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aShTadiggajamulu contd…


Individual Poets

Each of the aShTadiggaja poets (and their books) had a unique style and left a permanent mark on telugu literature. Obtaining facts about their lives (apart from the stories in oral tradition) is quite difficult. For the most part, scholars had to rely on internal and inscriptional evidence unearthed to date. Some details about the aShTadiggajamulu follow:


allasAni peddana

Late 1400s to mid 1500s. Native of Chandragiri in present day Chittoor Dt. Settled (?) in Cuddapah area where he was given an agrahAram by Sree kRShNa dEvarAya. He was the most famous of the group of aShTadiggajamulu and was counted as the first (both by seniority and by poetic merit). He wrote manucaritramu (svArOciSha manu samBhavamu) and harikathAsAramu (not available). Many famous cAtuvu poems in his name are available. He has the title "Andhra kavitA pitAmaha." For a few more trivia and some sample poems, see the accompanying write-up.


nandi timmana

Early 1500s. Although he was an "ArvElaniyOgi," he appears to be a native of anantapuram area. He was a Saiva and was the pupil of aGhOra Siva guru. His grand uncle and an uncle nandi mallayya & GhanTa singana were also famous poets. timmana wrote pArijAtApaharaNamu. He was known for soft and endearing usage of words and expressions. For a few more trivia and some sample poems, see the accompanying write-up.


mAdayyagAri mallana

Late 1400s and early 1500s. Native of rAyalaseema region. Wrote rAjaSeKhara caritram (CE 1515). It was dedicated to nAdeMDla appana, the governor of koMDaveeDu. appana was a nephew of sALuva timmana maMtri, alias appAji. The story of the prabandham seems to be completely original (utpAdyam/kalpitam). It talks about the military and romantic conquests of rAjaSEkhara -the king of avaMti. It is said that kRShNa dEvarAya had a great regard for him. He accompanied the emperor on several of his military campaigns. His poetry maintains decorum and restraint when compared to the "pacci SRngAra varNanam" by several of his contemporaries.



Early to mid 1500s. Native of kALahasti in present day Chittoor Dt. A great Siva Bhakta. Wrote SreekALahasti mAhAtmyamu and SreekALahasteeSwara Satakamu. SreekALahasti mAhAtmyamu is perhaps the best Bhakti prabandham in telugu. His Satakam is one of the greatest of all Satakams and certainly the best Saiva Satakam. In his younger days, he was known to have been a pleasure seeker. There is a lot of internal evidence for this in his works. His later days however, were spent in full rejection of the world and its ways. For a few trivia, an elementary intro’ to his works and some sample poems, see the accompanying review.


pingaLi sUrana

Mid 1500s. pingaLi village is in the Krishna Dt. But it is unlikely that the poet actually grew up in this village. He mentioned that he was a native of niDumAnUri kRShNarAya samudramu. Village names with "samudram" are common throughout southern telugu nADu. This one might be in Kurnool or Nellore Dt. sUrana’s mother was abbamAmba (ambamAmba). His father was amarana. He came from a long line of scholars. sUrana wrote praBhAvatee pradyumnamu and kaLApUrNOdayamu (CE 1550). The latter is the finest example of kathA kathana vaicitri. It is more like a voluminous novel than a poem. The story is completely original. It employs flash backs, a comedy of errors, character transfers and other modern sounding techniques. Coincidentally, it was composed at the same time Shakespeare wrote "As you like it" and shared many features with it. Several influential critics including kaTTamanci rAmalingA reDDi think that this is the finest book ever written in telugu and that sUrana is perhaps the best writer ever in telugu (with the possible exception of tikkana). He dedicated the book to nandyAla kRShNa rAju (Kurnool Dt.) who was a vijayanagara sAmanta rAju. sUrana was a master story teller and a brilliant panDita. He was fond of brain teasing literary gimmicks although he did not make use of SlESha in his kaLApUrNOdayamu. It is likely that he independently (re)introduced dvyarthi kAvya genre (double entendre) to telugu by writing rAGhava pAnDaveeyam (CE 1555). Each poem in this book can be interpreted as referring to the story of rAmAyaNam or to mahABhAratam. In the book he used more than half a dozen varieties of SlESha. Although vEmulavADa Bheemakavi was reputed to have written a dvyarthi kAvyam by the same name, it was unfortunately lost even before sUrana’s time. This book is also much appreciated by scholars. In writing the book he declared:

reMDarthamula padya mokkaTiyu nirmiMpaga SakyaMbugA
kuMDuM dadgati gAvyamella nagunE nOhO yanaMjEyadE
pAMDityaMbuna naMdunuM denugu kabbaM badBhutaM baMDru da
kshuM DevvADila rAma BhArata kathal jODiMpa BhAShAkRtin^

sUrana also wrote garuDa purANamu in telugu (seemingly his earliest work). His praBhAvatee pradyumnamu (which he dedicated to his father) is famous for its portrayal of SRngAra rasam. He himself felt that this book was his finest accomplishment.


rAma rAja BhUShaNuDu

Mid 1500s. Native of nellUru. He wrote vasucaritramu, hariScandra nalOpAKhyAnamu and narasaBhUpAleeyamu. The vasucaritramu is famous for the use of SlESha. Many later poets including the great cEmakUra vEnkaTa kavi tried to imitate vasucaritra. His given name was BhaTTu mUrti. Since he was the jewel (BhUShaNam) of the court of ArveeTi (aLiya) rAma rAya (son-in-law of kRShNa dEvarAya), he got his popular name. He was also a distinguished musician. Click here for more details.


ayyalarAju rAma BhadruDu

Mid 1500s. Native (?) of rAyala seema. Wrote rAmABhyudayamu around CE 1550 and dedicated it to gobbUri narasarAju who was a nephew of aLiya rAma rAya. He was also known as pillala rAmaBhadruDu (he seems to have sired a large family). He also composed sakala kathA sAra sangraham. It was said that this was a translation of kRShNa dEvarAya’s Sanskrit book of the same name. It was also said that he composed it at the instance of the emperor towards his last days. The book was not completed before the emperor’s death and the poet subsequently moved to gobbUri narasarAju’s court.


tenAli rAma kRShNuDu

Late 1500s. Hailed from tenAli in Guntur Dt. and settled (?) in raayalaseema. His mother was lakshmamma. He wrote pAnDuranga mAhAtmyamu (on viThThala of panDaripuram -a story from skAnda puprANam), udBhatArAdhya caritramu (on the life of a monk, udBhata), and GhTikAcala mAhAtmyamu (about the narasimha kshEtram in ShOlingaram near Chittoor) and a great many cATuvu padyAlu and camatkAra padyAlu. His brilliance, wit and jest make him one of the most popular poets for all time. For more details, click here.


Seshu Madhava Rao Adluri
First posted: Jan. 1998, Minor revision: April, 1998.
Corrections including typos, suggestions, and additions will be gratefully appreciated.
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