Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Tales of Tenali Raman - Tenali Raman and The Wicked Priest

Appalacharya was the family priest of King Krishnadevaraya.  He was also related the king and performed all the religious rituals for the king and his family. Appalacharya was a very talented scholar. He was respect by all in the court and the king would always consult him for certain issues. 

But even after all this, Appalacharya was neither happy nor satisfied. He always felt jealous of Tenali Raman. He thought he was way cleverer and more intelligent than Tenali Raman but his talent was not appreciated to that extent. After all, Appalacharya was just a priest and Tenali Raman was a minister. 

Whenever someone said anything good about Tenali Raman, Appalacharya got more and more jealous. He got more irritated towards Tenali. He started insulting Tenali often. 

There were two main sects during the time of Krishnadevaraya – the Smartha sect and the Vaishnava sect. Tenali Raman belonged to the Smartha sect and Appalacharya was from the Vaishnava sect. Appalacharya took advantage of this and started spreading rumors that the king was partial towards the Smartha sect and that was the reason why Tenali was made the minister. 

He gathered all the sect members and started misleading them by spreading such rumors. He also told them that Tenali hated the Vaishnava sect. He continued to spread such gossip to bring down Tenali Raman. 

The king was not aware of this jealousy and negative behavior of the priest but Tenali Raman was very much disturbed by this enmity from such a learned man. 

One early morning, Tenali went to Appalacharya’s house for some official work. Appalacharya saw him coming and once Tenali Raman came closer, Appalacharya covered his face with a cloth. Tenali Raman noticed it but did not comment. They discussed the official work and once concluding it, Tenali got up to leave. While leaving Tenali asked him, “Appalacharya, can you please tell me why did you cover your face when you saw me? Why is your face still covered?”

Appalacharya replied sarcastically, “Raman, you are very intelligent and knowledgeable so you should have understood my action. If we, Vaishnavas, see face of Smarthas first thing in the morning then we will be born as donkeys in our next birth.”

Tenali Raman was deeply hurt with this insulting reply. He had many friends from the Vaishnava sect and he knew this was not true. He decided to teach this arrogant and mean priest a lesson. 

Once, King Krishnadevaraya went on an outing with his courtiers. Tenali Raman and Appalacharya were also with him. They all saw some donkeys grazing in the nearby field. Tenali Raman went to the donkeys, knelt and bowed to the donkeys. The whole group stood in silence and looked at Tenali surprisingly. 

King knew about Tenali’s eccentric behavior and he knew there was some good reason behind his action. He asked Tenali, “Why are you bowing to the donkeys? Do they look like saint to you?”

Tenali replied, “No sir, it is nothing like that. I went to Appalacharya’s house sometime back for some official work early in the morning. Appalacharyaji covered his face when he saw me and when I asked him for the reason behind his behavior, Appalacharya kindly explained that when a Vaishnava sees Smartha’s face first thing in the morning, he becomes a donkey in his next birth. So, when I saw some donkeys here today, I thought they must be Appalcharya’s relatives so I felt it was my duty to bow down and kneel in respect and thus ask for their forgiveness on behalf of the Smarthas whose faces they had seen in their previous births.”

The king immediately realized what had happened. Some of his courtiers had disclosed the nefarious activities of Appalacharya to him. The king was appaled by Appalacharya’s behavior and Tenali Raman looked very hurt.

Before he could say anything, Tenali Raman spoke sadly, “Your majesty, I never hurt or harmed anybody. I never wish anything ill for anybody. We are what the God made us. Caste and religion are to worship God and achieve spirituality. It is not to measure one’s high or low position. I believe there is only one Supreme Power who can be called by many names so why do the learned try to hurt or harm us?”

The king felt sorry for Tenali Raman. He said, “Appalacharya, you are a scholar who is respected by everyone, even by me. You don’t have to be jealous about Tenali Raman or anyone. You have a distinctive place in my palace. You should have faith in me and my judgement. I don’t favor or discriminate anybody on the basis of their religion or language. The administration of this kingdom is based on the great Sage Vidyaranya’s principles. I am following his great teachings in all the matters of our kingdom. I can recognize merit and talent. I appoint my ministers and officers. I want my kingdom to flourish on good qualities of my ministers.”

The king further added, “I gave you many chances to prove your merit. It is not good on your part to behave in such manner. In future, if you indulge in activities unworthy of you, I shall not hesitate to send you away with punishment for your wrong actions. Consider this as a warning. Try to be a better man.”

Appalacharya took this advice in the right spirit. He begged the king for his forgiveness. He promised the king that he would behave properly and pledged his life for the betterment of the kingdom. He also assured Tenali Raman that he would only praise him in future and never ever hate him. 

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