Is the world Annamayamu or Annamacharya mayamu? As a Bhakta rose from Annamayya level to Annamacharya level, we human beings should rise from the Annamaya world (Materialistic world seeking food) to the level of Annamacharya with a total surrender to God!
Tallapaka Village is located in Rajampet Taluk in Cuddapah district in AP. Lord Chenna Kesava temple and Siddeswara temple are the famous temples there. Lord Chennakesava, is worshipped more than the other Lord.
The story of Annamayya goes back to his grandfather named Narayanayya. Narayanayya was named after his great grand father. The young Narayanayya was a dunce in school. He could not improve even if he was shifted to a school in Ootukooru village, near Tallapaka. He had to face many insults and great tortures. Unable to bear them, he decided to give up his life. He heard of a serpent in the Chintalamma temple. He wanted to be stung by the serpent and so he went there all alone. He closed his eyes; put his hand into the serpent’s hole. But lo! He heard a voice ‘don’t be disheartened Narayanayya.’ You will get everything by the grace of Chennakesava. What’s more a boy will be born in your house in the third generation and he will bring fame to your family and to the village. He could guess that Goddess spoke unto him and so he went home happily. As prophesied by the goddess he learnt everything by the grace of Lord Chennakesava Swami.
Narayanayya had a son by name Narayana Suri and a daughter-in-law by name Lakkamamba. Narayana Suri was a learned man while Lakkamamba was a pious woman. She could directly converse with Lord Chennakesava. The couple was not blessed with children and so visited many holy places seeking the blessings of various Gods.
Finally they reached Tirumala and prostrated before the Holy Mast (Dhwaja Stambham) in front of the temple. Suddenly they felt they were getting a little drowsy. A dazzling brilliance appeared to the couple and presented a shining sword to them. They were more than delighted at the positive sign and returned home with lots of hope.
Their dream came true. In due course Lakkamamba became pregnant and delivered a boy. He was named Annamayya because he was born by the grace of ‘Nandaka’ the holy sword of Lord Vishnu. The little boy was a source of joy for all the people around him. He had an innate faith in Him, being blessed by the Lord. Even as a child, he was all attention to the Lord Venkateswara. He would fold his palm as a salutation unto the lord; he would drink milk or go to bed only when he heard a chanting or prayer of the Lord. He nodded his head to the songs sung by the mother as if he knew the meaning of the song.
At the age of five, he learnt more than what his teachers could teach him. He frequented the temple and fondly addressed Lord Chennakesava as ‘my little Kesava’! God seemed to enjoy his intimacy with him. The little boy played in the lap of nature. He sang with the chirping birds, danced with the gently blowing wind and jumped with the floating lotuses. He corrected the raga and tala of the village damsel’s songs. He himself sang very sweetly.
Annamayya’s playful moods created a racket in the joint family. There was a huge hue and cry at his ways. He was asked to fetch some grass for the cattle from the forest. Though his parent’s sympathies were with him, they were helpless.
Annamayya, accordingly, proceeded to the forest with a sickle and his ‘tambura.’ His playful mood cropped out first, but his sense of duty suppressed it. He began his Herculean task, but the very first blow, cut his little finger. He was in tears. He cursed himself and his family ties. He felt all these relationships are mere illusion. Nobody would ultimately stand by his side.
When he was philosophizing to himself thus, a group of pilgrims attracted his attention. They were proceeding to Tirumala. Great sages like Sanaka were also present among them. They had caste marks on their foreheads and carried bows in their hands. As they beat their drums and sang in great devotion, they were also chanting ‘Govinda, Govinda’ repeatedly. Annamayya joined them and reached Tirupathi with them.
In Tirupathi he had the Darsan of the local deity Gangamma and then reached the foot of the hill and worshipped Lord Narasimha there. The first hill out of the seven hills of the Lord Venkateswara is also called the hill of stars (Chukkala Parvatham). In this hill there is an idol of Anjaneya on a rock called ‘Taleru Gundu’. Pilgrims climbing up the hill would touch this rock with their knees and head so that they would not feel any pain. Annamayya worshipped Anjaneya here. The magnificent peaks appeared as the hood of Adisesha. Adisesha is believed to have taken the form of the seven hills for Lord Venkateswara to ramble about. That visual effect wrought out the poet in Annamayya and the following Kirthana gushed out of him.
Adivo Alladivo Sri Hari Vasamu
Padivela Seshula Padagala Mayamu !
Look there! That is the abode of Hari. It is formed by the hood of Adisesha. Sages dwell there since they find eternal peace there. It is replete with riches and prosperity. It is the holiest of the holy things.
