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Posts Tagged ‘Tenali Rama’

Dares to Criticise King’s Composition

Posted by kathavarta on August 2, 2008

Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu and his court Bhuvana Vijayam comprising Ashta Diggajas was taken as a model by many kings and kingdoms in and out of the Indian sub-continent. Rayalu was known for his fondness towards literature and his patronage towards poets and composers.

Rayalu was compared to one of the greatest ever kings of the country King Bhoja, for his inclination towards developing literature and composition. Rayalu himself was a scholar in Sanskrit, Telugu (Andhra) and Kannada. Most famous among the Telugu compositions of Rayalu were Amukta Malyada, and Vishnu Chitheeyamu. Both the compositions were based on God Vishnu’s devotees.

Life sketch of devotee Vishnu Chitha, Goda Devi’s devotion and God’s testing were the key elements. Goda Devi was a devotee of Lord Krishna right from her childhood. She adored Him ad finally she marries Lord Krishna. The heartfelt expressions of Goda Devi about the Lord Krishna and her lifestyle were decoratively in Amuktha Malyada. Though Amukta Malyada was written in Telugu, it was majorly filled with usages of Sanskrit language and was not generally understandable by the common people. However, the scholars and persons with proficiency in Sanskrit applauded the book. They appreciated the expression of feelings, narration style and presentations of grammar and usages.

A criticism was in circulation about Amukta Malyada during those days. It was said that Allasani Peddana(name of one of the Ashta Diggajas)authored it and named to be written by Rayalu. Critics also cited a line from sonnets written in both Amukta Malyada and Manu Charithram starting with “Neela Meghamu Daalu Deelu Cheyu Gajalu…”.

Allasani Peddana wrote Manu Charitram, sometime later to Rayalu writing Amukta Malyada. There was also a discussion that Allasani Peddana with high regards to King Rayalu took the sonnet and presented it as it was written in Amukta Malyada. Anyway, the criticism and discussion for and against Amukta Malyada went on for quite sometime.

One day, Rayalu during the literature discussion in Bhuvana Vijayam asked the present poets and experts to comment over Amukta Malyada. No one knew what the King actually wished to hear from the gathering. Almost all the renowned poets and scholars did not dare comment either for or against the book of Rayalu, thinking not to lose the place and position in the Bhuvana Vijayam.

Waiting for some time, Ramalinga raised. In a single sentence he said that he carried no two feelings about the book.

He furthered, “My Lord! A right critic will never bother who the author was. The critic will always be concentrating about the subject, presentation, narration and standards of language. Any criticism should be based on the occasion. It is also to be recalled that for any matter there definitely will be both constructive and destructive criticism in the world.”

Rayalu asked Ramalinga to first explain the lacunae in the book. Tenali commented there were one or two usages that were irrelevant to the context of the situation. Rayalu was irritated on listening this. “Ramakrishna! Don’t you note the circumstances to wit on? I’m not convinced with your sarcastic comment. Refer to the text and pass the comment carefully quoting it,” roared the King.

The whole court was silent and the King’s tone echoed in. Tenali took out a copy of Amukta Malyada and recited a stanza from the text,

“Aanishtha nidhi geha seema nadu reyalinchinan mroyunem,

the nagendra sayananu punya kathalum divya prabandhanu sam,

dhana dhyanamu naasthi sakaluhuthansthushna thanasthapu va,

po nasthyo danaleshtavam chaknapaya bhokthavya mastalkulu”

“Referring to the last two lines of the above stanza I recited, I feel that it was like asking a guest to have lunch from a plate that is not served with any eatables. The situation is different here and this explains something different, which is irrelevant” said Tenali. All the members of the Bhuvana Vijayam looked at Tenali appreciating. Still, they were worried what would be the reaction of King Rayalu on this straight criticism on his book.

Rayalu reacted strange to the expectations of the courtiers. With his natural affection and inclination to constructive criticism and especially scholars, “Tenali! That was good to note your evaluation style. You are right. There definitely will be constructive and destructive criticisms on any material. I request all the members of the Bhuvana Vijayam to take Tenali as model and express their comments freely on any book or composition. There is no need to consider who is the author and what is his or her status.”

