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Life Account of Bhadrachala Ramadasa

Kacherla Gopanna (1620 – 1680), popularly known as Bhakta Ramadasu  or


Bhadrachala Ramadasu  (Telugu: భ" # చల &మ"(), was a 17th-century Indian
devotee of Lord Rama and a composer of Carnatic music. He is a famous
Vaggeyakara (classical composer) from the Telugu classical era. His contemporaries
i n c l u d e t h e s t a l w a r t s o f T e l u g u l i t e r a t u r e s u c h a s  T a l l a p a k a
Annamayya,  Tyagaraja,  Kshetrayya, and  Shyama Sastri. He lived in the village
of Nelakondapalli, near the town of Bhadrachalam, in Muslim-ruled Telugu country
during the 16th century and is renowned for constructing a famous temple for Lord
Sri Rama at  Bhadrachalam. His devotional lyrics to  Rama  are famous in South
Indian classical music as Ramadaasu Keertanalu.

Even the doyen of South Indian classical music  Swami Tyagaraja  learned his
musical compositions. He also wrote Dasarathi Shatakamu ("శర+ శతక.) with a
'makuTamu' (మ/ట.) 'Daasarathee Karunaa payonidhee' ("శర1 క23
ప567!), a collection of nearly 108 poems dedicated to the son of Dasaratha
(Lord Rama). Gopanna was born in an affluent Telugu Brahmin family to Linganna
Mantri and Kamamba in Nelakondapalli village of Khammam dist Taluk (Warangal
Division of erstwhile Hyderabad State) of northern Telangana (Deccan region). He
was the nephew of Madanna of the Madanna and Akkanna brothers who were
ministers at the court of Nizam Nawab Tana Shah of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty in
Golconda. Gopanna was later hired as the Tahsildar of Palvancha Taluk by Tana
Shah. The legend goes that he discharged his official duties earnestly and collected
revenues due to the Sultan - while continuing his unswerving service to Lord Rama
by chanting his name and feeding the poor.

Once he visited Bhadrachalam for a Jatara (fair) and was disturbed by the
dilapidated state of the temple there. Bhadrachalam was significant to devotees of
Rama for many reasons. Lord Rama is said to have stayed near the Parnasala there
with Sita and Lakshmana during his exile and also to have visited Shabari near
Bhadrachalam (although it is believed that Shabari used to live near Kishkindha,
the kingdom of Vanaras in Ramayana which is believed to be near Hampi ).
Pothana is believed to have been given direction by Rama to translate the Bhagavata
Purana into Telugu here. In spite of its significance, the temple was utterly
neglected.So, Ramadasu started to raise funds for the renovation and
reconstruction of the temple. After he emptied his coffers and could raise no more
money, the villagers appealed him to spend his revenue collections for the
reconstruction and promised to repay the amount after harvesting crops. As such,
Ramadasa finished the reconstruction of the temple with six hundred thousand
rupees collected from land revenues - without the permission of the Abul Hasan
Qutb Shah. As the temple was nearing completion, he was perplexed one night
about fixing the Sudarshana Chakra at the crest of the main temple. On the same
night, it is believed that he saw Rama in his dream and asked him to have a holy dip
in the Godavari River. When Gopanna did so the next day, it is believed that he
found the holy Sudarshana Chakra in the river very easily.

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The story continues that soon after the reconstruction, his miseries started. He was
dismissed from his job by his enemies who spread a lot of fake news
(near  Hyderabad) Ramadas was cast into jail with orders that he be released only
after the exchequer received all the taxes in full. Ramadas implores Rama through
many emotional songs that were popularised from the stanzas of 'Dasaradhi
Sathakam ' and 'Keertanas' of Bhakta Ramadasa. They praise the Lord for all his
mysterious ways in popularizing his devotees and Ramadas regularly sings to the
Lord. The songs end in a state of total and unconditional surrender to the will of the
Almighty.

The Nizam Nawab Tana Shah, the ruler of Nizam's territory became a devotee of
Rama who realised the devotion spirit of Ramadas after his imprisonment and took
over the charge of temple administration. This resembles the communal harmony
amongst the Hindus and Muslims.

