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Tag: Tenali Rama

Finding out the mother tongue- A Tenali Rama Story

In earlier stories of Tenali Ramakrishna we have seen how quick-witted Tenali Ramakrishna was and how he brought pride to the Emperor Krishnadevaraya time and again.

Every time Tenali Rama solved an issue/puzzle, his knowledge and fame spread far and wide. After all he had taken a boon from Goddess Kali to get both money and knowledge in equal measures!!

Once a person came visiting from one of the neighbouring kingdoms. He was a middle aged person and by his facial features, no one could make out which state he belonged to. As was the protocol, the man attended the Durbar of the Emperor with the gifts given by his king as a mark of respect.

The Emperor welcomed the visitor in chaste Telugu and enquired about his native.

The man smiled and replied in equally chaste Telugu, and said “My native and mother tongue is what the people of your court have to find out. I have mastered many languages but you will have to find out what is my mother tongue”.

The Emperor did not think it was a difficult job and called the courtiers who had different mother tongues to come and talk to the man. There was a question in Bengali, one in Tamil, one in Malayalam, one in Urdu, one in Odisha and one in even Kashmiri but the man answered all the questions in different languages with great ease. All the people who asked the questions and Tenali Rama who was watching were stumped. The accent and the intonation of all the languages spoken by the man were perfect.

“Well,” said the man addressing Emperor Krishnadevaraya, “I shall give your men a day’s time and challenge them to find out my mother tongue!”

The Emperor could not refuse the challenge.

Though he had agreed, the emperor was worried whether anyone could do this difficult task.

Tenali could sense the worry of the emperor. After the court has dispersed, Tenali met the Emperor.

“If you permit me your highness,” he said with great humility, “I shall try my best and try to find out the language of this man”

The emperor looked at him with gratitude and wished him luck.

Tenali Rama made enquiries as to where the man was staying.

That night, the man was tired after the long journey he had undertaken and after partaking the wonderful dinner he was provided at the place of his stay, he was so sleepy and went off to bed.

It was about two early in the morning. It was the new moon day and it was pitch dark outside. In those days, there was no electric lamps and lights with oil wicks were lit in houses. A small lamp was glowing in the room where the man was sleeping.

Suddenly, the light was blown off as if blown by a person. Then… a creature tiptoed near the man. The creature looked so devilish with a long black gown and its face was covered by a mask. The creature’s nails were long and it was moving near to the man who was sleeping.

Slowly the man felt something creeping under his feet.

“Hmph…” he said and withdrew his legs into his blanket and he turned to one side.

After a while, the man felt something tickling his ear. The man waved his hand near his ear and mumbled something.

He turned and lay flat his face facing upwards.

Then the creature slowly moved and kept its hand on the man’s throat and made a terrifying sound. The next moment the man opened his eyes, saw the creature. He shouted something, jumped off from the bed and scurried under the cot trembling. The creature was seen jumping out of the window of the room and the soon the guards who were outside jumped in through the windows and immediately a lamp was lit.

They called for the man and slowly he came trembling from under the cot. The creature had vanished and the man believed he had a nightmarish dream and requested the lamp to be lit and a guard to sleep in his room.

The next day, he came to the court without showing any sign of having had a nightmare that night. He was still eager to find out whether anyone had found his mother tongue. The hall was full and the Emperor looked at Tenali. Tenali came up, bowed to the emperor and the audience, looked at the man and said with confidence, “This man’s mother tongue is Tamil”. The man’s shock was apparent on his face. The emperor then asked the man, “Is Tenali saying the truth?”

The man nodded in affirmative and asked Tenali how he had found out the mother tongue.

Tenali looked at him and said “Sir, please share with this audience what happened yesterday night!” The man was even more shocked, but narrated the whole episode to the crowd.

“Well,” said Tenali Rama. “Do you remember what you shouted when the creature kept its hand on your throat?”

The man hung his head in shame that he had been outwitted.

Tenali Rama continued looking at the crowd. “Dear people,” he said, “I was the one who went like a devilish creature to frighten him. The moment he saw my gory face in the dark night, he yelled, ‘Amma amma, pei… pe…i. Kappaathunga… Kappaathunga…’ (Means mother… mother… ghost…ghost…save me  …save me…) and scurried under his bed. A person learns his mother tongue first before learning other languages. So when he or she is in distress, it is the mother tongue they use and not the languages learnt later and that is how I found out what this person’s  mother tongue is “

The emperor, the people and the man were equally surprised at this revelation. They were surprised at the sharp mind of Tenali Rama.

