Atukuri Molla (1440–1530) was a famous Telugu poet who authored the Telugu-language Ramayana. She was popularly known as kummari Molla or Mollamamba. Atukuri Molla, author of Molla Ramayanam, has come to be known as Kummara (potter) Molla, identified by her caste. Besides Muddupalani, author Radhika svantanamanam¸ Molla is the only female poet from ancient times to receive so much attention from English-speaking scholars. The precise date is not known but scholars opine that she belonged in the sixteenth century.
Her father Kesana was a potter of Gopavaram, a village in Badvel Mandal, fifty miles north of Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh state. He was a Saivaite and devotee of Srikantha Malleswara (an incarnation of Shiva) in Srisailam. He gave her daughter the name Molla, meaning "Jasmine", a favourite flower to the god, and also nicknamed her Basavi in respect to Basaveswara (another incarnation of Shiva).
Molla claimed Lord Shiva as Guru. It is believed that she had inspiration from Potana, who wrote Bhagavata Purana in Telugu. Like him, she was Shivite, but wrote the story of Rama(an incarnation of Vishnu) and also refused to dedicate her Ramayana to any king according to general practice for poets.Her scholarship is undoubtedly of superior quality despite her modest claim that she had no formal education but for the blessings from the local deity, Srikantha Malleesa.
According to Varadarajn's book, "Study of Vaishnava Literature", as her popularity spread, she was invited to Royal court and got an opportunity to recite Ramayana in front of Krishnadevaraya and his poets. She spent her old age at Srisailam in the presence of Lord Srikantha Malleswara.
Works and style
Her work is known as Molla Ramayana and is still one of the simplest of many Ramayans written in Telugu.
She was humble and paid tribute to the earlier scholars who had written the Ramayana in her book. The opening poem says - "Ramayana had been written many times. Does someone stop taking food because it has been taken every day? So is the story of Rama and one can write, read and love it as many number of times as possible."Additionally, she states that if a work is filled with words that reader cannot understand instantaneously, it would be like a dialogue between a deaf person and a dumb person. In other words, poetry should be intelligible to the reader as he reads along and without referring to dictionaries and/or consulting scholars. According to Molla, poetry should be like honey on the tongue—one should feel it as soon as the honey hits tongue.
She added fictional accounts to original stories and in some instances, removed some portions from the original story. Sanskrit-to-Telugu translation works from earlier poets like Tikkana followed the exact story sequences in the original work. She was contemporary to Srinatha and poets of the Vijayanagara Empire, who created Prabhandas which are known for adding fictions.Several critics have attested to her claim as valid. Her Ramayanam has been quoted as a work filled with native flavor, ease of diction and appealing to ordinary readers.
Awards and honors
- Andhra Pradesh government erected a statue of her on the tankbund in Hyderabad along with few other Great Telugu personalities.
- A fictional account of her life story has been written by Inturi Venkateswara Rao, under the title Kummara Molla, published in 1969
- Based on this novel, another writer Sunkara Satyanarayana wrote a ballad, which became very popular and has been sung all over Andhra Pradesh
- She was used as a symbol of women's advancement by women's associations. On one recent occasion a women's rights protest began at her statue in Hyderabad, in 2006.
- A movie Kathanayika Molla was made about her, with Vanisri playing the lead role.
- Kathanayika Molla, a 1970 Telugu film produced and directed by B. Padmanabham.
- Potana, another poet and devotee who translated Bhagavata Purana.
- Tikkana, another ancient poet from Nellore.
- Timmakka, another ancient women poet in Telugu.
- "Studies in sri vaishnava literature", Dr. M. Varadarajan, M.A., Ph.D.,Sri Ananth Publications, Tirupati.