Hindu Bhakti (Devotional) Stories Index
Stories of Devotees, Stories from Puranas, Stories from Hindu Mythology, Stories of Bhakthas, Stories of Alwars, Stories of Nayanars, Stories of Hindu Saints, Biographies of Hindu Philosophers, Stories of Hindu Sages, Stories of Hindu Gods and Goddesses,
Tallapaka Village is located in Rajampet Taluk in Cuddapah district
in AP. Lord Chenna Kesava temple and Siddeswara temple are the famous
temples there. Lord Chennakesava, is worshipped more than the other
The story of Annamayya goes back to his grandfather named Narayanayya.
Narayanayya was named after his great grand father. The young Narayanayya
was a dunce in school. He could not improve even if he was shifted to
a school in Ootukooru village, near Tallapaka. He had to face many insults
and great tortures. Unable to bear them, he decided to give up his life.
He heard of a serpent in the Chintalamma temple. He wanted to be stung
by the serpent and so he went there all alone. He closed his eyes; put
his hand into the serpent’s hole. But lo! He heard a voice ‘don’t
be disheartened Narayanayya.’ You will get everything by the grace
of Chennakesava. What’s more a boy will be born in your house
in the third generation and he will bring fame to your family and to
the village. He could guess that Goddess spoke unto him and so he went
home happily. As prophesied by the goddess he learnt everything by the
grace of Lord Chennakesava Swami.
Narayanayya had a son by name Narayana Suri and a daughter-in-law by
name Lakkamamba. Narayana Suri was a learned man while Lakkamamba was
a pious woman. She could directly converse with Lord Chennakesava. The
couple was not blessed with children and so visited many holy places
seeking the blessings of various Gods.
Finally they reached Tirumala and prostrated before the Holy Mast (Dhwaja
Stambham) in front of the temple. Suddenly they felt they were getting
a little drowsy. A dazzling brilliance appeared to the couple and presented
a shining sword to them. They were more than delighted at the positive
sign and returned home with lots of hope.
Their dream came true. In due course Lakkamamba became pregnant and
delivered a boy. He was named Annamayya because he was born by the grace
of ‘Nandaka’ the holy sword of Lord Vishnu. The little boy
was a source of joy for all the people around him. He had an innate
faith in Him, being blessed by the Lord. Even as a child, he was all
attention to the Lord Venkateswara. He would fold his palm as a salutation
unto the lord; he would drink milk or go to bed only when he heard a
chanting or prayer of the Lord. He nodded his head to the songs sung
by the mother as if he knew the meaning of the song.
At the age of five, he learnt more than what his teachers could teach
him. He frequented the temple and fondly addressed Lord Chennakesava
as ‘my little Kesava’! God seemed to enjoy his intimacy
with him. The little boy played in the lap of nature. He sang with the
chirping birds, danced with the gently blowing wind and jumped with
the floating lotuses. He corrected the raga and tala of the village
damsel’s songs. He himself sang very sweetly.
Annamayya’s playful moods created a racket in the joint family.
There was a huge hue and cry at his ways. He was asked to fetch some
grass for the cattle from the forest. Though his parent’s sympathies
were with him, they were helpless.
Annamayya, accordingly, proceeded to the forest with a sickle and his
‘tambura.’ His playful mood cropped out first, but his sense
of duty suppressed it. He began his Herculean task, but the very first
blow, cut his little finger. He was in tears. He cursed himself and
his family ties. He felt all these relationships are mere illusion.
Nobody would ultimately stand by his side.
When he was philosophizing to himself thus, a group of pilgrims attracted
his attention. They were proceeding to Tirumala. Great sages like Sanaka
were also present among them. They had caste marks on their foreheads
and carried bows in their hands. As they beat their drums and sang in
great devotion, they were also chanting ‘Govinda, Govinda’
repeatedly. Annamayya joined them and reached Tirupathi with them.
