Ashtadiggajas (Telugu: అష్టదిగ్గజాలు) is the collective title given to the eight Telugu poets in the court of the emperor Sri Krishna Deva Raya who ruled the Vijayanagara Empire from 1509 until his death in 1529. During his reign, Telugu literature and culture reached its zenith. In his court, eight poets were regarded as the eight pillars of his literary assembly. The age of Ashtadiggajas is called Prabandha Age (1540 AD to 1600). All of the Ashtadiggajas had composed at least one Prabandha Kavyamu and it was Ashtadiggajas who gave Prabandha its present form. Most of the Ashtadiggajas are from southern part of present-day Andhra Pradesh state (Rayalaseema) and Ashtadiggajas, Allasani Peddana, Dhurjati, Nandi Thimmana, Madayyagari Mallana and Ayyalaraju Ramabhadrudu are from the Rayalaseema. Tenali Ramakrishna hailed from the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. Ramarajabhushanudu was another Ashtadiggaja.
The title Ashtadiggajas (Ashta + dik + gaja) means elephants in eight directions. It refers to the old Hindu belief that eight elephants hold the earth in eight directions which are namely Airaavata, Pundareeka, Vaamana, Kumuda, Anjana, Pushpadanta, Sarwabhouma, Suprateeka, whose wives are Abhra, Kapila, Pingala, Anupama, Taamraparni, Subhradanti, Angana, Anjanaavati. The court of poets were also called Bhuvana Vijayam (Conquest of the World).
These poets were
- Allasani Peddanna
- Nandi Thimmana
- Madayyagari Mallana
- Ayyalaraju Ramambhadrudu
- Pingali Surana
- Tenali Ramakrishna
The most famous being Allasani Peddana honoured with the title Andhrakavitapitamaha (Progenitor of Telugu poetry) and Tenali Ramakrishna, Krishnadevaraya's court jester who authored several acclaimed works.
Though the above listed eight poets are widely regarded as the Ashtadiggajas, there are some differences of opinion as to who exactly constituted the Ashtadiggajas and if the composition of this body changed over time. Some literary works mention the name of Bhattu-Murti in place of Ramarajabhushanudu and some accounts mention Pingali Surana and Tenali Ramakrishna also as members of the later emperors. From the stone inscriptions of that time, it has been inferred that the village of Thippalur in the present-day Cuddapah district was given to the Ashtadiggajas by the emperor.
Allasani Peddana wrote Manucharitramu and dedicated to the Emperor Krishna Deva Raya. Nandi Thimmana wrote Parijataapaharanam and dedicated it to the emperor as well. Madayyagari Mallana wrote Rajasekhara Charitramu. Dhurjati wrote Kalahasti Mahatyamu. Ayyalaraju Ramabhadrudu wrote Ramaabhyudayamu. Pingali Surana wrote Raghavapandaveeyamu, a dual work that describes both Ramayana and Mahabharata. Ramarajabhushanudu wrote Kavyalankarasangrahamu, Vasucharitramu and Harischandranalopakhyanamu. Tenali Ramakrishna wrote Udbhataradhya Charitramu, Panduranga Mahatmyamu and "Ghatikachala Mahatmyamu."
Telugu literature reached its peak during their period. A new style called prabandha with added fiction and few omissions from the original stories was followed during this period. Poets in earlier century like Tikkana and Potana translated the Sanskrit books and epics without changing the stories from original. Ashtadiggajas usually took small, some times obscure, stories from Puranas and used them as plots for writing major Kāvyas. A Prabandham can be of three types, viz., Prakhyatam, Utpadyam, Misramam (famous story, purely fictional story, mixed story). Ashtadiggajas have written in all the three genres during the Prabandha Yugam.
There are also at least two dual meaning works during this time. Raghavapandaveeyam by Pingali Surana simultaneously runs the stories of Rama and Pandavas. Harischandranalopakhyanamu by Bhattumurthy also simultaneously tells the stories of the emperors Harischandra and Nala.
- "Prabandhamulu". Microsoft. Archived from the original on 2008-02-11.
- Adluri, Seshu Madhava Rao (1998). "aShTadiggajamulu (Introduction)". mun.ca.
- Legend in Vaishnavites about Eight elephants. One such mentioning of elephants is that Hiranayakasipu sent eight elephants carrying earth to kill Prahlada.
- Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 71.
- Like the Nine gems of King Vikramaditya's court, the Ashtadiggajas of Krishnadevara's court are famous in legend, K.A. Nilakanta Sastry, History of South India, From Prehistoric times to fall of Vijayanagar, 1955, OUP, (Reprinted 2002), p372