Chilakamarti Lakshmi Narasimham
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Chilakamarti Lakshmi Narasimham
|Born||26 September 1867|
Khandavalli, West Godavari district
|Died||17 June 1946|
|Pen name||Chilakamarti Punnaiah|
|Alma mater||Mission School, Veeravasaram|
|Genre||Playwright, novelist, poet|
|Notable awards||Kala Prapoorna|
Chilakamarti Lakshmi Narasimham (26 September 1867 – 17 June 1946) was an Indian playwright, novelist and author of short stories, who wrote in the Telugu language. He was a romantic and a social reformer in the tradition founded by Veeresalingam. His best-known plays are probably Gayopakhyanam (1909) and Ganapati (1920).
Narasimham was visually impaired since his youth, and became blind after his graduation. He nonetheless served as an instructor in Telugu at the Government Arts College in Rajahmundry. He was active in the Indian independence movement; he eschewed "foreign cloth" and wore khādī dhoti, shirt, coat and turban.
Chilakamarti Lakshmi Narasimham was born on 26 September 1867 in a Dravida Brahmin family of Aaraama Dravidulu Sect. He was born at Khandavalli village in West Godavari district at the residence of his maternal uncle. His father's name is Chilakamarti Venkanna and mother's name is Venkataratnamma and were residents of Veeravasaram village in West Godavari district.[need quotation to verify][page needed]
Narasimham's earlier name was Punniah and was later named after a popular temple deity Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy of Antarvedi village. According to his autobiography, his aunt's daughter Punnamma died after giving birth to a child. Narasimham's mother saw her in her dream and was asked to name Narasimham after her. Later, Narasimham's father and paternal grand mother did not like the name and changed it.
As a boy, he was said to resemble his maternal grandfather, Bhadraiah Sastry who died a year before the grandson was born. His body, height, tonal quality, poetic talent, together with a sort of purblindness (sic) where all inherited from the grandfather. Due to his partial blindness, he had trouble walking alone in the nights and was unable to read during nights. He was unable to see the numbers written on the blackboard and unable to catch ball while playing. He used to take help from his friends who used to read aloud the school lessons for him.
At the age of five, his Upanayanam, the sacred thread ceremony was performed. His father tried a lot to make Narasimham learn Sandhyavandanam by sending him to his grandfather's village Khandavalli, his aunt's villages Velagadurru and Manchili. Finally, he stayed in Matsyapuri village near Veeravasaram for several months and learned Trikaala Sandhyavandanam.
Narasimham joined "Velicheti Vari" school in his village Veeravasaram. Narasimham wrote in his autobiography that Velicheti Rayappagaru and Velicheti Bhadrachalamgaru who used to run the school are his first gurus. He later joined the school run by Somanchi Narasayyagaru where he learned to read gilakala padhyaalu with beautiful voice which was appreciated by his teacher. He later went to Kondapalli with his uncle Mallayya Sastry and joined the Mission school. But both of them had to leave Kondapalli due to health reasons.
At the age of 11, in 1878, Narasimham joined the Mission school in Veeravasaram in first standard (equivalent of today's sixth standard). He completed third standard in 1880 but he used to dislike Mathematics subject. To quote from his autobiography, "I used to be very poor in mathematics when I was in third standard. I used to perform very well in Telugu, English, History, Geography but my ability in Mathematics is limited". He attributed his lack of interest in the subject and his poor vision as the reasons for this. He completed his education in Veeravasaram in 1881. He secured first class in the Comparative Examination held in December 1881. For higher studies, one has to go to Narasapuram.
Kandukuri Veeresalingam is reckoned as the chief architect of the Renaissance of Telugu literature in the later half of the nineteenth century. But due to the enormity of his service as a social reformer in comparison with that of his work as a pioneer in modern Telugu literature, he is looked upon by the people as a reformer. As a writer, he was the first to try his hand at many of the modern literary forms such as minor poem, burlesque, biography, autobiography, novel, satire, farce and plays. If Veeresalingam was the path-finder in this respect, Chilakamarti was a torch-bearer along the path, as the former went on breaking new grounds. Both of them were versatile writers in verse and as well as in prose. The literary output of both of them was conspicuously voluminous. There was practically no genre left untouched by them except in one or two spheres.