In Tirupathi he had the Darsan of the local deity Gangamma and then
reached the foot of the hill and worshipped Lord Narasimha there. The
first hill out of the seven hills of the Lord Venkateswara is also called
the hill of stars (Chukkala Parvatham). In this hill there is an idol
of Anjaneya on a rock called ‘Taleru Gundu’. Pilgrims climbing
up the hill would touch this rock with their knees and head so that
they would not feel any pain. Annamayya worshipped Anjaneya here. The
magnificent peaks appeared as the hood of Adisesha. Adisesha is believed
to have taken the form of the seven hills for Lord Venkateswara to ramble
about. That visual effect wrought out the poet in Annamayya and the
following Kirthana gushed out of him.
Adivo Alladivo Sri Hari Vasamu
Padivela Seshula Padagala Mayamu !
Look there! That is the abode of Hari. It is formed by the hood of Adisesha.
Sages dwell there since they find eternal peace there. It is replete
with riches and prosperity. It is the holiest of the holy things.
Annamayya started climbing up the hill. For a mere boy of eight, who
hardly knows any hard work, this was yet another Herculean task. Added
to that, the scorching heat of the sun was unbearable in spite of the
fragrant Karpura stream flowing by. He was tired and hungry. He was
almost about to faint. So he stretched himself in a cool bamboo grove
and slept even without taking off his footwear, to the sweet lullaby
of the gentle breeze across the bamboo groves.
Goddess Alamelu Manga, touched by the boy’s pitiable condition,
appeared before him, took him into Her lap and gently caressed him.
He felt it like the gentle touch of his mother and woke up, but lo!
He could not see anything. He cried, ‘Oh mother! I am not able
to see anything!’ The Goddess fondled him and said, ‘My
son, this Tirumala Hill is made up of the holy salagrama rock. Remove
your footwear and see.’ How amazing! When he did remove his footwear
the very surroundings attained grandeur. Every tree looked like a saint
and every animal like a God. Everything looked like an incarnation of
the Lord. He heard the chanting of the Vedas all around. He bowed to
the Holy hill in joy. The Goddess offered him food. He was so thrilled
that a hundred verses gushed out of his heart in praise of her. He offered
them as flower to her. Alamelu Manga means a damsel standing on a flower.
Annamayya climbed up the seven hills joyously and had a bath in the
holy pond, known as Swami Pushkarini. It is proclaimed to be an amalgamation
of various holy rivers, Hence a dip in it would cleanse of a man of
his sins. He felt he was retrieved of his physical pain after his bath
and a sense of peace prevailed over him.
He went for the Darsan of Lord Varaha. The ‘Stalapurana’
goes this way. Tirumala was under the possession of Lord Varahaswami
earlier. He gave permission to Lord Venkateswara to stay there. So,
it is customary to pay a visit to Varahaswami, as a sign of gratitude,
before we have the Darsan of Lord Venkateswara. This practice is in
vogue even today.
Annamayya then went to the temple of Venkateswara, which was awe inspiring.
He visited the big tamarind tree prostrated before the holy mast in
front of the village and paid homage to the Lord. Then he walked round
champaka pradakshinam which was full of tall ‘Sampangi’
trees with gold coloured flowers. He prayed to Vimana Venkateswara (the
golden image of the Lord on the dome of the sanctuary) to Ramanuja,
the vaishnavite saint, to yoga Narasimha and Lord Janardhana. He bowed
before Alamelu Manga in the temple kitchen. He visited every part of
the temple. He saw different vahanams of the Lord. The parrots in cages
of gold which chirped ‘come and worship Venkatapathi, offer your
gifts to Him and bow before Him. Your desires shall be fulfilled.’
He saw the room where the valuable garments of the Lord were measured.
He then offered a coin in the Hundi.
Annamayya finally had the Darsan of Lord Venkateswara. His joy knew
no bounds. The magnificent idol of Srinivas was a feast to the eyes.
