Ancient Telugu literature was basically Hindi literature influenced by the classical language, Sanskrit. All our sacred texts, namely the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas were in Sanskrit and so were the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The view that is universally held since ages is that Sanskrit is the mother of all languages. Telugu like Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada have been classified as a Dravidian language derived from the Adi Dravida Bhasha, but the exact periods of the former Dravidian languages is controversial and beyond the scope of the book under review. The author has compiled together the biographies of noted Telugu poets and their contributions to Telugu literature.
This book narrates the glory and beauty of ancient Telugu poetry from different angles. The author Raghava Rao says that Telugu literature in perfect literary shape began with Nannaya Bhattu who had written Andhra Sabdha Chinthamani in Sanskrit. The book had prescribed grammar prosody, metre and rhetoric in Telugu language. Nannaya Bhattu had taken the basic principles from Sanskrit, some aspects from Kannada and a very few from Tamil. He lived in the 11th century as adhi kavi, namely the first poet of Telugu literature. He was also called Andhra Basha Vaganusasana, i.e. Brahma, the creator of Telugu literature. He reformed the existing Telugu language, bringing it to the level of classical poetry.
Dhurjati lived from 1509 to 1530 during the reign of Krishna Devaraya of Vijayanagar empire. He was a believer in Advaita philosophy and a strong devotee of Lord Shiva. In one story Dhurjati describes all aspects of the lives of tribals in the forests, and this story became very popular in his time.
Another Telugu poet, Shri Krishna Devarayalu, one of the greatest rulers of the Vijayanagar empire, was born to protect Hinduism against foreign invaders into south India. Though a strong Vaishnavite by conviction, he believed in Visist Advaita philosophy, showing his impartiality to other schools of Hindu philosophy. Like Dhurjati, he too belonged to the 16th century. The author says that Shri Krishna Devarayalu was such a poet that he clubbed the natural phenomena with ?decorative imagination?.
Srinadha, another Telugu poet, was known as ?emperor among poets?. He enjoyed life to the full under the patronage of kings and feudal lords. Sringara Naishadam was his major contribution to literature.
Bammera Pothana was a poet of the people. His most famous poem is Prahlada Charitram wherein he describes Prahlada'sfight against his own father, King Hiranyakashyap.
Kankanti Papraju had written Uttara Ramayanam which became the most outstanding epic for the Telugus because of its style of narration, description, power of expression and dramatic style of presentation.
Nachana Somana had lived in the 14th century and gave ample display of his command over the Telugu language and creative imagination. He had indicated (dhawni) that ?whatever might be one'sstrength and capacity, whatever might be one'swealth, whatever might be one'sarmy of friends, relatives and servants?, when death comes, none can save that dying person.
On going through this book, one gets a glimpse of ancient Telugu poetry which preached national integration culturally and elaborated the most complicate aspects of Hindu philosophy and religion in a language comprehensible even to the lay reader.
(Karavadi Raghava Rao, SF-4, Sai Chandra Towers,DBK Street, Machavaram, Vijayawada-520004.)