Srirama Navami in Dakshina states

Sri Kannepalli Subhramanyam

 

I was studying my plus 1 in Vijayawada.  We were in a hostel, and I was having a casual chat with my close friend Sandeep.  The conversation drifted towards Gods, and I asked him who his favorite God was.  He replied that it was Sri Rama.  Playfully, I asked him why it was Sri Rama and not Sri Venkateswara.  He said the Suprabhata of Sri Venkateswara starts with “Kausalya Supraja Raama.” I had to give in. Sri Venkateswara is the most famous God in Telugu states.  However, the Ram-bhakti of Telugus is unparalleled.  It is common for many Telugu people to write SriRama on the top of the page before they write anything on the page.  Sri Bammera Potanaamaatya, who translated Srimad Bhagavatam  into Telugu, starts the book by saying.

 

palikeDidi bhaagavatamaTa

palikinchu vibhunDu raamabhadrunData

 

Meaning :

I am speaking Bhagavatam, but the person making me speak is Sri Raamabhadra.

That’s the Ramabhakti of the Telugu lands.

 

In fact, many people translated and wrote the Ramayana into Telugu, it is said that there are more than 100 poets who translated Ramayanam into Telugu. The following are the most famous ones.

 

Shri Gona Buddha Reddy  translated the epic as  Ranganatha Ramayanam in the 14th century.

Shrimati Aatukuri Molla (also called Kummari Molla as she comes from the community of potters) was a 15thcentury poetess who wrote a `swecchaanuvaada – free translation of the epic.  `Molla Ramayanam’ is revered by all Telugu scholars as one of the greatest works in literature.  Shri Tikkanaamaatya wrote Nirvachnottara Raamayana.  Shri Potanaamatya wrote Ramayana as a part of Srimad Bhagavata translation.

 

In the recent times  (After 1900s)

Sri Vavilakolanu Subbarao did an exact translation of every Sloka of Valmiki Ramayana into a Telugu padya, titled `Ramayana Mandaram’ and as it has  24,000 Telugu padyas corresponding to the 24,000 Shlokas of Valmiki Ramayana it is also called yadha–valmika–ramayanamu.

 

Sri Viswanaatha SatyanaarayaNa had written the great work `Ramayana Kalpavrukshamu’ and won a Gyanpeeth award for the work.

Shri Tadepalli Venkatappaya Sastry  and Sri Tadepalli Raghava Narayana Sastry wrote the `Raama Kathamrutam’.

Sri Pullela SriRaama ChandruDu gave a wonderful `BalaanandinI Vyaakhya’ to every Sloka of SrimadRaamaayanam.

 

Telugu literature has many vaaggeyakaaraaas  (poets who  wrote Kirtanas and composed them on the meter of Carnatic music) who dedicated their lives to SriRama bhakti. Bhakta Ramadasu of Bhadrachalam was one of them. More than  90% of Tyagaraaja Kritis are on Sri Ramachandra, and all of them are in Telugu.

 

There is an old saying that you would not find a village without a Rama Mandira or Ramalaya.  Sri Ramanavami is a big festival, and one would see Sita Ramakalyanam followed by  Ratha yatra or Ooregimpu  or Pallaki seva (Palanquin Seva) of Sri Rama Chandra in almost every village and town in the Telugu states.

 

Bhadrachalam

 

When talking about SriRamanavami ,  SitaRama Kalyanam is the biggest event of the day.  People in Telugu states would be glued to the television to catch a glimpse of the Sri SitaRamakalyanam that happens in Bhadrachalam. Bhadrachalam is the biggest and most popular SriRama temple to the south of Vindhyas.

 

As per the legend, Bhadrachalam, gets it’s name from a sage named Bhadra, who was the son of Menaka and Mount Meru, and he was an ardent devotee of SriRama who did hard tapas (penance) for SriRama.  When SriMahavishnu gives him a darshan in the form of SriRama and grants a boon of his choice, Sage Bhadra asks him to be seated on his head.   Sri Maha Vishnu who was in the form of  Vykunttha Rama,  with Sita seated on his thigh, and with Laxman on his left, obliged the request.  Bhadra, being the son of Mount Meru, turned into a mountain again and seated Rama, Sita, and Laxmana on his head, which was the peak of the hillock. Achalam means hill, and Bhadrachalam means the Hill of Bhadra.  Parnasala is 30 km away from Bhadrachalam; many believe that this is where Ravana abducted Sita Maata.  Locals also believe that 14,000 raakshasas, along with Khara and Dushana, were killed by SriRama near a place called Dummugudem, which is 25 km from Bhadrachalam.

The place Bhadrachalam, immediately brings Kancherla Gopanna or Bhakta Raamdas to our minds. Kancherla Gopanna was a relative of Akkanna and Madanna, ministers in the court of Abul Hasan Tanaasha (Tanisha) of Golkonda. Using their influence, they made Kancherla Gopanna a tehsildar in the Qutub Shahi  government of Golkonda. In his capacity as the Tehsildar, Gopanna visited Bhadrachalam where he saw the dilapidated temple of SriRama Chandra.  He gets to know about the sthalapurana, and he immediately starts the construction of the new temple.  Initially, he takes donations from the people in the villages, and when he was short on funds, he wrote a letter to TanaShah seeking more grants.  Though receiving no reply, Gopanna goes ahead and uses the tax money he collected, for the construction of the temple.  Tanashah got the news that Government money was used for temple construction.  A furious Tanashah ordered that Gopanna be arrested and placed in a prison in Golkonda.