He saw the Chakra in one hand, the conch in the other, a ruby in the
navel, a dagger hanging to his waist, anklets on his feet, one hand
resting on the hip and the other promising protection, the lustrous
gems in the earrings, the caste mark of pearls on the forehead, the
brilliantly shining crown studded with diamonds, a lotus garland hanging
on either side of the crown, then Vanamala, Srivastsa, Koustubha and
the other invaluable jewels of the Lord. He let out his joy in the form
of a song.
Podagantimayya Mimu Purushottama,
Mammu Nedeayakavayya Koneti Rayadaa!
The temple priests praised the boy’s talent, gave him the holy
water and blessed him. That day he took rest in a portico near the temple.
Then Annamayya visited all the ponds up the Hill. He visited Kumaradhara,
Amarathirtha, Akasaganga, Papavinasanam and bathed in all these places
and recited extempore a hundred verses in praise of the Lord even before
his clothes dried up.
One morning when he went to visit the temple, the temple doors were
closed. He sang in agony. To the surprise of everyone around, the locks
fell off and the doors threw themselves open. He went in offering his
salutations to the great devotees of Hari like Garuda. Vishwaksena,
Sugreeva and Anjaneya. He recited a hundred verses on the spur of the
moment. Immediately a necklace of pearls which was adorning the image
of the Lord fell down causing great surprise to the people there. The
priests praised Annamayya as one who was dear to the Lord. They gave
him sandal paste and the other things offered to the Lord. That night
he slept in the temple of Varaha.
There was a Vaishnava sage called Ghanavishnu in Tirumala during those
days. He preached Vaishnava philosophy. One day God appeared to him
in his dream and asked him to bless Annamayya with his conch shell and
wheel on his shoulders and to make him a vaishnavaite. He added, ‘Annamayya
sings songs about me always’. So saying he handed down his signets.
Accordingly Ghanavishnu met Annamayya in the temple next morning. As
God said, Annamayya was singing in praise of Hari. The sage, being pleased
with him asked, ‘shall I make the impressions of Vishnu on your
shoulders?’ Annamayya saw Vishnu himself in the sage. ‘I
am blessed’, he said.
Ghanavishnu then conducted the ceremony in the presence of other Vaisnavites.
Thus Annamayya became Annamacharya.
Back in the village, Annamayya’s parents were worried about his
safety. Mother did not leave the temple of Chennakesava and father almost
became mad. The villagers performed a special pooja to know his whereabouts.
Mother in unconscious state uttered the words. ‘The Lord of the
Hills, the lord of the hills,’ the father Narayanayya took it
as a message and they both proceeded towards Tirumala.
By the time the parents reached Tirumala, Annamacharya had learnt the
vaishavite cult well from Ghanavishnu. He was singing a song before
hundreds of devotees. The parents could recognize his voice from a distance.
They ran to him in tears of joy and embraced him. The father could perceive
the transformation wrought out in the boy. He thought ‘Lord, this
boy is the gift of your grace. You should protect him yourself.’
Ghanavishnu took them to his residence.
That night Lakkamamba begged her son to go back home with her. Annamacharya
refused to oblige, though he was torn between his love for her and for
God. That night he saw a hallow in his dream which said. ‘Anna,
don’t hurt your mother. Go back to Tallapaka. Don’t fall
a prey to earthly pleasures. Attain Spirituality.’ He understood
that it was his lord’s order and so went back home.
Time rolled by and he reached sixteen. He continued his practice of
singing and visiting all the temples. Sometimes he remained in the temple.
So even when the parents decided to perform his marriage no alliance
was forthcoming. Marriages are made in heaven. Very soon he was married
to two girls, by name Timmakka and Akkalamma. He, of course continued
his devotion to God.
A few days passed by. In 1424 Annamayya went again to Tirumala on his
birthday. It was in the month of Visakha. That night, after having darsan
of the lord he slept in the portico, adjacent to the temple of Varaha.
