Mahabharatam (1030 A.D.), which is an adaptation of the Sanskrit Mahabharata,
marks the beginning of the Telugu literature. This work, which is
rendered in the Campu style, is so chaste and polished and of such a high literary
merit that many scholars do not rule out the possibility of the
existence of literary works in Telugu in the pre-Nannaya period. This argument is based on the inscriptional evidence of the 7th
century, which shows metrical compositions rendered in Telugu.
could not be completed during his lifetime. Nannaya is also
credited with a grammatical work, the Andhra
the period 500-1100 A.D., Telugu was confined to the poetic works
and flourished in the courts of kings and among scholars. This
period also saw the translation of Ganitasara, a mathematical treatise of Mahivaracharya, into Telugu
by Pavuluri Mallana. The real development of Telugu began during
the period 1100--1600 A.D. when the language got stylized and rigid,
closing itself from the influence of contemporary spoken language.
twelfth and the thirteenth centuries A.D. saw the emergence of the Lingayata
school of thought or Virasaivism,
which propagated bhakti towards Siva as the only means of
attaining salvation. The
reflection of Virasaivism
was also on the Telugu literature. Nannecodu, the first of the
Saiva poets in Telugu, wrote the great kavya
Kumara-sambhavamu in campu
style. Palakuriki Somanatha (c.1200-1240) was the pioneer in
creating new literary genres in Telugu like gadya,
ragada, sataka and udaharana.
His famous works are Basava Puranamu and Panditaradhyacharita,
which are biographies of the two great Saiva saints Basaveshvara
and Panditaradhya. The
first translation of Ramayana in Telugu, which is referred to as Ranganatha
Ramayana, is credited to Gona Buddha Reddi (13th
century). Tikkanna Somyaji (1200-1300 A.D.) brought together the Saivaite and non-Saivaite schools of Telugu poets.
His first work was Nirvacanottara
Ramayanamu written in Kavya style. He undertook the task of
completing the translation of Mahabharata
left unfinished by Nannaya and succeeded in completing the
remaining fifteen parvans. Ketana (13th century A.D.) translated Dasakumaracharita of Dandin and dedicated it to Tikkana.
His other great work is a grammatical treatise known as Andhra-bhasa-bhusanamu,
which is the first work of its kind in Telugu. The other notable works of this period include Markandeya
Purana by Marana, Keyurabahu-caritramu
by Mancanna and Krishnamacharya's Simhagiri
Narahari Vacanamulu. Yerrana (1280-1350 A.D.), who was the court
poet of the Reddy kings, was the first poet to render Harivamsa
into Telugu. His Narsimha Puranamu is considered as a landmark since it initiated the
Prabhanda style of
writing in Telugu literature. He completed the translation of the
Mahabharata started by Nannaya.
Thus, the three poets Nannaya, Tikkana and Yerrana, who
completed the translation of Mahabharata in Telugu are referred as
kavitraya or the trinity
of poets in Telugu literature.
period 1400-1500 A.D. in the Telugu literary history is described as
the Age of Srinatha. The
popular Telugu literary form called the Prabandha
(a story in verse having a tight metrical scheme) evolved during
this period. Srinatha (1365-1440 A.D.) was the King of poets or Kavi-sarvabhauma
in the court of the Reddy kings and was given the royal honour of Kanakabhiseka.
Srinatha’s major works include Sringara
Bhimeshvara Puranamu, Kasikhandamu and Palanati-viracharitramau,
all of which are now extant.
Bamera Potana (1400-1475 A.D.) translated the Bhagwata
Purana into Telugu in his Mahabhagavatamu.
Pinavirabhadrudu (1450-80 A.D.) adapted Kalidasa's Shakuntala in Telugu in his Sakuntala-parinayamu.
He also translated the Puranic stories into Telugu in his Jaimini Bharatamu. Dubagunta
Narayana (1450-1500) adapted the Panchatantra in Telugu. Annamacharya (1408-1503 A.D.), a bhakta
poet, composed thousands of devotional songs or sankritanas
of high literary and musical value.
His wife Timmamba, believed to be the first Telugu poetess,
Nandi Mallaya and Ghanta Singaya translated the Prabodhacandrodava
and Varaha Purana in
Telugu. The other great Telugu translation works of this period
include Padma Puranamu,
Vasistha Ramayanamu and Nachiketopakhyanamu.
