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Tenali Ramakrishna (born Garlapati Ramakrishnayya; also known as Tenali Rama or Tenali Raman) was an Indian poet, scholar, thinker and a special advisor in the court of Sri Krishnadevaraya. 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. 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. So, to overcome the depression that Rama faced, his mother Lakshamma took him to Vijayanagara where he was an advisor and the 8th sai. He was also a great scholar of several languages that included Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi and Tamil.
Tenali Ramakrishna was born in a Telugu-speaking Niyogi Hindu Brahmin family as Garlapati Ramakrishna, in a village called Thumuluru (currently a part of Kollipara Mandalam) during the late part of the fifteenth 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 Lakshamma returned to her native place in Tenali to live with her brother. Ramakrishna grew up in his uncle's town and so came to be known as Tenali Ramakrishna.
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) who were powerful those days thought one caste was superior and another inferior; they treated people according to their caste. the Vaishnava scholars rejected to accept him as a disciple, as he was a Shaiva. Ramakrishna was still determined to get educated so he went to many pundits 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 Ramakrishna 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 Ramakrishna got caught and was accused of being a thief so he narrated his story to the school teacher. After listening to Ramakrishna'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 appeased the goddess with his devotion. Kali 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.. His wife was Sharda and son was Bhaskaraisharma.
Later Tenali Rama joined a famous troupe or 'mela'. When the troupe came to Vijayanagara to perform in front of the king, Ramakrishna's performance caught the eye of the King and other people. He shared his life story with Krishnadevaraya, who granted him the post of the comic poet in the court, completing the Ashtadiggajas (The eight scholars) group. Ramakrishna attained fame as a great jester poet. He was also known as a Special Advisor in the Court of Sri Krishnadevaraya.
After the death of King Krishnadevaraya in 1530, he did not further continue in the court and returned to his native place Tenali. Just a few years later he died from a snakebite. The records also state that Ramakrishna was instrumental in protecting the King Krishnadevaraya many times, coming to his rescue in critical situations. A popular story narrates how Ramakrishna protected Vijayanagara from the Delhi Sultanate by his timely wit and strategy.
Tenali Rama was noted for his brilliance and wit. 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. 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 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'.
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. However, he had great devotion for Vaishnavism as well which is reflected in his work Panduranga Mahatyam.
Tenali was called a vikata kavi  (a palindrome in Telugu script) means clown-jester-poet. He was also entitled by "Kumara Bharathi", for his works.
In popular culture
- Tenali Ramakrishna is a 1956 Telugu film directed by B. S. Ranga. This film was also made in Tamil and is named as Tenali Raman. N. T. Rama Rao appeared as Sri Krishnadevaraya in both films where Tenali Ramakrishna is played by A. Nageswara Rao in Telugu and Tenali Raman is played by Sivaji Ganesan in Tamil.
- Hasyaratna Ramakrishna is a 1982 Kannada film directed by B. S. Ranga. The film stars Anant Nag and Aarathi in the lead roles. In the film, Anant Nag plays the role of a poet, Ramakrishna.
- Tenali Rama, a 1990 Hindi TV series aired in Doordarshan made by T.S. Nagabharana in which Vijay Kashyap played the lead role. It was based on short-stories by Kamala Laxman.
- The Adventures of Tenali Raman, an animated series by Cartoon Network (India) in 2003.
- Tenaliraman is 2014 Tamil film featuring Vadivelu as Tenali Raman as well as Krishna Devaraya. The film was based on the comic reliefs of Tenali Raman.
- Rajguru Aur Tenaliram is an animated series which was aired on Star Utsav now available on YouTube by FUNGAMATV. The Animated series is based on the comic tussle between Rajguru and Court Jester Tenali Rama.
- Tenali Rama, is a TV series presently being aired on SAB TV, with Krishna Bharadwaj playing the titular role.
- 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.
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- Tenali Rama, retrieved 29 January 2020
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Jyotsna Atre (September 2007). Tales of Tenali Rama. Unicorn Books. ISBN 978-8178060675.
- Rao 1989, p. 38.
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- "தெனாலி ராமன் கதைகள் (Thenali Raman Stories in Tamil) - சிறுவர் மலர்". Siruvarmalar.com. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
- "Tenali Rama (TV Series) (1990) – Hindi Serial". fridaycinemas.com. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012.
- The Hindu Online | Adventures of Tenali Rama Article dated 20 June 2003 by Savitha Gautam, accessed on 20 October 2008
- TV, Fungama. "FungamaTV". Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- "Ready for Tenali Rama!", The Hindu, 12 July 2017
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