SamskrutAndhramulu – A Symphony Down the Ages

Samskrutandhramulu—the word is a Dwandwasamasam, a compound word formed by joining “Samskrutam” and “Andhram.” Andhram…

Samskrutandhramulu—the word is a Dwandwasamasam, a compound word formed by joining “Samskrutam” and “Andhram.”

Andhram here represents the ‘Telugu’ language.  The term Andhra Bhasha was and is often used in Sanskrit to mean Telugu language in the sense that it is the language of Andhra region that includes today’s Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Many scholars from this region introduced themselves as someone who has made some effort in ‘Samskritandhramulu’. This is to show how the two words beautifully weave together into a Samastapadam and also to make my intention clear in using the word ‘Andhra’.

Telugu is a Dravidian language belonging to the South-central Dravidian group in eminent linguist Sri Bhadriraju Krishnamurthy’s classification. And Sanskrit, is widely acknowledged to belong to the Proto-Indo-Aryan and Proto-Indo-European group. There exists a great ‘commensalism’ between them where Telugu takes a lot from Sanskrit and also lets Sanskrit thrive where it’s the lingua-franca. It is common knowledge that many Indian languages show this phenomenon to varying degrees.

This article tries to make an amateur attempt in showcasing that relationship.

Prakrit Connection

Even after Telugu came out as an independent language, many inscriptions in the region were in Sanskrit and Prakrit. Telugu heavily borrowed from various Prakrits in the initial stages. The semblance between Sanskrit and Telugu came from Prakrits. But later on, it was directly influenced by Sanskrit.

Vedic Traditions

This influence can be attributed to some extent to the strong Vedic traditions in many parts of the united Andhra region which meant that Sanskrit learning was a must.

One of the prominent lawgivers of Grihyasutras that are still followed is Apasthamba who belonged to the Godavari region. Another lawgiver believed to be from this region and more famous for his ‘Sulbasutras’(includes the Pythagorean theorem) was Baudhayana.

Even the legendary exponent of Purva Mimamsa School, Kumarila Bhatta is also believed to be from Andhra by some. Though debatable, there are evidences that he was patronized by the local kings.

Telugu Script and Tatsama

The Telugu script styled itself to suit the pronunciation of Sanskrit ‘mahapranams’(bha, pha, thaetc).

The grammar or meta-language of Telugu is written in Sanskrit. While Adikavi Nannayya started the Mahabharata in Telugu as an attempt to write something in his lingua-franca, it was so Sanskritized that it felt like a Sanskrit work. It had long compounds like Avivekakaranadarunaiswaryavaliptudu’.

Tikkana

Later poets like Tikkana brought more ‘accha (pure/native) Telugu’ vocabulary but Sanskrit remained entrenched. As the use of the vibhaktipratyaya ‘mu’ as in mahabharatamu diminished, Telugu started sounding much more like Sanskrit in pronouncing words from the neuter gender. Soundaryam, Lalityam and many such words of Sanskrit sound as is in Telugu.

Another feature is the use of borrowed words from Sanskrit as it is (tatsama). There are vikritis like ‘Siri’ for ‘Sri,’  ‘Punnami’ for ‘Pournami’ and many words borrowed from Prakrits that sound like Sanskrit words. Words like aggi (agni) and ituka (istika in Sanskrit) are some examples.

But the free flow of Sanskrit tatsamas as is without any change in pronunciation doubled the vocabulary. While Sanskrit-speaking populace diminished in India, it flourished through Telugu and reached a bigger audience.

Scholars in Medieval Times

Medieval periods also witnessed some great Sanskrit scholars from the region like Kolachela Mallinatha Suri who wrote extensive commentaries on Kalidasa’s works. He hailed from the Hyderabad region.

Vidyaranya Swami, author of the popular ‘Madhaviya Sankara Digvijaya’ was from Warangal. Vallabhacharya (of Pushtimarga and author of many works like Madhurashtakam) and Nimbarka had roots in this region.

Bhaskararaya who wrote the commentary on ‘Lalitha Sahasranamam’ was born near present-day Hyderabad. All this shows the continuous flourishing of Sanskrit in the region.

