Tenaliraman
Veeraswamy Krishnaraj
Some words will improve the children's vocabulary.
01Tenaliraman, a great jester in the making
Raman was born in Garlappad Village in the present Andhra Pradesh when Vijayanagaram Empire was ascendant in the 13th century under Krishna Devarayar.

Raman was a mischief incarnate from a young age. His father died when he was young, and his mother moved to Tenali. Living in Tenali, he earned the name Tenali Raman. Once he completed his school education, he moved back to Garlappad village and kept his Tenali Raman name. He was an intelligent and independent thinker but did not have a penny to call his own. He was averse to work and therefore had no money to buy food. Though he was in dire poverty, he was intelligent and wise beyond his age and earned the moniker, the mischief monger.

Severe drought hit the village hard. The ponds were dry with cracked, dry beds. Not a drop of water in the wells. The villagers were thirsty, hungry and famished. Some villagers packed what little they had and moved out of Garlappad village.

As people were fleeing the village, a lone monk came to the village. His footfall precipitated a rainfall replenishing the ponds and the wells. The villagers attributed the surfeit of water to the monk and lined up to prostrate at his feet.
Tenali Raman told the villagers that the monk's footfall and rainfall were coincidental and did not reflect the monk's divinity. The villagers dissuaded Tenali Raman not to utter a word of dissent against the monk. He did not listen, went to the monk, and said what he believed was the truth.

Raman told the monk a parable of the crow and the falling coconut. A fatigued crow perched on a coconut tree and a coconut fell to the ground. He argued that the crow did not cause the fruit to fall. The landing of the crow and the fall of the fruit were incidental and not intentional. The mature fruit would have fallen, even if the crow was far off from the tree.

The villagers were unwilling to accept Tenali Raman's argument. But the monk spoke to him in admiration after the dispersal of the adoring crowd. The monk said to Raman, "You are perceptive. I will initiate you into the world of Mantras in adoration of Kali. Recite them every day. Goddess Kali will shower blessings on you and make you famous throughout the land. People will remember you for a long time for your humor and fame."
Here is the story of Tenaliraman, known for his wit and wisdom.                                   02Tenaliraman with His Wit and Wisdom
Tenali Raman was the court jester in the Vijayanagaram empire of KrishnaDevarayar, in the present Andhra Pradesh.

Raman's father died when he was young. His mother relocated to Tenali, and thus Raman went by the name Tenali Raman. Once his school education was complete, he moved back to his Garlappad village but had no vocation, though he was intelligent, wise, and humorous by nature. He lived in poverty.

A severe drought hit the land, which fissured the once-verdant fields. The ponds and the lakes went dry. Garlappad and the surrounding villages suffered famine. People fled to distant places seeking work and sustenance. As the people were leaving, a wandering monk came to stay in the village. His footfall resulted in rainfall. The people thought he was a godsend and revered him. But Raman thought it was a coincidence it rained in the village when the monk arrived. He argued that it would have rained even if the monk did not come to the village. The villagers were afraid to irritate the monk and advised Raman to keep his manners in check. Raman said to the monk, ''A crow landed on a coconut tree, and a coconut fell on the ground. The crow's landing and the fall of the coconut were coincidental and not related.

The people who saw the incident believed that the crow caused the coconut to fall. Raman told the Swamy, 'Is it not superstition to believe the crow caused the nut to fall?"

The villagers were hesitant to accept Raman's explanation and quietly left the premises. Raman stayed back. The monk called and said to him, "I see you are intelligent, smart and wise beyond your age. I will instruct you Kali mantras for your daily recital. Goddess Kali will offer her blessings to you and make you famous for your wit and wisdom, for which generations of people will remember you.

Raman recited the Mantras daily at the temple in the night. On one midnight, a sound drowning his Mantra recital jolted him. A figure appeared from the misty haze. As it neared, Raman saw Goddess Kali with a thousand faces and two hands. Tongues of fire leaped from her thousand eyes, with her mouths agape and lolling tongues. Raman had a burst of laughter, which amused Kali. Kali asked him, "Why are you laughing?" Raman answered, "A doubt popped in my mind, making me laugh. I have two hands and one nose. My two hands are not adequate to wipe the nasal discharge when I get the common cold. You have only two hands and a thousand noses. When you get sniffles, how do you wipe your thousand noses just with two hands?

