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allasAni peddana contd…


peddana wrote manucaritramu (svArOciSha manu samBhavamu) and harikathA sAramu (N/A). The manu caritra is the most popular classical book after the big epics. It is counted first among the Andhra panca kAvyas (the big five!). The plot for manucaritra was a short story from mArkanDEya purANa. This purANa was earlier composed in telugu by mArana (fl. CE 1291-1323? pupil of tikkana). The original story was in 150 poems. peddana expanded it into six ASvAsams (cantos) in 600 poems. It was written, like all the Prabandhas, in campU style. It was a mix of poems in classical meters with small prose pieces in between. It deals with the birth of the second of the fourteen manus. In mythology, these were the archetypal rulers of great eons and patriarchs who, figuratively speaking, were the original fathers of mankind. The English word ‘man’ and the Sanskrit words ‘mAnava’ & ‘manuShya’ are closely related to the word ‘manu’ (a descendent of ‘manu’ is man or ‘mAnava’). The present eon belongs to vaivasvata (the seventh manu). The manu in this book was called svArOci. His direct rule extended over jambU dveepam, (the landmass of Eurasia). He was appointed by mahAviShNu. After his reign, he merged with viShNu. Although the title of the book is about svArOci, the entire kAvyam is actually about his grandparents’ and his father svarOci’s exploits. This book established the norms for a prabandham and became a model for all subsequent prabandhamulu. In the book, peddana used a small number of kannaDa and urdU words in addition to the ever present Sanskrit! He dedicated the prabandham to kRShNa dEvarAya. At the dedication ceremony, out of friendship and immense respect, the emperor himself lifted and bore the weight of the palanquin in which peddana was seated. It was an unprecedented honour!



The encounter in manucaritra between varUthini (an apsara dancer from heaven) and pravara, a handsome but very orthodox man is one of the most celebrated episodes in all telugu literature. It has a number of poems known by heart to many people. It is famous not only for the beauty of the description but also for the wonderful characterization and dramatization. Because of its fame, it has also been the subject of parody and some negative criticism. Since the story line goes against the established orthodox views of the last thousand years, some eminent scholars, e.g., kASeeBhaTTa brahmayya SAstri dubbed the book as one of low moral standing. Some other eminent scholars of prosady (alankAra SAstram) have been of the view, that the book failed the test of "rasa pOShaNa." This is because of the perceived "rasa Bhangam" in the varUthinee pravara vRttAntam. Even so, the book and the episode of pravara have captivated the imagination of telugu people for several centuries.



peddana survived the death of kRShNa rAya and mourned it greatly. It is said that, soon after the emperor’s death, his father-in-law, the king of kaLinga came with a huge army to occupy vijayanagara kingdom thinking that he could easily defeat the new successor before he could set the house in order. peddana composed and sent him a poem with stinging criticism about his timing and comparing his pauruSham to that of a common mongrel. The gajapati king felt very ashamed and withdrew!



peddana has the title "Andhra kavitA pitAmaha (grandfather of telugu poetry!)." The mercurial kavi cauDappa praised peddana saying "peddana vale kRti seppina peddanavale" (one should be called pedda-great man, only if he can compose poetry like peddana!).



In a popular cATu padyam, peddana described all the comforts one needs to have to compose beautiful poetry. He asserted that poets could not compose unless all those props are available. They include, delicious meals, betel leaf tAmbUlam sent by his lover through her lady friend, a swinging cot, etc. There is no question of any body writing poetry with a half-empty stomach! (No Akali kavitvam indeed!) Many cATu padyAlu attributed to him or about him are well known.



peddana was known to be a scholar of music. He might have introduced the convention of dubbing all the heroines of prabandhas as expert veeNa players. Another great poet BhaTTu mUrti (rAmarAja BhUShaNuDu) appears to have been his apprentice. In later life, there seems to have been some rivalry between the guru and SiShya. peddana’s "style is simple but dignified, hence his poetry is highly appealing. For beauties of sentiment and imagery, he is unequaled by any other poet of his times" [Ganga Ram Garg, 1988]. Because of the brilliant weaving of a tapestry of imagery and word play in his works, the saying "allasAni vAni allika jigibigi" acquired a great reputation amongst scholars.


Click here for more on peddana.

Seshu Madhava Rao Adluri
First posted: Jan. 1998.
Corrections including typos, suggestions, and additions to the above
will be gratefully appreciated.

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