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Annamacharya The poet saint of Tirumala

Annamacharya The poet saint of Tirumala
Highlights

Tallapaka Annamaharya, also known as Annamaiah, was a poet saint (1408-1503) known for heralding the style of pada kavitha, a musical form of padam. He hails from the Nandavarika community in Tallapaka village of Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh.  

Hyderabad: Tallapaka Annamaharya, also known as Annamaiah, was a poet saint (1408-1503) known for heralding the style of pada kavitha, a musical form of padam. He hails from the Nandavarika community in Tallapaka village of Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh.

According to the tradition, Nandavarika’s ancestors had migrated from the city of Varanasi to the village of Nandavaram in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh way back in the 10th Century AD.

A contemporary of famous poet saint Purandhara Dasa from Karnataka, he belongs to the Bhakti Marga (School of devotion), expounded by similar poet saints like Shankar Dev from Assam and poetesses like Mira Bhai from Rajasthan and others from elsewhere in India.

As the first known composer in Carnatic music, spanning about 96 years from the age of 16, Annamacharya wrote about 32,000 songs in praise of Lord Venkateswara, the presiding deity of the Seven Hills of Tirumala. His unique style of songs written in praise of the deity endeared him to the people as Sankeerthana Acharya.

He is widely regarded also as Andhra Pada kavitā Pitāmaha (Godfather of Telugu song writing). Presently about 12,000 of the 32,000 songs written by him are available. Annamachyara’s poems fall under three categories: Bhakti, Vedantic and Viragya.

The Bhakti poems of Annamacharya are of two major kinds: firstly, those that are written in praise of the glory of the Lord of the Seven Hills, such as, “Venkataa Chala Nilayam Vaikunta Pura Vasam (The abode on the hill of Venkata is the abode of Lord Vishnu, the Vaikunta); and secondly, his devotional outpourings like “Deva Deavam Bhaje Divya Prabhavam”, in which the poet saint sings in praise of Lord Rama, but nevertheless treats him the same as his Lord of the Seven Hills.

This reflects the principle of looking at the one divine in many of its manifestations. Another key element is that his songs reflect the ‘Sringara’ or songs of love; in which Annamacharya expresses the urge of the individual self to erode the line that remains a hurdle to be with the universal self which lies as an underlying unity of all its diverse manifestations on the earth through the medium of love or in communion with the divine.

This is known as the Madhura Bhakti tradition of devotion. This is an integral part of the Visistadvaitha school of philosophy, and springs from the Vedanta (end or subsume of the Veda) tradition.

His Bhakti poems get further consolidated in his Vedantic poem of “Brahamokka te, Parabhramamokkate’ (the Brahman or ultimate reality is only one). In this Sankeerthana, he further goes to take on the discrimination prevailing among different sections of people asking “the sleep of a king and the clown is the same, the earth a Brahmin and a Chandala share is the same,” and stressing a social reform, and people realise that, it is the same all-pervading universal self that lies within every being on this earth.

In his poems of Viragaya (detachment), the poet saint makes a submission to his Lord, “Yennadu Vigyanamu Naku” (when will enlightenment dawn upon me) and takes up a catharsis of human life on this earth.

In his poem, “Yakkadi Manusha Janmambettina Phalamemunnadi” (what is the use of taking this human birth)? For, I would not leave the pleasures, don’t care to know the right kind of knowledge, the secrets of philosophy, and forget the teacher and the God.

All this, one does by running after the mirages of the worldly pleasures with greed and doing sinful actions. And, leaves it to his Lord to decide what is best for him as he believes in Him only.

Expressing profound thoughts of devotion, spiritual, philosophical intricacies in simple words understandable even by the common people is the loftiest achievement for him. What is more interesting is that his compositions to the musical rhythms of folk tunes like “Sirutha Navvula Vadu Sinnikka” give this poet saint naturally a preeminent position in the country’s Bhakti literature.

By V R C Phaniharan

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