Annamacharya #15 – Inexhaustible Devotion

by Sahadev Komaragiri

It is one thing to promise one composition a day for the rest of the life and a totally different thing to implement it in such a versatile manner. Annamacharya was only 16 when he made that promise. He lived to be 96. In that timeframe he composed 32000 songs. From the 14000 available compositions there is not an iota of evidence that the composer was ever tired of writing a new verse every day. In fact, a simple math shows that he made up considerable amount of time that was lost prior to taking the vow.  In order to make this possible he must have carried a deep devotion that never bottomed out and faith and conviction that knew no boundaries. This is evident not only from his vast number of compositions, but also in his literary works, his daily routine, his philosophy, his social outlook, and how he surrendered his entire life to Him.

This is the fifteenth article in my series of articles on Annamacharya. Understanding his compositions is the previous article in the series. Tallapaka Family is the next one.


A vast repository of compositions

It is not inaccurate to state that Annamacharya’s compositions are perhaps the largest number ever attributed to one composer.  We are indeed very fortunate to inherit over 14000 of the 32000 compositions attributed to him. He had his mind set on the Lord of the temple hills and for him nothing else mattered. He led his entire life singing the glory of Lord Venkateswara and in deep meditation on the Lord and His various forms. The vast repository of compositions and the embedded love for God in those compositions stands as a testimony to his inexhaustible devotion.

In spite of being single mindedly dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, Annamacharya composed songs on several other deities. The second most number of compositions for a deity, after Venkateswara and His consort Alimelumanga, is reserved for Lord Krishna. He has numerous compositions on Dasavataras – the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Siruta navvulla vaadu sinneka is in folklore style while brahma kadigina padamu, indhariki abhayambul ichchu cheyi and ithanikante vere dhaivamu kaanamu are in the traditional style. Dolayam chala dolayam chala dolayam is a unique one that describes the ten incarnations as he sings lullaby for each of them with the word dolayam that represents a swing. You may listen to this composition using the following control:

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He has compositions on several deities including Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, Narasimha, Chenna Kesava, Varadarajulu, Vittala and Sriranganatha. For Annamacharya, each of these deities represented none other than Lord Venkateswara.

His literary works

Not only did he compose sankeertanams, he also wrote several other devotional works that include Venkateswara SatakamSringara Manjari, Dwipada Ramayanam and Venkatachala Mahatyam. Of these, Dwipada Ramayanam and Venkatachala Mahatyam are not available. He wrote twelve satakams, each a collection of 100(sata in Sanskrit) poems, out of which only four are partially available. These four are Narasimha Satakam, Sudarsana Krishna Satakam, Chenna Kesava Satakam and Chinni Krishna Satakam. Many school children in Andhra Pradesh are familiar with two poems that came directly from these satakams. This first one is from Chinni Krishna Satakam:

cheta venna mudda chengalva poodanda
bangaaru molathaadu pattu datti
sande thaayathulu sari muvva gajjelu
chinni krishnaa ninnu cheri koluthu

His description of Lord Krishna as a toddler in the above satakam is forever etched on my mind as I grew up learning it when I was a toddler myself, as did many others in our family. Little did I know, for a very long time, that it was penned by Annamacharya! As each poem in Chinni Krishna Satakam ends with chinni krishnaa ninnu cheri koluthu, Annamacharya draws us to the fact that this beautiful kid is a God who should be praised for all that He is. Unfortunately out of 100 of these poems only 6 are available.

This next one is from Chenna Kesava Satakam:

chinna chembutho neellu seekaaya udakambu
allambu bellambu aratipandlu
tenetho maagina thiyya maamidi pandlu
acchanna varadaalu bucchi kesavulu

Each poem in Chenna Kesava Satakam ends with acchanna varadaalu bucchi kesavulu. I am sure many of us have inerasable memories of having learnt this from our parents.

Daily Routine

Is it hard to imagine the daily routine of a composer who composed at least one song each day of his life? Throughout the day he must have been thinking of the Lord and His attributes and when inspiration strikes, as it does every day, his thoughts and his imagination get to work instantly even as his poetry flows as effortlessly as a river flows down the valleys, and a composition is born. This repeated day after day for over 80 years of his life! One would wonder if this life is possible!  The question to ask is this: Does true devotion ever get exhausted? Does a true devotee ever give up on his God?

