Sri Annamacharya
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Sri Annamacharya
(1408 - 1503)

Annamacharya was born of Narayana Suri alias Kumaranarayana and Lakshmamba of Tallapaka in Cuddapah district, Andhra Pradesh.  At the age of eight, Annamacharya had to leave Tallapaka for Tirumala on a command from Lord Venkataramana in dream.  The child prodigy had the vision of Alamelumanga (the damsel standing on a flower), the divine consort of Lord Srinivasa.  Young Annama poured forth inspired songs numbering a hundred immediatedly at the same place, Mokallamudupu.  As he ascended the seven hills, he was scaling spiritual heights too and he reached the Abode of Bliss, which to this day is an unparalleled inspiration to all categories of the public.  Like the sages and the musical trinity, he was initiated into Vaishnava fold by Ghana Vishnu with Panchasamskaram rituals.  Annamacharya remained at Tirumala till he attained the age of sixteen, an age immortalised by Markandeya of Tirukadayur.  He had the manifestation of Lord Venkataramana and the commad of the Lord to compose not less than a song a day.  his he carried out to the last.  Divine will took him back to Talapaka and he married Thimmakka and Akkalamma.

Annamacharya toured the whole of South India worshipping and singing in praise of famous Vaishnavite shrines.  Adivan Sathakopa Yathindra Maha Desikan (first acharya) of Ahobila Matam accepted him as his disciple and enlightened his life and mission. Inspired by the teachings of the guru, he sang the essence of Vasishtadwaita philosophy for the benefit of mankind.  Saluva Narasingaraya, who ruled from Penukonda invited Annamacharya to his Court.  But it was to last long.  Delighted at the charm of the Poet's compositions, the Saluva expressed a desire for composing a song in praise of himself.  'Narastuti', (praise of man) was not within Annamacharya's comprehension.  Quite in keeping with Prahalada's code Annamacharya told the chieftain that his compositions were of and for the Lord alone.  Stung by the honest reply of the poet, the Saluva imprisoned Annamacharya.  On release, Annamacharya left for his spiritual home, Tirumala.

Annamacharya, his son Pedda Tirumalacharya and his grandson Chinna Tirumala are together called as 'Tallapakam' composers.  They were the first to compose songs in Telugu with Pallavi and Charanam which later composers adopted adding Anupallavi.  A colossal output of thirty two thousand songs were sung by Annamacharya.  Twenty thousand are not traceable.  The copper plates onwhich they were inscribed are now with Sri Venkateswara Oriental Research Institute, Tirupati.  The prolific composer had authored several works and the following are now available:
1. Sringara Manjari:
Poems of madura bhakti - Devotion and longing of the maiden for the Lord and her final union as in the case of Andal of Tirupavai songs symbolising the merger of the soul - jeevathma - with the ultimate - Paramathma.

2. Sringara Sankirtana:
Anthology of Nayaka - Nayika poems symbolising the Lord and the Poet in sringara.

3.  Adhyatma Sankeertana:
Philosophical work expatiating on adoration.

The original Adhyatma Sankeertana in Sanskrit was transalated into Telugu by Chinna Tirumala and published by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam.  The works are all addressed to the patron deity, Lord Venkateswara (Venkataramana).  About ninety ragas had been used for the twelve thousand songs including rakti ragas like Ahiri and Bouli which predominate.  Annamacharya also wrote the Sanskrit treatise on desi song forms titled 'Sankirtana Lakshana'.  His songs cover temple rituals, utsavams and certain aspects of life and after.  Annmacharya has also authored other works like:
Ramayana in Dwipada kavya
Venkatachala Mahatyam in Sanskrit
Satakas - eleven and
Prabandas in different languages.

