Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

[We shall be glad to review books in all Indian languages and in English, French and German. Books for Review should reach the office at least SIX WEEKS in advance of the day of publication of the Journal.]

Telugu Literature: - By P. Chenchiah and Raja M. Bhujanga Rao. The Heritage of India Series. Published by the Association Press Y.M.C.A, Price Re 1-8-0.

So little is known of the Andhras outside the Telugu Districts that any attempt to acquaint the outside world with the culture and civilisation of the Andhras deserves to be warmly welcomed. This little brochure of 124 pages is the first attempt in the English language to narrate the broad outlines of Telugu Literature and, considering that it is a pioneer work, it must be pronounced to be a distinct success.

The book is closely modelled on Mr. E. P. Rice’s earlier volume in the same series on the history of Kanarese Literature. There is little wonder that this should be so, for the Kanarese and Telugu Literatures developed under almost the same vicissitudes of political history and were influenced by almost the same currents of social and religious thought, so that the two histories are very closely allied. Some of the earlier Telugu poets like Palkuriki Somanatha and Nanne Choda were also great Kanarese poets. The great Telugu poet Srinatha characterised his own poetry as ‘Karnata Bhasha.’ The great Empire of Vijianagar under whose patronage Telugu Prabhanda poetry reached its high-water mark was itself a ‘Karnata Samrajya;’ and at the Royal Court of Krishnadeva Raya and other Emperors, Telugu and Kanarese poets flourished together and composed their works side by side. The interaction of the two Literatures has been so continuous and deep-seated that no history of Telugu Literature can be considered complete unless it notices contemporary literary developments in Kanarese Literature, and vice versa. Mr. Rice attempted this to some extent in his ‘History of Kanarese Literature.’ It is to be regretted that the learned authorities of the present work neglected this aspect altogether.

It must, however, be said that within a short compass, the authors have been able to compress the maximum amount of matter, without in any way detracting from lucidity and clearness. Almost every poet of any eminence has been noticed. And the literary estimates are, generally, sound and accurate. The introductory chapters dealing with the. Andhras, their country, their language, and their script, and the sources of Telugu literary history and the historical and religious ground which gave rise to the same, are specially valuable as the book is primarily intended for Non-Andhras. The division of the history of Telugu Literature into five periods adopted by the authors is very convenient and is, in fact, the most widely-accepted among scholars. The authors have devoted one chapter to each of these five divisions, in which they notice the general literary tendencies of the period and give a short account of the leading poets and their works, and wind up by adding a list of the works of the more important minor poets of the period. The special chapters on women-poets and Christian and Mohammedan poets make very interesting reading. The authors appreciation of Mangalagiri Ananda Kavi's ‘Vedanta Rasayana’, a Telugu poem dealing with the life of Jesus, deserves special mention. For ‘Vedanta Rasayana’ is a poetical work of high merit. It is undoubtedly the best piece of Christian Literature in the Telugu language. The work is not as widely known as it deserves to be. It is to be hoped that at least the Christian publishing societies will rescue this excellent little work from unmerited oblivion and render a cheap and popular edition of the poem available to the Telugu reading public. The chapter dealing with the Southern school, that is, the literature produced at the Royal Courts of Tanjore, Madura and Mysore, is specially instructive and is one of the best portions of this work.

But perhaps the finest feature of this short literary history is the important place that it gives to the popular literature in Telugu. From very early times, two distinct streams of literature have been flowing side by side in the land of the Telugus, one the literature of the ‘Kavya’ and the ‘Prabandha’ which was exclusively the literature of the learned and of the Royal Courts, and the other a popular literature which consisted mainly of ‘Satakams’ or devotional hymns, ‘Yakshaganams’ or ‘Harikathas,’ ballads and songs. The authors call these two streams the ‘Margi’ and the ‘Desi’ respectively. Strictly speaking this is not the sense in which these two words are used in the famous quartette of Nanne Choda from which the words are borrowed. But these words are certainly very convenient to describe the two currents that have al ways been running parallel in Telugu Literature. Thanks to the labours of the late Veeresalingam. Pantulu and the late Gurujada Ramamurti and the Indefatigable researches of Manavalli Ramakrishnayya, almost all the important works of the ‘Kavya’ literature are now available to the reading public. But the scholars entirely excluded the popular literature from the purview of their researches. It is regrettable that no one has yet been found to do for this popular literature what Veeresalingam and others have done for the ‘Kavya’ literature. For there is undoubtedly much that is exceedingly beautiful and of the highest literary and artistic value in this popular literature. As the learned authors rightly point out, "When the industry of the Research scholar makes it available for the critic to sift and winnow, it will be found that this literature, scorned by the pandit, looked down upon by the learned, is the true heritage of the Andhras–their characteristic contribution to the Commonwealth of Letters–their true ‘Gitanjali’.

