Krishnadeva Raya- Golden Age of Telugu Literature

We have seen in the previous two posts, the Ascent of Sri Krishna Deva Raya  and his  conquest of Raichur, that proved to be the high point of Vijayanagara empire. Sri Krishna Deva Raya, apart from being a renowned warrior, able administrator was also an excellent writer himself, and a patron of arts and culture. In his reign, Vijayanagara was not only militarily and politically powerful, but also a thriving center for learning and arts. It was where all the writers, poets, artistes, sculptors flocked to, produce some of the finest works ever.  While his reign is described often as the Golden Age of Telugu Literature,  equal patronage was also given to Kannada, Tamil and Sanskrit authors and writers. Krishna Deva Raya himself was a polyglot, fluent in Telugu, Kannada, Tuluva. He was praised  as “Narasimha Krishna Deva Raya” at whose name the Turks quivered and elephants ran away, by one of his poets Mukku Timanna.

Vyasathirtha

One of the most influential men of letters in his reign, was  the great Madhava scholar Vyasathirtha, who along with Madhwacharya and Jayathirtha, was one of the 3 spiritual lights or Muni trayam of  Dwaita Vedanta philosophy. Along with  Jayathirtha, he was instrumental in systematizing Dwaita into a school of thought and was also the founder of the Haridasa cult. Respected even by his opponents,  he had a very clear understanding and exposition of various schools of philosophy and was a master of debate and logic. Hailing from Bannur in Mysore district, he studied for a very long time under Shripadaraja at Mulbagal. He was a regular at the Vijayanagara court of  Saluva Narasimha when he was at Chandragiri, and was looking after the Tirumala temple then. On the invitation of Saluva Narasimha, he moved to Hampi around 1498,  and when Sri Krishna Deva Raya ascended the throne, in 1509, his influence grew even more. Sri Krishna Deva Raya considered him his Kuladevata, and Rajaguru. He sought his blessings before the Battle of Raichur, and listened to his preachings every day.  He was the author of many memorable works like Nyayamritam on metaphsyics, Tarkatandava on Logic.  Among other Kannada poets patronized by Sri Krishna Deva Raya were Mallanaraya, author of Veera Saivamruta and Bhava Chinta Ratna, Chattu Vitalanatha who wrote Bhagavata and Timmana Kavi, who eulogized him in Krishna Raya Bharata.

 

Srikakulandhra Maha Vishnu Temple, at Srikakulam village,Krishna dt

 

 

Sri Krishna Deva Raya, the Writer.

The emperor, himself  was a renowned writer, who wrote Madalasa Charita, Satyavadu Parinaya, Rasamanjari and Jambavati Kalyana all in Sanskrit. Apparently there is a very interesting anecdote, related to Sri Krishna Deva Raya’s Amukta Malyada, the work he wrote in Telugu. During the Kalinga campaign in 1516, having conquered Kondavidu, Kondapalli, he came to know of the glory of Andhra Maha Vishnu, and his temple located at Srikakulam in Krishna dt( not to be confused with the district called Srikakulam).  The Andhra Maha Vishnu was a legendary warrior of ancient times, whom many believed to be embodiment or Amsa of Lord Vishnu himself, and they built a temple in his honor at Srikakulam.  During his stay at Srikakulam village, Krishna Deva Raya had performed the Ekadasi Vratam, and then Andhra  Maha Vishnu appeared in his dream.

Andhra Vishnu came to me in my dream. His body was a radiant black, blacker than the rain cloud. His eyes wise and sparkling, put the lotus to shame. He was clothed in the best golden silk, finer still than the down on his eagle’s wings. The red sunrise is pale compared to ruby on his chest.

 

Sri Krishnadeva Raya statue at Srikakula Andhra Mahavishnu Temple

Andhra Vishnu ordered  Sri Krishna Deva Raya in his dream to write the story of his wedding with Andal, his devotee at Sri Rangam in Telugu. He was said to have told him that since he is Telugu Vallabhunda( the ruler of the Telugus), it should be written in Telugu,  and he also gave the reasoning as shown.

తెలుఁగ దేల నన్న దేశంబు దెలుఁగేను
తెలుఁగు వల్లభుండఁ దెలుఁ గొకండ
యెల్ల నృపులగొలువ నెరుఁగ వే బాసాడి
దేశభాషలందుఁ తెలుఁగు లెస్స

telugadElayanna, dESambu telugEnu
telugu vallaBhunDa telugokanDa
yella nRpulu golva nerugavE bAsADi
dESa BhAShalandu telugu lessa

What he meant was “If you ask me why in Telugu, I am the Telugu Ruler of the Telugu Land, All the kings serving under you being Telugu, you shall know that Telugu is the greatest of all the languages here”.   What it meant was that since he would  be ruling over a large part of Andhra region, where his subjects and feudatories would be speaking in Telugu, it would be better if he wrote the work in Telugu itself.  And this is how Sri Krishna Deva Raya, came to write Amukta Malyada, his magnum opus, detailing the separation and pinging by Andal, also considered one of the 12 Alwars, for her lover,  Lord Vishnu. The physical beauty of Andal is described well in this work, as well as usage of Sringara as a means to spirituality and union with the divine.

AshtaDiggajalu

In Indian mythology, the Ashta Diggajas were the 8 elephants that were believed to have held up the earth in 8 directions, which were Pundareeka, Vaamana, Kumuda, Anjana, Pushpadanta, Sarwabhouma, Suprateeka and the most famous of them all, Indra’s elephant Airawata. In a way, these 8 elephants, were also associated with the Ashta Dikpalakas, the guardians of the 8 directions.  The Ashta Diggajas in Sri Krishnadeva Raya’s court were 8 great poets and writers, who were amongst his close circle, and with whom the king used to congregate daily.  Their court was also called as the Bhuvana Vijayamu (Conquest of the World) and these 8 poets each had their own individual style, totally different from each other.

Allasani Peddana with Krishna Deva Raya

Allasani Peddana with Krishna Deva Raya

 Allasani Peddana was the foremost of the Ashta Diggajas, hailing from a village in Anantapur district, he was revered as Andhra Kavita Pitamaha( Grandfather of Telugu poetry) and also as Peddannamatya, as he was a senior minister too. He wrote the first major Prabhanda, a form of fictional poetry, and Sri Krishna Deva Raya himself, would carry the palanquin in which he was seated. Such was Sri Krishna Deva Raya’s reverence for Allasani Peddanna, that once, he bent down, and himself placed the Ganda Pendaram( a large golden bracelet) around Peddanna’s feet, to honor him.  Allasani also had the privilege of mounting the royal elephants, the only court poet to do so. When Sri Krishna Deva Raya passed away, Allasani is believed to have mourned ” Atti Krishna Rayala thoti divikegaleka brathiki yundithi jeevatchavamba naguchu “( I have become a living dead, why have I not gone to the heaven along with the Rayala”. His most famous work to date is the Manu Charitra, based on a short story from the Markandeya Purana, about the 2nd Manu, Pravarakhya, and it has been classified among the Pancha Kavyas of Telugu literature, others being Panduranga Mahatyam by Tenali Ramakrishna, Amukta Malyada by Sri Krishna Deva Raya, Vasu Charitra by Rama Raja Bhushana and Vijaya Vilasamu by Chemakura Venkata Kavi.

Nandi Timmana hailed from Anantapur district, and entered the court, when Sri Krishna Deva Raya, married Tirumala Devi, and bought her to Vijayanagara. A Saiva,  he also wrote books on Vaishnavism too, and he was also called as Mukku Timmanna, because of a very beautiful poem he wrote on the Nose( Mukku). Where Allasani Peddanna, had a very complex, verbose style of writing, Timanna on the other hand used a more simpler language, which even the layman could understand.  It is for this reason that his poems are often referred to as Mukku Timmanna Muddu Paluk( Sweet words of Mukku Timmana). Parijatapaharanam, dealing with Satyabhama wanting the Parijata plant, and Krishna going to take it, was his most famous work. He also did an experiment called Chitra Kavita( magical poems), where all 4 lines of a poem could be read from either direction.

Madayagari Mallanna also hailed from Rayalaseema region, though his exact birth place is not known, and often accompanied Sri Krishna Deva Raya in his military travels. He would dedicate his works to Krishnadeva Raya’s famous minister, Appaji, aka Saluva Timmarasu. His most famous work is Rajashekhara Charitamu, based on the military and romantic conquests of a legendary ruler of Avanti kingdom.

Dhurjati Kavi,  was from the holy temple town of  Sri Kalahasti in Chittor dt, near to Tirupathi,  and he was an avid devotee of  Lord Kalahasteeswara, a devout Saivite. Most of his works are in praise of  Lord Shiva, the most famous being Sri Kalahasti Mahatyamu, about the temple town, it’s legends and myths. He also wrote the Sri Kalahasteeswara Satakam, 100 poems in praise of Lord Shiva. He also is credited with the Chatuvus, a form of stand alone extempore poems in Telugu.

Ayyalaraju Ramabhadrudu, hailed from Kadapa, and was also called Pillala Ramabhadrudu.  His most famous work was Ramabhudayamu and he also translated one of  Sri Krishnna Deva Raya’s works into Telugu as Sakala Katha Sara Sangraham.

Pingali Surana

Pingali Surana, is believed to have hailed from Kurnool, though his ancestors were from the village of the same name in Krishna district. One of his most famous works is the Kalapurnodayam( Art in full bloom), where he makes use of techniques like flashbacks and character transformation, considered a revolutionary work in it’s times. Another famous work of his was Raghava Pandaveeyam, which references stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata, simultaneously, and has a double entendre style. His other famous works are Garuda Puranam( written in Prabhandha style) and Prabhavati Pradyumnamu( about Pradyumna son of Lord Krishna and his love with Prabhavati).

Ramarajubhushanudu, was from Kadapa district, and he was an apprentice of  Allasani Peddana too for some time. Apart from being a great poet, he was also a musician of note too, played the Veena. His real name was Bhattu Murthi, and he got his name as he was believed to be a jewel ( Bhushanam) of the court. One of his notable works was Vasu Charitramu notable for it’s use of slesha or double entendre, another such work was Harischandra Nalopakanam, where he described story of great kings Harischandra and Nala. Other popular works of his were Kavyalankarasangrahamu a work on Telugu grammar and Vasucharitramu.

Tenali Ramakrishna

Tenali Ramakrishna, was in a league of his own, both a Kavi and a Vidushaka( the court jester) known for his razor sharp wit, intellect and humor. While he is more popular for his humor, and also as a jester, he was also a writer of note. His Panduranga Mahatyam was one of the Pancha Maha Kavyas, and described the legend of Panduranga, aka Vittala, another form of Lord Vishnu. His name comes from Tenali a place in Guntur district, from where he had come, and he was a devout Shaivite.  His other famous works were Udhbataradhya Charitamu about the great Shaivite preacher Udhbhata and also explores the sanctity of Kashi. He is also popular in folklore for stories based on him, that extoll his wit, sense of humor and the close relationship he had with Sri Krishna Deva Raya. In fact along with Timmarasu, Allasani, he was considered one of the members of  Sri Krishna Deva Raya’s inner circle.

It was the high point of Telugu literature, and it gave birth to a new style called Prabhandha, which took the original stories from ancient literature and added their own narration. While earlier poets like Tikkana, Potana, translated the Mahabharat and Bhagavatam as is, the Prabhandha style saw them adding, small obscure stories, some minor plots and rewrote them. All 3 genres of the Prabhandham style, Prakhyatam, Utpadyam and Misramam, were adopted during this period.

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About Ratnakar Sadasyula

I am a 40 year old Blogger with a passion in movies, music,books, Quizzing and politics. A techie by profession, and a writer at heart. Seeking to write my own book one day.
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8 Responses to Krishnadeva Raya- Golden Age of Telugu Literature

  1. saiswaroopa says:

    Allasani Peddana’s ode to Krishna Deva Raya Reminds me of the “Adya Dhara Niradhaara” by Kalidasa to Bhoja. And very befittingly, Raya was also called as Andhra Bhoja. Great write up!

  2. Allasani wrote the first prabandha and so is revered as the “Andhra kavitha pitha maha”. I mean who can forget the poem “atajani kanche bhumisurudu” from his prabandha, “Pravaruni Svagatham”. Never knew the inspiration for Sri Krishna Deva Raya to say “Desa bashalandhu tenugu lessa”, thanks for the info. Telugu has the best possible grammar rules to write fantastic poetry in my opinion. Unfortunately, the number of poets that can write beautiful poems taking “yathi” and “prasa” into consideration these days can be counted on fingers. Makes my heart sad. Almost all the asta diggaja kavulu hail from rayalaseema and it produced people like vemana, veerabhadra swamy, kavayitri molla and people doesnt even recognize it now sadly. Lots and lots of information to be taken into the society. Wish this blog can do that.

    • Kranthi thanks for the comment, that Desa Bhasha lendu Telugu lessa, was a very popular anecdote. The Srikakula Andhra Mahavishnu story is pretty much part of folklore. Rayalaseema was the home of poets, philosophers, saints, sadly now a days it has become associated with faction fights. Forget about Yathi, Prasa, I doubt how many now can write a decent sentence in Telugu, without grammatical errors.

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