Tenali Rama

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Tenali Ramakrishna
Statue of Tenali Rama
BornGarlapati Ramakrishna
(1480-09-22)22 September 1480
Tenali, Vijayanagara Empire
Died5 August 1528(1528-08-05) (aged 47)
Tenali, Vijayanagara Empire
SpouseSharada Devi
IssueBhaskaraysharma (Bhaskar) (son),
Amrutadevi (Amruta) (daughter)
FatherGarlapati Ramayya
ReligionShrouta Shaivam
OccupationTelugu Poet (Main advisor and one of the Ashtadiggajas in the Vijayanagara court of King Krishnadevaraya)

Tenali Ramakrishna (born Garlapati Ramakrishna; also known as Tenali Ramalinga, and Tenali Rama; 22 September 1480–5 August 1528) (Telugu: తెనాలి రామకృష్ణుడు) was an Indian poet, scholar, thinker and a special advisor in the court of the Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya, who ruled from 1509 to 1529 CE.[1] He hailed from the village of Tenali and wrote poems in Telugu. He is generally known for the folk tales which focus on his wit.[2] He was one of the Ashtadiggajas (The Eight 'world-rulers'), the eight poets, at the court of Krishnadevaraya.

His father died when he was a child.[clarification needed] To overcome the depression that Rama faced, his mother Lakshmamma took him to Vijayanagara where he became an advisor to Krishnadevaraya. He was a great scholar and poet of Telugu language. Tenali Ramakrishna was also a minister of the court.


Tenali Rama was born in a Telugu speaking Niyogi Brahmin family[3] as Garlapati Ramakrishna, in a village called Thumuluru or Tenali (currently a part of Tenali Maṇḍalam) during the later part of the fifteenth century. His father was Garlapati Rama, who served as a priest in the Ramalingesvara in Santharavuru.

Garlapati Rama died when Ramakrishna was young. His mother Lakshmamma 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.[1][4]

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 [clarification needed]him as a disciple, as he was a Shaiva. Ramakrishna was still determined to get educated so he went to many pandits and begged them to accept him as a disciple but they called him names and threw him out. Later while roaming aimlessly, he met a sage, who advised him to worship the Goddess Kali. He did and invoked the Goddess with his devotion. Legends say that Mother Kali appeared before him and admired his sense of humour and blessed him that one day, he would be acclaimed as a great poet in the imperial court of emperor Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara.[5] The Goddess also gave him the title "Vikaṭakavi", impressed by his wit and humour.

Ramakrishna held an important position in Krishnadevaraya's court. He was one of the Ashtadiggajas and chief adviser appointed by the emperor.

Later years[edit]

A year before the death of Krishnadevaraya, in 1528 Tenali Ramakrishna died from a snakebite.[6] Historical records state that Ramakrishna was instrumental in protecting the emperor many times, coming to his rescue in critical situations, doing court cases, and he was Krishnadevaraya's best friend.

Literary works[edit]

Tenali Rama was noted for his brilliance and wit.[7] 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.[8] It contains a legendary account of a shrine of Vishnu as Panduranga, at Pandharpur consecrated by the ministration of Saint Pundarika. A brahmin named Nigama Sharma, who wasted his life in dissipation and debauchery, died in Pandharpur. A controversy ensues 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 a sacred place. Indeed, the verdict is in favour of the servants of Vishnu.[8] 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 'Chaatuvu'.[9]

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, 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][10]

Tenali Rama was called a Vikata Kavi[11] (a palindrome in Telugu script: వికటకవి) means clown-jester-poet. He was also entitled "Kumara Bharathi", for his works.

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Neela Subramaniam. Vikatakavi Tenali Rama. Sura Books. ISBN 9788174780713. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. 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. ^ Shulman, David Dean (19 April 2016). The King and the Clown in South Indian Myth and Poetry. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-63368-8.
  6. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Jyotsna Atre (September 2007). Tales of Tenali Rama. Unicorn Books. ISBN 978-8178060675.
  8. ^ a b Rao 1989, p. 38.
  9. ^ Tenaliraman.com. Tales of Tenali Rama (in Hindi).
  10. ^ Nārla Veṅkaṭēśvararāvu (1968). Studies in the history of Telugu journalism. Andhra Pradesh Book Distributors, Secunderabad, 1968.
  11. ^ "தெனாலி ராமன் கதைகள் (Thenali Raman Stories in Tamil) - சிறுவர் மலர்". Siruvarmalar.com. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Tenali Rama (TV Series) (1990) – Hindi Serial". fridaycinemas.com. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012.
  13. ^ The Hindu Online | Adventures of Tenali Rama[usurped] Article dated 20 June 2003 by Savitha Gautam, accessed on 20 October 2008
  14. ^ "Ready for Tenali Rama!", The Hindu, 12 July 2017

Book sources[edit]

  • Rao (1989), Indian Heritage and Culture, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd, ISBN 8120709306
  • Goyal (2015), Fix Your Problems – the Tenali Raman Way, V&S Publishers, ISBN 978-9352150748

External links[edit]