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Tag: rama

Eri Kaatha Ramar

Dear Readers, it has been quite some time from my previous story on Lingodbhava. This time I am sharing a story about an ancient temple near Chennai at a place called Madhurantakam.

For those who know about this place, the mention of Madhurantakam will immediately remind one of the temple of Sri Kodanda Rama and he is known as “Eri Kaatha Ramar” (E in Eri to be pronounced as ‘A’ in ‘ace’ and ‘ri’ as in river). Eri means lake or water reservoir in Tamizh and this Rama is said to have protected the town from inundation due to flooding of the reservoir. This reservoir is indeed huge – it is two thousand four hundred acres in area today! Could have been larger two centuries ago.

Madhurantakam is about one hundred kilometres from Chennai and this temple of Rama is more than a thousand years old. It is believed that the Cholas patronized this town and temple. It is possible that the water reservoir was constructed by them since they were well known for their excellent administration and interest in creating agricultural prosperity.

It is in this temple the great Vaishnavite saint Sri Ramanujacharya was initiated by his teacher Periya Nambigal.

Ma Seetha is known by the name ‘Janakavalli Thaayar” in this temple and she has a separate shrine in this temple. The story of today is of this shrine.

In the years 1795-1799, Madhurantakam came under the jurisdiction of the British Collector Colonel Lionel Blaze. During the monsoon season, the reservoir near the temple used to get filled up and sometimes would breach causing great flooding of the city. It had happened a couple of times and the Colonel had had a terrible time arranging to repair the breach braving the torrential rain and this time, he wanted to be extra cautious and decided to camp at Madhurantakam during the rainy season.

While staying there, he happened to visit the temple of Sri Kodanda Rama. He was received with honours by the priest and was shown around the temple, when he noticed that granite stones were stacked in a corner in the temple compound.

Looking enquiringly at the priest he exclaimed, “What are those stones kept for? They could be used for raising the bund of the reservoir.”

The priest said “Sir, we have planned to build a temple for Seetha Matha and those stones are for that.  Due to paucity of funds we have not started the construction”.

The Colonel looked at the priest with scorn and said, “Funds for building a temple? What is the need for a separate temple for your Goddess? There is need of fund for more compelling things like repairing the bunds of the reservoir. Or will your Rama prevent the bunds from being breached?”

His voice was full with contempt, seeming to mock the faith of the believers.

“Yes Sir, if one has steadfast belief in Rama and offer sincere prayers, he will surely prevent the bunds from being breached” the priest replied in a soft but firm voice. Colonel Lionel Blaze observed the priest but did not say anything.

That night it started raining. Within a short while it started pouring heavily accompanied by deafening thunder and flashes of lightning. It was becoming stronger by the minute and it was as if the water was falling in sheets. Colonel Lionel Blaze had set up his camp with a team of people in a makeshift tent, a little farther from the banks of the reservoir to monitor the situation. They were supposed to check for breaches in the bund every now and then and had kept sand bags ready in case the bunds were breached. But considering the size of the tank, it was going to be an extremely difficult task if there was a breach.

The night was advancing and there was no respite from the rain. The Colonel was worried and he had been going out of his tent every now and then, assessing the situation. The terrible thunder and lightning was also continuing and the members of the Colonel’s team were also going out with him and assessing the intensity of the rain and the level of water on the ground.

It was past midnight. Now, the Colonel went out once again with a few people from his team. The moment he went out there was a streak of lightning so bright, and there was this miraculous sight! Colonel Lionel Blaze could see the figures of two young men walking along the banks of the reservoir. They who were looking majestic and had the gait of lions. Both had bows in their right hand and a quiver full of arrows strung to their shoulders. The Colonel had goosebumps. The lightning flashed once again and he saw them again. There was a radiant glow around them and the Colonel could not take his eyes off them. Then, the rain suddenly stopped all of a sudden and the men vanished.

The Colonel then turned around to his team only to find that they were totally unaware of what the Colonel saw.

