Telugu history

S Krishna mahadevasiva at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 29 21:59:47 UTC 1998

Prof Ganesan says:
>I was under the impression:
>> The reason for excessive use of Sanskrit words in Telugu,
>> a Dravidian language, when compared to Tamil, is that all the Hindu
>> arts and Sanskrit pundits took refuge in Telugu Desam.
>> Especially during the Muslim rule of the North
>> and in Vijayanahgar kingdoms.
>> That had the effect of increase in number of Sanskrit words
>> used in Telugu, neglecting "acca telugu" words (original Telugu).

and Prof Uday Reddy, reddy at wrote back:

>+Well, actually, I think the Muslim rule in the North helped the
>+Dravidian languages, in that the pressure of Sanskrit eased.  (It also
+helped the North Indian languages the same way.)  Almost all the
big+kingdoms before 1000 AD, Satavahana, Chalukya and Rashtrakuta
promoted +Sanskrit or Prakrit.  There was NO patronage for Telugu.
(Kannada+fared a little better somehow.)  But after 1000 AD, things
changed and +Telugu developed enormously.  Basically, there was no
Sanskrit +imperialism after the Muslims came into India.>>

As Sreenivas points out, the explanation seems to be a little simplistic
and does not seem to be taking in various developments  which were
generically true of India.

  It has been noted that in the Dravidian languages, there has been an
increasing trend of Samskrtization over the centuries with a
"peak" after 1200 A.D.

As proof of this ,in Tamil, the "cilappadikAram" (5th century CE) shows
little samskrtization, there is some samskrtization in the early
nayan2mAr works and AzhvAr works,( 7th-9th century) and by the
12th century ,when the maNipravALAm style held sway, samskrtization
had taken root so firmly  that there were Tamil works with more Samskrt
words than Tamil words.

In kannaDa, the 9th century classic kavirAjamArga discourages samskrt
usage, 12th century works of the vIrazaiva saints are some what
samskrtized and by the 14th century, the "dAsakOOTa" is very

Thus if from a chronological point of view Tamil>Kannada>Telugu, in
terms of samskrtization of works( starting off from the oldest works
upto the 14th century)  we have: Tamil<KannaDa<Telugu. One reason for
this is that all known telugu works were written ONLY after this start
of samskrtization; some kannaDa texts predate the period of
samskrtization and Tamil has a fairly long history even before
samskrtization. I believe that the generic propensity towards
samskrtization in the middle ages combined with the availability of
earliest known works is one reason for seeing more samskrtization in
telugu than in the other two languages.

  Another reason for increased samskrtization could possibly be the
community -make-up of writers in various languages. Since Brahmins knew
and felt comfortable with samskrt, it was also natural for them to
samskrtize the vernacular. This can be verified by the fact that
the kavirAjamArga( in kannaDa) is a jaina work and discourages
samskrtization as do the veerazaiva works which are composed by people
of various castes; on the other hand telugu has had a long tradition
of brahmins dominating writing from day one( With the possible
exceptions of gOna buddha reDDi and kummari molla, I am not sure as to
how many mediaval telugu poets were not Brahmin.) Thus Brahminical
domination also led to samskrtization.

  I am not very sure if poets from the north took refugee in telugu
speaking areas( and thereby increased samskrtization in telugu) ; the
mass-migrations that I am aware of  took place in the 11th century  from
prayAg to Andhra( before the muslim era), of marATHI brahmins into
Andhra in the 15th century( this had nothing to do with persecution but
had to do with their finding jobs in the revenue department) and in the
14th-17th century of brahmins from Andhra to tamizh nATu( religious
persecution). I know of Brahmins of Andhra origin who went up north &
found patronage in the Mughal court, the poet jangannAtha paNDitarAya
being a good example. I therefore donot think that there was any STEADY
erosion of support for samskrt learning in the Mughal days ( patronage
to samskrt seems to have see sawed  and varied from good to bad ) and
resultant immigration to the south, which took place for different
reasons on the few ocassions it did.I therefore find it difficult to
believe that there was immigration from the north significant enough to
have samskrtized telugu.

  Contrary to what Prof Reddy tells us, there was no steady support for
writing in the pure vernacular style after Farsi replaced Samskrt.
If this were the case, the padams of kSETrayya and sArangapANI should
use fairly rustic telugu, as opposed to the samskrtized telugu which is
abundantly evident in them. I must also point out that Farsi DID NOT
REPLACE samskrt; Turkish replaced samskrt as the classical
language(12th-16th centuries, which is how the bAbarnAma is in Turkish)
and held sway until humAyUn, the son of Babur replaced it with Farsi in
the 16th century. During the Muslim rule, the position of the vernacular
languages wasn't a whole lot different from samskrt( whose postion
varied from being patronized to being persecuted);  the only languages
that made steady progress were Turkish/Farsi( depending on the time
period) and marAThI( which was used for account keeping). I therefore
believe that the statement about  vernacular languages being allowed to
flourish is just as true as saying that Islam brought culture,
prosperity and knowledge to India:-)


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