After eleven to twelve years of imprisonment, Lord Rama decided that his devotee's
suffering had reached its pre-ordained ending (because of a certain transgression
his soul had committed in a previous birth. Lord Rama and Lakshmana, disguised
as two young warriors, entered the bed-chambers of Sultan Tana Shah in the middle
of the night. They presented themselves as Ramoji and Lakshmoji and gave the
Sultan six lakh gold coins imprinted with Lord Rama's own seal, as compensation
for the spent six lakhs of silver coins. This story is told in the famous Tyagaraja
kriti Kshirasagara Sayana, in the stanza Dhirudau Ramadasuni Bandhamu.

The Nizam Nawab realised Ramadas’ devotional spirit and dedication towards
Rama, when Rama and Laxmana repaid 6 lakh Mohurs exposing themselves as
Ramoji and Laxmoji, the servants of Bhakta Ramadas to get release of their devotee
from the imprisonment.

Nawab Tana Shah gave voucher to these divine looking persons who approached
him at his house during late night. Then the two divine people kept the voucher
under the pillow of Gopanna where he was jailed. The Sultan was indeed
bewildered at the presence of these charming but strange youngsters in his inner
quarters at late night irrespective of tight security. Tana Shah who woke up on the
very next day morning realised that those divine looking persons were none other
than Rama and Laxmana and made arrangements to get release of Gopanna and
prayed to forgive him by placing all the Gold Mohurs received last night at the feet
of Gopanna. But, Gopanna refused to take back those Mohurs except *two* as a
mark of divine significance. (Those two can still be seen kept in Bhadrachala Sri Sita
Ramachandra Swamy vaari Devasthanam).

Gopanna did not care much for his release but was inconsolable at his not having
seen his Lord even with all his devotion, while the Sultan was visited by the Lord.
The Lord then appeared to Gopanna in a dream and explained to him the real
reason for his actions and promised him salvation at the end of his natural life.

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The Sultan, in his previous birth, was a devout follower of Lord Shiva and had
promised to perform Rudra abhishekham to Lord Shiva for 365 days after which he
was convinced that Lord Shiva would appear before him. So the Sultan began
performing the abhishekham but erroneously did it for 364 days thinking that he
had completed 365 days. On the 365th day, enraged that the Lord did not appear,
he broke the lingam into several pieces, upon which the Lord appeared and made
the Sultan realize his mistake. As punishment, the Lord said that the Sultan, in his
next birth, will be born as a non-follower; but, as a reward for his having performed
puja for 364 days, Lord Rama himself will appear before him.

The Sultan was thus convinced that what had happened was a miracle of Lord Sri
Rama. He returned the entire money to the Bhadrachalam Temple. Since then, it
has been the royal custom of the Hyderabad State (now part of Telangana State) to
send gifts to the temple on the occasion of Sree Rama navami celebrations every
year.

Nawab Tana Shah himself was a great soul in his previous birth and thus gets
blessed with the darshan of Lord Sri Rama. He was a classic example of a Yoga
Bhrasta (One who fails to follow Yoga till liberation). As rightly told in Bhagavad
Gita , he becomes a rich man and even gets the darshan of the Lord in all His
Supreme glory.

Ramadasu continued his devotion towards Lord Sri Rama and one day a chariot
appeared before his home to take him to Vaikunta. Excitedly, he told his wife that
he was leaving and asked her to accompany him. His wife, used to Ramadasu's daily
dreams of going to Vaikunta, did not take his request seriously and told him that
she will accompany him later. Ramadasu ascended the chariot and amidst
chantings from the crowd left for Vaikunta. Hearing the commotion, his wife came
out of the house only to see that her husband had already left.

Wailing at her mistake and questioning as to what do without her husband, a voice
emanating from a nearby murti of Lord Sri Rama proclaimed that Ramadasu had
attained salvation which is why he had departed for Vaikunta. The same voice also
said that she still needed to do service before she too would be united with the Lord.

Ramadasu is well-known for his excellent compositions on Lord SriRama. Each


song of Ramadasu is filled with the nectar of devotion. Anyone who drinks it (sings
it rather) are blessed with immortality. One of his songs says that there is nothing
that has a better taste than the name of SriRama (Sree Rama nee naamam ento
ruchi raa).

