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Medieval Telugu Poetry - I

Sri Krishnadevarayalu is the most renowned of the kings of Vijayanagar empire under the Tuluva Dynasty. Their empire included the present Andhra and Karnataka regions. For both the Kannadigas and Telugus, this emperor still remains an emperor of the field of literature and arena of the battlefield.

Amuktamalyada is a kavya in the prbhanda style. Description of various things like nature are part of the tradition of prabhandha. The uniqueness of this rather ‘difficult composition ’ which poses a challenge even to scholars is that unlike other prabhandas this has a theme of devotion. Varnana is an essential component for the genre. An emperor though Srikrishnadevaraya was his powers of observation, devices and turns of poetic expression are those of a great poet and a consummate artist.

The ruthless and severe summer described here contributes to the King of Mathura’s becoming an ascetic. The composition has another title: Vishnuchitteyam.

For the practising translator it is relevant note that no translation can be final. In spite of going through several revisions at different stages, while going through my own work in the context of writing this book I found several modifications necessary. Interested readers, especially aspiring translators are invited to compare this translation with my work found in Sahitya Akademi’s Medieval Indian Literature. They are free to draw their own inferences.

The target reader is an Indian who does not know Telugu. Since the larger cultural milieu of the entire country is almost the same many words and expressions which need a gloss for a foreigner are not explained here.

‘Summer’: Sri Krishnadevarayalu

Like the shapeliness of patala trees
Bringing in mirages in plenty,
Like water in the season of showers,
Bursting open pods of silk cotton,
There emerged hot summer with a bang.

Went dry the flow of wide streams,
Surfaced huge cracks in boulders big,
Shone the fields with water thrown by bird-catchers
To entice the winged creatures
Rose high the white ashes of leaves,
As trees were burnt by wild fire.

The hawks pursued mistaking them for white pigeons.
Shifted the slumbering travellers under trees
As the shades quickly shifted
Turned round and round like devotees making
Prostrate salutations turning on their bellies, and backs.
Livid grew the faces of the directions eight,
Their very faces turned wean:
The directions became yards
For washer men to dry Bhairav’*s clothes,
The wide expanses became tempting mirages.

(*Bhairav is the Destroyer, the third in the Hindu Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswar)

With caked mud on bodies, elephants,
Boars and buffaloes of the wild
Appeared like clay models.

Lest extinction strike the species all
The creator preserved their moulds.
Using the gods of the sea,
The west wind and the scorching sun.

The smoke of summer-related fires bringing darkness
Arrays of sun’s rays stealing their water wealth
Groups of ruined wells hastening to complain
Appear like straws eddying up,
in whirlwinds going up in circles.

Reins of the sun’s chariot loosen, the snakes
Rendered week unable to eat the boiling hot rice
Arun’s * charioteer slows down often
At his master’s behest to tighten them up
and days become longer.

(*Arun is Sun)

Sun-burst pods throw out wisps of silk cotton
Rising high and dispersing
Like ashes of the sun-scorched world.

Reflected the powerful sun’s rays
In the little ponds dug up by thirsty travellers
With their hands in the sands.

Pearl strings are worn by rivers
As if to cool the heat of separation
From their true lord, the sea deity,
In the height of summer.

Looked up the lotuses in drying rivers
praying to the cloud-god, who earlier
Brought together the rivers and their lord
With coins of gold for an offering,
Their ear-studs dazzling,
Their upright stalks like hands,
and bending petals like fingers.
Knee deep become the ponds for broods of cranes
Their throats gone hoarse eating moss-creeper grain:
Fascinated by the aroma of fish scales,
Slowly bending and stalking forward
The crabs
Eat little fish and snails.

Pulled by its leg by a crab
Turns aside a crane, picking up food with its beak.
Wandering through lotuses and cork shrubs
Move in rows the broods of cranes.
Afraid of dogs,
Fall crocodiles into wells,
Crawl the Mulugu fish into holes in the earth.

Exposed to heat, the bottoms of ponds show cracks.
The fleshy fish devoured long ago,
Rows of cranes make do with
Smaller, mud-covered, dead fish
Discovered tangled in the roots of lotus.
Moistened by the patala flowers
Blown away again and again by the wind,
Gives out the land a rich perfume.
Singing the men work the water-lifts
Irrigating the fruit and flower trees.
The drumming sounds
Of the vessels dipped into water
Provided the accompaniment.

Exposed to the rays of the sun ferocious
Exhausted look the jasmine shrubs,
The buds at the tip of the twigs
Appear like blisters of fire.

