Classical or traditional (metered) poetry in Telugu language is considered to be of four main types. Of the four types, the ‘aaSu’ type of poetry is instantaneous and extempore in nature and regarded to be the most primitive and thus original. The origin of this kind of poetry is believed to have a direct relation to the pleasures and sorrows of the individuals, common folk, experienced during day-to-day life, in a way that the effect resulted in a spontaneous lyric or poem. More often than not, it was the weight of the sorrow that did the magic than the occasions of pleasure and happiness.
Most of the lyrical poetry, prior to Nannaya Bhattaraka, who lived during 11th C (AD), in Telugu language, that was passed on from one generation to another generation through the extraordinary aesthetic nature of human mind, was of the ‘aaSu’ type and quite a lot of it remained intact until today with all its original fragrance and feeling.
Nannaya Bhattaraka is regarded and revered as the first poet in Telugu language to start ‘writing’ poetry on well prepared palm leaves, with his marathon effort of translating Vyaasa’s Mahabharata from Sanskrit into Telugu. This he started on the request of his benefactor king Raja Raja Narendra, who ruled Andhra Desa (present day Andhra Pradesh, India) during the period from 1022 AD to 1061 AD. Prior to this effort of Nannaya Bhattaraka, no evidence exists to support the view that poetry in Telugu language was ‘written’ instead of only being ‘said’ in the form of a lyric. Exception to this, were the stone edicts of Chalukya Kings, which contained some rudimentary evidences of Telugu metered poetry in the meter now known as ‘taruvoeja’.
Nannaya Bhattaraka, who also happened to be the ‘kula braahmaNa’ (a family priest, who was authorized to perform all religious ceremonies and acted as spiritual guide) for the royal family of the king Raja Raja Narendra, applied himself to the arduous task of translating the Sanskrit Mahabharata into Telugu. This he did with the help of his closest accomplice Narayana Bhattu, who, also, was a poet of great caliber and high distinction as praised by Nannaya in one of the introductory stanzas of Andhra Mahabhaaratamu.