Sri Tirumala Venkateswara Vaibhavam

A Blog Dedicated to the Glory and Grandeur of the Supreme Lord Venkateswara

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya

Annamayya or Annamacharya! It is no surprise if I say that there won’t be people without knowing the name of this great poet saint in India and across the world who loves music and who worship the Supreme Lord Venkateswara Swamy. As mentioned before, this blog is totally dedicated to the Vaibhavam (grandeur) of Lord Venkateswara. Is it possible to justify the Lord Venkateswara’s Vaibhavam without describing about the “Telugu Pada Kavita Pitamaha, the great grand poet born once in a million years, the proud of Telugu Literature, the great saint Annamacharya?” Never….! He is like an ever shining jewel in the grandeur of Lord Venkateswara. Here is my little effort to focus on the life and work of the great Annmacharya. Though you may find this post little lengthy, I insist everyone to read and cherish the life of the great Annamacharya.

Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya (1408 - 1503) is an Indian poet and musician widely regarded as the Telugu pada kavita pitaamaha (Grand old man of simple poetry). An ardent devotee of Lord Venkateswara of Tirupati, AP. Annamacharya is also known as Annamayya. He successfully composed more than 32,000 Sankeertanas (a Carnatic composition) in the carnatic music tradition in praise of Lord Venkateswara, the deity of seven hills at Tirumala, India where unbroken worship is being offered for over 12 centuries. It is a rare feat which is near impossible to replicate! The Sankeertanas were found engraved on copper plates which were hidden for centuries inside the Sri Venkateswara temple at Tirumala.

Annamacharya considered his compositions as floral offerings to God. In the poems, he praises Venkateswara, describes his love for him, argues and quarrels with the Lord, confesses the devotee’s failures and apprehensions, and surrenders himself to Venkateshwara. His songs are classified into Adhyaatamika (Spiritual) and Sringaara (Romantic) Samkirtanas.

Words aren’t sufficient to describe the greatness of this great poet saint of Tallapaka. He is once in a million years saint of his kind. The story of Annamayya is a never ending saga. Here is my little effort to pay tribute to this great saint Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya. Sri Annamacharya’s life was better explained by the rhyming couplets of poems called “Dwipada” written by Tallapaka Chinnanna, the grandson of annamacharya. Tallapaka Chinnanna was also a great poet. It was he who enabled us to learn about the life and works of the great saint Annamacharya.

In Dwipada, the story of Annamacharya goes back to three generations to his grand father Narayanayya. It is believed that in the 10th century a big famine broke out in Varanasi and scores of scholars migrated to southern part of India for earning their livelihoods. Some of them concentrated in a town called “Nandavaram” in Andhra Pradesh which was ruled by the then king Nanda. These immigrants were also called “Nandavarikas” and Annamacharyas forefathers were the so called Nandavarikas and hence Annamacharya.

Narayanayya as a boy wasn’t keen in studies. It was customary in those times for gurus (the teachers) to subject the students to various kinds of torturous methods to create concentration on studies. When nothing worked for the young boy he decided to put an end to these tortures, humiliation and shame by ending his life. In an attempt to end his life, he put his hand in the snake hole near the temple of Chinthalamma, the village Goddess. To his surprise, instead of a venomous cobra biting him, the village Goddess appeared before him and sought the reason for his suicidal attempt. Naranayya then explained that he do not want to live any more because he was fed up with the humiliation in life as he was poor in studies and do not want his coming generations to be like him. The Goddess then told him that he need not worry about his generations because a brilliant boy will born in his third generation with an amsa (element) of Sri Hari’s sword “Nandaka” who will not only master all the Vedas and Sastras but also glow like ever shining star ever in the hearts of people with his deeds.