For fear of total extinction dreadful,
The species to preserve and keep alive,
Watering the plants in the cool orchard

Appeared women resplendent,
Water falling in whirls, their navels,
Lotuses their eyes, the moss their hair-buns,
Breasts beautiful love birds,
The dazzling foam their smiles.

Given a fright by sultry summer
Withdraw the woman with luxuriant hair
The jasmines therein like the Ganga
The plaits like the Yamuna shining.
Demand they the pitchers drawing
Water from the vessels big to return
The beauty of their breasts they stole.
Looked at them the travellers, their eyes riveted
While the streams poured into their palms
The brightness of the lotus eyes
Waving their heads in appreciation.
Open are their joined palms cup-like
Long after they had their fill of water,
The woman pouring knowing skilful smiles.
All the while collected his levy
The flower-arrowed god, stricken lame.

Calling them mother and sister in their thirst,
Having quenched it from the water poured out
Relieved were the wayfarers,
Continued they to drink looking at their
Faces, breasts, armpits:
Smile the women looking into their eyes
Seeing the wayfarer as the god of love
Trepidation just it was that made him
Call them mother and sister.

Like steam rising from the frying pan
As the flour is spread for the pancake
The heat did not abate in the day.
The thick moonlight
In the night
Appeared like thin pancakes fried
For the broods of the lovebirds’ offspring.
Proffering their hands all day in play
In the pools of coolness dallying,
With their hair still wet and fragrant
With jasmine buds decking it,
Embrace their lovers, with nipples pressing.
Exhaling sweet sighs having drunk coconut wine
Clad in a thin cloth the lady-love
Lying on his chest
Sends the lover signals with her thighs
Dallying in love-play in the still moonlit dawn.

In sultry summer copulate couples
Chests and breasts touching
Communion of minds missing,
The act limited to words, just empty
Like the togetherness of boors.

Fatigued by torrid summer
Retreated the love-god to the lower world
Afraid of the hot sun
Migrated the breezes.
Stealing fragrance
As lovers wave fans of khus roots
The sweat on their ladies’ faces to dry
Medicinal herbs handed to their lord, the moon,
The thieving breezes.

In such a fierce summer in Madurapura
The soft breezes from the mountains
Become extinct, existing only in fiction.

By magic brought in as palm-leaf fans
Came the breezes once again.
Proof is it not of crafty magic
Weaving peacock-feather fans?

Loosened the grip of the flower-arrowed god
The fierce summer intense with scorching heat
Fell the sugar-cane bow down on the earth.

Wells stricken dry with fear
Sank water to the bottom.
Breasts of women leaning on the ring of the well
The cool waters at the bottom rouse,
Not the knotted ropes.

Breeds summer jasmines and patala flowers
The ones that would curse the hair to fall
And those that help it grow
Sisters both, like herbs of contrary efficacy
Bred in the self-same season
Drink the sensuous aristocrats.

The water of coconuts tasty
Under the sands in gardens of dalliance kept
To cool, sweetening the sourness of
Burps caused by eating oil-fried fish.

Appeared cool the summer house trellised
By the rich in every village
Throwing coolness pleasantly around
Like lotuses on the stove that the earth turned into.

Sheltering in orchards during the hot day
Wearing jasmines in the hair,
Dressed in clothes washed clean,
Approach women to sugar-cane crushers
Like ants carrying the eggs of late rains
To taste the sweetness, yearning.

(16th Century)

This was first published in 2000 by Sahitya Akademy in Medieval Indian Literature Part 4 (Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu) edited by K. Ayyappa Panicker.


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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Views: 3394      Comments: 3

Comment A very useful and great work for all those who have not read them in Telugu. Hope the series will continue further.

- Mukunda Ramarao

Mukunda Ramarao
11-Jul-2016 08:50 AM

Comment Thanks for introducing the non-telugu speaking people to the rich work of Krishnadevarayalu. Your efforts for popularizing the regional language are praiseworthy. Respects and Regards.

11-Jul-2016 07:19 AM

It is excellent piece of writing and beautiful
introduction to Telugu poetry.
Your rendering makes it so captivating and meaningful.
One finds obvious and significant impact of Bhakti Movement
on Indian Literature of various regions. If one goes back
one discerns clear influence of this chaste creative writing
on nearly all creative writers of later years including contemporary
times and English creative writings particularly Indian English Poetry
is not an exception.

Thanks again.

p c katoch

p c k prem
10-Jul-2016 22:50 PM

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