Annamayya started climbing up the hill. For a mere boy of eight, who hardly knows any hard work, this was yet another Herculean task. Added to that, the scorching heat of the sun was unbearable in spite of the fragrant Karpura stream flowing by. He was tired and hungry. He was almost about to faint. So he stretched himself in a cool bamboo grove and slept even without taking off his footwear, to the sweet lullaby of the gentle breeze across the bamboo groves.
Goddess Alamelu Manga, touched by the boy’s pitiable condition, appeared before him, took him into Her lap and gently caressed him. He felt it like the gentle touch of his mother and woke up, but lo! He could not see anything. He cried, ‘Oh mother! I am not able to see anything!’ The Goddess fondled him and said, ‘My son, this Tirumala Hill is made up of the holy salagrama rock. Remove your footwear and see.’ How amazing! When he did remove his footwear the very surroundings attained grandeur. Every tree looked like a saint and every animal like a God. Everything looked like an incarnation of the Lord. He heard the chanting of the Vedas all around. He bowed to the Holy hill in joy. The Goddess offered him food. He was so thrilled that a hundred verses gushed out of his heart in praise of her. He offered them as flower to her. Alamelu Manga means a damsel standing on a flower.
Annamayya climbed up the seven hills joyously and had a bath in the holy pond, known as Swami Pushkarini. It is proclaimed to be an amalgamation of various holy rivers, Hence a dip in it would cleanse of a man of his sins. He felt he was retrieved of his physical pain after his bath and a sense of peace prevailed over him.
He went for the Darsan of Lord Varaha. The ‘Stalapurana’ goes this way. Tirumala was under the possession of Lord Varahaswami earlier. He gave permission to Lord Venkateswara to stay there. So, it is customary to pay a visit to Varahaswami, as a sign of gratitude, before we have the Darsan of Lord Venkateswara. This practice is in vogue even today.
Annamayya then went to the temple of Venkateswara, which was awe inspiring. He visited the big tamarind tree prostrated before the holy mast in front of the village and paid homage to the Lord. Then he walked round champaka pradakshinam which was full of tall ‘Sampangi’ trees with gold coloured flowers. He prayed to Vimana Venkateswara (the golden image of the Lord on the dome of the sanctuary) to Ramanuja, the vaishnavite saint, to yoga Narasimha and Lord Janardhana. He bowed before Alamelu Manga in the temple kitchen. He visited every part of the temple. He saw different vahanams of the Lord. The parrots in cages of gold which chirped ‘come and worship Venkatapathi, offer your gifts to Him and bow before Him. Your desires shall be fulfilled.’ He saw the room where the valuable garments of the Lord were measured. He then offered a coin in the Hundi.
Annamayya finally had the Darsan of Lord Venkateswara. His joy knew no bounds. The magnificent idol of Srinivas was a feast to the eyes. He saw the Chakra in one hand, the conch in the other, a ruby in the navel, a dagger hanging to his waist, anklets on his feet, one hand resting on the hip and the other promising protection, the lustrous gems in the earrings, the caste mark of pearls on the forehead, the brilliantly shining crown studded with diamonds, a lotus garland hanging on either side of the crown, then Vanamala, Srivastsa, Koustubha and the other invaluable jewels of the Lord. He let out his joy in the form of a song.
Podagantimayya Mimu Purushottama,
Mammu Nedeayakavayya Koneti Rayadaa!
The temple priests praised the boy’s talent, gave him the holy water and blessed him. That day he took rest in a portico near the temple.
Then Annamayya visited all the ponds up the Hill. He visited Kumaradhara, Amarathirtha, Akasaganga, Papavinasanam and bathed in all these places and recited extempore a hundred verses in praise of the Lord even before his clothes dried up.
One morning when he went to visit the temple, the temple doors were closed. He sang in agony. To the surprise of everyone around, the locks fell off and the doors threw themselves open. He went in offering his salutations to the great devotees of Hari like Garuda. Vishwaksena, Sugreeva and Anjaneya. He recited a hundred verses on the spur of the moment. Immediately a necklace of pearls which was adorning the image of the Lord fell down causing great surprise to the people there. The priests praised Annamayya as one who was dear to the Lord. They gave him sandal paste and the other things offered to the Lord. That night he slept in the temple of Varaha.
There was a Vaishnava sage called Ghanavishnu in Tirumala during those days. He preached Vaishnava philosophy. One day God appeared to him in his dream and asked him to bless Annamayya with his conch shell and wheel on his shoulders and to make him a vaishnavaite. He added, ‘Annamayya sings songs about me always’. So saying he handed down his signets.
Accordingly Ghanavishnu met Annamayya in the temple next morning. As God said, Annamayya was singing in praise of Hari. The sage, being pleased with him asked, ‘shall I make the impressions of Vishnu on your shoulders?’ Annamayya saw Vishnu himself in the sage. ‘I am blessed’, he said.
