(Mannava Butchi Raju Sarma alias ‘Raju Bava’)
The saga of AMMA is sung by Brother Mannava Butchi Raju Sarma originally. This echoed even before Matrusri Anasuya Devi, more widely revered as AMMA Jillellamudi, has come into public awareness..
AMMA is eternal, yet her physical life span is largely divided into three phases; early childhood in Mannava, where HER ramblings in and around Mannava are well documented, containing many a devotional and divine anecdotes that captivated all those around in the village neighborhood.
This clearly conveyed that AMMA displayed all signs of spiritual perfection or divine manifestation ever since HER birth. Even during this phase of infancy many have accepted HER divinity. Many or most of these events are contained in AMMA’S published biography.
Yet, AMMA is still known among the close few and in the surrounding cluster of the villages which AMMA visited off and on; quite a few have come to know the child AMMA and begot many godly experiences. This initial exposure convinced those few of AMMA’S extraordinary being and HER godliness.
Years after, in the year 1940 SHE moved to Jillellamudi, committed to domesticity, leading the life of a dutiful housewife, upholding the holy matrimony. Gradually Jillellamudi has become the hub of activity and numerous persons have started seeing AMMA, staying at Jillellamudi, necessitating their care and feeding.
From 1956, AMMA has come to be known more and more among the public at large, and amenities have been created for the visiting public although modestly, befitting the rural ambience. Individual experiences are being talked about and passed on from person to person, with the trickling visitors growing in numbers into ever so many.
But the phase of two decades spanning from 1936 to 1956 was muffled in obscurity and has not come under public gaze fully. This is the phase of AMMA’S domesticity or the period when SHE led the life of an ordinary housewife in a rural household in the tiny village of Jillellamudi that does not have even the basic amenities and essential creature comforts.
As disclosed by AMMA herself, life was hard and difficult. Water needs to be carried from the village tank, walking over the village paths strewn with pebble and thorn, as there were no roads or even well set foot ways to walk upon. Stringency and scarcity were regular companions.
During the monsoons, water flooded the thatched dwelling and snakes were to swarm inside along with the flood water. If the children were put in a cloth swing hung from the roof, snakes were to descend from the roof. The village at that time had no food crops and only dry crops like tobacco were cultivated. Obviously the environs were hard and niggardly amidst which living has to be eked out.
In this situation, life at Arkapuri (Jillellamudi), made a difficult difference for AMMA hailing from an affluent background in Mannava, a well provided prosperous village. AMMA accepted this changed stringent scenario unconditionally and lived the life of an ordinary housewife in an exemplary manner, doing all the domestic chores, serving HER husband, caring for the children, HER in laws, and tending to the few guests there were to be.
This apart, AMMA chose the path less trod, or more aptly the path untried, inviting criticism, censure and persecution too from the near and dear. Private sources disclose that SHE was even locked up in a heated tobacco barn, coming alive out of which, is unthinkable. Many were such physical trials and hardships which SHE could pass through merely because of HER extraordinary stature and divine prowess. Lesser mortal otherwise should have become a casualty, never to be heard after.
During this period of trials and tribulations, only a close retinue had immediate access to AMMA. They are fortunate to see as a first person experience AMMA’S uncommon life, HER untold suffering, HER godliness, HER unearthly person which touched them immensely.
They had several mystic experiences, as AMMA caused them directly; presumably originated by necessity and those few who happen to be around, witnessed the stoic endurance and experienced the boundless love of AMMA.
Brother Mannava Butchi Raju Sarma is the rarest one among those chosen few. Hailing from Mannava, he had very close personal access to AMMA during those difficult days. He is verily touched and far too disturbed at AMMA’S hardships.
He found it heart rending many a time. They touched his innermost core and stirred the very self. His heart wept and the soul cried. Empathized deeply with AMMA’S suffering which found vent in many songs. These intense soul stirring experiences were rendered into songs.
Direct personal and realistic experience was conveyed in sonorous lyrics of deep meaning and intense philosophical substance. His latent talents of music and way with letters found free vent and refined expression, all prompted by AMMA’S grace. Thus Raju’s soul sang and found its unique, melodious symphony.
Viewed in this respect, Brother Raju is a Vaggeyakara. This is a term native to the South Indian culture, in the domains of music and literature in particular, and difficult to transport into another language, much more so English. A close equivalent term in English could be – balladeer, or more aptly the bard. Granting this, Raju can be called the bard of Arkapuri or Jillellamudi.
Vaggeyayakaras are the representatives of the Bhakthi (devotional) school, who rendered many songs of deep devotion set to tune and musical notes. They have become ever popular, almost becoming immortal, their songs sung by many an ardent devotee and musician of repute.
To cite a notable few among these balladeers or bards of yore are Thyagaraja, Kshetrayya, Annamaiah, Rama Dasu, and so on. All of them expounded deep, intense devotion of Rama, Krishna, or other incarnations, deemed by all as the mortal forms of divinity.
Though, one marked difference persists. All these vaggeayakaras have come after the passage of the divine manifestation. They had the subtle, mystic vision of the divine form, through a formless perception and were blessed with the divine experience which inspired their lyrical, musical effusions that have become memorable throughout the ages.
But Raju had the unique fortune of having a direct divine interface, deep inner experience and first person exposure. His perception is neither remote nor distant, like that of the others. This is unmixed and unfiltered, which makes the renderings so appealing and truly outstanding in terms of content and philosophical depth.
