a literary masterpiece, composed in Yakshagana style with 12 Tarangams, consisting of 145 kirtans, 267 verses, 30 gadyams (prose passages) and 30 darus (narrative songs).
Tribute is paid to this remarkable saint-composer in Varahur every year by organising a 10-day festival, where the Tarangams are sung and a “Uriyadi” event enacted, to depict Sri Krishna stealing butter. Though he lived in Varahur, Sri Narayana Tirtha attained Siddhi in 1745 at a nearby village called Thirupoonthuruthy under a huge mango tree, on the banks of river Kudamurutti, on the Masi Sukla Ashtami, Guruvaram, Krithika Nakshatram day. It is said that he attained `Jeeva Samadhi’ (even while alive). A small shrine has been constructed on this hallowed spot, under the sprawling mango tree.
For over 300 years, landlords and local devotees of Thirupoonthuruthy including the family of Late R Viswanatha Baghavathar, later his son, Thirupoonthuruthy Late Sri V Venkatesan who carried the legacy of his father organised music festivals at the Samadhi shrine at Thirupoonthuruthy on Masi Sukla Ashtami Day.
In 1965, a regular Aradhana Committee was formed, following the suggestion of the late Dr. V Raghavan, Sanskrit scholar, who assigns Sri Narayana Tirtha an important place in the history of Carnatic music and Bhajana sampradaya. The small village of Thirupoonthuruthy comes alive during the three-day festival.
To enhance the institutional set-up, the Thirupoonthuruthy Sri Narayana Tirtha Swamigal Trust was established by Thirupoonthurthy Late Sri V Venkatesan at Chennai in 1986 with the help of Late Sri R Krishnaswami (Narada Gana Sabha) and Sri N V Subramanyam (Saraswathi Vaggeyakara Trust)
The Inaugural Function was held at the Krishna Gana Sabha, with a memorable recital by Bharat Ratna Late M S Subbulakshmi. The late Sadasivam too evinced great interest in the function held at Thirupoonthuruthy and suggested that considering the spirit of the occasion, only Tarangams should be sung – a practice strictly followed ever since.
Another musician, who has been closely associated with the Trust is Padma Bhushan Dr. K J Yesudas, who produced a 13-part serial on Sri Narayana Tirtha for Chennai Doordarshan, under the guidance of B. Natarajan.
Thirupoonthuruthy Late Sri Venkatesan's yeoman service towards creating visibility for Sri Narayana Tirtha as well as Tarangam compositions is noteworthy.
Today, the Aradhana Committee, under the leadership of Smt V Neela, daughter of Thirupoonthuruthy Late Sri V Venkatesan along with the support of her family members - her mother, sister and brother and friends and well wishers continue to organise programmes consisting of music concerts, lecture-demonstrations, bhajans, musical discourses and unchavriti.