Dealing with modern literature, the authors hold progressive views and reveal a very sympathetic understanding of the new literary ideals, which have been animating and inspiring contemporary writers of creative literature. The impact of Western culture with traditional but decadent ideals has aroused the dormant creative genius of the Andhra race and has produced during the .last 20 or 30 years a volume of creative literature which is really prolific. The authors’ summary of this recent literature is generally correct and comprehensive. One important omission must, however, be noticed. Almost everyone of the modern poets acknowledges that his fore-runner and inspirer is the late Gurajada Appa Rao (and not Rayaprolu Subba Rao as the authors seem to think) whose ‘Muthyala Saramulu,’ though not available in book form, were published in the ‘Andhra Bharati’ and other magazines and directly inspired and brought into existence the modern school of poets. It is quite surprising that the authors do not even refer to the late Gurajada Appa Rao as a poet, though they refer to his brilliant social comedy, ‘Kanya Sulkam.’ Most of the work of this new school is certainly a hybrid patch-work, which has neither the sweetness and the beauty of Telugu nor the virile strength of English. But signs are already visible that the wave of nationalism sweeping over the entire country is making its influence felt in the realm of Andhra Literature also. There is now a distinct tendency to assimilate the views of the best Sanskrit critics of poetry like Mummata and Anandavardhana and to draw inspiration from the best works of early Sanskrit Literature. The leading exponent of this new phase in the realm of criticism is Akkiraju Umakanta Vidyasekhara, while in the realm of creative art, the same tendency is clearly visible in the best work of Viswanatha Satyanarayana, a rising Telugu poet of great promise and merit. This new phase of modern literary development has been left unnoticed by the authors.

In the last chapter entitled ‘Retrospect and Prospect,’ the authors summarise their views of the characteristic merits and defects of Telugu Literature as a whole. The authors point out that "true literature is the artistic expression of life" and remark that the central weakness of Telugu Literature (excluding modern tendencies) lies in the dissociation of art from life. This is, in one sense, strictly true; for Telugu Literature as a whole reflects very little of the daily life of the Andhras. But before a whole Literature is condemned, as the authors have done in unmeasured terms, one must acquire a deep and sympathetic understanding of the literary ideals which inspired the greatest masters of the Literature. Telugu Literature is the epitome in the realm of Letters of the same ideals as are embodied in ancient sculpture and painting. In literature, no less than in art, the imitation of nature, even in the larger sense of the expression, was never an ideal. Realism, as it is understood in the West, had never any high place in the literary idealism of the Andhras, though it is certainly true that two of the greatest Telugu poets, Tikkana and Pingali Sooranna, were also great realists. The delineation of a mere man was always looked down upon. Literature concerned itself almost exclusively with pious lore, nor did literature, any more than sculpture, concern itself with creating original characters of striking individuality; it only depicted types, the ‘Dheerodatta’ and such like. Even the ‘Shrungara’ of Telugu Literature, at its best, has the same justification in art as the rude images of Indian sculpture. It is not possible to discuss this subject fully in the short space of a review. Suffice it to say that the defects pointed out by the authors are defects, if they be such at all, which Telugu Literature has in common with other Indian Literatures; for they are all the products of almost the same literary and artistic ideals. In point of sweetness and witchery of expression, however, Telugu Literature stands supreme. As the authors rightly put it, "Telugu poetry is song set to music: symphony and sweetness is its soul."

Taken as a whole, the book under review contains a short, reliable, and succinct account of the main currents of Telugu Literature. There are a few accidental slips or errors which need no special notice. The style is throughout simple and chaste, and, in some places, even eloquent and picturesque. The book is neatly printed on featherweight paper and moderately priced. An excellent introduction contributed by that eminent Andhra scholar and savant, Mr. C. R. Reddy, adds to the value of the work. The authors as well as the pub1ishers deserve to be congratulated upon this neat little production.


