This is in continuation to my last post on Andhra Mahabharatamu. This post will dwell on Kavibrahma Tikkanna Somayaji, who continued the Andhreekarana of Mahabharata, which was left incomplete with the death of Adikavi Nannayya.
Tikkanna Somayaji lived in the thirteenth century CE during the Kakatiya period. The socio-political conditions in which Nannayya and Tikkanna lived were totally different. Nannayya’s aim was to give an intellectual response, rooted in Vedic philosophy, to the Jain supremacist arguments put up by earlier poets. However, Tikkana’s inspiration sprung from the divisions in society arising due to extremist elements of different faiths.
The divisions between Shaivas and Vaishnavas had broken the level of philosophical rivalry and escalated to social rivalry. The religious extremism manifested with followers of each religion resorting to displaying open symbols, discouraging the plurality of Vedic thought based on the Six Darshanas, and even going to the extent of denouncing/harming the followers of other religions. This also seeped into the political discourse, and caused the collapse of empires and the fall of dynasties.
It is speculated that the Battle of Palanadu (Palanati Yuddham), a war between the hostile cousins of Kalachuri Haiheyas, exploited these religious differences. Other dynasties from south India chose their sides in their bid to control the region, and the war, proverbially equated to the Kurukshetra war of Mahabharata, left no victors. The historical relevance of the war is a matter of another blog post. But this 12th century tragedy left the populace disgruntled and divided for decades.
Scholars opine that these differences drove Tikkana to start a movement establishing the unity of “Hari” and “Hara”, called “Harihara-Advaita” or “Harihara-Abheda”. Tikkana chose to not challenge the religiosity, and instead inspired a philosophical sense of unity between the two gods under whose names the rivalry was prevalent. Though the concept of the oneness of Shiva and Vishnu did exist since ancient times (here is a collection of ancient quotes by Sandeep Nangia ji), the situation before had never demanded that it become a movement.
Hariharanatha, according to Tikkanna, manifested in Tikkana’s mind in response to his agonised prose, whose translation loosely is:
Do you differentiate between the chain of skulls and the Kaustubha gem when both adorn your neck? Do you like the poison you consumed to save the world or the loving breast milk of Yashoda?
Legend has it that as per Hariharanatha’s instructions, Tikkana took up the task of continuing the Andhra Mahabharatamu, and dedicated his part to him. He wrote from the 4th Parva (Virata Parva) to the last Parva, that is, Svargarohana Parva. He did not attempt the part of the Aranya Parva, left mid-way by Nannayya.
His style of blending Telugu and Sanskrit, which appealed to the poets of both languages, earned him the title “Ubhaya Kavi Mitra”. Tikkanna also earned the title “Kavi Brahma”, for his fine way of presenting idealism with rich imagination and poetical feats.
It is to be noted that Bammera Potana, too, was influenced by the concept of “Harihara-Abheda”. The influence is seen in his equanimity of dealing with both the deities in his Andhra Mahabhagavatamu. According to Nanduri Rama Krishnacharya, other poets like Srinatha and Nachana Somanatha acknowledged Tikkanna’s style and tried to imitate it at times but could not reach his level of sculpting poetry. Nachana Somanatha also dedicated his works to the deity Hariharanatha.
A Reflection of Contemporary Experiences
It is also worthy of observation that Tikkanna was enriched by his experience spanning across diplomacy, philosophy, literature, social issues and literary mastery, each of which made his part of the epic unique. He witnessed his king and patron, King Manumasiddhi of Nellore, get dethroned by his cousin Katamaraja. Tikkana, being his minister, appealed to the Kakatiya emperor Ganapatideva to help out Manumasiddhi. Ganapatideva’s intervention turned the tables and enabled the exiled Nellore king to come out of secrecy and win back his kingdom. Tikkana also took part in the strategizing of the war, following which, Ganapatideva prevented Katamaraja from receiving any military aid from allies like Velanati Kulottunga Choda (not to be confused with the Tamil Kulotunga Chola). As a result, Katamaraja was weakened, and was defeated by Manumasiddhi.
It is known that to impress Ganapatideva, Tikkana engaged in a philosophical debate with the Bauddha and Jaina scholars, and defeated them using the concept of Harihara-Advaita. He also delighted the emperor with a unique commentary on Vyasa’s Mahabharata, highlighting the aspects of diplomatic missions and importance of Dharma in political strategies. Ganapatideva was impressed, and offered to intervene, favouring Manumasiddhi.
In a permitted level of exaggeration, Tikkanna was to Manumasiddhi what Krishna was to the Pandavas and what Chanakya was to the Mauryas. His section of Mahabharata, including the incognito exile of the Pandavas, diplomatic missions, preparation for war, the war itself and the re-establishment of Dharma, is enriched with his own real life experiences.
His other works include Nirvachanottara Ramayanamu, Harihara-Advaita Darshanamu, Kavi Vagbandhanamu and Vijayasenamu.
The Telugu mythological film Nartanasala has captured a lot of poems from Tikkana’s Virata Parvamu. The poems depicting Draupadi’s warning to Keechaka, Arjuna’s challenge to Duryodhana (www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxzNZ2OE24Q), Arjuna’s adulation to Dharmanandana (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DivKsz_5HQ) and the description of Kaurava warriors by their flags (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_TqkYWfAFU) are some of the best examples.
This series shall conclude in the next post on Errapragada, who bridged the sections composed by Nannayya and Tikkanna a good couple of decades after Tikkanna’s demise.
Kavitrayamu by Nanduri Rama Krishnacharya
Andhra Mahabharatamu Vol 6 – Virata Parvamu – TTD edition
For further reading:
Andhra Kavula Charitra by Kandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu