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rallapalli ananta krishna sharma
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Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma
Krishna Brahmatantra Swamy
Chattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy
Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma (seated) with S. R. Ramaswamy
'Gaanakale' by Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma
V. Seetharamaiah delivering the opening speech at Rallapalli's Felicitation Function
V. Seetharamaiah and others at Rallapalli's Felicitation Function
Rallapalli plays violin at his daughter's concert
Rallapalli at his Felicitation Function
Rallapalli at Sri Venkateshwara University (TTD), Tirupati receiving the Doctorate Degree
Maharaja College Group Photo showing Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma, M. H. Krishna, S. Srikanta Sastri
Rukminiamma (Rallapalli's wife)
Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma playing his violin
Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma delivering his acceptance speech
Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma receiving the Sangeeta Kala Nidhi Award
Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma was born on 23 January, 1893 in Rallapalli village in Kambadur taluk, Anantapur district to parents Sri Karnamadakala Krishnamacharya and Smt. Alamelu Mangamma. Sharma was initiated into Telugu and Sanskrit literature by his father at a very young age. He had mastered classics of Kalidasa and the Telugu trio by his 12th year of age. While his father ensured that his son had a keen interest in literature, it was thanks to his mother’s persistence that Sharma’s love for music blossomed into something tangible. Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma and his sister Yadugiramma routinely sang religious hymns at the Hanuman temple inside the fort at Rallapalli village.
Sharma left Rallapalli in 1905 and went to Mysore for further education. At Mysore he stayed in the Brahmatantra Parakala Mutt where he came under the influence of Krishnabrahmatantra Swamy. By then quite old, Krishnabrahmatantra Swamy was partially blind and was struggling to read. When Sharma came under his tutelage, he was working on his treatise on ‘Alankara Shastra’ titled ‘Alankara Manihara’. In many respects, Sharma became his eyes and ears and would read aloud the original verses so that the Swamy could hear them better and then spell out his interpretation of the same.
Next, Sharma came under the influence of Pandit Ramashastry who was a Sanskrit scholar at Chamarajanagar. Ramashastry was able to imbibe in Sharma a keen grammatical sense of the Sanskrit language, its metre and usage through the centuries. This helped Sharma to discover many forgotten compositions and hence bring them back into vogue in later years.
After this brief interlude at Chamarajanagar, Sharma returned to Mysore. Here, at the insistence of Chattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy, Ananta Krishna Sharma devoted himself once more to Telugu literature. By 1910, Reddy was a teacher at Maharaja College where he was teaching subjects like History, Logic, Philosophy and English Literature. As Sharma lacked a formal college education, Reddy became his gateway to the academic world. Reddy’s notions of thinking and modern methodologies in teaching probably had a greater effect on Sharma than it did on his own students!
While at Mysore, Sharma would attend concerts by Veena Seshanna, Veena Subbanna, Karigiriraya, Vasudevacharya, Bidaram Krishnappa and Chikka Ramaraya. Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma’s attempts at convincing some senior vocalists to take him as their student was not very successful. Exasperated, he attended a concert by Bidaram Krishnappa where he sang a composition by Tyagaraja – ‘Dyaname Varamaina Ganga Snanamu’. Sharma was overwhelmed at the overflowing emotion and religious fervour with which Krishnappa rendered the composition and implored him to accept him as a student. To Sharma’s surprise Krishnappa accepted him and taught him for the next 5 years. Sharma in his later years would describe these five years as a penance, where his guru imbibed in Sharma a keen ear for music, while doting on him to achieve the best enunciation of the ragas in the most appropriate ‘bhava’ befitting to them. Sharma later attributed Bidaram Krishnappa’s almost divine renditions to his unwavering devotion to Lord Rama.
From 1950 onwards, V. Seetharamaiah used to organise get-togethers, where he invited some of his friends and colleagues to his home. They would spend a full day with V. Si. enjoying stimulating intellectual conversations while partaking traditionally cooked meals! The usual attendees included Motaganahalli Subramanya Sastry, H. Yoganarasimha and K. V. Raghavacharya. V. Si. often described Sharma as one who wouldn’t mince words and always held his forte.
Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma settled in Bangalore in 1962. Rallappalli also used to arrange such get-togethers between 3 and 7 PM at his house where S. R. Ramaswamy, V. S. Kowshik, Magadi Gopalakannan (Editor of Prajavani) and T. V. Venkatachala Sastry used to gather. On one such occasion, Sharma delivered an almost extempore lecture on Metre (Chandassu) for two hours straight. Venkatachala Sastry, later reminisced that, even a professor who had had many hours of preparation could not have equalled Sharma in his depth of knowledge!
Sharma was invited to deliver a discourse on Ramayana at Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs at D. V. Gundappa’s request in 1960. This was a week-long affair and those who remember listening to Sharma reminisce this as a most soulful and heartfelt rendition of the great epic.
Sharma was always calm, composed and warm in his demeanour towards all. He used to enjoy reading best-sellers by Erle Stanley Gardner and James Hadley Chase as well!
Rallapalli was a bridge between literary traditions of two states. He was able to offer glimpses into the veritable treasure that each state had to offer in an effortless manner. His overall output was less, considering his vast repertoire of knowledge. When asked about this, he would often say that when such titans as Valmiki, Kalidasa and the Telugu trio of Nanaiah, Tikkanna & Eranna and many others had already authored such magnificent works, what could he write that would last generations? Sharma wrote on Carnatic & Hindustani music, comparative analysis of different schools of music, literature and music, ritualistic music, music & beauty and Valmiki Ramayana.
Penukonda Pata (poetry)
Taradevi (1911) – published in monthly magazine ‘Saraswati’
Meerabai (1912) – published in monthly magazine ‘Manavaseva’
Barghavi Panchavimshathi (1926) – anthology of poems
Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini
Shalivahana Gaathasaptha Shatheesara (1931)
Vemana – These were a collection of seven essays on Yogi Vemana presented over seven days at a conference in Anantapur in 1928. Sharma’s readings at this conference were so full of life and vigour that one of the attendees by the name of Dr. Chilukuri Narayana Rao composed a string of couplets in praise of Sharma under the name of ‘Keertaniya Charitra Krishna Sharma’! These writings on Vemana remain to this day a definitive corpus of information on the saint.
Natakopanyasamulu – These were a collection of essays written in 1935 where Sharma discussed the nuances of drama and theatre on stage. The book came with an exhaustive list of historical references, which to this day serves as a rich repository of research material for discerning scholars.
Saraswatalokamu – These were a collection of critical essays on topics like Tenali Ramakrishna’s ‘Panduranga Mahathmya’, appreciation of beauty and excellence in Krishnadevaraya period, question of authorship of Ranganatha Ramayana and Sita’s role in Tikkanna’s Uttararamacharitam. The book was a prescribed text book for Master’s degree students in Andhra Pradesh for many years.
Shalivahana Gatha Sapta Saramu (from Prakrit original – 1931) – These were translations of about 395 out of 700 Gathas (Prakrit verses) into Telugu language set in Arya metre. Later, a German scholar – Weber translated the remaining Gathas and added to this book.
'Arya’ of Sundarapanya - ‘Nritta Ratnavali’ of Jayapa Sena
‘Abhitistava’ of Vedanta Deshika
Panduranga Mahatmyamu’ of Tenali Ramakrishna (co-edited with Gauripedda Ramasubba Sharma)
Bammera Potanna’s ‘Bhagavatam’ and ‘Brahmasri’
Subbarama Dikshitar’s ‘Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini’
Tallapaka Patalu Annamacharya’s ‘Adhyatmaka & Shringara’ musical compositions
Contributions to Kannada literature
‘Ganakale’ – Essays on music and musicians like Veena Seshanna, Bidaram Krishnappa, Tyagaraja, Shyama Sastry, Muttuswamy Dikshitar and Swati Tirunal.
‘Sahitya Mattu Jeevana Kale’ – Essays on literature
Sharma was 14 years of age when he composed his first Sanskrit composition. It was devoted to Goddess Lakshmi titled ‘Jalarashi Balelole’. A compilation of his Sanskrit writings was published under the title of ‘Anantha Bharathi’ and had compositions like Sri Mahishura Rajyabhyudaya Darshala, Sri Gita Govinda Patha Parikshanam, Valmikehe Geye Parispandaha and Nyasa Kalanidhiutsava. ‘Sri Mahishura Rajyabhyudaya Darshala’ won Sharma the First Prize, among forty contestants in a poetry competition held in Mysore to commemorate the achievements of the Maharaja in 1925. It was set in Champu Kavya.