The courtiers continued to shower their appreciations long even after the court was adjourned for the day.

This was the courage, cleverness and presence of mind Tenali Rama had.
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Mother’s last wish

Posted by kathavarta on August 2, 2008

Once when King Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu was ruling the Vijaya Nagar Empire, the royal mother fell sick and was bedridden. The medical professionals of the court declared that there was no chance for her to survive this episode and that she grew too old to respond to any medication.

One morning, she summoned Rayalu to her presence. “My Dear Son! I realise that I am close to death’s door. I also do not have any hopes that my health would become better. However, I have a last wish.”

She paused and asked, “Can you accomplish it for me before my soul is taken away?”

Rayalu was the King of Kings. His mother was on the deathbed, expressing her last wish. How could he turn away from it? He gently said, “Mother! Please tell me I will definitely accomplish your last wish” he assured.

“I…” she added, “…wish to eat a mango fruit, can you get me one?” in a feeble tone the mother asked Rayalu.

It was early summer. Trees had just started bearing tender fruits. There was no guarantee that royal mother would live until the tender ones ripened on the tree, Rayalu thought. It was also an insult to his royalty, if he was unable to fulfil his mother’s last wish.

Immediately the King ordered his soldiers to scan through the fields of the kingdom and bring some ripe mangoes at any cost, immediately. The soldiers plunged into action. They did their best and returned with a basket filled with ripe mangoes. Eventually, just before the soldiers could place the basket before their King, king’s mother breathed her last.

Rayalu was taken aback, for being unable to fulfil the last wish more than for her demise. He was shook deeply with the thought that his mother was dead even before her quench for mangoes was fulfilled. He slowly started to sink day after the day with the thoughts that were ripping him.

Rayalu invited Royal Master Thathacharya, explained his struggle, and sought an advice that would take the suffering off from him.

Thathacharya thought for a while and told the King, “My king! Your mother was fond of giving alms to the poor and needy. Her soul would rest in peace, if you can fulfil her last wish through donations. Order for preparing mangoes with gold and distribute them to Brahmins of the country.”

The news spread like wildfire in the kingdom that Rayalu was doling out golden mangoes to Brahmins in the memory of his mother. Brahmins from all over the empire started flooding into the capital to accept the golden mango from the King. Day in and out, long queues were always seen only to add people to its tail.

With this, the gold reserves in the exchequer were melting down rapidly. Rayalu not bothering about the consequences was incessantly involved in donating golden mangoes to the Brahmins. He never heeded to the pleas and warnings of the Chief Minister Thimmarusu in this regard.

Thimmarusu was in confusion and did not know how to stop the King. He approached Tenali and urged for a solution to this in the interest of the kingdom and its people. Tenali assured Thimmarusu that he would check it at the earliest. “Go home and have a sound night sleep, Chief Minister. Everything will be alright by tomorrow evening” Tenali sent off Thimmarusu.

Next morning, Tenali went near the long queues and watched what was happening. He then selected a yard close to the queues and sat there, ordering the queue maintenance persons to send each of the Brahmins to him before sending him to Rayalu for the golden mango.

Everyone knew that Tenali was one of the close associates of the King. They thought that Tenali was doing so on the orders of the King and started sending the Brahmins first to Tenali before sending them into the palace.

Tenali told every Brahmin that there was a slight amendment to the donation process. “The King Rayalu wished to donate the golden mangoes to those who bore a blister from him” Tenali explained. Brahmins desirous of the gold first had a burn on their backs and went for the King’s gold.

This went on until afternoon. In the later afternoon, one Brahmin pleaded Tenali to give him two burns and two golden mangoes. Tenali immediately fulfilled the Brahmins wish.

Then the Brahmin approached Rayalu. As usual, Rayalu handed him one mango. The Brahmin immediately requested the King, “My Lord! I had two burns please give me two golden mangoes.”