The Colonel was filled with deep bliss and slept peacefully. He realised that he had seen Lord Sree Rama and Lakshmana in person.

The day dawned with a bright sun and the Colonel whose anxiety had vanished went to the temple. He told the priests and people what he had witnessed and to the joy of all present undertook the building of the shrine of Janakavalli Thaayaar.

This incident is recorded in the temple in an edict and can be seen even this day.

Thus Lord Kodanda Rama earned the name of “Eri Kaatha Ramar”

Bhadrachala Ramadasu

Greetings to all on the auspicious Ram Navami which was celebrated few days back!!

Ram Navami is the birthday of Lord Sri Ramachandra of Ayodhya and I am narrating the story of one of Sri Rama’s devotees Bhadrachala Ramadasu.

Bhadrachala Ramadasu was a 17th century devotee who was born as Kancharla Gopanna (or Goparaju). He was born in 1620 CE at Nelakondapalli which is in Khammam district of present day Telengana. His parents Linganna and Kamamba were affluent brahmins, and his two uncles Madanna and Akkanna were ministers in the court of Qutb Shahi Sultan Abul Hassan Tana Shah, also known as Tani Shah.

Tani Shah was the eighth and last ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golkonda till 1687, when he was defeated and captured by Aurangazeb as his relations with the Mughals had become strained.

Gopanna was devoted to Lord Sri Rama since his childhood and had unwavering faith in Him. After he finished his education, he was appointed as the Tehsildar (tax collector) of Palvancha Taluk by his uncle Akkanna, who was working under Tani Shah.

It is said that Gopanna was a very sincere person with the highest level of integrity and did his job of collecting revenue of Palvancha Taluk in a splendid manner, but at the same time not giving up his worship of his Ishta Devata Sri Rama by always chanting the ‘Rama Nama’ and feeding the poor.

Once, Gopanna had to visit a village fair in the nearby Bhadrachalam. There was an old temple of Lord Sri Rama at Bhadrachalam. It was in a very dilapidated state.

When Gopanna saw the state of the temple, he was very mentally disturbed. The temple was ancient, and it was said that Sri Rama had visited Bhadrachalam on his way to Kishkintha. This temple was also said to be the place where Sri Rama had given directions to another great poet Pothana to translate the Bhagavatham into Telugu.

Such a historically significant temple lying in ruins was something which Gopanna could not digest.

The idols of Rama and Seetha were dressed in dirty oily clothes with no ornaments whatsoever and the scene filled Ramadasu with tears. “He is the one who provides everything for all the beings in this universe. And here He is not being taken care of…” the very thought left Ramadasu distraught.

“It is Rama who has made me visit this place, as I am destined to restore this temple to its original glory” he said to himself.

He enquired with the people there.

“We do not have the resources to renovate the temple Sir” they said.

“True” thought Gopanna. “To renovate the temple earnestly and restore its grandeur, it will cost a lot”

Thinking thus, he told the people, “Do not worry, we will all join and renovate this temple. Please contribute whatever you can”

The people were very willing to contribute whatever they could by way of money and jewels and Gopanna pooled in his resources and in the process emptied all his savings also.

The temple was coming up very well but Gopanna was not satisfied as he wanted to give the very best only to his beloved Sri Rama. He made so many ornaments with gold and pearls, like the Chintaku Padakam, Patchala Padakam and other ornaments to decorate his beloved Rama and Seetha. His unending love and devotion to Rama and Seetha made him feel that whatever was done was not enough at all. So the renovation went on and on with magnificent structures being continuously added.

There was no more money left and when the villagers came to know of this, they suggested to him that he should use the revenue collections for the remaining amount and they (villagers) would replenish the amount after the harvest.

Gopanna, being an honest and upright person, thought for a while, but his love for Rama was so much that he did not think it was a wrong idea after all…

So, he used up the revenue collections as and when he collected and completed the truly magnificent temple for Sri Rama. The total amount of revenue collections used by him was six lakhs rupyas – without the permission of Tani Shah.

