Sri Bhadrachala Ramadas – 1
There is an incident(story) exemplifying the glory of Bhadrachalam. There once lived a Brahmin by name Kalakalan. His Guru cursed him because he misbehaved with the Guru Patni (the wife of the Guru). He was inflicted with leprosy and was thrown out by his own Brahmin brethren. He wandered about in misery. He repented greatly for what he had done and prayed to God to save him from this hell. None offered him food. Learning that even the worst sinner was offered food by way of ‘anna dana’ in Bhadrachalam on the day of Sri Rama Navami festival, he somehow managed to reach the Kshetra. He had a glimpse of the Temple tower and fell down dead. The agents of Yama (God of death) approached him to take him away but were stopped by Hanuman, the great Bhakta of Lord Rama. He had been sent by Rama here. Lord Rama here had proclaimed, “One who has entered my domain can never be touched by the agents of Yama” and took this jiva unto His Lotus Feet. This Kshetra is of such great glory!
Ramadas was deeply pained to see the dilapidated condition of the temple. His eyes filled with tears when he found the old, oily, tattered dress on Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman. He said to Rama, “Now do I understand why you have brought me here! My first work will be to set things right here in this temple!” At this time he had no idea of using his post for the benefit of the temple. His house in his native town, which was the only property left out and his wife’s jewels were sold out to provide for the improvement of the Bhadrachalam temple. But since his desire to provide for Rama and His family was so deep and vast that the amount earned from his property could not meet the target set! It was then that he decided to use the tax collected from the people on behalf of the King for this purpose. He said to himself, “Everything in this world is Lord Rama’s and He is here suffering without proper clothing or food. In such a situation how can we enjoy his wealth?”
He, therefore, diverted the funds of the State to this end. He kept a neat record of every coin spent in this matter. However, the affair was soon brought to the notice of the Nizam by some dissatisfied soul. The Nizam immediately ordered the arrest and imprisonment of Ramadas as he was unable to repay the ‘usurped’ funds. Ramadas here asks Rama through his kirtan, ‘Emira Rama nA valla neramemira’ – Oh! Rama! what is my lapse?’
Prison life in those days, unlike the ones that we see now, was very tough. The prisoners were often whipped and forced to do hard labour. Thrown into the prison Ramadas did not eat the cooked food offered but somehow procured a little rice that he soaked in water and consumed it after offering it as naivedya to his Rama.
Most of Ramadas’ moving kirtans were written during the twelve years spent in the lonely and cruel prison cell. Ramadas sings, “Deenadayalo! Deenadayalo! Deenadayaapara Deva Dayalo!” — Oh! Compassionate one! Oh! compassionate One! — At the time when he has been imprisoned by the Nizam Ramadas sings this Kirtan calling his Prabhu Rama as a Compassionate one. The hot sun is like the furnace — bound inside the prison cell — he had been whipped severely — he lived for 12 long years in this jail all alone — living in that cell one cannot know if it was day or night — It was then that he sang, ‘Oh! Compassionate one! Oh! Compassionate one!’ What deep love (‘priyam’) must he have possessed for Rama? He built the temple for Rama. But he was imprisoned and whipped frequently. And he sang, ‘Oh! Rama! I cannot bear Your Grace!’ — ‘Deenadayalo! Deenadayalo!’
The depth of his worship of Personal God (Form) is seen in that with his fingernails he has carved on the rocky wall of the prison the form of Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman. He worshipped these. The prison is still to be seen in Golconda (near Hyderabad) and one gets to see this carving of Ramadas even today! Ramadas has written about 16000 Kritis on Lord Rama though what we know and sing is much less. All the 16000 Kritis of Ramadas have been painted on wooden boards and hung on the marble walls in a ‘dhyana mandap’ built by the Government in memory of the great Rama Bhakta. At the entrance of this mandap is a big statute of Ramadas in the attire of a Diwan while outside on top of the entrance wall is a small statue as the humble servant of the Lord!
Ramadas was second only to Jayadev in writing Kirtans on Bhagavan followed later on by Purandaradas and Thiagaraja Swami. Prior to them the azhwars, Nayanamars and other devotees only wrote ‘stotras’ and not Kirtans on the Lord. We may sing these writings of the azhwaars, for example ‘Pachhai ma malai pol meni’ may be sung to a tune but it is only a stotra. Kirtan is sung with Pallavi, anu pallavi and charanam and this was introduced by Jayadev followed by Bhadrachala Ramadas. It is Bhadrachala Ramadas who set the tradition of Nama Sankeertanam wherein we begin with ‘Jaya Janaki Ramana’ (Ramadas’s writing). Later on Marudaanallur Sathguru Swamigal spread this all over the country.
In one Kirtan Ramadas questions Rama, “Wherefrom do you think you have got all these jewels that you and your family are glittering in? It is neither your father-in-law Janaka who has adorned you with these nor your father Dasarata who only ripped you of everything and sent you away to the forest. But it is I who have adorned you with all these. Should I not enjoy you all adorning them?”