Telugu Literature

The golden age of Telugu literature under the Vijayanagara Empire that saw the Prabandha (loosely: “essay”) style touch its peak was due to the Ashta Diggajas (literally: “Eight Elephants”) of Sri Krishnadevaraya and many of them were from the Rayalaseema region.

It was the scholars of this time who blended Telugu and Sanskrit vocabulary seamlessly in their works.  Palkuriki Somanatha who wrote Basava Puranam and many other works in Telugu and Kannada authored several works in Sanskrit.

The heavyweight Srinatha was well known for his chatupadyams (a genre well established in Sanskrit) apart from his kavyas. Another well-known poet whose mention is a must is the beloved Pothanaamatya who wrote the ‘Andhra Maha Bhagavatam’.  It contains sweet and simple poems predominantly in Telugu juxtaposed with ones like:

ala vaikuNThapurambulo nagarilo nAmoolasaudhambu dA
pala mandAravAnAntarAmRRitasara:prAntendukAntopalotpala
parya~Nkaramavinodiyagu ApannaprasannunDu
vihwalanAgendramu pAhipAhi yana guyyAlinchi saMrambhi yai.

 अल वैकुण्ठपुरम्बुलो नगरिलो नामूलसौधम्बु दा
पल मन्दारवानान्तरामृतसर:प्रान्तेन्दुकान्तोपलोत्पल
पर्यङ्करमविनोदियगु आपन्नप्रसन्नुन्डु
विह्वलनागेन्द्रमु पाहिपाहि यन गुय्यालिन्चि संरम्भि यै।

Note the long samasa to describe Vishnu in the second line in bold.

Sanskritized Telugu was—in today’s parlance—elitist to a great extent. But there were many successful attempts to take it to the masses. These were necessitated by the historical turn of events like the Bhakti movement.

Shatakams

After the fall of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire, the vacuum created by the lack of royal patronage for classical poetry now fell on small feudal lords.

Equally, the Bhakti movement and many other factors now contributed to literature, which diluted the classical so that they could be understood by commoners. This is where the Shataka Sahityam (a collection of hundred verses) comes in. Modeled on the Samskrita Sataka genre, this grew to become immensely popular. It is said that there are hundreds of Shatakams (if not thousands) in Telugu. There were no strict rules except adherence to metre in this genre. Palkuriki Somanatha’s ‘Vrishadhipa Shatakam’ and Baddena’s ‘Sumati Shatakam’ are considered the earliest. Poems from Sumati Shatakam are widely used even today.

VEmana.jpg

Sculpture of Vemana

The great Vemana too wrote his Vemana Satakam in simple Telugu mixed with Sanskrit vocabulary. Dhurjati in his Kalahasteeswara Shatakam brought more sophistication. In Narasimha Shatakam, the flag or refrain is ‘Dushta Samhara Narasimha Duritadoora!’

An example from Krishna Satakam-

nArAyaNa parameshwara
dhArAdhara nIladeha dAnavavairii!
kSheerabdhishayana yadukula
veera, nanugAvu karunavelayaga kRRiShNa!!

 नारायण परमेश्वर
धाराधर नीलदेह दानववैरी!
क्षीरब्धिशयन यदुकुल
वीर, ननुगावु करुनवेलयग कृष्ण!!

Indeed, many Telugu people who know this popular shloka wouldn’t know that the poem makes extensive use of Sanskrit words. That was the level of assimilation of Sanskrit in Telugu.

Kuchipudi

The other art form that took Sanskritized Telugu to the masses was the Kuchipudi dance. It was a very popular dance form and permeated the entire Andhra society. The Bhagavatulu (dance teachers and performers) went to the nook and corner of the Andhra country and performed for the masses. Also known as the Bhagavatamelam and having roots in Bhakti movement, it has many Yakshaganas like Prahlada Charitra, Usha Parinayam rich in Sanskrit vocabulary. To perform the Golla Kalapam where an ordinary Gollabhama (cowgirl) teaches the secrets of Vedanta to a learned Brahmin, one would have to learn the five kavyas, Vedanta Granthas and many more in Sanskrit. The most loved and performed piece of Kuchipudi is the Bhamakalapam. Authored by Siddhendrayogi as a showcase of Madhura Bhakti (tender devotion), this work has a unique passage where the lovelorn Satyabhama writes a letter to SriKrishna.

shrImadRatnAkaraputrikAmukhAravindamarandapAnavilolamilindAyamAna!
nandanandana, muchukundavarada, mandaroddhara, parihasitaraakaasudhAkara
sundaravadanAravinduDagu shrIrAjagopalaswAmivAricharanAravindamulaku
satyabhAma nitalataTaghatikarakamalayai sAyangala vinnapamulu!!

