Bammera Pothana

Bammera Potana
Bammera Potana

Bammera Potana (Telugu: బమ్మెర పోతన) (1450–1510AD) was an Indian Telugu poet best known for his translation of the Bhagavata Purana from Sanskrit to Telugu. He was a Telugu and Sanskrit Scholar. His work, Andhra Maha Bhaagavathamu, is popularly called as Pothana Bhagavatham in Telugu.

Bammera Potanamatyulu was considered to be a natural Poet (sahaja Kavi), needing no teacher. He was known to be very polite and was an agriculturist by occupation. Though he was a great scholar, he never hesitated to work in the agricultural fields.

Literary Career

  • Bammera Potana was one of the greatest Telugu poets of the 15th century. His most popular work is the Bhagavata Purana, which is a translation from Sanskrit to Telugu.
  • Potana was considered to be a natural Poet (sahaja Kavi), not needing a teacher.
  • He first was a devotee of Shiva, but later became a devotee of Rama, because one day Lord Rama appeared to Pothana, asking him to translate Vyasa’s Sanskrit Bhagavatam into Telugu.
  • According to a myth it is said, that Pothana was a relative of Srinatha, another famous Telugu poet.

At an early age he wrote Bhogini Dandakam a poem wrote in praise of king Sri Singa Bhoopala’s concubine Bhogini. This was his first poetic venture which had the seeds of his great poetic talents. Bhogini Dandakam is the earliest available Dhandaka (rhapsody which uses the same gana or foot all through) in Telugu. His second work was Virabhadhra Vijayamu which describes the adventures of Lord Virabhadhra, son of Lord Shiva. The main theme was the destruction of a yagna performed in absence of Lord Shiva by Daksha Prajapathi.

As a young man, he was a devotee of Lord Shiva. Later, Pothana became a devotee of Lord Rama and more interested in salvation. His conversion from Shaivism to Vaishnavism was triggered by an incident. One early morning during a lunar eclipse, on the banks of river Godavari, Pothana was meditating on Lord Shiva. At that auspicious moment, Lord Rama appeared dressed like a king and requested Pothana to translate Bhagavatam into Telugu and dedicate it to Him. This inspired him to translate Vyasa’s Sanskrit Bhagavatam into Telugu.

Persecution

The Padma Nayaka king of Rachakonda, Sarvajana Singha Bhoopaala, wanted Pothana to dedicate ‘Andhra Maha Bhagavatham’ to him. The king himself is a scholar and wrote many works including Rudranavasudhakara, a well known Sanskrit drama. But, Pothana refused to obey the king’s orders and dedicated the Bhagavathamu to Lord Rama, whom he worshiped with great devotion. It is said that Pothana remarked, ‘It is better to dedicate the work to the supreme Lord Vishnu than dedicate it to the mortal kings.’ He was of opinion that poetry was a divine gift and it should be utilized for salvation by devoting it to the God.

It is known that Pothana was patronized by this king in his early career, Pothana dedicated his first great work to this king, the king himself was a scholar, his contemporary reputation was immense (vide Srinatha’s poems). It was common practice for many poets of the time to dedicate their devotional works to God himself and not necessarily to their patron-kings. The poem containing the derision against the “Karanata Kiraata Keechakulu” is a chatuvu (apocryphal) attributed to Pothana with no proof that he actually wrote it. Even if he did, it is unclear who the Karanata villains were, very likely the rulers of Karnaata Samrajyam (the contemporary term for the Vijayanagar empire) who were raiding Rachakonda at the time. The Rachakonda kingdom was under intense turmoil at the time, under attack by the Bahamani’s from the west, Karanata (Vijayanagar) empire from the south and the Reddy Rajas from the east. Rachakonda and it’s king ceased to exist by the mid 1400’s, absorbed into the Bahmani kingdom.