Visishtadwaitam and Lord Venkateswara were the prime themes of Annmacharya as Rama was to Tyagaraja, Guha and Devi to Muthuswami Dikshitar, Krishna to Jayadeva.  The language is simple, direct, colloquial within the reach of the lay devotee.  He made liberal use of folk forms to popularise the message; and it was the message of God, Dharma and Humanism.  He called his songs Sankirtanas and thus came to be called 'Sankirtanacharya'.  The preceptor is also called as 'Pada Kavita Pitamaha', i.e., the progenitor of padam lyrics.  The devotee, poet, composer and saint is revered.  The Devasthanam is taking steps to popularise his songs which are the first of their kind combining bakthi, music and sweet Telugu ( sundara Telugu, as Mahakavi Subramanya Bharati extolled its sweet charm).

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SrimatE Gopaladesika MahadesikAya Namaha,

Sri Annamacharya's Krithi - Sri Muralidhar Rangaswamy

Dear Bhaktas,

A valuable acquisition during Adiyen's recent trip to India was a CD of Sri Annamacharya Krithis rendered by Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi. One krithi which particularly moved Adiyen was "SarvOpayamulE" set to the Ragam Kalyani.

Sri Tallapakka Annamacharya was a disciple of Sri Adivan Satakopa Yathindra Mahadesikan, the founding father of Sri Ahobila Matham. Upon initiation into the sacred Nrusimha Mantram and receiving Bharanayasam from Adivan Satakopa Jeeyar, Sri Annamacharya undertook an oath to compose one krithi everyday of his life in praise of Lord Srinivasa. As a result, he composed 32,000 krithis most of which are in praise of the Lord of Venkatachalam. The remaining are in praise of Bhagavan Nrusimha. In his Krithis, Sri Annamacharya brings out with consummate effect the tenets of Bhagavad Ramanuja Darshanam as practised by Swami Desikan and Adivan Satakopa Yathi.

The krithi SarvOpayamulE at the outset recognizes the Lord of Seven Hills as the Upayam for everything. In one masterful word, Sri Annamacharya conveys the message of the Bhagavad Gita salutation "Vasudeva Sarvam Iti". Sri Annamacharya states that all the Upayams for the entire universe can be found with ease in the Lotus feet of Sheshadri Nayakan. In this context, it must also be noted that Sri Annamacharya captures the condensed essence of the Anubhavam of Kulashekara Azhwar "EdEnum AvEnE", "PadiyAy Kidandu Un PavazhavAy KaNbene", which bear eloquent testimony to the BrahmAnda PuraNam declaration "Venkatadri Samam SthAnam BrahmAnDE NAsti Kinchana I Venkatesha SamO deva na BhUtO na Bhavaishyati" .

Next, Annamacharya points out that the fruit of Ganga snanam is readily obtained by taking a dip in the Swami Pushkarini at Venkatachalam. Here, the incomparable vageyyakara recognizes that four essential things for realizing Lord Narayana, are Gayathri, Gita, Ganga, and Govinda, the last one lending gravitation to the other three. Adiyen will briefly dwell on the significance of each of these.

The foremost form of worshipping Lord Narayana is through the recitation of the Rg, Yajus, and Saama Vedams. However, not many are well versed with the three Vedams. It is here that Gayathri Devi plays an important role. During the morning Sandhya period, clad in red silk, Gayathri Devi eulogizes Lord Narayana through the recitation of the Rg Vedam. During the afternoon Sandhya period, Gayathri Devi, clad in white silk, glorifies Lord Narayana through the recitation of the Yajur Vedam. In the evening Sandya period, clad in black silk, Gayathri Devi eulogizes Lord Narayana through the recitation of the Saama Vedam. Thus, performance of Gayathri Manthra Japam at the appropirate Sandhya periods confers the benefit of worshipping Lord Narayana through the recitation of the Rg, Yajus, and Saama Vedam.

The loftiness of the Bhagavad Gita stems from the fact that it is the condensed essence of all the Upanishads. Most importantly, it blesses us with the sacred 32 syllabled Charma Shlokam from the mouth of Lord Krishna. This 32 syllabled Charma Shlokam is the quintessence of the 32 Brahma Vidyas. The Charma Shlokam is the most forthright, unambiguous declaration of the doctrine of unconditional, total surrender to the Lotus feet of Lord Narayana.

