Hyderabad: Bammera Pothanamatya (1450-1510), popular as Pothana and who had translated the Bhagavatam into Telugu from Sanskrit, is a household name in the Telugu land and it is no exaggeration to say that no child grows up without learning a few of his Bhagavatam poems. The place where he had lived about 500 years ago at Bammera in Warangal district had been under encroachment for a considerable period of time and now, after the painstaking efforts of two persons, M Panduranga Rao, a retired professor of NIT, Warangal and BV Papa Rao, a retired IAS officer, the 4-acre and 30-gunta agricultural land, which was tilled by Pothana and the well, whose water was used to irrigate the land, were freed from encroachment and now the place is being developed as Bammera Pothana Smarakam (Memorial).
Pothana’s samadhi (grave) is also situated there. Pothana was an agriculturist by profession and a poet by passion. He dedicated his epic work Andhra Mahabhagavatam to Lord Rama. Apart from freeing the place, where once the great poet lived and worked, efforts are also being made for conserving and propagating his literary works by Panduranga Rao and his partner who founded Kakatiya Heritage Trust with the help of the tourism department. The state government sanctioned Rs 20 lakh as first instalment against the approved Rs 66 lakh for the Bammera Pothana Smarakam Project.
Panduranga Rao has plans for seeing that three important places in Warangal district _ Warangal Fort, Thousand Pillar Temple and Ramappa Temple _ find place in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. In fact, Panduranga Rao gave a presentation to that effect at the South India World Heritage Meet organised in Chennai on August 10 which was taken note of by a panel of experts and officials from New Delhi.
Rao also published a 170- page Hands on Heritage Book, a bilingual book in Telugu and English, to educate people, especially students, about heritage places and the need to protect and conserve them In this tete-a-tete with this correspondent, Panduranga Rao speaks about his concern for heritage places, Kakatiya Heritage Trust, Pothana Smarakam and several other issues. Here is a glimpse:
Q. What is Bammera Pothana Samarakam project?
A. It aims to protect, conserve and propagate the heritage of Bammera Pothana at Bammera village in Warangal district of Telangana region. We have purchased the 4 acres and 30 guntas for the land that was tilled by the great poet, who was a farmer by profession. His Samadhi and the agriculture well are also located there.
Q. When did you free the land from encroachers by buying it?
A. In May 2010 we managed to buy it from the encroachers for Rs 5 lakh. We thought of developing a memorial and submitted a project report to the government envisaging an outlay of Rs 85 lakh.
Q. What is the master plan?
A. Foremost aspect of the project is construction of a Pothana memorial, a compound wall to protect the property, ameneties to visitors and a library containing the works of Pothana.
Q. Why has the government sanctioned only Rs 20 lakh though Rs 66 lakh was allocated in the budget?
A. Yes. The amount was sanctioned for the first phase of the project, in which, compound wall, memorial and landscaping of the place will be done. We expect to commence the works in couple of weeks once the amount is released.
Q. How do you plan to popularise the place and propagate the heritage of Bammera Pothana?
A. The project is linked to the Warangal Tourism Circuit and its proximity to Palakurthi, which is famous for Sri Someswara Lakshminarasimha Swamy temple, a much-visited pilgrim centre, will be an added advantage.
Q. What inspired you to take up the project?
A. In our childhood we used to pray, reciting the poems penned by Pothana and ever since we wanted to do something to convey to the posterity the greatness of the poet. When it was once established by the historians that Pothana hailed from Bammera village in Warangal of Telangana region, putting an end to controversy that he was from Rayalaseema region, we decided to protect and conserve the heritage of Pothana along with the culture and heritage of Telangana. In 2009 we floated Kakatiya Heritage Trust.
Q. How do you plan to create awareness among the present generation, especially students?
A. Creating awareness among students is very important as they need to know about what we are and what our culture is to safeguard it and pass it on to future generations.