Pearls Across Penna- Day 2 (part 4) Tallapaka – the birth & seat of bhakti ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

From Attirala, our next stop was to Tallapakka, which is the birth place of the great saint and composer Annamacharya, who has written more than 32 thousand kirtanas / hymns on Sri Thirumala Venkateshwara.

6 kilometres, 12 minutes

The place was earlier known as Tatipaka, which translates as people who live in huts made from palm tree leaves. Later, the name transitioned to Tallapaka.

Chennakeshava Temple, Tallapaka: Our first stop at Tallapaka was the Chennakeshava Temple. It is believed that this temple was built by Raja Parikshit’s son Janmajeya. As the popular anecdote that precedes Srimad Bhagvatham mentions that Raja Parikshit, (grandson of the Pandava Arjuna), was cursed by Rishi Shameeka’s son Shrungi, that he would die due to a snake bite. Janmajeya wanted to eradicate all the snakes in the kingdom that could be a potential threat for his father. However, Raja Parikshit did meet his end due to the bite of the snake Takshaka. Janmajeya had by then performed the Sarpayagna to eliminate all snakes and later as an act of penitence, he built 108 temples each for Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva to get rid of the sin he had incurred by the Sarpayagna. Legend says that this temple at Tallapaka was one of the temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

The main sanctum sanctorum has the idol of the Chaturbujha (four hands) Sri Chennakeshava, with a conch (Sankha), disc (chakra), mace (gadha), and the fourth hand in the Abhaya mudra. There is a Balipeetham, Dwajasthambam, and Lord Garuda that faces the main temple. An interesting feature is that there is a temple that is built exclusively for Chakrathazhwar (Sudarshana Chakra/ Disc), that is carved out of black stone. Just below the Sudarshana Chakra, you find a carving of the crawling baby Krishna with a ball of butter in his hand. Quite a unique feature this is! Within the main temple premises, you also find a separate sannidhi for Lord Hanuman and it is believed that by worshipping him here, you rid yourself of all malefic planetary effects. In the last decade or so, the TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam) has taken over the administration of the temple.

Right next to the temple, is believed to be the house where the saint Annamacharya lived. His forefathers were all devotees of Lord Chennakeshava too. It is believed that there was a time an acute famine broke out in Varanasi, many of the people includes scholars and Vedic Brahmins migrated to the southern parts of India seeking for livelihood.  The family of Annamayya was also one amongst them.   Some of the families were settled down in a town called Nandavaram ruled by the King Nanda.  These migrants were famously known as Nandavarikas, and Annamayya and his forefathers were belonged to this group of migrants.  Annamacharya’s parents were Narayanasuri who was married to Lakkamamba. For many years they were childless.  They visited Lord Venkateswara at Tirupati, and while prostrating before the Dwjasthamba, a dazzling brilliance from the sword of Lord Venkateswara embraced the couple for a moment.  In due course of time, Lakkamamba conceived with a child and gave birth to a beautiful boy on a Vishakha Pournami day.  They named him Annamayya. It is believed that Sri Annamacharya was the reincarnation of one of the Panchayudham / Nandakam/Sword of Lord Vishnu.

It is also believed that the Lord wrote the ‘beejaksharas‘ (the basic letters) on Annamacharya’s tongue – no wonder then that divinity poured out of his singing and lyrics. Annamacharya’s Wife Thimakka too was a poetess and is considered the first poetess in Telugu literature.  her magnum opus is the Subhadra kalyanam’, which has 1170 poems, and describes the marriage between Arjuna and Subhadra, from the epic Mahabharata. The sons and grand children of Annamacharya were also poets who continued their writings in the footsteps of Annamacharya and they are collectively known as the Tallapaka poets.

The vigraham/statue of Annamacharya in the ‘Dhyana Mandira’

Please check out more pictures in the slide show above. A tall statue of Annamacharya, however, graces the entrance of town. I share a wonderful article by Dr. Anupama Kailash about Annamacharya here. Do give it a read to understand the genius of the great poet.

Pictures by A S Diwakar (Chennai)

I am publishing this piece on a Saturday of the Tamil month of Puratassi which is extremely auspicious for the Venkateshwara Vratham. Devotees believe that Lord Tirupati Balaji expects his devotees to come closer to the Thirumala hills. They also believe that, for those who are unable to come to Thirumala, he beams himself through the ‘Maavillukku’ (the lamp made from rice flour).

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