The second of June was Telangana Formation Day. India’s youngest state took a long struggle to come by. What started off as a small rebellion in the erstwhile Nizam’s dominion of Deccan, gradually became a revolution of sorts in the south of the Vindhyas. The Telangana Rebellion was basically a peasant revolt. It found support from the communists. It originated in the Telangana regions of the Hyderabad state between 1946 and 1951. During India’s independence in 1947, the Nizam of Hyderabad did not want to join the Indian union. Moreover, he was one of the world’s richest men who could afford buying out that whole geographical area. The citizens of that place too loved their ‘Nizam Sarkaar’. Thanks to the efforts of freedom fighters like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and others who made sure the Nizam’s dominion joined the Indian union.
However, long before the idea of Telangana became that big, the region had a set of intellectuals, writers and thinkers whose writings and thoughts were to lay the foundations of the State ideology in later years. Over time these greats have been forgotten. One of the big reasons for this is the absence of a state academy for writers. The erstwhile Andhra Chief Minister N T Rama Rao dissolved the existing Sahitya Akademi because he didn’t like writers. His interests lay more in the film industry. However now that Telangana is a separate state, the officials must ensure reinstating the Academy.
Few years ago at an international literary conference, a famous Bengali writer remarked how Telangana was nothing more than ‘a cluster of folk songs and stories’. The writer was obviously unaware of the rich literary past of the state. Some of the greatest names in the history of Sanskrit literature have emerged from Telangana. Right on from Jayappa Senapati who wrote the authoritative commentary on Bharata’s Natya Shastra, the ‘Nritta Ratnavali’ to Bommera Pothana, Palakurki Somanatha and many others hail from regions that belong to present day Telangana. The greatest of Sanskrit literary commentators whose works are considered the final word on any subject, Mallinatha, hailed from here.
The Qutub Shahi rulers of Hyderabad Deccan had several literary figures among them. The king Quli Qutub Shah was a poet and wrote several books. The famous female poet Maha Laqa Bai Chanda (1768- 1824) lived in Hyderabad. Hailing from a courtesan background, she was known for her philanthropy in her lifetime. She was wealthy, highly knowledgeable and much sought after by poets from all over the country. She was fluent in Urdu, Persian, Bhojpuri, Hindi and Telugu. She is credited to be the first female poet to compile a proper Diwan of poems, that too utilizing the sweet Daccani Urdu language spoken in the Hyderabad regions. Several research scholars are of the opinion that her life and times influenced the famous writer Mirza Hadi Ruzwa while writing this story about ‘Umrao Jaan Ada’. Chanda was a great devotee of the Sufi saint Maula Ali whose shrine is on top of a hill in the area Maula Ali in Hyderabad. She wished to be buried at the foot of the same hillock after her demise.
(Maha Laqa Bai Chanda)
In the 20th century, post 1947, some of the top names that come to ones mind are poets like Kaloji Narayana Rao, Dasharathi Krishnamacharyulu and the revolutionary Maqdhoom Mohiuddin. Kaloji was a freedom fighter, anti-fascist and revolutionary poet who expressed his opinions in a candid way through his poetry. He was one of the first people to recognize the need for a separate Telangana state.
A generation after him was Dasharathi. Influenced by the left-wing communist and Marxist philosophies, Dasharathi was a firey poet who wrote against the Nizam’s rule. Born into a staunch Shri Vaishnavite Iyengar family, he was the least influenced by his family roots. He was jailed for expressing his opinions against the capitalist establishment of the Nizam.
Yet another generation later was the poet Maqdhoom Mohiuddin. A freedom fighter, an academic, a romantic poet and a revolutionary in his own right, Maqdhoom continues to be a favourite of every Urdu literature lover. Some of his Ghazals like ‘Ek Chameli Ke Mandwe Tale’ and ‘Phir Chidi Baat’ were tuned and became great hits as film songs in Hindi cinema.
Public intellectuals like the founder of ‘Golkonda Patrika’ Suravaram Pratapa Reddy, folklorist, indologist, historian Acharya Biruduraju Rama Raju, an avid writer, polyglot, translator and later years Indian Prime Minister like P V Narasimha Rao are the other illustrious members of the literary tradition of this region.
(Acharya Biruduraju Rama Raju)
Pratapa Reddy’s ‘Golkonda Patrika’ was a trend-setting journal that published some of the finest literary works of that time. Rama Raju was the first PhD scholar from Osmania University in folklore studies. As a national research professor, he was equal to what M S Subbulakshmi was in Carnatic music and Ustad Bismillah Khan was to Hindustani music. In fact, all these three received the National research professorship from the government at the same time. His numerous papers and literary works on the folklore of Telangana are now the most authentic reference points available to any research scholar.
(Suravaram Pratapa Reddy)
Not many know that long before P V Narasimha Rao took to politics, he was a renowned literary figure who had already won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award. He translated Jnanpeeth award winning writer Vishwanatha Sathyanarayana’s book ‘Veyyi Padagalu’ from Telugu to Sanskrit and titled it ‘Sahasra Phani’! This was later made into a tele-serial and aired on Doordarshan.
After all this, can anyone deny Telangana’s massive contribution to the world of language and literature? In fact, what I have mentioned is not even the complete list of writers, poets, intellectuals, thinkers and so forth. The actual list will run into several pages. Though Telangana is India’s youngest state, it might be one of the oldest regions in the country where literary activity was always fortified and appreciated. We hope the current establishment not only preserves the works of all these writers and thinkers for posterity but also works towards encouraging a whole new generation of them.
Images Courtesy – Sirajuddin, Prasad Rao, Sudarshan
(Veejay Sai is an award-winning writer, editor and a culture critic. He writes extensively on Indian performing arts, cultural history, food and philosophy. He lives in New Delhi and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)