At once a beautiful song came out of Annamacharya’s voice.
Brahma Kadigina Padamu, Brahmamu tane ni Padamu
Tiruvenkatagiri Tiramani chuupina paramapadamu ni padamu
That was a song about the divine feet of the lord. This is the foot
that was washed by Brahma, the creator of the world. Vishnu measured
the earth and the sky with this foot. Bali was pressed into ‘Patala’
and Indra was offered protection by this foot. It cleansed Ahalya of
her sin and tamed Kalinga, the snake. This foot shows that Tirumala
alone is eternal.
Annamayya was engrossed in his song, when Venkateswara appeared before
him and said, ‘Acharya, you are a blessed man, ‘Sankirtana’
is born in your voice. I should hear a new composition everyday, from
you. I shall not hear the composition of anyone else.’
Annamacharya as ordained by God composed a song everyday, visiting many
temples. People were thrilled at the beautiful use of the Telugu idiom
and the divine philosophy contained in the songs.
During his pilgrimage Annamacharya came to Ahobilam, situated in Nallamala
forests. The forests were famous for lions and tigers, but Annamacharya
was not at all scared. He visited lower Ahobilam and later upper Ahobilam
and sang many songs there. Narasimha who had come to the rescue of Prahlada
dwells in nine images there.
On the banks of the river Bhavanasini, the famous Sathagopa Yatindrulu
was seated like the incarnation of Lord Narasimha. It was believed that
the Lord Narasimha appeared before Yatindrulu Swami in the form of a
sage and blessed him to be an ascetic Annamacharya sang songs in praise
of him. He learnt Vaisnavite rites from him for twelve years. He learnt
Vishnu is love. Every one can attain oneness with him irrespective of
caste, if only he surrenders totally to God. He imbibed this philosophy
through his songs.
Tandanana aahi tandanana pure tandanana bhala tandanana.
Brahma mokate parabrahma mokate,
Parabrahma mokate parabrahma mokate.
Brahman is one for all. Sri Hari does not differentiate between the
big and small. The slumber of the king is the same as that of the servant.
The Brahmin and the outcaste tread on the same earth. The sun shines
alike on an elephant or a dog. Similarly devotion to Venkateswara protects
the pious and the sinner alike.
Annamacharya’s name and fame reached far and wide. Salva Narasinga
Raya, invited Annamacharya to Penugonda, honoured him suitably and requested
him to stay there in his kingdom forever. Annamachrya agreed to stay
there because it was easier to carry on divine mission of spreading
Visishtadwaita philosophy with the royal assistance.
One day on the request of the king he sang this song.
Emoko, Chigurutadharamuna Yedaneda Kasturi Nindenu
Bhamini Vibhunaku Vrasina Patrika Kadukada
The wide eyes of Alamelu Manga are red probably because of the drops
of blood sticking to them when her sharp spear like looks have been
plucked out of her lord.
Being impressed by the song, the king requested Annamacharya to compose
a song on him too. Annamacharya refused to oblige, ‘My tongue
is ordained to praise the Almighty alone! How can I praise you?’
He wanted to leave the king for good, but the king took it as a sign
of disrespect. So he got him imprisoned. Annamacharya, pleaded to the
Almighty in a pathetic song.
Nee Dasula Bhangamu Neevu Chuutuvaa
Vini Sri Venkatesuda Vega Rakshinchava
Oh Lord! How do you bear the insults meted out to your devotees! How
could you sleep when we pray for him? Did you not hear the cry of Droupadi
when you were playing dice in Dwaraka? Did you not respond to the laments
of Gajendra, while you were with the Goddess in Vaikunta? Why do you
ignore my prayers then? Why don’t you come to my rescue?
His prayers were answered at once!
Annamacharya, who was chained, was freed from the fetters suddenly.
