Bhadrachala Ramadasu

Kancharla Gopanna (Telugu: కంచర్ల గోపన్న) (c. 1620 – 1688), popularly known as Bhakta Ramadasu or Bhadrachala Ramadasu (Telugu: భద్రాచల రామదాసు), was a 17th-century devotee of the Hindu god Rama, a saint-poet and a composer of Carnatic music. He is a famous Vaggeyakara (classical composer)[a] from the Telugu classical era. He was born in the village of Nelakondapalli in Khammam district, and orphaned as a teenager. He spent his later years in Bhadrachalam and 12 years in solitary confinement at the Golconda prison during the Qutb Shahi-rule. Different mythical stories about his life circulate in the Telugu tradition. He is renowned for constructing the famous Sita Ramachandraswamy Temple and pilgrimage center on the banks of river Godavari at Bhadrachalam. His devotional kirtana lyrics to Rama illustrate the classical Pallavi, Anupallavi and Caranam genre composed mostly in Telugu, some in Sanskrit and with occasional use of Tamil language. These are famous in South Indian classical music as Ramadaasu Keertanalu.[citation needed]

Bhadrachala Ramadasu
Bhakta Ramadasu singing a song in Rama's praise
Bhakta Ramadasu singing a song in Rama's praise
Background information
Birth nameKancharla Gopanna (Goparaju)
Also known asRamadasu, Bhakta Ramadasu
Bornc. 1620
Nelakondapalli, Golconda Sultanate (present-day Khammam District, Telangana, India)
Died1688 (aged 68)
GenresCarnatic music
Occupation(s)Tehsildar and Vaggeyakara

Ramadasu was a Sri Vaishnava.[1] Ramadasu was a writer of Telugu satakams. He wrote the Daasarathi Satakamu (దాశరథి శతకము) with a 'makuTamu' (మకుటము) 'Daasarathee Karunaa payonidhee' (దాశరథీ కరుణా పయోనిధీ!), a collection of nearly 108 poems dedicated to Rama.[2]

Early life and backgroundEdit

Kancherla Gopanna (Goparaju), later known as Bhakta Ramadasu, was born in a moderately well to do Telugu speaking Niyogi Brahmin family to Linganna Mantri and Kamamba in Nelakondapalli village in the Khammam District of Telangana. He was orphaned in the teens, triggering an impoverished life, sustained by singing bhakti songs to Rama and collecting rice door to door.[3] His life story has been largely reconstructed from poems he composed or is assumed to have composed, where there is a mention of events of his life. For example, one bhakti song mentions Narayanadasulu, a term linked to the Narayana mantra, is believed to be linked to Sri Vaishnavism guru Raghunatha Bhattacharya, who initiated him as a boy into the Dasarathi tradition. These and other hagiographic accounts found in Yakshagana or Harikatha compilations present him as a boy-prodigy with an impulsively creative mind composing lyrics on the Hindu god Rama.[4]

His maternal uncles were the Madanna and Akkanna brothers. They had helped Abul Hasan Qutb Shah (Tana Shah) gain power after the death of Abdullah Qutb Shah in 1672, Tana Shah's father-in-law. As reward for their material support during a period of power struggle with Aurangzeb and the Mughal Empire, the brothers were appointed ministers at the court of Tana Shah of the Qutb Shahi dynasty in Kingdom of Golconda.[5] They helped their orphaned nephew Gopanna. Beyond this, little is known about his early life and much is shrouded in mythistory created by the later hagiographic tradition. He is said to have learned Telugu, Sanskrit, Persian, and Urdu.[3]


In 1650, Gopanna traveled to Hyderabad to meet his maternal uncles, who were at that time working in the tax department of Golconda Sultanate under the minister Mirza Mohammed Sayyad. They persuaded the minister to give a job to their nephew Gopanna. Mirza Mohammed Sayyad appointed Gopanna in tax collection department in Bhadrachalam, where the temple dedicated to Rama already existed.[6]

A different version of his career is found in Ramadasu Charitra, a hagiographic Telugu text. It states that sometime after 1672, Ramadasu in his early 50s, was appointed as the tahsildar (tax collector) of 'Palvoncha Paragana' by Akkanna, his uncle, who was then a minister and the administrative head in the court of Qutub Shahi Sultan Abul Hassan Tana Shah.[6]

There are contradictory stories about his life after he became the tehsildar and led the tax collection activities at Bhadrachalam. All these stories share a common theme – he collecting Jizya religious tax from Hindus in Bhadrachalam area, he reconstructing or building anew the famed large Rama temple of Bhadrachalam, partly with donations and partly with tax he had collected for the Golconda Sultanate, his arrest on charges of fraud and misuse of the taxes, he spending 12 years in solitary confinement in Golconda prison where he composed poems for the Hindu god Rama, his release and return to Bhadrachalam. In some version, god Rama and his brother Lakshmana reappear on earth and pay the ransom demanded by Golconda Sultanate for his release. In other versions, the Sultan under attack from Aurangzeb forces and facing imminent collapse, opens a new trial, finds him innocent and acquits him. The varying accounts are found in the records of the Dutch East India company, the temple's hagiography, and the regional Telugu oral traditions.[6][7]