In almost all his works, be it verse or prose, the way in which Chilkamarti narrated the incident instantaneously captured the reader's mind. The imageries he presented in detail, the way in which he unfolded the story with a special technique of narration, the diction he employed with familiar expression intelligible even to the average reader, above all, the sincerity of purpose with which he wrote went a long way for the success and popularity of his works.
The earliest work Keechaka vadha, a stage play, was written in 1889; the last work Bammera Potana, an incomplete play, was written in 1946, the year in which Chilkamarti died. Another incomplete play Harischandra was also probably written in 1946. The works of Chilkamarti can be broadly classified into verses, plays, Prahasanas, novels, long stories and biographies of great men and autobiography.
The earliest verses were written by him in the year 1887 on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria's rule. A number of extempore verses and verses recited at several meetings come under one category. Satakas (containing not less than hundred verses) come under another category. If the verses written for plays are also taken into consideration, they form a third category. In 1910, he wrote in Telugu verses, a concise Ramayana of Valmiki.
His plays could be classified into two categories. The first category is the independent and the original, though the theme was borrowed from the classical and epic poems. The second category is translations from Sanskrit plays.
- Keechaka Vadha – 1889
- Droupadi Parinayamu – 1889
- Sri Rama Jananamu – 1889
- Gayopakhyanamu/Prachanda Yadavam – 1890
- Parijatapaharanamu – 1890
- Nala Natakamu – 1890
- Seetha Kalyanamu – 1890
- Prasanna Yadavamu – 1905
- Prahlada Charitamu – 1907
- Chatura Chandrahasa – 1907
- Tilottama – 1907
- Bammera Potana – 1946
- Harischandra – 1946
Plays Translated from Sanskrit
- Parvathi Parinayamu of Bana – 1899
- Bhasa Natakachakram – 1909–1927
- Dula Vakyamu
- Karna Bharamu
- Duta Ghatotkachamu
- Uru Bhangamu
- Madhyama Vyayogamu
- Pancha Ratnamu
- Pratijna Yougandharayanamu
- Swapna Vasavadattamu
- Bala Charitamu
The Prahasanas(broad farces) of Chilakamarti can be classified into three kinds. As a matter of rule and as the word Prahasana connotes, it should create much laughter and hence known as a broad farce. Even a farce must have a purpose. Unless it conveys a message, it cannot be called genuine Prahasana. Keeping this in view, Chilakamarti wrote almost half of his prahasanas with specific aim of conveying a message. The second category is purely for the sake of farce; loud laughter is sometimes produced by mere dialogue and its articulation. The third category is much like an essay through which comment and caustic criticism is offered on the evils prevailing in the society.
Balavantha Brahmanartham, Gayyali Gangamma, Badhira Chatushtayam and dozens of other Prahasanas can be cited as examples of these three categories.
Chilakamarti wrote original novels as well as translated English novels. His novels mainly consisted of either social themes or epic themes.
Ramachandra Vijayam (1894), Ganapathi (1981–21), Rajaratnam (1918–21) and Vijayalakshmi are purely social novels.
Hemalatha (1896), Ahalyabai (1897), Krishnaveni (1911), Karpoora Manjari (1907–27), Mani Manjari (1911), Suvarna Guptudu and Shapamu are historical novels, while Soundarya Tilaka is partly of the epic content. Chilakamarti is called Andhra Scott after the famous Scottish historical novelist Walter Scott.
Chilakamarti translated two English novels written by Bengali author Ramesh Chandra Dutt, The Lake of Palms and The Slave Girl of Agra under the titles Sudha Saraschandram(1909–27) and Dasikanya respectively. Shyamala is another novel written by Chilakamarti based on the Macbeth play of William Shakespeare.