Next, the holy Ganga has its origin in the Lotus feet of Lord Narayana. During the Trivikrama Avataram, Brahma performed Sripada Teertham for Lord Narayana reciting the Purusha Sooktam. The waters from this Sripada Teertham became the sacred Ganges river. Due to the association of Vishnu Padam, the Ganges river possesses the power to cleanse one of their sins. The cleansing is accomplished regardless of one's caste, creed, gender, attainments, or background.  The centrality of Govinda-the Lord of the earth, cows and Vedam to Gayathri, Gita, and Ganga have been established above. The namam Govinda also has intimate connections to PraNavam, the first Aksharam of the sacred Ashtakshara Mantram. PraNavam unequivocally declares the supremacy of Lord Narayana and recognizes Him as the Sarva Seshi.

Accordingly, Sri Annamacharya masterfully points out that Venkatachalam-the residence of Govinda (Lord of the earth, cows, and Vedam) is fully capable of granting this benefit. Sri Annamacharya then proceeds to extol the greatness of Venkatachalam as follows: "The fruit of residence at all Divya deshams can be obtained here itself ( Tirupathi). In simple Kirtanams, I extol the greatness of Lord Venkateshwara. In the process, I convey the underlying message of all the Vedas and Upanishads, i.e., Lord Narayana is the Supreme Lord"

Next, Sri Annamacharya glorifies Bhagavatas who come in large numbers to offer their salutations to the Lord of Seven Hills and states that there can be no greater blessing than to be associated with such Bhagavatas who are completely immersed in thoughts of Lord Narayana. Sri Annamacharya then glorifies the exalted role of Piratti, who is never separated from Lord Srinivasa, and who has taken up eternal residence in the Lord's Vakshasthalam. Sri Annamacharya points out that it is imperative to obtain Thayar's Kataksham prior to approaching the Lord. Sri Annamacharya then asks "What do I get after being the beneficiary of Thayar's grace? I perform SharaNagati to the Lotus feet of Lord Venkateshwara, who accepts me verily like a father welcoming his son"

Namo Narayana,

SriMuralidhara Dasan

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The Legacy of Tallapaka Poets - T. Kothandaramaiah (saptagiri magazine of TTD)

Tirupati is not only a place of pilgrimage, but a place of great literary activity also. The Poets of Tallapaka family sang the glory of Lord Venkateswara in song and verse for over two centuries. From the times of Annamayya (I5th century) who was the progenitor (Mula purusha) of the family, they were the honorary court poets of Lord Venkateswara. Even to this day there is a tradition in the temple at Tirumala that a descendant of the family of Annamayya sings a song composed by Annamayya, tuning a Tambura at the time of Ekanta Seva, the last ritual of the day in the temple when the God is put to sleep. Annamayya's first wife Timmakka wrote 'Subhadrakalyanamu' and historians consider her as the first poetess known in Telugu Literature. Narasinganna, his eldest son who was identified to be Sankusala Nrisimha Kavi, the author of 'Kavikarnarasayanamu' was also a poet of great merit. The third son Peda Tirumalacharya continued the tradition of his father in composing' Padas ' in Telugu on Lord Sri Venkateswara. Chinna Tirumalayya, the eldest son of Peda Tirumalayya was also a great poet. Peda Tiruvengalanadha, Chinnanna, Tiruvengalappa were also celebrated poets of the family. Revanuri Venkatacharya, the author of 'Sakuntalaparinayamu' and 'Sripadarenumahatmyamu' was a descendant of Annamayya's grandson by his daughter. Thus the contribution of the family of Tallapaka poets forms a significant part in Telugu Literature. The image of Annamayya having a Tambura in his hand, a holy cap made of cloth called' Kabbayi kullayi' usually worn by saints in those days in a standing pose of a devotee, is a matter of interest to the lovers of Telugu Literature. The image of Annamayya and that of his son Peda Tirumalayya are engraved on the stone wall to the either side of 'Tallapaka Ara' in the Tirumalai Temple. These images are of great interest as we have no images preserved of any early Telugu poets.

