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Bhaktha Ramdas of Bhadrachalam : Part 1

From: V. Sadagopan (75041.3037_at_compuserve.com)
Date: Sun Apr 07 1996 - 06:36:17 PDT

Sri Rajiv Madabhusi : I will consider it a 
pleasure to respond to your query on 
Bhadrachala Rama Das (BRD).

 He was born in 1620 AD at Nelakondapalli in
Andhra Desam and lived for 68 years on this earth.
 In the last verse of his Dasarathi Satakam , he describes 
himself this way: "Allana Linga Mantri Suthudu(son),
Atreya Gothrudu, Adi Sakha , Kancherla Kulothbhavudu,
Gopakavindrudu ". His give name was Gopanna . His 
father was Linganna Mantri(Minister) , a surname he
kept as  a result of one of his forebearers being a 
minister at the court of a king . People called Gopanna
by the name familiar to us as Bhadrachala Ramadas,
because of his devotion to the Vaikunta Rama enshrined at
Bhadrachalam , a small village in the middle of the jungle 
on the northern banks of the holy river Godhavary.

The temple of Rama here is on a small hillock. Some 22 
miles to the north of Bhadrachalam on the bank of 
Godhavary is said to be the place of Parnasaala of 
Rama and Sita. This is by legend said to be the site 
where Ramana abducted Sita( Nasik -Panchavati is 
another site mentioned regarding the location of Parnasaala).
At the spot, where Sita lived with her dear Rama, there are 
two kinds of stone , one Yellow and another red in color.
Natives call them Pasupu Rallu and Kumkuma Rallu since
they give powders on rubbing , which look like Turmeric 
and Kumkumam (red Saffron) . These stones are said to
be used by Sita Devi for her bathing and decoration. There is a
tree nearby, which is said to be Surpanaka. Pilgrims consider 
it their religious duty to throw a stone at this tree ! The base
of the tree is covered with a huge assembly of stones.

 The temple at Bhadrachalam has the Archa Murthys of Rama,
 Sita and Lakshmana and are considered to be Svayambhu Murthys
(self-manifested ones). The presence of these deities in the 
middle of the Jungle was revealed to one pious woman by the 
name Dhammakka in a dream.She was considered to 
belong to the kulam of Sabari .Dhammakka  hastened to the site,
cleared jungle  and offered puja to the deities.

 This temple and its deities played a central role in the life of
 Ramadas . He was at the time the Tasildhaar of Bhadrachalam and 
began to collect funds from people to build a proper temple
for Sri Ramachandra at Bhadragiri . When there was not enough
funds to complete the temple , Praakaram construction and the 
Celebration of Utsavams for Sri Rama and  Sita , he took the 
money from the tax revenue of his king ( Taani Shah of Golconda)
and vowed to return it back to the state treasury.Tani Shah was  
angry at the Tasildhaar for channeling the state money  and had 
Ramadas arrested and locked him up in a prison close to his
palace. His incarceration gave Ramadas the name of Bandekhana
 Ramadas. From the prison, he cried out for Rama and reminded him 
about his services in his moving song Ishvaku Kula Tilaka . Here he
has some rough words for Rama for not taking care of him inspite of
his devoted and caring services to Sri Rama and His family. Sri Rama
responded and came with His brother to the court of  Tanisha in the
form of two youngsters and paid  back the debt of Ramadas and got 
his release papers. The golden coins paid by Sri Rama are known as 
Ram Tanka coins .They can be seen even today.
These coins have the Pattabhishekam scene on one side and 
the picture of another Rama Bhaktha, Anjaneya on the other side. Tanisha
was moved and recognized the greatness of Rama Das and released 
him immediately and gave him land around Bhadrachalam to continue his 
dedicated service to Bhadrachala Ramamurthy .Here Ramadas spent
the rest of his life and composed moving poems that inspired Saint 
Thyagaraja later. Latte rhas paid his tribute to the illustrious Rama 
Bhakthi of Ramadas in many of his Krithis (Kshira sagara sayana in 
Devagandhari, Brindavanalola in Thodi, Kaligiyunde Gada in Kirvani ,
Emi Dova Balkuma In Saranga and in Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam). 

Two examples of Saint Thyagaraja"s tribute to the Rama Bhakthi
of Ramadfas are as follows :

In the Devagandhari krithi he asks Rama: "Dhirudau Ramadasuni
Bandhamu dirchinadi Vinnanura Rama? ( O Rama! I have heard 
how You obtained the release of the BOLD Ramadas from his prison life).

In his Padya in Prahlada Vijayam ., we find another tribute:

KALIYUGAMUNA VARA BHADRA CHALAMUNA NELAKONNA
RAMACHANDRUNI PADA BHAKTULA KELLA VARUDANANDAGI
VELASINA SRI RAMADASU VINUTINTU MADIN 

( I praise Sri Ramadas,who shines in this world as the supreme
devotee of Sri ramachandra , who shines forth from his seat at
Bhadracahlam in this kali Yuga).

Saint Thyagaraja adopted Sri Ramadas as his role model and
admired latter for his Ananya Bhakti, gaining Rama Sakshaatkara 
and spreading Rama Nama Siddhaantha . Saint Thyagarahja 
referred to himself as the Dasa Of Ramadas and equated the
Bhadrachala Ramadas to other sterling devotees of Rama
such as Narada, Parasara , Valmiki et al.

(To be continued)