Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology

By Velcheru Narayana Rao; David Shulman | Go to book overview

Introduction

A TELUGU WORLD

mahi mun vāg-anuśāsanuṇḍu sṛjiyimpan kuṇḍalîcndruṇḍu tanmahanīya-sthiti-mūlamai niluva śrīnāthuṇḍu provan mahāmahulai somuḍu bhāskaruṇḍu vĕlayimpan sŏmpu vāṭillun ī bahuḷândhrokti-maya-prapañcamuna tat-prāgalbhyam′ ūhiñcĕdan

Live the exuberance of language, first created by the Maker of Speech. A thousand tongues at the root, moon and sun above, God himself within: a whole world inheres in what Telugu says.1

This verse by the sixteenth-century poet Rāmarājabhūṣaṇa celebrates a vital and continuous literary tradition, fully formed and mature, in the language of Andhra in southern India. The poet, working at a historic moment of intense creativity in Telugu, points to a canon already in place. Each poet is paronomastically identified with a divinity. First there is Vāg-anuśāsanuṇḍu, the Maker of Speech—Brahmā, in the classical Hindu pantheon—who has both created and married the goddess Vāc, Language or Speech. Within the Telugu tradition, however, this is also the title given to the first poet Nannaya (eleventh century), who established the contours of poetry and poetic style. The thousand tongues belong to the serpent Kundalîndruṇḍu-Ādiśeṣa, who holds the world on his thousand hoods; Ādiśeṣa is also the underlying

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1
Rāmarājabhūṣaṇa, Vasu-caritramu (Madras: Vavilla Ramasvamisastrulu and Sons, n.d.), 1.10.

-1-

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