Thanks to Sri Guruvayurappan for sharing this news and all the great details about mama. Although I know him and have seen him once via video conferencing, I did not know his life story. It is quite impressive how this one man was instrumental in spreading thiruppugazh parayanams all around the world. Just in Chicago itself there are at least 100+ devotees who gather for Thiruppugazh weekly/monthly etc.
Obeisance to Guruji ‘Tiruppugazh Gaana Ratnam’ Shri A S RAGHAVAN (Born 1928 – Died 17 May 2013), the Wizard behind the Tiruppugazh Movement, on his Mukthi Day today.
Sri Raghavan was born in 1928 to Sri Subbiah Sastrigal and Smt. Ramalakshmi Ammal at Arumugamangalam near Tuticorin. Unfortunately, he was affected by polio and all treatments attempted were in vain. An expert in the local system of medicine then came forward and promised to cure him. But he demanded a fee, an odd one at that. Sensing the boy’s devotional nature, the medical practitioner insisted that the child be dedicated to the service of Senthil Velavan. For the parents, no price was too heavy for the health of their dear one and they readily agreed. Besides, to offer oneself for the service of God was indeed a privilege. As the treatment progressed, the boy started showing signs of recovery. He was taken to the temple of Tiruchendur. At the very sight of the temple at a distance, the child started running easily at the vast stretch of slippery sands. He feasted his eyes at the splendour and elegance of Lord Muruga. When he returned after the worship, he got the image of the Lord of Tiruchendur firmly embedded in his mind, the image that was to make profound influence on his life later.
After the formal education Sri Raghavan left the eastern shores of Thiruchendur and reached the western shores of Chembur. Having settled in Bombay, Sri Raghavan got the opportunity to learn the basics of Carnatic music from Sri Vaidyanatha Bhagawathar. Later Sri Raghavan shifted to Delhi. Even while doing the various duties expected of him, there was always an urge to give expression to the devotion brewing within. The spark that flashed at Tiruchendur was looking for an opportunity to illuminate. He felt Senthil Andavan had designed a particular role for him. He realized that he has been gifted with musical talent to perform that role.
One day, his friend suggested: “Why not turn our attention to Thiruppugazh?” Then, it dawned on Raghavan that there cannot be a better medium to hail the glory of Muruga than Thiruppugazh. The very word ‘Thiru Pugazh’ which had already kindled a light of devotion in him, has now awakened him. He then adopted Thiruppugazh as his way of life. It became clear to him that his role is to highlight the glory of Thiruppugazh to all corners of the world. He took up Thiruppugazh study seriously. The more he studied, the more he got absorbed. Gradually it became a total involvement. As the divine grace of Lord guided him through, Sri Raghavan selected certain songs and set them to Carnatic based raga and thala on the lines of chandam.
In the beginning in 1958, the Thiruppugazh classes were held at the residence of Sri G. Sundaram at Connaught Circus. Gradually more and more students joined and more and more classes were held. Those who learned from Sri Raghavan, received his blessings first and then started conducting classes. Some disciples who left Delhi and settled elsewhere started new classes there. The divine voice of Sri Raghavan that echoed the devotion towards Muruga was heard at many places and picked up by many more students. “There is no one in this generation who can render the verses of Thiruppugazh in the way Arunagirinathar intended as exactly as Sri Raghavan,” commented Sri Subbudu, the then correspondent of The Statesman.
Arunagirinathar had composed his songs in chandam style. He has composed them by blending the divinity of Sanskrit with the beauty of Tamil. It was indeed a gigantic task to give every such song a distinct raga. It was also a challenge to create an awareness or interest about Thiruppugazh which was not very popular. It involved dedicating the precious time. It involved organizing people and motivating them. It is almost like creating a big movement which requires man power, resources and organizing capacity. But these factors did not deter Sri Raghavan in going ahead with his passion. He went ahead with his ‘Thiruppugazh movement’.
Thanks to his devotion and determination, he did succeed in his mission.
A system of rendering songs in a prescribed way was devised. Sri Raghavan has now come to be known as Guruji. Under his guidance, a method of conducting Thiruppugazh Isai was developed. He has performed Thiruppugazh recitals and Valli Kalyanam at many places in India and abroad. Wherever he performed, devotees assembled in large number to immerse themselves in the shower of music. As Thiruppugazh movement gained momentum, it needed an administrative framework, which also Guruji helped to build. Among the many dignitaries who attended Guruji’s Bhajan and lent overwhelming support to his Thiruppugazh movement, special mention must be made of former President of India, late Sri R. Venkataraman.
Sri Raghavan is married to Smt. Janaki. Hailing from a village in Tirunelveli District, Smt. Janaki is a lady of high virtue and devotion. She did not find it difficult to adjust to the devotional life of her husband as she wholeheartedly shared his commitment and dedication. She herself was deeply moved by the power of Thiruppugazh and she took active part in Thiruppugazh recitals.
A perfectionist by temperament, an ardent devotee Sri Ramana Bhagavan and one who has travelled extensively. Sri Raghavan is an affable and pleasing personality. He always stressed the point that a Thiruppugazh bhajan is a collective prayer, where the individual merges with the whole.
Recipient of titles like “Thiruppugazh Thondar” from Sri Abhinava Vidyathirtha Swamigal of Sringeri Mutt, ‘Bhaktha Ratna” from Swami Chidanandji Maharaj of Sivananda Ashram, Guruji ’s contribution in creating a spiritual awakening and Muruga worship has been appreciated by heads of mutts, men of letters and great musicians. He was conferred the title “Guhasri” in the presence of Thava Thiru Nataraja Sivacharya Swamigal and other distinguished personalities during the Valli Kalyana Mahotsavam at Palani. If Thiruppugazh occupies a prime position among devotional literature and is adopted as a way of life by Muruga devotees today, it is largely due to the selfless service rendered by Guruji.
Guruji was instrumental in organizing the 600th birth anniversary of Sri Arunagirinathar on a grand scale. Again, it was as a result of the initiative taken by him, the Government of India has released a postal stamp in honour of the saint of Tiruvannamalai, Sri Arunagirinathar. In recognition of the various services he has done in expounding the cause of Thiruppugazh, Guruji has been conferred with the title “Thiruppugazh Chakravarthy”.
Guruji Raghavan and Thiruppugazh are so inalienably linked that it is impossible to think of one without the other. The growth of Thiruppugazh into a new powerful movement and the growth of Sri Raghavan into an enlightened Guru happened almost simultaneously.
If a single person could highlight the glory of Muruga by creating a powerful movement of Thiruppugazh Anbargal it can be only by the blessings of Lord Muruga. Having done the divine work assigned to him by Muruga, it was time for the devotee to merge with the Lord and become one with Him. On 17th May 2013, the Thiruppugazh Anbargal heard the news that the Guruji who showed them the Thiruppugazh way is no more. It was hard to believe that the golden voice of Guruji would no longer be heard.