श्रीमद्ऱत्नाकरपुत्रिकामुखारविन्दमरन्दपानविलोलमिलिन्दायमान!
नन्दनन्दन, मुचुकुन्दवरद, मन्दरोद्धर, परिहसितराकासुधाकर
सुन्दरवदनारविन्दुडगु श्रीराजगोपलस्वामिवारिचरनारविन्दमुलकु
सत्यभाम नितलतटघतिकरकमलयै सायन्गल विन्नपमुलु!!

A Kuchipudi performance

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BitJ_LBRU8 (The abhinaya or performance for this poem starts at 3:00). Note the first line. It is one long compound word describing Krishna. Smt. Shobha Naidu says in that video that this padyam is in ‘chakkati (nice) Telugu’!! While the only Telugu we see is in the last two words and the prepositions.

Sri Narayana Teertha’s tarangams from his musical opera,‘SriKrishna Leela Tarangini’ in Sanskrit formed an integral part of the Kuchipudi repertoire.

An offshoot of this dance form is the Melattur Bhagavata Mela tradition that still exists in the Tanjavur district of Tamil Nadu and consists of Sanskrit and Telugu.

Sankeerthanams

Another famed aspect of Telugu literature that brought Sanskrit to the masses is the SankeertanaSahityam (devotional literature).

Sri Tallapaka Annamacharya heralded this tradition by composing in chaste Telugu and pure Sanskrit (for example, Bhavayamigopalabalam etc) and a mix of both. Bhadrachala Ramadasu did the same. When he says ‘Sharanagatatranabirudankitudavu’ in the krithi ‘palukebangaaramaayena’ it’s often considered as Telugu. Many Telugu scholars who were equally proficient in Sanskrit moved to the Tanjavur region where they found patrons in the Nayaka rulers. Sadasivabrahmendra was born into a Telugu family and composed krithis in Sanskrit. Tyagaraja Swami wrote many krithis in simple Telugu laden with Sanskrit. His ‘Jagadananda karaka’ has 108 adjectives of Lord Rama all in Sanskrit.

Another example is ‘Varaleelaganalola’ modeled on a tune of British bands of that time. This is completely in Sanskrit but can easily passed off as Telugu. Even in his Telugu krithis, we can see simple but long Sanskrit compounds like ‘amitaparakramadyumanikularnavavimalachandruni’.

That brings us to the 19th century where the first Telugu novel came into being in the form of Rajasekhara Charitra (inspired by The Vicar of Wakefield), written by Sri Kandukuri Veereshalingam Pantulu. This age also witnessed the revival of Avadhanams, Harikathas and Natakams (drama). It was truly a renaissance era period in Telugu literature.

Harikatha (Literally: Story of Lord Hari or Vishnu)

Sri Ajjada Adibhatla Narayana Dasu was a genius who can be considered as the renaissance man of Telugu. He wrote and performed many Harikathas in Sanskrit and Telugu, authored many books in Sanskrit, was proficient in music(he could play five instruments at a time) and performed many Avadhanams.

Telugu Harikathas had great following in rural areas. More on him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajjada_Adibhatla_Narayana_Dasu

Avadhanam

The art of Avadhanam (Avadhana Kala) in both Sanskrit and Telugu was revived by the immortal poet-duo Tirupathi-Venkatakavulu (Diwakarla Tirupathi Sastri and Chellapilla Venkata Sastri) in the early 20th century.

Tirupathi-Venkatakavulu

They went from one samsthanam (provinciality) to the other performing Avadhanams and earned great accolades. Their Avadhanams are full of great spontaneous padyams, loaded with Sanskrit.

Later on, many scholars performed great feats in Telugu Avadhanams.

The region has many Avadhanis in Sanskrit too, like the eminent scholars Sri Dorbala Prabhakara Sarma and Sri Chirravuri Srirama Sarma.

