Tenali Rama

Tenali Ramakrishna (also known as Tenali Rama) was an Indian poet, scholar, thinker and a special advisor in the court of Sri Krishnadevaraya.[1] He was a Telugu poet who hailed from what is now the Andhra Pradesh region, generally known for the folk tales which focus on his wit.[2] He was one of the Ashtadiggajas or the eight poets at the court of Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagara emperor. When he was a child his father was led to death. So, to overcome the depression that Rama faced, his mother Lakshamma took him to Vijayanagara where he was an advisor and the 8th sai. He was also a great scholar of several languages that included Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi and Tamil.[2]

His life

Tenali Ramakrishna was born in a Telugu-speaking Niyogi Hindu Brahmin family[3] as Garlapati Ramakrishna, in a village called Thumuluru (currently a part of Kollipara Mandalam) during the late part of the fifteenth century, while it is widely believed that he was born in Tenali. His father was Garlapati Ramayya, who served as a priest in the Ramalingesvara Swami temple in Santharavuru.

Ramayya died when Ramakrishna was young. His mother Lakshamma returned to her native place in Tenali to live with her brother. Ramakrishna grew up in his uncle's town and so came to be known as Tenali Ramakrishna.[4]

Tenali Ramakrishna did not receive any formal education during his childhood, but became a great scholar, due to his thirst for knowledge. As per a well-known tale, the Vaishnava (devotees of Vishnu) scholars rejected to accept him as a disciple, as he was a Shaiva. Later while roaming aimlessly, he met a sage, who advised him to worship the goddess Kali. He worshipped and appeased the goddess with his devotion. Kali appeared before him and admired his sense of humor and blessed him that one day, he would be acclaimed as a great poet in the court of King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara.. His wife was Sharda and son was Bhaskaraisharma.

King's court

Later Tenali Rama joined a famous troupe or 'mela'. When the troupe came to Vijayanagara to perform in front of the king, Ramakrishna's performance caught the eye of the King and other people. He shared his life story with Krishnadevaraya, who granted him the post of the comic poet in the court, completing the Ashtadiggajas (The eight scholars) group. Ramakrishna attained fame as a great jester poet. He was also known as a Special Advisor in the Court of Sri Krishnadevaraya. Royal Priest Tathacharya was jealous of him. He made many plans to defeat Tenali Rama but he did not get any success.

Later Years

After the Death of King Krishnadevaraya in 1530, he did not further continue in the court and returned to the Tenali. Just a few years later he died from a snakebite.[5] The records also state that Ramakrishna was instrumental in protecting the King Krishnadevaraya many times, coming to his rescue in critical situations. A popular story narrates how Ramakrishna protected Vijayanagara from the Delhi Sultanate by his timely wit and strategy.

Literary works

Tenali Rama was noted for his brilliance and wit.[6] Tenali Ramakrishna's great work Panduranga Mahatmyam is a Kāvya of high merit, remarkable for its sonorous dignity of phrasing, and is counted as one of the Pañcha Mahā Kāviyas (the Five Great Kavyas) of Telugu literature.[7] It contains a legendary account of a shrine of Vishnu as Panduranga, at Pandharpur consecrated by the ministration of Saint Pandarika. A brahmin named Nigama Sharma, who wasted his life in dissipation and debauchery, breathed his last in Pandharpur. A controversy ensures between servants of Yama and servants of Vishnu. The former were anxious to carry him to hell as he lived a wicked life and the latter claimed him for heaven, as he died in that sacred place. Indeed, the verdict is in favour of the servants of Vishnu[8] Tenali took the theme for Panduranga Mahatmyam from the Skanda Purana and enhanced it with many stories about the devotees of Panduranga. An imaginary character named 'Nigama Sarma Akka' was created by Tenali Ramakrishna and he built a story around her without giving her a name. He also composed many extempore poems called 'Chatuvu'.[9]

Tenali Ramakrishna attained the status of a folk hero when he was the court poet of Krishnadevaraya, but at the same time, he composed serious works on religion. Three of his narrative poems are available today. His first poem, Udbhataradhya Charitamu about the Shaiva teacher Udbhata which is based on Palakuriki Somanatha's Basava Puranam. Udbhataradhya Charitamu also deals with the sanctity of Varanasi. Because of Tenali Ramakrishna's affinity towards Shaivite religion, he was also known as Tenali Ramalinga Kavi.[2][10] However, he had great devotion for Vaishnavism as well which is reflected in his work Panduranga Mahatyam .

Tenali was called a vikata kavi [11] (a palindrome in Telugu script) means clown-jester-poet. He was also entitled by "Kumara Bharathi", for his works.


  1. Neela Subramaniam (200?). Vikatakavi Tenali Rama. ISBN 9788174780713. Retrieved 2017-07-19. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. p. 412. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  3. T.SUNANDAMMA (6 January 2014). Tenali sharan krishna. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  4. T.SUNANDAMMA (6 January 2014). Tenali Ramakrishna. p. 3. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  5. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. Jyotsna Atre (September 2007). Tales of Tenali Rama. Unicorn Books. ISBN 978-8178060675.
  7. Rao 1989, p. 38.
  8. Rao 1994, p. 38.
  9. Jyotsna Atre. Tales of Tenali Rama. Unicorn Books.
  10. Nārla Veṅkaṭēśvararāvu (1968). Studies in the history of Telugu journalism. Andhra Pradesh Book Distributors, Secunderabad, 1968.
  11. "தெனாலி ராமன் கதைகள் (Thenali Raman Stories in Tamil) - சிறுவர் மலர்". Siruvarmalar.com. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  12. "Tenali Rama (TV Series) (1990) – Hindi Serial". fridaycinemas.com. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012.
  13. The Hindu Online | Adventures of Tenali Rama Article dated 20 June 2003 by Savitha Gautam, accessed on 20 October 2008
  14. TV, Fungama. "FungamaTV". Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  15. "Ready for Tenali Rama!", The Hindu, 12 July 2017

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