Long long ago when faith moved a king

PLACE OF CAPTIVITY: Where Ramadasu was imprisoned  


Visit a monument to unshakeable faith, at the Golconda Fort.

As children learn Carnatic music, they hear "nannu brovamani cheppave... " Who wrote this freedom song pleading with Sita for interceding on his behalf to Lord Rama? Most children in Andhra Pradesh know the story of Ramadasu (born Kancherla Gopanna) and to trace the man and his story is simple enough. Go to the Golconda fort in Hyderabad and checkout the inner fortifications to reveal the man who pleaded with Sita to get his release from the prison. From a distance, the Golconda fort in Hyderabad looks like a granite mountain with holes carved in by intrepid cavemen. As you draw closer, driving past the glass, concrete towers and shanties covered in blue and yellow plastic, it is a surprise to find medical shops, schools, hospitals, lakes and palatial houses inside.

A shrine within

But our story is not about the fort, it is about the man who wrote the songs learnt by most Carnatic music learners, it is about the circumstances in which he wrote and the place where he wrote. As you enter the fort, among the curious names like Madanna's office, camels' stable, there is Ramadasu Bandi Khana. After a tough climb, most visitors who reach there assume that the whole cavernous complex was Ramadasu's prison for 12 years. It wasn't so. Climb the 16 stairs and you reach a ledge with hole on the roof and carvings of Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman and other worshippers of Rama. They were chiselled into the wall by Ramdas as he waited for deliverance singing Rama's praise. Only light trickles in from the top, the food was dumped either from here or shoved under the rough door that doesn't exist any longer. Escape was impossible as the hole on the roof is big enough to wriggle out but is 14 feet high. Ramdas was sure he committed no crime when as the Tehsildar of Paloncha (a province on the banks of Godavari) he used up six lakh varahalu (gold coins) collected as tax in his province on behalf of the Qutb Shahi kings to build the temple at Bhadrachalam. The enraged king Abul Hasan Tana Shah put him in this dungeon even though Ramadasu's uncle was the powerful Mir Jumla (prime minister Madanna). It was here that Ramadasu started singing his praise of Lord Rama and working on dungeon's walls where he carved out 12 images of his adoration. He composed nearly 300 songs, some of which are still sung in homes. These songs have a lyrical as well as a spiritual quality as Ramadasu's mood swings between his faith/belief and anger at not being rescued by his Lord. Then the story takes a happy turn as Tana Shah freed him saying he had a dream in which two persons paid back the money spent on the temple. Did it really happen? May be yes, may be not. But, within a short time of Ramadasu being freed, a gold currency started circulating in the Golconda dominion called Ram tankha. Sita's jewellery in Bhadrachalam temple on which Ramadasu spent 10,000 varahalu is still there. And even today, during Ramanavami, when Rama's birth is celebrated, at the Bhadrachalam temple, Lord Rama is married to his consort and instead of rice grains, the Chief Minister showers pearls for the talambralu.