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raamaraaja bhUshaNa



raamaraajabhUshaNa is traditionally counted among the eight great aShTadiggaja poets in the court of Emperor of Vijayanagara, Sri Krishna Deva Raya (reign: 1509-30). However, it is likely that he was only a boy when Krishna Deva Raya was on the throne. His given name was BhaTTu mUrti. Since he was the jewel (BhUShaNam) of the court of ArveeTi (aLiya) rAma rAya (son-in-law of kRShNa dEvarAya), he got his popular name "raamaraajabhUshaNa." This name is more well known than his original name.


bhaTTu mUrti lived in the mid 1500s. He was a native of Nellore (nellUru) in southern Andhra Pradesh. It is said that he was an apprentice of the great poet peddana (although some cATu poems indicate that there was a fall out between the two later on).


bhaTTu mUrti wrote vasucaritramu and dedicated it to ArveeTi tirumala rAyalu (reign, CE 1570-1572, brother of aLiya rAma rAyalu). The book is famous and immensely popular for the use of SlESha. The brilliance shown by him in the use of kavi samayamulu, vRtyanuprAsamulu, yamakamulu lead to several imitations and resulted in the proliferation of "pilla vasucaritralu" (baby vasucaritras). An example of the countless imitations is SakuntalA pariNayamu by kRShNa kavi [fl. CE 1750]. Even the great cEmakUra vEnkaTa kavi tried to imitate vasucaritra as best as he could. It is generally opined that in the entire Indian literature (including Sanskrit) there are no more than two or three books at best that come somewhere near vasucaritramu in the use of SlESha and skillful word play. Because of the unparalleled dexterity shown in each poem of the book, it was an instant success and was translated in to Sanskrit and Tamil (and Kannada?) long ago. Even today, a person is not counted as a scholar or panDita unless one masters this kAvyam.


He also wrote a dvyarthi kAvyam in competition with sUrana by name hariScandra nalOpAKhyAnamu. Each verse of this work can be interpreted to mean either the story of Emperor Harischandra or that of Emperor Nala. Another work by bhaTTu mUrti was an alankAra grantham (prosody) by name narasaBhUpAleeyamu. He dedicated it to tOraganTi narasarAju, a nephew of aLiya rAmarAyalu. It is said that this book is very similar to vidyAnAthas famous (not available) pratAparudreeyam.


He was also a distinguished musician and veeNa vidvAmsaka. He was held in very high esteem by his peers. He had the title "sangeeta rahasya kaLA nidhi." Perhaps his musical talent had a big influence on shaping his poetic compositions. Poems in his vasucaritra have a musical flow and rhythm that is unsurpassed. The following sample about spring may at first sound difficult to understand. But clearly represents his incomparable mastery of language and rhythm:

lalanA janApAMga valanA vasadanaMga tulanABhikABhaMga dO@h prasaMga
malasAnila vilOla daLasAsava rasAla PhalasAdara SukAla pana viSAla
malineegaru daneeka malineekRta dhunee kamalinee suKhitakOka kula vadhUka
matikAMta salatAMta latikAMta ranitAMta ratikAMta raNatAMta sutanukAMta
| see |

makRta kAmOda kuravakA vikala vakula
mukula sakalavanAMta pramOda calita
kalita kalakaMTha kulakaMTha kAkalee vi
BhAsuramu volcu madhumAsavAsaraMbu
| tE | [vasu. 1-126]


BhaTTu mUrti was known to have composed several caaTu (extempore) poems. Many examples survive in popular lore. It is said that once, the poet became very upset with the prime minister of the imperial court timmarusu (perhaps because the prime minister was obstructing his chances of receiving a major grant). The frustrated BhaTTu mUrti went to the prime minister while he was in consultation with a lot of other courtiers and started recounting the apparently lowly origins of timmarusu:

guttin^ pullelu kuTTi, caMdragirilO kUDetti, pen&goMDalO
hattin^ satramunaMdu vEDi, palu durgaadheeSu taaMbUlapuM
dittul mOsi padasthulaina ghanulan^

{He used to sew leaves together in Gutti
for serving plates. In Chandragiri he begged
for food. He lived on handouts
from the soup kitchens of Penugonda.
He carried betel leaves in a bag
for little kings in local forts. Upstarts like him ..} *

[Gutti, and Penugonda are in the Anatapuram District. Penugonda served as the imperial capital after the fall of Vijayanagara. Gutti also has a major fort. Chandragiri is in the Chittoor District. It had a major fort. It served as a provincial capital for many centuries. It was the imperial capital after the fall of Penugonda. Srikrishna Devaraya grew up here according to tradition. Timmarusu was born and brought up in these parts. He apparently came from a very poor background and made his way up the political ladder catering to the needs of many local chieftains.]

By the time BhaTTu mUrti reached this point, the prime minister realized the damage the poem can cause to his image and acted with a quick presence of mind. He hurriedly removed a great necklace of pearls from his own neck and placed it on the neck of BhaTTu mUrti. Completely pacified by this act of acknowledgement (some might say, an act of submission), BhaTTu mUrti immediately changed his tone and completed the verse to suit the new circumstance:

. deeviMpa, deeviMcedan^
mattaaraati yayaati naagama sutun^ maMtreeSvarun^ tim&marusun^!

{ are no subject of my poem. I'd rather sing
of Nagama's son, Timmana, masterful minister,
slayer of foes!}

Such brilliant mastery is typical of BhaTTu mUrti.






Seshu Madhava Rao Adluri
First posted: June 1999
*Acknowledgement: The translation of the cATu verse was due to Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman, 1998. "A Poem at the Right Moment," Univ. of California Press.
Corrections including typos, suggestions, and additions will be gratefully appreciated.
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