The following article on Annamacharya and His Krithis has been contributed by Ms.V.Bhavya
A great Carnatic composer of Telugu literature is Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya. Saint Annamacharya is the first “Vaggeyakara”, person who can compose lyrics, music and sing. Most of the people with interest in Carnatic music will know him. An interesting fact about Annamacharya is that “Annamacharya is to be reckoned as the first among the hymnographers in Telugu, not only from the view point of chronology but also for his superb artistry and range of feeling and thought.”
Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya also known as Annamayya, is a mystic saint composer of the 15th century. His compositions are in praise of Lord Venkateswara, the deity of the Seven Hills in Tirumala. Annamcharya is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Venkateswara’s. nandakam (Sword). He took the Ramanuja saampradayam (Srivaishanava Sampradhayam), with the blessings of Sri Sathagopa Yateendra of the Ahobila Mutt.
Annamacharya composed about 32,000 samkeertanas on Lord Venkateswara, of which only about 12,000 are available today. Among his compositions is the ‘Sri Alamelumanga Sri Venkateswara Satakam’.
While he enjoyed popularity in his days, his compositions were forgotten for over three centuries for some inexplicable reason. In the year 1849, they were later found engraved on copper plates, hidden for centuries inside the Sri Venkateswara temple at Tirumala, just opposite the Hundi, concealed in a very small room.
His Songs are classified into categories called Adhyaatma (Spiritual) and Sringara (Romantic) Sankeertanas. Sringara sankeertanas describe about the Lord Venkateswara’s attractive beauty (kalyana gunas of Lord) and the romantic interludes of Lord Venkateswara and his consort Alarmelu Manga. Each composer has a signature in their compositions. For example, Thyagaraja Krithis generally end with his name tyagayya called ‘tyAgarAjunikE’. Similarly, Annamayya’s compositions also have a signature which is ‘Venkatachala’,’Venkatapathi’ etc., i.e. always his signature will be Lord Venkatestwara.
Sankeerthanas of Annamayya
Adivo alladivo sreehari vaasamu
Padivela sheshula padagala mayamu
Meaning: Behold the holy adobe of Sreehari (another name of Vishnu). It is ornamented with ten thousand hoods of Adisesha
Annamacharya happened to see the holy hill ranges of Tirumala for the first time at His eighth year. They appeared to His divine vision as ten thousand hoods of Adisesha. (The Divine Serpent on which Lord Vishnu sleeps). In a divine ecstasy, the boy burst out into an emotional song, “Adivo Alladiho”!”.
poDa ganTi mayya mimmu purushottamA mammu
neDayaka vayya kOnETi rAyaDA ||
Meaning: Oh Purushottama, we have found you. Oh king of Pushkarini tank, do not leave us.
Annamayya expresses his immense joy in seeing Venkatesa and describes Him as his treasure, parijatamu (wish-fulfilling flower), chintamani (precious stone), and kamadhenu (wish-fulfilling cow). He adds that Venkatanatha is the panacea to solve all his problems.
piDikiti talambrAla penDli kooturu konta
peDa mara le navveene penDli kooturu ||
Meaning: When talambralu (holy yellow rice) were showered on bride Alamelu Manga’s head by the bride groom, Venkatapati, she shyly turned her head aside and smiled.
In this song, Annamayya describes Alarmelu Manga as a beautiful bride, wearing rich clothes and ornaments. He is describing the wedding ceremony of Alarmelu Manga and Lord Venkatachalapthi. A beautiful song which describes the Telugu tradition of marriage.
Kondalalo Nelakona Koneti rayadu vadu
Kondalanta varamulu guppedu vadu ll
Meaning: He is “Konetiraya” (The king of lake that is by the side of Tirumala Temple), who resides on the mountains. He grants wishes limitlessly.
In this song, Annamayya quotes devotees from different castes on whom the Lord has showered His Grace. Annamayya says an indirect message that the Lord doesn’t discriminate between the castes & creeds. He takes only devotion into account and graces a devotee accordingly. This is a great tatvam explained in this song.
Similarly, one more song – “Brahmamokkate Parabrahmamokkate”, which shows that God takes only Bhakthi from his devotees.
Tandanana Ahi Tandananapure Tandanana bhala Tandanana
Brahmamokkate Parabrahmamokkate Parabrahmamokkate Parabrahmamokkate II
Meaning: “Tandanana” is a word giving the punch of rhythm in the song. Ahi, Pure, Bhala are the words expressing the excitement or ecstasy or appreciation. The absolute spirit is one & only one.
A philosophical folksong called “Tandana padam” preaches equality among all the individuals. Sri Annamacharya condemned the differences of caste and creed.
Annamayya Krithis’ Popularity in Present Times
Annamacharya has to his credit 32,000 Kirtanas of which 10,000 to 12,000 are extant. He was, according to pious tradition, sent on a worldly mission of establishing Hari Nama on earth through sweet music, by none other than Lord Venkateshwara Himself.
The divine composer completed his mission and attained SriVaikuntham. However, his compositions were not known to people all over the world. Only those who knew, either the language or the system of music could appreciate them and there was no icon to popularise them in a world that was fast becoming materialistic.
Bharat Ratna M.S.Subbulakshmi, a great Carnatic vocalist, has sung many compositions in her lifetime but her rendition of Annamacharya’s Kirtanas will forever be the best known to humanity. M.S. Subbulakshmi has rendered songs falling under both divisions of Sringaara and Aadhyaatmika Samkirtanas and has brought immense recognition to a saint-poet who had attained immortality through his songs.
SrimanNarayana, a song usually rendered in the raga Bowli, has the ability to sanctify the day when listened to as rendered by M.S.Subbulakshmi. The divine verses in this song can make one attain the state which is difficult even for saints, and bring oneself very close to Narayana.
Nanati Baduku, a philosophical song which is acclaimed by scholars is rendered by her with a seriousness which brings upon the listener a desire to cultivate Vairagyam. The solemn nature of this song is made sweet by her voice and its meanings strike home with clarity. This song’s verses tell that birth and death of human life is a drama played by the god.
The beautiful lullaby, Jo Achyutananda, was sung by M.S.Subbulakshmi in the raga Kapi. Words cannot describe the consummate beauty of this song and her rendition which complements it. Annamayya has writing this lullaby to the Madana Gopala residing in Tirupathi.
Another beautiful song sung by M.S. Subbulakshmi, Dolayam Chala Dolayam Hare Dolayam which is raga Kamas. This song describes about the dolostavam of Lord Venkateswara. Like this “Bhavyami Gopalabalam”, “Bhavamu Lona”,”Brahma Kadigina Padamu”,”Enta Maatramuna”, “Ksheerabhdhi Kanyakakku” etc.,
Lots of Annamayya’s songs are becoming popular now days by most of Carnatic musicians. TTD is also contributing in rendering the Annamayya’s songs.
Listening to the Annamayya’s songs by any of the musicians would definitely result in rise of a bhakthi cult within each of us.
To conclude with a sanskrit sloka about Annamayya…
Srimad Dvateeya Charitamrita Mannayaarya
Peethva Pina vai Suhita Manuja Bhaveya |
Tvam Venkatachalapathe riva Bhakti Saaram
Sri Talapaaka Gurudeva Namo Namaste ||