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Poets and literature in the Vijayanagara

Period Annamacharya
Annamacharya is a household name within the Telugu sphere. This poet who lived in the fourteenth
century endeared himself to scholars and commons alike through his immortal compositions
dedicated to the Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati. With the literary nature of his compositions
ranging from a simple villagers accent to that of acclaimed scholars, he was lauded as the Pada
Kavita Pitamaha (Pioneer of ode style poetry) in Telugu literature
Born in the village of Tallapaka of todays Kadapa (Cuddapah) district, Annamacharya belonged to a
family of Nandavarika Brahmins. Legends have it that he became an adept in any skill that he chose
to learn. According to the documented history by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), he found
his way to Tirupati as an adolescent, inspired by a trance like experience at a local temple.
His compositions are believed to have been patronized by Salva Narasimha Raya of the Vijayanagara
Empire. For reasons unknown, the copper plates that had the compositions engraved on them
remained out of reach for centuries with only memory of the common man preserving the legacy.
The hidden storage chamber containing the literary treasure came to light in 1922 where around
2500 copper plates were found containing around 14,000 compositions of his lineage.
Annamacharyas wife Taallapaka Timmakka (Tirumalakka) is believed to be the one of the first
poetesses in literary Telugu as the composer of Subhadra Vijayam (Subhadra Kalyanam). His son
Peda tirumalacharya and grandson China Tirumalacharya have also composed sankirtanas in the
similar style and have written scholarly works.
The life of Annamacharya has been romanticised and depicted in popular media. I seek to explore a
small part of his literary versatility in this post. I request the readers to forgive my translation
attempts. They do no justice to the beauty of the original compositions.
Literary variety of compositions
The wide variety of his compositions made them dear to people of every sphere. Be it a lullaby, an
ode describing cousins teasing each other, a fight between a mother in law and daughter in law, a
temple car festival or a weaver selling sarees, each and every walk of the social and domestic life
across all the sections of the society found a place in his compositions. Not only this, Annamayya had
an uncanny way of connecting minute details of mundane life to divinity. According to TTD he had
composed around 32,000 Sankirtanas out of which TTDs archaeological wing was able to find and
secure close to 12,000. Below are some examples that give a miniscule view of his literary versatility.
Opposing the Caste system
Most of Annamayyas compositions in this category advocate a strong disdain for a hierarchical caste
system. He considers the Lord Vishnu as the ultimate equalizer or even as the one who would favour
a simpleton with undeterred faith over a scholar with bookish knowledge.
1. ?
(Castes and the likes are of no use at all. Which caste did the likes of AjamiLa belong to?)
2. ,

(There are no rigid placements of who is high and who is low, for Sri Hari is the conscience of
everyone. And here even all creatures count as equal for Sri Hari is the driving force of all From
the composition Brahmamokkate)
Gopika gitam
In this category of compositions, Annamayya chooses the vernacular language over the literary
language. The songs are set to a rhythm that suits the traditional kolatam (daandiya).
1.
(Dont mock me with show of love, O Vishnu, and talk to me till my fatigue fades away. It is
interesting to see the differed usage of the word vetti at different places. Another noteworthy
point is the usage of word muriti which suits the vernacular of the commons in place of the Sanskrit
word Murti)
2.
(Dear women, do we know the real personality of Govinda Raja, the very majesty of the
world heaped together)
3.
(This is the gossip of the village of repalle/gokulam. Listen and take all of it now. The song goes on to
describe how each gopika boasts about her intimacy with Krishna)
Describing various social walks of life
1.
(He is the weaver who trades sarees by the shade at each street). He compares Lord
Vishnu to the weaver Vishnu created the colourful universe from the five elements as
the weaver weaves colourful sarees from the yarns of thread.
2.
(Come here you daughter in law who knows no humility. Go away, you mother in law,
have had enough of living with you). This is an endearing and hillarious fight between
Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswathi.
Romance between Lakshmi/Padmavathi and Venkateshwara
According to TTDs research findings, around close to 2000 compositions on the Sringara genre as
against 360 compositions in the spiritual genre. Some of the noteworthy compositions have the poet
playing the role of a messenger
1.
(Hear out to the prayers of the Lord, O mother, he beseeches you for your assurance)
2.
(Hari is calling out to you O Mother, what is the need for the curtain of separation
between you now? Do away with it)
3.
(You are the Chief Queen of the Lord of the Universe, O Mother. It befits you to enquire
into the fairness in his rule)
Annamayya can be seen to be very fond of composing about Goddess Padmavathi and her influence
over Lord Venkateshwara
Other devotional and spiritual compositions
One can deduce that Annamayya travelled to various temples around and out of the state of Andhra
Pradesh. His compositions cover the deities of Kasapuram (Hanuman), Kadiri and Ahobilam
(Narasimha) Pandharipuram (Vithala), Karaveera puram/Kolhapur (Lakshmi). He has a large share of
Sanskrit compositions which are held in high reverence by scholars and misicians.
He has a treasure of philosophical compositions exploring the oneness of divinity (Enta maatramuna
evvaru talachina), the mirages of mundane life (naanaati bratuku naatakamu, venne vattuka neyi
vetakanela, etc).
Words would of course fall short and a single blog post is too short to describe the greatness of this
poet. The compositions have been made popular with many mainstream singers dedicating their
careers for the purpose through Annamacharya Project of TTD. Sri Garimella Balakrishna Prasad, Smt
Shobha Raju, Sri Parupalli Ranganath, Sri Veda Vyasa Ananda Bhattar, Smt. NC Sridevi, Smt. Shanti
Venkatachalam are some among the notable names. Stalwarts like Sri Mangalam Palli Balamurali
Krishna, Srirangam Gopala Ratnam and Smt MS Subbalakshmi have release albums of select
compositions under the flagship of the project.
For more information on Annamacharya
http://sriannamacharya.org/Life_&_works.html