Annamacharya #13 – Royal Patronage

by Sahadev Komaragiri

Medieval kings, as in ancient times, were known for their generosity towards poets, musicians and artists. Many of them had a keen ear for music and a heart good enough to read and enjoy great literature. Some of them produced great works of their own. There are very few, if any, poets of great fame who escaped the attention of their rulers. Annamacharya was no exception to this rule. Often times the ego of the rulers gets better of their discretion and the poets are subjected to a great dilemma of choosing between their passion and their life. Annamacharya was no exception to this rule either.

This is the thirteenth article in my series of articles on Annamacharya. Married life in Tallapaka is the previous article in the series. Understanding his Compositions is the next one.


Before Vijayanagaram attained its fame under Sri Krishna Devaraya, the political situation in the region was very chaotic. The empire was receding in its strength during the late 15th century. It was during this time that Saluva Narasimha Raya, a commander, organized a valiant army to restore order. He later became the emperor of Vijayanagaram Empire.  In the story of Annamacharya this king stands out as a very prominent figure. The friendship between Annamacharya and Narasimha Raya dates back to several decades before Narasimha Raya became the emperor of Vijayanagaram.  At one point Narasimha Raya was the ruler of Penukonda. There he hosted Annamacharya in his royal court and treated him as his guru. Annamacharya was well aware of the political situation around the region. Some of his compositions painted a gory picture of the bloodshed caused by the greed of the rulers and the consequent invasions. At the behest of Narasimha Raya, Annamacharya visited various holy temples of the region and composed several songs on the deities of those temples. He was a regular at the king’s court and the king was very impressed by many of the compositions of Annamayya. This courtship, however, was not meant to last forever.

When one listens to the songs composed by Annamacharya, it will be immediately evident that the composer is a gifted soul with deep knowledge, devotion and humility. In many of his romantic compositions Annamacharya portrayed a bonding between the hero and the heroine that transcends the mundane world. His hero is the God of the seven hills, Lord Venkateswara, whom he worshipped day in and day out. The heroine that he adores so deeply is none other than mother Alimelumanga. This divine romance must be treated with great respect and dignity that it richly deserves. Annamacharya was fully aware of the divinity behind this romantic couple. It is easily lost on many of us. We bring the God to our level attributing to Him our tastes and our perversions. This is exactly what happened with King Saluva Narasimha Raya.

Annamayya composed the song emoko chiguru tadharamula edaneda kasthuri nindeno and sang it in the court of the king. The king was deeply moved by this composition. This is a very romantic song situation that describes how the friends of Alimelumanga tease her as she walks out of the bedroom after spending a romantic evening with Lord Venkateswara. You may listen to this song using the control below:

If the above control does not work, click here

This entire song, as in many of his compositions, consists of description by others, usually that of friends, on what transpired between Lord Venkateswara and His consort Alimelumanga. The king failed to understand the divinity embedded in the composition and mistook this song and its characters as those in a regular drama with a hero and a heroine. He asked Annamacharya to compose a similar song on him. This request coming from an emperor friend shocked Annamacharya. For Annamayya the very thought of composing songs on humans was utterly disgusting. Hari mukunduni goniyadu nii jihva ninu goniyadanga neradu meaning my tongue which sings in praise of God Hari Mukunda will not sing in praise of a human being was his stern reply.  The king may not be aware of it, but Annamacharya expressed this sentiment in many of his other compositions. The king was stunned by this response. It is possible that he thought that he was a representative of God and therefore deserves such a composition on him. He could not take it that he was treated as an ordinary human being. He ordered that Annamacharya be sent to prison and be tied with strong steel chains.

Annamacharya instantly composed and sang akativelala alapaina velalanu tekuva hari naamame dikku mari ledu which translates to ‘It is only the name of Hari that protects us in the moments of hunger or fatigue’. In this song he alludes to the fact that the stupid mind may look for an alternative all day long, but when scandalized, threatened, locked up, chained, tired, hungry and awaiting death the only recourse is the continuous chanting of the name of Hari. You may listen to this song using the control below:

If the above control does not work, click here

This composition had an almost immediate result. The chains were miraculously broken and he was freed. Shocked at witnessing the broken chains, the soldiers reported the incident to the King. The puzzled king realized his mistake, turned deeply remorseful and sought his forgiveness, but by then it was too late. Annamacharya warned the king not to insult the devotees of Hari and takes leave of the king to never return again. This king later became a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara and as inscriptional evidence suggests he started several new celebrations, donated jewelry and constructed many houses and halls on the temple hills.

This life changing event inched Annamayya more and more towards the ultimate detachment from the world which was not helping him in his spiritual progress. The world he lived in, including the king himself, did not understand the main purport of his compositions.

Before we go into the next stage of his life of detachment, we must focus on understanding his compositions, his devotion, his philosophy and his thoughts on social harmony. The part where we begin to understand his compositions must await the next post!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

dr.dinesh chandra bhargava April 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm

great wrok. keep it up.

vidhya vamsham vardillali


dinesh bharagav


Venkata Subramanyam November 27, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I just thought of sharing more detail. The “Narasimha Raya” you mention as being friend of Annamacharya is actually Narasimha Raya the first. However, the king who saved most of His latter kirtanas is Narasimha Raya the Second (also known as Immadi Narasimha raya) who ruled from Chandragiri.


Sahadev Komaragiri November 27, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Thanks much for sharing the information. I would like to speak to you some time to learn from you some of the historical insights on this topic.


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