Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology

Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology

Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology

Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology


"An amazing book . . . There is nothing remotely like it anywhere in the world. I am in awe at the skill with which the many different voices in this collection have been kept alive. It is a terrific and stunningly interesting read."--Wendy Doniger, author of The Bedtrick: "Tales of Sex and Masquerade

"This is a superb collection, which presents to the English reading public for the first time a literature of great beauty and importance. There is no similar or comparable anthology for any Indian language let alone Telugu. All of the translations of the poems are exquisite and learned. The introduction is both a much needed history of Telugu poetry and also a guide to the aesthetics of Telugu poetry and the art of reading it."--Phyllis Granoff, translator of "The Journey: Stories by K.C. Das


Nannaya (also Nannayya, Nannayabhaṭṭu, Nannapārya) is the first Telugu poet whose works have survived. The tradition attributes to him not only the early books of the Telugu Mahābhārata but also the first Telugu grammar (in Sanskrit), Āndhra-Śabda-cintāmaṇi. The first poet is thus, by denition, the first grammarian—vāg-anuśāsanuḍu, “legislator of language”—as well. The phrase, rooted in the later literary tradition, imitates one of Nannaya's: he refers to himself as vipula-Śabda-śāsanuḍu, “an authority on language”; the implication is one of control and power over words. The attribution of grammatical sūtras to Nannaya is, however, unlikely in the extreme.

By his own description, Nannaya was a kula-brāhmaṇa, “family guru, ” of the Eastern Chāḷukya king Rājarājanarenda, who ruled from Rajahmundry in the Godavari Delta (1018–1061). In the preface to his Mahābhārata, Nannaya tells us that this king commissioned the work, the foundational text of classical Telugu literature. Rājarājanarendra's rule was unstable; he was constantly embroiled in conict with his half-brother Vijayâditya, the son of his father's Telugu wife (Rājarājanarenda was himself the son of a Tamil wife, Kundavai). It is not impossible that the factor motivating this Tamil king to patronize a Telugu work was his wish to make himself more popular among his Telugu-speaking subjects.

Nannaya completed only the first two and a half books of the Mahābhārata (up to 3.4.1422). His nal verse is a lyrical description of an autumnal moment in the forest:

Śārada-ŕatrulujjvala-lasattara-tāraka-hāra-pañktulan [w5]āutarambulayyě vikasan-nava-kairava-gandha-bandhurodāra-samīra-saurabhamu dālci sudhāṃśu-vikīryamāṇa-karpūra-parāga-pāṇḍu-ruci-pūramulan [w2]aripūritambulai.

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