Creators of Telugu Epic Literature – Bammera Pothana

భాగవతము దెలిసి పలుకుట చిత్రంబు,
శూలికైనఁ దమ్మిచూలికైన,
విబుధజనుల వలన విన్నంత కన్నంత
దెలియ వచ్చినంత దేటపఱతు.

Reciting the Bhagavatam, being fully conscious of its intricacies is very tricky job to even the one who carries the (Tri) Shula (Lord Shiva) and also the one born out of lotus (Lord Brahma). I shall henceforth elucidate only what I could gather from listening to those knowledgeable people, (to the extent I could delve deep inside it, and to the extent I understood

Pothana

I would need to give a similar disclaimer as I write this post to describe the poetical genius of Pothanamatya, the creator of Andhra Maha Bhagavatam. A single post can indeed do no justice in writing about the poet or his poetry. This version of Bhagavatam can highlight a lot of notable aspects about the poet.

It has been accepted that Pothana lived in the 14th/15th Centuries. He was a native of the village Bammera (in today’s Warangal District). He is believed to be a Sahaja Kavi, the one who got to imbibe the skill of poetry by his own nature. With the above poem which served as a humble disclaimer, Pothanamatya also asserted his creative liberty in narrating the sequences of the Bhagavata Purana.

Profession and lifestyle

The freedom he asserted about his literature can also be seen in the way he led his life. He stuck to the profession of farming, a lifestyle strikingly different from that of his peers who sought out the patronage of rulers. His literary predecessors like Adi Kavi Nannayya, Tikkana Somayaji, Srinatha,  etc enjoyed the patronage of their contemporary rulers. Scholars opine that their works like Andhra Mahabharatam also reflected the life and greatness of the rulers who patronized them. I do not mean to belittle their greatness as for all we know; the rulers in those turbulent times did deserve the accolades. Pothana himself has taken a lot of care to acknowledge the literary giants who served as his inspiration.

But carving his own niche within the congregation of scholars, Pothana refused to dedicate to anyone else, his work other than Sri Rama who we understand is his ishtadaiva (though he belonged to a Shaivite family) . He did not accept even a Dammidi (~ 1 millicent of Ameican standards) as a token of patronage from anyone.

లికెడిది భాగవత మఁట,
లికించెడివాడు రామభద్రుం డఁట, నేఁ
లికిన భవహర మగునఁట,
లికెద, వేఱొండు గాథ బలుకఁగ నేలా?

Recite I shall, this Bhagavatam. But the one who drives me to recite is none other than the Lord Ramabhadra. When my recital can destroy the materialistic mirages, why should I recite any other story?

Defying the rulers

Pothana put up a silent yet strong resistance to the advances of Sarvagna Singha Bhoopala, the local ruler who demanded that Pothana dedicate the work of Andhra Mahabhagavatam to him. The poet is seen as asserting his freedom to not comply and explains his reasons in the beautiful poem

బా రసాల సాల నవ పల్లవ కోమల కావ్య కన్యకన్

గూల కిచ్చి యప్పడుపు కూడు భుజించుట కంటె సత్కవుల్

హాలికు లైన నేమి గహనాంతర సీమల కందమూల కౌ

ద్ధౌలికు లైన నేమి నిజ దార సుతోదర పోషణార్థమై

For a Satkavi (Poet in pursuit of truth), it is better to remain a farmer or depend on the fruits and roots available in the forests to feed his family rather than dedicate his work which is like his own daughter of blooming youth to undeserving hands and eating out of the fruits of the unholy dedication.

Equality of Hari and Hara and importance of the female goddesses

Pothana was born in a family that followed Veera Shaivism. He however chose Rama as his iShtaDaiva. The balance is seen in his poetry where he describes Shiva. This is one characteristic contrary to conventional puranic recital where the deity of subject is depicted as the supreme and all others as subservient/inferior to him or her.  The poem below is the very second poem of the epic where he praises Lord Shiva.

