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Kancharla Gopanna | కంచర్ల గోపన్న - Bhakta Ramadasu | Bhadrachala Ramadasu | భద్రాచల రామదాసు


Kancharla Gopanna (c. 1620 – 1688), also revered as Bhakta Ramadasu or Bhadrachala Ramadasu, was a 17th-century Indian saint-poet and composer. A devout follower of Lord Rama, he left a lasting mark on Telugu culture and Carnatic music.

Born in Nelakondapalli village (Khammam district), Gopanna's early life was marked by hardship after losing his parents in his teens. He later found himself in Bhadrachalam, where he is credited with renovating or constructing the famed Sita Ramachandraswamy Temple, a major pilgrimage site on the Godavari River.

Gopanna's spiritual devotion found expression in his music. He composed numerous kirtans (devotional songs) in Telugu, with some works also in Sanskrit and occasional use of Tamil. These compositions, known as Ramadasu Keertanalu, are celebrated for their adherence to the classical Carnatic music structure, featuring pallavi, anupallavi, and charanam sections.

Beyond music, Gopanna was a writer within the Sri Vaishnava tradition. His most notable work is the Dasarathi Satakamu, a collection of 108 poems dedicated to Rama, each concluding with the refrain "Daasarathee Karunaa payonidhee" (meaning "Ocean of Compassion, Son of Dasaratha").

Early life and background


Born into a Telugu-speaking Brahmin family in Nelakondapalli village (Khammam District, Telangana), Kancherla Gopanna (later known as Bhakta Ramadasu) enjoyed a comfortable childhood. However, his life took a turn in his teenage years when he became orphaned. Facing poverty, Gopanna turned to his devotion – singing bhakti hymns to Rama while collecting rice from villagers. Scholars have pieced together Gopanna's life story primarily from his own poems, where he often alludes to personal experiences. For instance, one song mentions "Narayanadasulu," a term potentially referencing his guru, Sri Vaishnavism teacher Raghunatha Bhattacharya, who may have initiated him into the Dasarathi tradition as a young boy. These details, along with embellished accounts found in Yakshagana or Harikatha performances, portray Gopanna as a precocious child with a natural talent for composing devotional verses dedicated to Lord Rama

Gopanna's family connections extended beyond his immediate household. His maternal uncles were the renowned Akkanna and Madanna brothers. These powerful figures played a pivotal role in securing the throne for Abul Hasan Qutb Shah (Tana Shah) after his father-in-law's death in 1672. As a reward for their support during a power struggle with the Mughal Empire, the brothers became prominent ministers in the Qutb Shahi dynasty's court at Golconda [5]. Historical records offer little detail about Gopanna's early life beyond this connection to his influential uncles. Much of this period is shrouded in myth and embellished stories created by later devotional traditions. Legends even claim Gopanna mastered not just Telugu, but also Sanskrit, Persian, and Urdu languages.



Gopanna's path to Bhadrachalam diverges depending on the source. Historical accounts suggest he arrived in Hyderabad around 1650, likely in his teens [3]. There, he sought the help of his maternal uncles, Akkanna and Madanna, who were then employed in the Golconda Sultanate's tax department under minister Mirza Mohammed Sayyad [6]. Through their influence, Gopanna secured a position as a tax collector in Bhadrachalam, a town already known for its temple dedicated to Rama [6].

However, hagiographies like the "Ramadasu Charitra" offer a different perspective. This devotional text claims Gopanna, by then known as Ramadasu and in his fifties, received a tax collector (tahsildar) position in "Palvoncha Paragana" sometime after 1672. The appointment is attributed to his uncle Akkanna, who had risen to become a powerful minister under Sultan Abul Hassan Tana Shah [6].

Gopanna's tenure as tax collector in Bhadrachalam is shrouded in conflicting stories. A common thread runs through these narratives:

  • Collecting the Jizya tax, a religious levy on Hindus, in the Bhadrachalam region.
  • Using these funds, along with donations, to either rebuild or significantly expand the renowned Rama temple there.
  • Accusations of fraud and misuse of tax revenue, leading to his arrest.
  • A lengthy imprisonment of twelve years in solitary confinement at Golconda, a period during which Gopanna poured his devotion into poems dedicated to Lord Rama.
  • His eventual release and return to Bhadrachalam.