That observation made Kali laugh even more uproariously. Later, she showed her two hands, one with milk of wealth and another milk of wisdom. Kali said to Raman, "You have a choice between these two. Take one only." Raman was in a quandary. He said, "Devi! The elders say wealth brings sourness. What do they mean by it?"
Kali said, "People accumulate wealth by immoral means. It is not good. If you drink the milk of wealth, you will become rich. If you drink the milk of wisdom, you will become wise."
Raman thought he could not choose one or the other without tasting both. He took both pots, drank from them, and emptied them. And then he said, Goddess, I wanted to be wealthy and wise. That is why I drank from both pots."

Kali retorted, "Who said you could drink from both pots. As a punishment, I curse you become a jester. Raman beseeched Kali to lift (repeal, rescind and invalidate) the curse, adding, "Bless me to become a poet and a jester. You held the two pots simultaneously in your two hands, thus making them equal."

Kali knew the answer beforehand and said, "Yes, one day, you will shine as a poet and a jester. The future generations will know you only as a jester." Kali disappeared from before him soon. Raman was happy with his lot and thanked the Goddess for her blessings.
03Tenaliraman befriends a cheat

As a youth, Raman moved to Vijayanagaram, ruled by Krishnadevarayar.
He had enough self-confidence and ambition to become a member of the king's durbar. He had been planning for this quite for some time.

Raman came across a girl whom he married and by her he had a son. He was not of noble descent and had no connections. These were far from his mind. He was looking for an easy way into the durbar by cultivating the friendship of the influential royal priest Tathachary, who visited the Devi temple at Mangalagiri near Tenali. Raman's mind had only one thought: How can I coax, cajole, and please Tathachary so the latter can get him a position in the royal court? Raman expressed his desire to the royal priest, who became devious, cunning, and jealous of Raman after reading his poem, Lingapurana, thought Raman could damage his reputation if he became a court jester.

Now staying in Mangalagiri, the priest was hatching a devious and evil plan to deal with Raman. He kept him close and had him serve his needs with a promise that the job in the court was near at hand. One day Raman recited the poem Lingapurana to the priest, who being an erudite scholar, could appreciate the richness of his poems. The priest boosted Raman's confidence saying he was too good for a position in the royal court and that the king would fall head over heels listening to the poem. Raman continued to serve the priest, satisfying his personal needs. His dedication to the priest remained undiminished.

It was time for the priest to return to the palace. Tathachary invoked torrential tears for Raman and said to him, "I appreciate your service to me, and as soon as I settle down in the palace, I will send an attendant for you to go to the palace. With tears rolling down his face, Raman saw the priest off. Raman felt a great burden off his shoulders and joy descend into his heart. He waited for a long time. No attendant was in sight. With his wife and child, Raman left for Vijayanagaram, intending to land a job in the royal court. He reached the house of the priest after an arduous journey with his wife and son.
The servant at the door received him. Raman said to the servant, "Your master knows Raman from Tenali. I am eager to see him." The reply came back promptly, "I know no Raman from Tenali."
Raman, tired after an arduous journey with a wife and son, became angry at the priest's failure to acknowledge his service to the priest at Mangalagiri. Raman rushed into the house headlong in a fit of rage, only to be thrashed hard by the servants set upon by the priest. The servants threw him out of the house. Raman, dusting himself off from the front yard of the house, said, "One day, I will exact revenge on this cheater."
04The King Notices Tenali Raman
Debates, live shows, and entertainment were standard fare in the court. Tenali Raman, with no invitation from the king, found his way into Darbar and sat in the audience section of the debate hall.

The subject of debate was 'Illusion.' A debater and scholar from North India spoke authoritatively, "Each of us is a living and breathing aggregate of body, mind, soul, thoughts, and deeds. Thought is important because it is the seat of happiness or sadness."