The emperor as usual gifted him with lot of gifts and was very happy that the challenge was overcome all went home happy.

Tilakashta Mahisha Bandhanam

Tenali Ramalingam, or Tenali Rama as he was known was the extremely intelligent court jester of the emperor Krishnadevaraya who ruled the Vijayanagara Empire. Not only was he the court jester, but also, he played advisor to the king on many occasions and helped Krishnadevaraya come out of difficult situations and saved the reputation of the kingdom.

This story is about one such incident. Vijayanagara Empire was known for the intelligent and extremely knowledgeable scholars. Once a scholar from Kashi visited Vijayanagara Empire. The emperor as was usual, welcomed the learned man and enquired about the purpose of his visit to his palace. The scholar, who had a look of arrogance said, “Well, your Majesty, I have heard that you have many learned scholars in your kingdom. I would like to have a debate with them on any literary work they choose. It does not matter to me, you see, as to what work is chosen, for, I have read all the literary works that are available, ha.. And, if your men defeat me, I shall surrender all my titles, whereas, if I defeat them, they should become my slaves. Can any of your scholars debate with me?”

The Emperor was confident of his learned men and agreed to the condition and ordered, “Let the debate take place tomorrow”.

However, the arrogance and pomp of the scholar dampened the confidence of the learned men of the court and they feared that they would be easily defeated. They met the emperor and with great apprehension, told him about their reluctance to participate in the debate.

Krishnadevaraya was furious. “Is there nobody to take on this scholar?” he roared in anger. “Is my empire starved of learned men? Is it not a shame to the empire that we do not have even one single person to debate with this scholar?” he seethed with anger.

Tenali Rama who was present watching what had happened, stepped forward. “Your Majesty,” he said humbly. “I will debate with that scholar tomorrow. Do not worry”

The emperor was angrier than before. “Rama, this is not the time to joke about. I am seriously talking about the stake of the kingdom and here you are joking eh?”

Raman said hurriedly, in a firm voice, “I mean what I say your majesty. The only requirement of mine is that these scholars here should come dressed up as my disciples and I shall take care of the rest”. Krishnadevaraya could do nothing and he agreed half-heartedly.

The next day, as the court gathered with the scholar from Kashi present, Raman walked in majestically, his ‘disciples’ in front of him, hailing his praises and ‘titles’. He was wearing a grand silk dhoti and a dazzling turban studded with Gems and had big rings on his fingers and a heavy gold chain around his neck. He carried a bundle wrapped in red silk and held it close to his chest. Even the Emperor was stunned at this show but was not still sure of Raman’s capability.

Raman sat with his disciples on the dais where already the scholar from Kashi was seated. Raman placed the silk bundle in front of him and looked at the emperor for his consent to start the debate. The emperor signalled that the debate could be started.

Raman cleared his throat. “Hmm.. Hmm.. Respected Sir,” he said addressing the scholar from Kashi. “Since you have told that we could debate on a literary work of my choice, I have chosen to debate about “Tilakashta Mahisha Bandhanam.. Will you start the debate or should I?” He stopped to observe the scholar. The scholar had a shock of his life. He had read almost all the literary works of his time but had never even in his dreams heard of this work “Tilakashta Mahisha Bandhanam”. He realised his mistake of having allowed Tenali Rama to choose the work of his choice. His face was filled with panic and he hurriedly looked at the emperor and said very humbly, “Your Majesty, I have read this work about thirty years ago and I seek a day’s time to recall the contents of the work. If you permit, can we debate on this tomorrow?

The emperor was surprised at the scholar’s action. However, he had also not even remotely heard of “Tilakashta Mahisha Bandhanam” and was sort of confused as to how Tenali Rama had mastered this ‘rare’ literary work. Anyhow, the scholar was a guest and the emperor could not be rude to him and so he said, “Well, Sir, if you wish the debate to take place tomorrow, so be it. The darbar is adjourned now.”

The scholar hurriedly got up with his disciples and rushed to the guest house where he was staying. The next day he was not seen at the darbar and when the emperor sent word to the guest house, they found he had left the kingdom with bag and baggage.