The King Rayalu did not understand what was happening. He enquired, “What burns?” Then the Brahmin narrated the entire story about Tenali and burns to Rayalu.

The King shivering with anger called for Tenali and questioned him, “Tenali, what is happening. Why are you doing this brutality on these poor and innocent Brahmins?”

Tenali very politely and innocently, as if nothing was amiss, explained. “My Dear King! I am an unlucky person. Recently my mother succumbed to a chronic disease. She wished all during her bed ridden period to cauterise her back so that she could become healthy and live longer.”

Wiping the tears dropping on his cheeks, Tenali continued, “Probably she would have lived. Nevertheless, I did not heed to her requests. She died with it on her lips. I thought of presenting it to the Brahmins, as I failed to fulfil my mother’s last wish.

However, me being a poor man cannot invite such huge number of Brahmins. Anyway, all of these had come on your invitation and I am trying to fulfil my mother’s last wish in this manner. With all due respects to the King, I beg for pardon for my deeds, if I am wrong.”

Rayalu analysed that Tenali was attempting to teach his a lesson. He then recalled Thimmarusu’s pleas about the drastically dropping gold reserves in the exchequer.

Appreciating the presence of mind and loyalty, Rayalu immediately stopped the programme.
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Handful Grain

Posted by kathavarta on August 1, 2008

Sinhapuri was a prominent town in the Vijaya Nagar empire. There lived a stunning beauty named Vidyullata. She was a rich lady and well versed with prose, poetry and composition besides dance and music. Vidyullata was famous as a proud woman in the region.

A hoarding appeared on the compound wall of the woman’s house quoting as, “A reward of one thousand gold coins would be presented to those who can win over the Lady in the house. The competitors are required to prove their upper hand in humour, wit and scholarship.” This became a prestigious issue for the scholars in the region.

Many responded to the open invitation and barged into her house, individually, to test their fate through the fete. Surprisingly, everyone whoever walked into Vidyullata’s house lost in the battle and came out with chins down. The list of losers was steadily growing and after sometime there were no takers to the invitation.

Days were passing like this. One morning, a vendor with a load of firewood on his head started shouting in front of her house, “Firewood…strong firewood…excess heat generating firewood…” he continued the sequence for sometime. Vidyullata thinking that his noise was growing unbearable walked on to the threshold and enquired, “How much do you sell the load for?”

An instant reply came from the vendor, “I will not sell this for money. If you can give me a handful grain I will give you all the load.” Assuring him to give more grains, Vidyullata ordered him to dump the load in the backyard and return to collect the grains.

The vendor unloaded the weight off his head then and there started to argue, “There is no bargain in this deal Madam! I will sell this to you only if you can give me a handful grain, did you get it” he stressed, “a handful grain.” The rich woman got disgusted with the vendor’s behaviour, “Hey you bloody vendor. Stop crying, I will give you what you wanted.” She said, “throw them in the backyard and come here.”

The Vendor was adamant and made his firewood load’s price much more clearer, “There is no change in the deal Madam. I said a handful grain…that means nothing more or less…it should be a handful grain. If you cannot pay the price, you should pay me one thousand gold coins and wipe the invitation hoarding on the compound wall.”

Vidyullata yelled at him, “What nonsense are you trying to talk?” The vendor replied on par with her, “There is not any nonsense. I told you the price, you agreed for it and now if you cannot pay the price, stand by my wish. You should give the one thousand gold coins. That is it.”

The fire broke out between Vidyullata and the firewood vendor. Both started arguing and shouting at each other. The local people started gathering in front of the house to witness and know what is happening and why is the Lady was having a tiff with an ordinary vendor. Tired of shouting, both resorted to approach the provincial Court of Law for justice.

Vidyullata presented her argument, “My Lord! This firewood vendor must have gone crazy. He is not ready to accede to my offer, though I wished to pay him more. He is sticking to his senseless argument to have a handful grain. He demands later for payment of a thousand gold coins and wiping away the invitation hoarding. I plead for justice.”