A murmur rose in the chamber. All agreed on the scholar's proposition and assertion—no opposing voice. The king appeared disappointed that no one rose to challenge the scholar's position.
After an interlude of silence, a voice boomed from the audience section. The voice was that of Tenali Raman. He said, "Dear king, scholars, and attendants. It is noon now and time for a lavish meal gracefully extended by the king. We will all enjoy the meal, but the debating scholar on the subject of  Illusion should not eat the meal. Let his proposition be his guide: Let his thought of eating satisfy his hunger, while he sits firmly in his place in the debate Hall. We will be in the Dining Hall eating our delectable meals."
The scholar was in a predicament. The king called Raman to his side and awarded him gold coins.
05Tenali Raman as Court Jester

People were excited to see a visitor from North India. A magician by trade performed multiple magical tricks before the king, his subjects, and the native performers. He challenged the people in the audience hall if anyone could do any magic. No one came forward. The king was upset.

A lone person stood up and approached the king. That was Tenali Raman. He told the king, the magician, and the audience he could do magic with closed eyes. He challenged the magician whether he could do the trick with open eyes. The magician accepted the challenge. Raman whispered something to the palace attendant.

The magician said that he could do with open eyes what Raman does with closed eyes.
Raman applied the chili powder to his closed eyes. After some time, he wiped off the powder and opened his eyes.
Raman gave a packet of chili powder to the magician and asked him to do with open eyes what he did with closed eyes. The magician realized his foolish mistake in accepting challenge, that involves applying chilli powder in the open eyes.  The people in the audience booed the visiting magician out of the hall. The king appointed Tenali Raman as a Court Jester.

The Durbar royal priest Tathachary congratulated Tenali Raman but felt intense jealousy that Raman got his job without his help, which he never intended to give. The king appreciated Raman’s presence, wit, intelligence, and wisdom. The people in the audience congratulated him.
06Vengeance
Tenali Raman was the king's favorite in the court. With that as his asset, Raman was hell-bent on reaping his vengeance on the old and decrepit Tathachary by teaching him a lesson. Because of Tathachary's long service to the king, good standing in the town, and power, he was under the false notion he could do anything he wanted.
As usual, Tathachary was on his way to the river for his daily dip. The royal priest shed his clothes on the riverbank and went to the river. All this time, Tenali Raman tailed him secretly, picked up his clothes, and hid them elsewhere. The priest came out of the river dripping wet and sand on his feet.
Tathachary could not find his clothes where he left them. But Tenali Raman stood where he left his clothes. Raman's tit for tat was unfolding, gradually inflicting pain on the high priest. Raman stood before Tathachary with no sign of acknowledging him. But Tathachary knew for a fact that Raman hid his clothes. Tathachary implored Raman, "Please give me my clothes." The priest was back in the river to hide his nakedness. Raman could now taste his victory: The high priest has no clothes.
Tenali Raman recounted the yeoman service he provided to the priest in the past, the thankless ingratet disclaimed knowing him, and the way his servants thrashed him and threw him on the street.
Tathachary said," I am very sorry for what I did to you. Please forgive and give me my clothes."
Raman replied, "I will give you your clothes on one condition: You should carry me on your shoulders to the palace grounds."
Tathachary weighed the condition ponderously and accepted, saying," I will carry you to the palace."
The high priest picked Raman, put him on his shoulders, and lumbered on the streets. The people crowed and cackled to see an old man carry a younger person.
07Tit For Tat

The king was standing on the portico of his palace and surveying the city below. He heard raucous voices and laughter. He saw the royal high priest of the palace carrying the newly appointed jester, Raman. The king could not understand what he saw: the humiliation of Tathachary. The king ordered his palace guards to bring both men to him and beat up the man riding on Tathachary.

