Classical Telugu Writers & Their Biographies
Nannaya, Tikkana & Errana (11th - 14th century)
Gonabudda Reddy (13th century)
Known as the Kavya Traya or the 'Trinity of Telugu Literature' these three poets are the composers of the Andhra Mahabharata, a replica of the Sanskrit Mahabharata. Nannaya is acclaimed as the Adi Kavior the first poet of Telugu literature. Most of Telugu literature begins with this massive epic transcreated by these three great sage-scholars o edit.
Bammera Potana (15th century)
Potana, who lived in the later part of the 15th century is believed to be the author of Narayana Satakamu (The Hundred Verses of Narayana), Veerabhadra Vijayamu (Tale of Victoroius Veerabhadra), Bhogini Dandakamu (The Poem of Bhogini) and also the great classic Andhra Mahabhagavathamu (The Mahabhagvatam of Andhra). It is a Telugu rendering of the Srimad Bhagvatam of Ved Vyasa. This book of Potana is known for its excellent narrative style and the art of versification.
Pingaliu Soorana (16th century):
Soorana was a pioneering figure in the field of Telugu classical poetry of the medieaval age. He has to his credit mainly three works Raghavapandaviyam a dyvarthi-kavya, Kalapurnodayam (Full Blooming of Art) andPrabhavati Pradyumnam. Kalapurnodayam has been hailed as the first original poetic novel in Telugu literature.
Gurajada Venkata Appa Rao (1862-1915)
Hailed as the father of Modern Telugu literature, G.V.Appa Rao blazed a new ttail in play-writing as also in poetry and short story Kanyasulkam (Bride-Price) is one of his outstanding plays. It was the harbringer of modernism of Telugu literature.
Sri Gurajada Apparao was a social reformer, poet, writer, philosopher, and a friend. He was born in 1863 in Rayavaram of Visakhapatnam distt.. He graduated from the Maharaja's College (MR COLLEGE) of Vizianagaram, the so called VIDYANAGARAM of ANDHRA where he synthesized de novo the greatest of his writings which are superb, unforgettable, and immortal. "dESamanTE maTTika'dOy - dESamanTE manushulOy" has had been shacking the hearts of every Telugu soul, whether literate or illiterate.
The style of Gurajada's poetry, neither pedantic nor enigmatic, but was the purest, crystal clear, lucid, and vivaceous. His poems awaken the weeklings even and energize them. Gurajada's intellectual creativity gave us a keepsake, historical landmark, and a precious literary diamond - "KANYASULKAM" play.
It is one and the only book in Telugu in which dedication and preface were written in English (there may be others in existence, but they mushroomed afterwards). On the 13th of August, 1992, "Kanyasulkam" celebrated its 100th birthday, eversince it was staged for the first time.
"Kanyasulkam" centenary celebrations were held at Gurajada's residence in Vizianagaram. Poets and writers from various places in Andhra held literary discourses on Gurajada's works. On the 76th death anniversary of Sri Gurajada, Sri Jonnalagadda Somayajulu and his party performed the "Kanyasulkam" play. Sri Jonnalagadda Ramanamurty, well known for his Girisam role in the play, was honored.
Sri Gurajada wrote the "Kanyasulkam" in 1869 for an excellent cause - social reformism. Girls at ten years of age were married to men of 65 years of age or older in return the girls' parents used to receive a sum of Rs 1000/- or more. This unfortunate act of selling young girls who did not either attain mental maturity or puberty to men (ready to be buried under 6 feet of mud) performed by their ignorant parents can be envisioned in this play, even now. No where in this entire world, a play like this or similar to this, was ever written.
One will be surprised to know that the era of Modern Telugu Literature was born from Gurajada's pen and his "Kanyasulkam". "Kanyasulkam" was performed for the first time by the "Jagannadha Vilasini Sabha" of Vizianagaram in 1892. (Contributed by Palana)
Rayaprolu Subba Rao (1892-1984)
Rayaprolu is hailed as one of the pioneers of modern Telugu literature.Lalitha, Andhravali, Truna Kankanam (Grass Bracelet), Kashta Kamala (Kamala in Distress), Ramyalokam (Aesthetic Perception) and Jadakutchulu (Braid Ornaments) are some of his principal works. Andhravali si considered as the watershad in Telugu literature for its modernity of themes such as naturalism, rural life, platonic love, a sense of history and fierce nationalism.
Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao (1909)
A prolific story writer, Rao produced 400 stories..His principal works are Chadvvu, Braduku Bhayam, Kalalushastriya Vijnanam, Kalabhairavudu and Karunyam.
Srirangam Srinivasarao (1910-1983)
Known for the landmark anthology Mahaprasthanam (The Great March), Srinivasarao was a pioneer of the progressive poetry in Telugu. His poetry took an amazing leap and astounding depth when he wrote the Desa Charitralu (History of Nations). He was acknowkedged as Mahakavi of the New Proletarian Age.
Puttaparthi Narayanacharya (1914-1990)
Narayanacharya was a front-ranking classical poet, literary critic, composer, musicologist, translator and polyglot. He has about 50 works of poetry to his credit.. Considered an authority on the history and literature of the Vijaynagar period, he has written in Telugu extensively on Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam literatures..He has about 3000 musical compositions in Telugu and Sanskrit to his credit and 200 of them have been notated by himself. He had the unique and ironic experience of having written a poetic work called Penugonda Lakshmi at the age of 14, prescribed as a text when he took the Vidwan examination in his thirtees.Shivathandavam (The Cosmic Dance of Shiva) is the most representative of his genius.
Vasireddy Seethadevi (1933)
Seetahdevi is an acclaimed writer in Telugu. She has published around 40 novels and 10 short story collections. Mattimanishi (Son of Mother Earth) is one of her best novels. The novel is a landmark in modern Telugu fiction.
1824 (from vEmana padyaalu : Editor bamgOre
TTD Devasthanam, 1985.) (Contributed by Palana)
The following is a review on the 1993 Sahitya Akademi Award Winning Book, "Madhurantakam Rajaram Kathalu". Translated into English by J. Bhagyalakshmi Posted to SCIT by Lakshmanna Vishnubhotla
Madhurantakam Rajaram has been contributing to Telugu literature for more than four decades. He left no genre of literature untouched. He writes novels, plays, essays and lyrics besides short stories. Yet he is more well known as a short story writer. The author himself once said, "I am a short story writer ... it is in the short story that I could find out my medium of expression. It overwhelmed me by completely occupying my consciousness. It made me laugh. It haunted me and taunted me. It also made me shed tears ... I was in ecstasy when I realised that a writer could successfully communicate his impression as intensely as he experienced to the reader."
Madhurantakam Rajaram is adept at realistic portrayal of life. He comes from Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh which has its own identity. There the life style is different, especially of the village folk, who are naive, down to earth, loving, caring yet bearing the burden of poverty as stoically as they can. Their hard life with its day to day problems has not hardened their attitudes and perceptions. All these aspects and many other nuances get reflected in Madhurantakam Rajaram Kathalu which won the Sahitya Akademi Award for 1993.
The book contains 40 short stories written over a period of four decades. They truly represent the range of Rajaram's canvas. Here every story has its place, its identity, its message and adds color to the kaleidoscopic view of life that emerges out of the volume. The characters we come across in his stories are ordinary people we see in our everyday life. They are convincing and realistic and help us have an insight into human nature because of the magic touch of the author. Madhurantakam Rajaram's stories are purposeful and they have subtle message which only the discerning readers can discover; their author is never blatantly didactic. As a writer he firmly believes that literature should denounce the bad and uphold the good. He says, "Literature may not be strong enough to transform the society. But it can infuse the spirit needed into the public which can provoke a marvelous revolution of ideas. It can also describe an Utopia which is the goal for the humanity."
The author confines his stories to middle class or lower middle class. He depicts life as he sees it in its various hues and dimensions. He prefers first person narration in many of the stories perhaps to bring the story near to the reader. In certain cases he uses Rayalaseema dialect just to give the story its right flavor.
Madhurantakam Rajaram as a writer comments on people's weaknesses, strengths, noble and mean qualities. He gives an overview of life without any pretension of self-righteousness. In its citation, Sahitya Akademi says that "Madhurantakam Rajaram Kathalu" is recognized as a masterpiece of Indian short fiction in Telugu "for its faithful delineation of the outer and inner life of the rustic folk, its proper employment of dialect, its total comprehension of social and existential reality and its directness and force of narration."
The language and presentation of Rajaram are so inimitable that they acquire a character of their own. All pervasive flavor of Rayalaseema and intrinsic naturalness reminds one of the fragrance of the wet earth, newly-cut grass and the gurgle of a brook.
Madhurantakam Rajaram Kathalu (Short Stories) are published by Visalandhra Publishing House, 1991, pp. 460, Rs. 65
Gonabudda Reddy is known for his Ranganatha Ramayanam which is a pioneering work on the theme of Ramayana in Telugu. The whole work comprises seven khandas (parts). The work has become a part of the Andhra cultural life and is also used by puppeteers for their shows
Srinathudu (14th century)
A poet of immense calabre Srinathudu lived in the 14th century. His poetic works include Marutarat-charitra (Tale of King Marutta),Saalivahana Sapta Sati (100 tales of Saalivahana), Palanaati Veera Charitra (Tale of Heroes of Palnatu),Kasi Khandam (Legends of Kasi), Bheema Khandam and Hara Vilasam (The Glory of Lord Shiva) which is considered to be an outstanding piece of literature.
