Tenali Rama

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Tenali Ramakrishnayya
BornGarlapati Ramalinga
(1480-09-22)22 September 1480
Tenali, Vijayanagara Empire
Died5 August 1528(1528-08-05) (aged 47)
Tenali, Vijayanagara Empire
SpouseShardha Devi
IssueBhaskaraysharma (Bhaskar) (son)
FatherGarlapati Ramayya
OccupationMain advisor in the Vijayanagar court of King Krishnadevaraya

Tenāli Rāmakr̥iṣhṇuḍu (born Garlapati Ramakrishnayya; also known as Tenali Rama) was an Indian poet, scholar, thinker and a special advisor in the court of Sri Krishnadevaraya who ruled from C.E. 1509 to 1529.[1] He was a Telugu poet who hailed from what is now the Andhra Pradesh region, generally known for the folk tales which focus on his wit.[2] He was one of the Ashtadiggajas or the eight poets at the court of Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagara emperor.

When he was a child his father was led to death.[clarification needed] To overcome the depression that Rama faced, his mother Lakshmamma took him to Vijayanagara where he was an advisor and the 8th sai. He was also a great scholar of Telugu language.

Early life and education of Tenali Rama Krishna[edit]

Tenali Raman was born in a Telugu speaking Niyogi Hindu Brahmin family[3] as Garlapati Ramakrishna, in a village called Thumuluru or Tenali (currently a part of Tenali Maṇḍalam) during the late 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 Santharavuru.

Ramayya died when Ramakrishna was young. His mother Lakṣamma returned to her native place in Tenāli to live with her brother. Ramakrishna grew up in his uncle's town and so came to be known as Tenali Ramakrishna.[4]

Tenāli Rāman 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 Śaiva. Rāmakr̥ṣṇa was still determined to get educated so he went to many paṇḍits and begged them humbly to accept him as his disciple but they called him names and threw him out. After that day he thought he will never beg anyone for his education. Next day Rāmakr̥ṣṇa went out to secure education but he did not approach any teacher. The village school wall was his teacher! Everyday he would stand by the wall and attentively listen to the lessons taught in the classroom and go back home and recite what he learned to his mother. This became his daily practice. But one unfortunate day Rāmakr̥ṣṇa got caught and was accused of being a thief so he narrated his story to the school teacher. After listening to Rāmakr̥ṣṇa's story the teacher felt proud but he could do nothing about it because of the foolish religious prejudice so he was sent away. Later while roaming aimlessly, he met a sage, who advised him to worship the Goddess Kali. He worshipped and invoked the Goddess with his devotion. Kālī appeared before him and admired his sense of humor and blessed him that one day, he would be acclaimed as a great poet in the court of King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara.[5] The Goddess also gave him the title "Vikaṭakavi", impressed by his wit and humour. His wife was Sharda and son was Bhaskaraisharma.[6]

King's court[edit]

Ramakrishna held an important position in King Krishnadevaraya's court. He was one of the Ashtadiggajas appointed by the King.

Later years[edit]

One year before the death of King Krishnadevaraya, in 1528 Tenali Ramakrishna died from a huge snakebite.[7] The records also state that Ramakrishna was instrumental in protecting the King Krishnadevaraya many times, coming to his rescue in critical situations, and he was his best friend.

A statue in the honour of Tenali Ramakrishnayya

Literary works[edit]

Tenali Rama was noted for his brilliance and wit.[8] 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 Kāvyas (the Five Great Kavyas) of Telugu literature.[9] 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[10] 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'.[11]

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][12] However, he had great devotion for Vaishnavism as well which is reflected in his work Panduranga Mahatyam.

Tenali Rama was called a Vikata Kavi [13] (a palindrome in Telugu script) means clown-jester-poet. He was also entitled by "Kumara Bharathi", for his works.

In popular culture[edit]

Book sources[edit]

  • Rao (1989), Indian Heritage and Culture, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd, ISBN 8120709306
  • Goyal (2015), FIX YOUR PROBLEMS – THE TENALI RAMAN WAY (COLLECTER'S EDITION), V&S Publishers, ISBN 978-9352150748
  • "तेनाली रामा की सम्पूर्ण जीवनी और उनसे जुडी कुछ रोचक कहानियाँ" [Complete biography of Tenali Rama and some interesting stories related to him]. www.hindistoryof.com.


  1. ^ Neela Subramaniam (200?). Vikatakavi Tenali Rama. ISBN 9788174780713. Retrieved 2017-07-19. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ a b Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. p. 412. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  3. ^ T.SUNANDAMMA (6 January 2014). Tenali sharan krishna. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  4. ^ T.SUNANDAMMA (6 January 2014). Tenali Ramakrishna. p. 3. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  5. ^ The King and the Clown in South Indian Myth and Poetry. 19 April 2016. ISBN 978-0-691-63368-8.
  6. ^ Tenali Rama, retrieved 29 January 2020
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Jyotsna Atre (September 2007). Tales of Tenali Rama. Unicorn Books. ISBN 978-8178060675.
  9. ^ Rao 1989, p. 38.
  10. ^ Rao 1994, p. 38.
  11. ^ Jyotsna Atre. Tales of Tenali Rama. Unicorn Books.
  12. ^ Nārla Veṅkaṭēśvararāvu (1968). Studies in the history of Telugu journalism. Andhra Pradesh Book Distributors, Secunderabad, 1968.
  13. ^ "தெனாலி ராமன் கதைகள் (Thenali Raman Stories in Tamil) - சிறுவர் மலர்". Siruvarmalar.com. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Tenali Rama (TV Series) (1990) – Hindi Serial". fridaycinemas.com. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012.
  15. ^ The Hindu Online | Adventures of Tenali Rama Article dated 20 June 2003 by Savitha Gautam, accessed on 20 October 2008
  16. ^ TV, Fungama. "FungamaTV". Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  17. ^ "Ready for Tenali Rama!", The Hindu, 12 July 2017