Tenali Ramakrishna

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Tenali Ramakrishna Kavi
తెనాలి రామకృష్ణ
Born Garalapati Ramakrishna
16th century
Garalapadu, Guntur District Andhra Pradesh, India
Occupation Poet
Language Telugu
Nationality Indian
Genre Religion, Folk,
Subject Telugu Literature

Tenali Ramakrishna (Telugu: తెనాలి రామకృష్ణ) who was known as Vikatakavi (jester poet)[1] is a Telugu poet who hails from the present Andhra Pradesh region. Tenali Ramakrishna composed works on the Hindu religion in Telugu.[2] Tenali Ramakrishna was one of the Ashtadiggajas or the eight poets at the court of Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagara emperor. He is generally known for his wit and humor.[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]

Birth and Existence[edit]

Tenali Ramalinga was born in a Telugu Brahmin family as Garlapati Ramakrishna. His father was Garlapati Ramayya, who served as a priest in the Ramalingesvara swami temple in Tenali.[4][5]

Tenali Ramakrishna was born in a village called Garalapadu in Andhra State during the early part of the sixteenth century while it is widely believed that he was born in Tenali. His father Ramaiah died when Ramakrishna was very young. The boy was deprived of his father’s love. 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] Tenali is also famous as “Andhra Paris.” He was also known as Tenali Ramalinga, a Shaiva name. It is believed that he later converted to Vaishnavism.[7] Tenali Ramakrishna did not receive any formal education during his childhood. As he grew up, so did his interest for gaining knowledge which made Tenali Ramakrishna the great scholar he is regarded as. There is a famous myth about his education and the status that he had achieved in his life. He had been disavowed as a disciple from many pandits(Educated Scholars) reason being that he was a Shaivite(worshippers of Lord Shiva), unlike Vaishnavites (worshippers of Lord Vishnu). Later he met a sage while roaming aimlessly, who advised him to worship Kalika devi(also called Goddess Kali), as she might be pleased with his devotion and grant him boons. He worshiped her a lot, and finally devi pleased with his devotion, appeared before him. She 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. And later on, he got an opportunity to meet Raja Krishnadevaraya, when the famous troupe of 'Bhagavatha Mela' came to Vijayanagara to perform in front of the King Krishnadevaraya. Ramakrishna somehow managed to enter the troupe and his performance caught the eye of the King and other folk. He shared his life story with Krishnadevaraya and the king said, "Ramakrishna, there are seven mighty scholars in my court but there is yet a place for one who can provide mirth and laughter. Accept the place, be our Comic Poet and one of the eight famous poets Ashtadiggajas ". In this way he got his position among the Ashtadiggajas. Later, he had attained fame as a great jester poet. [8]The records also state that Ramalinga was instrumental in protecting the King Rayalu and his prestige many a time, coming to his rescue in critical situations. A popular story among the commoners narrates how Ramalinga protected the Vijaya Nagar Empire from getting into the clutches of Delhi Sultans through his timely wit interlaced with a perfect strategy.[9]

Literary Works[edit]

Tenali Rama was noted for his brilliance and wit.[10] Tenali Ramakrishna's work, Panduranga Mahatyam,[11] is dedicated to Panduranga, a form of Lord Vishnu. He took the theme for Panduranga Mahatyam from the Skanda Purana and enhanced it with many stories about the devotees of God Vitthala.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'.[12] [13] [14]

Tenali Ramakrishna attained the status of a Folk hero when he was the court poet of Shri 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 Kashi. Because of Tenali Ramakrishna's affinity towards Shaivite religion, he was also known as Tenali Ramalinga Kavi.[2][15] However, he has great devotion for Vaishnavism as well which is reflected in his work Panduranga Mahatyam .

Tenali Ramakrishna's great work Panduranga Mahatyam is a Kāvya of high merit, remarkable for its sonorous dignity of phrasing, and is counted as one of the Pañcha Mahā Kāvyas (the Five Great Kavyas) of telugu literature.[16] 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. [17]He was called a vikata kavi (a palindrome in Telugu script) means clown-jester-poet. He was also entitled by "Kumara Bharathi", for his works. [18] 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.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


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