KathaVarta.com: for Short and Moral stories

Who is Tenali Rama?

Posted by kathavarta on July 30, 2008

Tenali Ramakrishna, popularly known as Tenali Rama and Vikata Kavi, was a court-poet of the Vijaya Nagar Empire in the 16th century CE. The Vijaya Nagar Empire has a prominent place in the pre-independence period of the Indian sub-continent. Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu or Krishnadeva Raya, among the rulers of the Vijaya Nagar Kingdom, has transformed his regime into a Golden Era for the history books. Tenali, one of the Ashtadiggajas who were patrons of Krishna Deva Rayalu and is also referred to as Tenali Raman in some parts of South India.

The historians and chroniclers found a synonymity between Akbar – Birbal and Rayalu – Ramalinga. However, despite the commonness among the two combinations, a small line distincts Birbal and Ramalinga. While Birbal was famous for his delicate and involving humour, Ramalinga was stern and sarcastic in his wit to puncture the shields of proudness the others had.

What is Ashtadiggajas:
Astadiggajas (Elephants taking care of all the eight sides) is the collective title given to the eight telugu poets in the court of the emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya who ruled the Vijayanagara empire from 1509 until his death in 1529. During his reign, Telugu literature and culture reached zenith. In his court, eight poets were regarded as the eight pillars of his literary assembly. The age of Astadiggajas is called Prabhanda Age (1540 AD to 1600). All of the Astadiggajalu had composed at least one Prabandha Kavyamu and it Astadiggajalu who gave Prabhanda its present form. Most of the Astadiggajas are from southern part of present day Andhra Pradesh state (Rayalaseema, Nellore) and Astadiggajas, Allasani Peddana, Dhurjati, Nandi Thimmana, Madayyagari Mallana and Ayyalaraju Ramabhadrudu are from the Rayalaseema region.

The title Ashtadiggajas (Ashta + dik + gaja) means elephants in eight directions. It refers to the old Hindu belief that eight elephants hold the earth in eight directions which are namely Airaavana, Pundareeka, Vaamana, Kumuda, Anjana, Pushpadanta, Sarwabhouma, Suprateeka. whose wives are Abhra, Kapila, Pingala, Anupama, Taamraparni, Subhradanti, Angana, Anjanaavati. The court of poets were also called Bhuvana Vijayam (Conquest of the World).

Ashta (Eight) Members
These poets were (1) Allasani Peddana, (2) Nandi Thimmana, (3) Madayyagari Mallana, (4) Dhurjati, (5) Ayyalaraju Ramambhadrudu, (6) Pingali Surana, (7) Ramarajabhushanudu, and (8) Tenali Ramakrishnudu. The most famous being Allasani Peddana honoured with the title Andhrakavitapitamaha (father of Telugu poetry) and Tenali Ramakrishna, Krishnadevaraya’s court jester who authored several acclaimed works.

Differences in research
Though the above list of eight poets is widely regarded as the Ashtadiggajas, there are some differences of opinion as to who exactly constituted the Ashtadiggajas and if the composition of this body changed over time. Some literary works mention the name of BhattuMurthi in place of Ramarajabhushanudu and some accounts mention Pingali Surana and Tenali Ramakrishna also as members of the later kings. From the stone inscriptions of that time, it has been inferred that the village of Thippalur in the present-day Cuddapah district has been gifted to the Ashtadiggajas by the king.

Ashtadiggajas’s works
Allasani Peddana wrote Manucharitramu and dedicated to the king Krishnadevaraya. Nandi Thimmana wrote parijataapaharanam and dedicated it to the king as well. Madayyagari Mallana wrote Rajasekhara Charitramu. Dhurjati wrote Kalahasti Mahatyamu. Ayyalaraju Ramabhadrudu wrote Ramaabhyudayamu. Pingali Surana wrote Raghavapandaveeyamu, a dual work that describes both Ramayana and Mahabharata. Ramarajabhushanudu wrote Kavyalankarasangrahamu, Vasucharitramu and Harischandranalopakhyanamu. Tenali Ramakrishna wrote Udbhataradhya Charitramu, Panduranga Mahatmyamu and “Ghatikachala Mahatmyamu.”

