Tallapaka Annamacharya - A Versatile Composer of Andhra Pradesh
Dr. A. Anuradha, Coordinator, Dept. of Music, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, (Andhra Pradesh)
Ph. 94410-39033 <anuradha_12465@yahoo.co.in>


India is a spiritual land, where one can feel the sacredness in everywhere. Many saints strived hard to attain salvation in many ways. Music is one such way, which is entwined with devotion to reach the ultimate goal, called ‘Moksha’ (salvation). In Indian Philosophy, it is said that profound love for God is known as ‘Devotion’. There are nine ways of adoration of Gods in India, known as Nava vidha bhakti Maarga–s . These are the means in the Aarsha Dharma Samskriti (seer culture), to achieve Dharma Artha kaama mokshas (all types of wishes).

Since ancient times, Music occupies a special role in adoration of God. In Srimad Bhagavadgeeta Lord Krishna says that,

Sloka (verse):

Naaham vasaami vaikunthe na yogi hridaye ravou I

Madbhakthaah yatra gaayanthi thathra thishthaami naarada II

It means ‘Lord Vishnu neither dwells in Vaikuntham (his abode) nor in the hearts of the yogins (sages), but he resides only where his devotees sing his glory’. This is the reason, many saint-composers have chosen Music to please God.

India has given birth to many Saints, Sages, Spiritual leaders and Saint – composers. Among them, few have selected Music and Literature as a means to praise God. Andal, Jayadeva, Purandara das, Rama das, Kabir Das, Tulasi Das, Tukaram and Chaitanya Prabhu are a few to be mentioned in this category. They sang the glory of God in many ways and thereby attained salvation. Tallapaka Annamacharya is one such composer who praised Lord Venkateswara with his Sankeertana-s (songs).

A brief note on Tallapaka composers:

The Tallapaka composers are distinguished poets, Music composers and scholars in Telugu and Sanskrit languages. They belonged to the 15th and 16th centuries. They have put up a monumental effort to popularize the Srivaishnava faith in Andhra region. Annamayya, the most renowned among them was famous during his own time. The Tallapaka family has done a great service to the famous pilgrim Tirumala.. The Tallapaka composers as well as the kings of Vijayanagara empire have rendered remarkable service equally, to the Venkatachala kshetram (Tirumala).

Brief life history ofTallapaka Annamacharyulu:

Annamacharya is a familiar name to all those who have little or more acquaintance with music and Telugu literature. His songs are very popular even in the remote villages of Andhra Pradesh. His compositions include all varieties of songs ranging from lullabies to the songs containing deep philosophy and devotion. He is regarded as the ‘Toli Telugu Vaaggeyakaara’ (the ‘first Telugu Composer’). He enriched the Telugu (it is the local language of Andhra Pradesh) literature with his contributions.

Annamacharya is popularly known as ‘Annamayya’. He was born in 1424 AD in a small village ‘Tallapaka’ in Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh. He was born to Narayana Suri and Akkamamba, as an answer to their prayers to Lord Venkateswara for a worthy son. He is believed to be an amsa (incarnation) of Lord’s sword ‘Nandakam’. Annamayya is a devotee to Lord Venkateswara of Tirumala, from his childhood. His spiritual interests lead him to take Vaishnavism and later become ‘Annamacharyulu’. Within that time his faith in Sri Venkateswara became the focus on his thoughts and feelings. Singing the songs of Lord Venkateswara has become his vocation. Annamayya started composing songs from the age of sixteen. His songs are famous as ‘Sankeertana-s’ and ‘Pada-s’. He is also popularly known as ‘Sankeertanaacharya, Pada Kavitaa Pitaamaha, Pada kavitaa maargadarsi and Draavida gaana saarvabhouma’.

His Service to Music & literature:

The structure of the composition Sankeertana has got a definite shape with Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanas in the hands of Annamacharya. Annamayya has composed 32, 000 songs and dedicated to his favorite deity Sri Venkateswara.

In one of his Sankeertanas, Annamayya says that, he used to worship his favourite God daily with a floral song (Sankeertana pushpam). The lyric is as follows,

"Daachuko nee paadaalaku taga ne chesina


Poochi nee keeriti pushpamulivi yayya

Okka keertane chaalu oddikai mammu


Takkinavi bhandaaraana daachi vunchanee.

Vekkasamu nee naamamu vela sulabhamu


The meaning of the song is "O God! all my songs are like flowers offered at your feet and this is the worship I offer to you. Let these flowers be preserved. One song is sufficient to protect us all and let the remaining songs be preserved in the Bhandaram (storewell). Chanting your name costs less but its value is priceless."

Annamayya dedicted himself to the Lord Venkateswara and never approached any king and emperor for wealth :

‘Narahari keertana naanina jihva – orula

nuthimpaga noopadu jihva

Muraharu padamula mrokkina siramu – parula

vandanaku paragadu siramu’

Its meaning is that ‘his tongue praises only the name of God and nothing else, his head bows only to the Divine feet of the Lord, but not to the ordinary mortals’. In this manner he even refused the offerings of the King and was imprisoned also.

Annamayya is a true devotee of his favourite deity Lord Venkateswara. In one of his compositions,’ Nitya poojalivigo’ he describes each and every action of natural physical actions performed by human body, as different ways of rendering services to God. He says ‘the Body itself is the temple, head is the Sikharam (peak of the temple), heart is the very seat of Lord, eyes are the gleaming lamps, speech is the Mantra (Vedic chants), tongue is the pen, the process of respiration (breathe in & breathe out) are the fans’.

In another composition, he explains the nature of God as:

Bhakti koladi vaade paramaatmudu

Bhukti mukti taane icchu bhuvi paramaatmudu’

He says that ‘God is like a baby who accepts anyone and , who desires to hold him in their hands.’ This means that ‘He readily accepts all those who loves Him wholeheartedly.

God is like a valuable treasure which is kept openly. It means, He is easily accessable to all those who loves Him. One need not strive hard to get that Treasure. ‘God is the luminous daylight’ which means the Lord is very clear, but can not be hold in hands. ‘God is like the butter in an unpasteurized milk’ means God is also readily available but He is invisible like butter in the milk’. ‘God is like sweetness in the words of a language’, means ‘every one enjoys the sweetness of the language but it is invisible’. Similarly, ‘God is Almighty and resides in the hearts of all beings in the form of Love, we are unable to notice Him’.

The fallowing is an interesting song of Annamayya. The speciality of this song is that the entire song runs a similar manner, all the first lines are in superlative degrees and in all the second lines are in ordinery degrees. It is a literary embillishment in Telugu language, called Nindaastuti.

For eg: Yeduta nunnaadu veedu ee baaluduu-

Parama purushudata - pasula gaachenata -

Ala brahma thandriyata - yasodaku biddadata -

The meaning of the above lines are, ‘He is the Supreme God, but he was a shepard’. ‘He is the father of the great Creater Lord Brahma, but he is son of a village women Yasoda’. This type of songs give pleasure to the listeners who can enjoy the Telugu language .

There are hundreds of such beautiful expressions depicted in his songs. In a proverb, he says that "Pindante nippati yannatlu", it means, ‘ the size of bread is according to the quantity of flour’. In the same song, he says "Neeru koladi Taameravu", it means, ‘if more water is in the pond, the lotus grown has more.’ These are the examples to teach the people that ‘a man achieves Punyam (heaven) according to his good deeds’. Thus, all the songs are filled with the lyrical embellishments like proverbs, similes, idioms, adages etc.

Classification of Sankeertanas:

Annamaaya has composed varieties of songs. They may be categorised as Adhyatma sankeertanas, Sringara, Samppadaya (Traditional festivity) songs and Desi (Folk) songs. But, broadly can be divided into Adhyatma sankeertana-s and Sringara sankeertana-s.

