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 Achievements of Tallapaka Poets

B. Rajanikanta Rao


Nearly thirty years ago, a heavy load of copper plates containing thousands of Telugu lyrics and other literary works was discovered a stone-built cellar very near the sanctum-sanctorum of Lord Venkateswara’s Temple on the Tirumala Hill. Two stone slabs, containing embossed figures of two saintly persons each carrying a musical instrument (Tambura), cover the opening of the cellar. The two figures were recognised to be embossed images of Tallapaka Annamacharya, and his son Peda Tirumalacharya, who lived in the 15th and 16th centuries. Most of the Telugu lyrics and literary works discovered in the temple cellar were composed by these two savants and two or three of their successors.

Each one of these lyricists, having had initiation in traditional learning, and unswerving devotion to Lord Venkateswara, started their lyrical and literary creations even when he was a teenager. The earliest and the greatest among them and among all such subsequent lyric composers is Annamacharya, having to his credit 32,000 lyrics and many other forms of poetical works. Some mysterious cause in history like contemporary political, religious or linguistic jealousy might have kept the literary achievement of this illustrious family away from the ken of the historians of literature and music for nearly five centuries. Thanks to the benevolence of Achyutadevaraya, who succeeded Krishnadevaraya as the Emperor of Vijayanagar, the son and grandson of Annamacharya, viz., Peda Tirumalacharya and China Tirumalacharya, could get royal and ecclesiastical recognition tothe greatness of Annamacharya as a saint-poet and composer and got thousands of his lyrics and many literary works inscribed on copper plates and installed in the stone-built cellar called Samkirtana Bhaandaagaara, The Library of Samkirtanas–just adjacent to the shrine of Srimad Ramanuja in the Pradakshina Praakaara – towards the left side of the Garbhaalaya. It is to the credit of the late research scholar Sri Veturi Prabhakara Sastri to have discovered these inscriptions, and the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam authorities, to have the texts of the lyrics edited by Sri Veturi and subsequently by Sri Rallapalli Anantakrishna SarmA, who also reconstructed the music of the lyrics according to Ragas as prescribed by the author-composers. More than twenty volumes of Samkirtanas and nearly the same number of other literary works have been published during these thirty and odd years, by the T. T. D. The present writer allotted an entire chapter in his research work Andhra Vaggeyakaracharitra to Annamacharya and his scions, as the pioneers among Telugu composers, who raised the status of Telugu song, which was till then a product and entertainment item of unlettered rural folk, wandering minstrels, domestic women of street plays, to be worthy of being sung in a temple or a king’s court, evincing the interest and admiration of both the scholar and the common man.

Dr Veturi Ananda Murti, Reader, Telugu Department, Nizam College, Hyderabad, a worthy son of an illustrious, scholarly father (the late Prabhakara Sastri), has taken up the torch, lighted by his father, and unravelled facts of great historical and literary value, hitherto unknown about Tallapaka composers, their works and times, through further researches in the copper plate inscriptions, palm-leaf manuscripts and other contemporary sources ofhistory and literature, available at Tirupati, Tanjavur and other places. His valuable research and conclusions have been brought out into these two heavy volumes in Telugu. Although there is slight difference in the main title of these two volumes, certainly they are volume I and volume II of the material of information gathered, conjectured, argued and concluded almost invariably in a convincing thread of deductions.

The first volume consists of three chapters. The initial chapter deals with the history of Tirupati-Tirumala shrine of Lord Venkateswara. Various ancient Tamil works like Tolkappiyam of the Sangam age of earliest Tamil literature make a mention of this place as “Vada Vengadam”, meaning – the southern outpost (Vengadam) of the northerners (Vadugar = Telugus). It was Aganaanoor of Mamoolanaar of about the 1st century B. C. that gave the story or history of how the shrine of Srinivasa on the Seven hills a little earlier and one Thondaman Tiraiyan ruling the kingdom of Thondamandalam having Kanchi as its capital and including the areas of present Tirupati and Nellore. After finding mention and praise in the devotional lyrics (Thevaram and Pasuram)of the Alwars, the Vaishnava saints, between the 3rd and 8th centuries, and by some of them as both Hari and Hara, Lord Venkateswara was finally declared by Srimad Ramanujacharya in the 11th century as Vishnu and to this day, the system of daily worship, follows the stipulations of Srimad Ramanuja. Since every Kirtana and every other form of literary works of Tallapaka poets were dedicated to Sri Venkateswara, and the whole lot of this literature was discovered in the temple precincts. Sri Ananda Murti is justified in giving the history ofthis holy shrine from its hoary beginnings. Many inscriptions of kings of Sangama dynasty of Vijayanagar empire, Saluva and Tuluva dynasties reveal their connections with the shrine. Out of all, Saluva Narasimha Raya happens to be the contemporary and also one who has honoured the senior-most saint-poet of the Tallapaka family, i.e., Annamacharya. Annamayya seems to have refused to sing in praise of this king and consequently was handcuffed and placed in a prison. Annamayya’s grandson Chinnanna described this incident in his biographical poem in Dwipada metre and how the great saint could convert the king’s mind, got himself released only through his unswerving devotion to the Lord and his songs are available, composed in the context of all such incidents.