The details of his liberation diverge. Some accounts depict a divine intervention, with Rama and Lakshmana themselves appearing on Earth to secure his release by paying a ransom to the Golconda Sultanate. Others portray a more earthly resolution, with the Sultan facing imminent defeat by Aurangzeb's forces and, in desperation, reopening Gopanna's case, finding him innocent, and releasing him.

These contrasting narratives are documented in records from the Dutch East India Company, the temple's own hagiography, and regional Telugu oral traditions

Reconstruction of temple

Sri Ramanavami Kalyanam utsava at Bhadrachalam Temple, in Telangana

Driven by devotion, Gopanna's story takes a turn upon encountering the Rama temple in Bhadrachalam. The town held deep significance for Rama devotees. Here, during his exile, Lord Rama resided near Parnasala with Sita and Lakshmana. Legend places another pivotal Ramayana encounter nearby – Rama's meeting with Shabari (though some believe she lived closer to Kishkindha, the monkey kingdom, near Hampi). Bhadrachalama's spiritual importance was further bolstered by the belief that it was here Rama directed Pothana to translate the Bhagavata Purana into Telugu. Despite its significance, the Rama temple lay in a state of disrepair. Determined to see it restored, Gopanna began raising funds for renovation. When his own resources dwindled, the villagers pleaded with him to use tax revenue for the project, promising repayment after harvest. Compelled by his devotion, Gopanna undertook the large-scale reconstruction of the temple, utilizing a sum of six hundred thousand rupees collected from land revenues – all without the permission of the ruling Sultan, Abul Hasan Qutb Shah.

As the magnificent temple neared completion, one crucial element remained – the Sudarshana Chakra for the main tower. Troubled by this missing piece, Gopanna found solace in a dream that very night. He envisioned Lord Rama himself, instructing him to take a purifying dip in the sacred Godavari River. Filled with faith, Gopanna followed the divine command. The next morning, as legend tells it, the holy Sudarshana Chakra miraculously appeared in the river, readily available to adorn the temple's peak.



However, Ramadasu's joy was short-lived. Soon after the temple's reconstruction, misfortune struck. Accused of wrongdoing by his enemies who spread malicious rumors, he was removed from his position [8]. Imprisoned near Hyderabad, Ramadasu faced a seemingly impossible condition for release: full repayment of the tax revenue used for the temple. Undeterred, he poured his heart out to Rama through a series of deeply moving songs. These soulful compositions, later compiled in the "Dasarathi Sathakam" and "Keertanas" of Bhakta Ramadasu, praised the Lord's mysterious ways and Ramadasu's unwavering devotion. Filled with surrender and faith, Ramadasu's songs resonated with a message of complete submission to the divine will.

Release and Sultan's unanticipated devotion towards Rama


Twelve long years passed with Ramadasu imprisoned. Then, according to legend, Sultan Tana Shah himself experienced a divine intervention. He dreamt of Rama and awoke to find golden coins bearing Rama's image (Rama mudras) beside him. Profoundly affected, the Sultan ordered Ramadasu's release. Furthermore, a new tradition was established – on every Rama Navami festival, pearls would be sent as an offering to the Bhadrachalam temple. This practice continued under succeeding rulers, including the Nizams of Hyderabad.



Ramadasu stands as a towering figure in Hinduism, both as a poet-saint of the Bhakti movement and a revered composer within Carnatic music. His prolific output focused almost entirely on the god Rama of the Ramayana, with the vast majority of his compositions taking the form of kirtans – devotional songs – in Telugu, with a few also composed in Sanskrit. These works are readily identifiable by his musical signatures, or mudras, which often reference Ramadasu himself or his beloved Bhadrachalam. Examples include "Ramadas," "Bhadrachalavasa," and "Bhadradri." Hugely popular during his lifetime, Ramadasu's compositions continue to resonate with audiences today. His influence extends to the legendary composer Tyagaraja, who dedicated five of his own works in praise of Ramadasu. In one such composition, Tyagaraja even compares Ramadasu to revered figures like Narada Muni and Bhakta Prahlada, solidifying his place among Hinduism's most cherished devotees.

