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tikkana soemayaaji and his poetic style

tikkana soemayaaji was one of the three poets (fondly remembered as kavitrayam – ‘the poet-trinity’ –  of Telugu language) who have made the Sanskrit mahaabhaarata (authored by ved vyas) into Telugu language in a way that the work looked like an independent work rather than a mere word to word translation. It was in fact the first of the three poets, nannaya (regarded with all fondness and devotion by one and all as the aadi kavi – the initiator poet), who set the plan to make the work look like an independent work rather than a full translation; the other two followed the plan. Of the three, it was tikkana soemayaagi who rendered the most of the Sanskrit mahaabhaarata into Telugu by completing 15 of the total 18 parvas (independent chapters) of the work. The first two parvas – aadi and sabha – were done by nannaya and the third araNya was done by nannaya and errana. errana justly completed the portion of the araNya parva left un-rendered by nannaya (for reasons unknown till this day) and deservingly gained a place in the kavitrayam of Telugu language. tikkana had an epithet attached to his name and popularly known as kavibrahma tikkana soemayaaji.

tikkana’s mother was annamamba and father was kommanaamaatya. They belonged to the sub-sect known as aarveala niyoegis in Brahmin caste and they had their house-name as koTTaruvu. Their ancestors belonged to the place gunTuru in the geographical area known as velanaaDu. tikkana, however, lived with the family of his elder-fathers (his father’s elder brothers’ families) at Nellore, who at that time were employed in high-ranking jobs there, happened to be co-educated with his cousins and by the way happened to gain proximity with the local prince manaumasidhdhi. That was in the century 13 AD. When this prince manumasidhdhi latter became king, tikkana became his prime minister. He dutifully did a work with name nirvachanoettara raamaayaNam in Telugu and dedicated the work to his mentor king manumasidhdhi. This work was said to be the first work of tikkana and the speciality of this work is, it contained no prose; the entire content of the work was said in verse form only. It is believed that after doing this work, tikkana performed the Vedic ritual and became soemayaaji. After becoming soemayaaji he took upon himself the monumental task of rendering the mahaabhaarata into Telugu and succeeded in doing it without any break or hindrance from any quarter.

In poetic rendition, tikkana has a style of his own – a style that contained more Telugu phrase and idiom and appeared strong with it, a clear deviation from the style of nannaya’s which appears never given much thought to it in that direction and only endeavoured in saying in pure sanskritised telugu whatever to be said. Perhaps, tikkana might have thought the age he was presently in sought for the change in the poetic form and implemented it, with all his individual wit and poetic brilliance.

To exemplify this better, I would cite a poem from his first work nirvachanoettara raamayaNamu. The poem is at number 117 in 8th adhyaya of the work. The poem is in the metered-composition known as ‘utpala maala’:

veavuru neala? neanu bRthivii sutacittamu peMpe~ruMganea?
bhuuvalayaMbu saMcalata@MboMdina vaaridhi meara dappinan
deavanagaMbu paa@Mta gilitreLLina, naMdoka keeDugalgunea?
yaavanajaakshi niTlu seDanaaDina nakkaTa! noerupruvvadea?

వేవురు నేల? నేను బృథివీ సుతచిత్తము పెంపెఱుంగనే?
భూవలయంబు సంచలతఁబొందిన వారిధి మేర దప్పినన్
దేవనగంబు పాఁత గిలిత్రెళ్ళిన, నందొక కీడుగల్గునే?
యావనజాక్షి నిట్లు సెడనాడిన నక్కట! నోరుప్రువ్వదే?

Why be told by thousands? Don’t I know the piety of the mind of the daughter of earth?
When the round earth gets itself shaken, when the ocean on its own surpasses its limits
When the mountain of the gods falls on getting old, what greater loss would befall?
Alas! If talked about that lotus-eyed in this bad manner, won’t the mouth get rotten?

The above poem is a fine admixture of words of Sanskrit and Telugu origin. Yet, the placement of the words of Telugu origin వేవురు (veavuru) పెంపెఱుగు (pempe~rugu) మేరదప్పు (mearadappu) పాఁతగిలు (paa@Mtagilu) సెడనాడు (seDanaaDu) నోరు ప్రువ్వు (noeru pruvvu) at regular intervals and meaningfully important places in the poem, gave the poem a blend in which, in spite of the presence of ample number of words of Sanskrit origin, the native phrase and idiom overwhelmed the flow and prominently appeared out. This style is typical of tikkana’s way of telling a poem in Telugu.

One more grand poem; this too from the work nirvachanoettara raamaayaNamu; 54th poem in 6th adhyaaya.

alasata yoppanallana rataaMtamunaM briyunodda@M baasi ne
chchelikaDa kea@MgudeMchu sarasiiruhaneatra viloecanaMbulaM
dala@MkeDu maMdahaasamu vidhaMbuna soMpuna mii~riyunna ceM
galuvalaloena niMpaDaru koumudi veaDkalonarche@M juuDkikin.

అలసత యొప్పనల్లన రతాంతమునం బ్రియునొద్దఁ బాసి నె
చ్చెలికడ కేఁగుదెంచు సరసీరుహనేత్ర విలోచనంబులం
దలఁకెడు మందహాసము విధంబున సొంపున మీఱియున్న చెం
గలువలలోన నింపడరు కౌముది వేడ్కలొనర్చెఁ జూడ్కికిన్.

The pleasing moonlight that shown in the red water lilies, which looked
High in beauty, as the smile that hesitatingly sparkle out of the eyes of
A lotus-eyed who reach to her accomplice leaving her lover for a while
After a tiredness takes over at the end of coition, gave pleasure to view!

This poem is in the metered-composition known as ‘campaka maala’. This poem has an aesthetic that slowly spreads word by word as the poem progresses and reaches its completion. The scene unfolds with each word in the poem and one can easily observe that the aesthetically placed words of Telugu origin అలసత (alasata) అల్లన (allana) ప్రియునొద్ద బాయు (priyunodda baayu) నెచ్చెలి (nechcheli) తలకెడు (talakeDU) సొంపున మీఱు (sompuna mii~ru) చెంగలువ (cheMgaluva) ఇంపడరు (impaDaru) చూడ్కు (chuuDku) gave the poem the desired touch of native phrase clearly stand out.

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