Tenali Rama

Tenali Ramakrishna

Native name తెనాలి రామకృష్ణ
Born Garalapati Ramakrishna
15th century
Garalapadu, Guntur District Andhra Pradesh, India
Died 15th century
Occupation Poet
Language Telugu
Nationality Indian
Genre Religion, Folk,
Subject Telugu literature

Tenali Ramakrishna, who was known as Vikatakavi (jester poet),[1] was a Telugu poet who hailed from the present-day Andhra Pradesh region, generally known for his wit and humour.[2] He was one of the Ashtadiggajas or the eight poets at the court of Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagara emperor (reign: 1509–1529).

Tenali Ramakrishna composed works on Hinduism.[2] Ramalinga, as he was originally called, is said to have been Shaivite by birth but he eventually converted to Vaishnavism and changed his name to Ramakrishna.[3]

Early life

Tenali Ramalinga was born in a Telugu Brahmin family as Garlapati Ramakrishna, in a village called Thumuluru during the early part of the sixteenth century while it is widely believed that he was born in Tenali. His father was Garlapati Ramayya, who served as a priest in the Ramalingesvara swami temple in Tenali.[4][5]

Ramayya died when Ramakrishna was very young. His mother Lakshmamma returned to her native place Tenali to live with her brother. Ramakrishna grew up in his uncle’s town and so came to be known as Tenali Ramakrishna.[6] He was also known as Tenali Ramalinga, a Shaiva (Shiva-worshipping sect) name. It is believed that he later converted to Vaishnavism.[7]

Tenali Ramakrishna did not receive any formal education during his childhood, but became a great scholar, due to his thirst for knowledge. As per a well-known tale, the Vaishnava (devotees of Vishnu) scholars rejected to accept him as a disciple, as he was a Shaiva. Later while roaming aimlessly, he met a sage, who advised him to worship the goddess Kali. He worshipped and appeased the goddess with his devotion. Kali appeared before him and admired his sense of humour and blessed him that one day, he would be acclaimed as a great comic-poet in the court of King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara. Later, he joined the famous troupe of 'Bhagavatha Mela'. When the troupe came to Vijayanagara to perform in front of the king, Ramakrishna's performance caught the eye of the King and other people. He shared his life story with Krishnadevaraya, who granted him the post of the comic poet in the court, completing the Ashtadiggajas (The eight scholars) group. Ramakrishna attained fame as a great jester poet.[8] The records also state that Ramalinga was instrumental in protecting the King Rayalu many times, coming to his rescue in critical situations. A popular story narrates how Ramalinga protected Vijayanagara from the Delhi Sultanate by his timely wit and strategy.[7]

Literary works

Tenali Rama was noted for his brilliance and wit.[9] Tenali Ramakrishna's great work Panduranga Mahatmyam is a Kāvya of high merit, remarkable for its sonorous dignity of phrasing, and is counted as one of the Pañcha Mahā Kāviyas (the Five Great Kavyas) of Telugu literature.[10] It contains a legendary account of a shrine of Vishnu as Panduranga, at Pandharpur consecrated by the ministration of Saint Pandarika. A brahmin named Nigama Sharma, who wasted his life in dissipation and debauchery, breathed his last in Pandharpur. A controversy ensures between servants of Yama and servants of Vishnu. The former were anxious to carry him to hell as he lived a wicked life and the latter claimed him for heaven, as he died in that sacred place. Indeed, the verdict is in favour of the servants of Vishnu.[3] Tenali took the theme for Panduranga Mahatmyam from the Skanda Purana and enhanced it with many stories about the devotees of Panduranga. An imaginary character named 'Nigama Sarma akka' was created by Tenali Ramakrishna and he built a story around her without giving her a name. He also composed many extempore poems called 'Chatuvu'.[7] [11] [12]

Tenali Ramakrishna attained the status of a folk hero when he was the court poet of Krishnadevaraya, but at the same time he composed serious works on religion. Three of his narrative poems are available today. His first poem, Udbhataradhya Charitamu about the Shaiva teacher Udbhata which is based on Palakuriki Somanatha's Basava Puranam. Udbhataradhya Charitamu also deals with the sanctity of Varanasi. Because of Tenali Ramakrishna's affinity towards Shaivite religion, he was also known as Tenali Ramalinga Kavi.[2][13] However, he had great devotion for Vaishnavism as well which is reflected in his work Panduranga Mahatyam .

Tenali was called a vikata kavi [14] (a palindrome in Telugu script) means clown-jester-poet. He was also entitled by "Kumara Bharathi", for his works.[7] The famous Mahishasura Mardini Stotram, the Sanskrit poem of Adoration of the Mother Goddess is attributed to Ramakrishna Kavi, which was a name of Tenali Rama.

See also


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