Propagating divine music of Annamacharya
A sweet hum of Annamacharya Sankeerthanas was transcending from a small house near Devendra Theatre in Tirupati. Enter the house a humble man in a...
A sweet hum of Annamacharya Sankeerthanas was transcending from a small house near Devendra Theatre in Tirupati. Enter the house a humble man in a normal attire – Garimella Balakrishna Prasadwas seen doing some work but not without remembering the Vaggeyakara whose keerthanas have earned him all name, fame and above all livelihood.
The walls were adorned with Annamayya and Lord Venkateswara portraits showcasing his devotion and passion towards them. Even at the age of 69, his melodious voice attracts innumerable number of fans who listen to his songs and feel peaceful. By climbing the steep yet narrow staircase, he reaches the first floor for his formal practice sitting by the side idol of Annamacharya.
The pioneer in composing and rendering Annamacharya Sankeerthanas, he dedicated his life to propagating Annamayya works as an employee in TTD’s Annamacharya Project and in the process he achieved many rare feats. Hailing from a musical family, he made more than 1,000 compositions including 800 of AnnamayyaKeerthanas – making him a unique personality.
Also, he has written about 400 Sankeerthanas, which includes light music, Ashtapadulu, Ramadasa Keerthanas, Anjaneya Krithis and Navagraha Keerthanas, etc. As Annamayya’s 515th death anniversary was observed on March 14, he has explained the relevance of six centuries old Vaggeyakara’s philosophy.
Prasad opined that Annamayya Sankeerthanas can be classified broadly into two categories – Romantic and Spiritual. There were several other types of Sankeerthanas but in any Sankeerthana he imbibed ‘Venkateswara Tatwam (Philosophy)’ in an invisible way.
“Any Vaggeyakara reflects the political, social developments in their writings and Annamayya was no exception to it. Among these, any human being will be manifested with some natural weaknesses and characteristics among which the important aspect will be ‘Romance’, which has been true at all times,” Balakrishna Prasad said.
“He wrote whatever he wanted to convey, and which was important to people, in the form of songs only, that too, during those days when a poem was considered to be great. He was considered to be a revolutionist as he propagated poetry in ordinary language by mixing Vedanta with God-related romance with thousands of Sankeerthanas,” Prasad observed.
In his spiritual Sankeertanas also he brought in ‘Vishnu Tatwam’ invisibly by touching upon the human sufferings, weaknesses, attraction towards physical things, greediness, etc. “In one Sankeertana, Annamayya preached that is help we extend to others will help ourselves and any education which cannot say this is not real education. In his Sankeerthana ‘Tandanana Ahi Tandanana’ Annamayya disclosed that entire mankind is same and there is no difference between two.
Human beings are naturally attracted to beauty and also romance. To tell this, Annamayya imagined Lord Venkateswara and Alamelmanga being decorated in several forms with many ornaments, flowers, etc and gave hundreds of Sankeertanas. By serving God in all aspects he contributed his experiences as Sankeertanas to say that there is no other thing like serving God.
In the process, he wrote 32,000 Sankeertanas out of which only 12,500 are available now. Another great feature was that through his Keertanas, Annamayya also contributed values in education, grammar in Telugu language and Vedanta which was definitely a feast for literary activists. Even those who do not believe in God should also agree to this fact,” he stressed. “By reading his Keertanas, one can earn grip in language through his Keertanas, he did a lot of service to music field also.”
Meanwhile, among the 12,500 Sankeertanas that were available, only 2,500 are tuned till now. Out of them, almost 800 were tuned by Balakrishna Prasad and in that 600 were recorded for TTD. He achieved a rare feat by giving about 6,000 kacheris so far with a single Vaggeyakara’s Keerthanas and trained 70-80 artists who are also getting their livelihood. Prasad also contributed 12 books so far and created 12 typical ragas.
A students earned her PhD in the Tamil language on Prasad’s contributions to the field of music from Mother Theresa University in Tamil Nadu while another candidate is pursuing PhD now. The State Bank of India, Vijayawada, honoured him with Kanakabhishekam. Though, he won many awards and rewards by various organisations like LakshagalarchanaSaradhi, Rajalakshmi Foundation Special Award, Dr Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna Sangeetha Pratibha Puraskaaram to quote a few, he could not get Government’s recognition in the form of Padma awards.
For, this he humbly said, “Lord Venkateswara recognised and blessed me with the post of TTD Asthana Vidwan and is utilising my services. What else do I want.” He is also the Asthana Vidwan for Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.
“Though Annamayya reached the holy abode in 1503 we could not forget him even today. In fact, the whole mankind is indebted to Annamayya. But, much credit goes to TTD which has been doing yeomen service through its Annamacharya project in propagating his Sankeertanas and they will live forever,” Prasad said.
By: Vennelakanti Pradeep Kumar