Another song is an example of the power of divine mother to quicken the process of
spiritual evolution. It is in fact understood in the Sri Vaishnavite tradition that a
prayer to the Lord might go fruitless but not the prayer to the Lord's consort. The
Vedanta meaning of this is that the Lord is a symbol of Brahman with very few
attributes and the Divine mother is the Maya that creates turbulence in the peaceful
Brahman and prompts it to do creation, sustenance and destruction. Thus
symbolically the Lord is useless without His divine consort (His Sakthi).
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The word "Sri" in Sri Vaishnavism itself signifies the priority of Divine mother Sita
over Lord Rama. Sita is like a mother who requests (or forces) the father Sri Rama
to fulfill the desires of devotees, His children. Ramadasu also knows this trick and
puts applications to mother Sita and requests Her to recommend to Sri Rama.
(Nanu brovamani cheppave Sitamma talli). Literally means "Mother Sita! Please tell
your husband to save me". He also suggests her favourable times to put his
application forward like when the Lord just gets up from bed and is in a pleasant
mood.

Ramadasu is also famous for his use of the devotional system of "Ninda
Stuti” (Praise Lord by scolding Him). In a song at the peak of his frustration, he
accuses Rama of putting him to so much trouble and now keeping quiet as if
nothing has happened. He lists the items like various necklaces he has made for
Rama, Sita etc and questions Rama if these are gifted to Him by His father
Dasaratha or His uncle Janaka. At the end of the song, he requests the Lord to
pardon his sin by explaining that the Ninda is only because of the unbearable
torture that he is receiving from the prison guards.

Even today one can see the prison in which he was put and also the ornaments he
donated to the Lord. The marriage ceremony of Sri Rama and Sita on the day of Sri
Rama Navami is a feast to the eyes of the devotees. All pains related to the body,
mind and soul are reduced to ashes when one witnesses the Sita Rama Kalyana.

The devotional fervour of devotees on that day takes one to Supreme realms and
gives a feeling as if one has witnessed the Sita Rama Kalyana in Mithila. Even a rock
sheds tears of happiness when it sees the ceremony of Rama tying mangala sutra to
Mother Sita. Also the officiating priest states that the purpose of the Supreme
Rama's marriage to Sita is only to bestow auspiciousness and provide protection to
the three worlds.(In a normal marriage the bride groom says that the marriage is for
the fulfilment of his life. ) The gist is simple: "Catch hold of the feet of Divine
mother if you seek the grace of the Divine father".

Lessons learned:

1. No one can escape prarabdha


2. The bite of snake called prarabdha can be experienced with less pain if devotion
towards the Supreme is cultivated in one’s mind
3. The Lord’s will is unchangeable and he definitely rescues His devotees when
their devotion becomes ripe.
4. 4. Patience and steadfast devotion are keys to liberation

Meanings of Sanskrit words:

Prarabdha - Prarabdha Karma are the accumulated causes for your present life
based on your deeds and misdeeds during your previous birth.
Lakh – One hundred thousand rupees
Ninda – Accuse , Naama – Name, Darshan – Seeing, viewing, perceiving
Stuti - praise
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Srimadh Bhadrachalam

A sacred place that attracts lakhs of devotees from all over the world, it is the abode
of Lord Rama (The seventh incarnation of SriMahavishnu). This hill place which is
encircled by holy river Godavari flowing towards southern direction is the famous
shrine Bhadrachalam-The name derived from Bhadragiri (Mountain of Bhadra-a
boon child of Meru and Menaka). According to a Ithihasas, the significance of this
shrine dates back to the Ramayana Era. This coherent hill place existed in
"Dandakaranya" Of Ramayana period where Rama with his consort Sita and
brother Laxmana had spent their vanavasa- and Parnashaala(the place connected to
the famous Golden Deer and the place from where Sita was abducted by Ravana.) is
also in the vicinity of this temple site. It is at this Mandir site that, long after
Ramavatara, Bhagawan Mahavishnu manifested Himself as Rama again to fulfil a
promise He made to His Bhakta Bhadra, who continued his Tapas through Yugas,
praying for the grace of the Bhagawan Sri Ramachandra murthy. The history
depicts that the need emerged the incarnation of Vykuntha Rama was that to fulfill
a long desire of his ardent devotee Bhadra.