Historically, the silver coins were called ‘Rupyakam’ or ‘Rupya’. Interestingly the word ‘Rupee’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Rupyakam’ meaning silver coin.

After the completion of the temple, Gopanna was pondering on fixing a Sudarshan Chakra on the pinnacle of the Gopura of the main temple. That night, Lord Rama appeared in his dream and asked him to go and take a bath in the Godavari which flows near Bhadrachalam. When Gopanna went and did as the Lord instructed, he found a perfect Sudarshan Chakra in the river bed and took it as the Lord’s blessings and installed that on the Gopura.

The temple was consecrated with a very grand celebration and people from far and near came for the function. They were amazed by the sheer grandeur of the temple and the ornaments worn by the deities – all of which was given by Gopanna, who had by this time earned the name of Ramadasu – servant of Rama.

Word spread about the wonderful temple and very soon the news reached the ears of the King Tani Shah.  

Tani Shah, knowing the integrity of Gopanna, was perplexed on why this activity was not informed to him by Gopanna. It was strange that he got to know of a magnificent temple in a land ruled by him by someone, and not through Gopanna who was employed under him.

As he was enquiring about the cost of the temple and other details, some enemies of Gopanna who somehow got to know that Gopanna had used the revenue collections, used this opportunity and told Tani Shah that there was something fishy in this matter.

“You must investigate thoroughly, your Majesty!” they said, chuckling at the thought that Gopanna would soon be behind bars.

Tani Shah ordered an enquiry immediately. Gopanna admitted that he had spent all the revenue collections amounting to six lakhs rupyas.

“Yes. I have spent the money for the temple” he said without any remorse. “I have spent it for my Rama and all the villagers will help me in replenishing the money. I will deposit the money once I collect from them”

Tani Shah was furious. “Such audacity! Hmmm… Throw him in the dungeons till we receive six lakhs rupyas” he thundered. “No mercy for embezzlement and arrogance!”

The next moment Ramadasu was dragged by the burly soldiers of Tani Shah and thrown into a dungeon-like prison. It had no ventilation whatsoever, except for a hole at the top through which food would be thrown in.

The prison cell was ghastly. It was a terrible place to be in. Still, Ramadasu never believed that what he had done was wrong. He bore the heat and the cold and the darkness and loneliness by chanting the ‘Rama Nama’.

He wrote thousands of songs on Rama during this time, even scolding Rama in some of them! For instance in one song he sang, “Who made jewels for you, your uncle Janaka or your father Dasaratha? Your father made you leave all the ornaments in the palace and sent you to the jungle dressed in bark.” In another song he asked Seetha to represent his case to Rama. In yet another song he teases Rama and says, “Why don’t you open your mouth and say something? Is your mouth filled with pearls that will fall out if you open your mouth??”

Ramadasu languished in the dungeon for twelve long years and nothing happened. Then…

On a dark night when Tani Shah was blissfully asleep in his heavily guarded chamber, he heard the sound of someone calling out to him by name. “Tani Shah!” the deep majestic voice called. “Get up”.

Startled, Tani Shah got up to see in the dimmed oil lamp, the figures of two handsome lustrous youth beside his bed.

Shocked that someone had come into his chamber getting through the heavy security and stunned beyond words at the radiant glow emanating from the faces of the youth, he got up and stuttered “Wh.. who… are… you?”

The elder youth said, “I am Ramoji and this is my brother Lakshmoji. Here is the money which Ramadasu spent on building the temple. Take this.” And short of flinging he dropped a bundle of coins which landed with a jingle on Tani Shah’s bed. “Count it” said the younger lad, “Hmm… go on, count it and give us a receipt and the order for release of Ramadasu”. The voice was so powerful and mesmerizing that Tani Shah could not but obey it. He counted and counted and there were exactly six lakh coins- not silver rupya but Swarna rupya (gold coins) with the name Ram engraved on them. (The coins are still at the Bhadrachala Temple museum).

