Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology

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

SEVENTEEN
Piṅgaḷi Sūranna
Second half of the sixteenth century?

Although the later tradition associates this poet with Kṛṣṇadevarāya's group of eight great poets, there is good reason to date him considerably later in the sixteenth century, or even the early seventeenth century, and to locate him far from the Vijayanagara capital. Sūranna lived in Nandyāla in Rāyalasīma. He dedicated his Kaḷāpūrṇodayamu to the local ruler, Nandyāla Kṛṣṇamarāju, a member of a collateral branch of the Aravīḍu family that produced the final imperial dynasty at Vijayanagara. Another patron, Ākuvīṭi Pĕda Veṅkaṭâdri, sponsored his Rāghava—pāṇḍavīyamu, a tour de force that tells, simultaneously, the stories of the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata (though this work is actually dedicated to the god Pampa Virūpâkṣa—deva at Vijayanagara). His third surviving kāvya, Prabhāvatī–pradyumnamu, is offered to his father, Amaranârya.

What is clear from all Sūranna's surviving works is his intense interest in the poetic and creative powers of language. The story he tells in his Kaḷāpūrṇodayamu, for example, shows us a linguistic utterance materializing itself in consciousness and in the world. The hero of the tale, Kaḷā–pūrṇa (“Moon/ Fullness of Art”), first exists as a name in a story invented by the god Brahma to pacify his wife Sarasvati, but this purely narrative and verbal existence soon becomes entirely real in a living human being with a complex, emotionally vital biography. The narrative is far too complicated to be summarized here: the section we have translated is a small, embedded subtext, one of many subsumed by the wider narrative frame. In a sense, Sūranna is the true inheritor of the linguistic metaphysics known from Sanskrit sources, such as Bhartṛhari, but in another sense, he belongs to a period of renewed interest in language—including grammar, poetics, metrics, and linguistic philosophy—that seems to have swept through the Deccan in the late 16th

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