Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology

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

FIFTEEN
Tĕnāli Rāmakṛṣṇa
Mid—sixteenth century

An outstanding figure in the literary world of the sixteenth century, Tĕnāli Rāmakṛṣṇa was the son of a Śaiva priest, Gārlapāṭi Rāmayya, who served in the temple of Rāmaliṅgésvarasvāmi in Tĕnāli. The son was named after this deity. His earliest work was probably the Udbhaṭârādhya—caritramu, where he calls himself Tĕnāli Rāmaliṅga; the book is dedicated to Ūra Decayya, an employee of Nādĕḷḷa Gopamantri, the commander of the Kŏṇḍavīḍu fort under the Vijayanagara kings (and a nephew of the famous Timmarasu, the minister of Kṛṣṇadevarāya). The Ghaṭikâcala—māhātmyamu narrates the stories of the Śaiva shrine at Ghaṭikâcala (Sholinagar in Maharashtra); the Pāṇḍuraṅga—māhātmyamu offers a Telugu version of the tradition centered on Viṭṭhala—Viṣṇu at Paṇḍharpūr (also in Maharashtra). In both the latter works, the poet names himself Rāmakṛṣṇa. It is possible that this change in name reflects a conversion from Śaivism to Vaiṣṇavism, as is also suggested by the shift from a Śaiva to a Vaiṣṇava cultic focus in the poet's works. Śiva, however, remains an internal narrator of the Pāṇḍuraṅga—māhātmyamu, as we see in the story translated below.

The Pāṇḍuraṅga—māhātmyamu is dedicated to Virūri Vedâdri—mantri, a small official (rāyasam, a scribe) working for the local ruler Saṅgarāju in Pŏttapi—nāḍu near Kāḷahasti in the second half of the sixteenth century.1 The scope and prominence of this text reflects the rise of the ViṭṭhalaViṭhoba cult in Andhra during the first half of this century; there is a famous

____________________
1
There is some debate about this date, and literary legend connects this poet to the famous circle of poets under Kṛṣṇadevarāya. We have approximate dates for the poet's guru, Baṭṭaru Cikkâcāryulu (mentioned in Pāṇḍuraṇga—māhātmyamu 1.17), supporting the later dating. Tĕnāli Rāmakṛṣṇa refers obliquely both to Āmukta—mālyada and to Vasu—caritramu, as if relating himself to an existing canon.

-201-

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