Sri Kancharla Gopanna (1620-1680 A.D.) is popularly known as Bhadrachala Ramadasu and Bhakta Ramadasu. He was a great Vaggeyakara who transformed the Bhadrachalam Temple in Khammam District of Telangana State into a divine abode. Vaggeyakara - a Telugu word means a person who not only composes the lyrics but also sets them to music (vak = word, speech; geya = singing, singable; geyakara = singer). His devotional lyrics to Lord Rama are famous in South Indian classical music as Ramadasu keertanalu. He also wrote Dasarathi Shatakam with the allonym of Dasarathee Karunaa Payonidhi (Rama, the Ocean of Compassion), a collection of nearly 108 poems. Today is his birth anniversary and close to his native place Nelakondapalle in Khammam District of Telangana State; a Lift Irrigation Project named after him as Bhakta Ramadasu Lift Irrigation Scheme (BRLIS) is inaugurated by the State Chief Minister, Sri K. Chandrashekar Rao. This project has been completed in a record time of 11 months, to irrigate 60,000 acres of land in the District. The people of the State and in particular of Khammam District are extremely happy. All Telangana State Newspapers and TV channels are full of this news with details of the project, today’s inauguration and Ramadasu’s birthday celebrations. I too am very happy as I have a long association of 28 years with places in Khammam District (now Khammam District plus Bhadradri Kothagudem District), especially with Kothagudem and Bhadrachalam, the temple town.
The life story of Ramadasu is known to all Telugu people and to all those who have visited Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy Temple at Bhadrachalam. All lovers of Carnatic music who have listened to his Keertanalu would also know about him. The great Thyagaraja when he was young was singing the songs of Bhadrachala Ramadasu at the temples in Tanjore and he also praised the devotion of Ramadasu in several of his Kritis.
For those who have not heard of him, here is his life in short. As I mentioned above he was born at Nelakondapalle in 1620 A.D. not far from Bhadrachalam. He was a great devotee of Lord Sri Rama from his childhood. In his sixteenth year Lord Rama appeared in his dream and blessed him. At that time one by name Tammala Dammakka found the self-appeared idols of Sita, Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman at Bhadrachalam (it was known as Bhadragiri then) and she provided a small shelter for them for worship. Kancharla Gopanna as Ramadasu was known then became a devotee there and dedicated his life to the service of the Lord. He got initiated into Vasishnavism by Raghunatha Bhattacharya, a great devotee. He got married and entered the Revenue Service under the Ruler of Hyderabad as Tahsildar of Palvancha. Bhadrachalam is near Palvancha and was under his administration. While attending to his duties his attention was mostly in gathering devotees, singing bhajans and offering prayer and puja to Lord Sri Rama at the temple. He was so immersed in these activities that while he was once busy in feeding the devotees, his son fell into a gruel-pit and lost his life. But the Lord heard the prayers of Ramadasu and the boy regained life.
It is said that the great Saint-singer Sant Kabirdas visited Ramadasu and was immensely pleased with his devotion. Kabir blessed him with Taraka Mantra which made Ramadasu sing in ecstasy on the glory of Lord Sri Rama. Ramadasu spent the State revenues amounting to Rupees six lakhs for building a grand temple and for costly jewellery to the idols at Bhadrachalam and for beautification of the premises without permission. For this reason, the King – Tani Shah imprisoned Ramadasu in the historical Golconda fort (which is in Hyderabad). Even in jail, Ramadasu sang sankeertanas that moved the heart of Lord Sri Rama, Who appeared before Tani Shah along with His brother Lakshmana in disguise, paid the money and got Ramadasu released. The jewellery that Ramadasu provided is still with the Temple at Bhadrachalam and the Golconda fort where Ramadasu was imprisoned is visited by several tourists even today.
Ramadasu spent the rest of his life in total surrender and dedication to Lord Sri Rama, singing keertanas with appealing music, heart moving verbose and sublime thoughts. Bhadrachala Ramadasu lived for 60 years and attained kaivlaya in 1680.