The Telugu World Column No- 46
Many Great People – Salute to All
One of the most famous kritis (songs) written by Thyagaraja is ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu, Varandariki Na Vandananamulu’ (many eminent persons, my salutations to all). It was only after attempting to write about the Telugu world did I realized how futile and difficult the job is. No number of articles would suffice for the job. Plus my own knowledge and memory are limited. Even naming all eminent persons without writing on each can go on and on.
Politics, next to films, appears to be Telugu people’s forte. Several were state governors. They include quite a few I had met – Bezawada Gopala Reddy (UP), P. Chandra Reddy (AP), K.V. Raghunatha Reddy (Tripura) Bandaru Dattatreya (HP), C. Vidyasagar Rao, Kasu Brahmananda Reddy, Kona Prabhakara Rao (all Maharashtra), K. Rosaiah (Karnataka and Tamil Nadu), B. Satyanarayan Reddy (Odisha), , Pendekanti Venkatasubbaiah (Bihar), M. Chinna Reddy and P. S. Ramamohan Rao (both TN) V.Rama Rao (Sikkim), K.V. Krishna Rao (J&K, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura), V.S. Ramadevi (HP, Karn.) and P.Ramachandran (Kerala). Anantashayanam Ayyangar, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy and G. M. C. Balayogi were Speakers of the Lok Sabha.
Several of them were Union ministers ‘rehabilitated’ as governors when dropped due to party rivals’ pressure. Many ex-ministers did not opt for it, a titular post that usually means the end of political career, except in M. Chinna Reddy’s case. A music director who composed mostly for Kannada films (also some Telugu) Rajan with brother Nagendra (who died 20 years ago) died a few days ago. They were Telugu people who dominated Kannada films, like singers P. B.Srinivas and S.P. Balu. Several Telugu stars appear in many other South Indian films.
The one category of eminent people where it is nearly impossible to mention all or at least the prominent ones is journalists, authors or poets. How can I forget Narla Venkateswara Rao of Narla Vari Maata, Nanduri Subba Rao with brothers (Rammohan Rao and Parthasarathi) in journalism, Mutunri Krishna Rao (Krishna Patrika founder), yesterday’s Tirumala Ramachandra or today’s A.B.K. Prasad and Potturi Venkateswara Rao? Those not mentioned include many I met like Dr. C. Narayana Reddy (Jnanapeeth awardee)and Dasarathi, or T. Anjaiya, the most humble CM who used to talk of his Allwyn ‘six annas a day coolie’ days, selfless Vavilala Gopalakrishnayya with his bag carrying people’s petitions and many more. Madhurantakam Raja Rao winning Jnanapeeth award cannot be omitted.
This can go on and on. The fact is that no list of great Telugu people can be exhaustive. All one can do is echo Tyagaraja’s Endaro Mahanubhavulu.
No series on the Telugu world can be complete without a mention of Telugu culture. Telugu is a language – and an ancient one– which has evolved over the years as all languages do. Somehow language is always associated with a religion (which is wrong) and a culture (which may have some historical background). Just as Islam is mostly linked to Urdu (in India) Persian or Arabic, Telugu is linked to Hindu way of life or culture. However there are many non-Muslim writers and even poets in Urdu not just because it was imposed as the medium by some invaders who ruled parts of India, but also because of their own interest in its literature. Similarly many non-Hindus rose to eminence in different local languages as they were converts due to several reasons, mainly the caste system which crept into and corrupted Hinduism, coercion or inducements.
In the same way Telugu is a language – and an ancient one — which has evolved over the years as all languages do. Somehow a language is often associated with a religion (which is wrong) and a culture (which may have some historical background). Just as Islam is mostly linked to Urdu (in India), Persian or Arabic, Telugu is linked to Hindu way of life or culture. However there are many non-Muslim writers and even poets, in Urdu not just because it was imposed as the medium by some invaders who ruled in different parts of India, but also because of their own interest in that language. Similarly many non-Hindus rose to eminence in different indigenous languages as they were converts due to several reasons, mainly the caste system which crept into and corrupted Hinduism or inducements. Whatever the reason, culturally they are Telugu people.
Modern Telugus know more about Halloween than Sankranti with its muggulu (rangoli) or Dasara with its paatalu (songs).These may still be seen in rural areas, where Telugu culture, on its last legs, may still be found. Beautiful temple architecture of Telugu states is next only to that of Tamil Nadu. While Karnataka has many Jains and Jain temples, the Buddhist relics around Amaravathi show that Buddhism prevailed there once. Islamic culture too left a lasting stamp on these States, especially Telangana where many generations of Muslims, especially like those in old city of Hyderabad, do not speak Telugu at all. On the other hand there are Muslim Telugu writers of excellence and even a Burrakatha (folk art of Andhra) artiste from among them.
Pravachanas (discourses) by speakers like Chaganti Koteswara Rao, Garikapati Narasimha Rao and Samavedam Shanmukha Sharma who has a website (www.pravachanam.com) are very popular in cities as are Harikathas in villages. Old musical dramas, all mythological, still get rural audience.
As former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao told a writers’ meeting in Hyderabad decades ago, Telugu will survive and not die as the UN feared it may. And as long as the language is there the culture will also survive.