In one of the Kirtans he pleads with Rama to come and save him. With no response from Rama he asks teasingly, “Rama! Why don’t you give your consent to whatever I have done? Say that I have not done anything wrong. Is it because your mouth contains pearls which you fear will spill over if your open the mouth that you keep a tight lip?” -‘Paluke bangaramayena! Kodandapani! Paluke bangara maye pilichina palakavemi!’ Ramadas then places his request to Sita. He prays to her, “Oh! Mother! Why don’t You plead my case with Sri Rama?” and goes a step further to brief her when and how She should bring up his case to Rama! Sita also pleads with Rama on his behalf. But Rama questions her, “Did I ask him for all these jewels? I am a King myself and am aware what great problem it is if the funds of the State were diverted. I cannot render any help in this matter!” But with repeated pleadings from Sita, Rama says, “I will be able to get him out of the prison only if I can repay what he had taken away.” Since Sita is none other than Mahalakshmi (goddess of wealth) she rained down gold coins at the request of Rama.
Wearing the garb of the servants (‘thalaiyari’) of Ramadas, Rama and Lakshmana go to the palace of the King. Seeing their ‘tejas’ none dare to stop them. They knock at the room door of the King. Lord Rama, in the disguise of a ‘thalaiyari’ of Ramadas, ordered, “Open the door!” When the King opened the door he could not but wonder and admire at these two who seemed so lustrous! The two introduced themselves as the ‘thalaiyaris’ of Ramadas and informed him that they had brought the money that was his (the King’s) due. Rama gave the gold coins brought in a cloth bundle. The coins bore the symbol of Ayodhya Kingdom! Rama demanded an acknowledgement from the King for this, as also an order for the release of Ramadas. The Muslim King immediately picked up his upper cloth on which he wrote the receipt for the gold coins, with the tip of the feather dipped in ‘asha’, and the order for the release of Ramadas. Rama and Lakshmana went to the prison and threw this receipt into the cell through the ventilator. Ramadas was surprised to receive it and wondered about the sudden change of mind of the King.
Ramadas at once understood the divine play of his Beloved Rama and led the King to the Badrachalam temple. Here he showed his Lord to the King. The King was beside himself with this darshan and realized the deep devotion of Ramadas. Ramadas said to Rama, “Hey! Rama! Is it because it was the King’s money used in the renovation of your temple, cloth and jewels adorning you, that you blessed him with Your darshan?”
The Nizam struck by the ‘Brahma sparsa’, yearned deeply to see them again. He immediately rushed behind them to Golconda and personally ordered the release of Ramadas. The Nizam offered the gold coins, received from Rama, to Ramadas. Ramadas refused the gold coins. However, some of his disciples who were there accepted them surreptitiously. On their return journey to Bhadrachalam the disciples feared attack from dacoits. Ramadas said, “What have we to fear? We have nothing in our possession.” It is then that the disciples confessed of having accepted the gold coins. Ramadas sang the Kirtan, ‘Pahi Rama Prabho!’ seeking protection from Rama. Rama and Lakshmana, in the form of two security men guarded them all through the way.
The Nizam, realized the deep devotion of Ramadas and bequeathed the whole Bhadrachalam to him. He requested him to take care of the Temple and perform Sri Rama Navami Utsav grandly. Ramadas on return from his long stay in the prison cell found that the ‘tambura’ was intact with the ‘swara’ (tune), as on the day he had left it!
Ramadas lived to a ripe age before attaining the Lotus Feet of His Beloved Rama. Ramadas had an unflinching faith in Rama. Never for a moment did he forget his Rama during his long stay in the ghastly prison cell. Later, Ramadas sings the kirtan, ‘Shri Ramula divya nama smarana seyuchunna jalu Ghoramaina tapamulanu goranetike manasa!’ —-(oh! mind! Taking the Name of Rama will suffice; why do you have to perform severe penances?) In this kirtan, Ramadas also asks, ‘Dorakoni parula dhanamula dochukunnate chalu Gurutuganu gopuramulu dattanetike manasa!’ —-(oh! mind! It is enough if you do not usurp others’ money; where is the need to build temple towers in remembrance!) The irony is he who had diverted the State’s funds to build the temple tower sang the above!
Ramadas sings, “Sing the Name of Rama. One need not go to Bhagirathy (Ganga) but just chant Rama Nama……..” He says one need not perform big dharma but perform small charities. Do ‘anna dana’. Just say Rama. We ourselves can feel the potency of chanting just Rama Nama.
In one kirtan, Ramadas sings, ‘Diname sudinamu! Sitarama smaraname pavanamu!’-‘Auspicious is the day when the Name of Sitarama is remembered!’ Placing His Rama and Sita on the ‘oonjal’ (cradle) Ramadas sings this kirtan as he swings them – ‘Diname sudinamu Sitarama smaraname pavanamu!’ In this kirtan he sings in the end, ‘karamuna velayu bangaru pushpamulacheda tara Bhadragiri Ramadasu poojinchu’ – auspicious are the days when this Bhadragiri Ramadasu worships you with offering of golden flowers with his hands.
‘Charanamule nammiti nee divya charanamule nammiti! Varidhi gattina vara Bhadrachala Varada Varada Varada nee divya!’ It is only Your Divine Feet that I trust One who constructed the bridge, bestower of boons of Bhadrachala! Bestower of boons! Bestower of boons! (it is) Your Divine Feet That I trust!’