1. Tenali Ramakrishna, or Ramalinga as he was originally called, was a jester poet – Vikatakavi – in the court of King Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagara emperor from 1509-1529.
2. Like Akbar’s Navratnas (nine gems), Tenali Rama was one of the Ashtadiggajas (eight greats) of Krishnadevaraya.
3. He was a Shaivite by birth but eventually converted to Vaishnavism and changed his name to Ramakrishna.
Shaivism and Vaishnavism were two polar opposite sects of Hinduism in those times.
4. He was born in a Telugu Viswabrahmin family during the early part of the 16th century.
5. It is widely believed that he was born in Tenali, a municipal town in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.
6. Tenali’s father was Garlapati Ramayya, a priest in the Ramalingesvara swami temple in Tenali.
7. After his father’s death, Tenali Rama was brought up by his uncle.
8. He was denied education because of his caste and religious affiliation. (Remember, he was a Shaivite?)
9. He arrived in Vijayanagara as a member of the famous troupe of ‘Bhagavatha Mela’.
10. Impressed with his performance, Krishnadevaraya granted him the post of the comic poet in the court, completing the Ashtadiggajas (he eight scholars) group.
11. It is believed that Tenali Rama protected Vijayanagara from the Delhi Sultanate by his timely wit and strategy.
12. Tenali Rama is compared to Birbal of Akbar’s court in wit, but the former was also a gifted literary scholar.
13. His Kāvya (poetry) Panduranga Mahatyam is hailed as one of the Five Great Kavyas of Telugu literature.
14. Legends such as Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Sivaji Ganesan have played Tenali in Telugu and Tamil film adaptations, respectively.
15. Cartoon Network aired a series, ‘The Adventures of Tenali Rama’, based on fictional events of Tenali’s life.
16. Unlike Raja Birbal, Tenali Rama was not a very rich man.