Tanisha picked up a feather used for writing and wrote with the dye a receipt for the money and the order for release of Ramadasu. In those days palm leaf was used as a writing sheet. The brothers took the receipt and left before Tanisha could collect himself and reconcile to what was happening.

It took some time for Tani Shah to come to his senses and upon realisation that he had seen Sri Ramachandra in person, he rushed to the dungeon where Ramadasu was languishing to see him released by the jailor who had been given the order by Ramoji and Lakshmoji. Tani Shah then described to Ramadasu what had happened and sincerely sought his forgiveness. He pledged to send pearls to the Bhadrachalam temple every Ram Navami, which is continued to this day by the Telengana government. (The government sends silk clothes and ‘Muthyala Thalambralu’ – Plates of pearls on every Ram Navami to the Bhadrachalam temple).

Ramadasu, instead of being happy to be released was more depressed that Sri Rama chose to give darshan to Tani Shah, who was a non-follower instead of to himself, who was singing Sri Rama’s praise day and night all these years. Following his release he went home. The only thought in his mind was on why Sri Rama did not appear to him in person and chose Tani Shah.

That night, he had a dream. Sri Rama appeared in the dream and told him of Tani Shah’s earlier birth where he had propitiated Shiva to a great extent but one day, in a fit of anger that Lord Shiva was not appearing before him, broke the Shiva Linga with the milk pot used for bathing the Shiva Linga.

His darshan to Tani Shah was the effect of Tani Shah’s propitiating Lord Shiva, said Sri Rama.

“But what about me? “asked Ramadasu. “What did I do to deserve the hell of a twelve year prison sentence?”

Sri Rama smiled. “You had caged a parrot for twelve days in your earlier birth. Every action of all beings have reactions. Now you are free. I will call you to me when the time comes”

Saying thus Sri Rama disappeared.

Ramadasu then lived up to the age of sixty, singing the praises of Lord Sri Rama, and died in 1680 CE.

Ironically, Tani Shah when defeated by Aurangazeb, when he captured Golkonda in 1687, was imprisoned for twelve years at Daulatabad before he died in 1699.

The compositions of Ramadasu well known to Carnatic musicians and he has also composed a collection of one hundred poems by name ‘Dasharathi Shatakam’.

Saint Thyagaraja, who was another ardent devotee of Rama, who lived in the next century has sung of Rama’s grace in ending Ramadasu’s misery, in his song “Ksheera Sagara Sayana” where he says,

dhIruDau rAma dAsuni bandhamu tIrcinadi vinnAnurA”

Meaning – I also heard (vinnAnurA) about Your bringing to an end (tIrcinadi) the incarceration (bandhamu) of the brave (dhIruDau) rAma dAsu (dAsuni)

The Curse On King Dasaratha

This is a story from the Valmiki Ramayana.

Dasaratha, who was the emperor of Kosala, died a painful death separated from his four sons- Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugna. It is indeed ironic that a powerful emperor who had not one, but four valiant, handsome and righteous sons, did not have even one of them near him, while he passed away.

On the sixth night after Rama left Ayodhya, the devastated King Dasaratha could not have a wink of sleep. It was past midnight and the King lay wide awake, his heart full of grief at the injustice he had done to his beloved Rama. His mind was looking back at all the events in his life and he suddenly remembered this incident. He asked Kausalya to come nearer and started narrating the incident to her.Dasaratha said, “When a person does good things, he reaps good things and the same way, when he does bad things, he reaps its effect. By the time one realises this principle, it is too late to make amends. I am also a victim of this cycle and I want to relate to you an incident which happened when I was a young prince.” Dasaratha then shared his story with Kausalya.

When Dasaratha was a young prince, he was a master archer and had learnt a difficult technique in archery by name “Shabdavedi”. By mastering Shabdavedi, he could, by listening to the sound made by any animal, kill it with his arrow aimed from a distance. Dasaratha was very proud of his achievement and it helped him in his hunting.