Ramadasu's legacy extends beyond the Bhadrachalam temple. He is celebrated as a poet-saint, particularly for his devotional work, "Dasarathi Satakam." This collection of bhakti poems, composed in a didactic meter, is widely shared and sung in the Telugu tradition. However, as with many poet-saints on the Indian subcontinent, definitively attributing works to Ramadasu can be challenging.

Six biographical narratives exist, all centered on Ramadasu's life and songs. These "Ramadasu Charitra" texts, along with "Bhadrachala Ramadasu" and "Bhakta Ramadasu," take the form of Yakshagana or Harikatha performances. Authored by six individuals – Yadavadasu, Singaridasu, Krishnadasu, Ayyagiri Veerbhadra Rao, Balaji Dasu, and Pentapati Rao – these narratives vary in length, with some attributing between 100 and 137 songs to Ramadasu. In total, over 190 compositions are linked to him. A critical edition attempts to sort these works, suggesting 37 were composed before his arrest, 64 during his imprisonment, and 31 after his release. This analysis suggests Ramadasu authored around 132 songs.

Interestingly, Ramadasu's compositions demonstrate a unique musical quality. He incorporated ragas (melodic frameworks) from both South and North Indian schools, showcasing his knowledge and potentially bridging the gap between these two classical music traditions.

Popular portrayals often credit Ramadasu with a much larger body of work. For instance, a report in The Hindu newspaper suggests he composed nearly 300 songs, and that his devotional outpourings even swayed the Sultan.

1Adigo BhadradriVaraliĀdiTelugu
2Sree Rama NamameAtanaĀdi(Thisra)Telugu
3Paluke BangaramayenaAnandabhairaviRūpakaTelugu
4Sree Ramula DivyanamaSāvēriĀdiTelugu
5Ramajogi ManduKamasĀdiTelugu
7Hari Hari RamaKanadaĀdiTelugu
8Takkuvemi ManakuSaurashtraĀdiTelugu
9Kantinedu Maa RamulaNadanamakriyaKhandachapuTelugu

While the exact number of Ramadasu's compositions remains under debate, many are performed during the annual Bhadrachala Ramadasu Jayanthi Utsavam, a festival held in January or February. This celebration draws Carnatic musicians and singers from across India to honor Ramadasu's legacy.

Here, we can add a few specific examples of Ramadasu's popular compositions, keeping the list brief and focusing on well-established works.

For instance, some of his most renowned pieces include [insert 2-3 well-known compositions here]. These devotional songs continue to be cherished by Carnatic music audiences today.

1Ye teerugaNadanamakriyaĀdiTelugu
2Emayya ramaKambhojiĀdiTelugu
3Ennaganu rama bhajanaPantuvaraaliRūpakaTelugu
4Antha ramamayamAnandabhairaviĀdiTelugu
5Iskshvaku kula tilakaYadukulakambojiChapuTelugu
6Sri rama ni namaPoorvi KalyaniĀdiTelugu
7Ramachandrulu napaiAsaveriChapuTelugu
8Rama rama bhadrachalaNilambariĀdiTelugu
9Dorikane bhadrachala nilayuduKambhojiAdiTelugu
10Bhajare sriramamKalyaniĀdiSanskrit
11Rama chandrayajankaKurunjiEkaSanskrit
12Dasaratha rama govindhaShankarabharanamKapuTelugu
13Charanamule nammithiKapiĀdiTelugu
14Pahi Rama PrabhoMadhyamavatiJhampaTelugu
15Nanu brovamani cheppaveKalyaniChapuTelugu
16Thakkuvemi manakuSuryakanthamChapuTelugu
17Kamala nayana vasudevaShenjuruttiRoopakamSanskrit
18Pavana ramaDhanyasiAdiTelugu
19Rama bhadra ra raShankarabharanamTisraTelugu
20Nanda baalamManiranguAdiSanskrit
21Garuda gamana raSaveriAdiTelugu
22Rama ra raKamasAdiTelugu
23Narahari deva janardhanaYamunakalyaniAdiSanskrit
24Palayamam sriSriAdiSanskrit
25Pahimam sri rama anteYadukulakambojiAdiTelugu
  • 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


  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. Jump up to: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. Jump up to: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"www.bhadrachalarama.org.
  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. ^ "- Sify.com"Sify. 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.

Source - Wikipedia

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