Ghanavishnu then conducted the ceremony in the presence of other Vaisnavites. Thus Annamayya became Annamacharya.
Back in the village, Annamayya’s parents were worried about his safety. Mother did not leave the temple of Chennakesava and father almost became mad. The villagers performed a special pooja to know his whereabouts. Mother in unconscious state uttered the words. ‘The Lord of the Hills, the lord of the hills,’ the father Narayanayya took it as a message and they both proceeded towards Tirumala.
By the time the parents reached Tirumala, Annamacharya had learnt the vaishavite cult well from Ghanavishnu. He was singing a song before hundreds of devotees. The parents could recognize his voice from a distance. They ran to him in tears of joy and embraced him. The father could perceive the transformation wrought out in the boy. He thought ‘Lord, this boy is the gift of your grace. You should protect him yourself.’ Ghanavishnu took them to his residence.
That night Lakkamamba begged her son to go back home with her. Annamacharya refused to oblige, though he was torn between his love for her and for God. That night he saw a hallow in his dream which said. ‘Anna, don’t hurt your mother. Go back to Tallapaka. Don’t fall a prey to earthly pleasures. Attain Spirituality.’ He understood that it was his lord’s order and so went back home.
Time rolled by and he reached sixteen. He continued his practice of singing and visiting all the temples. Sometimes he remained in the temple. So even when the parents decided to perform his marriage no alliance was forthcoming. Marriages are made in heaven. Very soon he was married to two girls, by name Timmakka and Akkalamma. He, of course continued his devotion to God.
A few days passed by. In 1424 Annamayya went again to Tirumala on his birthday. It was in the month of Visakha. That night, after having darsan of the lord he slept in the portico, adjacent to the temple of Varaha. At once a beautiful song came out of Annamacharya’s voice.
Brahma Kadigina Padamu, Brahmamu tane ni Padamu
Tiruvenkatagiri Tiramani chuupina paramapadamu ni padamu
That was a song about the divine feet of the lord. This is the foot that was washed by Brahma, the creator of the world. Vishnu measured the earth and the sky with this foot. Bali was pressed into ‘Patala’ and Indra was offered protection by this foot. It cleansed Ahalya of her sin and tamed Kalinga, the snake. This foot shows that Tirumala alone is eternal.
Annamayya was engrossed in his song, when Venkateswara appeared before him and said, ‘Acharya, you are a blessed man, ‘Sankirtana’ is born in your voice. I should hear a new composition everyday, from you. I shall not hear the composition of anyone else.’
Annamacharya as ordained by God composed a song everyday, visiting many temples. People were thrilled at the beautiful use of the Telugu idiom and the divine philosophy contained in the songs.
During his pilgrimage Annamacharya came to Ahobilam, situated in Nallamala forests. The forests were famous for lions and tigers, but Annamacharya was not at all scared. He visited lower Ahobilam and later upper Ahobilam and sang many songs there. Narasimha who had come to the rescue of Prahlada dwells in nine images there.
On the banks of the river Bhavanasini, the famous Sathagopa Yatindrulu was seated like the incarnation of Lord Narasimha. It was believed that the Lord Narasimha appeared before Yatindrulu Swami in the form of a sage and blessed him to be an ascetic Annamacharya sang songs in praise of him. He learnt Vaisnavite rites from him for twelve years. He learnt Vishnu is love. Every one can attain oneness with him irrespective of caste, if only he surrenders totally to God. He imbibed this philosophy through his songs.
Tandanana aahi tandanana pure tandanana bhala tandanana.
Brahma mokate parabrahma mokate,
Parabrahma mokate parabrahma mokate.
Brahman is one for all. Sri Hari does not differentiate between the big and small. The slumber of the king is the same as that of the servant. The Brahmin and the outcaste tread on the same earth. The sun shines alike on an elephant or a dog. Similarly devotion to Venkateswara protects the pious and the sinner alike.
Annamacharya’s name and fame reached far and wide. Salva Narasinga Raya, invited Annamacharya to Penugonda, honoured him suitably and requested him to stay there in his kingdom forever. Annamachrya agreed to stay there because it was easier to carry on divine mission of spreading Visishtadwaita philosophy with the royal assistance.
One day on the request of the king he sang this song.
Emoko, Chigurutadharamuna Yedaneda Kasturi Nindenu
Bhamini Vibhunaku Vrasina Patrika Kadukada
The wide eyes of Alamelu Manga are red probably because of the drops of blood sticking to them when her sharp spear like looks have been plucked out of her lord.
Being impressed by the song, the king requested Annamacharya to compose a song on him too. Annamacharya refused to oblige, ‘My tongue is ordained to praise the Almighty alone! How can I praise you?’ He wanted to leave the king for good, but the king took it as a sign of disrespect. So he got him imprisoned. Annamacharya, pleaded to the Almighty in a pathetic song.
