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Two Temple Poems of Annamayya

Foundation for Indian classical music

Annamayya
Annamayya

Born a man.
Serves another man.
Suffers every day

Goes into every wretched place
And begs for a morsel to eat.
Craves the place he was born.
That’s why he’s never free.

Born a man.

God is born in all of us.
Grows in all of us.
Is all of us.
If a man chooses him,
He goes where no one else can go

Born a man.

* * *

Tell him this one thing.
Distant rivers always reach the sea.

Being far is just like being near.
Would I think of him if I were far?
The sun in the sky is very far from the lotus.
From a distance, friendship is intense.

Distant rivers reach the sea.

The moment he looks at me, I look back at him.
My face is turned only toward him.
Clouds are in the sky, the peacock in the forest.
Longing is in the look that connects.

Distant rivers reach the sea.

To speak of desire is as good as coming close.
Haven’t I come close to him?
The god in the hill is on the hill,
And where am I?
Look, we made love.
Miracles do happen.

Distant rivers reach the sea.

Annamayya (1408–1503) (also known as Tallapaka Annamacarya) was a Hindu saint, poet, and musician most famous for being the earliest known composer of sanskirtanas, songs that praise Venkateswara, one of Vishnu’s forms. Remaining popular today, Annamayya’s songs serve as an important foundation for classical Indian music. The poems to the god associated with the temple city of Tirupati, two of which are represented here (translated by Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman), assume one of two forms — either the metaphysical (“Born a man”) or erotic (“Distant rivers”).

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Annamayya
Annamayya

Born a man.
Serves another man.
Suffers every day

Goes into every wretched place
And begs for a morsel to eat.
Craves the place he was born.
That’s why he’s never free.

Born a man.

God is born in all of us.
Grows in all of us.
Is all of us.
If a man chooses him,
He goes where no one else can go

Born a man.

* * *

Tell him this one thing.
Distant rivers always reach the sea.

Being far is just like being near.
Would I think of him if I were far?
The sun in the sky is very far from the lotus.
From a distance, friendship is intense.

Distant rivers reach the sea.

The moment he looks at me, I look back at him.
My face is turned only toward him.
Clouds are in the sky, the peacock in the forest.
Longing is in the look that connects.

Distant rivers reach the sea.

To speak of desire is as good as coming close.
Haven’t I come close to him?
The god in the hill is on the hill,
And where am I?
Look, we made love.
Miracles do happen.

Distant rivers reach the sea.

Annamayya (1408–1503) (also known as Tallapaka Annamacarya) was a Hindu saint, poet, and musician most famous for being the earliest known composer of sanskirtanas, songs that praise Venkateswara, one of Vishnu’s forms. Remaining popular today, Annamayya’s songs serve as an important foundation for classical Indian music. The poems to the god associated with the temple city of Tirupati, two of which are represented here (translated by Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman), assume one of two forms — either the metaphysical (“Born a man”) or erotic (“Distant rivers”).

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