Once upon a time during the reign of king Krishnadevaraya there lived a man called Raman in a village called Tenali, Raman was very lazy and never did any work . One day he met a sage who taught Raman a secret Mantra and asked him to chant it thousand times in front of goddess Kali .
That night after the whole household went to sleep, Raman crept out of his bed and made his way to the Kali temple. He chanted the mantra with great devotion. To his surprise goddess Kali with all her thousand heads stood in front of him when he finished chanting. When his eyes fell on the goddess he started to laugh , this infuriated the goddess who demanded him to explain himself . Raman begged her pardon and said that it was just that it suddenly occurred to him that when he has a cold it is difficult enough to wipe one running nose and that he wondered what the goddess would do if she ever caught a cold since she had thousand heads.
The goddess couldn't help smiling at this reply and gave him a boon by which he will always make others happy with his wit. She also said that henceforth he will be called Vikata Kavi . Raman was not satisfied with this boon he argued that it would do him no good. Then the goddess brought forth two bowls in her hand . One golden bowl containing the milk of wisdom and one silver bowl which had curds and stood for wealth , these she offered to Raman and asked him to choose any one bowl and drink from it to be blessed with that boon. Raman tricked the goddess by quickly gulping down the contents of both the bowls and again begged the goddess for forgiveness and explained that one without the other would be of little use. He argued that wealth without wisdom and wisdom without wealth would both bring unhappiness. The goddess relented and blessed him again with both the boons but she also warned him that to be so blessed will make other's envious and therefore he would make lot of enemies .But he would also have the wisdom to get out of any unpleasant situation.
Since Raman hailed from the village Tenali he was called Tenali Raman and since he was blessed by goddess Kali , he was called Vikata Kavi Tenali Raman.