Annamacharya has at least one composition to describe several aspects of the daily routine of a devotee of Lord Venkateswara. Vinnapalu vinavale vinta vintalu is one of the compositions to wake Him up to listen to different strange appeals petitioned by the devotees. shodasopachara pooja is a domestic ritual to offer services in the form of 16(shodasa) fold worship. shodasa kalanidhiki shodasopacharmulu beautifully describes his version of this pooja. You may listen to this composition using the control below.

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Sandhyavandanam the word that refers to a daily ritual contains two words sandhya, meaning time of the union, and vandanam, meaning worship. In one of his compositions Annamacharya declares sahaja vaishnavachara varthanula sahavasame maa sandhya implying that the association with the devotees of Vishnu in itself is sandhya! In addition to others, for him, a daily sandhyavandanam means chanting the name of Sri Hari, listening to His great stories, serving the feet of His devotees and following the philosophy of Ramanuja. Each day he must be singing a mangalam such as chittaja garuda neeku sree mangalam. He would inevitably follow it up with a concluding pavalimpu seva by singing a lullaby in the form of either jo achutananda jo jo mukunda or alara chanchala maina aatma landhunda – neeku alavatu chese nee vuyyala. He must be singing the glory of his favorite God all day long.

Social Outlook

A devotee, whose entire day is occupied in meditating upon the Lord and singing His glory, sees nothing but God in everything and everyone. He does not distinguish between the rich and the poor neither does the social structure of high and low classes make any sense to him. All qualifications and scholarship and all search leads to but one reality. The omniscient God lives in all in equal measure. The most popular of his social compositions is as relevant to all of us now as it was during his time. The stubborn social inequalities continue to this day, but the message from Annamacharya has been loud and clear to all of us.

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There are several compositions of Annamacharya that reflects his attitude towards life and its vane pursuits, but this haunting melody summarizes his outlook on life. It is simply not possible to pass up this song that aptly fits under this section!

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Complete Surrender

He treated God as his own and exhibited his devotion of all nine forms discussed earlier. However he was constantly aware of the supremacy of the Lord over all life in the universe and therefore the need for unconditional surrender. Owing to his adopted religion of Vaishnavism, saranagati or prapatti, the idea of complete surrender, is deeply rooted in his psyche. He exemplifies such disposition to saranagati through compositions like deenudanenu devudavu neevu and purushottamudavu neevu purushaadhamudanu nenu. Complete surrender meant surrender of mind, speech and all activity.  There is no doubt that his mind cannot think of anyone but Lord Venkateswara. His innumerable compositions spoke about nothing but the glory of the Lord. His daily and life time activities reflected the same. All the wealth and land acquired in his life time was donated for the temple activities. Chaalada harinaama saukyamrutamu tamaku is one such composition that describes this theme very eloquently. He asks: Is it not enough to have the name of Lord Hari and the good natured precepts to lead a meaningful life? You may listen to this song using the control below:

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Of Oliver Goldsmith, an Irish writer, poet and physician, it is said – ‘he left scarcely any style of writing untouched, and touched nothing that he did not adorn’. It is hard to find a more befitting description about Annamacharya. He dedicated his life to the Lotus Feet of Lord Venkateswara and Lord Venkateswara alone. His devotion is impossible to discern without getting completely absorbed in his compositions and experience what he experienced.

Annamacharya’s devotion and dedication was extremely contagious and lived on for the next two generations. His children and grand children lived up to the expectations of being born into the family of a legendary figure of unbelievable qualities. The discussion on the topic of this illustrious Tallapaka family will continue in the next post.

P.S: I am reluctantly let go of a vast topic where each sub section could have been a post unto itself!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Prasadarao,boggaram October 20, 2012 at 4:42 am

Dhanyosmi………………om namo venkatesaya


U Atreya Sarma April 12, 2016 at 11:15 pm

Until now I didn’t know that the popular poem “Cheta venna mudda” was an Annamacharya creation. Thank you. And could you please tell me the common and botanical names of “Chengalva”?


Raghu May 6, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Hi Sarma Ji,
Chengalva flower in Telugu is a type of Lily flower. Botanical name “Saussurea auriculata”, in Hindi it is called Kust I think.

P.S: Sahadev Garu, Awesome research on Annamacharya, I can’t thank you enough for sharing such wonderful Gems! God bless You and your family!


Rajarajeswari August 6, 2018 at 6:45 pm

Chengalva is the combination of chen+kaluva where chen means baga poosina and kaluva means kaluva puvvu..
Please currect me if iam wrong.


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