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....

Literary Contacts between Tamil and Telugu

T. S. Parthasarathy

Charles Philip Brown of the Madras Civil Service, who published the first Telugu-English dictionary in 1852, wrote, “Few or Tamils are well-versed in Sanskrit: and we meet some Tamils who, however thoroughly skilled in Sanskrit, are to write, read or speak Telugu. To these statements it nay be replied that surely Telugu poetry abounds with Sanskrit words. True; and English poetry abounds with Latin words. Yet an Italian or Spaniard, however familiar with Cicero would, unless he had studied English, find Milton unintelligible.”

These observations perhaps explain why there has been scant literary intercourse among the four Dravidian languages, although they belong to the same linguistic group. Commenting on the “Desi” language used by the Satavahanas, Dr D. C. Sircar writes, “Apparently Telugu, which was in older times closer to Tamil than it is now, was the mother-tongue of the Satavahanas.” Similarly, the old Kannada (Halekannada) and the early Malayalam poetry of the Ramacharitam” variety contained more Tamil words than at the present time when the four South Indian languages are moving away from each other to a greater extent than ever before. Few writers in one language know the names of even the leading litterateurs in another unless they meet them in seminars or scan works like the National Bibliography of Indian literature.

Among the four linguistic groups in South India, the Tamils and the Telugus have had longer and closer contacts with each other than people from Karnataka or Kerala. When Kamparaya II led his expedition to Tondaimandalam in the 14th century to subjucate the Sambuvaraya, the powerful chief of the region, he was accompanied by a large number of Andhras who later settled down in Tamil Nadu permanently. Kamparaya himself stayed in the Tamil country for more than ten years and recovered Srirangam and the tracts around Madurai which were under the occupation of Muslims. The exploits and benefactions of this Vijayanagar general are graphically described in the Sanskrit Kavya, “Madhura Vijayam,” written by his queen, Gangadevi.

Though he first came as an aggressor, Kamparaya later assumed the role of a saviour of Hinduism and marched against Srirangam at the request of the Vaishnavites there who sought his help to oust the Muslim occupation forces. Goppanarya, the governor of the province of Gingee, arranged for the restoration of the image of God Ranganatha to the Srirangam temple and the resumption of worship there around 1370. For these services, he earned the appreciation of no less a person than the great Vedanta Desika who commemorated the event by composing two Sanskrit verses which were engraved on the inner wall of the temple.

Later, most parts of the Tamil country came under the sway of the Vijayanagar empire, but the Government by an oligarchy from outside the State does not appear to have been resented by the local people. The Vijayanagar kings were protectors of Dharma and made lavish endowments to temples. Devaraya II appears to have had Tiruvannamalai as his second capital. He patronized Arunagirinatha who immortalized the ruler in his “Tiruppugazh” songs. Krishnadevaraya, during whose reign the Vijayanagar empire reached the zenith of its glory, patronized not only Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada but also Tamil. His literary circle included Tamil poets like Kumara Saraswati, Mandala Purusha (a Jain), Jnanaprakasar, Tattvaprakasa Kavi of Tiruvarur and Hari Dasa, the author of “Irusamaya Vilakkam.”

The Raya (or Allasani Peddana according to some) wrote the Telugu Mahakavya, “Amuktamalyada”, or “Vishnuchittiyam” based on the lives of Periyalvar and Andal. Three later poets including Vijayaraghava Nayak, wrote works based on the story of Tondaradippodi Alvar.

The Nayaks of Tanjore and Madurai, who ruled the Tamil country after the enfeeblement of the Vijayanagar empire in 1565, were also patrons of learning. Though they continued to employ Telugu in their private life, Tamil was the State language. But a large number of Telugu poets flourished under the Nayaks and the later Maharatta kings. They founded what is known as the Southern School of Telugu Literature. Ramabhadramba, Madhuravani, Chemakura Venkata Kavi and Pasupuleti Rangajamma were among the renowned poets of this era.

Rulers like RaghunathaNayak (1616-1631) and Vijayaraghava Nayak (1663-1673) were not only patrons of literature but were themselves authors of a large number of Telugu works. The claim that the poetess Muddupalani translated the “Tiruppavai” of Andal into Telugu verse has been refuted, but an excellent Telugu version of Andal’s poem by Acharya Sadhana has been published by the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanams. It is significant that in the Sarasvati Mahal Library at Tanjore, Telugu manuscripts are the largest in number after Sanskrit MSS.