'Annamacharya Charitramu', the biography of Annamacharya written by his grandson Chinnanna in Dvipada metre was discovered and printed in 1948, As the work was written by the grandson of the poet, we can believe the authenticity of the biographical information furnished in the book.

Annamayya, a Nandavarika Niyogi Brahmin, was born in the village 'Thallapaka' of Cuddapah district in the year 1346 of the Salivahana saka (1424 A.D.) in Visakha Masa in Visakha star. It will be interesting to note that Sathakopayati alias Nammalwar, one of the twelve Vaishnavite saints (Alwars) was also born in the month Visakha and in Visakha star. Visakha star in Visakha masa ordinarily falls on Purnima, the full-moon day of the month.

Visakha Purnima is also the birth day of Lord Buddha. Annamacharya died in 1503 A.D. on Bahula Dwadasi of the month Phalguna in Dundubhi year and hence he lived a full and useful life of 79 years. It is said of Vedanta Desika that he was born as an Amsavatara of the Big Bell in the temple. Likewise Annamayya is said to have born as an Amsavatara of the sword (Nandaka) of Lord Vishnu. His father was Narayana Suri. Lakkamamba was his mother. From his boy-hood Annamayya was a devotee to Lord Kesava, a local deity at Thallapaka. In his sixteenth year he had a vision of Lord Venkateswara and from that day onwards he began composing songs on the Supreme Lord. Whatever he uttered was becoming a poem (kavya), whatever he sang turned to be excellent music.

On one fine morning, without even informing his parents, he left for Tirupati on a pilgrimage on foot. He reached the place in a few days. Unaware of the tradition that one should not climb up the hills with foot-wear on, he walked up but felt tired' and asleep in the midway of the hill. While he was asleep the consort of Lord Venkateswara appeared in his dream and advised him to climb the hills barefooted. He wondered at the vision, he had. Overwhelmed with joy Annamayya composed .one hundred stanzas extempore in praise of the Mother Goddess. As the stanzas were with the Makutamu of 'Venkateswara ' it was later on known as, 'Sri Venkateswara Sathakamu.' Then he climbed up the hills, took his bath in the sacred Pushkarini, went to the temple and had darshan of Lord Venkateswara. He visited the holy tirthas-Gogarbham, Akasaganga, Papavinasanamu and so on and had a holy bath in those places. At every bath he used to compose sathakas on Sri Venkateswara extempore before his clothes got dried up in the sun. One day he came late to the temple by which time the doors of the temple were closed. Then Annamayya sang in praise of God requesting him to give him darsan and to the surprise of one and all assembled there, the doors opened of their own accord and Annamayya got in and worshipped the Deity. A similar incident is said to have happened in the life of Thyagarajaswami also.

Annamayya lived on the hills for some days during which time he got himself admitted into the fold of Vaishnavism. Adhi Van Sathakopa Jiyyar at Tirumalai took him as his disciple and made him study the Sampradaya Grandhas i.e., the works relating to Visishtadvaita Philosophy. He had the Mantropadesa of the sacred 'Ashtakshari' and Mudradharanam-the preliminary rites to be observed at the time of conversion to Vaishnavism having the marks called Dwadasa Tripundras (The twelve vaishnavite marks) on his body. He studied Mahabhashyam, Nalayiram-the Dravida Prabandha and other works of the ancient Alwars under the feet of the revered Jiyyar.

While he was thus engaged in the study of Vaishnavite thought, his mother Lakkamamba came in search of him. She persuaded him to come back to the village. But Annamayya refused to do so, saying that he would be losing the benefit of service to the God. But at last on the advice of his learned Guru, the Jiyyar - he agreed to go along with his mother. After the marriage with Tirumalamma and Akkalamma he stayed in the village for a short period and again went to Tirupati. From there he went to Ahobalam where he composed his songs based on Valmiki Ramayana. During this period after marriage, he composed many romantic hymns which were called Sringara Sankirthanalu' on Lord Venkateswara.

