SREE SEETHA RAMACHANDRA SWAMY SHRINE-TEMPLE OF LORD RAMA IN BHADRACHALAM
This temple town of Bhadrachalam, located on the northern banks of the river Godavari in Khammam District of Telangana, India, best describes my Indian Identity as it brings together our myths, our legends and our quest for the “Ultimate Reality”.
This place is connected to events described in the epic poem of Ramayan which narrates Lord Rama’s journey in our Land. Rama while living in exile, camped in the forest by the name ‘Dandakaranya’ and His spouse Seetha was abducted and eventually, Rama and His brother Laxmana cross the river Godavari at this place in search of Seetha. A pious man known as Bhadra prayed at this place seeking Lord Rama’s return to this place. Much later, a simple woman who lived in this area discovered the idols of ‘Vaikuntha Rama’ with Seetha seated on His lap and the idol of Laxmana standing next to them.
Kancharla Gopanna, a Tahsildar (revenue official) of Palvancha Paragana, built this temple in 1674 A.D. The legend about the divine intervention and the miraculous release of Gopanna from the prison at the Golconda Fort is narrated in my previous entry titled, ‘The Benevolent Shia Ruler of Golconda-Verily A Blessed Soul’.
ABOUT MYTHS AND LEGENDS:
Myths are traditional stories which serve to explain our connection to God and the universe and hence they are not the same like the fictional stories. Myths exist in a historical context but may not be true historical accounts that are supported by scientific verification. Legends are stories handed down for generations among a people and popularly believed to have a historical basis but do not qualify for inclusion in a text book of history. As an Indian, I depend upon myths and legends to derive a sense of direction, a sense of guidance and a sense of hope for my human existence. They help me to know who I am and where I am going.
ABOUT REALITY AND ULTIMATE REALITY:
Indians are very concerned about the effects of Time . We practically witness in our daily lives the forceful consequences of time. Time changes the course of human life and time changes the physical world. However, the “Ultimate Reality” does not change, it is constant and it is eternal. Indians seek this Reality as it represents their natural home and that is their final destination on completion of the life’s journey. Since ‘TRUTH’ is unchanging in its character, is also described as the Reality that we cherish to experience. Millions of Indians express this desire for Truth and the Reality with a very simple statement. They claim that the name “RA MA” is eternal Truth. Our search for Truth and Reality becomes very easy if we just seek “RA MA”. Great powers on this earth had vainly tried to destroy our belief in RAMA. Mughal Emperor Babur destroyed the temple in Ayodhya which we consider as Rama’s birth place. The forces of Sultan Tughlak destroyed the Rama temple in my home town Rajahmundry. Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed countless number of temples and idols of Rama. Yet the myth and legend of Rama survives. At Bhadrachalam also known as Bhadra giri or Bhadradri (the hill of Bhadra), Sultan Tani Shah, a benevolent Shia Muslim ruler of Golconda, helped Kancharla Gopanna to maintain this temple and this devotee of Rama is popularly known by the name Bhakta Rama Dasu.
WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE TO DESTROY RAMA?
Many have tried to destroy the idols and images of Rama. For example, if some one would destroy the temple of Rama in Bhadrachalam, we still connect this place and the forest and the river with Rama’s life journey. If some one would destroy the forest, level the ground and change the course of the river, I would still look for the signs of His presence in the creation of the heavens and the earth. I would describe the blue sky as the color of Rama. If some one could destroy the blue sky and when I look up and see the dark sky, I would say that I am reminded of Lord KRISHNA who is described as black in color as dark as the sky of New Moon’s day. Our myths remind us that Rama and Krishna are one and the same. I do know people take great pride in their physical power but it may not be easy to wipe out a belief system which is more than the Idols which represent the Belief. I had mentioned before in a previous entry and the Indian Identity that I had defined is willing to accept the challenge of ‘TEN COMMANDMENTS’ and the Indian Identity would survive as long as there is a sky above our heads and as long as the difference of night and day exists on this earth.
” Lo ! In the creation of the heavens and the earth and (in) the difference of night and day are tokens (of His sovereignty) for men of understanding”. Surah III, verse 190, Holy Book of Quran.
