Taḷḷapaka Annamacharya (or Annamayya)(May 22, 1408 – February 14, 1503) was a 15-century Hindu saint and is the earliest known Indian musician to compose songs called sankirtanas in praise of the god Venkateswara, a form of Vishnu. The musical form of the keertana songs that he composed, which are still popular among Carnatic music concert artists, have strongly influenced the structure of Carnatic music compositions.
Annamacharya was born on Vaishakha Shuddha Pournami in the year Sarwadhari (May 22, 1408) in Tallapaka, a village in current day Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, India. He was born into a Nandavarika Smartha Brahmin family. He later became a Sri Vaishnavite saint, initiated by Venkatesha. His wife, Timmakka, had written Subhadra Kalyanam, and is considered the first female poet in Telugu literature. Their son, Pedda Tirumalacharya, and grandson, Tallapaka Chinnayya, were also composers and poets. The Tallapaka compositions are considered to have dominated and influenced the structure of Carnatic music compositions. Annamacharya lived for 94 years until Phalguna Bahula Dvadashi (12th day after full moon) in the year Dhundhubhi (February 14, 1503).
Annamacharya is said to have composed as many as 36,000 sankeertanas (songs) on the god Venkateswara, of which only about 12,000 are available today.
Annamacharya considered his compositions as floral offerings to Venkateswara. In the poems, he praises the deity, describes his love for him, argues and quarrels with the Lord, confesses the devotee's failures and apprehensions, and surrenders himself to Venkateshwara. His songs are classified into the Adhyaatma (spiritual) and Sringaara (romantic) sankeertanas genres. His songs in the "Sringaara" genre worship Venkateswara by describing the amorous and romantic adventures of Venkateswara and his consort Alamelu, while others describe the Bhakti of his devotees.
In his later keertanas, he espouses subjects such as morality, dharma and righteousness. He was one of the first few who opposed the social stigma towards the untouchable castes in his era, with his sankeertanas explaining that the relationship between God and human is the same irrespective of the latter's color, caste and financial status, in his songs "Brahmaṃ Okkatē Paraḥbrahmamokkatē" and "ē kulajuḍainanēmi evvaḍainanēmi". His prodigious literary career earned him a place among the all-time greats of Telugu literature.
While he enjoyed popularity in his days, his compositions were forgotten for over three centuries. Mentioned in 1849, they were later found engraved on copper plates, hidden for centuries inside the Sri Venkateswara temple at Tirumala, just opposite the Hundi, concealed in a very small room. An English translation of 150 of these verses was published in 2005.