The Judge looked at the vendor and asked him what was his problem. Folding hands the vendor started in a humble manner, “Yes Your Majesty. She was right to some extent. However, I am not crazy. I informed her beforehand that the load of firewood would cost her a handful grain.”

He continued innocently, “When I was clear about a handful grain, she must have understood that I needed handful of grains. That was her mistake to mistake my quote for a handful grain. It means, one grain that fills the hand.”

What more? Vidyullata was speechless. Obviously, the verdict was in favour of the vendor. Vidyullata was unable to comprehend that a handful grain meant so much. Shocked with the development and the judgement, she was compelled to pay him one thousand gold coins and wipe off the invitation from the compound wall.

The people of the region knew about this and told themselves that the years old proud ness of Vidyullata was shattered to pieces in a single stroke. By the way, the vendor was Tenali Rama.

On hearing about the problem Vidyullata created with her hoarding, Tenali took due permission from the King Rayalu to take her to task. In the guise of firewood vendor, Tenali fulfilled his responsibility in all success.
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Mahabharata and Sultan Adil Shah

Posted by kathavarta on August 1, 2008

Mohammedans ruled parts of the sub-continent with Delhi as their capital for over two centuries. Few of the Mohammedan rulers maintained patience towards Hindu rituals and maintained communal harmony encouraging Hindu scholars and prophets.

Delhi was in Adil Shah’s rule concurrently while Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu was ruling Vijaya Nagar. A war broke out between the two kingdoms for supremacy over one another. At one stage, both the rulers felt there was a need to establish peace in the region. Adil Shah invited Rayalu to Delhi for finalising the peace treaty.

Hoping to utilise the opportunity to establish a cordial relation between the two empires, Rayalu headed for Delhi with a big team comprising of poets, dancers, scholars and others. At Delhi, Adil Shah gave red carpet welcome to Rayalu. During the pleasant rounds of discussions, Adil Shah urged the scholars and poets from the Rayalu band to recite some sequences from the epic Mahabharat.

The visitors recited several sequences to please the Delhi Sultan. It was then that trouble shot up for the Vijaya Nagar ruler. Adil Shah expressed his wish and requested Rayalu to make his men rewrite the Mahabharat portraying him and his friends as Pandavas and his rivals as Kauravas. The total visiting team was shocked to hear the Sultan. They somehow managed to close the day’s meeting immediately.

Rayalu was worried about the development. He called for an emergency meeting with the learned persons of his team. In the meeting, he sought suggestions from them to avert the problem. Everyone started scratching their heads to find an amicable solution. None could come out with any concrete proposal. After watching all this, suddenly Tenali raised and put his proposal before Rayalu.

He said, “My Lord! I think there is not much for you or us to get so much worried and burdened about the Delhi Sultan’s wish about Mahabharat. You please leave the problem onto my shoulders and have a relaxed sleep. I will solve the problem without any problem.” The King Rayalu had his own doubts about the safety of the kingdom and its people.

“Tenali…” Rayalu said, “…I am aware that you are a genius. However, it is not a common situation. Dealing with the Delhi Sultan is not an easy job. It is similar to fete on the edge of a sword. You should be very careful!” He was worried that if the problem was not dealt properly, there was a chance that Delhi Sultan might declare a war on Vijaya Nagar.

Tenali was stiff to his argument and assured everyone to leave the matter to him. The big heads of the meeting could not comprehend how Tenali was confident that he could solve this ‘so easily!’ Anyway, they told each other, as we could not come out with any proposal for the solution, let him handle this. The meeting finally nominated Tenali to take care of the situation.

Next morning, the court was packed with both the rulers and their henchmen. Adil Shah recalled his wish about re-composing of the Mahabharat. Tenali rose from his seat and saluted the Sultan. “Huzoor! All of our poets are into the job assigned by your majesty’s wish. However, every one of us is stuck at one specific issue. It is not proper for us to discuss the subject in the court. If you can kindly permit me, I wish to present the poking issue before you in private.”

