Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Annamacharya Sahityam : How it was preserved for centuries & How it was discovered

Greatest Ever discovery By TTD - A Must Read
The Legacy Of Annamayya

Danji Thotapalli

Published on Monday, July 28, 2003

Eighty years ago Tiruvengadam looked very different. Perched on top of the Seshadri mount, the temple nestled in thickly wooded areas, surrounded by waterfalls and lakes. Viewed from a vantage point high above, the temple was a large square with flights of stairs, hewn out of rock, leading down from all sides. All around was a walkway, about 10 yards wide, laid out using a mixture of black loamy soil and mortar, cemented with regular application of cow dung and water. Pilgrims those days did not wear colored clothes to the temple. Men wore white cotton loincloth under a shirt and women wore white cotton saris dipped in turmeric. They got their food from the temple. Huge gangalams full of cooked rice were emptied on the mukha mandapam floor, the mass so heaped that it took the customary pyramidal shape. Other eatables such as vadas, appams and atirasams were deposited on the top. Once the offering to the Lord was completed, pilgrims were allowed to collect a share from the heap. At night, the temple complex looked magnificent with hundreds of oil lamps lit all over. Pilgrims were treated to harikatha renditions; yakshagana and kuchipudi dance dramas and many more such programs were conducted at the 1000-pillar mandapam near the temple. Getting there was tough and involved a lot of effort.

During medieval times pilgrims used ancient foot routes through thick forests teeming with wild animals to reach the hills of Vengadam. The great Rayas donated huge sums of money and resources to build rest halls, cobbled-stone pathways etc. Tuluva Krishnadeva Raya made several visits to the temple and on each visit donated huge offerings to the Lord. His queens, Chinnadevi and Tirumalamba, always gave jewels of uncountable value to the Lord. His heir, Achyutadeva Raya was so devoted that his coronation was held in the very presence of the Lord. Later, after the battle of Tallikota, the great Vijayanagara kingdom fragmented. The capital moved to Penugonda and the illustrious Rayas ruled from Chandragiri. They were so staunch in their devotion that they chose not to eat until the daily meal offering to the Lord was completed at the temple. Huge gongs placed along the way from the temple to Chandragiri were sounded in succession to inform the royalty of the completion of Tiruppavadam.

On a day like any other, during March in 1922, Rangayya was running quickly towards the Anusandhanam Office in Tirumala. He pushed people that came in his way as he ran, shouting, “Jaragandi, jaragandi, please move, please move”. He ran into the office room and cried out, “Ayya, ayya…. Peddetirajul Jiyyar is asking you to come immediately to pedda hundi”.

G V Subramanyam was sitting in his chair looking into some papers. Dressed in western attire, white starched cotton slacks over a pair of khaki half-pants, hair combed slick and a pencil moustache; his rimless spectacles made him look like a brown sahib. He thought someone had looted the pedda hundi, which was this huge vessel into which pilgrims dropped their valuable offerings to the Lord of the Seven Hills. Eyes wide open and shining brightly, stammering and excited, Rangayya said, “Ayya, I believe the temple workers have found a treasure in the room across the pedda hundi. You are wanted there immediately”.

Subramanyam grabbed his baton and shot out of the room. He walked up to the stable briskly and putting on his hard hat, leapt onto his stead and rode away in the direction of the temple raising dust along the path. He reached the temple within minutes and jumping off the horse, ran inside through the mahadwaram. As he walked in big strides towards the pedda hundi, he saw the chief priest of the temple, Peddetirajul Jiyyar, waiting there along with a few other priests and workers. The Jiyyar led Subramanyam towards the small room on the left of the hundi. The entrance was small, about 2 feet wide and 3 feet high. Subramanyam went in first and the Jiyyar followed. It was dark inside and only a streak of light came in through the rock lattice window. There in front of them was a small pit caused by the removal of a rock slab. Inside the pit was a singular bundle wrapped in worn out but expensive-looking silk cloth. The Jiyyar stepped forward, and sitting on his haunches, slowly unwrapped the bundle. The old cloth, totally decimated, came apart at every turn. It took several turns to unwrap it. Then, in an abrupt moment, the bundle jumped out of the Jiyyar's hands and fell into an open heap.

There was a collective gasp!

