Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology

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

NINE
Bammĕra Potana
First half of fifteenth century

Despite the existence of a large body of legendary material about Potana, factual information about him is extremely sparse. From his colophons we know the names of his parents, Kesana and Akkasān ′ amma; his ancestral village, Bammĕra, is in northern Tĕlaṅgāṇa, near Warangal. His masterpiece is the (unfinished) Telugu Mahābhāgavatamu, a landmark in the evolution of Andhra Vaiṣṇava religion. Portions of this work were completed after the poet's death by Vĕligandala Nārayya (books 11 and 12, and perhaps part of book 2 as well), Ercūri Siṅganna (book 6), and Bŏpparaju Gaṅgayya (book 5).

In explanation of this textual situation, the tradition insists that Potana refused to dedicate his book to the local king, Sarvajña Siṅgabhūpāla; the king then ordered the manuscript buried. The god appeared to the queen and ordered her to redeem the book, but when it was retrieved from the earth, whole portions were found to have been ruined.1 The story is mentioned in 1756 by Kūcimañci Timmakavi in his Sarva-lakṣaṇa-sāra-saṅgrahamu. Its rationale may, in part, derive from the existence in the text of deviations from courtly norms of meter; there is thus an attempt to free Potana from responsibility for these “mistakes. ” Even earlier, in the seventeenth century, Appakavi implicitly attacked Potana for confusing the two homophonous sounds, r and 2 But Potana refers to himself as a sahaja-kavi, “a poet by nature or birth, ” as opposed to a trained, erudite author. The title reflects Potana's desire to distinguish himself from his courtly predecessors and contemporaries and to proclaim a separate set of standards, keyed to his

____________________
1
Another version has it that Potana himself hid the book in the temple, and when it was later recovered, portions were missing because of the depredations of white ants.

-133-

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