Raman had a good look at the king talking to the guards. Raman figured out what the king said to the guards. Immediately Raman got down, fell prostrate at the feet of the palace priest, begged for his forgiveness, and addressed him, “Dear sir, your shoulders must be sore carrying me so far and so long. I beg your pardon, and I will carry you to the destination as an atonement.”
The arrogant yet unwise priest took the offer, thinking Raman got his good sense back and climbed on Raman’s back. Raman kept walking with the priest on his back.
The two palace guards pulled down the palace priest Tathachary and beat him up. The haughty priest then recalled how his servants beat up Tenali Raman when he came to his house seeking help to get a job in the palace.
08 The king orders death by Sword to Raman
 .
The guards produced Tenali Raman before the king because they did not know the switch made by Raman. The king burst out in anger, ''Raman is a demon. Guards, I told you to smite Raman and fetch the priest. In reality, the exact opposite took place.

The guards said, ''We followed your orders to the letter: Beat up the rider and bring the carrier. We saw the priest riding on the back of Raman, so we brought Raman, the carrier of the priest.''

The irate king said, ''Raman has grievously abused the priest, the subjects and me in person. For this affront, I order you cause Raman death by the sword. After his death, hand over the blood-stained sword to the commander as proof. Raman stood there impassive and silent. The guards took him away.
09Raman escapes death sentence
 
The king imposed a death sentence on Raman. Two close aides of the king overheard the king's verdict, were witnesses to the beating of Raman by the priest Tathachary's minions at his house, and decided to help Raman. Raman was on his way to the execution site, led by the king's executioners.

The two good Samaritans stealthily followed Raman and the executioners to the forest with a goat on a leash. Since the good Samaritans were friends of the executioners, Raman's secret friends persuaded them to kill the goat and show the blood-stained sword as the sign of the killing of Raman. The king's executioners were hesitant to accede to the request of the good Samaritans but finally agreed, and each took ten gold coins from Raman. The two good men asked Raman to go away to a distant place, where the king could not harm him. The two executioners showed the stained sword as evidence of killing Raman. Tathachary was glad that Raman was dead. But Raman's friends were sad.

10Compensation

Raman Ran out of the jungle, picked up his wife and son, and went to his ancestral home, Garlappad. He asked his wife and mother to go to the king, request compensation for killing a wage-earning husband and son. Both went crying, sobbed, and lamented before the king about the death of Raman and loss of income to support the family.

Mother Laksmamma said, "O king, you killed my only son, I had." His wife Mangamma sobbed, saying, "O my king, you made me a widow. My son will grow without a father. Who will support us?" The king comforted them and ordered the treasury to give each 100 gold coins with a monthly annuity of 20 coins. The mother and son returned, handed over the coins to Tenali Raman, who was glad he recouped the bribe paid to the king's executioners to escape death by the sword.
11Plan on Pacification of Raman's Soul
Killing is a sin. That too, killing a Brahmin is the worst sin with severe consequences. Atonement is costly and exacting. The perpetrator was the king, and the victim was the Brahmin, Tenali Raman. This sin afflicts not only the king but also the entire country. One day the queen heard an ethereal voice. The attendants told King Krishnadevarayar. The king called for a convention of priests with a plan to entomb the soul of Raman.

The priests waited for a moonless night to bury Raman's soul under a Banyan tree near the temple. Somehow, the word of his soul facing burial reached the ears of Raman. He prepared black oil and smeared it all over his body, climbed up the tree, and waited for the head priest and 108 other priests to bury Raman's soul under the tree. The priests chanted Mantras to summon the spirit. At that moment, Raman, with a blackened and oil-slick body, jumped right on top of the chanting priests, who thought it was a ghost, and took to their heels. The following day, the passel of priests narrated to the king the ghost's visitation at the midnight hour under the tree near the temple. The news spread throughout the kingdom. The people were afraid to leave the safety of their homes. Panic struck the king like a bolt from the blue.

The king thought long and hard and came up with a solution: Someone should exorcise the ghost for a fee of 1000 gold coins. Messengers proclaimed throughout the kingdom hiring an exorcist.
Raman heard this news in his hometown and was joyous of fructification of his plans.
12Raman is back in the palace
Vijayanagaram empire was at a standstill because people feared going out and being seized by the Tenali Raman ghost. For a few days after the proclamation, there was no ghost expeller appearing before the king. The king was unhappy in his court. Tathachachary was in attendance. A palace messenger announced there was a sage outside the palace. The sage appeared before the king dressed in saffron, wore a navel-long matted beard, and prayer beads around his neck. He confidently said he could evict the ghost. The king liked the sage. The sage asked the king, "Are you ready to offer me whatever I demand?" The king replied, "Dear sage, Please don't ask me things that will damage the reputation and welfare of my country."