Adil Shah thought that there should really be some problem and consented for the one-on-one meeting with Tenali in a separate room. Tenali folding hands and presenting all respects to the Sultan in his words started, “Your Highness! You are the king of kings! It was our pleasure to know about your inclination about our epics like Mahabharat. The poets and scholars started re-composing the whole epic, in accordance to your majesty’s wish. You are being portrayed as Dharmaraja, eldest of Pandavas and your friends as Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva.”

Tenali paused a second and continued, “This is where we had to scratch our brains…” However he was not forth coming with the problem. Adil Shah waited and when it was clear that he has to get it out of Tenali he ordered, “What is the problem? Tell me clearly and quickly.”

“You are aware Huzoor! That Pandavas are five. All the five were married to Draupadi and were sharing her equally…” Tenali stressed, “We are unable to portray your image as Dharmaraja in this regard, thinking about the prestige of the King of Kings….”

Long before Tenali could complete, Adil Shah hastened to say, “Stop this nonsense now. I cannot take this anymore. Stop rewriting Mahabharat immediately. I can never accept this.”

Tenali tried to say… “Huzoor! We started to work as per your wish…now, how can we turn away from the word given to you by us…we…” “Look Poet!” Adil Shah raised his voice, “you should drop the Mahabharat topic as of now if you wish the friendship and co-operation between the two kingdoms to last long. Is that clear” and walked off the room.

Tenali bubbling with joy returned to his King Rayalu and his bandwagon of delegation and explained the whole sequence. Everyone including Rayalu appreciated the sharp intelligence and presence of mind Tenali had in solving the toughest problem just like that!
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Tenali Rama: Arrival in Vijaya Nagar

Posted by kathavarta on July 31, 2008

Tenali was mischievous during his childhood. His childishness cheered some and troubled some. His activities were pleasure to some and humiliation to others. Once, while Tenali was pursuing his academics, the provincial ruler visited the school as part of checking the standards of the school.

He questioned the children in the classroom, “Who among you is the most intelligent?”

Silence spread in the class. No child dared to give reply to the King’s question. Meanwhile, Tenali sprung up from his seat and answered with confidence, “I am the intelligent student in the class.” The King appreciated Tenali’s confidence and courage. Calling him closer, the King enquired him about several things and blessed him, “You will go places my child.”

Similarly, Tenali grew big and made his presence felt in history.

Tenali practised poetry and composition along with command on language and grammar. Mingling with a group of minstrels, he learnt the art of spontaneous poetry composing techniques at Tenali.

He made himself a perfectionist in Sanskrit and Telugu (Andhra) languages. Gradually, in the natural process of growing up, he was married and was blessed with children. From then onwards, he was compelled to find ways to earn a living and feed his family.

He learnt that Vijaya Nagar ruler Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu was a revered patron for poetry and poets besides being a scholar in Kannada, Andhra and Sanskrit languages on par. Every poet and scholar with some skill in the vast Vijaya Nagar empire was longing for getting into the Bhuvana Vijayam, the royal court of Rayalu. Tenali headed for Vijaya Nagar with a similar thought and wish in him.

First, he approached the royal priest Thathacharya and laid his heart before him, after exhibiting his skills. Thathacharya promised Tenali to introduce him to the King Rayalu. Satisfied Tenali spent many a days in vain, waiting for the opportunity.

Tenali was vexed and started hunting for alternative ways that would gain entry into the court. He then located Nandi Thimmana, another scholar who had a permanent place in the royal court. Tenali approached Thimmana and appeased him with his expertise in spontaneous poetry.

Thimmana felicitated Tenali by presenting him with a Kashmir Shawl, which was presented to him by King Rayalu the previous day for his performance.

The next day, Tenali adorning the Kashmiri Shawl on his shoulders walked into the royal court. King Rayalu was discussing various issues with the courtiers at that time. Rayalu was surprised to see a stranger in the Shawl that was presented to Thimmana couple of days before. A straight question came from the King Rayalu, “Where did you get this shawl?”