One day during the rainy season, Dasaratha went to the banks of the Sarayu, to hunt. It was raining and it was exciting for him to hunt in the rain. As he stood near the Sarayu, he could hear the noise made by an elephant drinking water with its trunk. Since Dasaratha was well versed in Shabdavedi, he shot an arrow in the direction from which the sound came. After a moment, much to the dismay of Dasaratha, a human voice cried in pain and someone said, “Who has done me to death? Why should I be hunted like an animal? Who is this shameless man who has done this heinous crime?” A horrified Dasaratha rushed to the spot to see a young man lying along the banks of the river, with mud and blood smeared on his body. Beside him was a pot half filled with water.

Dasaratha at once realised the grave mistake he had committed. He had mistaken the sound of the pot being filled up with the river water to be that of an elephant drinking water. The young man looked at Dasaratha and said, “You are a prince! And yet, you have hunted me like an animal? I was going to carry water to my old parents who are both blind. They are totally dependent on me and now you have hunted me, who was their only support….” Shravan Kumar, the young man, was now speaking with great difficulty due to the pain he was suffering on account of the arrow which was embedded on his chest. He continued, “My parents will be helpless without me and they do not even know that I am dying.” Shravan stopped talking, writhing in pain. Dasaratha, overcome with emotion, fell at the feet of the young man pleading with him to be forgiven.

The man could not be pacified and after a while, told Dasaratha to take the pot full of water to his parents who were waiting with thirst at the ashrama which was some distance away from the river. He also said, “O Prince! Please tell my father what you have done and please ask for forgiveness as he may curse you in his anger. Please also remove this arrow from my chest so that I may die in peace.” A reluctant Dasaratha obeyed Shravan and removed the arrow from his chest after which Shravan died almost immediately. Then, with a heavy heart, he proceeded to the ashrama with the pot of water in his hands.

The old couple were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their son at the doorway of the ashrama. Hearing Dasaratha’s footsteps, they were impatient as their son had gone a long time back to fetch them water. So, mistaking Dasaratha for Shravan, they called out to him in endearing words to give them water without delay.

Dasaratha, mustering enough courage, broke the tragic news to them. The couple were shocked beyond words. After a long moment of silence, Shravan’s father spoke, “If you hadn’t admitted your guilt, my anger would have caused your head to explode. Lead us to our son.”

Dasaratha witnessed heart-rending scenes as the couple mourned their son and performed his last rites. Still unable to reconcile with what had happened, Shravan’s father turned to Dasaratha and cursed him, “I’m suffering the pain of separation from my son on account of your thoughtless action! I CURSE YOU THEREFORE TO SUFFER A DEATH SIMILAR TO MINE! YOU WILL DIE WHEN YOUR SON IS SEPERATED FROM YOU!!” Saying thus, the couple entered the fire which had been created for the last rites of their son.

As he ended the story, Dasaratha’s eyes were flowing with tears. Kausalya too wept as she was too stunned to react. Dasaratha lay,lamenting his fate, and his life ebbed out that tragic night. The Sun of the Ikshwaku clan had set.

This is the story of The Curse On Dasaratha.

Tenali Rama and the Brinjals

We all know the about the intelligent Tenali Ramakrishna who adorned the court of Raja Krishnadeveraya. This story is about how Tenali escaped the punishment for eating the brinjals grown in  Raja Krishnadevaraya’s private garden.

The Emperor  Raja Krishnadevaraya had been gifted with a few saplings of an exotic brinjal variety by one of his vassals. The brinjals were so tasty and fleshy that the emperor decided that the saplings should be planted in a private garden and the brinjals should be used exclusively for himself.

Accordingly, the royal gardener who was a very capable fellow created a nice garden with the saplings and soon there were many of them bearing chubby brinjals. Of course the brinjals were used only for the king’s meal and no one even knew of the garden that existed.