The king and the sage agreed to the spirit of the conditions. The king made a demand to the sage, "I want the expulsion of Raman's soul and also the expiation of the sin of killing the Brahmin."
The sage said," I will proceed with funeral ceremonies as if Raman was not dead." The king was quick to say, "Can you resurrect Tenali Raman?" The court priest had a cause for concern and said, "Do not resurrect Raman. He would be an annoyance. The members of the court knew Raman was a danger to Tathachary. The sage observed, 'The killing of the culprit Tenaliraman by the king was according to the law and therefore not a sin.
Tathachary insisted that killing a person is appropriate. Therefore we should bury the soul of Tenaliraman. His ghost is at the temple. "

The monk said he could do the ceremonies at the palace itself. That statement by the monk upset the palace priest.
The king insisted that the monk should do the needful to expiate the sin of killing the Brahmin by him.

Addressing the king, the monk in disguise (Tenaliraman) removed the bush of matted hair from his face. The king jumped up from his throne as Tathachary stepped back in fear. Raman addressed the king, "I am Tenaliraman killed by you."
The court, until then, believed Raman was dead.
The king addressed Raman and said, "What do you want from me?"
Raman replied, "Withdraw the death sentence on me and compensate me with a thousand coins."
The king agreed and awarded Raman his gold coins and withdrew his death sentence.

13Raman Gets Another Death Sentence
 People were jealous of king Krishnadevarayar for his benevolence. Some had the murder of the king on their minds. A secret agent from Nalgoda came to the capital city to kill the king. He stayed at the house of Tenali Raman, who invited the king to go to his house. The king assumed it must be a vital matter for Raman to invite him. The king came to the home of Raman. The spy lunged forward to kill the king with a knife. The king's guards stopped the attacker from harming the king.

The king and the guards thought Raman provided the safe house to the killer-spy. Raman appeared in the court and agreed he provided a safe house to the spy. The defense minister Appaji dispensed the death penalty to Raman. The assembled people protested; Appaji relented and asked Raman to choose the mode of death.
Raman said in his defense, "I am sorry I harbored the man from Nalgoda. I did not know of his intention to kill the king. I feel pained to receive a death sentence. I am grateful the minister gave me the opportunity to choose the mode of death. Therefore, I choose to die of natural causes in old age." The people felt exhilarated to see Raman escape death a second time.
14 Mental Patient Kills A Fake Monk
 
Vijayanagaram empire had its share of crooks, cons, and charlatans. A phony monk in the full monkish regalia of ochre clothes, a staff, a Kamandalam, a fake tiger skin, and many other accouterments was roaming around the kingdom committing chicanery, murder, all other dastardly acts. He sometimes played the role of a hitman for the rich, playing havoc on the hapless poor. A poor man had earlier had a conflict with a rich man. The monk met with the rich man and promised to take care of the poor man for a sum. Unknowing to the poor man, the monk sought a temporary stay in his house, intending to make him insane by poisoning him or outright killing him. Tenali Raman knew his true colors on seeing the sordid monk.

One day the monk came across the man in ochre clothes. A third man came near them and killed the monk. Later, Tenali Raman discovered that the killer became insane because of the craven act of the fiendish monk. The insane man walked off from the site after his successful mission of revenge.
15Tenali Raman Escapes Death Again.
 The death of the bogus monk by the insane man reached the ears of the king. The insane man and Raman were under arrest for the death of the monk. The royal court acquitted the mad man for reasons of insanity, proceeded with Raman as the collaborator, and found Raman guilty of murder.
The king ordered Tenali Raman buried up to his neck in the ground and trampled to death by the royal elephants. These were Middle Ages. Such cruel punishments were in vogue.
The king's soldiers dug a pit and buried Tenali Raman upto his neck, and left to bring elephants to the site. A hunch-backed washerman went that way and saw Raman's face was sticking out of the ground as the head of cabbage. The washerman asked Raman why he stood there buried in the mud. Raman replied, "I have a hunchback like yours. This burial will straighten the spine and his back. You can see my straight spine if you dig me
 out."