The guards hurried to the king but the king couldn’t believe his
ears. He ordered to chain him once again and more carefully. But again
Annamacharya sang another song and the chains broke again, this time
in the presence of the king Narasingaraya. The latter realized the greatness
of Annamacharya and fell to his feet. Annamacharya cautioned him, ‘Insulting
a pious man is a greater sin than insulting God himself. Be kind and
virtuous.’ He proceeded to Tirumala.
In the fifteenth century, communal riots were in full swing. In a town,
the Muslims brought down a temple of Lord Anjaneya and robbed the pilgrims
there. Annamacharya happened to be there then. His only possession the
image of Venkateswara was taken away. He appealed to Lord Anjaneya in
a pathetic song.
Annamacharya appealed not only to Anjaneya but also to Garuda, Adisesha
and Kartaviryarjuna to help him get back the image of Venkateswara.
Once again his prayers were answered. He fell unconscious after his
prayer. He felt a gentle touch and woke up to see his Lord’s image
beside him. The legend goes; Anjaneya pulled down the tent of the Muslims
in the form of a monkey and brought back his idol.
Annamacharya then reached Tirumala. He participated in temple festivals
and sang several songs. He composed Sringara Manjari. He composed a
few romantic songs depicting divine love. Srinivasa used to hear those
songs as Annamacharya was singing. Once the Lord said, ‘When I
hear your songs, I feel young again.‘ Annamacharya said, ‘The
credit goes to you. You taught me how to sing. I am your humble servant.’
Annamacharya was always good at heart. He was kind to humanity. When
he realized once that a few mangoes he offered to God were sour, he
touched the mango tree and prayed that it should yield only sweet mangoes
thereafter. At once all the fruits turned sweet.
Not only his words, but also his songs had special effect. His songs
cured incurable diseases. Purandara heard of this miraculous power and
came to visit him. Annamarchaya was singing in tune with his tambura
then, to a throng of devotees who were singing after him. Purandara
joined silently the throng but Annamacharya beckoned him closer. When
Purandara Das praised Annamacharya, the latter said, you are no less.
You are a blessed child of Lord Vittala. Lord himself fetched water
for your ‘Sandhyavandanam.’ Your songs are going to be the
primary lessons of Karnatic music.
Annamacharya had composed nearly 32,000 songs but only 12,000 of them
are left with us. Out of 12 Satakas, only one remains. His other works
like Dvipada Ramayana, Venkatachala Mahatyam, Sankeertana Lakshanam
etc too are lost.
Annamacharya’s first wife Timmakka and her son Narasinganna were
great poets. Annamachrya’s son, Peda Tirumalaiah and his grandsons
China Tirumalaiah and Chinnanna were great singers as well as poets.
They are together called Tallapaka poets. These poets renovated old
temples and constructed new temples. Some sixty inscriptions describing
the services of the Tallapaka poets are preserved still in the Tirumala
At the age of 95 in the year 1503 Annamacharya gave up his physical
body. As per the Telugu calendar it was Dundubhi year, Phalguna month
and Bahula Dwadasi day. Just before breathing his last, he beckoned
peda Tirumalaiah to his bed side and assigned him to sing a song everyday
for Lord Venkateswara. He handed over his tambura to him. He muttered
something in the ear of his son, probably, Venkateswara Mantra. ‘Peda
Tirumalaiah was moved to tears. He could visualize his father’s
atma joining Paramathma.
Henceforth, Peda Tirumalaiah sang thus on his father’s death anniversary.
Dinamu Dwadasi Nedu Tirtha Divasamu Neeku
Annamacharya, oh my father, today is dwadasi, your death anniversary.
Come and accept my offerings in the company of great devotees and scholars.
Come with Lord Venkateswara and Goddess Padmavathi Devi.
We too could pray to Annamayya thus on his death anniversary to invoke
him and his God to our humble abode. But for Annamayya we would not
have learnt the greatness of Lord Sri Venkateswara.