While Sharma translated many more works, he adandoned quite a few on the premise that, they were not of sufficiently high standard.! For many that he did retain, he had difficulty publishing them owing to financial constraints. On more than one occasion, C. R. Reddy offered to fund the publications of these translations. Reddy even authored a preface to one of Sharma’s seminal works in 1931. Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma assumed editorial responsibilities of Tirupati Oriental Research Institute in 1950 and was also a research scholar there till 1958. His ‘Gaanakale’ was written at the insistence of V. Seetharamaiah and Koodali Chidambaram and attracted considerable scholarly attention. D. V. Gundappa wrote a complimentary review on this in ‘Janapragati’. This was reprinted in 1973. Sharma also gave several talks on All India Radio on a host of topics related to music and history of music.
As a Vocalist
Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma listened to music by Karigiri Raya, Chikkaramaraya, Veena Sheeshanna, Subbanna, Mysore Vasudevacharya and Muthiah Bhagavatar. Sharma often limited himself to singing in private platforms. His guru – Bidaram Krishnappa felt that, as Sharma was equally proficient both in the study of Shastras as well as in singing of the compositions, it would be better to leave the field for those who sang for a livelihood. Sharma could limit himself to teaching these Shastras & Sanskrit compositions rather than singing them as a vocation. This promise made by Sharma to his teacher was one of the reasons that he seldom agreed to sing in public gatherings, especially for remuneration! Many years later, when Muthiah Bhagavatar informed Sharma that he had arranged a private concert with the Maharaja, Sharma at once politely declined and excused himself! However, many of Sharma’s close acquaintances, like N. S. Subba Rao would often visit him at his house and listen to him privately. Sharma would also arrange private bhajans and concerts at his residence where he invited close aides like V. Seetharamaiah, B. Venkataramaiah and R. K. Pattabhiraman.
Some of his personal favourites were ‘Harini Hariramani’ and ‘Amba Vishalamba’. Privately, Sharma had some reservations regarding Kalidasa’s compositions, especially with regard to his use of metre & scale and the arduous task of adapting them to singing. Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma was responsible for bringing back many of Vemana’s compositions into vogue. Similarly, he was also instrumental in popularising many of Kshetrayya’s compositions as well. In addition to popularising Vemana and Kshetrayya’s compositions, he succeeded in bringing to life the compositions of Tallapaka Annamacharya and his son Pedda Tirumalecharya. In fact, later singers like M. S. Subbalakshmi and Balamurali Krishna sang many of Annamacharya’s compositions only after they were popularised initially by Ananta Krishna Sharma. When TTD Trust (Tirupathi) began retrieving songs of Annamacharya that had been stored on copper plates from the temple lockers, it was Sharma who was at the forefront in deciphering these into legible text and eventually cataloguing them.
Sharma was quite badly affected by the Influenza pandemic in 1918. He was advised by doctors to give up singing and instead take up instrumental music.
Sharma had a keen ear for music. Once a passing beggar was heard singing ‘Nadasudharasambhilanu’ in ‘arabhi’ raga. Sharma at once ran out and invited the beggar to come in and sing the entire rendition for him. Sharma learnt this rare piece from the passing beggar and practised it over and over again. Sharma then shared it with Muthiah Bhagavatar who liked it so much that, he in turn taught the same to many of his students. Among the many vocalists whom he influenced and taught, some deserve special mention here – A. V. Krishnachar, T. S. Thathachar, B. Ramachar (Kurnool), B. Lakshminarasimhachar (Hospet), B. Venkataramayya, Phanishayi (his son), Sarojamma, Sripada Pinakapani and Sandhyavandhanam Srinivasa Rao.
Rallapalli’s vast repertoire of Telugu poetry & literature was very well known in academic circles. Kattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy from the Philosophy and English department was already a fan of Sharma’s poetry. Reddy used his influence with the University to create a lecturer’s post for Sharma. Rallappalli served the University for 38 years as a Telugu teacher from 1910 till 1949 when he retired. The University failed to sanction Sharma with a pension, inspite of sustained efforts by many of his colleagues. When T. V. Venkatachala Sastry later lamented about this travesty, Sharma retorted back that his plight was of no significance when compared to the difficulty M. Hiriyanna was put through when he was supposed to get his pension!
