Monday, March 9, 2015

Annamayya: The Vaishnavite Song-writer

Annamāchārya (also called Annamayya) is a 15th century Vaishnavite saint, known for his devotional songs (sankeertanas) in Telugu. Written in a very personal and evocative tone, Annamayya's compositions epitomise the feeling of bhakti. In his sankeertanas, he addresses Vishnu as one would a real person. He quarrels affectionately with Vishnu, implores Vishnu, glorifies Vishnu, and surrenders completely to Vishnu. This intensely personal experience of bhakti makes Annamayya's compositions very moving.
Statue of Annamayya at Tallapaka in Andhra Pradesh, his birthplace. Photo taken from Wikipedia.
Annamayya's beautiful compositions lay forgotten for over three centuries, and were discovered concealed in a small room inside the Sri Venkateshwara temple at Tirumala in the mid-1800s. Since then, the Tirumala Devasthana Trust has been preserving these compositions. The well known Dr. Balamuralikrishna has set over 800 compositions of Annamacharya to music, and these are very popular among devotees of Tirupati. The temple trust is also making a lot of efforts to popularize these sankeertanas.
Tirumala Devasthana Temple
In 1997 a Telugu movie was released depicting the life story of Annamayya. In the initial scene, the movie depicts Vishnu and his two consorts (Bhu and Shri) in Vaikuntha, listening to prayers offered on earth in Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada. Bhu and Shri comment that although Vishnu presides over the Telugu land, there are no songs or prayers in Telugu. In response, Vishnu's sword (Nandaka) is reincarnated as the poet Annamaya. 

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