Krishnadevaraya and the Astadiggajas
Sri Krishnadeva Raya stated
“దేశ భాషలందు తెలుగు లెస్స” – తుళువ రాజు శ్రీకృష్ణదేవరాయ"
“Desa bhashalandu Telugu Lessa” meaning " Telugu is the best/sweetest among the languages of the nation".
The Vijayanagara period (1336-1565 A.D.) is considered to be the golden age of Telugu literature. Literary activities flourished during the rule of the Vijayanagara dynasty, and the period of Krishnadevaraya’s rule in the sixteenth century. During this time Telugu was one of the languages spoken in the royal courts.
Telugu literature also flourished in the traditional “samsthanas” (centres) of Southern literature, such as Madurai and Tanjore. Therefore this age is often also referred to as the Southern Period.
Krishnadevaraya, a poet himself, introduced the Prabandha to Telugu literature. Krishna Deva Raya wrote the book Amuktamalyada (A Garland Dedicated to the Lord, also translated as: the Giver of the Worn Garland) 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. 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. The whole work of Amukta Malyada has a grand poetic style and the work blends the eternal and the temporal in a masterly fashion even as it unfolds an interesting tale. Amukta Malyada is considered one of the Pancha Kavyas – the five best works in Telugu Literature.
His court had the Ashtadiggajas (“eight elephants”), who were considered to be the greatest of poets of that time.
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. The court of poets were also called Bhuvana Vijayam (Conquest of the World). The names of the Ashtadiggajas are Allasani Peddana, (1510-1575AD), who is known as Andhra Kavita Pitamahudu or Grandfather of Andhra Poetry, Tenali Rama Krishna, Nandi Thimmana, Madayyagari Mallana, Dhurjati, Ayyala-raju Rama-Bhadrudu, Pingali Surana and Rama-raj-bhushanudu.
Though the above listed eight poets are widely regarded as the Astadiggajas, there are some differences of opinion as to who exactly constituted the Astadiggajas and if the composition of this body changed over time. Some literary works mention the name of Bhattu-Murthi 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 has been gifted to the Astadiggajas by the emperor.
Allasani Peddana – Andhra Kavita Pitamaha (“the grand father of Telugu poetry”)
- Allasani Peddana is revered as Andhra Kavita Pitamaha (“the grand father of Telugu poetry”)
- He wrote Swaarochisha Manu Sambhavam (also known as Manu Charitra), which is treated as one of the Pancha Kavyas, the five best works in Telugu.
- This Book is about the second Manu of fourteen manus (fathers of mankind societies according to Hindu mythology), translated into Telugu from Sanskrit original by Marana (1291–1323), disciple of Tikkana.
Allasani Peddana (15th and 16th centuries) was ranked as the foremost of the Astadiggajalu. Peddana was a native of Somandepalli near Anantapur. Allasani Peddana wrote the first major Prabandha and for this reason he is revered as Andhra Kavita Pitamaha (“the grand father of Telugu poetry”). It is believed that he was also a minister in the king’s court and is hence sometimes referred as Peddanaamaatya (Peddana + Amaatya = Peddana, the minister).
He wrote Swaarochisha Manu Sambhavam (also known as Manu Charitra), which is a development of an episode in the Markandeya Purana relating to the birth of Svarochishamanu, who is one of the fourteen Manus. Pravarakyudu is a pious Brahmin youth who goes to the Himalayas for Tapasya. In the Himalayas Varudhini, a Gandarava girl, falls in love with him, but Pravarakyudu rejects her love. Knowing this a Gandarava youth who was earlier rejected by Varudhini assumes the form of Pravarakyudu and succeeds to win her love. To them is born Svarochisha, the father of Svarochishamanu. 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 original by Marana (1291–1323), disciple of Tikkana. The original story was around 150 poems and Peddana extended it into six chapters with 600 poems by adding fiction and descriptions.
His work Manu Charitra 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.
- Dhurjati was a great Siva devotee in the royal court dominated by Vaishnavism. He composed two long poems in praise of Sree Kalahasteesvara, a form of Siva in Southern Andhra.
- One day in court, King Krishnadevaraya praised the sweetness of Dhurjati’s poetry:
- “స్తుతమతి యైన యాంధ్ర కవి ధూర్జటి పల్కుల కేల కల్గె నీ యతులిత మాధురీ మహిమ?”
“Sthuthimathi yaina Andhrakavi Dhurjati palkulakelagalgeno yethulitha madhuri mahima”
“How is Dhurjati’s poetry so immeasurably beautiful”
Dhurjati or Dhoorjati (15th and 16th centuries) was a poet in the court of Krishnadevaraya and was one of the Astadiggajalu. He was born to Singamma and Narayana in Sri Kalahasti and was the grandson of Jakkayya. He was a devotee of Shiva, whom his works praise. They include Sri Kalahasteeshwara Mahatyam (The grace/miracles of lord Shiva) and Sri Kalahasteeshwara Shatakam (100+ poems in the praise of lord Shiva).
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. His grandson, Venkataraya Dhurjati, wrote Indumati Parinayam (“marriage of Indumati”), a story from Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsam. Like other contemporaries of the Prabhanda period, he took themes from Puranas and added local stories and myths in his work. Unlike contemporaries such as Peddana and Mallana, who chose the stories of kings, he chose devotion as his theme. Krishnadevaraya praised Dhurjati, saying “Sthuthimathi yaina Andhrakavi Dhurjati palkulakelagalgeno yethulitha madhuri mahima….” (How is Dhurjati’s poetry so immeasurably beautiful)
Similarly Nandi Thimmana, Madayyagari Mallana and Ayyalaraju Ramabhadrudu rendered great literary works during this period.
- Garlapati Tenali Ramakrishna, popularly known as Tenali Rama and Vikata Kavi.
- His work Panduranga Mahatyamu is considered one of the Pancha Kavyas.
- He is noted for brilliance and wit and for mocking other poets and great personalities.
Garlapati Tenali Ramakrishna, 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 Tumuluru near Tenali in Guntur District.
Scholars treat his Panduranga Mahatyamu as one among the Pancha Kavyas. He dedicated that to Viruri Vedadri. 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 Prabhanda 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 around her without giving her a name. He also had written many Chatuvu (extempore poems).