The University of Mysore started M. A. in Kannada in 1927. It was mandatory to select a second language. Most used to select Tamil. Following Sharma’s appointment, there was an upsurge in the number of students taking up Telugu as their second language. Some of his prominent students include K. V. Puttappa, G. P. Raja Ratnam, D. L. Narasimhachar, M. V. Seetharamaiah, T. S. Shama Rao, B. Kuppuswami, G. S. Shivarudrappa and M. S. Venkata Rao. One of Sharma’s favourite texts to teach was ‘Tikannana Udyogaparva’. Sharma’s colleagues always knew that he was the last resort in resolving doubts about musicology and Telugu literature when reliable information could not be sourced elsewhere.
Sharma married Rukminiamma when he was 18 years of age.
At Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s farewell function, Sharma composed a few lines in Radhakrishnan’s honour and read them out. Radhakrishnan was greatly impressed on hearing these impromptu compositions. But one of Sharma’s colleagues’ stood up and remarked that all the lines were in anushtab chandass (metre). Sharma took a moment and replied that if anushtab chandass was good enough for Valmiki, why should it not be good enough for the rest of us!
Sharma’s essay on the progress of Mysore state titled ‘Sri Mahisura Rajyabhyudayadarsha’ won him the first prize. The achievements of both Nalwadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar and Chamaraja Wodeyar were listed here in poetic metre.
When Rabindranath Tagore visited Mysore in 1917 and sang ‘Devi Bhuvanamanamohini’, Sharma internalised it and in rhythmic metre sang it back! Tagore was taken aback and appreciated it greatly.
At C. R. Reddy’s behest, Sharma gave a lecture on Vemana in several parts of Andhra Pradesh. He had endeavoured for many years to collect historical information on Vemana. Sadly, his success was limited, as was his predecessors’. Sharma was single-handedly responsible for bringing back many of Vemana’s renditions into popular culture. This inspired Siddavanahalli Krishnasharma, D. R. Venkataramana and T. S. Shama Rao to translate these from Telugu to Kannada.
Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma presided over the Sangeeta Sammelana in Mysore in 1927. At this meet, Sharma’s lecture was scheduled to be delivered at noon. But many preceding events took a greater share of time and Sharma was able to talk only at 1 PM. Considering that lunch was scheduled at 1:30 PM, the organisers rather bluntly requested Sharma to keep his address brief. Sharma did not take any offense and began to talk. Exactly after twenty minutes, Sharma paused and looked around. There was pin-drop silence. The entire audience was spell bound and almost in a trance listening to his meloflous voice. When Sharma continued his pause, Nageshwara Rao Panthulu stood up and rather assertively requested Sharma to continue talking and added that his words were enough fodder for their hunger. The audience joined in and requested Sharma to continue as well. This presidential address lasted 2.5 hrs! It was laced with such erudition and profound scholarship that his address was printed verbatim by ‘Andhra Patrike’, ‘Bharathi’ and other newspapers. The organisers later tendered an apology for their rude behaviour!
Sharma was honoured with the ‘Gana Kala Sindhu’ in 1961 and the ‘Gana Kala Prapoorna’ in 1969. Bangalore Gayana Samaja bestowed on Sharma the ‘Sangeeta Kala Ratna’ in 1970. Sharma received the Central Sangeet & Natak Academy Fellowship in 1973. The Madras Music Academy awarded Sharma the ‘Sangeeta Kalanidhi’ honour in 1974. Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by Tirupati Sri Venkateshwara University in 1974. The Jayanagar Cultural Society, Bangalore also conferred on him a lifetime achievement award for his lifelong contribution to the world of music and shastras. The TTD Trust conferred on Sharma the prestigious ‘Sangeeta Sahitya Asthan Vidwan’ honour. The representative from the Trust reached Sharma’s residence around 4 PM in the afternoon and presented the honour. A few hours later, around 07:15 PM, Sharma breathed his last on 30 April 1974.
Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma was a bridge between two states and two languages. He was also a walking repository of centuries of carnatic musical tradition and forgotten compositions by various saints and scholars. If not for his perseverance, many of these compositions would have been lost in the sands of time. Above all else, Sharma was the perfect bridge between the world of Shastras and the world of Sangeetha. We remember him with much gratitude and nostalgia on his death anniversary (30 April 2023). The world of carnatic music is enriched by him forever!
Deevatigegalu by Dr. S. R. Ramaswamy (1998)
Official Website of Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sharma maintained by his children.