The washerman dug Raman out of the hole in the ground, saw the straight back of Raman, and jumped into the pit. Raman helped fill the hole in the ground. Raman returned home safe and sound.
The king's men came and saw the washerman in the pit with his donkey by his side. The washerman told the story to the king's men. They did not beleive him because these were not the men who burried Tenaliraman. The elephant walked over him crushing him to death.
Tenali Raman escaped death one more time.
16Monthly Allowance to Washerman's wife.

The king was very upset , when he discovered Raman tricked the washermen to take his place in the death-pit. The king discovered further that the dead monk was a criminal in his kingdom. Because the fake monk died, several people were safe from his evil acts.

The king cried for the death of the dhobi. Raman appeared before the king and narrated the story of the switch he made with the dhobi to save his life. The king was sorry for the dhobi’s family and gave her a monthly allowance. After some time, she married a man with a straight back.
17Death & Resurrection: Raman

Tenaliraman needed quick cash and borrowed gold coins instead of money from king Krishnadevarayar. A long time passed, and Raman did not pay back his debt to the king, whose debt minder sent a messenger to Raman demanding money and keeping his promise.             

Raman was up to his ears in debt, could not pay the king, and told the messenger he had no money to pay but promised to pay later. After the messenger took leave of Raman, he laid in the bed with white sheets spread over him as if he was a corpse. Loud cries alerted the neighbors. They came to Raman's house and found his mother and wife sitting by the bed crying, beating their chests, and wiping their eyes and noses. The neighbors saw Raman, gave his body a shake, and found his body cold, stiff, and dead. The news reached the king. He came promptly to pay respects to dead Raman. The king comforted Raman's wife and mother and asked them how he died. Raman's mother told the king, "My son was well and in good health until the royal messenger came to demand money and left the house. Raman went to bed after that and never woke up. Before his death, he asked me to pay the king what he owed to the king."             

  The king took pity on Raman, his mother, and wife, and told his money manager to forgive the debt. His mother should not have to bear the burden either. As soon as the king pronounced his decision, Raman stirred in bed. Everybody was waiting to see what would happen next. Soon, the white sheets came off, and from below, Raman emerged. He looked very much alive. The king was shellshocked to see a dead man rise from the bed. Raman calmed the king and said, "O king! Do not be afraid. Your merciful declaration to write off my debt was the mantra that brought me back from death. Your generosity gave me back my life.

The king asked Raman, "How did you die? How did you come back to life? "Raman replied, "Debt burden was the cause of death and debt relief declared by you was the cause of resurrection." Those words amused the king. He raised Raman's salary. Since then, Raman did not borrow money.
18The King Rewards Raman for his insult
 Krishnadevarayar bought a show horse, capable of performing many actions. People liked and praised the horse.
The royal horse with the king as the rider did all the exercises on the bridge across the Tungabhadra River. Tenaliraman watching the exercises, asked the king, "Can your good horse do the exercises that my horse can do?"
The king took the challenge, asked Raman to bring his horse to the bridge, and did not relish Raman's insult to his horse. Promptly, Raman brought a famished decrepit horse to the bridge. The horse was all skin and bones. It was so feeble that anyone mounting on it would plummet with the horse.
Raman went back and forth between the back and front of the horse, pushing and pulling it to the bridge. In the bridge, Raman pushed the weak horse into the river. The horse swam against the current with great difficulty, reached the riverbank, and soon died of exhaustion. The king and the onlookers were visibly angry at Raman for pushing a weak horse into the river and killing it. The king addressed Raman, "You knowingly killed the weak horse by pushing it into the river."
Raman replied, "Yes, sir, I pushed my horse into the river to save your horse. Your show horse is incapable of doing what my horse could do. The king assigned the blame on Raman for the death of the horse. Raman replied, "Dear king, losing a worthless friend is not a loss but a gain."
The king thought his argument  was cogent and rewarded him with a sack of money.