Narayanayya later got married and gave birth to a son Vitthalayya. Vitthalaya had one son called Narayana. Narayana had a son called Narayana Suri. Narayana Suri got married to Lakkamamba. Narayana Suri and Lakkamamba had no children for long time. Lakkamamba used to regularly worship Lord Venkateswara and plead for a child. Narayana Suri and Lakkamamba once visited Tirumala Temple for the divine darshan of the Lord Venkateswara. While the couple were prostrating in front of the Dhwaja Sthambham (Holy Mast) a dazzling brilliance from the sword of Lord Venkateswara struck them like a lightening. Eventually a boy was born to them and named him Annamayya. Annamacharya, The Saint-Composer was born on 9th of May 1408 A.D. According to Telugu "PANCHANGAM" (calendar) the month & star of His birth is Vyshakha Masam and 1st Vishakha Nakshatram. It is believed that Anamayya was the amsa (element) of “Nandaka” the sword of mighty Lord Venkateswara.

Annamayya’s uncle had twin daughters Timmakka and Akkalamma. The elders had decided to marry the twins to Annamayya at the time of their birth. When they began to grow Annamayya too was fond of these twins. He used to spend lot of time with them creating all pranks and fun. Annamayya was brilliant in his studies. At the tender age of 8 he mastered all the Sastras.

One day, the Lord Venkateswara has given divine darshan to the boy in his dreams. Annamayya was awestruck at the majestic vishwaroopa of the Supreme Lord. He was mesmerized by the beauty of Lord Srinivasa. When he woke up in the morning he looked quite and silent. On enquiry by his parents, he explained about the incident that took place with him last night in his dreams. He instantly composed and sang a song “Kala ganti Kala ganti ippudetu kalaganti” describing the incident he had seen in his dreams. Since then his mind was restless. It was looking out for something unknown. He felt as if some unknown force was ruling his brains. Some unnatural force was making a call to visit some unknown place. In his inner quest he forgot every one at home. He used to sit lonely in a corner at home without any food and water.

Worried parents decided to keep Annamayya busy by allotting him some work. His father asked annamayya to get some grass from the forests. Obeying his father’s order Annamayya moved into the forest for grass. While cutting the grass he heard slogans and chants of Sri Hari. When he turned back he saw a pilgrim party going to the pilgrimage of Tirumala chanting “Govinda…! Govinda….! Govinda Govinda Govinda….!” Those magic words attracted unconscious mind of Annamayya. He left the sickle and moved behind them unconsciously. The only thing he knew was his restless mind was looking for Sri Hari and these people are Hari Bhakts. He followed them all the way and reached Alipiri without food and water. He was only 8 years old when he left home. Some one in the group had offered some food but he denied eating. Finding Annamayya in a pitiable condition Narada Muni appeared before him in the form of an old pilgrim and asked Annamayya. Son, I have been noticing you for long and even the fellow pilgrims told that you haven’t taken any food and water for many days. Why don’t you eat something? Annamayya replied that he had decided to stay on deeksha (fasting) until he had the darshan of Lord Venkateswara. The old man said, you are still at Alipiri, if you climb the hill in this condition, you may end up losing your life. Annamayya said that he doesn’t care about life. In a journey to serve the Lord of Seven Hills, he would happily sacrifice his life. Finding eternal bhakti (devotion) in the heart of Annamayya for his Narayana, he gifted his musical instrument and blessed him that he is going to become a great singer. Narada muni also shared his secret with Annamayya that Srimannarayana loves music and he will find Him at any place where there is a pleasant music.

With the blessings of Narada, Annamayya moved ahead of his pilgrimage. The journey to Tirumala hills in those days was not as easy as it does today. There were no pavements for pedestrians as it does today. Pilgrims used to walk over curvy hills and slippery rocks amidst bushes filled with thorns. By the time the pilgrim party reached Mokalla Parvatam, the most steep and highest peak. Annamayya was thoroughly exhausted. He found the terrain more steep and difficult to climb as he was been in fasting for the last few days. As a result, he fell unconscious and slipped in to the deep valley of Mokalla Parvatam, while others continued their journey forward leaving Annamayya lying on the rocks in the valley.