Reconstruction of templeEdit

Sri Ramanavami Kalyanam utsava at Bhadrachalam Temple, in Telangana

Once, Ramadasu visited Bhadrachalam for a Jatara (fair) and was disturbed by the dilapidated state of the Rama temple there. Bhadrachalam is significant to devotees of Rama for many reasons. Lord Rama stayed near the Parnasala there with Sita and Lakshmana during his exile and also visited Shabari near Bhadrachalam (although it is believed that Shabari used to live near Kishkindha, the kingdom of Vanaras in Ramayana which is believed to be near Hampi ). Pothana is believed to have been given direction by Rama to translate the Bhagavata Purana into Telugu here. In spite of its significance, the temple was utterly neglected. So, Ramadasu started to raise funds for the renovation and reconstruction of the temple. After he emptied his coffers and could raise no more money, the villagers appealed him to spend his revenue collections for the reconstruction and promised to repay the amount after harvesting crops. As such, Ramadas finished the reconstruction of the temple with six hundred thousand rupees collected from land revenues - without the permission of the Abul Hasan Qutb Shah.

As the temple was nearing completion, he was perplexed one night about fixing the Sudarshana Chakra at the crest of the main temple. On the same night, it is believed that he saw Rama in his dream and asked him to have a holy dip in the Godavari River. When Gopanna did so the next day, it is believed that he found the holy Sudarshana Chakra in the river very easily.


The story continues that soon after the reconstruction, his miseries started. He was dismissed from his job by his enemies who spread a lot of fake news.[8] (near Hyderabad) Ramadas was cast into jail with orders that he be released only after the exchequer received all the taxes in full. Ramadas implores Rama through many emotional songs that were popularized from the stanzas of 'Dasaradhi Sathakam ' and 'Keertanas' of Bhakta Ramadasa. They praise the Lord for all his mysterious ways in popularizing his devotees and Ramadas regularly sings to the Lord. The songs end in a state of total and unconditional surrender to the will of the Almighty.

Release and Sultan's unanticipated devotion towards RamaEdit

After twelve years, Sultan Tana Shah saw Rama in his dream and found Rama mudras (golden coins with Rama's image on it) beside him.
Thereafter he released Ramadasu and established a tradition to send Pearls to the Bhadrachalam temple on every Rama Navami festival and this tradition was continued by the next rulers like Nizams of Hyderabad.[9]


Ramadasu is one of the bhakti movement poet-saints of Hinduism, and a revered composer in the Carnatic music tradition. His compositions are largely kirtan genre, all focused on the Hindu god Rama of the Ramayana fame. He is most known for his pallavi, anupallavi and caranam compositions in Telugu and some in Sanskrit. His musical mudras vary and are remembered by his name or his favorite place Bhadrachalam; for example, Ramadas, Bhadrachalavasa, Bhadradri, Bhadragiri, Bhadrasyla and others. His compositions were popular in his days, and influenced many into the modern age. This includes Tyagaraja who dedicated 5 of his own compositions in praise of Ramadasu, with one equating him to figures such as the Narada muni and bhakta Prahlada, legendary and much loved personalities in Hinduism.[10]

He composed Dasarathi Satakam, a bhakti poem with didactic metric style whose lines and stanzas are often sung or shared in the regional Telugu tradition.[11] However, like the works of many poet-saints and philosophers on the Indian subcontinent, it is unclear which of the poems attributed to Ramadasu were authentically composed by him. There are six compilations named after Ramadasu, four of which are all called Ramadasu Charitra, one called Bhadrachala Ramadasu and another called Bhakta Ramadasu. These are in the form of a Yakshagana or Harikatha about Ramadasu and his songs. They are from six authors – Yadavadasu, Singaridasu, Krishnadasu, Ayyagiri Veerbhadra Rao, Balaji Dasu, and Pentapati Rao. Many contain between 100 and 108, but one has 137 songs attributed to Ramadasu. Taken together, a total of 190 different compositions have been attributed to him, with one critical edition attributing 37 songs before he was arrested by Islamic authorities, 64 while he was held in jail for 12 years, and 31 songs in the final years after his release. Thus, 132 songs are likely to have been composed by Ramadasu. Further, a notable feature of Ramadasu's compositions is his knowledge and his use of ragas from both South Indian schools (20 ragas) and North Indian schools (17 ragas), thereby uniting the two classical musical traditions.[12]

In non-scholarly claims feeding the popular imagination, many more compositions are attributed to him. For example, according to the Indian newspaper The Hindu, Ramadasu composed nearly 300 songs and his works on Rama moved the Sultan.[13] The Navaratna krithis of Ramadasu are as follows:

# Composition Raga Tāḷa Language
1 Adigo Bhadradri Varali Ādi Telugu
2 Sree Rama Namame Atana Ādi(Thisra) Telugu
3 Paluke Bangaramayena Anandabhairavi Rūpaka Telugu
4 Sree Ramula Divyanama Sāvēri Ādi Telugu
5 Ramajogi Mandu Kamas Ādi Telugu
6 Tarakamantramu Dhanyasi Ādi Telugu
7 Hari Hari Rama Kanada Ādi Telugu
8 Takkuvemi Manaku Saurashtra Ādi Telugu
9 Kantinedu Maa Ramula Nadanamakriya Khandachapu Telugu

The above krithis are sung on the occasion of Bhadrachala Ramadasu Jayathi Utsavam, which falls in January and February of every year. Carnatic musicians and singers all over India will perform in this event.