Nee Dasula Bhangamu Neevu Chuutuvaa
Vini Sri Venkatesuda Vega Rakshinchava
Oh Lord! How do you bear the insults meted out to your devotees! How could you sleep when we pray for him? Did you not hear the cry of Droupadi when you were playing dice in Dwaraka? Did you not respond to the laments of Gajendra, while you were with the Goddess in Vaikunta? Why do you ignore my prayers then? Why don’t you come to my rescue?
His prayers were answered at once!
Annamacharya, who was chained, was freed from the fetters suddenly. The guards hurried to the king but the king couldn’t believe his ears. He ordered to chain him once again and more carefully. But again Annamacharya sang another song and the chains broke again, this time in the presence of the king Narasingaraya. The latter realized the greatness of Annamacharya and fell to his feet. Annamacharya cautioned him, ‘Insulting a pious man is a greater sin than insulting God himself. Be kind and virtuous.’ He proceeded to Tirumala.
In the fifteenth century, communal riots were in full swing. In a town, the Muslims brought down a temple of Lord Anjaneya and robbed the pilgrims there. Annamacharya happened to be there then. His only possession the image of Venkateswara was taken away. He appealed to Lord Anjaneya in a pathetic song.
Annamacharya appealed not only to Anjaneya but also to Garuda, Adisesha and Kartaviryarjuna to help him get back the image of Venkateswara.
Once again his prayers were answered. He fell unconscious after his prayer. He felt a gentle touch and woke up to see his Lord’s image beside him. The legend goes; Anjaneya pulled down the tent of the Muslims in the form of a monkey and brought back his idol.
Annamacharya then reached Tirumala. He participated in temple festivals and sang several songs. He composed Sringara Manjari. He composed a few romantic songs depicting divine love. Srinivasa used to hear those songs as Annamacharya was singing. Once the Lord said, ‘When I hear your songs, I feel young again.‘ Annamacharya said, ‘The credit goes to you. You taught me how to sing. I am your humble servant.’
Annamacharya was always good at heart. He was kind to humanity. When he realized once that a few mangoes he offered to God were sour, he touched the mango tree and prayed that it should yield only sweet mangoes thereafter. At once all the fruits turned sweet.
Not only his words, but also his songs had special effect. His songs cured incurable diseases. Purandara heard of this miraculous power and came to visit him. Annamarchaya was singing in tune with his tambura then, to a throng of devotees who were singing after him. Purandara joined silently the throng but Annamacharya beckoned him closer. When Purandara Das praised Annamacharya, the latter said, you are no less. You are a blessed child of Lord Vittala. Lord himself fetched water for your ‘Sandhyavandanam.’ Your songs are going to be the primary lessons of Karnatic music.
Annamacharya had composed nearly 32,000 songs but only 12,000 of them are left with us. Out of 12 Satakas, only one remains. His other works like Dvipada Ramayana, Venkatachala Mahatyam, Sankeertana Lakshanam etc too are lost.
Annamacharya’s first wife Timmakka and her son Narasinganna were great poets. Annamachrya’s son, Peda Tirumalaiah and his grandsons China Tirumalaiah and Chinnanna were great singers as well as poets. They are together called Tallapaka poets. These poets renovated old temples and constructed new temples. Some sixty inscriptions describing the services of the Tallapaka poets are preserved still in the Tirumala Tirupati Devastanam.
At the age of 95 in the year 1503 Annamacharya gave up his physical body. As per the Telugu calendar it was Dundubhi year, Phalguna month and Bahula Dwadasi day. Just before breathing his last, he beckoned peda Tirumalaiah to his bed side and assigned him to sing a song everyday for Lord Venkateswara. He handed over his tambura to him. He muttered something in the ear of his son, probably, Venkateswara Mantra. ‘Peda Tirumalaiah was moved to tears. He could visualize his father’s atma joining Paramathma.
Henceforth, Peda Tirumalaiah sang thus on his father’s death anniversary.
Dinamu Dwadasi Nedu Tirtha Divasamu Neeku
Annamacharya, oh my father, today is dwadasi, your death anniversary. Come and accept my offerings in the company of great devotees and scholars. Come with Lord Venkateswara and Goddess Padmavathi Devi.
We too could pray to Annamayya thus on his death anniversary to invoke him and his God to our humble abode. But for Annamayya we would not have learnt the greatness of Lord Sri Venkateswara.
If he sang,
Adivo Alladivo, Srihari Vasamu
Padi vela seshula padagala mayamu
We should sing,
Idivo Illidivo Sri Annamayya Prasadamu
Padi vela Krutula Padala mayamu!
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