One day, Tenali Rama happened to be entertaining the emperor and it was almost lunch time. The emperor wanted Tenali’s company for lunch and Tenali gladly agreed. That day the main item was made of the exotic brinjal. The dish was sooo….good that Tenali fell in love with the brinjals in that short while. He could not ask the emperor as it was not courtesy. He went  home savouring the taste of the brinjals and the rest of the day he was raving about the tasty brinjals to his wife.

Over the next few days, Tenali made discreet enquiries with the kitchen staff and came to know of the private garden. He also came to know that the Raja had ordered that all brinjals in that garden should be used for the Raja alone. Somehow, Tenali coaxed the gardener to give him only a few brinjals and also promised him that no one would know of the deal. The gardener unable to bear the nagging gave in . Tenali happily took the brinjals home and told his wife to make his favourite dish for dinner.

While having dinner, Tenali’s eight year old son asked him “Papa, the brinjals are very tasty. Where did you buy them??” Tenali started off “Er.. the King’s garden… Oh no!  I mean the shop near the garden…. no.. the Shop on the garden road… Now why do you bother? ha? Eat quietly and go to sleep.. Asking too much ….”
“Papa…” said the son, “I saw you taking them from the Gardener uncle near the palace…..” Tenali was shocked . “Hushhhhhh… no palace, no gardener no brinjal. Don’t you blabber any nonsense ! Go to bed huhh..!” he scolded his son.

In a few days the Raja called Tenali at about 9 pm. “Why is the king calling me at this hour?” wondered Tenali. The Raja was pacing in the balcony seething with anger. It was a stark contrast that the full moon was shining so coolly above the palace and the king was hot with anger. He had come to know of the brinjal incident. “Rama” said the king. “I thought you were close enough to me to ask me what you wanted. Why did you.. like a thief go and get brinjals from my gardener clandestinely huh??” Tenali was flabbergasted but as a first response he had to deny the fact and so he said in a very naïve voice”Maharaja, please forgive my asking but who told you I got brinjals from your gardener? Is there a separate garden for brinjals???”

“Rama… do not try to pretend, Your son has told our minister’s son who has in turn told the minister. I know that an eight year old will not lie. Now.. tell me the truth”

Tenali laughed aloud and said ” Oh…. my son… hahahaha, hahahaha….He is a fool . he talks all nonsense. in face I want to consult a good psychologist for his behaviour.. Maharaja, if you want, I shall produce him tomorrow in court and you just ask him anything and assess for yourself whether he speaks sense.” The Raja agreed half heartedly.

Tenali rushed home. His son was sleeping on a mat in the open balcony with cool full moon shining nicely In those days there were no mosquitoes nor security issues and people enjoyed nature’s bounty in all entirety. Rama drew the curtains in the room adjacent to the balcony. He took a large container of water and threw it on the boy. The boy who was in deep slumber got up shocked and Tenali said, “Come in it is raining heavily” and covering the boy’s head with a towel, he pulled the boy inside the room. He shut the door, wiped the boy and changed his clothes and put another mat and waited for him to go to sleep.

The next day , the boy was taken to the court and the Raja looked at him from head to toe and in a deep voice asked him, “So.. boy, yesterday was Punnami (full moon day) . Did you have dinner in moonlight??” The boy thought for a while and said “Ha Maharaja I had dinner in Moonlight  but it rained so heavily after I fell asleep on the balcony and I was totally drenched , that Papa had to change all my clothes”
The boy was very innocent and the Raja looked puzzled at Tenali and there was Tenali giving a look of “See, I told you!!”
The Raja asked the boy once again, “Did it rain?? Are you sure??” The boy shook his head hard in the affirmative “Yes Maharaja… Yes. Did you not know it rained????”

The king was convinced that the boy was in the habit of blabbering and so told him to go home. He also told Tenali that if he ever need brinjals he could ask the king rightfully.

Tenali went home a happier man!!

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