Other popular compositions of ramadasu are as follows:-

# Composition Raga Tāḷa Language
1 Ye teeruga Nadanamakriya Ādi Telugu
2 Emayya rama Kambhoji Ādi Telugu
3 Ennaganu rama bhajana Pantuvaraali Rūpaka Telugu
4 Antha ramamayam Anandabhairavi Ādi Telugu
5 Iskshvaku kula tilaka Yadukulakamboji Chapu Telugu
6 Sri rama ni nama Poorvi Kalyani Ādi Telugu
7 Ramachandrulu napai Asaveri Chapu Telugu
8 Rama rama bhadrachala Nilambari Ādi Telugu
9 Dorikane bhadrachala nilayudu Kambhoji Adi Telugu
10 Bhajare sriramam Kalyani Ādi Sanskrit
11 Rama chandrayajanka Kurunji Eka Sanskrit
12 Dasaratha rama govindha Shankarabharanam Kapu Telugu
13 Charanamule nammithi Kapi Ādi Telugu
14 Pahi Rama Prabho Madhyamavati Jhampa Telugu
15 Nanu brovamani cheppave Kalyani Chapu Telugu
16 Thakkuvemi manaku Suryakantham Chapu Telugu
17 Kamala nayana vasudeva Shenjurutti Roopakam Sanskrit
18 Pavana rama Dhanyasi Adi Telugu
19 Rama bhadra ra ra Shankarabharanam Tisra Telugu
20 Nanda baalam Manirangu Adi Sanskrit
21 Garuda gamana ra Saveri Adi Telugu
22 Rama ra ra Kamas Adi Telugu
23 Narahari deva janardhana Yamunakalyani Adi Sanskrit
24 Palayamam sri Sri Adi Sanskrit
25 Pahimam sri rama ante Yadukulakamboji Adi Telugu
  • Ramachandraya Janaka Rajaaja Manohara in Kurinji
  • Tarakamantramu in Dhanyasi
  • Ye Teeruga Nanu in Nadanamakriya
  • Adigo Bhadradri in Varali
  • Anta Ramamayam in Darbari Kannada
  • Charanamulae Nammidhi in Kapi
  • Rama Ra Ra in Kamas
  • Dasharatha Rama Govindha in Kamas[14]
  • O Rama ni namamu in Poorvi Kalyani[15]
  • Paluke bangara mayena in Ananda Bhairavi

Popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ This title denotes a person who not only composes lyrics but also sets them to music; Vāk denotes a word or speech while Geyakāra denotes a singer with the prefix Geya meaning singing or singable in Sanskrit.


  1. ^ Kuppuswamy, Gowri; Hariharan, Muthuswamy (1982). Glimpses of Indian Music. Sundeep. p. 13. ISBN 978-81-7574-037-2.
  2. ^ Rādhākr̥ṣṇaśarma, Callā (1973). The Ramayana in Telugu and Tamil: A Comparative Study. Lakshminarayana Granthamala. p. 160.
  3. ^ a b Rao, Balantrapu Rajanikanta (1988). Ramadasu. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 17–19.
  4. ^ Rao, Balantrapu Rajanikanta (1988). Ramadasu. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 35–39.
  5. ^ B Rajanikanta Rao (1991), Ramadasu, Sahitya Akademi, OCLC 20746068, pages 18–20
  6. ^ a b c Doug Glener; Sarat Komaragiri (2002). "Chapter 23: The Might of the Mighty". Wisdom's Blossoms: Tales of the Saints of India. Shambhala Publications. ISBN 978-0-8348-2938-1.
  7. ^ B Rajanikanta Rao (1991), Ramadasu, Sahitya Akademi, OCLC 20746068, pages 17–21
  8. ^ "Ramadasu 'Karagruham' in Golconda fort vandalized". The Hindu. 6 April 2006.
  9. ^ "The e-Abode of Bhadrachala Sree Seetha Ramachandra Swamy".
  10. ^ T. Sharada (2003), Rescue of Bhadrachalam Ramadas from Imprisonment, Sruti: Journal of the India Music and Dance Society, Volume 5, Issue 3, page 5
  11. ^ B Rajanikanta Rao (1991), Ramadasu, Sahitya Akademi, OCLC 20746068, pages 30–31
  12. ^ B Rajanikanta Rao (1991), Ramadasu, Sahitya Akademi, OCLC 20746068, pages 46–48
  13. ^ "Long long ago when faith moved a king". The Hindu. 14 April 2006.
  14. ^ "A classical salute to music". The Hindu. 14 September 2005. p. 03. Archived from the original on 7 September 2006 – via The Hindu (old).
  15. ^ "-". Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  16. ^ "Raghavendra Rao plans to direct another spiritual film - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 20 August 2020.

External linksEdit