Sri Krishnadevaraya (16th century)
A renowned emperor of the famous Vijaynagar kingdom, Sri Krishnadevaraya is also known for his great epic Amukta Malyada (A Garland Dedicated to the Lord). The whole work of Amukta Malyada has a grand poetic style and the work blends the eternal and the temporal in a masterly fashion even as it unfolds an interesting tale.
Paravastu Chinnayya Soori (1807-1861)
Who does not know Sri Chinnayasoori among us? He was one of the most famous pandits of the 19th century. He was born in 1807 in Perambur of Chengalpattu distt. and died in 1861. He was a Saivaite. Sri Cninnayasoori was a Telugu pandit in the Govt. college of Madras. He dedicated his entire life to the progress and promotion of Telugu language and literature.
Sri Chinnayasoori wrote the baala vyaakaranamu in a new style after doing extensive research on "Andhra Grammar" which is the greatest gift to all of us. One can not come across any one who has not studied his grammar on the entire Andhra soil. Other well-known writings by Chinnayasoori are: (1) Neetichandrika (2) Sootandhra Vyaakaranamu (3) Andhra Dhatumoola and (4) Neeti Sangrahamu.
Chinnayasoori translated Mitra labham and Mitra Bedham from the sanskrit "panchatantram" as "neeti chandrika". Moonlight of Morals is the English meaning of the Telugu word Neeti Chandrika. Later, Veeresa lingam translated Sandhi and Vigraham . No one translated the fifth tantram, viz., kakolukeyam.
Chinnayasoori's writing style is the most classical one. Several writers tried to follow his style of writing Telugu but failed desperately. The stylistic elegance in his prose is unparallel to any other known, even today. Sri Kandukuri Viresalingam and Sri Kokkonda Venkataratnam followed Chinnayasoori's style of prose writing and wrote Vigrahamu and Sandhi in a different pattern. But, they were unable to provide the depth of style of Chinnayasoori's prose writing to the readers.
Many of us might have read the Neetichandrika as the text book at the high school level. Those who do not have good command over the Telugu language will also be enthusiastic to read the Neetichandrika. Chinnayasoori's intention in writing the Neetichandrika was not only to translate the honey of morals into telugu but to enlighten the readers with the cool rays of Telugu language which is ever glowing. Sri T. Balanagayyasetti was fortunate to publish this famous classic, the Neetichandrika, and above all we are more fortunate to read it. (based on Vidwan Dandipalli Venkatasubbasastri's preface from Neetichandrika in Telugu. Posted in Soc.culture.indian.telugu by PALANA.)
Known for his famous novel Mala Palli (The Harijan Colony), Lakshminarayana was also an ardent freedom fighter who launched a crusade against untouchability. The novel combines within itself both social realism and spiritual idealism, a rare combination to be found in a single novel.
Viswanatha Satyanarayan (1895-1976)
Won the Jnanpith award for his Ramayana Kalpa Vriksham and is the author of more than a 100 works. He won the Sahitya Academy Award for his Madhyakkaras and also was conferred the title of Padma Bushan..His Veyi Padagalu (A Thousand Hoods) is the most outstanding of his novels.
Nori Narasimha Sastry (1900-1980)
N.N Sastry was a poet, novelist, dramatist, essayist, critic and translator. A versatile and prolific writer, he laid his hands on all the literary genres, but it was the novel and particularly the historical novel which brought him fame and popularity. Narayanabattu, Rudramadevi and Mallareddiare are the major novels penned by him. The uniqueness of his novels is that each novel has a great poet as its central character.
Tripuraneni Gopichand (1910-1962)
Telugu novelist, short story writer, editor, essayist, playwright and film director, Gopichand's writings are ramarkable for an interplay of values, ideas and 'isms' -- materialism, rationalism, existentialism, realism and humanism. He is celebrated for his second novel Asamardhuni Javayatra (The Incompetent's Life Journey).This is the first psychological novel in Telugu literature.
Baliwada Kantharao (1927)
Kantharao is the author of many works including Vamsadhara and Daga Padina Tammudu (The betrayed Younger Brother) and also hundreds of stories
Of Vemana's history, little is known. He was not a Brahmin but a capoo, or a farmer; a native of Cuddapah district and born, I believe, in the neighborhood of Gandicotta. He lived in the beginning of the eighteenth century. It is said that in a verse he has fixed the date of birth which is believed to have been his own. This date coincides with A.D. 1652. The date is given in the cycle of sixty years; but which cycle is intended is unknown.
Many verses, however, prove satisfactorily that he wrote in the latter part of the 17th century when the Mohamedans were governors of that part of India. His family was powerful, but that he renounced the world and became a sanyasee or ascetic. He calls himself a yogee.
