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Telugu ‘chaaTu’ tales – (1)

‘eternal and ever-lasting….’  This was how the phenomenon called ‘chaaTuvu’ verse in Telugu language was once described by learned personalities having specialized knowledge on the subject.

I am in no way can be treated a learned man on the subject.  Yet, if I were to define the verse form ‘chaaTuvu’ I would do it as under:

“A ‘chaaTu’  poem in Telugu language is an independent complete in itself verse told by an experienced poet extempore spicing it with sufficient wit and meaning so as to be completely relevant to a particular instance and/or incident, fully following the principles of ‘meter’ applicable to the kind of poem in which it is told.”

I think I have done sufficient justice in defining the ‘chaaTu’ poem as above.  From the above definition it may appear that the affair is too rigidly structured that it is a very difficult thing to master.  However, there are any number of small and one-time poets to learned ones who mastered in this art of telling ‘chaaTu’ poems on the spot and extempore, following all the rules and requirements to make a fine, memorable poem out of it.

With this small introduction, I think it is now time for me to stop defining things  and  to dwell deep into the topic with examples one by one so that all things important relating to the fine art of telling ‘chaaTu’  poems reveal themselves on their own.  In these examples I do not intend to follow any order, either chronological or according to the merits of the poems and poets concerned. I would simply select examples as I could collect/recollect and go on till the end, which I hope is too long away and takes several hundreds of pages journey as there are several hundreds of popular ‘chaaTu’ poems in Telugu language, handed down by generations of fun loving learned personalities of Telugu land.

To begin with, here I am now with this famous ‘chaaTu’ poem which belonged to none – meaning the authorship of which is not known. The humor and light hearted sarcasm with which the poem was filled  lived on for centuries together. The poem has simply defied to go into oblivion with time and traveled from generation to generation on the tongues of fun-loving men of letters who memorized hundreds of such verses and used to recite them during gatherings and social evenings.

caaki vaanitoeDa jagaDaalu paDaleaka
siri galaaDu paTTuchiira gaTTe,
SivuDu toelu gappe, ‘sii’ yani madi roesi
bhairavuMDu chiira paara vaiche!

చాకి వానితోడ జగడాలు పడలేక
సిరి గలాడు పట్టుచీర గట్టె,
శివుడు తోలు గప్పె, ‘సీ’ యని మది రోసి
భైరవుండు చీర పార వైచె!                                [In Telugu font]

Unable to bear daily quarrels with the washer-man
Person having abundant wealth wore silk clothes[1]
Lord Siva covered himself with elephant-skin[2]; disgusted
In mind, Bhairava[3], done away with clothing altogether!

Notes: [1] Clothes made of ‘silk’ do not need daily washing in water.
       [2] This is the clothing for Lord Siva, being 'karicharmaambara
           dhaari'.
       [3] Bhairava, an 'avatar'- a fierce manifestation of Lord Siva
           and known to wear no clothes  i.e., digambara, which means
           a person who has the eight directions as his clothes.

3 thoughts on “Telugu ‘chaaTu’ tales – (1)

  1. Dear Venkat,
    Your intro is well-presented for a new visitor to Telugu Chatuvulu. As you rightly explained, apart from the witty spark content the metre would be in accepted norms of literature and the hallmark of Chatuvu is that the author is anonymous! Some are attributed to Srinadha or Tenali Rama due to their general image of wit & wisdom.
    In the instant one, the day-to-day experience with the washer-men profession is high-lighted taking the grand examples of Gods! When Gods themselves have turned to alternative recourse, you and I are nothing when it comes to these folk…that is conveyed memorably! Here, ‘siri galaadu’ may refer to Lord Vishnu (I suppose) and Lord Siva wears elephant skin (also).
    How I wish I got them by heart!
    Thank you for the feast.

    1. Yes, Sarma, that is also right…’siri galaadu’ here refers to the normal rich man and the figurative attribution to the grand one who have Siri, the Goddess Sri Lakshmi…so Lord Vishnu!

      Thanks for visiting and leaving an explanatory comment!

  2. Sarma,

    As you rightly suggested, the reference to Lord Siva here is as ‘karicharmaambara dhaari’ only. The translation and in the Notes below, it has been modified accordingly.

    Thank you, once again!

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