But it was Carnatic music that brought about emotional integration between the Tamils and Telugus to a greater extent than any other single factor. Vijayaraghava Nayak himself is stated to have composed Darus, Elapatalu, Sankirtanas and Kuravanji Yakshaganas. With the passage of time Telugu became the lingua franca of Carnatic music and even Tamil and Kannadiga musicians in Tanjore composed in Telugu. Apart from visiting composers like Kshetrajna, others like Virabhadrayya, Pallavi Gopalayya (Rajagopala Kavi), Adippiah, Merattur Venkatarama Sastri, Ghanam (Vangala) Seenayya and the great Tyagaraja and Syama Sastri are a few among the composers who lived in the Tanjore and Madurai areas and poured out hundreds of Telugu compositions.

These early contacts were, however, in the nature of a one-way traffic in the sense that most of the works were written in Telugu based on the Puranas or as “Abhyudaya kavyas” on the achievements of a ruler of the poet’s choice. No Telugu poet appears to have mastered Tamil to the extent of composing works in that language or translating Tamil classics into Telugu. The encouragement given to Tamil poets by the Nayaks was in the shape of honouring them whenever a good Tamil work was written and publicised. A case in point is the first reading of Kumara Guruparar’s “Minakshi Amman Pillai-t-Tamil”, in the presence of Tirumala Nayak at Madurai for which the poet was rewarded lavishly. There appear to have been no literary contacts between Tamil and Telugu poets or any mutual appreciation of each other’s art.

During the 19th century some attempts were made to translate Telugu works into Tamil and vice versa. These include a Telugu translation of the “Tirukkural” in 1877 and a Tamil translation of “Vemana Padyamulu” in 1892. It is interesting that Subbarama Dikshitar, the author of the “Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini,” underwent a complete course of study of the Telugu language and grammar under Krishnayamatya and Tanjore Rama Iyer, and translated into Tamil the entire “Andhra Mahabharatam” composed by the three poets Nannaya, Tikkana and Yerrapragada. Some Telugu verses composed in praise of Dikshitar by T. S. Murugesudu, Telugu Pandit, Tiruchi, and published in the “Pradarsini” also make interesting reading.

From the middle of this century there has been an unprecedented literary exchange between Tamil and Telugu. A large number of classics in each have been rendered into the other. The harbinger in this direction was the late Putalapattu Sriramulu Reddi, a school teacher, whose translations into Telugu verse include “Silappadhikaram,” “Manimekalai,” “Tirukkural” and “Kamba Ramayanam.” No other Telugu writer before him had attempted to tackle Sangam classics and the Ramayana of Kamban.

But the palm for rendering service to bridge the gulf between the literatures of Tamil and Telugu should go to Dr C. R. Sarma, presently Secretary of the Regional Office of the Sahitya Akademi at Madras. No Telugu scholar has so far made such a deep comparative study of the Tamil and Telugu literatures and published so many vignettes on Tamil literature in Telugu. His 35 published books form the most interesting corpus of works on literary contacts between Tamil and Telugu.

Dr Sarma published his first Telugu book in 1950 when he was only 21. In 1951 he published his 100-page adaptation of the “Silappadhikaram” under the little “Mani Manjiramu.” These were the beginnings of his later prolific output of Telugu books on Tamil literature. His “Tamila Vedam” is a summary of the “Tirukkural” and his book on Subrahmanya Bharati in the only one of its kind in Telugu.

Dr Sarma writes in Tamil also. His “Ayiram Talai Nagam” published in 1969 is an adaptation of “Veyi Padagalu”, an outstanding Telugu novel by the late KavisamratViswanatha Satyanarayana, the Jnanpith Award Winner. In 1975 the Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Akademi published a number of monographs in connection with the World Telugu Conference and commissioned Dr Sarma to write a book on Telugu vis-a-vis the other South Indian languages. In addition to being a competent survey of the subject, this work contains a rare bibliography of translations of books from each of the South Indian languages into the others.

It is noteworthy that a number of popular poets and writers in Tamil are domiciled Telugus who continue to have Telugu as their mother-tongue. These include the late Tiruloka Sitaram, Ku. Pa. Rajagopalan, N. Pichamurti and a few others who are still in our midst today.

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