The emperor, with a bemused expression looked at Rama and asked him, “Rama, even I have not read this literary work ‘Tilakashta Mahisha Bandhanam’. What is it about?”

Rama with a sparkle in his eyes, opened the silk bundle he was holding and to the utter shock of every one present, the bundle contained a dried twig of a sesame plant and a rope which is used to tie a buffalo.

To the confused onlookers, Raman explained, “This sesame is called ’tila’ in sanskrit.’Kashta’ in Sanskrit, means stick and so the twig of a sesame plant is ’tilakashta’.’Mahisha’ is buffalo in Sanskrit and ‘Bandhanam’ means tying in Sanskrit. This rope therefore is ‘Mahisha Bandhanam’ as it is used for that purpose. Now you know what “Tilakashta Mahisha Bandhanam” is all about!”

The courtiers and the emperor were guffawing uncontrollably at the wit of Rama and the emperor as usual gave Rama loads of gifts for saving the name and fame of Vijayanagara Kingdom.

Tenali, Once Again!!

Krishnadevaraya  being the Emperor of the one of the biggest kingdoms, the kingdom of Vijayanagara, had many visitors now and then from the neighbouring kingdoms. Some of them came to pay their respects on a courtesy call, while sometimes, some came posing intelligent challenges  by way of riddles or puzzles and the Emperor’s intelligent ministers had to find the solutions. Often it was Tenali Rama who saved the honour of the Kingdom with his intelligent answers and so the King became fonder of him day by day.

One day, a learned man from the neighbouring kingdom came seeking audience with the King. He was carrying three identical dolls with him. The man gave the dolls to the King and threw a challenge. He said to the King, “Your Highness, these dolls look identical, but they are not. Can anyone in your Kingdom find out the difference in these dolls? I shall come back tomorrow and I would like to know if there is anyone intelligent enough here”. The Emperor thought that it would be a simple task and asked his courtiers assembled to examine the dolls and find out the differences. Alas! Tried as they might, they could find not a single difference among the dolls. The courtiers were all looking so sullen and downcast, when Tenali Rama walked into the court.

Looking at the gloomy scenario in the court, he looked up at the Emperor with concern, as if asking what had happened. “Yet another challenge Rama” said the Emperor in a sad tone. “I thought we had more intelligent men in my court… but…” Before the Emperor ended his sentence, the Rajguru with a scornful look on his face said, “Look Tenali! See if you can find the difference between these three dolls. Let us see  if you are really intelligent!”Saying so he thrust the dolls in Tenali Rama’s hands.  The Emperor then explained what the learned man had wanted to know and said, “Rama, if nobody can find the difference between these dolls, it will be a great shame for our Kingdom. I am only worried about that” Rama said, “Do not worry your Majesty. I shall take these dolls home  and try my best and come to court tomorrow with some solution”.

Tenali Rama took the dolls and went home. The next day, the court gathered as usual in the morning and the Emperor with all the ministers, the Rajguru, the learned man from the neighbouring kingdom, were all present. Tenali walked in with the three dolls. The learned man, looked at him with the least hope  said, “Hmmm.. I hope you have found out the difference”. To his utter surprise, Tenali Rama replied, “Yes Sir, I have found out the difference” He then took a thread from his bag and inserted it into the ear of one of the dolls. It came out of the mouth of the doll. He took another thread and inserted it into the ear of the second doll. The thread came out of its other ear. Then Rama took a third thread and put it into the ear of the third doll and the thread did not come out from anywhere.

The audience were wondering at what was going on, when Rama spoke. “Your Majesty”, he said, “The first doll represents people who cannot keep a secret. Whatever they hear, they will blabber through their mouth and tell others. They are the worst kind of company a King should have. The second doll represents people who do not care about what they hear. They just hear through one ear and leave it through the other not giving a thought to  whatever the matter is. Such people are of no use to the King. They can be rated as average. The third doll represents people who  take in all the matter through their ears and keep secrets  to themselves. It is these type of people that a King should have as his advisors. They are the best”

The learned man was very happy and his face was full of admiration for Tenali Rama. “Beautiful,” said he. “What intelligence! I am amazed!’

