Kancherla Gopanna, who later came to be known as Bhadrachala Ramadasu because of his immense faith and extraordinary devotion to Lord Rama was a native of Nelakondapalli in Andhra Pradesh. He belonged to the 17th century. His uncles Akkanna and Madanna held very high administrative positions in the Kingdom of Tana Shah of the Qutub Shahi Sultan dynasty. Because of their influence, Gopanna became the Tahsildar (revenue tax collector) of Polvancha. He went about his work very sincerely and endeared himself to all the people.
Once he happened to visit Bhadrachalam for a religious fair and was pained to see the dilapidated condition of Seetaramaswamy temple there. A unique temple dating back to the pauranic age where the Sage Bhadra did severe penance to propitiate Lord Rama. His desire was to carry the Lord on his head and therefore he became the Bhadragiri hill on which stands the temple of Sri Rama.
Gopanna decided to restore back the temple to its original glory. People donated large amounts for the temple. As the work was going on, they fell short of funds. The people urged him to spend the money from the revenue collected, promising to raise the amount over a period of time and reimburse it back soon. The temple was rebuilt. Orders were also placed for beautiful golden ornaments made of pearls and gems for Lord Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana. The procedure for conducting poojas and utsavas were all laid out. Because of his extreme devotion and dedication to Lord Rama, everybody around started addressing Gopanna as Ramadasu, the sevak of Lord Rama.
Some people who were jealous of Ramadasu went and complained to King Tana Shah about the money collected as tax being used for the temple building. Ramadasu pleaded innocence saying the money had been used only for the temple which is also for the public. But the angry Shah would not listen. He wanted the money back and till accounts were settled, he had Ramadasu put behind the bars. 12-13 years Ramadasu was in jail. In the prison he was very badly treated. All the pain and torture only reinforced his faith and devotion to the Lord of his heart – Sri Rama. He composed beautiful krithis on the Lord. And there are some emotional ones in which he asks Mother Seeta to intervene and put in a word in his favour to the Lord! And he has used the unique style called: “Ninda Stuti”, wherein the composer addresses the Lord in an angry tone and even mocks Him for not helping him!
After about 12-13 years, one day in the middle of the night, two young handsome youth calling themselves Ramoji and Lakshmoji carrying bow and arrows, appeared in the bed-chambers of King Tana Shah. The Shah was shocked to see them in his inner chambers! They introduced themselves as having been sent by Ramadasu to settle the accounts. They handed over to him a bag full of gold coins. It was just the right amount that had been used up from the state coffers. They demanded a receipt for the same along with a note for the release of Ramadasu from the prison, which the King gave. They both collected the receipt, showed it to the prison-in-charge and got Ramadasu released. By the time Ramadasu could realize what had happened, Ramoji and Lakshmoji had disappeared.
On enquiring, Ramadasu told the king that he had not sent anyone nor any money. On checking back, the king saw the seal of Sri Rama on the coins. Now they knew — it was Sri Rama and Lakshmana who had come in disguise. The Shah was fortunate to have had the darshan of the Lord! He was overwhelmed and sought forgiveness from Ramadasu for imprisoning him. Ramadasu on the other side pleaded with the Lord for a glimpse of His divine form. The Lord accompanied by Mother Janaki gave him darshan along with the assurance of mukti at the end of his life. King Tana Shah on behalf of the State, handed over the entire amount to the temple. Even to this day, on the auspicious Sri Rama Navami, when Sri Seetarama Kalyanotsava is performed in Bhadrachala temple, it is the practice of the State Government to offer gifts to the divine couple — Sri Rama and Sita — an honour and fortune, and indeed a blessing for the State and its people!
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