In these songs, multiple facets crop up. Of which emotional empathy is the foremost. Witnessing AMMA’S hardships, Raju’s heart many a time stirred and singed, if not bled. He pleads with AMMA, ever lovingly, not to shun these troubling mortals, or spurn the earthly existence, but retain HER divine flame and unravel HER unparalleled glory, to the dismay and submission of every one around.
The most salient feature of these songs is that AMMA’S divinity is portrayed verily in a humanly touching note. Reason being Brother Raju, despite beholding the divinity of AMMA directly, was equally touched by the suffering being undergone by HER mortal form. This is nothing but a catharsis for brother Raju; a very private and intense unburdening of the heart and soul.
This compelled a comparison of AMMA with the Mother Earth which displays a stoic endurance and limitless forbearance. At the very same moment boundless love and generosity are expressed without any expectation. Raju singularly conveyed that AMMA is but the earth and the very personification of the MOTHER EARTH.
When he interfaced with the godliness of AMMA, he found HER to be the source and the author of the very earth, the creation and the whole cosmos.
He had the cosmic vision of the universal, ubiquitous, all pervading, all permeating AMMA (viswa roopa). Yet, the singular paradox of Raju’s compositions is that the human and divine persona of AMMA find vent in unison, on a simultaneous note.
Having beheld AMMA’S omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence, he found HER synonymous with the elements, their nature, their being, their amalgam, their expression, equally so their interplay that originates life and continually transforms the universe.
Raju could behold AMMA everywhere and all over. He saw HER in the breezy air, the lofty sky, the raging fire, the unfathomed ocean, the distant stars and the oft seen but remote sun and moon; as also in the celestial heavens and the other inaccessible planets. Such was the height, depth and breadth of his vision. An uncommonly supra dimensional perception of AMMA, Raju had; or it was bestowed upon Raju by AMMA’S grace.
As an individual, he could find AMMA exceedingly human beyond the mortal limitations. HER endurance, acceptance, love, compassion, forbearance and forgiveness too find expression in his songs, being an eye-witness having had a direct personal experience.
These uncommon human traits and unparalleled virtues captured in his songs, are worthy of emulation by posterity though far too difficult for the ordinary folk to scale those sublime heights.
To be precise, they set a worthy, ideal mode of life for the contemporary beings, as also posterity, whether or not one attains them, even the very attempt is much worthwhile and brings immense betterment to the individual.
Sometimes, he dwells on the borders of devotional mysticism, moving beyond the reach of ordinary readers. He finds the Paraamathma, Brahman, Satchidananda, infinite-bliss consciousness in AMMA and interprets the same verbally in his songs.
He finds an identity and communion with AMMA in all these. Concludes that one need not go far to seek these eternal truths, convinced that being with AMMA, brings all these lofty ideals within reach. Suffice to be near to AMMA and yearn for HER boundless grace.
Mundane cares and temporal concerns too engage his mind. He comforts and consoles all of us, emphatically declaring that AMMA is but providence, which eternally cares and provides for all of us, equally HER children, whatever be our foibles or frailties. Simply because the MOTHER never discriminates while giving the feed or providing the life’s needs.
The bad and the ugly, the wicked and the devious are equally part of HER offspring that need to be fed and cared for. It is also the bounden duty of the MOTHER that gave birth to them to cleanse them and correct them at the appropriate moment.
Each song contains some valuable thoughts and invaluable philosophical substance. These also expound the basic tenets of AMMA’S thought. Though simply put, these songs are difficult to grasp in their essence and true depth even if read in the original Telugu language.
These songs are even more difficult to be rendered into English or to be put in any other language, for it is daunting to capture the true ring of the local idiom (Telugu, even Sanskrit diction sometimes) and convey the flavor of the native culture and ambience in a foreign tongue.
Despite these restraints, attempt is made to present a few of these immortal songs into English, with an accompanying text, elaborating the content of each song that is rendered into English verse. To the extent possible, relevant real life excerpts of AMMA are also put forth in the text. This is but a humble initial offering of a few songs, out of the sixty plus songs penned by brother Raju.
As the content is abstract and highly philosophical, to offer the much needed respite and bring in some visual communion, graphic illustrations are also included for each song rendered into English. These graphics are intended to reflect the core idea or content of each song in a picturesque form, to give it much more meaning and create a form out of the metaphysical abstract reality presented.
Obviously, the reader is exposed to the basic truth in form, to get at the meaning visually, while dwelling on the formless reality surrounding the philosophical ideas. Verily, this is but a modest attempt at graphic presentation of each song, well within our limited reach.
Crave the indulgence of the discerning readers and knowing brothers and sisters, to overlook these limitations, get at the core of Raju’s heart and soul and grasp the essence of these memorable, invaluable, timeless songs. In the process, gain an inkling of AMMA’S person and message and be ever subject to HER GRACE.
(Adapted from ‘Alapana’ by Brother Kondamudi Ramakrishna in ‘Anuvhava Saram’ of brother Mannava Butchi Raju Sarma)
**This article reflects the contemporary scenario that prompted the booklet of songs ‘Anubhava Saram’ authored by brother Mannava Butchiraju Sarma, more popularly known as ‘Raju Bava’ in the circle of Jillellamudi fraternity.