Rama turned to him and asked “Respected Sir, I told you just now that the first doll represents the worst people, the second doll, average men and the third doll  the best people. But can you now give me another explanation as to how the third doll can be rated worst, the second doll average and the first doll as best?” The learned man with folded hands said “Rama, please say the answer yourself. I would be very pleased to hear your intelligent answer”

The people in the court were all looking at Rama with admiration as Rama continued. “The first doll can be equated with the men who teach to others, the good knowledge gained by them (through their ears), and so they are the best. The second doll can be equated to men who hear good things (knowledge)  but do not teach others nor follow it themselves and also forget it over a period of time. They hear through one ear and leave it through the other. They are average people. The third doll can be equated to men who gain good knowledge but keep it to themselves , not imparting it to others,which is very bad  and so they can be rated worst. As you know knowledge grows only when it is spread to all!”

“Excellent!” said the learned man as he embraced Tenali Rama, “Your Royal Highness is indeed fortunate to have the most intelligent brain in your court”, he said, addressing the King. “I shall take leave now”.

“You  have had a taste of the intelligence of my Kingdom.  Now you should taste our hospitality, please take these gifts to your King and please accompany me for the lunch”. So saying Emperor Krishnadeva Raya gave the learned man, bags of gems and gold coins and all the people were very happy and went home showering praises on Tenali Rama.




The story of Tenali Raman

In the village of Tenali in the present day Andhra Pradesh, lived a lad by name Ramalingam. He was called Rama in short and  was a shrewd and intelligent fellow but  a happy-go-lucky fellow with no intention to  work. Most of his time he whiled away in the woods nearby.

One day when he was having a sound nap under a shady tree on a hot afternoon, he was woken up by the voice of a ‘sadhu’. The sadhu was calling out to him, ” Oh, lazy lad, get up! You should be working hard at your age like your other friends, and not be lazing around.  Ramalingam  woke up groggily from his slumber and looked at the Sadhu.  “True Holy Sir, but I have not had any education. Who will give me a job??”, he replied , followed by a big yawn.

The Sadhu said ” I will teach you a mantra. Go to the Kali Temple at night and keep reciting the mantra. Ma Kali will bless you!” Saying thus, he taught a short verse to Rama. Rama sincerely followed the advice of the Sadhu and went to the Kali Temple at night, sat in front of the Kali idol and started chanting the verse. He would have chanted the verse for a few hours, when suddenly, Ma Kali appeared before him. She was a terrifying sight with a thousand heads and her self adorned by shining jewellery. A radiance of a thousand suns was emanating from her. Rama was not in the least shocked at the sight of the Goddess. Instead he started laughing. He laughed out loud that Ma Kali started wondering at what he was laughing and in a booming voice asked him “Why are you laughing huh??” Rama controlled his laughter and told the goddess, “Ma, I looked at your thousand heads and was wondering  how you would manage if you get a cold and running noses, since I am not able to manage my one running  nose, when I get a cold… hahahaha….”  Hearing this the goddess also laughed and said, “You are a smart lad. I am very happy. You deserve my blessings. May you be a VIKATAKAVI !”  (Vikatam means jest and kavi is poet)

Rama said “Thank you for your blessings Ma. VI KA TA KA VI  is a palindrome and reads the same in both directions . But by my being a VIKATAKAVI, I will make others happy. What about myself? ”

The Goddess was even more pleased at the fearless Rama and she instantly held out two bowls. Said she, “Rama, this gold bowl in my right hand contains sweet milk, and you will be very knowledgeable  and wise if you drink this. And this silver bowl in my left hand has sour curds and by drinking this you will become very wealthy. Which do you choose?”

Rama asked her , “Ma, why is wealth represented by sour curds?”  “It is because wealth is not always acquired by pleasant and righteous means.” said the Goddess. “Now choose what you want!!” Rama looked at both the bowls for a long moment and said, “I need to taste both to decide what I want” . The Goddess unwittingly held out both the bowls to him. In a flash, Rama grabbed both the bowls and gulped down the contents of both of them.

The Goddess was furious but Rama said “Ma, forgive me ,but what is the use of knowledge without wealth or wealth without knowledge?” The Goddess calmed down and smiled and blessed Rama that he would be wealthy and wise. She also told him that this would attract a lot of enemies but he would manage to tackle all unpleasant situations. She vanished thereafter.

Rama, pleased with himself returned home, a very wise youngster, and later went to seek his fortune at the court of  Krishnadevaraya, the Emperor of the Vijayanagara Kingdom and became very well-known as Tenali Rama.

This is the story of Tenali Rama.

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