Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology

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

SEVEN
Nācana Somanātha
Fourteenth century

In an inscription in 1344 (although there are competing readings that would move the date backwards), the Vijayanagara king Bukkarāya I gives Nācana Somanātha the village of Pĕñcukaladinnĕ, also known as Bukkarāyapuram. This poet consciously connected himself to Tikkana's Mahābhārata, which he claimed to have completed with his own Uttara-harivaṃśamu. Like Tikkana, Nācana Somanātha dedicated his work to the god Harihara. Since ĕṟṟāpragaḍa also composed a Harivaṃśamu, scholars have argued at length over the relative merits of these two poets. There is much justice in the epithets Nācana Somanātha gave himself in his colophons: saṃvidhānacakravarti, “a master of structure /storytelling, ” and navīna-guṇa-sanāthuḍu, “innovative poet” in these respects he contributed to the transition from a straightforward narrative (purāṇa)to a more intense style (kāvya)seen, for example, in Śrīnātha. In addition, he was a brilliant creator of images and of forceful, articulate characters, such as Narakâsura and Ūrvaśi in the selection we have chosen.

Here the demon Narakâsura has overrun Amarāvati, the city of Indra and other gods. As the conquering king, he summons Ūrvaśi, Indra's courtesan, the most beautiful woman in the world. This is a delicate situation for Ūrvaśi: as a courtesan, she cannot refuse the commands of the king, but she has no love for the demon and does not want to go. Nācana Somanātha shows us her intelligent handling of this problem; moreover, in the course of her response, Ūrvaśi exposes Narakâsura as a tasteless, macho braggart.

Nācana Somanātha's text presents only the second part of Harivamsa; it seems the first half lacked the narrative power to interest him. In any case, there is no evidence that he ever composed a Telugu version of the first part of this work. Another work attributed to him, quoted briefly by Kastūri Raṅgakavi (eighteenth century), is a Hari-vilāsamu or Hara-vilāsamu

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