Define God !
“Lokambulu lokesulu lokastulu tegina tudi nalokambagu penjeekati kavvala nevvadu ekakruti velugu nantine bhajiyimtun”
“When all the worlds, rulers and beings cease to exist, all that is left of the world is unfathomable darkness and from beyond that darkness, He, who shines as the single force of energy and light, to Him alone I pray !”
Sounds very close to the energy behind the Black Holes, doesn’t it?Isn’t that what God is, the single force of light that remains undestroyed when everything else is gone? Over 500 years ago, Bammera Pothana, described God thus, in his Andhra Mahabhagavatham and to this day it is probably the most powerful definition of God !
When you talk about Telugu literature, Pothana’s Bhagavatham is like the crest jewel, you cannot imagine Telugu language without Bhagavatham and for that the language is deeply indebted to Bammera Pothana. Through his Telugu version of the Bhagavatha Purana, Pothana not only gave Telugu its most celebrated work of literature but also showed people the real meaning of devotion, the path to spirituality and philosophy. People like this writer consider themselves blessed to know Telugu well enough to read and be touched by Pothana Bhagavatham !
The Holy land of Bhagavatham
When we were drawing the route map for this trip through Warangal, we suddenly remembered reading about Bammera, Pothana’s ancestral village near Warangal. Having grown up in a family that literally worshipped the Andhra Maha Bhagavatham, it was a matter of great excitement for us that Bammera was on the route to Hyderabad from Warangal. We also read that Pothana’s land in the village had been identified and a memorial was being developed and so on our return to Hyderabad, we wanted to visit Bammera.
Bammera, is today a small village about 50 kms from Warangal. One has to drive upto to Ghanpur (not to be confused with the other Ghanpur near Ramappa Temple) and then take the route towards Palakurthy, Bammera is on the way. For us, it was a pleasant drive through the interior country side, surprisingly the roads were good everywhere.
We were a little hesitant when we reached Bammera because you never know if you can simply drive into a village and go looking for somebody’s land ! We asked some of the villagers and they directed us to this temple at the end of the village, they told us it was a temple built in memory of Pothana.
The temple was closed, a few kids played hide and seek near the memorial hall built in Pothana’s name sometime in the 1970s and buffaloes were busy grazing in the land. The memorial hall was locked too, the kids told us there was nothing inside and giggled around us as we tried to look inside through the only open window. It looked like some kind of a community hall with idols of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana for Pothana was a great devotee of Lord Rama. There is also a statue of Pothana.
There was nobody to tell us if this was actually Pothana’s land. Near the memorial hall, we found some ancient stone blocks with faded sculpture. Wonder if they had anything to do with Pothana !
Assuming this was all there was to see, we were returning back to the car when we met an old man, Mallayya who was busy smoking tobacco near a Government information board that spoke about road laying and other development work at Bammera near Pothana’s land ! Mallayya pointed out to the fields and told us the farthest one with some construction work in progress were actually Pothana’s fields !
In Pothana’s native village, not many seemed to have an idea about Bhagavatham or its place in Telugu literature, they only knew the “great Pothana” lived here and everybody we met told us the same thing !
Pothana’s legends, live !
There was a news sometime ago that the plot of land had once belonged to Pothana and when it was being disposed off by his heirs, the Kakatiya Heritage Trust purchased the land from them to safeguard Pothana’s memory. While digging the land, they also discovered a few granite slabs at one spot which they believe was Pothana’s grave. We were told that the Trust had taken up the work of building a memorial around the spot where the granite slabs were found.
In the distance, we could see a dry field with a wall being built, that was Pothana’s plot, the field he must have tilled !
A story goes that Pothana, while trying to write a verse to describe Vaikuntam, couldn’t find the right words, so he took a break and went to his field. On his return, he found that the verse had been completed, when he checked with his family about who wrote the verse, they told him they had seen him writing it and then Pothana realized that the Lord himself had come to help him ! Were these the same fields he had gone to?
Mallayya told us another story of how, when the poverty stricken Pothana’s oxen were taken away, his plough was miraculously found tilling the soil on its own ! Was this the plot of land?
We walked towards the fields and then it struck us that we were really in the village where Pothana lived and wrote the Bhagavatham ! If his fields were close by Pothana must have walked this path !
We could feel a rush of excitement when we reached the memorial being built for Pothana, we were standing in the very land that Pothana had laid his hands on, breathing the air that he once breathed ! The stories no longer felt like legends, they seemed real !
We considered ourselves blessed to be standing there, to be in the presence of the remnants of an immortal poet. As our humble tribute, we mentally recited the few verses from the Bhagavatham we had learnt and walked back, slightly overcome by emotion, filled by a certain Telugu pride !
In Pothana’s service
On our way back through the village, we spotted a house with a huge poster of Pothana, it said Pothana Seva Samithi.
Curious, we went inside the house and met Mr.Jilla Ayodhya, an old man who is an exponent of Pothana’s works. He has read several of Pothana’s works and published papers on them and recognized and awarded by the Government of Andhra Pradesh for his contributions in promoting Pothana’s works.
He showed some of his work and we chatted for sometime discussing the great poet’s works and his stories. Despite authoring the never before and never again Bhagavatham, Pothana lived in utter poverty and misery, simply because he refused to dedicate his work to the king, for him writing Bhagavatham was his ultimate surrender to God, his way of worshipping Lord Rama and his tribute to Goddess Saraswathi. There is another story about how Pothana assured a tearful Goddess Saraswathi that he wouldn’t betray Her for riches by dedicating his work to the kings. He could make money out his work but he refused to make a business out his passion, his single minded dedication to the story of the Lord ! Not many of us would choose this path but then that is why not every one goes on to become a Pothana !
It was an “Oh my God !” moment for us when we got back to the car and the whole thing sunk in. We’ve had many trips, memorable, cherished, adventurous, fun but this is one trip that made us proud ! Through the rest of our journey back to Hyderabad, we read Pothana’s poems and wondered if really Lord Rama came all the way to write a verse for him for every verse that we read was nothing short of divine bliss !
We were out on this trip for only two days and at the maximum 300 kms from home but the places we visited and the experiences we had during the trip made it feel like we were away for a lifetime to some other world !
– Bammera is about 127 kms from Hyderabad. If you plan to take a bus, you could get down at Ghanpur and find buses to Palakurthy, Bammera is about 5 kms from Palakurthy.
– Visiting Bammera is like a literary pilgrimage, there is little else to do there. For a fan of Telugu literature, of course, there is a lot to experience by just being there.
– Bammera is a small village so there are not many shops, eateries and the like. Visiting the memorial and the small temple wouldn’t take more than half an hour. If you are traveling to Warangal, you could stop by for a quick visit.
– The Kakatiya Trust seems to have some ideas to promote Pothana’s legacy, let us hope the ideas work out.
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