Vijayanagara period (1336-1565 A.D.) can be considered as the golden
age of Telugu literature. Nachana Somanatha, a court poet of Bukka
I, produced a poetical work called Uttaraharivamsamu.
Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529 A.D.), the greatest of the Vijayanagara
emperors, was himself a poet of great merit. His Amuktamalayada,
a mahakavya, is an
excellent example of Prabandha
style in Telugu literature. It is believed that eight Telugu
literary luminaries called the Ashtadiggajas
adorned the court of Krishnadevaraya.
These were Allasani Peddana, Nandi Timmanna, Madayagari
Mallana, Dhurjati, Ayyalaraju Ramabhadra Kavi, Pingali Surana,
Ramaraja Bhushana (Bhattumurthi) and Tenali Ramakrishna. Peddana,
who was regarded as the 'Andhra Kavita Pitamaha', authored Manucharitra,
which is another outstanding Telugu
mahakavya rendered in Prabandha
style. Timmanna's Parijathapaharanamu,
Mahatmyan and Kalahasteeswara
Satakam, Surana's Raghavapandaviyam,
Kalapurnodayam and Prabhavati-Pradyumnamu,
Narasabhupaliyam and Harischandra
Nalopakhyanam, Mallana's Rajasekharacharita,
Ramabhadra's Ramabhyudayam and
Sakalakathasara Sangraham and Tenali Ramakrishna's Panduranga-mahatmyamu are some of the great Prabhanda style works of the Vijayanagara period. Another poet
Chintalapudi Ellanarya (1510-1560 A.D.) authored two great poems Radha-Madhavamu
and Tarakabrahmarajiyamu while Narasimha Kavi authored the Kavikarna
Rasayana. Kummari Molla, a poetess of this period, authored Ramayanamu
which retains its popularity even today for its beautiful
descriptions and lucid style.
Telugu literature also flourished during the Qutub Shahi dynasty
of Golkonda (1518-1687 A.D.), which saw the composition of great
Telugu works like Tapati-samvaranamu
(1565 A.D.) by Addanki Gangadhara Kavi; Yayaticharitramu
(1578 A.D.) by
Ponnikanti Telaganarya; Nirankusopakhyanamu
by Kandukuru Rudra Kavi, Satcakravaticharitramu
by Malla Reddy; Vaijayanti-vilasamu
by Sarungu Timmanna, the court poet of Ibrahim Qutub Shah and Raghava-Yadava-Pandaviyamu by Balasarasvati.
literature flourished in the South under the patronage of the
Nayaka kings of Madurai and Tanjavur. A large number of poets
among the rulers, women and non-Brahmins popularised
the desi metres
during this period, which is called the `Southern Period'. King
Raghunatha Nayaka (1600-1631 A.D.) wrote Achyutabhyudayamu,
Nalcharitramu and Valmikicharitramu.
Kandukuri Rudra Kavi wrote Sugrivavijayamu
in 1568 A.D., which is considered as the first Yakshagana in Telugu
King Vijaraghava Nayaka (1633-1673 A.D.) was a prolific writer and
composed over twenty Yakshaganas.
The first prose in Telugu also appeared under the patronage of the
Nayaka kings of Madurai. Sthanapati wrote Rayavacakamu,
which is a prose biography of Krishnadevaraya. Kameshwara Kavi's Dhenumahatmyamu and Satyabhama-santvanamu,
Venkata Krishnappa's Sarangadharacharitramu,
Radhikasnatvanamu and Ahalya-samkrandanamu
and Venkatacalapati's Mitravindaparinayamu
are the great prose works of this period.
the conquest of the Deccan by the Mughals in 1687 A.D., there ensued
a period of decadence (1750-1850
A.D.) in Telugu literature. However, the few poets of importance who
emerged during this period include Kucimanci Timma Kavi, Adidamu
Sura Kavi, Kucimanci Jagga Kavi, Kankanti Paparaju, Sishtu
Krishnamurti, Pindiprolu Lakshmana Kavi, Madina Subhadramma and
Tarigonda Venkamamba. There
was a period of transition from 1850-1910 A.D., followed by a long
period of Renaissance. Chinnaya Suri's Nitichandrika
(1853 A.D.), Suryaprakasa Kavi's Sitaramacharitra
and Matsa Venkata Kavi's Kusalavacharitra
were important works of this period. Europeans like C.P.Brown
played an important role in the development of Telugu language and
literature. In common with the rest of India, Telugu literature of
this period was increasingly influenced by the European literary
forms like the novel, short story, prose and drama.