The divine mother Alamel Mangamma appeared to rescue her child in the form of an old lady and said “Son! Get up…!” On hearing the divine voice, Annamayya woke up and asked who was she? The mother said that she was passing through and noticed him lying on the rocks. It seems that you haven’t eaten any food for long. Please take this Prasadam (divine offering) and relive your hunger. Annamayya told her that he was not going to eat until he had the darshan of Lord Venkateswara. Mother! I am feeling myself exhausted and weak. All others in the pilgrim party had moved forward except me. I don’t know what my sin is. I was left behind this way. Please bless me so that I can have the darshan of Lord Venkateswara early. The divine mother then replied, Son! You have done everything fine but the only mistake you committed is that you have come up to these sacred hills with footwear. Depart that footwear from yourself and see the difference. You will experience the majestic presence of God’s creation here. Every leaf of the trees, every drop of water, the birds, the winds, all chants the name of Hari. The old trees over here are the great Rishis and Munis sitting in penance. After listening this, Annamayya threw his footwear and started experiencing every word the Mother had expressed. Mother asked him to take the Lord’s Prasadam because the Lord never wants to see his devotees in trouble while climbing the hills. He wishes to see all their devotees reach the hilltop with good health and happiness. The divine Mother showed him the way to Tirumala after offering him the prasadam. After eating the prasadam, Annamayya felt rejuvenated. Everything around him looked bright and glowing with majestic lightening. By the time he realized what was happening, the old lady vanished. Annamayya realized she was none other than the Supreme Mother Alamel Mangamma. His joy knew no bounds. With the blessings of Supreme Mother he happened to see the real beauty of the holy hill ranges of Tirumala for the first time. They appeared to his divine vision as ten thousand hoods of Adisesha. (The Divine Serpent on which Lord Vishnu sleeps). In a divine ecstasy, the eight year boy burst out into an emotional song, "Adivo Alladiho! Sri Hari Vasamu! Padivela seshula padagalamayamu.....!

A couple of days later, Annamayya finally reached the sacred hill of Tirumala with the blessings of the Supreme Mother Alamel Manga. After taking sacred bath in Swamy Pushkarini and praying Lord Sri Varaha Swamy he entered the main temple of Venkateswara Swamy. He was awestruck by the charm and majestic beauty of Lord Sri Venkateswara. He instantly composed and sang a song hailing Lord Venkateswara as “Podagantimayya mimmu Purushotthama….!” Annamacharya used to have the darshan of the Lord couple of times a day and spend his time writing and singing sankeertanas hailing the Supreme Lord of Venkateswara in and around the Tiru Mada Veedhulu (Four sacred mada streets of Tirumala).

In those days a famous Vaishnavite saint by name Ghana Vishnu was serving the Lord on the hills of Tirumala. Lord Venkateswara Swamy once appeared in his dreams and gave his Shankha and Chakra Mudrikas (Symbols of Wheel and conch shell and wheel) and instructed him to do mudra dharana to Annamayya. The Lord indicated the place where he can find him. Next morning Ghana Vishnu walked in search of Annamayya to the place instructed by the Lord in his dreams. On reaching the place he found a young boy around the age of 8 years singing a great song in the praise of Lord. Ghana Vishnu mesmerized by hearing his song and felt very lucky to be able to meet such a great poet. Saint Ghana Vishnu then narrated the incident he had last night in his dream to Annamayya. He felt very happy and saluted Ghana Vishnu politely with respect. The sage Ghana Vishnu then converted Annamayya to Vaishnavism by offering “Pancha Sanskaras”. Annamayya thus became “Annamacharya” at the tender age of 8 years on the sacred hills of Tirumala. Thereafter, Annamacharya stayed on the hill of Tirumala serving the Lord and singing Keerthanas hailing the Lord everyday.

On the other hand, Annamacharya’s parents Narayana Suri and Lakkamamba reached Tirumala Hill in search of their son on the tip of some pilgrims. On enquiry with the temple officials, they learnt that their son had become a great poet who sings pleasant keerthans hailing the Lord at the temple every day. Finally, they met their son and insisted him to get back to the village. Unable to disobey their request he got back to his village Tallapaka. After reaching home his parents insisted him to marry his uncle’s daughters Timmakka and Akkalamma, who were still waiting for his return to get married. Annamacharya was reluctant to their request thinking it as a hindrance in the path of his service to the Lord. He doesn’t want to get involved in a family bonding fearing it might lead to deviation of his attention from his Lord’s service.

One night, the Lord Srinivasa appeared in his dreams and asked “Son! Why were you so reluctant to the marriage?” Annamacharya replied, Hey Lord, If I get married I may not serve you the same way as I am doing it now because a family bond always acts as an obstruction to spirituality. The Lord smiled and said, poor man…! Family bonding is never an obstruction to spirituality. People can be married and still be spiritual. It’s all in your thought. Look at me, the Lord whom you pray. I am married to two ladies. Why can’t you? Leave all your worries aside and get married happily and worship me along with your family. By the time Annamacharya opened his eyes, the Lord disappeared.

Obeying the orders of the Lord, Annamacharya got married to his long time friends and uncle’s daughters Timmakka and Akkalamma. As informed by the Lord, he happily worshipped, written and sang thousands of keerthans hailing him even after marriage. In the course of time they gave birth to four children (2 sons and 2 daughters). Refer Tallapaka family chart below for more details.

A few years later, He went back to Tirumala accompanied by his wives and continued his “Sankeerthana Yagna”. During his long and prolific career, Annamacharya had composed and sang 32,000 sankeertanas (devotional poems), 12 Satakas (sets of hundred verses) Ramayana in the form of Dwipada, Sankeertana Lakshanam (Characteristics of Sankeertanas), Sringara Manjari (romantic poems) and Venkatachala Mahathyam. His works were mainly in Telugu, Sanskrit and a few other languages.

In the course of time Annamacharya’s fame spread all over. His songs gained great popularity among masses. Saluva Narasimharaya, the then ruler of Tangutooru learnt about this great saint and invited him to his court. Annamacharya though initially reluctant had later accepted his offer and reached the Kingdom. He was then honoured and appointed as the “Asthana Kavi” in his court by the king. Annamayya stayed in the kingdom for a couple of years composing and singing great songs on Sri Venkateswara Swamy.

One day during darbar (session), Annamacharya sang a wonderful keerthana glorifying the love of divine couple Srinivasa and Almel Manga. Moved by the madhura bhakthi (eternal devotion) in that song, the king Saluva Narasimharaya requested to sing one such song on him too. Annamayya replied that his tongue never utters a word other than his Sri Hari and his throat never sings a song for ordinary mortals like him. The King Saluva Narasimharaya got furious and ordered his guards to punish him severely for disobeying his orders.

Annamacharya was hand-cuffed and sent to the jail. The king ordered the soldiers to torture him until he obeys to sing for him. Annamacharya was beaten mercilessly by the guards in the jail. Annamacharya sings a keerthana praising the Lord of Seven Hills saying that He is the only succour for him. A few minutes later, amidst thundering flash the hand-cuffs broken instantly on their own and fell down. On learning the miracle the king Saluva rushed to the prison and fell on Annamacharya’s feet seeking pardon for his terrible mistake. His entire ego was shattered by the eternal devotion of saint Annmacharya for Lord Venkateswara. He requested him to accept him as a disciple and take him under his shelter. He was ready to leave the entire kingdom and go with Annamacharya wherever he goes. Annamacharya though accepted him as his disciple reminded him that he was a king and being a king it was his duty to rule the kingdom humbly and honestly. As a disciple he was given the duty to advertise and popularize his sankeertanas among people. Annamacharya then left the kingdom back to Tirumala to serve the Lord again.

After returning to Tirumala, Annmacharya introduced many rituals and festivals celebrating and hailing the Lord. It was Annamacharya who first started and decided to perform “Nitya Kalyanotsavam” (the ever celebrated marriage ceremony) of the Lord Srinivasa with Goddess Sri Devi and Bhoodevi. Many other rituals and festivals introduced by Annmacharya are still followed in Tirumala Temple. He spent many years in Tirumala Temple composing and singing millions of songs on Lord Venkateswara Swamy. Most of his compositions were “Sringarika” (Romantic) and “Aadhyatmika” (Spiritual).

A couple of years later, Annamacharya lost both of his wives Timmakka and Akkalamma. It can be said that Annamacharya’s compositions have taken a new dimension hereafter. He had written many Viraha geethams (sorrow songs) after losing his wives. Many poems were also written on social equality.