Chilakamarti, an expert in writing historical novels, wrote and translated many stories that had wide range of themes like epics and history, morals and ethical values and even humour.
He translated the book The Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan or the Central and Western Rajpoot States of India by Colonel James Todd under the title Rajasthana Kathavali around 1906–07. It consisted of twenty four stories of the royal dynasties of Rajasthan. The Telugu version was used as a textbook in schools.
Bharatha Kathamanjari is a collection of nineteen stories that convey morals and ethical values. Some stories are of epic nature while the others are like tales of birds and animals aimed at teaching a lesson to human beings. Chilakamarti wrote stories based on the lives of forty eight great people under the title Chamatkara Manjari. It included incidents from lives of great people like Bharavi, Bhatruhari, Vemana, Tukaram, Vikramarka, Rockfeller, General Washington, Kalinga Gangu, Khadga Tikkana, Tarigonda Venkamamba, Rayana Bhaskara, Rudrama Devi, Bammera Pothana, Mantri Yugandhara, Koramdevi, Portuguese brothers and Socrates.
Chitrakatha Guchchamu is a collection of eight stories that are full of wit and morality. Chilakamarti recorded common stories related to humour, morals, real-life incidents etc. popular among Telugu people into two volumes under the title Vinodamulu (which literally means humour). In the second part, he included some poems too. Navvula Gani (which literally means laughing mine) is yet another humorous creation of Chilakamarti that comes in two parts. It mainly consisted of fun tit bits in various forms and it became very popular in those days. He introduced a feature called Hasya Latalu (creepers of humour) in the magazines run by him which was well received and enjoyed by large numbers of readers. Quite possibly, those Hasya Latalu were like the current day tit bits, cartoons and jokes published in the popular weeklies and dailies.
Inspired by Kandukuri Veeresalingam's Kavula Charitra (The History of Poets), Chilakamarti wrote biographies of great people under the title Mahapurushula Jeevitha Charitralu (Lives of Greatmen) during 1906–08. Unlike Kavula Charitra which was tough subject from the point of view of determining the dates of the poets with internal and external evidences, Chilakamarti did not bother about these details, but simply narrated the story in such a way that any layman who knew the language could easily understand and enjoy it with absorbing interest.
He described the lives of thirty seven great men in his book that is divided into three parts. The first part dealt with men from Bengal, second and third parts with men from Bombay (renamed as Mumbai) and Madras (renamed as Chennai) respectively. He also wrote the biographies of great men like Guru Nanak, Guru Govind Singh, Nanda, Samartha Ramadas, Siddhartha, Vishnuvardhana, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Raja Ramamohana Roy, Kalidas and Vemana.
At the request of his friends, despite his blindness and old age (75 years), Chilakamarti wrote his 646 pages long autobiography Sweeyacharitamu in 4 months and 24 days from 18 March 1942 to 12 July 1942. Due to his lack of sight and unavailability of written records, he recollected his entire life story from memory which included very detailed incidents, dates and people names. With all his modesty, he apologises to the readers for having written his autobiography for which he does not consider himself to be worthy. According to, it is one of the world's great autobiographies. His autobiography contains a wealth of information and gives a vivid picture of his literature and works.
Chilakamarti Lakshmi Narasimham started and ran three magazines between 1898 and 1916. They were "Saraswathi", "Manorama" and "Desamatha". All the three magazines were literary magazines. They helped in alleviating the contemporary literary consciousness. Chilakamarti observed high standards needed for literary magazines. He published novels as serials, unpublished books, critical literary discussions and increased the reverence of the magazines. Through these magazines, Chilakamarti's love for the nation and his literary abilities reached the people.
Saraswathi Monthly Magazine
Chintamani monthly magazine started by Nyapathi Subbarao moved to Chennai when Veeresalingam left Rajahmundry. Therefore, Chilakamarti thought that there should be a good monthly magazine in Andhra. He conveyed the same to Polavaram zamindar Kochcherlakota Ramachandra Venkata Krishna Rao Bahadur. On his approval, Chilakamarti started "Saraswathi" monthly magazine in Rajahmundry. Krishna Rao Bahadur acted as editor and Chilakamarti worked as sub-editor.
In the early days of the magazine, "Unmaththa Raghavam" translated into Telugu by Dasu Sriramulu and "Markendeya Puranam" written by Marana Kavi were published. A novel written by Chilakamarti "Soundaryatilaka" also got published in month instalments. Then, around 1899, Rao Bahadur zamindar decided to publish the magazine from Kakinada. But, Chilakamarti disliked the idea and did not go to Kakinada.
Rao Bahadur zamindar was angry with Chilakamarti for not moving to Kakinada. During 1898, in the early days of the magazine establishment, Rao Bahadur gave Rs. 600 to Chilakamarti. After the new incident, the angry zamindar sent a registered notice to Chilakamarti that he should pay his money back; otherwise, he will go to court. Chilakamarti replied that the zamindar did not give the money for free and that he gave the money when the latter asked him to leave his job to join the magazine. Though Rao Bahadur did not reply to this letter, with this incident Chilakamarti severed his relationship with the magazine.
Manorama Monthly Magazine
In 1906, Chilakamarti started "Manorama" monthly magazine. It used to get published in Gunneswara Rao printing press. Later in 1908, Chilakamarti bought some part of Vivekavardhini printing press and named as Manorama printing press.
Many works of Chilakamarti got published in Manorama magazine (Prasanna Yadavamu, Chatura Chandrahasamu, Rajasthana Kathavali, Karpoora Manjari (part 1), Mahapurushu Jeevitha Charithralu). In no time, the magazine became popular. Many critical essays used to published in the magazine. Once Setti Lakshmi Narasimham sent one prabhandham called "Rasikabhiramamu" to the magazine. He claimed that it was written by Srinatha and was found in the unpublished manuscripts at a Vaishnavite house in Simhachalam. After listening to the work, Chilakamarti felt that it was written by someone else and Setti Lakshmi Narasimham is falsely claiming that it is written by Srinatha. He expressed his view in the magazine. The unhappy Setti Lakshmi Narasimham replied to the criticism that since Chilakamarti is blind, he is unable to see the truth.
By 1907, the magazine subscription reached four hundred. Under the heading of Swavishayam (English translation: own matters), Chilakamarti used to write some essays. He announced in the magazine that they will publish more bravery related stories, life history of great men from Maharashtra and three plays.
Desamatha Weekly Magazine
"Towards of end of 1909, I thought that along with the Manorama monthly magazine, a weekly magazine should also be started"(page 454).
In Desamatha magazine, an editorial, a story or a pictorial story, humour related articles used to be published, most of which will be written by Chilakamarti himself. The magazine was profitable due to large number of subscriptions and court auction advertisements.
Desamatha faced problems after sometime due to the new rule by the British that nothing against British should be published. The British used to monitor the magazine and its subscriptions. But Chilakamarti did not like the magazine to be a subsidised paper. He thought that running the magazine according to the rules of British is equivalent to the selling of one's own soul.
- Babu, A. Satish. Tourism development in India : a case study New Delhi : A.P.H. Pub. Corp., 2008. ISBN 978-81-313-0346-7 ISBN 81-313-0346-2 p. 73
- V.V.L. Narasimha Rao. Makers of Indian Literature: Chilakamarti Lakshmi Narasimham, Sahitya Academy, ISBN 81-7201-499-6.
- Chilakamarti Lakshmi Narasimham. Sweeya Charitamu, Kalachakram Prachuranalu, Rajahmundry, 1968 (Third Edition)
- Dr. Muktevi Bharathi, Chilakamarti Jeevitam – Sahityam, Visalandhra Publishing House, Hyderabad, 2001.
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