When we think of a poem in ‘kanda’ metre, we need to go back in time as far back as 10th century AD and bring to mind the existence of an inscription cut on a rock which is known as ‘Gangadharam stone inscription’. Its name was so decided to the reason that the inscription was found cut on a rock which was a part of a hill-top known as ‘BommalaguTTa’ situated on the outskirts of a village known as ‘Gangadharam’ in Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh.
In the history of Telugu literature there are an important few of such inscriptions and these are – (1) Addanki and Kandukuru inscriptions belonging to the period of the king Gunaga Vijayaditya (2) Dharmavaram inscription belonging to the period of Chalukya Bhima, the First (3) Bejawada inscription belonging to the period of king Yudhdha Malla, the Second. The reason for these three inscriptins becoming so important for Telugu literature is – in these incriptions metred poems in pure Telugu metres known as ‘Taruvoja’ (in ‘Addanki inscription’) ‘Siisamu’ (in Kandukuru and Dharmavaram inscriptions) and ‘Madhyakkara’ (in Bejawada inscription) were used to write the content of the inscriptions. As has already been indicated at the beginning, in the Gangadharam inscription three ‘Kanda’ poems were used and this is the first known instance of use of ‘Kanda’ poems in the history of Telugu (literature) till now, as per the opinion of experts on the subject. As it is opined that as the king, by name ‘Jinavallabha’, who patronised this inscrption should have belonged to the middle years of 10th century AD, it can also be safely said that poems in Telugu in a metre known as ‘Kandam’also existed from the beginning of 10th century AD.
It would be interesting to know some facts about the king ‘Jinavallabha’ who patronised the ‘Gangadharam inscription’. The first important fact is – he was the (younger) brother of the famous poet in Kannada langauge ‘Pampa’. As per some dependable sources from literature ‘Pampa’ was born in the year named ‘dumdubhi’ in Salivahana Saka (era), corresponding to the year 902 in Christian Era. He wrote ‘Aadi Puranam’ (in Kannada language) in the year 863 of Salivahana Saka (corresponding to 941 of CE) and Vikramarjuna vijayam a four or five years later. As Gangadharam inscription extols Vikramarjuna vijayam, it was opined that this inscription should have been made out in the year 945 AD. In the inscrpition it was also stated that the king Jinavallabha too was equally learned and competent to write good poetry works like his (elder) brother, Pampa. There is also an opinion amongst the learned on the subject that it could have in fact been Jinavallabha himself who wrote the text of this inscription and there was no indication in the inscription as regards the authorship of the text of this inscription. However, this opinion is considered still debatable.
The purpose of ‘Gangadharam inscription’ was to mention the lineage, to priase the greatness of the personality, the character and the capabilities of the king ‘Jinavallabha’ and also to mention some of the great deeds he had done. The text of this inscription was written in three different languages – Sanskrit, Kannada and Telugu. The portion of the inscrption in Telugu contains three ‘kanda’ poems, written in the way of writing Telugu characters in 10th century AD, which now we are talking about.
Before going to the actual text of the three ‘kanda’ poems, it is important to know some basic characterstics of any poem in Telugu in detail.
There are two most important prerequisites for any poem in general in Telugu language and they are called ‘yati’ and ‘prasa’. It is even said that one may come across a poem or two in Telugu language that was written not following the prerequisite characterstic of ‘prasa’ but there can not be a poem in Telugu language that has not followed the prerequiste characterstic of ‘yati’. The ‘yati’ charactertic has got such an important place in Telugu metred poetry.
To understand how ‘yati’ and ‘prasa’ work in poems written in Telugu language, we need to understand that:
1) every poem written in Telugu language contains four lines (called ‘feet’);
2) the first letter of each line (foot) is called ‘vaLi’ or ‘vaDi’ ;
3) in every line (foot) at the predestined place (i.e., number of character in that line – 7th character, 8th character, 9th character etc., – which is called the ‘place of yati’) one must necessarily place a character which agrees with the first character (vaLi or vaDi) in utterance. This is the specificity of ‘yati’ prerequisite in Telugu language and this is where the ‘yati’ prerequisite differs from Sanskrit and even some other South Indian languages like Kannada, Tamil. In Sanskrit, ‘yati’ is only a break in the line, a respite, a breathing space in the line and there is no need to place a letter or character that is friendly to the first character of the line, as necessarily followed in Telugu language;
4) the second letter/character in the line (foot) is called ‘prasa’ ;
5) in each line of the four lines (feet) of the poem, the second letter/character needs to be same; which means the vowel on the basic consonant can change, but the basic consonant should be the same i.e., if in the first line the ‘prasa’ character is ‘ka’, in the remaining three lines the ‘prasa’ character can be any of the vowel variations of that consonant like ki, ku, ke, kou etc. This is called the ‘prasa’ prerequisite;
6) in poems written in Telugu language there may be and are poems written without following the ‘prasa’ prerequisite; but, as said earlier, there can never be a poem without following the ‘yati’ prerequisite;
7) poems written in ‘kanda’ metre follow both these prerequisites i.e., ‘yati’ and ‘prasa’.
With these important things explained, now we will go to the actual ‘kanda’ poems – considered the first in the history of Telugu literature – wirtten in the ‘Gangadharam inscription’ of 10th century AD.