The author perhaps rightly surmises that the early kings of Tuluva dynasty, Narasanayaka and Vira Nrisimharaya and Krishnadevaraya, remained absolutely indifferent to the existence of this great saintly family who were making the whole of South India reverberate with their thousands of Kirtanas and other literary works in various places of pilgrimage in addition to Tirupati. This indifference, as the author correctly guesses, is due to the Tallapaka family being not only closely connected having shown favourable disposition to the Saluva dynasty, but also themselves been a little unfavourably disposed to the usurping kings of the Tuluva dynasty. But, Timmarusu who suffered under Krishnadevaraya towards the old age, and Achyutadevaraya who was imprisoned by the same being his step-brother and suspected claimant to the throne, both seem to have been favoured and helped by the Tallapaka family. That is why it was during the reign of Achyutadevaraya and Sadasivaraya, inscriptions reveal their close association with the Tallapaka family, who also got significant grants along with the Lord Venkateswara, and the Samkirtana Bhandagara was installed in the Pradakshina Prakara of the temple and was replenished with the lyrics and literary works of the composers, inscribed on copper plates.

At the end of the first chapter, Sri Murti compares the Tallapaka poets to the Veerasaiva poets and concludes that each group favoured the Desi or the indigenous forms of literature which enriched the language through the most idiomatic, living expressions of the language of their time and region, and each served to propagate the ideals and teachings of their respective religion–Saivism or Vaishnavism.

The second chapter delineates the various aspects and forms of the literary works of the Tallapaka poets. Sri Murti praises Tallapaka Chinnanna while adapting the Dwipada metre for his Paramayogivilasam, Ashtamahishi Kalyanam, Usha Kalyanam and Annamacharya Charitam, he gave for the first time the prosodical principles governing the Dwipada metre which is considered by all scholars of medieval and modern poesy as a Desi (indigenous to Telugu) metre. Chinnanna mentions in his verse

Anu lakshanambula nanuvonda Sukavi-jana suprayogaika saranamai nikhila jagadekanuta viraat chandovateerna-yaguchune Dwipadavikhyaati chelanga

that Dwipada is derived from the “Viraat chanda”, i.e., from the Sanskritic metre called “viraat.” This reviewer wonders how the metre in Sanskrit notated as UUU, IIU, IUI, U (‘ma’, ‘sa’, ‘ja’ and a Guru) with unchangeable Ganas of unequal measure can be the cause of evolution for the Telugu indigenous Dwipada which is notated as

Vaasavulmuvvuru vanjaaptu dokadu
Bhaasilla nadiyokka padamu Sri Kaanta!

This can be compared to the Sanskrit verse in Viraatchanda:

“Visvamtish, thatikuk, kshikota, re
Vaktreyasya sarasvati sadaa”

Even when the Dwipada is sung like a song by elongating the short vowels–as is done by the villagers in folk tunes–it will give three ‘ma’ Ganas or nine elongated letters and one more long Matra in the end. As such the reviewer differs from the author and prefers Dwipada to be the earliest prosodical form , of our language, from which other Desi metres can easily be evolved–but Sanskrit prosody has nothing to do with the origin of the Telugu Dwipada, but for its name, due to having two lines in a complete or two couplets in a stanza.

Visvam-m-Tishthati Kukshiko, tare
Paandavulu Paandavulu Tummeda Panella

The way the Viraatchanda verse scanned with elongated vowels above, compared to the “Tummeda padam” (which is again an indigenous Telugu metre) similarly scanned is likely to create an outcome of Tummeda padam also having an affinity or verisimilar resemblance to the Dwipada metre, that Dwipada and all similar metres are an outcome of Sanskrit metres. It is safe to conclude that the hoary scholars in Sanskrit made a thorough study of different Desi metres of various regions of our country and prepared a mathematical approximation to any Desi metre through their scientific and comprehensive study of evolution of prosodical forms.

Sri Murti has dealt with Annamacharya’s “Ramayanam”, Peda Tirumalacharya’s “Harivamsa”, Sri Venkateswara Prabhatastava “Srisasatakam”, “Sringara vritta sataka”, “Amaru sataka” and “Subhadrakalyanam” of Timmakka, one of the two wives of Annamacharya, among other works of the Tallapaka scions.

Annamacharya wrote “Samkirtanalakshanam” in Sanskrit, but the work is not available. Its translation into Telugu done by Annamayya’s grandson China Tirumalacharya has been the first of its kind to deal with the Lakshana of Telugu song – which was synonymous in those days with Padam or Prabandham (as even called by Bharata and most other musicologists of the past) and also Daruvu, Dhruva, Paata, Geyam, Kirtana and Samkirtanam. “Samkirtanalakshana” divides the Pad am or Samkirtana broadly into two categories–Sringara Padams and Adhyatma Padams. The former category can use idiomatic spoken dialect of women with all its nascent beauties, while the latter the philosophical or the devotional lyric in praise of the Lord should be composed in purely grammatical language. Among other revelations made by Sri Murti in his critique, mention must be made of “Bhagavadgita Vachanam” of Peda Tirumalacharya written in spoken word Telugu and Tallapaka Tiruvengalanatha’s commentary to the well-known Sanskrit Nighantu “Amarakosa” popularly known among scholars and Vidyarthis as “Guru Bala Prabodhika.”

