Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology

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

TWENTY-TWO
Śāhāji
r. 1684–1712

This Maratha king of Tañjāvūr, in the Kaveri delta, was also a major Telugu poet—indeed, his considerable literary activity was almost entirely in Telugu, although his mother tongue must have been Marathi. His father, Ekoji, conquered Tañjāvūr in 1676 from its Madurai overlords and founded the dynasty of Maratha kings. Their court was the scene of scintillating literary production, mostly in Telugu and Sanskrit, in genres continuing the Nāyakaperiod productions: yakṣagānas, kuravañcis, dvipada kāvyas, padams, and popular dance-dramas that go by other names. These texts all integrated musical and verbal performance. Śāhāji, who came to the throne at the age of twelve, was also the author of over 200 padams on the god of Tiruvārūr (Tyageśa-padamulu) and of a long series of texts meant to be produced at court; in this period, in general, written texts were primarily scores for theatrical or musical performance. Śāhāji is the subject of a well-known Sanskrit “biography” by one of his court poets, Ayyāvāl (Śāhendra-vilāsa). Śāhāji also patronized Sanskrit scholars, and whole areas of Sanskrit erudition— in particular, grammar (vyākaraṇa)—flourished in Tañjāvūr during his rule. There was also considerable activity centered on the copying and preserving of manuscripts (including some Telugu manuscripts copied in Nagari script);1 this king began the collection that subsequently became the famous Sarasvati Mahal Library in Tañjāvūr.

The Sati-dāna-śūramu is a work of extreme, deliberately outrageous provocation: a liaison is established between a Brahmin and an Untouchable woman, with the active connivance of the woman's husband. The text frames

____________________
1
We know, for example, from the Dvipada- bhārata—a multiauthored text from this period—that a royal official, Nimbāji, had the text copied by a scribe named Kuppayya-mantri for Śāhāji.

-256-

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