వాలిన భక్తి మ్రొక్కెద నవారిత తాండవ కేళికిన్ దయా
శాలికి శూలికిన్ శిఖరిజా ముఖ పద్మ మయూఖ మాలికిన్
బాశశాంక మౌళికిఁగ పాలికి మన్మథ గర్వ పర్వతో
న్మూలికి నారదాది మునిముఖ్య మనస్సరసీరుహాలికిన్

With devotion of surrender, I salute him who delights in uninterruptible dance, him who is full of compassion, him who wields the trident, him who is like the Sun that makes the lotus called face of the daughter of the mountains (Parvati) bloom, him who has adorned the quarter moon on his locks, him who wears a garland of skulls, him who has uprooted the tree of arrogance of cupid, him who delights in the lakes called the minds of sages like Narada etc

Hari Hara

Pothana’s reverence to the Goddesses is no less. It can be seen in the way in which the chapter containing his opening prayer seems biased to the female goddesses at least in the number of poems. While he composes a poem each on Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma and Ganesha in order, he wrote four in praise of Saraswathi and one each in praise of Lakshmi and Durga. The poem he composed for Durga is replete with the love of a child to its mother. If I recollect correctly, this is the first poem I learnt from Andhra Maha Bhagavatam

మ్మలఁ గన్నయమ్మ, ముగురమ్మలమూలపుటమ్మ, చాలఁ బె
ద్దమ్మ, సురారులమ్మ కడు పాఱడి వుచ్చిన యమ్మ, తన్ను లో
మ్మిన వేల్పుటమ్మల మనమ్ముల నుండెడి యమ్మ, దుర్గ, మా
మ్మ, కృపాబ్ధి యిచ్చుత మహత్త్వకవిత్వ పటుత్వ సంపదల్.

She the mother of all the mothers, she the mother who is the very cause of existence of the three primordial mothers (Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati), She the supreme mother, she the destroyer of the evil, she the mother who resides in the hearts of all the deities who are worshipped, she the very ocean of grace, may the mother give me the prosperity of authority over composing poems of boundless greatness

Other Aspects

My knowledge of the Andhra Mahabhagavatam is too less to analyse each and every aspect of the epic. But from my memory, the episode of “Gajendra moksham” stands out of the rest. The prayer of Gajendra to Vishnu starts with some amount of agnosticism trying to analyse the characteristics of the Supreme Being (Which I feel is jignaasa) and gradually progresses to the agonized call of the devotee in trouble (aarti). Notable aspect here is what Pothana writes about the response of Vishnu to this prayer.

సిరికిం జెప్పఁడు; శంఖ చక్ర యుగముం జేదోయి సంధింపఁ; డే

రివారంబునుఁ జీరఁ’ డభ్రగపతిం బన్నింపఁ’ డాకర్ణికాం

ధమ్మిల్లముఁ జక్క నొత్తఁడు; వివాదప్రోత్థితశ్రీకుచో

రిచేలాంచలమైన వీడఁడు గజప్రాణావనోత్సాహియై.

In his hurry to save the elephant king, he neither informed Lakshmi, nor did he take up the Shankha or the Chakra, nor did he call out to his retinue, nor did he summon the Garuda who is his vehicle, nor did he even leave the edge of Lakshmi’s garment which he had previously held in a playful mood (she eventually is forced to go behind him followed by the rest of his retinue and then the other gods and the rishis)

gajendra

There are multiple legends around this single poem. But it reflects the poet’s liberty to describe the eagerness of Lord Vishnu to save his devotees. Even today during informal conversations, we use this poem to tease someone who abruptly rushes out of a gathering without telling anyone about the reason.

The other episode which is dear to me is the one where gopikas complain about the mischiefs of child Krishna to Yashoda. As it was a lesson prescribed in my High school, I remember learning about the variety of vocabulary Pothana used to address a woman. Ambhojakshi (Lotus eyed), Vimalendu mukhi (one with the face like a spot less moon), Lathangi (One with a body as slender as a creeper), Manjula Vaani (The one with a soothing voice), Trilokaabhi Raama (One who delights the three worlds) are some of them. Needless to say we, the girls in our class spent that year using the same words to playfully address each other.

As I mentioned earlier a single post would fall way too short to describe the greatness of Pothanamatya and his immortal work. I shall consider that the purpose of this article would be fulfilled if it is able to kindle the readers’ interest to explore more about this poet whose poems are loved dearly by illiterates and scholars alike in the Telugu world. I shall end with a poem where he put to a beautiful use, the Atishayokti alankaram (Ornamentation of exaggeration) to describe a prayer of Bhishma

కుప్పించి యెగసినఁ గుండలంబుల కాంతి;
గగనభాగం బెల్లఁ గప్పికొనఁగ;
నుఱికిన నోర్వక యుదరంబులో నున్న;
జగముల వ్రేఁగున జగతి గదలఁ;
జక్రంబుఁ జేపట్టి చనుదెంచు రయమునఁ;
బైనున్న పచ్చనిపటము జాఱ;
నమ్మితి నాలావు నగుఁబాటు సేయక;
మన్నింపు మని క్రీడి మరలఁ దిగువఁ;

