The Telugu World Column No- 47

Conclusion: The Fascinating Telugu World

Many whose mother tongue is Telugu, who love it and who want to know something about it, cannot read the script as they are settled in other states or abroad and did not have the chance to study it in any school or college. That is why this series, concluding today, is in English.

With the Telugu states now going for English medium even those in Telangana State and Andhra Pradesh may be unable to read it in future. The fascinating world of Telugu language and culture can be written about every week for many years, but my own knowledge of Telugu, learnt at home, is limited. 

Anyone wanting to know the history of Telugu literature, you should read a book (if you can read Telugu) by Arudra. Born ‎Bhagavatula Sadasiva Sankara Sastri, he was an author, poet, lyricist, translator, publisher, dramatist, playwright, and an expert in Telugu literature. Wikipedia mentions that he was a nephew of the great poet Sri Sri (Srirangam Srinivasa Rao) and husband of famous novelist K. Ramalaxmi. Best known for Samagra Andhra Sahityam, the history of Telugu literature, he was born on 31 August 1925 and died on 4 June 1998. There is a need for a good book on the political history of the Telugus from Shatavahana age to modern times. A biography of ex-CM Kasu Brahmananda Reddi by Kapila Kashipati only partly fulfils this need.

Here are some interesting facts about Telugu language picked up from social media posts like WhatsApp that have been going around for years.

1. Telugu language was known to exist since 400 BC.

2. In 2012 Telugu has been voted as the second best script in the world by the International Alphabet Association. Korean ranks no 1. It is totally phonetic and there can be no confusion on how to pronounce a word. So, like Sanskrit, it can be used when devices like computers take spoken commands.

3. Speaking Telugu language activates about 72000 neurons in your body, highest for any language in the world, as proven by scientific studies/

4. An ethnic group from Sri Lanka called Sri Lankan Gypsy people mostly speak Telugu.

5. There are many Telugu communities in Myanmar (Google search will reveal more.)

6. In the 16th century, an Italian explorer Niccolò de’ Conti found that the words in Telugu language end with vowels, just like those in Italian, and hence referred to it as ” Italian of the East”.

7. Telugu ranks 3rd by the number of native speakers in India (75 million people), and 15th in the Ethnologue’s list of most-spoken languages worldwide. It was No.3 because several dialects with no scripts are clubbed to make Hindi No.1 with Bengali of undivided India at No.2. Of the Bengalis, nearly 16 crores went to Bangladesh — East Pakistan when India was partitioned.

8. Name Telugu is derived from trilinga, as in Trilinga Desa, “the country of the three lingas’ ‘. According to a Hindu legend, Shiva descended as a linga on three mountains: Kaleswaram in Telangana, Srisailam in Rayalaseema and Bhimeswaram in coastal Andhra of which the first is one of the most important temples of Shiva. But despite this strong Shivite background the Telugu region is Rama Land, just as all Gujarat, of which Dwaraka is apart, is Krishna Land. It was said once that every stone in Telugu land has been touched by the feet of Rama. Ramanavami is a major religious festival in the two states. On this occasion ‘Sitarama Kalyanam’ (marriage of Ram and Sita) is performed on a grand scale at thousands of centers, especially in rural areas.

9. Telugu is said to be the fastest growing foreign language in the USA.

10. Telugu language (also called Tenungu or Telungu earlier) has the largest number of proverbs and idioms in the world. The pithy, crisp, easy-to-remember proverbs and axioms called sametalu  and nudi or naanudulu in the language (సామెతలు,నుడులు)  also pass on from many home or herbal remedies and cultural practices generation to generation, besides mentioning common trends in thinking of those days.

11. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore is reported to have said that Telugu is the sweetest of all languages in India. Srikrishnadevaraya, a Kannada king whose dialect was Tulu, visited a temple in Srikakulam to pay homage to the deity, Andhra Maha Vishnu. There he wrote a classic, Amuktamalyada, , as asked by the deity. The king said “Desa Bhashalandu Telugu Lessa” (Telugu is the greatest among the country’s languages). The deity is said to have ordered Srikrishnadevaraya to adopt Telugu as his court language. The famous Telugu song ‘Maa Telugu Talliki Mallepoodanda: was written by Tamil Iyengar settled in Tirupati, Shankarambadi Sundaracharya.

12. About 200 Years ago nearly 400 Telugu people were taken to Mauritius as plantation workers.  One of their descendants became the country’s Prime Minister. Even today many Mauritians speak Telugu at home, though they cannot read and write it.

13. A palindrome of 40 slokas, which when read from start to end is Ramayana and end to start Mahabharata, exists in Telugu and in no other language. A Telugu poem in praise of Lord Shiva becomes one praising Lord Vishnu if the first letter of each line is removed. Such wizardry is abundant in Telugu literature.

14. Telugu has a single lettered poem called ekakshara padhyamu…just one letter repeated scores of times. It also has a ప్రక్రియ (literary performance) called Shatavadhanam in which a single scholar performs literary tasks asked by 100 others in the order the questions/tasks are asked. Even today this is performed in Andhra Pradesh.

All this does not mean being chauvinistic and narrow-minded or looking down on other linguistic communities.     

Be proud to be a Telugu person. And learn how to read and write it. Goodbye. 


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