Popularly known as Bhakta Raamadaas, he was born Gopanna to Linganna
Mantri (a surname he kept as a result of one of his forebears being
a minister at the court of a king) & Kadamba (sister of Madanna,
a brahmin minister to TaniShah), in 1620 in Nelakondapalli, a small
village in Khammam district, Andhra Pradesh. Since childhood, he
imbibed his family's interest in spirituality and composed several
keertanas on Rama. His devotion to Vaikunta Rama at the temple of
Bhadrachalam, a small village in the middle of the jungle on the
northern banks of the holy river Godavari, earned him his name Bhadraacala
Raamadaas. His guru was Raghunatha Bhattacharya.
During the reign of Abdul
Hasan Tana Shah, (the nawab of the Qutub Shahi Dynasty at Golconda),
Ramadas (Gopanna), thanks to his uncle Madanna, was appointed as
a Tahsildar for Palvancha Paragana which included Bhadrachalam,
a pretty and picturesquely situated temple town on the Godavari
river. Ramadas was always distracted and his intense love for Lord
Rama compelled him to build a temple at Bhadrachalam. He collected
money for the construction from the citizens, but was not enough.
So he borrowed from the tax revenue of the nawab and gave his god
a worthy abode, vowing to return the money. However, the nawab was
furious and sentenced Ramadas to 12 years in prison. Raamadaas thus
earned the name Bandikhana Raamadaas(meaning imprisoned Ramadas).
Frustrated at god's indifference to his pleadings, Ramadas composed
some of the finest keertanas in his prison cell (reminding Rama
of his services in Ikshvaku Kula Tilaka).
It is said that Rama & Lakshmana in the guise of two youngsters
paid up his dues and got his release papers. The golden coins paid
by Rama are known as Ram Tanka coins .They can be seen even today.
These coins have the Pattabhishekam scene on one side and the picture
of another Rama Bhaktha, Hanuman, on the other side. The nawab was
moved and recognized the greatness of Ramadas and released him immediately
and gave him land around Bhadraachalam to continue his dedicated
service to Bhadraachala Raamamoorty. Ramadas spent the rest of his
life on these lands and composed further moving poems that were
to inspire Tyaagaraaja: in ksheera saagara sayana in Devagaandhaari,
he says "Dhirudau Ramadasuni Bandhamu dirchinadi Vinnanura Rama?"
(O Rama! I have heard how You obtained the release of the bold Ramadas
from his prison life); in brindaavanalOla in tODi, in kaligiyundE
gada in keeravaaNi, in Emi dova balkuma in saaranga and in Prahlaada
Bhakti Vijayam he says "kaliyugamuna vara bhadra calamuna nelakonna
raamacandruni pada bhaktula kella varudanandagi velasina shree raamadaasu
vinutintu madin" (I praise Sri Raamadaas, who shines in this world
as the supreme devotee of Sri Raamachandra, who shines forth from
his seat at Bhadraachalam in this kali Yuga).
Other compositions are positive invocations, favored by traveling
minstrels, including the Tondaiman rulers of PudukoTTai in Tamil
Nadu, who popularized his songs. Among his other accomplishments
is the creation of the whole Ramayana story in the form of a prose-poem,
a Choornika. Ramadas described himself in this way in the last verse
of his Dasarathi Satakam: "Allana Linga Mantri Suthudu(son), Atreya
Gothrudu, Adi Sakha, Kancherla Kulothbhavudu, Gopakavindrudu." Bhadraachala
Raamadaas lived for 68 years.