A Tribute to the Annamacharya on 610 Jayanti of the Saint
The 610 Jayanthi festival of saint-poet Tallapaka Annamacharya will be observed in a big way by TTD at Tallapaka in YSR Kadapa district and Tirupati from April 29 to May 05.
In Tallapaka, the home turf of the saint poet, special devotional programmes, Sapthagiri Sankeertanalu and Harikatha have been arranged by the Annamacharya Project of TTD at 108 feet statue of Annamacharya, while in Tirupati, at Annamacharya Kalamandiram daily during the week long festival.
Tallapaka Annamacharya, also known as Annamaya, was a Telugu poet, singer, musician, composer who lived in the 15th Century. In addition to being all of those, he was an ardent devotee of the Hindu god Lord Venkateshwara and he was also one of the first persons to oppose social evils such as the practice of untouchability. His music continues to enthrall music enthusiasts and plays a major role in Carnatic music. Here’s a glimpse into the life of the literary giant.
At a very young age Annamayya showed all signs of being a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara. As a toddler he ate food or drank milk only after he was told that it was the prasadam of Lord Venkateswara. He would not sleep until his mother sang lullabies on the Lord of the Seven Hills. Annamayya was born with the blessings of Lord Venkateswara; it would be natural for the parents to constantly talk of the Lord and His inimitable divinity.
When Annamayya was just five years old, his father Narayana Suri performed his Upanayanam or thread ceremony, and got him ready for real education. Annamayya did not have any problems with that. He was able to learn many things with ease and dedication. He developed great love for music and devotional compositions. He surprised many with his ability to sing very complicated songs and even composed some of his own songs on Lord Venkateswara. He was able to comprehend and talk about profound philosophies. In other words, the boy was maturing gracefully to take up the divine task that was to be the sole purpose of his life. Years rolled by. He turned 16. All his learning and scholarship over the years needed just one turning point that would redefine him as a person that the world was waiting for.
What we know about Annamacharya is largely from the biography written by Chinnana, his grandson. This biography was not found on the copper plates. Tallapaka Suryanarayanayya, one of the descendants of Annamacharya, had a copy of this biography in palm leaf manuscripts. He copied all the contents to paper before the original was lost to the elements of the nature. That was in the year 1940; later he gave this copy to a library. This is the only source we have inherited about the life of Annamacharya.
10 things one should know about Annamayya
- Born in 1409, he lived on till 1503 and earned the title Andhra Pada kavitā Pitāmaha or the Godfather of Telugu song-writing with his sheer devotion.
- He composed over 32000 keerthana’s, of which only a third are known today. That is, just 12000 of them that are even remotely known, while only 800 are actively practiced.
- All of his music was lost and forgotten after his death for over 4 centuries and then reemerged dramatically. They were found written in copper sheets hidden in a secret cell called Sankeerthana Bhandagaram, beside the Hundi in the main temple of Tirupati in 1849.
- He was one of the fewest people to oppose untouchability way back in the 15th century. Discrimination was in its peaks back then, and despite being an upper-caste born, he believed in equality of humans.
- Many of his early Keerthanas have a Shringara (romantic) theme and they talk about the romance between Lord Venkateshwara and his consort Alamelu.
- He encouraged his wife, Timmakka to pursue literary knowledge which was then a strictly patriarchal stream. She went on to write Subhadra Kalyanam, and is considered the first female poet in Telugu literature.
- While he wrote his Keerthanas on palm leaves, his son Tirumalacharya got them engraved on copper plates. It is said that his life was documented by his grandson, Chinnanna and it is only through his writings that we now know about the life of Annamayya.
- He is the pioneer, earliest known Indian musician to have composed in the Keerthana form of music.
- 12th generation descendents of this saint poet still serve as the Official Song Masters of the Lord in Tirupati.
- The State Government created a special committee just for the promotion of Annamaya’s keerthanas in 1950 with Dr. Balamuralikrishna as its head.