Viresalingam Pantulu (1848-1919) is considered as the father of
modern Telugu literature. He was the pioneer in the field of
Telugu journalism and started three journals, Vivekavardhini
(1874 A.D.), Hasyasanjivini
(1876 A.D.) and Satihitabodhini
(1885 A.D.). He was the first person in modern times to use
literature to eradicate social evils. He also wrote the novel Rajasekhara
Charitamu inspired by the Vicar of Wakefield. He was followed
by other distinguished poets like Rayaprolu Subba Rao, Gurajada
Appa Rao, Katuri Venkateswara Rao, Jashuva, Devulapalli Venkata
Krishna Sastry, Sri Sri, Puttaparty Narayana Charyulu and others.
Gurajada was the first to make experiments in new poetry in
(1910 A.D.). His Kanyasulkam,
the first social play in Telugu became very popular. In the 1920s
and 1930s the Telugu poets were greatly influenced by the English
Romantic poets and their writings came to be known as bhava-kavitvam
or the poetry of imagination. R.Subba Rao's Trinakankanam
(1913), D.Krishna Sastri's Krishnapaksam
(1924), D.Rami Reddy's Palitakesam
and Adivi Bapiraju's Sasikala
belong to this genre of poetry. The important Telugu poets of the
post-Independence period are A.Subba Rao, Bhagavatula Sankara
Sastri ('Arudra'), A.Somasundara, Gangineni, Rentala, K.V.Ramana
Reddy, Umamaheshwar, Srirangam Narayana Babu, Pattabhi, C.Narayana
Reddy, Dasarathi, Kundurti Anjaneyulu, Madiraju Ranga Rao, Boyi
Bhimanna and Vishwanatha Satyanarayana. Viswanatha Satyanarayana
had won the coveted Jnanapith
Award in 1970 for his magnum opus Ramayana-kalpavriksham.
the Nineties, the progressive movement, free verse movement and
Digambara style found their expression in Telugu verse. Telugu
novels in their real sense began to be written only around 1870s.
The credit for writing the first novel in Telugu goes to Narahari
Gopala Krishnamma Chetti, who wrote Rangarajacharita in 1872. The well-known modern Telugu novelists
were Dharanipragada Venkata Siva Rao (Bhuvanimohini
- 1901), Vella Subba Rao (Ranisamyukta
- 1908), Unnava Lakshminarayana (Malapalli
- 1921), Viswanatha Satyanarayana (Veyi
Padagalu - 1934), Tirupaneni Gopichand (Asamarthuni
Jiyayatra - 1945), Kutumba Rao and Buchchi Babu (Civaraku Migiledi -1952).
made its appearance in the Telugu literature during the later part
of the nineteenth century. Narakasura-vijaya-vyayogam
(1872) by Kokkonda Venkataratnam and Abhijnana-Sakuntalam
(1883) by Virasalingam are the earliest examples of Telugu
adaptations of Sanskrit plays. Virasalingam also translated
Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and The
Comedy of Errors in Telugu.
(1880s) is the first important original drama in Telugu.
The other important Telugu dramas include Korada
Ramachandra Kavi's Manjari
Madhukariyam (1860), Venkataraya Sastri's Prataparudriyam
(1897), K.Subba Rao's Roshanara
(1921) and G.V.Subba Rao's Khilji-rajyapatanam
(1931). Of the important social plays, mention must be made of Kanthabharanam
(1917) of P.Lakshmi Narasimha Rao and Tappevaridi
(1929) of P.Venkata Rajamannar.
Rajamannar also wrote a number of one-act plays like Deyyalu
Lanka (1930) and Emimagvallu
(1947). The first
autobiography in Telugu literature was attempted by Viresalingam
in the form of Sviya
Charitra in 1910.