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Sunday, 29 December 2019

Margazhi Blogotsavam: Day 13: Rebel with a Cause: Atukuri Molla

Atukuri Kesanna Setti was a potter living in Gopavaram (a village near Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh). He and his wife were deeply devoted to Lord Srikantha Malleswara of Srisailam – a form of Lord Shiva. Around 1440, this devout couple was blessed with a girl baby whom they named Molla, which means ‘jasmine’ in Telugu.

Molla’s mother passed away when she was a young child, and she was brought up with great love by her father. Like him, she learned to pray to Lord Shiva, and considered Him her Guru. People of not just Gopavaram, but also the surrounding villages knew of Molla, and loved her for her generosity and kindness.

Raja Krishnadevaraya was the ruler in those times; and Tenali Ramakrishna was his famous court poet. Once, Tenali Raman passed negative remarks about a poet from Gopavaram, and it was considered an insult to the whole village. Taking up his words as a challenge, Molla claimed that she would compose the Ramayanam in Telugu in a mere five days. When Raman heard of her decision, he mocked her even more – saying someone of a low caste, and that too a woman, would never be able to achieve this task.

Sitting in her village temple, Molla began writing the Ramayanam, and by the Lord’s grace, finished it in exactly 5 days! Tenali Raman was humbled, and her village pride was restored! 

Postage stamp released in 2017 to commemorate Atukuri Molla
In those times, it was a custom to dedicate any composition to the King. But departing from tradition, Molla dedicated her work directly to Sri Rama Himself! Another common tradition was for the poet to write an introduction, speaking of his lineage, literary prowess, and the special features of his poetry; but all Molla wrote was a simple dedication to her father. 

Translation from book Women Writing in India; Edited by Susie Tharu and K. Lalitha
The Molla Ramayanam has 138 shlokas, and focuses a lot on aspects of Sita’s life that are not treated in as much detail in other forms of the Ramayana.

Also, this work is written not in the literary style of those times, but in a language closer to the spoken Telugu because Molla believed that scriptures must be easy for common people to understand and appreciate.

As she grew more popular, Molla was invited to Raja Krishnadevaraya’s court to recite her Ramayana. She lived in Srisailam till the ripe old age of 90, spending time in her Lord’s worship.

Considering the social conditions of those times, Molla was nothing short of a rebel in her actions. But it’s important to understand that she was the right kind of rebel, who sought to make a positive change to society by her actions. Like Molla, can we try to do positive things never done before in our circles, and change things around us for the better?

Women Writing in India; Edited by Susie Tharu and K. Lalitha available online


  1. 👌👌🛐🛐
    Thanks for this lovely post. I m enriched. Did not know about this devotee of God. What struck me was the fact that like her ishtadevata Shiva,, she is also a great Ramabhakta also.

    1. 🙏🙏🙏 I found her while searching for women saints!

  2. Beautiful .....
    What an inspiring rebel ?!
    Loved the narration hoping only to touch me to become a person better than what I am .....

    1. Thank you! Best wishes on your journey, Archana!

  3. Very long story in short words...
    It was good

  4. Such short episodes of valuable history tend to go unnoticed and lost over time. Thanks for bringing it to the fore. Well written 👌🙏

    1. 🙏🙏 there is so much to learn indeed!


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