Indian Poets and Composers
Biography of Bhadrachala Ramadas (Gopanna)
Bhadrachala Ramadasu, as he is popularly known, Kancharla Gopanna was a great devotee-saint-poet-composer of Andhra Pradesh who dedicate his life to sing the glories of Lord Rama and composed numerous songs in Telugu on his beloved deity of Sri Rama, which are very popular even today in the land of Andhra Pradesh. Ramadasu is known for constructing the current Rama temple in Bhadrachalam and as consequence suffered the agonies of prison for 12 years.
Popularly known as Bhakta Raamadaas, he was born Gopanna to Linganna Mantri (a surname he kept as a result of one of his forebears being a minister at the court of a king) & Kadamba (sister of Madanna, a brahmin minister to TaniShah), in 1620 in Nelakondapalli, a small village in Khammam district, Andhra Pradesh. Since childhood, he imbibed his family's interest in spirituality and composed several keertanas on Rama. His devotion to Vaikunta Rama at the temple of Bhadrachalam, a small village in the middle of the jungle on the northern banks of the holy river Godavari, earned him his name Bhadraacala Raamadaas. His guru was Raghunatha Bhattacharya.
During the reign of Abdul Hasan Tana Shah, (the nawab of the Qutub Shahi Dynasty at Golconda), Ramadas (Gopanna), thanks to his uncle Madanna, was appointed as a Tahsildar for Palvancha Paragana which included Bhadrachalam, a pretty and picturesquely situated temple town on the Godavari river. Ramadas was always distracted and his intense love for Lord Rama compelled him to build a temple at Bhadrachalam. He collected money for the construction from the citizens, but was not enough. So he borrowed from the tax revenue of the nawab and gave his god a worthy abode, vowing to return the money. However, the nawab was furious and sentenced Ramadas to 12 years in prison. Raamadaas thus earned the name Bandikhana Raamadaas (meaning imprisoned Ramadas). Frustrated at god's indifference to his pleadings, Ramadas composed some of the finest keertanas in his prison cell (reminding Rama of his services in Ikshvaku Kula Tilaka).
It is said that Rama & Lakshmana in the guise of two youngsters paid up his dues and got his release papers. The golden coins paid by Rama are known as Ram Tanka coins .They can be seen even today. These coins have the Pattabhishekam scene on one side and the picture of another Rama Bhaktha, Hanuman, on the other side. The nawab was moved and recognized the greatness of Ramadas and released him immediately and gave him land around Bhadraachalam to continue his dedicated service to Bhadraachala Raamamoorty. Ramadas spent the rest of his life on these lands and composed further moving poems that were to inspire Tyaagaraaja: in ksheera saagara sayana in Devagaandhaari, he says "Dhirudau Ramadasuni Bandhamu dirchinadi Vinnanura Rama?" (O Rama! I have heard how You obtained the release of the bold Ramadas from his prison life); in brindaavanalOla in tODi, in kaligiyundE gada in keeravaaNi, in Emi dova balkuma in saaranga and in Prahlaada Bhakti Vijayam he says "kaliyugamuna vara bhadra calamuna nelakonna raamacandruni pada bhaktula kella varudanandagi velasina shree raamadaasu vinutintu madin" (I praise Sri Raamadaas, who shines in this world as the supreme devotee of Sri Raamachandra, who shines forth from his seat at Bhadraachalam in this kali Yuga).
Other compositions are positive invocations, favored by traveling minstrels, including the Tondaiman rulers of PudukoTTai in Tamil Nadu, who popularized his songs. Among his other accomplishments is the creation of the whole Ramayana story in the form of a prose-poem, a Choornika. Ramadas described himself in this way in the last verse of his Dasarathi Satakam: "Allana Linga Mantri Suthudu(son), Atreya Gothrudu, Adi Sakha, Kancherla Kulothbhavudu, Gopakavindrudu." Bhadraachala Raamadaas lived for 68 years.