A. Adhyatma sankeertana-s: These are known as spiritual or devotional songs. They can be further classified into 5 main headings. They are:

eg: Kondalalo nelakonna koneti raayude vaadu-

i). Simple spiritual songs : These include songs in praise of God, describing the beauty of and greatness of God viz., Naama sankeertanas, Maanasika sambodhana keertanas.

An example for Naama sankeertanas

Madhava kesava madhusudana krishna-

An example for Maanasika sambodhana keertanas.

Bhaavamulona bahhyamu nanduna -- Manasaa.

ii). Puranic references: Songs composed on epics such as Ramayana, Bhaarata, Bhaagavata etc, come under this category.

An example for Sankshepa Ramayanam,

Ithade Parabrahmamidiye Rama katha --

An example for Bharata,

Ani aanaticche krishnudarjanunito --

Annamayya has a special style in composing Bala Krishna’s (Lord Krishna’s Childhood) mysterious deeds. Some times, he (Annamayya) transforms himself as Yasoda, Krishna’s mother. He totally absorbs in the feelings communicated through his songs. Sometimes he becomes a friend of Krishna at certain times and in some songs enjoys the deeds of the mischievous and mysterious child, just as a spectator. These songs, by virtues of their genuine feelings of love, affection and devotion touch ones heart directly.

Few examples on Bala Krishna,

a). Itti mudduladi baaludeda vaadu vaani patti tecchi pottaninda paalu voyaro --

b). Yeduta nunnadu veede ee baaluduu --

iii). Vedaanta or Vyraagya keertanas: They are Philosophical songs. Some of his songs contain complete renunciation on worldly attachments and desires.

eg: NaaNaati bratuku Naatakamu --

Maayaa mohamu maaranidi --

iv). Ritual songs: They are further classified into two kinds.

a) Temple festivity songs: Songs sung during special occasions in temples like Garudotsavam, Rathotsavam, Brahmotsavam, Suprabhatam, Unjal seva, Pavalimpu sevas etc. come under this category.

eg: Brahmotsavam – idi brahmotsavam--

b) Songs during daily services to God: These songs are sung while attending the regular services to God i.e., Melukolupulu (awakening) songs, Aaragimpulu (offerings to eat), Dolotsava (cradle), Pavalimpu (service at sleep time) and Mangalam songs.

eg: Shodasa kalaanidhiki Shodasopachaaramulu-

v) Songs on Socio aspects: These songs are related to socio aspects. Annamayya condemned the social evils like untouchability, degrading people on the basis of caste, creed etc.. In many songs he sys that "God is one". Through his teachings in songs and tried to bring reformation in the society. In a song,

" Ye kulajudemi yevvadainanemi

Aakada naatadu Harinerigina vaadu".

He emphasises that the one who is a ‘realised Soul’ is true real devotee, he may belong to any caste.

In another situation, Annamayya condemns the ‘Untouchbility’ which is the prevailing social evil at that time. In "Tandanaana ahi --", he says that ‘the God who resides in all the beings is one and the same.’ For him, all beings are equal. Annamayya used few similies to describe this truth. ‘A King may sleep on a luxurious cot and a servant may sleep on land but the process of sleep is same for both. The person may be a bramhin or he may belong to backward caste, but ultimately one has to reach the same burial ground. Similarly, the sun’s rays are shone equally on a giant animal like an elephant as well as on a mean animal like dog. In the same manner, the one who protects all the beings is one and the same Paramaathma (Lord). The Lord does not have any differences between the rich and the poor, caste,. For Him, all are equal.

vi). Folk based songs: Though all the compositions are devotion oriented, the language used for some of the songs are purely based on folk – themes. Annamayya has composed many varieties of folk songs. Of those, a few types are mentioned here. They are Tummeda pada-s, Chandamaama pada-s , Jaajara pada-s, Suvvi pada-s , chaang bhala songs. Elalu, Jolalu, samvaadas (duets), dhavalalu, Shobhanalu. In addition to these varieties, several songs related to specific festivals like Utla pandugalu, Gobbilla songs, Kolaata songs, marriage songs etc., are very popular.

