SANSKRIT POETESS BECAME QUEEN – TIRUMALAAMBAA (Post 7491)


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Post No.7491

Date uploaded in London – 24 January 2020

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In the court of KIING ACHYUTARAYA (1529-1542 CE)of Vijayanagara there was a poetess of great merit and her name was  ODUVA TIRUMALAAMBAA. She was employed as a reader in the royal court whose duty was perhaps the reading of poetical  and other compositions to the ladies of the royal family as well as to the royal court. Tirumalamba was popularly known as Oduva (reader) Tirumalamba . Evidently she was a genius , since she was an excellent musician and grammarian, possessing in addition a good command of rhetoric and diction.  She was a scholar of Hindu epics , poetry, drama and philosophy. She had other accomplishments also; she was a linguist and could write in many scripts.

In addition to all these excellent qualities she must have possessed great beauty, for King Achyutaraya became so enamoured of her that he elevated her to the position of queen (Raja Mahishi).

We learn most of these details from the epilogue to one of her works entitled ‘Varadaambikaa – parinaya – champu’, a romance in Sanskrit celebrating the wedding of King Achyutaraya  and his senior queen Varadambika . it is lerant from epigraphic and other sources  that Varadambika was the principal queen ( Patta mahishi) of King Achyutaraya . it is interesting to note that a junior queen  should have  celebrated in song  the marriage of her rival without any jealousy. Possibly she must have been a good natured woman and wrote the prose – verse – champu – romance only out of regard and affection for Varadambika .  We also learn from the epilogue to the ‘champu’ that she was a patroness of learned priests, scholars and poets and that she made liberal gifts and endowments to temples and religious institutions.  This poem also describes the birth of Prince Venkatadri , the first born of Varadambika .

There are two types of opinion regarding the literary merits of her work. One is highly laudatory, and the other is rather lukewarm.  But it cannot be denied that the work shows that Tirumalamba was a highly educated woman, who wrote for the cultured. 

She composed two Sanskrit verses on the occasion of one of a ‘ daana’ ceremony called ‘Anandanidhi’ and had them engraved in many places.

She composed another verse commemorating the king’s gift of Swarnameru – heap of gold – to brahmins  at Hampi in 1533 CE. It is also surmised that the three verses recording the king’s Tulabhaara of pearls at Kanchipuram in the same year were composed by her.

(Tulabhara is weighing oneself in big balance against whatever one wants to donate. Kings used to give gold equal to their body weight. It is one of the Sixteen Danas (gifts) . We come to know that Cheran Senguttuvan gave gold equivalent to his body weight  to a brahmin called Matalan according to Tamil epic Silappadikaram. Mula varman of Borneo (Indonesia), King Krishna Devaraya of Vijayanagara also gave gold through Tulabhara.

–subham —