The verses communicate hardly any idea of his history or connections, and like all solitary ascetics (sanyasees or yogees) he has dropped his family name - calling himself simply "Vemana" or "Vema" at pleasure. This solitary life has led him to address all the verses to himself, which, if this be not recollected, certainly looks like the grossest egotism. This practice is far indeed from being peculiar to Vemana.
The names Vema and Vemana do not appear to be used by the Telugus of the present day. Vema or Vemana in Sanskrit signify a loom. I believe these names to have been practical titles alone, without a definite meaning. Thus it is well known that the titles or names of Dante and Hafiz were not original names of those poets; the first of whom was named Durante or Durando and the second Muhammed Shemsuddin.
These poems have attained very great popularity and parts are found translated into Tamil, Malayalam, and Kannada. Their terse closeness of expression sometimes renders them difficult to translate with elegance, but such passages exemplify the manly force of a language that in the common dialect is often weak and verbose.
Of his aphorisms many have become common proverbs. Parts of them are evidently close translations from Sanskrit works, particularly the Hitopadesa and Bhagavat Gita. In a few of thes every word is pure Sanskrit.
Vemana was evidently, in philosophy, of the Vedanta school, a disciple of VYASA, whom Sir William Jones has (in the Asiatic Researches, Vol. I) entitled the Plato of India. With the mystic tents of Plato, those of Vemana closely correspond while his moral doctrines as closely answer to those of DEMOCRITUS.
------C.P. Brown, 1824 manuscript
Source : vEmana padyaalu Editor: bamgOre , TTD Press, 1985
Excerpts from manuscript of C.P. Brown, 1824 (contd.)
These verses are chiefly of 3 classes: moral, satirical, and mystic. In the morals, many verses occur, breathing a spirit of devotion truly extraordinary in a Hindu. The satirical part is chiefly directed against the national religion and customs, particularly against Bramins. None of it is personal. The mystic portion is chiefly of use as exemplifying the powers of the language. The reveries contained in this chapter are of a strangely abstruse nature and furnish a remarkable instance of a powerful mind searching for the light of truth which is lost in the darkness of heathen ignorance. The style of this and some other parts renders it easier to translate the verses into Latin than into English. I have, however, left none in Latin that appeared to deserve an English one. To the more difficult verses I have subjoined a Telugu interpretation. For some parts of this comment written in Telugu, I am indebted to 2 very learned Bramins who taught me the language, its grammar and prosody. They are Tippabhotla Venkata Siva Sastri of Masulipatnam and Advyta Brahmia, the pandit belonging to the court in which I have the honor of being Assistant Judge.
To the mystic portion I have appended such notes as appeared requisite. Further elucidations of the most ample nature will be found in the Bhagvat Gita with Dr. Wilkins's commentary and in Sir William Jones's essay on the mystical poetry. Poetry of the East appears in the third volume of the Asiatic Researches.......
Most of the verses in Vemana are written in Ataveladi metre which consists of 4 lines, but the 4th line, with some exceptions, is a mere refrain or chorus in these words - viSvadaaBiraama vinura vEma.
It is perhaps impossible to meet with a complete copy of this poet in a manuscript of any antiquity. The principal sources from which this edition i compiled are nine. These were collected from Bellary, Cuddapah, Madras, Vijagpatnam and the city in which I wrote. Few of these copies contain above 500 verses, none came up to 700. The number, however, that I have succeeded in collecting is 2100.
Of the state of the manuscripts, it is not easy to give a correct idea. Errors of the grossest nature in orthography, metre and rhyme deface every line, and erroneous words are substituted to elicit a sense that the transcribers thought proper to prefer. Thus they have eluded many of the difficulties in thought or expression and the corruption is indescribable in verse.
Vemana having written the Tadbhava word guramu (for gruhamu) a house, the copyists in defiance of metre and meaning have gurramu, a horse.
To remedy such errors I prepared a general index to my manuscripts, showing the place each verse occupies in each copy, for the verses in no two copies had the same arrangement. By this aid, the true reading has, I hope, seldom been lost, the correct metre I trust never - the most frequent corruptions were substitutions of Sanscrit terms in defiance of measure, for pure Telugu expressions.
To the remarks on mystic philosophy, I have subjoined a short explanation of Telugu prosody. The statements are taken from the Bheemana Chandassu but the arrangement and mode of explanation are my own. Sir William Jones has remarked (on Panini) that "since grammar is only an instrument, and not the end of true knowledge, there can be little occassion to travel so rough and gloomy a path." To teach myself the science, I was obliged to reduce the rules given by Bheemana in a very fantastic form to their real import, and a mode then occurred to me through which by degrees I learnt the whole with care. The original is so mysteriously complex that the failure of most aspirants even among Bramins to a knowledge of prosody is not surprising.