For eg. 1. Siruta navvula vaadu chinnekka -

2. Jagadapu chanavula jaajara--

B). Sringaara sankeertana-s : Separation from God (Viraha Bhakti) and love with God is known as ‘Sringaara Bhakti’, popularly known as ‘Madhura bhakti’. Annamayya composed a huge number of songs on this theme. Many of his Sringaara sankeertanas are described on Goddess Alamelmanga’s love for Lord Venkateswara. In Alamelmanga, Annamayya described the beautiful gestures and movements in the presence of Lord. Some songs are exclusively written on her (Alamelmanga’s) beauty at the time of dance, before the Lord, to please him. In these songs, he holds the balance between sensual and the spiritual. Usually in the concluding part of each song, the sensual gets transcendent into the spiritual. In this part, he portrays the Goddess or heroin surrenders them aa to the Lord and thus consecrates them.

Annamayya’s Music: Unfortunately, no notations are available for his songs and no correct tune of singing had been handedover to the posterity through his descendants. Because, there are no direct descendants or disciples to progate the treasure of his music to the next generations. The credit of preserving the lyrics of his songs goes to his son Pedda Tirumalaachari and his grandson ChinnaTirumalaachari (Chinnanna).

He used several traditional and ancient ragas for his songs. The ragas, he employed to his songs are nearly 75. The names of some rare raga-s are also found on the copper plates. Unforunately, some very rare ragas like Aabali, Konda malhari, Amara sindhu etc. have become obsolete and at present.

The tunes of these songs are not known till today due to the non- availability of music documentation at that time. As a result of this, many great musicians like Sri Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sarma, Dr. Sripada Pinakapani, Dr. Nedunuri Krishna Murty, Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, Sri Voleti Venkateswarlu, Sri. Sandhyavandanam Srinivasarao, Sri Kadayanallur R. Venkataraman, Sri MS Bala Subrahmanya Sarma etc., have set music to many songs and brought them into lime-light. Many great musicians and Vidwans like Nedunuri Krishna Murty, M. Balamurali Krishna, MS Subbalakshmi and Ms. Srirangam Gopala ratnam etc, have popularised these songs with their mellifluous vioces.

Of all the 32,000 songs, only 12,000 are available till today with the great efforts of the scholars and Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD). In preservation of these songs, the tremendous service of King Saluva Narasimha rayalu, Emperor of Vijayanagaram, has to be remembered forever. The King inscribed these songs on Copper plates and preserved them in Sankeertana Bhadaaram (a rock storewell) in the campus of the main Temple at Tirumala hill. Unfortunately, many copper plates have been lost or misplaced.

Other Literary works of Annamacharya : Annamayya has composed some Desi Suladis, a type of songs which have became almost obscure. He has composed Sapta raga–Tala malika Suladi. Besides the Sankeertanas, Annamayya has written some literary works too. He wrote 12 Satakas on SriVenkateswara and on His spouse Goddess Alamelumanga. (‘Satakam’ is a Sanskrit word, denotes hundred verses in a work). His literary work "Venkatachala Mahatmyam" and a poetic work "Chakravala Manjari" (a literary work) remained as immortal pieces. One more significant work of him in Sanskrit is ‘Sankeertanaalakshanam’. It is an authoritative work explaining all types of musical forms of his times. It paved a way to the later music compositions in South Indian Classical Music.

Conclusion: It is very difficult to select few songs contain idealistic themes since hundreds, thousands of them are good. Therefore, very few of them are selected and analysed in this paper. Every one can enjoy the songs of Annamacharya, though he is an unknowing of music.


(Acknowledgements to Mr. S. Pardhiva for his cooperation in preparing this paper)

This paper was presented in 9th Internatinal Writers Festival-India (An International Concference of Poets, Writers & Scholarsw) held at Nellore (Andhra Pradesh) on 9-10 November, 2013


(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Jan-April 2014)