The second volume of Sri Ananda Murti’s critical dissertations deals entirely with the form and content, theme and treatment, and variations in musical structure and Ragas used by Annamacharya and his successors in their Samkirtanas or Padams. He has waded through the inscriptions before Nannaya Bhatta (11th century) and established that Telugu Desi lyrics were extant even from the 6th century in some of the inscriptions. He established that Annamacharya is the “Adikavi” among the lyric composers in Telugu as much as Nannaya is the “Adikavi” among the Telugu literary poets as such, notwithstanding Krishnamacharya of Simhachalam having preceded Annamayya at least by two centuries having to his credit the Simhagiri Narahari Vachanas (Gadya Prabandhas or prose lyrics rendered in Ragas). The fear of super-session of the time-honoured practice of rendering the Tamil lyrics under the honorific “Dravida Veda” by the flood of Annamacharya’s innumerable lyrics, which very soon recognised as “Andhra Veda”, and consequent jealousy of the vested interests of the period, might have relegated the knowledge about the existence of copper plates containing the immortal lyrics into a temporary oblivion until they were rediscovered. All forms of possible lyrical forms were adapted from the folk melodies, like love duets, dialogues between Yasoda and Gopis, between Lakshmi and Saraswati, between Krishna (in the form of Vcnkateswara or vice versa)and Gopis, or Chenchu belles, following the pattern of Daruvus of Yakshaganas, lyrics in praise of the Lord for service (worship) rendered on various occasions of the day, as rendered to a monarch, like Prabhata Stuti (heralding the dawn), Nalugu paatalu (songs for the sacred bath), Koluvu or Astbanam (when the Lord presides over the throne among his courtiers and retinue), Naivedyam (offering of edible oblations like Puliyodanam, Dadhyodanam, Ladduvam, etc.), Haarati, Ekantaseva (sending the Lord and his divine spouse to the nuptial chamber) and Laali (sending the Lord to sleep). There are lyrics describing various seasonal ceremonies celebrated in Tirumala like Brahmotsavam, Garudotsavam, Vasantotsavam, Teppotsavam (Boat ride in the temple pond), Utla Panduga or Sikyotsavam, which was described subsequently even by Narayana Teertha in his Krishnaleela Tarangini. Hundreds of amorous lyrics of Annamacharya carrying the Sringara Rasa exemplify in the most comprehensive manner, all the varieties of Naayikas (heroine) as adumbrated in the Alankara Sastra (Principles of Rhetoric). They are not mere examples for principles of Rhetoric, but action snaps of possible scenes from life, of love, pangs of separation, jealousy and all other emotions sublimated, and dedicated to the hero, the Nayaka, who is always Lord Venkateswara, the purushottama, the deified human.

Sri Ananda Murti could deduce some possible factors of history, of course based on documentary pieces of evidence like the one which finds mention in the Annamacharya charitram, a biography or Annamayya, written by his grandson, that Purandaradasa, a saint-composer of Karnataka who belonged to the Dasakoota of Madhwa affiliation, being a junior contemporary had met the progenitor of Andhra Veda and Sankirtana Pitamaha, Annamacharya in his lifetime. And also, Sri Murti could conclude that Achyutadevaraya, the successor of Krishnadevaraya to the throne of Vijayanagar empire, who is known himself to have originated the fretted type of Veena, called Achyutaraya Mela Veena, appears to have used his good offices, having been ably assisted Tirumalacharya, the grandson of Annamayya, and Purandaradasa, the Karnataka Sangita Pitamaha, to lay the foundations for graded teaching of Karnataka music to youngsters, starting from the Sarali swaras, Jantaswaras, Lakshanageetas, Varnas, Kirtanas and Pallavis. Names of more than a hundred Ragas were mentioned in which the lyrics were sung by the composers.

Sri Murti has extensively quoted many lyrics of Annamayya and his son, having referenccs to contemporary historical events, like change of ruling dynasties after court intrigue, coup-de-tat, bloodshed and the inroads of rival rulers of Utkala and Bahmani kingdoms into the Vijayanagara empire.

These two volumes having an extensive and comprehensive survey of the literary achievements of Tallapaka poets and composers will be an asset to every book-shelf of lovers of Telugu literature and music.

* 1 Tallapaka Kavula Kritulu – Vividha Sahiti Prakriyalu (Prabhakara Prachuranamu). Price: Rs. 30.

2. Tallapaka Kavula Padakavitalu-Bhasha Prayoga Viseshalu, Price: Rs.45. Both written by Dr Veturi Ananda Murti and are available at ‘Srinivas’, 6/2RT (New), Vijayanagar Colony, Hyderabad-500 028.

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