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Telugu is principally spoken by people residing in the state of Andhra Pradesh. With this article, check out its history, literature and writing style.

Telugu Language

Telugu Language is the official language of Andhra Pradesh, a southern state of the Indian subcontinent. According to the historical records, the language was originated in the 1st century AD, or perhaps even before. Early inscriptions of the language date from around the 6th century, but a proper literary career starts five centuries later. The script, almost similar to that of Kannada, took shape in 1000AD from the Pahlava script of 7AD. The vocabulary of Telugu language is largely Indo-Aryan and has been influenced by Sanskrit, which is regarded as the mother of the Indian languages.

Translation From Sanskrit
Most literatures began with translations from Sanskrit. So did Telugu, with Nannayabhatta (1020AD), the adikavi or ‘first poet’ of Telugu translating the Mahabharata. It was an unusual translation, with lots of clever innovations, but no deviations from the story. However, Nannayabhatta couldn’t complete the job. Tikanna in the around 13th century contributed in the translation. However, it was Yerrapragada (14th century) who was finally able to clinch it. Nannaya, Tikanna and Yerrapragada are known as the kavitraya or ‘the three great poets’ of Telugu for their mammoth effort. Other such translations followed, like Marana’s Markandeya Purana, Ketana’s Dasakumara Charita, Yerrana’s Harivamsa and others.

Original Telugu Works And Poetry
By the time the Telugu poets wrote down some original stuff along with translations, it was almost the end of the 14th century. Slowly, but steadily, they picked up, some landmarks being Srinatha’s Sringara Naishadha, Potana’s Dasamaskandha, Jakkana’s Vikramarka Charitra and Talapaka Himmakka’s Subhadra Kalyana. Literary activities flourished, especially during the mighty Vijayanagara emperors. The 16th century was the golden age in the history of Tamil literature, thanks to the king Krishna Deva Raya. The raja, a poet himself, introduced the prabandha (a kind of love poetry) in Telugu literature in his Amukta Malyada.

He had in his court the Ashtadiggajas (literal: eight elephants), who were the greatest of poets of the times. Original verse compositions and stories were written in a new zeal. Of those eight, Allasani Peddana (1510-1575AD) is known as Andhra Kavita Pitamahudu or ‘Grandfather of Andhra Poetry’. Kankanti Paparaju's Uttara Ramayana in campu style and the play Vishnumayavilasa were highly admired during 19th century. Tyagaraya of Tanjore (19th century) composed devotional songs in Telugu from the repertoire of the classical ragas of South India.

Telugu Books
The first printed Telugu book was out in 1796. Young men acquainted with English literature tried to imitate Shelly, Keats and Wordsworth, and a new type of romantic poetry called the Bhavakavithwa was born. Bengali novelists like Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Ramesh Chandra Dutta were a major influence on modern Telugu fiction. Viresalingam Pantulu (1848-1919) wrote the first novel in Telugu, Rakashekharacharitramu. Other writers such as the dramatist Dharmavaram Krishnamachari, Chilakamarti Lakshminarasimham (also called the ‘blind poet of Andhra Desha’) the poets and dramatists Gurujada Apparavu and D. Krishnamacharlu contributed to build modern Telugu literature.

Sahiti Samiti
The literary group Sahiti Samiti was set up in 1921, and their ‘progressive and rationalist’ journal Sahiti was followed by several others. Even now many writers like Tirupati Venkata Kavulu, Sripada Krishnamurthy Shastry and Vavilakolanu Subbarao preferred the old traditional style. Today the drama, novel, short story, essay and criticism in Telugu have reached high standards although they started only a century ago.