This is the last post in my three-piece series about Andhra Mahabharatamu and the three poets who contributed to this epic project that spanned almost to 3 centuries. The first two posts were on the contributions of Adikavi Nannayya and Tikkanna Somayaji.
With Tikkanna Somayaji’s marathon contribution, the Andhreekarana of Mahabharata was almost complete, except for the second half of the Aranya Parva left incomplete by Adi Kavi Nannayya. Some scholars opine that a superstition was the reason that Tikkanna stayed away from this part. Others opine that the difference between the styles of both, made him put off writing the remnant chapter. For all we know, it might be the lack of inspiration! Knowing the reformer and the political mind Tikkanna is, it is highly unlikely that he would have given in to a superstition and left out the small part. About fifty years after Tikkanna, the remaining half of the Aranya Parva was taken up by Yerrapragada, or Yerrana.
It is speculated that Yerrapragada existed between 1280 CE and 1364 CE. He was born to Pothamamba and Surana Kavi in Gudluru in Prakasam district. In his younger days, his poetical aptitude was appreciated by many, and some used to praise Yerrana for having acquired the style of Nannayya, and encouraged him to pursue a literary journey of his scale. Probably this did inspire Yerrana’s taking up of the remnant chapter of Andhra Mahabharatamu.
The Kakatiya dynasty came to an end with the invasion of Warangal by the Delhi Sultanate (Malik Kafur on behalf of Alauddin Khilji) and the subsequent capture of Pratapa Rudra. After the fall of the empire, the warlords who were previously serving in the Kakatiya army formed a confederation and prevented the consolidation of Turkish power in the Deccan region. The prominent names among them were Musunuri Kapayya Nayaka and Prolaya Vema Reddi.
Vema Reddi founded the Reddi empire spanning Southern Andhra and part of Rayalaseema, with Addanki as his capital. Kapayya Nayaka took on the invaders mostly in the Telangana and Northern Andhra regions. Yerrapragada witnessed the tumultuous period of invasion, massacre and resistance in the later part of his life.
After consolidating power, Vema Reddi turned to patronizing poets and scholars while giving them liberal grants. According to Sanskrit scholar Dr. S Godavaribai, Yerrapragada was a great friend of Mallayya Reddi, the younger brother of Vema Reddi. In fact, Yerrapragada dedicated his earlier compositions,”Hari Vamsam” and “Ramayanam”, to Prolaya Vema Reddi. Scholars opine that these compositions might have thrown more light on the contemporary social dynamics than Yerrana’s part of Andhra Mahabharatamu (Aranya Parva).
Yerrapragada’s Literary Versatility
The Aranya Parva stands as an example of Yerrapragada’s poetical versatility as well as his large heart. His contribution was sandwiched between the contributions of two path-breaking poets of the past, and that is a great challenge to any poet. He continued from where Adikavi Nannayya had left, mimicking his style to a level of inseparable precision. This part remained dedicated to Rajaraja Narendra, as Nannayya wanted it to be.
However, Yerrapragada’s uniqueness was visible gradually, owing to his mastery over descriptive, creative and narrative aspects. The poetic style of this chapter, as scholars opine, undergoes a gradual transformation to an extent that the last poem perfectly blends into Tikkanna’s style of poetry.
From a plot perspective, this part of Mahabharata has three turning points, which are the Ghoshayatra, the pardoning of Jayadrata, and the birth secret of Karna. This chapter is also the home of several philosophically dense discussions like the Yaksha Prasna, the Satya-Draupadi Samvada, and the episode of Savitri. While Nannayya’s mastery was the Kavya and Shastra aspect, Yerrana’s core strength was the style of Prabandha.
Prabandha is a literary genre that dwelt on a Puranic episode and expanded it riding on the emotional (Rasa) and Nataka (dramatization) aspects following specified conditions. (See here for a detailed critique of how Telugu Prabandha differs from Sanskrit Prabandha). Yerrana is known as “Prabandha Parameshwara” for his supposed mastery over this genre. He, in fact, ushered in the age of Prabandhas, which reached its pinnacle during the rule of Sri Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagara. He was also known as “Shambhudasa”.
There were also minor script transformations in the Telugu language that took place in between the periods of Rajaraja Narendra and Prolaya Vemareddy. For instance, the letters ‘ka’ and ‘sha’ (I am not a linguist, but these two letters are definitely not among the uncommon words). Refer to the image below. The comparison is between the fifth row and the third row from the bottom.
Source for the picture : vijred.wordpress.com
The preservation and scripting of the epic during these 300 odd turbulent years is something to ponder about.
Yerrana’s other works include “Hari Vamsham”, “Ramayanam” and “Nrisimha Puranam”, where his full-blown Prabandha expertise is very much visible. According to another medieval poet Chintalapudi Ellana, Andhra Mahabharatamu is that “unique poetical jewel adorning the neck of Goddess Saraswati, where Nannayya made a part of the string and Tikkanna made the second”. Yerrapragada’s contribution glows as a gem-studded locket connecting both the ends. He might not have exaggerated!
Andhra Mahabharatamu Vol 5, TTD edition
Kavitrayamu by Nanduri Rama Krishnamacharya
For more information :
Andhra Kavula Charitra by Kandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu
Errayya teerchina Harivamsamu by Dr. S Godavari Bai