The Next Rung. By K.S. Venkataramani, M.A., B.L., The Swetaranya Ashram, Mylapore, Madras. Price Rs. 1-8-0

The surge of nationalism has stirred the placidity of acquiescence. When have begun to think afresh. We have found new values for old and forgotten products of the past and polished them for use. A dormant love of the native has begun to burn aflame. A longing for what is alien has receded into remoteness. We have come to realise that what is real is ideal and what is ideal is real. We now see with a vision that eliminates the mist and lays bare the dawn in all its perfection. Mr. Venkataramani is one such visionary, not in the sense that he is unacquainted with or unconcerned with actualities, but that his ken is not limited by the external nor obstructed by walls of prejudice or hate.

The civilization that now ravages the world more like a fatal epidemic than a fascinating ideal, more like a cosmetic that tentatively hides wrinkles that age has carved, has to be shed by those who have come under its grasp. It sets man against man, and nation against nation, till at last it consumes itself and those under its sway. It is a civilization which breeds greed, breeds inequality. Here we find the rich growing richer and the poor poorer. Mr. Venkataramani goes to the very fundamentals and shakes the foundations of the fabric of society. He traces the origin of Government which is due to property which in its turn is incidental to marriage, and marriage is necessitated by the problem of cooking. And so Government came to be the protector of property and hence all the struggle, the slavery, the oppression. The rich are protected by the police, and with the aid of such protection there grew up the institution of the rich and the institution of the poor. War has been the fruit of this civilisation, and Mr. Venkataramani foresees a war more destructive than the last, which will end in the crash of the civilisation that has begot it. He makes some very thoughtful observations on this aspect of the civilization that governs the nations of Europe in particular. "He who talks of war as a biological necessity which keeps at maximum efficiency this idle and effiminate race has studied life only in the jungle."

"War instead of being in essence the messenger of peace, has become the angel of death."

"The last war in the world will be the most celebrated in this ugly chronicle, not for its poison gas and efficient artillery but for the extraordinarily wise, human and foresighted peace treaty which will announce as the highest and most inviolable duty of every man and state, the sanatanic value that underlies the four religions and the three institutions of man, to enforce which war has been a common and collective weapon of necessity."

That glorious day, as he says, is in our own hands and "let everyone choose wisely and play manfully to hasten the day."

"The Next Rung" is a splendid plea for a better ordering of society, for a more equitable distribution of the fruits that nature yields, for a system of Government where man is not pampered by excess or oppressed by indigence, where there is less supervision and more co-operation. The village is the political and the economic unit, producing its needs, settling its disputes, administering its affairs. There is no fear of invasion. No machine-guns, no bombs, no aeroplanes, no armies and navies are needed. There is no need for protection, for there is no need for fear. What does the invader come for? Food. Let him be given a plot of land, a pair of bullocks and a plough, and more than all, your love. He is content and would become one with you. War would be eliminated and peace become suzerain. The over-centralization now so rampant would be absent. You weave your own cloth, you grow your own food. Man becomes self-reliant. Each village becomes self-dependent. It will have its own council of wise men, who will be responsible for soothing the occasional ripples and rifts. Science will help in the way of producing mechanical devices with greater rapidity, at less cost and in larger quantity. Science and its gifts are not tabooed. Arts and crafts will flourish. Poetry, philosophy, music, will bloom with a new perfume. Thus from the bottom rung man will rise to a high altitude, sublimated, sanctified. All the dross and dirt, all the suffocating and sulphurous atmosphere where vice blows its envenomed buds will disappear and be drowned in the nectareous perfume of heavenly breath. The new civilisation will be a glorious temple where enshrined dwells, away from the foul breath of slavery, and oppression, the golden image of liberty, of equity, of justice. It rises spire on spire until it touches the heavens. We are not, as worshippers in that temple, afraid of wars of nations or greeds of men.

Mr. Venkataramani, in his "The next rung" builds up the vision of such a glorious edifice, and as we read it we are absorbed and identified with the magnificent work so naively consummated. It is not an impracticable dream. It is a tangible, a verifiable reality. These ideas are not the product of a fevered imagination or calculated discontent. Like brick on brick they are placed one after, or above, the preceding until the effect is an architectural perfection. The beauty of expression embellishes the idea. It is not a pile of ideas. It is a structure of a transcendental idea invested with poetry. "Next Rung" is the product of a mind dissolved and rarified by the one consuming thought of the beauty of the universe and the beatitude of man. It is the product of a soul that dances at joy and peace, and shivers at the sorrow and strife of man.


Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: