He also lived in the village of Nelakondapalli near Bhadrachalam, Andhra Pradesh during the 17th century and is renowned for constructing a famous temple for Lord Rama at Bhadrachalam. His devotional lyrics to Lord Rama are well-known in South Indian Classical music as Ramadaasu Keertanalu. Saint Tyagaraja, the doyen of South Indian classical music, learned and later improved the style now considered standard Kriti form of music composition.
He also indulged into writing Dasarathi Shatakamu with a 'makuTamu' 'Dasaradhee Karuna payonidhi', a collection of nearly 108 poems dedicated to the son of Dasaratha - Lord Rama.
Early Life of Kancherla Gopanna
Ramadasu was born Kancherla Goparaju in a wealthy Telugu Nandvarika Brahmin family to Linganna Murthy and Kamamba in Nelakondapalli village of Khammamett Taluk (Warangal Division of erstwhile Hyderabad)of northern Andhra Pradesh (Deccan region).
Career of Kancherla Gopanna
Ramadasu was also appointed as Tahsildar (revenue collector) of Palvoncha Paragana by Akkanna, his uncle and the administrative head in the court of Qutub Shahi Sultan Abul Hassan Tana Shah. He also discharged his official duties earnestly and collected revenues due to the Sultan while continuing his unswerving service to Lord Rama by chanting his name and feeding the poor.
Reconstruction of Temple
One day, after visiting the Bhadrachalam for a Jatra, he was disturbed by the dilapidated state of the temple there. For many reasons, Bhadrachalam was significant to devotees of Lord Rama. It is said that Lord Rama, during his exile, has stayed near the Parnasala there with Sita and Lakshmana and also to have visited Sabari near Badrachalam. Pothana is also believed to have been given direction by Lord Rama to translate the Bhagavata Purana into Telugu. Despite of its great significance, the temple was immensely neglected. So, Ramadasu also started to raise funds for the reconstruction and renovation of the temple. After he actually emptied his coffers and could raise more money, the villagers appealed him to spend his revenue collection for the reconstruction and promised to repay the amount after harvesting crops. As such, Ramadas also finished the reconstruction of temple with six hundred thousand rupees collected from land revenues, without the permission of Abul Hasan Qutub Shah.
As soon as the temple was nearing completion, he was seriously puzzled one night about the fixing of the Sudarshana Chakra at the crest of the main temple. On the very same night, it is often believed; he saw Lord Rama in his dream and asked him to have a holy dip in the Godavari River. When Gopanna did so the next day, he found the holy Sudarshana Chakra in the river very easily.
Incarceration and Release
Right after the reconstruction, his wretchedness started. To begin with he was, for misusing the Sultan Abul Hasan Qutb Shah's revenues, dismissed and was imprisoned in the Golconda Fort (near Hyderabad) with strict orders that he be released only after the exchequer received all the taxes, in full. Ramadas implored Lord Rama through many emotional songs that were popularized from paragraphs of 'Dasaradhi Sathakam ' and 'Kirtans' of Bhakta Ramadasa. They also praise the Lord for all his strange and odd ways in popularizing his devotees and Ramadasu regularly sings to the lord. The songs ended in a state of total and unconditional surrender to the will of the Almighty.
After 11 - 12 years of imprisonment, Lord Rama decided that the sufferings of his devotee's had reached its pre-ordained ending (because of a certain transgression his soul had committed in a previous birth). Lord Rama and Lakshmana, disguised as two young warriors, entered the bed-chambers of the Sultan Tana Shah in the middle of the night. They presented themselves as Ramoji and Lakshmoji and gave the king six lakh gold coins imprinted with Lord Rama's own seal in return for the spent six lakh silver coins. The Sultan was bewildered at the presence of these charming but strange youngsters in his inner quarters at late night irrespective of tight security. They demanded and obtained on the spot, a written receipt for the money. The receipt was shown to the jailer who released Gopanna the same night. The next day, both Gopanna and the Sultan realized what had happened. Gopanna did not care much for his release but was inconsolable at his not having seen his Lord even with all his devotion while the Sultan was visited by the Lord. The Lord then appeared to Gopanna in a dream and explained him the real reasons for his actions and promised him salvation at the end of his natural life. The king was convinced that what had happened was a miracle of Lord Rama. He returned the entire money to the Bhadracalam temple. Since then, it has been the royal custom of the Hyderabad State (now part of Andhra Pradesh) to send gifts to the temple on the occasion of Sree Rama Navami celebrations every year.
Selected compositions of Kancherla Gopanna
Kancherla Gopanna or Ramadasu composed around 300 songs in devotion of Lord Rama, some of the selected ones are as follows:
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