Annamayya was famous for his musical compositions. It is only at this time that he came into contact with Saluva Narasinga who was a Chieftain at Tangutur. Saluva Narasinga came to know of Annamayya's talents. He invited him to Tangutur. They were moving so closely as the people of the village compared them with Arjuna and Sri Krishna. Annamayya used to compose songs on Lord Venkateswara and sing them in the presence of his friend, Narasinga. Narasinga had all appreciation for the poetic talents of Annamayya. One day Saluva Narasinga sent word to Annamayya and asked him to compose songs on him similar to those on Lord Venkateswara. Annamayya was shocked to have such a request from his friend. He refused very boldly, saying 'Hari Mukunduni Goniyadu nii jihva Ninu Goniyiidanga Neradu.....' which means: My tongue which is accustomed to sing in praise of God will not sing in praise of a human being.

A similar incident occurred in the life of Pothana also who wrote Bhagavathamu in Telugu. Narasinga got wild and ordered him to be punished by 'Mururayara Ganda,' His hans were tied with shackles and he was thrown into prison. Then Annamayya sang a song and to the surprise of the gate-keepers the shackles ' Mururayara Ganda '-fell down on the floor. They informed this to the king. The king ordered them to present Annamayya before him. He was brought before the king. The Mururayara Ganda was once again put on his hands. Annamayya sang the same song. He got himself relieved from Mururayara Ganda. Narasinga repented for his ill- reatment to the poet and apologised to him. Annamayya excused him whole-heartedly and continued his friendship with him. Afterwards Annamayya made Tirumala as his permanent abode and led a happy and long life in the service of the Lord.

It was his practice to compose not less than one song every day from his 16th year during which he had the vision of God. In Annamacharya Charitramu it is said that Annamayya composed thirty two thousand hymns on Lord Venkateswara. During the time of his son, Peda Tirumalacharya, the hymns were inscribed on copper plates and were preserved safely in an apartment called 'Sankirthana Bhandaramu' inside the main temple. When Annamayya grew old, Purundara Dasa who composed several thousands of songs in Kannada and who is said to be the exponent of Karnatak Music, came to Tirumala and paid his respects to the great saint-poet. Purandara Dasa praised Annamayya that he was the incarnation of Venkateswara himself and Annamayya in turn praised Purundara Dasa that he was the incarnation of Sri Panduranga Vitthala.

The musical compositions of Annamayya are divided into two divisions 'Adhyatma Sankirthanalu' and 'Sringara Sankirtanalu'. There are some more works written by him both in Sanskrit and Telugu. Venkatachala Mahatmyamu and Sankirtana Lakshnamu are his Sanskrit works. His Sankirtana Lakshnamu in Sanskrit was translated into Telugu by his grandson Chinna Tirumalayya. But it is unfortunate that the Sanskrit version of the book is not available at present. Dwipada Ramayanamu, Sringara Manjari, Venkateswara Satakamu are his works in Telugu. Among these works the Dwipada Ramayanamu is not available. Annamayya Jola, a lullaby composed by Annamayya is very popular in Andhra that every mother sings this to make her child asleep. The beginning of the lulluby is as follows:

Jo Acyutananda Jo Jo Mukunda .....

Annamayya Lali, another lullaby is also popular in Andhra. He is said to have composed twelve satakas in praise of the presiding deities at different places, but Sri Venkateswara Satakamu alone is available now. The other works are lost to us.

The musical compositions of Annamayya and others of his family are treasures of great poetic beauty. They were inscribed on copper plates under the direct supervision of the poets themselves. Hence they form an authentic record of the language of the 15th and 16th centuries. The compositions were mostly extempore in spoken dialect unlike in the classics of the age which were written in the classical (Grandhika) style. It is seen in the musical compositions that the poets never hesitated to profusely make use of forms traditionally not acceptable to Grammarians of the day. The large number of the musical compositions of Tallapaka family forms a valuable source for linguistic study of Telugu of the medieval times.

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