In those days the people of backward casts in India were not allowed to enter the temple premises. The songs of Annamacharya inspired and motivated the people of backward classes to have the darshan of that divine Lord which the Annamacharya praises so much. Many tried to enter the temple premises but they were pushed out of the temple premises by temple authorities and religious clerics. It is believed that the great Annamacharya had supported the movement for the temple entry of backward caste people. In this regards, the great saint has composed and sang songs like “Kondalalo Nelakona Koneti rayadu vadu..! Kondalanta varamulu guppedu vadu..!” Which means the God is our local who stays along with us in these rocks and caves blessing one and all equally. “Tandanana Ahi Tandananapure… Tandanana bhala Tandanana… Brahmamokkate Parabrahmamokkate…. Parabrahmamokkate Parabrahmamokkate II…!” With this song the great Annamacharya condemned the differences of caste and creed. He adopted a folk-form; "Tandana Padam" which is sung with a folk instrument called "Dappu" to propagate the Truth of equality of all human beings.

The angry clerics then decided to punish Annamacharya for helping the dalits entering the temple premises. But they could not dare to punish him directly because he has the power of people. They realized that all his popularity among people is due to his songs and keerthans. Annamacharya used to write the keerthans on palm leaves. A group of miscreants decided to punish him by burning the keerthans written by the great Annamacharya. They secretly stollen the treasure of Annamacharya’s entire life and tried to burn them. Incidentally, some one noticed their heinous act and stopped them. When Annamacharya learnt the incident he was half broken. The news was immediately provided to the King Saluva Narasimharaya. He immediately rushed to his guru Annamacharya and consoled him. The King Saluva then decided to preserve this treasure forever and decided to engrave them in copper plates. With the help of Annamacharyas son Tirumalacharya the sankeerthanas saved from fire were engraved into copper plates. After completion of the engraving work, Annamacharya looked a relieved man. A few days later, the great saint Annamacharya left the millions of his well-wishers and lovers in sorrow. He died on 23rd of February 1503 A.D. According to Telugu calendar the month is "PHALGUNAM", the Tithi (A day in a month according to the position of the Moon) is "BAHULA DWADASI".

The treasures of Annamacharya engraved in copper plates were hidden in a rock built cell opposite to Hundi (donation sack) in the Tirumala Temple unnoticed for over 400 years. His Son, Peda Tirumalacharya and Grandson, Chinatirumalacharya got the Sankeertanas of Annamacharya engraved on copper-plates and Treasured those Copper Plates in "Sankeertana Bhandaram" (a rock-built-cell at TIRUMALA temple. For many years the great saint Annamacharya had remained in the darkness. His songs were sung among people of Andhra Pradesh. But unfortunately, nobody knows the real creator of those songs until those valuable treasures of Annamacharya were found.

It was only in the year 1922, two thousand and five hundred copper plates comprising of 14,000 sankeertanas and a few other works were found in the rock built cell. The cell was later named as “Sankeerthana Bhandagaram” which means a treasury of poems opposite to the Hundi. It was only during the decades of 1970 the facts of Annamayya and Tallapaka Village has come into light.

Ever since the discovery of this lost treasure, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) and other organizations in India are working hard to promote the music and literature of Annamacharya. Since then Saint Annamacharya’s birth and death Anniversaries were grandly celebrated at Tirumala. TTD organizes many devotional activities and promote the sankeertans of this great grandfather of our Telugu Literature.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where is the "Samadhi" of Annamacharya ?

Anonymous said...

Om Namo Narayanaya

Anonymous said...

annamayya was great such as a great poet , great philosoper ,great devotee ,and great social reformer.

annamayya expired but his songs alive till end of earth

Anonymous said...

annamayya was a great poet,great philosoper, great devotee ,and great social reformer.

annamayya expired but is songs will be alive in the earth in thousand centuries. by suresh mourya

Anonymous said...

great poet and devotee

saiteja krishna said...

annamayya samadhi is in rajampeta kurnool dist

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