Style

He was quite fond of using rhythm and repetition of sounds giving a majestic grace to the style of writing. He was very skillful in using alamkaras (figures of speech) like similes and metaphors. Potana imparted the knowledge of the divine to the Telugu people along with lessons in ethics and politics through Andhra Maha Bhagavatamu. He lived for sixty years.

Significance

Even illiterate Telugus readily quote verses from chapters ‘Gajendra Mokshamu’ and ’Prahlada Charitra’ of his work ‘Andhra Maha Bhagavathamu’, the crown jewel of Telugu literature.

God’s Writing

ala vaikuMThapuraMbulO nagarilO nAmUla soudhaMbu dApala……

This is a verse which describes the palace of Lord Vishnu in his divine abode (VAIKUNTHA), at the time the elephant king prayed for the Lord’s kindness to deliver him out of the deadly grip of crocodile in a lake.

The story goes that Pothana wrote the first line of the verse, but could not continue (because he did not know how vaikuntha looks!). So he paused the writing at that point, and went to farm (he was a cultivator by profession). When he came back in the evening, he saw the verse completed.

He enquired his daughter about who wrote the other three lines. The daughter replied – “You yourself came in the afternoon and wrote some thing!”. So Pothana understood that Lord Sri Rama himself came and completed the verse.

In fact, Pothana himself ascribed in the following poem, the purpose of his writing the Bhagavatam:

PalikeDidhi Bhagavathamata
Palikinchedivadu Ramabhadhrundata Ne
Palikina Bhavaharamagunata
PalikedaVerondu GhadhaPalukagaNela

That which is spoken is the Bhagavatam and the one who made me speak/chant this is Lord Rama. The result of chanting this (Bhagavathamata) is ultimate freedom, the Liberation of soul. So, let me sing it, since there is no other story better than this (Bhagavatham).

Sample Verses

This verse is Prahlada’s reply to his father asking him to give up glorifying the One he hated bitterly, Sri Hari.

మందార మకరంద మాధుర్యమునఁ దేలు మధుపంబు వోవునే మదనములకు
నిర్మల మందాకినీ వీచికలఁ దూఁగు రాయంచ సనునె తరంగిణులకు
లలిత రసాలపల్లవ ఖాది యై చొక్కు కోయిల సేరునే కుటజములకు
బూర్ణేందు చంద్రికా స్ఫురిత చకోరక మరుగునే సాంద్ర నీహారములకు
అంబుజోదర దివ్య పాదారవింద
చింతనామృత పానవిశేష మత్త
చిత్త మేరీతి నితరంబు జేరనేర్చు
వినుతగుణశీల! మాటలు వేయునేల?

Approximate translation:

A honeybee reveling in the honey-sweetness of Hibiscus, would he seek grass flowers?
A royal swan swaying in the pure breezes of the Ganges, would he go to the oceans?
A nightingale relishing the juices of smooth young leaflets, will he approach rough leaves?
A chakora bird blossoming in the moonlight of a full moon, would he go to dark places with thick fog?
Minds attention on the lotus-wearer’s (God’s) divine lotus-feet, a heightened headiness brought on by that nectar-like contemplation
In what way will it learn to seek another? Listen good one, what is the point of discussing (it’s obvious)?

Following is the first verse in his Andhra Maha Bhagavatam- The book that explains the nature of the God.

శ్రీకైవల్వ పదంబు జేరుటకునై చింతించదన్ లోకర
క్షైకారంభకు భక్తపాలన కళా సంరంభకున్ దానవో
ద్రేకస్థంభకు కేళిలోల విలసద్ద్రుగ్జాల సంభూత నా
నాకంజాత భవాండకుంభకు మహా నందాంగనా డింభకున్

Approximate translation:

I pray for kaivalya (proximity to god) which is the ultimate wealth, to the God (Krishna),
the one who saves all the universe,
the one who has lot of skill or art in taking care of his devotees,
the one who destroys the anger of the evil people (Daanava),
the one who creates all the universes just by his playful sight,
the one who is the son of (Yasoda) wife of Nanda.

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