Literary Style
Telugu literature reached its peak during their period. A new style called Prabhanda with added fiction and few omissions from the original stories were followed during this period. Poets in earlier century like Tikkana and Potana translated the Sanskrit books and epics without changing the stories from original. Ashtadiggajas usually took small, some times obscure, stories from Puranas and used them as plots for writing major kavyas. A Prabhandam can be of three types, viz., Prakhyatam, Utpadyam, Misramam (famous story, purely fictional story, mixed story). Ashtadiggajas have written in all the three genres during the Prabhanda yugam.

There are also at least two dual meaning works during this time. Ramabhyudayam by Pingali Surana simultaneously runs the stories of Rama and Pandavas. Harischandranalopakhyanamu by Bhattumurthy also simultaneously tells the stories of the kings Harischandra and Nala.

The historians and chroniclers found a synonymity between Akbar – Birbal and Rayalu – Ramalinga. However, despite the commonness among the two combinations, a small line distincts Birbal and Ramalinga. While Birbal was famous for his delicate and involving humour, Ramalinga was stern and sarcastic in his wit to puncture the shields of proudness the others had.

Rayalu’s court known as ‘Bhuvana Vijayam’ (Global Victor) was strongly upheld by eight poets called “Ashta Diggajas” (Elephants taking care of all the eight sides). Those eight’s combination was the strongest ever and was invincible for any scholar or Master of Arts and Sciences during those days. Tenali Ramalinga shined among the eight as a precious diamond in the diamond studded crown.

Tenali’s Biography:
His family had originally hailed from Tumuluru near Tenali in Guntur District. Tenali is an important town in Coastal Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur District. Tenali is also famous as “Andhra Paris.” He was also known as Tenali Ramalinga, a Shaiva name. It is believed that he later converted to Vaishnavism.

Some scholars dispute whether that he was a contemporary of Krishna Deva Rayalu. Tenali Ramakrishna’s most famous work, Panduranga Mahatyam, is dedicated to Krishna Deva Rayalu’s grandson; it is therefore possible that he was only a boy poet during the reign of Krishna Deva Rayalu (1509-1529). He was known for wit and a large volume of poetry written in the Telugu language.

Tenali’s works:
Scholars treat his famous work Panduranga Mahatyam as one among the Pancha Kavyas, the five great books of Telugu Literature. He has dedicated Panduranga Mahatyam to Viruri Vedadri. This book is about the Pundarika Kshetram on the banks of river Bhaimi and its legend. He also composed Udbhataradhya Charitram on the story of Udbhata, a monk, as well as Ghatikachala Mahatyam about Ghatikachalam, a place of worship for God Narashimha near Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India.

Tenali’s Style:
He followed the Prabhanda style. He took the theme for Panduranga Mahatyam from the Skanda Purana and enhanced it with many stories about the devotees of God Vittala.

He is noted for brilliance and wit and for mocking other poets and great personalities. He created a celebrated character called Nigama Sarma akka (sister of Nigama Sarma) and a story around her without giving her a name. He also had written many Chatuvu (extempore poems).

Tenali’s Titles:
::- He was called a vikata kavi (a palindrome in Telugu script) means clown-jester-poet.
::- Kumara Bharathi

The records also state that Ramalinga was instrumental in protecting the King Rayalu and his prestige many a time, coming to his rescue in critical situations. A popular story among the commoners narrates how Ramalinga protected the Vijaya Nagar Empire from getting into the clutches of Delhi Sultans through his timely wit interlaced with a perfect strategy.

The most popular stories about the lifestyle, combination, and co-ordination of Rayalu and Ramalinga spread the message of intellect, time tuning, and strategic stroking besides lively wit and humour.

KathaVarta is attempting to present some of the selectively collected stories for world readers to hold their bellies before they read the laughing gas about the ‘activities’ of Ramalinga in and out of the royal court of Rayalu.

Courtesy: http://www.wikipedia.org and http://www.tenaliramalinga.com
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