Drama

No other art form can compare with the Natakams when it comes to taking credit for the propagation of Sanskrit and creating a love for language and vocabulary in the Telugu consciousness.

Dramas like Harischandra, SriKrishna Rayabharam (by Tirupathi-Venkata duo), Chintamani and several others were great crowd pullers. Their appeal cuts across caste and social barriers. The padyams (poems) in these Natakams are noted for extensive usage of simple Sanskrit and were immensely popular.

Let’s see a sample from SriKrishna Rayabharam:

JenDApai kapirAju mundu sitavAjishreNi yun gUrchi ne
danDambun goni tolu syandanamu meedan naari sArinchuchun
GAnDIvambu dharinchi phalguNuDu mUkan chenDuchunnapuDu
okkaDun nI mora naalakimpaDu kurukShmAnAtha sandhimpagan

 ज़ेन्डापै कपिराजु मुन्दु सितवाजिश्रेणि युन् गूर्चि ने
दन्डम्बुन् गोनि तोलु स्यन्दनमु मीदन् नारि सारिन्चुचुन् |
ग़ान्डीवम्बु धरिन्चि फल्गुणुडु मूकन् चेन्डुचुन्नपुडु
ओक्कडुन् नी मोर नालकिम्पडु कुरुक्ष्मानाथ सन्धिम्पगन् ||

 

It was a common sight to see the dramas extending up to the wee hours of the morning because of people demanding encores of these padyams.

Films

This love of mythological drama spilled into films as many of the artists hailed from the theater background. And producers too,knew that this genre would sell.

The result is that there are innumerable, topnotch mythological movies in Telugu that are full of padyams. Sanskrit finds a big place in film songs as well.

When Sri Veturi Sundararama Murthy wrote “Sankaragalanigalamu Sriharipadakamalamu Ragaratnamalikataralamu Sankarabharanamu”, people would mostly reach out to the dictionary only for the word ‘taralam’ which means ‘central gem in a necklace.’

Another lyric, almost completely in Sanskrit from a hugely successful commercial movie.

Induvadana Kundaradana Mandagamana Madhuravachana Gaganajaghanasogasulalanave.

Usage of Sanskrit cuts across religion. Many songs in Christianity in (united) Andhra use a lot of Sanskrit vocabulary. The great poet Gurram Jashua wrote the Kristu Charitra in Telugu.

Indeed, even left-wing literary movements in the state had no qualms using Sanskrit when naming their organizations Arasam and Virasam (Acronyms for Abhyudaya/Viplava Rachayitala Sangham). The most notable poet of that genre Sri Sri, composed ‘Mahaprasthanam’.

Sanskrit also finds a big place in proverbs (samethalu), nudikaramulu (nyaya/lokokti) and day-to-day usage. For example,

Sandarbhochitamugamaatladu (speak in a way that’s apt to the context)

Antyanishturamkannaadinishturammelu (animosity in the beginning is better than at then end)

Shatakotidaridralakuanantakotiupayalu (infinite crore solutions for hundred crore problems)

Aagarbhasrimantudu (rich by birth, born with a silver spoon)

Nayanaanandakaram (delight to the eyes)

Gomukhavyaghram(cow-faced tiger) is equally popular though the equivalent ‘mekavannepuli’ exists.

Aamulagram, nakhashikhaparyantam (end to end)

Sakalammukulam (fold everything and sit)used in Telangana region for saying ‘sit cross-legged and with folded hands’

Vinayavidheyatalu (humility and sincerity)

Alasyatamrutamvisham (laziness converts even ambrosia to poison)

Niraksharakukshi (illiterate)

Students who study in Telugu as a medium of instruction and are still very high in number are familiar with many technical terms coined through Sanskrit like ‘Seetoshnasthiti’ and ‘ushnograta’.

Although English is increasingly used while speaking Telugu these days, Sanskrit still holds its place. The linguist Prof. Velcheru Narayana Rao rightly said, ‘Every Sanskrit word is potentially a Telugu word’.

May this symphony continue and prosper.