Maharishi Bhadra performed penance at the bank of river Godavari in this "
Dandakaranya " to get grace of lord Rama and in countenance of his beloved God -
The exalted "Rishi" implored Rama to be seated on his head ,but Rama who was in
search of his consort Sita gave promise to his Bhakta that his desire would be
fulfilled on his way back , after finding Sita and accomplishing the process of
punishing the wicked Ravana and establish 'Dharma' . Thus the sage had been in
continuation of the frightened penance as Rama could not accomplish the promise
in Ramavatara . Then Sri Mahavishnu manifested himself as Vykuntha Rama and
rushed to his devotee Bhadra , signalling his arrival by blowing
'Shanku',accompanied by his consort Sita and brother Laxmana , resembling that of
'Gajendra Moksham ' - Thus , the Moorthies (idols) of Rama ( having four hands ) -
Shanku on the right , Chakra at his left and Dhanurbhana ( Bow and Arrow in the
rest two hands ) , Sita had condescended on the left lap of Rama and brother ( at
Rama's left ) are existed . And the hill place where the Deities were seated on , was
the head place of Bhadra - achalam ( hill ) ,thus this shrine was transformed into
Bhadrachalam. The idols of Vykuntha Rama, Laxmana and Sita were found by
Pokala Dhammakka. Pokala Dhammakka, an ardent devotee of Rama lived in the
17th century and was an inhabitant of Bhadrireddypalem, a mile away from this
holy place. On one fine night, she had Darshan of Rama in her dream who said "the
saints and sages are worshiping my embodied moorthy settled on Bhadragiri" and
asked her to trace them, perform pooja and attain salvation. On the very next day
morning she started searching for the idols-peeped into an ant-hill and found the
idols hidden in it. She poured hundreds of pots of Godavari water on the ant-hill
which tardily dissolved and gave way for the appearance of the hidden Deities. Since
then, she used to perform pooja daily and offer 'naivedyam' with fruits fallen from
near palmyra tree and constructed a mandapam of thatch hut with the help of local
villagers. Bhagawan Rama told Dhammakka that at a later date, one of his devotees
would construct a Mandir at this site. Dhammakka waited patiently for the devotee.
The devotee turned out to be Bhakta Ramadas.
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Saint Thyagaraja extolled and mentions Bhadrachala Rama dasa in his Kriti
BrindaavanalOla in tODi as :

mAm-ava SrI ramaNI maNi madana-ASrita mitra


rAma dAsa dAsa tyAgarAja nuta caritra (bRndAvana)

Please protect (ava) me (mAM) (mAmava), O Beloved (madana) (literally love or


cupid) of lakshmI – SrI ramaNI - a jewel (maNi) (among women)! O Friend (mitra)
of those dependent (ASrita) (madanASrita) on You! O Lord whose exploits (caritra)
have been extolled (nuta) by this tyAgarAja – a disciple (dAsa) of rAma dAsa (or
servant of devotees of SrI rAma)! O Lord gOvinda, fond of bRndAvana! O Lotus
Eyed!

In theKriti, KaligiyundE gada in keeravaaNi, Tyagaraja says


“bhAgavat(A)grEsarulagu nArada prahlAda 2paraSara 3rAmadAsulu”

 kalini ingitamu – indications or intentions of kali yuga. The implication of this is


not very clear. However, from the wording of caraNa, it seems that SrI tyAgarAja
refers to his not being devoted like nArada, prahlAda, parASara and rAma dAsu –
the most eminent of devotees.

In the Tyagaraja Kriti, Emi dova balkuma in Saaranga, he says


rAmadAsu valenu-aitE sItA bhAma mandalincunu nItO tanaku-(Emi)

If I am (aitE) like (valenu) (valenaitE) (bhadrAcala) rAmadAsu, sItA - Your wife


(bhAma) would, probably, persuade (mandalincunu) You; O Lord SrI rAma! Please
tell me as to what is the way for me (tanaku) and where shall I go now.

And in Prahlaada Bhakti Vijayam Thyagaraja says "Kaliyugamuna vara bhadra


calamuna nelakonna raamacandruni pada bhaktula kella varudanandagi velasina
shree raamadaasu vinutintu madin" (I praise Sri Ramadaasa, who shines in this
world as the supreme devotee of Sri Raamachandra, who shines forth from his seat
at Bhadraachalam in this kali Yuga).

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