Telugu literature

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Telugu literature is the body of works written in the Telugu language. It consists of poems, short stories, novels, plays, and song lyrics, among others. There is some indication that Telugu literature dates at least to the middle of the first millennium, the first extant works are from the 11th century when the Mahabharata was first translated to Telugu from Sanskrit by Nannaya. The language has experienced a golden age under the patronage of the Vijayanagara Emperor-Poet Krishnadevaraya.


There are various sources available for information on early Telugu writers. Among these are the prologues to their poems, which followed the Sanskrit model by customarily giving a brief description of the writer, a history of the king to whom the book is dedicated, and a chronological list of the books he published. In addition, historical information is available from inscriptions that can be correlated with the poems; there are several grammars, treatises, and anthologies that provide illustrative stanzas; and there is also information available from the lives of the poets and the traditions that they followed.[1]

Subject matter[edit]

Early Telugu literature is predominantly religious in subject matter. Poets and scholars drew most of their material from, and spent most of their time translating epics, such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata and the Purāṇas, all of which are considered to be storehouses of Indian culture.[2]

From the sixteenth century onwards, rarely known episodes from the Purāṇas would form the basis for the tradition of Telugu-language kavya. Literary works are drawn from episodes of the Purāṇas under the name Akhyana or Khanda became popular along with depictions of the fortune of a single hero under the title of Charitra, Vijaya, Vilasa and Abhyudaya. Such titles are examples of what would become the most common subject matter of poetry.[2]

In the eighteenth-century, marriages of heroes under the title Parinaya, Kalyana and Vivāha became popular.[2]

Religious literature consisted of biographies of the founders of religion, their teachings, sāra, as well as commentaries, bhashya.[2]

Traditional Hindu knowledge systems such as Vedic astrology, the Arthashastra (on law), grammar, ballets, moral aphorisms, and Bhakti (devotional psalms) to deities within the Hindu pantheon are characteristics of more popular works of Telugu literature.[2]


The various forms of literature found in Telugu are:

  • Prabandham: Stories in verse form with a tight metrical structure. These have three subtypes or sub-forms:
    • Prakhyātam: Famous story.
    • Utpadyam: Purely fictional story.
    • Misramam: Mixed story.
  • Champu: Mixture of prose and poetry.
  • Kāvyam: Poem which usually begins with a short prayer called a Prarthana, containing initial auspicious letter "Sri" which invokes the blessings of the God.[3] The occasion and circumstances under which the work is undertaken is next stated.[3] The subtypes of Kāvyam are:
    • Padya kāvyam: Metrical poetry.
    • Gadya kāvyam: Prose poetry.
    • Khanda kāvyam: Short poems
  • Kavita: Poetry
  • Śatakam (anthology): Satakam is a literary piece of art. The name derives from Śata, which means a hundred in Sanskrit. Satakam comprises a hundred poems. Hence, a Satakam is a volume (book) of hundred poems. Satakams are usually devotional, philosophical or convey morals.
  • Daśaka (anthology): Dasakam or Dashakam comprises ten poems.
  • Avadhānam: These involve the partial improvisation of poems using specific themes, metres, forms, or words.[4]
  • Novel: (Telugu: Navala) are written fictional prose narratives, normally longer than a short story.
  • Katha: A style of religious storytelling.
  • Nātakam: Drama.
  • Naneelu: Epigrams.

Ashtadiggajas have written in all three of the Prabandham genres during the Prabandha yugam.[5]

Telugu literature uses a unique expression in verse called Champu, which mixes prose and poetry. Although it is the dominant literary form, there are exceptions: for example, Tikkana composed Uttara Ramayana entirely in verse [6]

As Champu Kavyas and Prabandhas were beyond the comprehension of masses, new devices for the dissemination of knowledge among the people were developed in the form of the Dvipada and Sataka styles. Dvipada means 'two feet'—a couplet— and sataka means 'hundred'—signifying a cento of verses).[7] Popular satakas include: the Sarveshvara, Kalahastishvara, and Dasarathi satakas.

There are some satakas which are divided into ten groups of ten verses called dasaka which is adopted from Prakrit.[8]

Avadhanam is a literary performance popular from the very ancient days in Sanskrit and more so in Telugu and Kannada languages.[4] It requires a good memory and tests a person's capability of performing multiple tasks simultaneously.[4] All the tasks are memory intensive and demand an in-depth knowledge of literature, and prosody. The number of Prucchakas can be eight (for Ashtavadhanam) or 100 (Sataavadhaanam) or even 1,000 (for Sahasravadhanam). A person who has successfully performed Ashtavadhanam is called Ashtavadhani, one completing Satavadhanam is a Satavadhani, and after performing Sahasraavadhaanam is called Sahasravadhani.[4]


A dwipada is a couplet with a specific rhyme scheme.[9][10] A stanza contains two short lines, each with less than fifteen characters. Longer poems, composed of many dwipada, can be composed with a "highly musical" effect.[9] Much of the extant corpus in this form was written using the common language of the time. The form's musicality and accessibility made the form a natural fit for spreading religious messages. Palkuriki Somanatha (or 'Palkurki') the first to write in this form in the 12th or 13th century.[9] His works Basava Puranam and Panditaradhya Charitra were "immensely singable" devotional works to Shiva as Basaveshwara.[9] Influenced by Shaivaite poets' use of dwipada, a Vaishnavite poet wrote the Ranganadha Ramayana, a version of the Ramayana that became incredibly popular for its singability, vernacular diction, and stories not found in Valmiki's version.[9] The form reached its apex with Palnati Vira Charitra, popularly ascribed to the 14th century poet Srinatha.[9] By the end of the Prabandha era, the three most important Sanskrit poems had been translated into Telugu in dwipada: the Mahabharata by Thimmaya, the Ramayana by Ranganadha, and the Bhagavatam by Tekumalla Ranga Sai.[9] The form declined after the dwipada works of the early 17th century king-poet Raghunatha Nayak of Tanjore. Dwipada's accessibility has sometimes meant it was not a prestigious form of Telugu poetry. In the 19th century, scholar Charles Philip Brown noted "the learned despise couplets because the poems thus written are in a flowing easy style which uneducated persons read with enjoyment."[10] Only a few writers today use it out of lingering respect its history.[9]


Padams are lyric poems usually meant to be sung, with an opening line or lines called a pallavi, followed by three caranam verses, each of which is followed by the pallavi refrain.[11] The padam is thus "a highly integrated, internally resonant syntactic and thematic unit."[11] Annamacharya, the most famous composer of Telugu padams, is said to have composed a padam a day for the god of the Tirupati temple, Venkateswara. His poems, of which 13,000 survive on copper plates stored in the temple vaults, deal with the "infinite varieties and nuances of the god’s love life" and "his sense of himself as an agonized, turbulent human being in relation to the god he worships".[11]


Chatus (meaning "charming utterance") are remembered poems passed on by recitation.[12] In premodern South India, literate people recited chatus to each other as a social pastime.[12] Most of these poems have memorable stories that go along with them that explain and contextualize them. They have passed through a lively oral tradition for hundreds of years, and been anthologized since the 19th century by scholars like Veturi Prabhakara Sastri.[12] Many chatus are attributed to Srinatha, Tenali Ramalingadu, and other famous poets. These attributions, most of which are unverifiable, serve to make both mythologize these poets and judge their relative merit. Once made legends, they're free to interact anachronistically in chatus. Poets from different eras meet, exchange poems, and critique each other.[12] In sum, chatus, "moving from gnomic advice to metalinguistic criticism, through the domains of desire, social commentary, the articulation of cultural values, and critical taste, these interlocking stanzas embody an entire education, an expressive vision of life and poetry."[12]


A satakamu literally means "an anthology of a hundred poems", but the number is usually somewhat higher, often an auspicious number like 108.[13] The anthology is meant to be taken together. A list of notable such anthologies:


The Praudha Prabandha or Maha Kavya is considered[by whom?] the highest form of verse. The essentials of such a composition according to the Telugu poetic theory are:

  • Śaili (style): The words chosen are neither soft nor very musical but gambhira ('dignified'); madhurya ('sweetness'); sukumara ('grace and delicacy'); saurabhya ('fragrance'); and symphony. Vulgar language (gramya) is avoided.[6]
  • Ṕāka (mould): Refers to the embodiment of ideas in language, and the nature and texture of the language employed. There are three types of pākas:
    • Drāksha (wine or grape): Draksha is a crystal clear style where everything is seen through a transparent medium. Mostly Nannayya and Karunasri use this mould.[6]
    • Kadali (plantain): Kadali is a complex pāka because the soft skin has to peeled to reach the core of the subject. Mostly Tikkana Somayaji uses this mould.[6]
    • Narikela (coconut): Narikela is the most difficult mould to employ because one has to break the rind to understand the idea. Amuktamalyada of Krishnadevaraya is cast in this pāka.[3]
  • Rasa (aesthetic flavor): Rasa is the heart and soul of Telugu poetry. A sutram, or aphorism, Vākyam Rasātmakam Kāvyam, explains that the soul of a sentence is the rasa. There are nine, known as the nava rasas.[3] A perfect kavyam uses all nine of these, namely:
  • Alankāra (ornamentation). There are:


Early writers[edit]

The Pre-Nannayya Period (before 1020 AD)[edit]

In the earliest period, Telugu literature existed in the form of inscriptions, from around 400 BC[citation needed]

The 6th- or 7th-century Sanskrit text Janashrayi-Chhandovichiti (or Janāśraya-chandas) deals with the metres used in Telugu, including some metres that are not found in Sanskrit prosody. This indicates that Telugu poetry existed during or around the 6th century.[14]

Malliya Rechana[edit]

Malliya Rechana (940 CE) composed the first Telugu poetic prosody book Kavijanasrayam (pre-Nannayya chandassu) around 940 AD. This was a popular one and referred by many poets. There seems to be even an earlier prosody book by Rechana's guru Vaadindra Chudamani which is not available.[15][16][17]

Veturi Prabhakara Sastry in 1900s mentioned the existence of Pre-Nannayya Chandassu in Raja Raja Narendra Pattabhisheka Sanchika.[17] Accurate dating of this piece of literature happened after the 1980s discoveries in Karimnagar.[18][15][19]

The Age of the Purāṇas (1020–1400 CE)[edit]

This is the period of Kavi Trayam or Trinity of Poets. Nannayya, Tikkana and Yerrapragada (or Errana) are known as the Kavi Trayam.

Nannaya Bhattarakudu, the Adi Kavi[edit]

Andhra Mahabharatam of Nannayya Bhattarakudu (Telugu: నన్నయ; 1022–1063 CE), is generally regarded as the first Telugu literary composition (Adi Kavyam) and Nannaya as the first poet (Adi Kavi) of Telugu language.[20][21][22][23] His work, which is rendered in the Champu style, is chaste and polished and of a high literary merit. The advanced and well-developed language used by Nannaya suggests that prior Telugu literature other than royal grants and decrees must have existed before him. However, these presumed works are now lost. Nannaya completed the first two chapters and a part of the third chapter of the Mahābhārata epic, which is rendered in the Champu style.[24][25]

Tikkana Somayaji[edit]

Nannaya's Andhra Mahabharatam was almost completed by Tikkana Somayaji (Telugu: తిక్కన సోమయాజి; 1205–1288 CE) who wrote chapters 4 to 18.[citation needed]


Errapragada (Telugu: ఎర్రాప్రగడ) or Yerrapragada) who lived in the 14th century, finished the epic by completing the third chapter.[24] He mimics Nannaya's style in the beginning, slowly changes tempo and finishes the chapter in the writing style of Tikkana.[citation needed] These three writers – Nannaya, Tikkana and Yerrapragada – are known as the Kavitraya ("three great poets") of Telugu. Other translations such as the Markandeya Puranam, by the disciple of Tikkana Somayaji, Marana; the Dasakumara Charita, by Ketana; and Yerrapragada's Harivamsam followed. Many scientific works, like Ganitasarasangrahamu by Pavuluri Mallana and Prakirnaganitamu by Eluganti Peddana, were written in the 12th century.[26][page needed]

Baddena Bhupala[edit]

Sumati Shatakam, which is a neeti ("moral"), is one of the most famous Telugu Satakams.[citation needed] Shatakam is composed of more than a 100 padyalu (poems). According to many literary critics[who?] Sumati Satakam was composed by Baddena Bhupaludu (Telugu: బద్దెన భూపాల; 1220–1280 CE). He was also known as Bhadra Bhupala. He was a Chola prince and a vassal under the Kakatiya empress Rani Rudrama Devi, and a pupil of Tikkana.[citation needed] If we assume that the Sumati Shatakam was indeed written by Baddena, it would rank as one of the earliest Shatakams in Telugu along with the Vrushadhipa Satakam of Palkuriki Somanatha and the Sarveswara Satakam of Yathavakkula Annamayya.[original research?] The Sumatee Satakam is also one of the earliest Telugu works to be translated into a European language, as C. P. Brown rendered it in English in the 1840s.[citation needed]

The Prabandha Period (1400–1600 CE)[edit]


Srinatha (Telugu: శ్రీనాథుడు) (1365–1441) popularised the Prabandha style of composition.[27] He was a minister in the court of Pedakomati Vemareddy of Kondaveedu[citation needed] and wrote Salivahana Saptasati, Shivaratri Mahatyam, Harivilasa, Bhimakanda, Kashi khandam, Shringara Naishadham, Palanati Veera charitra, Dhananjaya Vijayam, Sringara Dipika. These works were concerned with history and mythology.[citation needed] Srinatha's Srungara Naishadhamu is a well-known example of the form.[27] Srinatha was widely regarded as the Kavi Sarvabhowma ("the emperor among poets").[citation needed]


Kumaragiri Vema Reddy (Telugu: వేమన), popularly known as Yogi Vemana, was a 14th-century Telugu poet.[28] His poems were written in the popular vernacular of Telugu, and are known for their use of simple language and native idioms.[citation needed] His poems discuss the subjects of Yoga, wisdom and morality.[citation needed] There is no consensus among scholars about the period in which Vemana lived. C.P. Brown, known for his research on Vemana, estimates the year of birth to be the year 1352 based on some of his verses.[citation needed] His poems are four lines in length. The fourth line is, in the majority of the cases, the chorus Viswadhabhirama Vinura Vema – he thus conveyed his message with three small lines written in a simple vernacular.[citation needed] He traveled widely across south India, acquiring popularity as a poet and Yogi.[citation needed] So high was the regard for Vemana that a popular Telugu saying goes 'Vemana's word is the word of the Vedas'.[citation needed] He is celebrated for his style of Chaatu padyam, a poem with a hidden meaning.[citation needed] Many lines of Vemana's poems are now colloquial phrases of the Telugu language.[citation needed] They end with the signature line Viswadhaabhi Raama, Vinura Vema, literally Beloved of Viswadha, listen Vema. There are many interpretations of what the last line signifies.[citation needed]

Bammera Potanaamatya[edit]

Bammera Potanaamatya (Telugu: బమ్మెర పోతన) (1450–1510) is best known for his translation of the Bhagavata Purana from Sanskrit to Telugu.[citation needed] His work, Andhra Maha Bhagavatamu. He was born into a Brahmin family and was considered to be a Sahaja Kavi ("natural poet") who needed no teacher. He wrote Bhogini Dandakam a poem praising king Singa Bhoopala's consort danseuse, Bhogini, while young. This is the earliest available Telugu Dandaka (a rhapsody which uses the same gana or foot throughout).[26][page needed] His second work was Virabhadra Vijayamu which describes the adventures of Virabhadra, son of Shiva.[citation needed] As a young man, he was a devotee of Shiva and also Rama and was more interested in salvation, from which came the inspiration to translate the Bhagavata Purāṇas.[citation needed]


Tallapaka Annamacharya (or Annamayya) (Telugu: శ్రీ తాళ్ళపాక అన్నమాచార్య) (9 May 1408 – 23 February 1503) is known as the Pada-kavita Pitaamaha of the Telugu language.[29] He was born to a Vaidiki Brahmin family and his works are considered to have dominated and influenced the structure of Carnatic music compositions.[citation needed] Annamacharya is said to have composed as many as 32,000 sankeertanas (songs) on Bhagwaan Govinda Venkateswara,[30] of which only about 12,000 are available today. His keertana compositions are based on the Vishishtadvaita school of thought.[citation needed] Annamayya was educated in this system of Ramanuja by Sri Satagopa Yateendra of the Ahobila matham.[citation needed]

Tallapaka Tirumalamma[edit]

Tallapaka Tirumalamma (Telugu: తాళ్ళపాక తిరుమలమ్మ) (Annamacharya's wife)[31] wrote Subhadra Kalyanam, and is considered the first female poet in Telugu literature.[by whom?] Her main work, Subhadra Kalyanam, which consists of 1170 poems, is about the marriage of Arjuna and Subhadra, who are characters that appear in the Mahabharata. She presented the Telugu nativity and culture in the story taken from Sanskrit epic.[citation needed]

Allasani Peddana[edit]

Allasani Peddana (Telugu: అల్లసాని పెద్దన) (15th and 16th centuries) was ranked as the foremost of the Ashtadiggajalu the title for the group of eight poets in the court of Krishnadevaraya, a ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire.[citation needed] Peddana was a native of Somandepalli near Anantapur.[citation needed] Allasani Peddana wrote the first major Prabandha and for this reason he is revered as Andhra Kavita Pitamaha ("the grand father of Telugu poetry").[citation needed] It is believed[by whom?] that he was also a minister in the king's court and is hence sometimes referred as Peddanaamaatya (Peddana + Amaatya = Peddana, the minister).[citation needed] He wrote Swaarochisha Manu Sambhavam (also known as Manu Charitra), which is a development of an episode in the Markandeya Purāṇas relating to the birth of Svarochishamanu, who is one of the fourteen Manus. Pravarakhya is a pious Brahmin youth who goes to the Himalayas for Tapasya. In the Himalayas Varudhini, a Gandharva girl, falls in love with him, but Pravarakyudu rejects her love. Knowing this a Gandharva youth who was earlier rejected by Varudhini assumes the form of Pravarakhya and succeeds to win her love. To them is born Svarochisha, the father of Svarochishamanu.[26][page needed] The theme for his Manu Charitra is a short story from Markandeya Purana. It is about second Manu of fourteen manus (fathers of mankind societies according to Hindu mythology), translated into Telugu from Sanskrit by Marana (1291–1323),[citation needed] disciple of Tikkana. The original story was around 150 poems and Peddana extended into six chapters with 600 poems by adding fiction and descriptions.

His work was treated as one of the Pancha Kavyas, the five best works in Telugu. Some of his other famous works such as Harikathaasaaramu are untraceable now.[citation needed]


Dhurjati or Dhoorjati (Telugu: ధూర్జటి) (15th and 16th centuries) was a poet in the court of Krishnadevaraya and was one of the 'Ashtadiggajalu'.[citation needed] He was born to Singamma and Narayana in Sri Kalahasti and was the grandson of Jakkayya.[citation needed] His works include Sri Kalahasteeswara Mahatyam (The grace or miracles of Lord Shiva) and Sri Kalahasteeswara Satakam (100+ poems in the praise of Lord Shiva). Dhurjati took themes from Purāṇas and added local stories and myths in his work.[citation needed] Unlike contemporaries such as Peddana and Mallana, who chose the stories of kings, he chose devotion as his theme.[citation needed] Krishnadevaraya praised Dhurjati, saying "Stuti mati yaina Andhrakavi Dhurjati palkulakelagalgeno yetulita madhuri mahima...." (How is Dhurjati's poetry so immeasurably beautiful).[32] He was known as Pedda Dhurjati ("Elder Dhurjati") as there were four other people from the same family line who went by the name of Dhurjati during the same period and after him.[citation needed] His grandson Venkataraya Dhurjati, wrote Indumati Parinayam ("Marriage of Indumati"), a story from Kalidasa's Raghuvamsa.


Krishnadevaraya (Telugu: శ్రీ కృష్ణదేవరాయ) was an emperor of Vijayanagara Kingdom. Literary activities flourished during the rule of the Vijayanagara dynasty,[citation needed] and the period of Krishnadevaraya's rule in the sixteenth century is considered[by whom?] to be the golden age of Telugu literature.[citation needed] Krishnadevaraya, a poet himself, introduced the Prabandha to Telugu literature.[citation needed] Amukta Malyada. Krishna Deva Raya wrote the book Amuktamalyada in Telugu, describing the pangs of separation suffered by Andal (an incarnation of the goddess Mahalakshmi. He describes Andal's physical beauty in thirty verses; using descriptions of the spring and the monsoon as metaphors.[citation needed] As elsewhere in Indian poetry, the sensual pleasure of union extends beyond the physical level and becomes a path to, and a metaphor for, spirituality and ultimate union with the divine.[citation needed] His court had the Ashtadiggajas ("eight elephants"), who were considered to be the greatest of poets of that time.[citation needed] Some critics[who?] dismiss the following period, dominated by prabandhas, as a decadent age.[citation needed] Of the dozens of works of the eighteenth- to mid-nineteenth century, Kankanti Paparaju's Uttara Ramayana in campu style, and the play Vishnumayavilasa stand out.[citation needed] Other genres bloomed at the same time.[which?] Yakshaganas, indigenous dramas of song and prose, were also produced.[citation needed]

Tenali Ramakrishna[edit]

Garlapati Tenali Ramakrishna (Telugu: గార్లపాటి తెనాలి రామకృష్ణ), popularly known as Tenali Rama and Vikata Kavi, was another sixteenth-century court poet of the Vijayanagara empire and also one of the Ashtadiggajas. His family had originally hailed from Tenali in Guntur district, he was born in a Telugu Niyogi Brahmin family. His famous work Panduranga Mahatyamu is one among the Pancha Kavyas.[citation needed] He dedicated that to Viruri Vedadri.[33] This book is about the Pundarika Kshetram on the banks of river Bhaimi and its legend. He also composed Udbhataradhya Charitram on the story of Udbhata, a monk, as well as Ghatikachala Mahatyam about Ghatikachalam, a place of worship for God Narasimha near Vellore. He followed the Prabandha style. He took the theme for Panduranga Mahatyam from the Skanda Purana and enhanced it with many stories about the devotees of God Vitthala (Panduranga). He is noted for brilliance and wit and for mocking other poets and great personalities. He created a celebrated character called Nigama Sarma akka (sister of Nigama Sarma) and a story about her without giving her a name. He also had written many Chatuvu (extempore poems).

The post-Prabandha Period (1600-1850)[edit]

Kasula Purushottama Kavi[edit]

Kasula Purushottama Kavi was a Telugu poet who lived during the late 18th century (fl. CE 1798). He hailed from the Diviseema area of Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh and was a court poet of the then-Raja of Challapalli, Yarlagadda Ankineedu Prasad I (r. 1792–1819) of the Challapalli Samasthanam and possibly of his father as well.[34] Purushottama Kavi is recognized for composing literary works in Telugu consisting of one hundred poetic stanzas, known as satakams. [35] Kasula Purushottama Kavi is known for composing the Andhra Nayaka Satakam on Srikakula Andhra Mahavishnu Kasula Purushottama Kavi also composed Hamsaladeevi Gopala Satakam, Manasa Bodha Satakam, Bhakta Kalpadruma Satakam, and Venugopala Satakam.[36]

Mulugu Papayaradhya[edit]

Mulugu Papayaradhya, also known as Mulugu Papayya or Sangameswara Sastry, (1778 – 1852) was a Telugu and Sanskrit scholar, preceptor, translator, and writer, known for his translation of the Devi Bhagavatam from Sanskrit into Telugu and for being the preceptor and court poet of the Raja of Amavarati, Vasireddy Venkatadri Nayudu.[37][38] Mulugu Papayaradhya was born to Viranaradhya and Akkamba.[37] He is known to have written more than a hundred works in Telugu and Sanskrit.[37] He was titled as Abhinava Kalidasa.[39] He was a Veera Shaivite acharya (preceptor).

Mulugu Papayaradhya is regarded as the first poet to translate the Devi-Bhagavata Purana into Telugu.[40] From the more than hundred works he wrote, Kalyanacampu, Ekadasivratacampu, Aryasati, Sivastotra, and Vedantasarasangraha are among the more prominent works.[37] Papayaradhya also wrote the Ahalya Sankrandana Vilasamu.[41]


Kshetrayya or Kshetragna (Telugu: క్షేత్రయ్య) (c. 1600–1680 CE) was a prolific poet and composer of Carnatic music. He lived in the area of Andhra Pradesh. He composed a number of padams and keertanas, the prevalent formats of his time. He is credited with more than 4000 compositions, although only a handful have survived. He composed his songs on his favourite deity Krishna (Gopala) in Telugu. He perfected the padam format that is still being used today. His padams are sung in dance (Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi) and music recitals. A unique feature of his padams is the practice of singing the anupallavi first then the pallavi (second verse followed by first verse). Most of the padams are of the theme of longing for the coming of the lord Krishna. He wrote with Sringara as a main theme in expressing madhurabhakti (devotion to the supreme). Sringara is a motif where the mundane sexual relationship between a Nayaki (woman) and a Nayaka (man) is used as a metaphor, denoting the yearning of jeeva (usually depicted as the Nayaki) to unite with the divine (usually depicted as the man). In most of his compositions, Kshetrayya has used the mudra (signature) "Muvva Gopala" as a reference to himself, which is also a name for Lord Krishna in Kshetrayya's village Muvva, now called as Movva. Kshetrayya's work has played a major role in influencing poetry, dance, music of the South Indian tradition. Kshetrayya was intimately connected with the devadasi women of the temples of south India, who were the subject of many of his compositions. The devadasis were traditionally in possession of the musical/poetic interpretations of his work for a long period of time till the devadasi system was abolished and the compositions became more accepted in the musical community as valuable works of art. The musical community also owes a lot to Veena Dhanammal and T. Brinda, who popularised Kshetrayya's songs with their beautiful musical interpretation. Kshetrayya's padyams now form an integral part of the dance and musical traditions of South India, where his songs are rendered purely as musical works or as accompaniments to dance.

Kaluve Veera Raju[edit]

A prose translation by Kaluve Veera Raju which appeared hundred years later (ca 1700) had good success. He was the army chief under Chikka Deva Raya (1672-1704) of the Mysore Kingdom.[42] [43]

Kancherla Gopanna[edit]

Kancherla Gopanna (Telugu: కంచెర్ల గోపన్న; c. 1620 – c. 1680 CE), popularly known as Bhadradri Ramadasu or Bhadrachala Ramadasu (Telugu: భద్రాచల రామదాసు), was a 17th-century Indian devotee of Rama and a composer of Carnatic music.[44] He is one among the famous vaggeyakaras (same person being the writer and composer of a song) in the Telugu language. His devotional lyrics to Rama are famous in South Indian classical music as Ramadaasu Keertanalu. Even the doyen of South Indian classical music Saint Thyagaraja learned and later improved the style now considered standard kriti form of music composition. He also has written Dasarathi Shatakamu a collection of nearly 100 poems dedicated to the son of Dasaratha (Lord Rama).


Tarikonda Venkamamba (Telugu: తారికొండ వెంకమాంబ; alternate spelling: Vengamamba, born 1730) was a poet and staunch devotee of Lord Venkateswara in the 18th century. She wrote numerous poems and songs.


Tyagaraja or Tyagabrahmam (Telugu: కాకర్ల త్యాగబ్రహ్మం) (1767–1847) of Tanjore composed devotional songs in Telugu, which form a big part of the repertoire of Carnatic music. In addition to nearly 600 compositions (kritis), Tyagaraja composed two musical plays in Telugu, the Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam and the Nauka Charitam. Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam is in five acts with 45 kritis set in 28 ragas and 138 verses, in different metres in Telugu. Nauka Charitam is a shorter play in one act with 21 kritis set in 13 ragas and 43 verses. The latter is the most popular of Tyagaraja's operas, and is a creation of the composer's own imagination and has no basis in the Bhagavata Purāṇa. Often overlooked is the fact that Tyagaraja's works are some of the best and most beautiful literary expressions in Telugu language.[citation needed] Valmiki composed the Ramayana, the story of Rama, with 24,000 verses and also composed 24,000 kritis in praise of the lord.[citation needed]

Paravastu Chinnayasuri[edit]

Paravastu Chinnayasuri (Telugu: పరవస్తు చిన్నయ సూరి) (1807–1861) wrote Baala Vyaakaranamu in a new style after doing extensive research on Andhra Grammar[clarification needed] which is his greatest gift[peacock prose] to Telugu people. Other notable works of Chinnayasuri include Neeti Chandrika, Sootandhra Vyaakaranamu, Andhra Dhatumoola and Neeti Sangrahamu. Chinnayasuri translated Mitra Labham and Mitra Bhedam from the Sanskrit Panchatantra as Neeti Chandrika. Kandukuri Veeresalingam and Kokkonda Venkata Ratnam Pantulu followed his style of prose writing and wrote Vigrahamu and Sandhi in a different pattern.[clarification needed]

Modern Period[edit]

The period of Modern Telugu Poetry began with Gurajada Apparao, who changed the face of Telugu poetry with his Muthayala Saralu, and was perfected by later writers in the Romanticism era including Rayaprolu and Devulapalli Krishna Sastri. Gurajada's attempt to reform Telugu poetry by shedding old rules and styles reached a zenith with Sri Sri. SriSri's famous work "Maha Prastanam" is an instant hit with every corners of society. Many writers followed his style and continue to enrich the literature.

Contemporary poets[edit]

Kandukuri Veeresalingam[edit]

Kandukuri Veeresalingam (Telugu: కందుకూరి వీరేశలింగం; also known as Kandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu: కందుకూరి వీరేశలింగం పంతులు; 16 April 1848 – 27 May 1919) was a social reformer of Andhra Pradesh. He was born in an orthodox Andhra Brahmin family. He is widely considered as the man who first brought about a renaissance in Telugu people and Telugu literature. He was influenced by the ideals of Brahmo Samaj particularly those of Keshab Chandra Sen. Veereshalingam Panthulu is popularly called Gadya Tikkana.[45] He wrote about 100 books between 1869 and 1919 and introduced the essay, biography, autobiography and the novel into Telugu literature.[45] His Satyavati Charitam was the first social novel in Telugu.[45] He wrote Rajashekhara Charitamu inspired by Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefied. To him literature was an instrument to fight social evils.[45]

Acharya Rayaprolu Subba Rao[edit]

Rayaprolu Subba Rao (1892–1984) was among the pioneers of modern Telugu literature.[46] He is known as Abhinava Nannaya.[citation needed] He was recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award to Telugu Writers for his poetic work Misra Manjari in 1965. He was inspired by the Western literary movement and brought romanticism into Telugu literature by breaking away from the traditional translations of Sanskrit literature.Subbarayudu.[46] He introduced the concept of Amalina Shringara Tatvamu[further explanation needed] into Telugu literature.

One patriotic verse by Subba Rao, "Edesamegina Endukalidina" (also known as "Janmabhumi"), is a perennial favourite, being regularly sung and recited. It was particularly popular for public events in the pre-Independence Andhra region. The verse has been adapted many times into song for use in Telugu films.[47]

Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna[edit]

Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna (Telugu: మంగళంపల్లి బాలమురళీకృష్ణ) pronunciation (born 6 July 1930) is a Carnatic vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and a playback singer. He is also acclaimed as a poet, composer and respected for his knowledge of Carnatic Music. Balamuralikrishna was born in Sankaraguptam, East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh state.[49] Dr Balamuralikrishna has composed over 400 compositions in various languages like Telugu and Sanskrit. His compositions range from Devotional to Varnams, Kirtis, Javalis, and Thillans. His greatest achievement is the compositions in all the fundamental 72 melakarta ragas.


Aacharya Aatreya (Telugu: ఆచార్య ఆత్రేయ) or Kilambi Venkata Narasimhacharyulu pronunciation (7 May 1921 – 13 September 1989) was a playwright, lyrics and story writer of the Telugu film industry.[50] He was born as Kilambi Venkata Narasimhacharyulu on 7 May 1921 in the Mangalampadu village of Sullurpeta Mandalam in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. His pen name is based on their family Gotra. Known for his poetry on the human soul and heart, he was given the title 'Manasu Kavi'(Poet of Heart), which can be rewritten as 'Mana Su Kavi'(Our Good Poet). His poetry is philosophical and intellectually satisfying.[citation needed]

Tripuraneni Ramaswamy[edit]

Tripuranēni Rāmasvāmi (15 January 1887 – 16 January 1943) was a lawyer, famous poet, playwright and reformer active among the Telugu-speaking people. Popularly known as Kaviraju, he is considered the first poet to introduce rationalism and humanism into Telugu poetry and literature. Ramaswamy chose literary writing as the vehicle for expressing his rationalist thoughts. His famous work 'Sutaparanam' in four cantos was a fierce attack on the ancient Purāṇas, he has attained the state of excellence in poetic and literary criticism. His poetic work "Kuppuswamy Satakam" reveals the theme of social revolution and talks about social evils, blind faith, and indignity to man. He was against Congress and its fight against independence. In his other works such as "Sambhukavadha", "Suthashrama geetaalu', 'Dhoorta maanava', 'Khooni', 'Bhagavadgita', 'Rana Pratap' and 'Kondaveeti patanam', he made a rational analysis of dogmas prescribed by ancient classics and the injustice these dogmas did to people belonging to the lower social orders. Moreover, he attacked discriminatory practices and fought against the idea of untouchability. Sambhuka Vadha created a lot of controversies. Sambhuka was a character who did tapas to go heaven with the live body before death. That was considered as adharma and was killed by Lord Rama. This story was interpreted that Brahmins do not like doing tapas by non-Brahmins, which is why Sabhuka was killed.

Modern platforms[edit]

Growing Internet use in India[51] led to the birth of online platforms that bring Telugu writers closer to more readers. Kadachepta, Pratilipi, SuKatha (SuKatha is a Hindi story reading platform along with Telugu) and Kahaniya are prominent among the new platforms.


  • Sahitya Akademi Award for Telugu – The award given by India's national academy of letters for writing in Telugu.
  • Ismail Award – Established in 2005, the award is given every year for a poet's debut book.
  • CP Brown Award – Given every year to translators or others have worked to promote the Telugu language.

Political movements[edit]

The Paryavaran Kavitodyamam movement started in 2008. It states its aims as being to bring awareness and concern among not only the elite class but also the masses through creative forms of literature.[vague] The Jagruthi Kiran Foundation initiated it under the leadership of Narayanam Narasimha Murthy, popularly known as Vidyavachaspati. The movement has literary activities including Harita Kata. Various poets and writers on environment have produced literature for the movement, with over 500 writers participating in the Jagruthi Kiran Foundation. Magazines such as Malle Teega and Kadhakeli are associated with the Jagruthi Kiran Foundation.

Popular authors and works[edit]

See also[edit]



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  • Subbarayudu, G. K.; Subbarayudu, C. (1996). "Twentieth-Century Telugu Literature (Chapter 11)". In Natarajan, Nalini; Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath (eds.). Handbook of Twentieth-century Literatures of India. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 306–328. ISBN 978-0-313-28778-7.

External links[edit]