 

Gopanna faced inhuman atrocities and torture for the next 12 years.  He became Ramdasu now as he was urging SriRam Chandra to come and save him.  All his prayers were in the form of songs, each keertana of Ramadasa is filled with agony, pain and suffering that he was going through. Some of the keertanas have become household songs among the Telugus. In the song `Seetammaku cheyisti chintaaku patakamu’, Ramadasu gives details of the money he spent on each of the ornaments that he made for the Rama parivaaram.  In the same song, through `ninda stuti’ he says he insulted Rama because he was unable to endure the physical beatings and torture that he was subjected to.

 

Another magnum opus of his keerthanas is  `Ee teeruga nanu dayacchUcedavO Inavamsottama Raama’, in which he says he seeks repentance.  Personally, I love the line `Krura karmamulu neraka chesithi,neramulenchaku Rama, daridramu pariharamu seyave, daiva sikhamani Rama’- `Oh Ramaa, out of ignorance, lack of knowledge,  I did make mistakes, O Rama,  do not count those bad deeds and  crimes , please lead me out of this misery’.  There are many wonderful Keertanas of Bhakta Ramdasu which touch our hearts.

 

After 12 long years, when his bad Karma is over, SriRama and Lakshmana appear in the dream of Tanashah and present him with the money.  Upon waking up Tana Shah saw the money and realized that he had the Darsana of SriRama and Lakshmana.  He quickly gets Ramadasu released and donates the money to the Bhadrachalam temple.  He also started the practice of sending `Mutyala Talambralu’ (Pearls) to Sita Ramakalyanam in Bhadrachalam on the day of SriRama Navami.  This practice was followed by the Asaf Jahi Nizams and then by the Governments of United Andhra Pradesh and currently by the Telangana government. The Andhra Pradesh government is continuing  this practice by sending the Mutyala Talambralu to Vontimitta and Rama Teertham temples in Andhra Pradesh.

 

This Kalyanam is not just the festival where the leaders participate, every year we see lakhs of people thronging the temple on SriRamaNavami with various gifts to SriRama and Sita maa.  We see devotees come and give 1 crore rice grains as an offering, these devotees take the grains from the crop while chanting Raama naama, they remove the grain from the husk and put it in the bags; for the entire 1 crore grains every year.  That speaks volumes about the Rama Bhakti in the Telugu Lands.

 

In the south of Vindhyas , Rama Bhakti is not limited to Telugu people alone.

 

Almost every Hindu Malayaalee household has a copy of Adhyatma Ramayanam written by Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan. Infact, this is considered the first major Malayalam classical work and Malayalees have dedicated one month for the chanting of Ramayanam alone, the month of Karikidakom is often referred to as the month of Ramayana recitation in Kerala.  The Kings of Kerala usually added Rama to their names and strived to be ideal kings. Malayalees believe that Kollam is the final resting place of Jatayu.  They have a huge Jataayu park in Kollam.

Some very famous Rama temples in Kerala are:

 

Karimpuzha Sri Ramaswamy temple in Palakkad.

Thiruvanagad Ramaswamy Temple in Thalassery

Ramapuram Temple in Kottayam

Kadavallur Sri Ramaswamy temple in Thrissur

Sri Ramaswamy Temple in Tripayar

Seetha Temple Pulpally.

 

 

Kannadigas also are proud devotees of Rama and they even boast of having sites linked with Ramayana.

Near Shivamogga there is a place called Mrugavadhe, the locals are proud of the Shiva temple, in which the Shivalinga was installed by none other than SriRamaChandra. Mrugavadhe literally means Mruga- Animal vadhe- kill .  The legend says Lord Shri Ram killed Maareecha in this very spot when the latter came in the form of a golden deer.  According to the locals Maareecha was Shiva Bhakta and a brahmana , so to get rid of Brhama hatya pataka, SriRama installed the Siva linga there . Locals believe that Sabarikolla in Belagavi district is the place where SriRama met Sabari. Devotees go to these temples with all love and affection and pray to SriRama. Kishkindha near Anegundi was the citadel of Sugriva and other Vanaras. In Namada cilume in Tumakuru district we see water continuously  gushing out of stone, it is believed the SriRama shot an arrow to get water so that he could put his tilak. One can see Rama Mandira in every town, village, and city in Karnataka.  One should visit the Rama Navami annual music festival in Bengaluru.  Prominent classical singers perform during this event, which runs for 10 days.  Thousands of music lovers attend this festival.

 

There is a huge misconception that Sri Rama is not worshipped in Tamilnadu. Nothing can be further from the truth. Northern Tamilnadu has communities where the family deity is Sri Rama. One can see many Sri Rama temples there.  Tamils have a practice of writing SriRama jayam before they write anything. Kamba Ramayana is held in great esteem by the Hindus of Tamilnadu. In the famous Srirangam temple, a dedicated place for the recital of Kamba Ramayanam is there. One of the greatest alwars of Tamil Nadu Sri Nammazhwar says `Karpar Ramapiranai allal matrum karparo’?  (Tiruvaimozhi 7-5-1 `Will a learner learn anything other than Rama’?).

The next time anyone says SriRama is not worshipped in the south of Vindhays you know what to say.  SriRama is the force that joins India, He is the ideal in every walk of life. Hope we all strive to achieve the ideals and perfection of SriRama Chandra.

 

Happy SriRama Navami. Jai SriRam.