Shia Muslim Ruler of Golconda. Verily, a Blessed Soul
Sultan Abul Hasan Qutb Shah was the seventh and the last ruler of the Kingdom of Golconda (Deccan, Southern India) under the Qutb Shahi Dynasty. He ruled from 1672 A.D. to 1687 A.D. He is also known as Abul Hasan Tana Shah and more popularly, he is known as TANI SHAH meaning benevolent ruler. He did not discriminate against those of other ethnicities or religions. He hired Hindus as his ministers and generals. Madanna was his Chief Minister. Madanna had a nephew by name Kancharla Gopanna. He appointed Gopanna as a “Tehsildar” (a revenue official) of Palvancha county. Gopanna inadvertently used the public funds for the construction of RAMA temple on the banks of River Godavari at a place known as Bhadrachalam. Sultan Tani Shah found Gopanna was guilty of the misuse of the funds and had him imprisoned at the Golconda Fort.
A LEGEND ABOUT DIVINE INTERVENTION:
Gopanna spent about 12 years in prison. According to legend, God intervened on behalf of Gopanna to obtain his release from the prison at Golconda Fort. As per the legend, Lord Rama in disguise had come before the King and returned the money owed by Gopanna and the debt was repaid with gold coins. God who came to rescue Gopanna from the prison had met the Sultan but not the prisoner. Upon his release from the prison, Gopanna did express his sorrow for missing the opportunity to meet the Lord. Gopanna was released from the prison and he successfully finished the construction of the Rama temple which stands even today. Sultan Tani Shah publicly acknowledged that he had met “ALLAH ” and recognized the fact of Gopanna’s release from the prison was made possible by divine intervention. He made permanent arrangements for the upkeep of this temple. The funds that were collected as tax from Palvancha county were allocated to the temple and also he had established an annual tradition of sending pearls to shower the Deity during the annual temple festival. This tradition of offering pearls was continued by the rulers of the princely State of Hyderabad popularly known as the ‘Nizams of Hyderabad’, who ruled the Telangana region continuously until India’s independence. The Hyderabad State became a part of the Indian Union and the State of Andhra Pradesh came into existence in 1956. The Government of Andhra Pradesh and later Telangana followed the tradition established by Sultan Tani Shah in the 17th century and the tradition of offering pearls to Lord Rama still exists.
VERILY A BLESSED SOUL:
Did Lord Rama actually visit Golconda Fort to obtain the release of Kancharla Gopanna from the prison? Sultan Tani Shah believed that it was God or Allah who had come to him and cleared the debt owed by Gopanna. He further expressed that belief in his actions. He allowed Gopanna to complete the construction of Lord Rama’s Temple in Bhadrachalam and financially supported the maintenance of that Temple. By doing so, the Shia Ruler of Golconda gave us a chance to reflect upon Lord’s Mercy, Grace, and Compassion.
This benevolent ruler defended the Golconda Fort for eight months when the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb attacked it in 1687 A.D. In October 1687, the Fort was captured by bribery and Sultan Tani Shah was taken as a prisoner and was imprisoned in Daulatabad Fort until his death.
I would call Sultan Tani Shah is a Blessed Soul for he recognized God’s plan and purpose and supported Gopanna to build the temple and provided for the maintenance of the temple and gave us the opportunity to know about God’s Compassion, Grace, and Mercy. Secondly, Sultan Tani Shah received the biggest gift that a man could ever seek. Man always cherishes the idea of meeting his Creator, the Father in Heaven, Allah, the Lord, RAMA the divine reincarnation of Vishnu and very few actually realize that dream. Gopanna was rescued but could not meet RAMA. Sultan Tani Shah did not pray or ask for this favor from God. He is a Blessed Soul because God granted him that gift. He received a sensory experience of that Reality called God and I fully trust this experience he had shared with others. Sultan Tani Shah’s actions substantiate his claim. Most importantly, he did not seek any personal reward or personal gain while he acted in the obedience of a God he never actually believed and had never intended to worship in any manner. He acted without seeking the fruits of his actions. I bless this Shia Ruler of Golconda and pray for Lord’s Peace be upon him forever.