Mouths agape, everyone stared at the shining mint of copper talapatras that emerged from the bundle. The light through the lattice fell directly on the copper plates which shown brilliantly in their burnished red splendor. The Jiyyar picked a couple of them with shaking hands and, on peering at the plates momentarily, exclaimed loudly, “Aedukondalavada, Venkataramana, Govinda, Govinda … this is a miracle”, his voice became thick with glee. “These are the Annamacharya sankirtanas that were lost centuries ago. Narayana, you are there! This is the proof that you are there. Annamacharya, you are blessed. We all are blessed! This is a day of great significance. These are the divine sankirtanas written by Annamaya himself under the guidance of Sri Venkateswara”. Copious tears were flowing out of the Jiyyar eyes as he started chanting the Govindanamam. Everyone around joined in. “Call Tiruvengalayya, the heir of the Tallapaka family. Subramanyam garu, please send somebody to fetch him. They live near the Chennakesavaswami temple in Tallapaka village”, said the Jiyyar. His voice resounded around inside the great hallways of the ancient temple.

The Jiyyar picked up the bundles and hurriedly walked towards the sanctum sanctorum. He placed the bundles on a small platform in front of the mulaberam or main deity. Then, he and several other priests started chanting holy recitations from the vedas. Subramanyam sent off people to fetch water from the Akasaganga waterfall and other items required for the purification ritual. He could feel goose bumps all over his arms. He had heard of Tirumalacharya, son of the saint poet Annamacharya, who got his father's sankirtanas engraved on copper plates so as to save them from the affects of time. But, no one knew the whereabouts. Earlier there were several instances when they found rock edifacts, statues and on rare occasions treasure troves. But this find was entirely unique. Subramanyam wondered how the talapatras got to the place where they were found. Why were they hidden? He was quite intrigued.

That evening, he met the Jiyyar during the pavalimpuseva or the resting ritual of the deity. “Jiyyar swami, what happened to these talapatras for so many years? I am quite astounded by this morning's happenings. What were the reasons for them to be hidden? And why was this whole thing such a secret that none knew the whereabouts of the talapatras”, Subramanyam asked agitatedly.

The Jiyyar looked at him and said, “I too am astounded by the fact that these were hidden right here in the temple with no knowledge of anyone. I am not sure why that happened. But, the one thing I am sure about is that these talapatras were hidden from some danger. One can only imagine what may have happened during those days in the hoary past. Pedda Tirumalacharya, or Peddanna, the third son of Annamacharya borne by his second wife Akkalamma, was considered the real heir to his father in terms of writing, composing and singing sankirtanas in praise of the Lord. Peddanna, as he was called, continued the legacy of his great father and got several of the sankirtanas that were originally written on Palmyra leaves, transcribed onto copper plates so that they could be preserved for posterity. But, I do not know why they were hidden like this. I really don't know”, the Jiyyar paused.

Rangayya, who was waiting on Subramanyam a few feet away, cleared his throat and when Subramanyam looked at him, said, “Ayya, I am a simple man. I do not know about many things as you all do. But, I can suggest one thing. In my village, we have one Sevvusetti, who goes into a trance every now and then. I believe that god speaks with his voice. Why don't we ask him what happened? Maybe he will be able to tell us”.

Subramanyam liked the idea. So did the Jiyyar. The very next day was considered auspicious and arrangements were made to fetch Sevvusetti to Rama Meda, where they would ask the question.

The next day many people collected at Rama Meda. Sevvusetti was a tall man. He had a slender body and large limpid eyes. His long hair was tied up in a knot at the back of his head. He walked with a strange gait as if he had no control over himself. He came up and sat down on the mandapam looking up into the sky mumbling meaningless gibberish. Rangayya placed a piece of kasturi on Sevvusetti's head and applied the sindhooram to his forehead. Then, in a moment, as if some higher power took over his body, the iris of Sevvusetti's eyes shrunk to half of their normal size. The gaze was rock steady looking at some object far away in infinity. Subramanyam was taken aback at the sight. There seemed to be some sort brightness around Sevvusetti's eyes.

On Rangayya's signal to him, Subramanyam asked, “Sevvusetti, we have one question for you. Will you answer?” Sevvusetti did not answer. Subramanyam asked again, “Sevvusetti, we need the blessings of the Lord to get some answers to a difficult question. We want to know why the copper talapatras of Annamacharya were hidden under the rock slab inside the small room”.

Sevvusetti started shaking. His mouth opened and he seemed to say something. No sound was heard. Then, they heard disjointed words of a monotonous voice crying in a singsong manner. To everyone there, it seemed as if no synchronization existed between Sevvusetti's lip movement and the words that came out of his mouth. His voice had a heavy lisp and people around had to strain to decipher the words.

“Four hundred years ago … Peddanna was a worried soul … Thimmarasu mahamantri had spoken to him … he had heard that the Turkis were planning to invade and loot Vengadam… loot its famous riches … Bahamani sultans invaded and destroyed many temples… in Tallapaka, they broke off the arms from the statue of Annamaya… go and see, go and see… Peddanna decided he had to do something… the legacy of Annamaya's divine harikirtanas … could not be lost … it would be cataclysmic… he called his son Chinnanna and… both had discussions and … and they made an enigma … the next night there was… a big festival going on … hundreds of people were sitting… in the 1000-pillar mandapam … watching… the dance and song of gods… the temple complex was quiet and empty … quietly, Peddanna and Chinnanna tiptoed to the temple … dressed as common men … Peddanna was pushing a handcart with bundles on it … wrapped in silk … Chinnanna was carrying a small crowbar … soon, reached the pedda hundi area … they jumped and darted into … the small room opposite to hundi … no oil lamps were alight … inside the room it was pitch dark … after several hours they left … as quietly as they came… as quietly as they came … with hearts heavy and minds cloudy … minds cloudy and eyes raining … they came away … leaving the treasure of the Lord … in the care of the Lord……that's all…..that's all… that is all what happened to the treasure…. there are more bundles in that room … go and check … go and check….” What Sevvusetti said after that was more enchanting. In his staccato voice, he continued, “Annamaya is the avatara of Nandaka… the sword of Sri Maha Vishnu… his harikirtanas are divine and holy… listening to them will rid you… of your sin and disease… let it be known to all humans… that Annamaya's music is divine… anybody who listens to Annamaya sankirtanas… will be graced by divinity of the Lord…”

So saying, Sevvusetti swooned and fell down in a heap. The people around picked him up and sprinkled water on his face. It took Sevvusetti 10 full minutes to recover. As he recovered, he stood up and walked away looking into the sky and mumbling gibberish to himself, followed by his relatives that accompanied him from the village. Later, as Sevvusetti predicted several packages with talapatras were found under the floor of the room. This discovery was one of the most important in the history of the Tirumala temple. Since then, TTD has been investing a lot of effort in popularizing the divine music of Annamaya, both within India and abroad. Hinduism says there are four ways to achieve kaivalyam – karmayogam, samadhiyogam, gyanayogam and bhaktiyogam. Listening to the divine sankirtanas of Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya is a freeway to bhaktiyogam and thereon to muktiyogam. Please visit for some exhilarating recitals of Annamaya sankirtanas by the renowned vocalist Padmashri Srirangam Gopalaratnam. Her voice is celestial and her carriage of bhava, raga and tala is unbeatable. Personally, I would rate her rendition of Annamaya sankirtanas, as awesome, singular and matchless.

he 500th Vardhanti of Annamaya happens to fall in the current year of 2003. This story is part fact, part fiction and above all a dutiful offering to Annamaya. Distinguished as the first saint poet in the age-old tradition of vaggeyakaras Annamaya is honored as Padakavithapitamaha and Harikirtanacharya. Annamaya's poetry has enchanted both the learned and the common. Each and every song from his repertoire is a delightful stroke of Nandaka, the celestial sword of Sri Maha Vishnu, of which Annamaya is believed to be an incarnation. Annamayya was born in 1408 in a small hamlet called Tallapaka near Cuddapah in Andhra Pradesh. In that sense he preceded the Sangithatrayam of Thyagaraja, Syama Sastri and Muthuswami Dikshitar by more than 300 years. He lived immaculately for 95 years and achieved immortality in 1503. During his lifetime, Sri Annamaya wrote, composed and sang more than 32,000 sankiratanas and 12 satakas (each sataka consisted of one hundred verses) in praise of his istadaivam, Sri Venkateshwara Swami. Besides these, he authored several works; Sri Venkatachala Mahatmayam, Sringara Manjari and Ramayanam in the dwipada format are some. He wrote mainly in Telugu. While there are several sites that provide information about Annamaya, is a good site to visit for a comprehensive understanding of Annamaya and his works.

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