With all humbleness Tenali replied, “My King! Thimmana could have satisfied you with his proficiency. I was fortunate enough to please that great personality with my poetry. Thimmana, pleased with my expertise…” he continued, “presented me this shawl felicitating me at his residence. I am wearing this to exhibit my competence.”

Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu was impressed by the way Tenali presented himself in the court. The King also appreciated the intelligence and presence of mind Tenali had. Immediately Rayalu offered a position to Tenali in his court.

Thus was the entry of Tenali into Bhuvana Vijayam.
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Tenali Rama: Birth and Education

Posted by kathavarta on July 31, 2008

Bhuvana Vijayam, the royal court of Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu comprised of eight wise and learned men collectively titled as Ashta Diggajas. Tenali Ramalinga was prominently one among them. He was also known as Tenali Ramakrishna.

Tenali Ramalinga was known for his attentiveness, alertness, time tuning, wit, and intelligence. Tenali said to be hailing from Tenali town, set it as his surname. In the modern times, Tenali is in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh on the banks of Holy River Krishna.

Tenali was popular as Vikatakavi. Right from his childhood, Tenali was centre of attraction among the children of his age groups in the region. His versatile mentality, intellect and aggressiveness brought him laurels and fame.

A Saint passing by, one day watched Tenali closely and could identify the ‘celestial spark’ shining from within him. The Saint, as he was in the devotional path, also recognised the inherent qualities of command and intelligence interlaced in Tenali.

The Saint called Tenali by name and asked him to accompany to a place. With the natural quality of fearlessness, Tenali accepted the invitation without even asking, “where to?” The Saint and Tenali walked little away from the crowd and reached Goddess Mahakali Temple in the woods.

Arranging to perform a divine sacrifice to please the Goddess Mahakali, the Saint told Tenali, “My dear child! I am growing old and gradually losing the physical strength to perform puja to seek the blessings of the Goddess Mother.

He continued, “You are having all the qualities and blessings of the Mother to please Her and receive Her blessings.” Preaching a mantra into Tenali’s ear the Saint said, “Chant this mantra continuously and pray the Goddess every evening. Put in all your concentration and strength to please the Goddess. Goddess Mahakali will shower many boons on you.”

After the sacrifice, the Saint left the place and never returned there. It had become a routine for Tenali to chant the mantra and pray the Goddess Mahakali every evening, at the designated Temple in the woods. Time passed by, and Tenali continued his prayers.

One day, Goddess Mahakali appeared in front of Tenali in the form of a Motherly figure. She was holding two small silver bowls in her palms. She started speaking to Tenali in a blissful tone, “My Child! I am pleased with the prayers you had been offering to me. I wish to bless you with a boon. You see the two utensils on my palms. One is filled with milk and the other with curd.” Tenali was looking at her with shining eyes.

Goddess continued, “If you consume the milk, you will be a great scholar. In case, you wish to take the curd, you will be blessed with riches for all your life. However, take caution. You should take only one of them.”

With a lightening speed, Tenali not bothered by the Goddess’ words grabbed both the bowls from Her hands and gulped down the contents. Goddess Mahakali was puzzled with his act. “What did you do?” She questioned him. Unmoved Tenali answered in a requesting tone, “ Hey Mother! Goddess Jaganmatha! What is the use of becoming a scholar without any wealth? Similarly, there will not be any purpose to the riches without intelligence. Hence, I thought I should have both of them and drank the contents of both the utensils. Kindly pardon me Mother, if I had done any mistake.”

Mother Mahakali was pleased with his frankness and analytical evaluation at that tender age. Imposing some sanctions, She blessed Tenali with two boons before She disappeared. She said, “You will have both intellect and wealth. There will be problems with the riches you gather by associating with the rulers. The poetry you author will be filled with uniqueness.”

Tenali was extremely happy over the happenings. He thought the boons were apt to his nature and versatile psychology.

There were many occasions wherein Tenali emerged as a centre of attraction with his versatile acts, wit, and humour filled conversations. Of course, sarcastic element was the prime composition of Tenali.
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