  • Satish N

    Sumati satakam, Dasarathi satakam, vemana satakam, Chinnayasuri’s storys were guiding Telugu students once.
    My grandpa told, earlier days even illeterates used to sing poems of Tirupati Venkatakavulu as they catch from stage-plays by vibrant drama & Theatre groups. Today, even highly educated will say they never heard of Venkatakavulu.

  • krishnakumar

    This article has been wonderfully compiled. I am not telugu speaking. For a non telugu speaking person like me, this article has achieved its object of explaining influence of sanskrit in Telugu vocabulary by illustrating examples taken from early Telugu literature of Tikkana, pothanna to the latest trend in telugu films.

    Quoting the verses both in romanised script and in Devanagari is another fine aspect in this article. If I remember correctly, yesterday, I could not view quotes in Devanagari. It was difficult to comprehend typical compound phrases spelled out in romanised script. The same when displayed in Devanagari made the reading easy. Thanks for the same.

    Telugu speaking people are not only living in samyukta Andhra but also in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa and Maharashtra. In south, I understand they are one of the biggest linguistic groups who have contributed to the welfare of Hindusthan as a whole. And contributions of Telugu speaking people lived / living in these other regions also needs to be separately introduced to the world at large.

    overall, a wonderful effort.

  • sirishaditya

    Very informative article. Thank you.

  • rama ranjan

    “. . . linguist Prof. Velcheru Narayana Rao rightly said . . .”

    He is one of the signatories among the US academic luminaries who sent an anti Modi petition in this July addressing silicon valley CEOs: http://academeblog.org/2015/08/27/faculty-statement-on-modi-visit-to-silicon-valley/

    Prof Narayana Rao is among a clan of modern Telugu literary analysts who specialize in leftist and western interpretations of classical Telugu works.

    • sbangarp

      Velcheru Narayana Rao is a signatory to some petition. And it doesn’t take away the fact that he is a scholar and authority on the language. It is also interesting that you found Veturi’s examples ‘degenerating’. Well, the intention was show how it permeated every aspect of life I guess.

      • rama ranjan

        I never said he is not a scholar. It also does not take this scholar to confirm that every Sanskrit word lends itself to a Telugu declension. This sudden assertion of authority of a ‘noted’ scholar among a thousand others seems an attempt at lending scholarly credibility to an essay otherwise loaded with platitudes and commonplace facts about Telugu language and literature.

        “Some” petition ? That’s an interesting dismissal. Should we say, he is a scholar who would, at times, engage in some unscholarly acts of slandering the elected PM of India with false allegations?

  • Rama

    “Telugu is a Dravidian language belonging to the South-central Dravidian group in eminent linguist Sri Bhadriraju Krishnamurthy’s classification. And Sanskrit, is widely acknowledged to belong to the Proto-Indo-Aryan and Proto-Indo-European group.”
    I stopped reading this article after this rubbish. The author need to explain who the Indo Aryans are and who are these experts/ scholars who ” widely” acknowledge that Sanskrit belongs to “Proto Indian Aryan /Proto Indo European group”? Can the author enlighten us with names and their qualifications? Can the author give primary evidence for the existence of Proto Indo Aryans? What is this mumbo jumbo about Proto Indo European group? .
    The mother of all Indian languages is Sanskrit. Let us acknowledge this first.

    • rama ranjan

      This entire article is a poorly written paraphrase of some 3000 years of evolution of Telugu language, literature and its interrelationship with Sanskrit. The title is laudable, but the content is very pedestrian with no focus nor detail. Towards the end, it has degenerated to a regurgitation of populist movie phrases coined by Veturi Sundaramamurthy. There is no dearth of the intermingling of Telugu with Sanskrit, as is the case with most Indian languages other than Tamil and few north eastern languages. I request the editors Indiafacts to put some editorial scrutiny – anyone with a reasonable breadth of reading in Telugu language could have written this essay in one sitting.

      I like India facts for bringing our some very unconventional and original research on how the voice of the traditional Hindu is being muzzled and marginalized by so called secular and leftists forces and its objective expose of the intellectual pornography peddled in the name of secularism, leftism, human rights activistsm and other sundry namesake belief systems. This article is a misfit from both perspectives – it is neither original nor informative. It is not on par with some serious investigative works published here by the likes of Pankaj Saxena and MD Srinivas.

      • krishnakumar

        evolution of 3000 years of evolution of Telugu literature. I could not comprehend this phrase.

        If I understand better that of the earliest literature in telugu is traced to Adikavi Nannaya. Whats the age of this kavi? could you please share the information for the reader? Before that, the legends mentioned in this article like Apasthamba, Baudayana and latter scholars like Vidyaranya, vallabhacharya, Nimbarka (? …. I have samsaya with age of Nimbarka!!!) and Bhaskararaya Makhin ……… although belonged to this region have contributed to Sanskrit Literature.

        \ The title is laudable, but the content is very pedestrian with no focus nor detail. Towards the end, it has degenerated to a regurgitation of populist movie phrases coined by Veturi Sundaramamurthy.\

        The object of this article as I understand is the influence of Sanskrit in vocabulary of Telugu as could be grasped from the composition of Telugu Literature. The author had illustrated that period wise and through different modes of compositions of Telugu Literature.

        This article showcase the rich sanskrit vocabulary which could be found in the telugu literature. For most part of it, the articles discusses this aspect through various gadya and padya of telugu literature. one aspect repeatedly explained out in this article is that of quite long compound words in telugu literature as could also be found in classical sanskrit literature.

        What other aspects do you think should be described further to enrich the article……… for example vyakarna…….. the different meters of sanskrit poetry and that of telugu ……… similarities between them….. and what more…….

        I do not think this article could be rubbished as pedestrian.

        Atleast if you could explain how should the article be presented; what are the contents that should have been included in that ……….. if you atleast give an outline…….. atleast readers like me would understand what is the yardstick………….and how this article is presented……. and whats the gap

        Hope I am not asking much.

    • Sumathi Megavarnam

      Yes , Why are people still clinging on to the Concocted lies by Prefixing as Proto indo european/Aryan or Proto dravidian blah blah etc…….the Cunning westerner need not come or rather wont come to change it……it is We who need to Change it by saying so …..

    • krishnakumar

      Dear Shri Rama,

      The mother of most of the Hindusthani languages is Sanskrit. I understand that. And, I too get perplexed when sanskrit is grouped as Indo European. But the problem is these groupings are part of linguistic studies. I have zero knowledge of linguistics. Do you or any other member who has commented on this aspect could enumerate the different groupings under the study of linguistics; their names; the famous languages of the world covered under them.

      AND MOST IMPORTANT ……… LIKE ARYAN INVASION THEORY ………… WHICH IS ADMITTEDLY REFUTED …….

      DO YOU HAVE TWO DIFFERENT AND OPPOSITE GROUPINGS OF LANGUAGES UNDER THE STUDY OF LINGUISTICS ?

      SCHOLARS IN THE LIST THROW LIGHT ON THIS ASPECT PLEASE!!!!!!!!

      • Rama

        Shri Krishnakumar,
        I respect your views. What get my goatie is the usage of this term Indo Aryan Europen. Who is responsible for the inclusion of Sanskrit in the proto Indo Aryan European group? Why should Iindians accept such terms? Since the author is the one who is comfortable with such labelling and who has accepted it’s authenticity , all I want him to do is to throw light on these eminent figures responsible for such labelling. An their reasons from primary sources. Sanskrit being grouped in this manner makes one to assume that it is not native to India and some Indo Aryan Europeans have influenced it’s birth. I have read shri Rajiv Malhotra’s views on this and I need to dig up his books to refresh my memory. I would appreciate more input from others on this.

  • Kp Sudhakar

    Great! It’s truly..‘Every Sanskrit word is potentially a Telugu word’. Nice articulation on Sanskrutaandhramulu

    • mantarsa

      I think it is the other way round ! Telugu has a number of Sanskrit words. it is better to be influenced by Sanskrit than
      by an alien language like English.Many Indian languages have Sanskrit words in use which fact makes it easy
      in India for people from different regions to interact and hence Hindi as our unifying language.

      • sbangarp

        True, South Indians understand Shuddh Hindi with Sanskrit words better.

  • Wonderful treatise. Provides a great deal of information on the unity of Indo-Iranian and Dravidian language literature. We need similar knowledge about works in MalayaLam, Tamizh, the MaNipravaLam tradition and kannaDa too. Very grateful to Kumari/Srimathi Santhi Pasumarthi.