గరికి లంఘించు సింహంబుకరణి మెఱసి
నేఁడు భీష్మునిఁ జంపుదు నిన్నుఁ గాతు
విడువు మర్జున యనుచు మద్విశిఖ వృష్టిఁ
దెరలి చనుదెంచు దేవుండు దిక్కు నాకు

He, the God is my refuge, the one who resisted the pleas of Arjuna who tried to restrain him in vain, the one whose ear rings emanated the light that filled up the skies as he leapt (from the chariot), the one at whose weight, the world quaked as he is the one who carries the entire bunches of universes in his stomach, the one who was unmindful of his upper garment, falling at the impact of raising his weapon

A Very Special thanks to Sri V Sambasiva Rao garu for his precious inputs and transliteration of poems.

For further Reference:

http://telugubhagavatam.org/

Pothana Bhagavatam – TTD Edition

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About Saiswaroopa

Author (Abhaya), Writer who likes toying with ideas. Interests span a wide range of topics including Indian epics, philosophy, Startups, economics, history and literature. I tweet at @Sai_swaroopa
This entry was posted in Indian History, Indian Poets, Telugu. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Creators of Telugu Epic Literature – Bammera Pothana

  1. Good ….happy to share with you that my village is very near to Pathanamatya native place “Bommera” …my grand father performed a Sri Rama Devalaya Prathistha in that village…

    1) few professors and other literature lovers started a trust to protect Pothanamathya land and other things

    2) Famous kavi Palkuriki somana is also belongs to near by place called Palakurthy …and Palakurthy is a famous Shiva ksehtra in Warangal district

  2. seshachary says:

    Excellent article brigs out greatness of Telugu poetry

  3. Good article by Swaroopa gaaru ….
    ప్రాచీన కవులందరి పద్యాలలో ఒక సామ్యం ఉంటుంది అందరు కూడ …అమ్మవారిని ధ్యానిస్తు మొదటి పద్యం వ్రాసారు
    పోతనామాత్యుడు కూడా శ్రీ కారం తో మొదటి పద్యం వ్రాసాడు ” శ్రీకైవల్య పదంబు జేరుటకునై ….
    భక్తి వైరాగ్య మార్గాలలో మోక్షాన్ని సాధించుకోవచ్చు అని చెప్పిన ఆ కవివరేణ్యుని గురించి స్వరూప గారు తెల్పడం చాలా అభినందనీయం
    పొతనమాత్యుని శ్రిమద్భాగవతాన్ని చదవండి చదివించడి ..ఆ అమ్రుత ధారలొ తరించండి

    వేదమనే కల్పవృక్షం నుంచి భాగవతం అనే ఫలం జారిపడింది అని పొతనామత్యుడు ” వేద కల్ప వృక్ష మిగిలితం ….

    పొతన రాజుకి ఎక్కడ భాగవతాన్ని అంకితం ఇస్తాడో అని అనిపించి సరస్వతీ దేవి కన్నీరు పెట్టినట్టు అయన వ్రాసిన మరొ అద్భుత పద్యం ” కాటుక కంటి నీరు చనుకట్టు పయింబడ ఎల ఎడ్చెదో ……

    As the writer mentioned it is not possible to write in one article about Shri Bommera Pothana ….I advice her to cover few more excellent poems in another article …..may be “ala vakunta purambuloaa….
    ” paniyambulu thravuchunu kuduchchunu ……. , …and vamana avathaaram poems

  4. చాలా బాగుంది. సాయి స్వరూప్ గారు. చక్కగా వివరించారు. అభినందనలు.
    చిన్న సందేహం ప్రాసాక్షరాలు బొద్దు (బోల్డు) గా ఇచ్చారు బాగుంది. మరి యతి ప్రాసలు జంట కదా. యతి స్థానాలు కింద గీత చూపలేదా లేక సాంకేతకంగా అనువు కాలేదా.

  5. Pingback: Glory of Vijayanagara- Literature. | History Under Your Feet

  6. Pingback: Vontimitta Kodanda Rama Swamy Temple | History Under Your Feet

  7. Pingback: Gajendra Moksham – When the God rushed to the rescue | Saiswaroopa

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