Bhadrachala Ramadas was one of the well-known Carnatic music composers of South India during 17th century. He existed during the pre-trinity period i.e. before the time of Tyagaraja, Muthusvami Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri. His father was Linganna Murthy and mother Kamamba, who named him Gopanna. But later, he became famous by the name Ramadas due to his unconditional devotion for Lord Rama
Early Life of Bhadrachala Ramadas
Bhadrachala Ramadas gave a good detail of his family and himself in his stotra named `Bhadrachala Dasharathi Shatakam`. It is known from this stotra that his family belonged to a place called Nelakondapalli in Andhra Pradesh and their family name was Kancharla. Ramadas built a renowned temple for Rama at Bhadrachalam. The devotional compositions of Ramadas were popularly known as `Ramadaasu Keertanalu` in Andhra Pradesh
Bhadrachala Ramadas belonged to a Brahmin family and all the members followed the `bhakti` tradition. Ramadas joined the Yakshagana troupe made by his uncle Madanna, which used to tour various towns and villages and enacted themes and stories from the Hindu epics and Puranas. He composed many bhajans for this Yakshagana troupe and arranged for many festivals. Thus he spent a lot of money in this and gradually became very poor.
The influence of his uncle Akkanna in the court got him the post of Tahsildar (revenue collector) of `Palvoncha Paragana`. He also managed to get the post of the administrative head in the court of Nawab Abul Hussan Tanashah. But he continued his service to Lord Rama by chanting his name and feeding the poor along with his official duty of revenue collecting.
Life in Music for Bhadrachala Ramadas
One day, while visiting Bhadrachalam for a `Jatara` (fair), Ramadas noticed the damaged condition of the temple there. Moreover, the place was very significant as it is believed that Lord Rama along with Sita
and Lakshmana stayed near the Parnasala there during his exile. So, he collected money for renovating and reconstructing the temple. But all his assets finished and he needed more money to complete the works. Then the villagers requested him to spend the money of revenue collection for the purpose and they would repay him the amount after harvesting crops. He did accordingly and spent hundred thousand rupees of the revenue without the permission of Abul Hasan Qutb Shah. Just before the completion of the construction of the temple, one night Bhadrachala Ramadas had a dream in which Lord Rama asked him to have a holy dip in the Godavari River
. So, he did the same and found the holi Sudarshana Chakra in the river without much difficulty. He also bought new jewels for the icon of Rama in that temple.
In the earlier period of him as Tahsildar, Bhadrachala Ramadas submitted all the money of collected from revenue to the state treasury. But later, he started to invest a part of it in building and renovating the Rama shrine and temples. This resulted in the arrest of Ramadas by the officials of the Nawab and he was kept at the fort of Golconda. It is known from one of his songs in Anandabhairavi raga that he was in prison for almost 12 years. During his stay in prison, Ramadas composed most of his soul-stirring songs. In those dark days, he constantly prayed to his favourite deity Lord Rama and begged for his help. He believed that nothing can harm him and he had nothing to fear during this punishment period or after that because he is under the care of Lord Rama.
There is a strange story regarding his relief from the jail. It is said that being pleased with his devotion, Lord Rama and Lakshmana in the disguise of two employees of Ramadas went to the palace of the Golconda ruler Tana Shah. They paid him the entire amount which was Ramadas Ramadas owed and also received a receipt for the same from the ruler. The extraordinary magnetism of the two youths and their sudden disappearance after paying the money made Tana Shah believe that they were indeed Rama and Lakshmana whom Ramadas had constantly been worshipping. So, he personally went to Ramadas to release him and also explained about the incident. Tana Shah then gave him a lot of money and placed him in a palanquin and sent this great devotee of Rama to Bhadrachalam to continue his noble work of temple reconstruction.
It is said that Ramadas later got `darshan` of his Lord Rama and so he is considered yet as one of the foremost among the galaxy of Rama devotees. Many devotional songs composed by him are sung now also in many parts of the country, especially in South India. Saint Tyagaraja, who had a high respect for Ramadas, praised him in some of his compositions. Most of the compositions of Ramadas were in Telugu and few were in Sanskrit. He used several mudrastike Bhadrachala, Bhadradri or Bhadra-giri. Here are few of his great compositions such as the Emayyarama (Kambhoji), Rama dayajudavc (Dhanyasi), Paluke bangara maycna (Ananda-bhairavi), Nammbrovit (Kalyani), Etirnbananit (Nadanamakriya). Mr Raghavendra Rao has made a Telugu movie being inspired from the story of Bhadrachala Ramadas.