Monthly Archives: November 2015

Personalities: Gurajada

Gurajada Appa Rao statue, Tank Bund, Hyderabad

On the occasion of the 2 day observance by the AP Government of the 100th Anniversary of his Punya Tithi, our next great Andhra Personality is Gurajada Appa Rao.

A scholar, a poet, and a social conscience, his impact on the Telugu people, and their language of aspiration, is celebrated to this day. But to understand his work, one must first understand the man.


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Gurajada Venkata Appa Rao was born on September 21, 1862 as a premature child to Venkata Rama Das and Kausalyamma in Rayavaram village of Visakhapatnam district. His father was a peshkar, a lower rank revenue official in the service of the Vizianagaram Estate. The Gurajada family came from the village of Gurazada, in Krishna district. His birth, a full two months earlier than the normal gestation period, would result in his slight stature and astonishingly low weight well into his adult life (73lbs). Even in the best of health, he was only around 80lbs. Nevertheless, despite this, he was a dynamic boy, and a groundbreaking intellectual.

His early years were spent in Gulivindaada and Chipurupalli. Highly imaginative, he would sketch caricatures of his teachers and do impressions of their behaviour.  He would forge a life-long friendship with Gidugu Venkata Ramamurti, who would later become his greatest champion. Unlike his younger brother, Syamala Rao, who was considered more precocious and studious, Appa Rao was very ebullient and would often engage in adventures not only on the streets but in the fields and gardens. He would interact with various sadhus and lambadis. In the process, he absorbed their folks songs and ballads, which would undoubtedly influence his later life and work.  Inspired by the open-air dramas (veedhinaatakam) and shadow plays (tolubommulaata), he would put on his own shows, and accordingly, begin a life long love affair with drama that would culminate in his most famous work: Kanyasulkam.

His father eventually brought him to Vizianagaram, which would lead to two great introductions. The first was C.Chandrasekhara Sastri, the principal of the Maharaja’s College, who would spark Gurajada’s life long love of learning, interest in humanism, and mastery of Sanskrit and English. The second was Pusapati, Ananda Gajapati Raju, the Maharaja of Vizianagaram. Though the first held his greatest attention, the latter would go onto become his patron and esteemed friend.

After completing his Matriculation Examination, he began writing poetry. His first was in English, ‘Ode to a Cuckoo’. Though it received some praise, it did not make his name. The next was also in English, but titled Sarangadhara. With that he received his first major literary recognition and publication. Nevertheless, teaching would prove to be his great passion, and there would be a two decade long gap before he ventured back into literature.

After completing his F.A.Examination with less than stellar results, he became a lowly clerk. Though he married into a wealthy family, his father-in-law was not interested in fructifying his side ambition of becoming a lawyer. Finally, he became a lecturer at the Maharaja’s College, at the Maharaja’s own invitation. His wife, Appala Narasamma, was a very religious, but very driven, woman and took over the duties of running the household, leaving Appa Rao free to pursue his twin passions of Lecturing and Literature. A daughter and son followed in 1887 and 1890. But the passing of his younger brother and in-laws in quick succession would scar him in the following years. Nevertheless, his close friendship and admiration for Ananda Gajapati, would inspire him to expand his mind and skill at the arts. He would aid the former in his task to restore the mere zamindari status of the Gajapatis to the original kingdom status in the minds of the British, so as to be considered a princely state. This endeavour, however, would not come to fruition. However, loyal friend that he was, Gurajada would ensure that Ananda Gajapati’s adopted successor, Viziaramaraju, would attain the Estate.

The publication of Neelagiri Paatalu in 1907 would mark the return of Gurajada to Telugu literature. This was followed by Kondabhattiyam (his lost play), and finally Kanyasulkam–his magnum opus.

He passed away on November 30, 1915, in Vizianagaram. In a letter to an associate he wrote the following:

My cause is the people’s cause…They are so hopelessly wedded to the old, highly artificial literary dialect. I want young men like you to create a tradition of good writing in polite spoken speech.” [1,77]


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‘Desamante matti kadoi, Desamante manushuloi’ [2]

Though he is perhaps known for his immortal line above about how it is people not soil that make a nation, yet another line of his has significance even today: Manavalu otti vedavaloi, a famous dialogue by Girisam from Kanyasulkam. Indeed, this was seen not only in his own time, where he worked for women’s rights, but is seen in our post-modern era, where people say one thing and do another, making and breaking commitments as if they were nothing. In a way, that is his greatest achievement: forcing us to shine the spotlight on ourselves He was an advocate of social and religious reform. If Veeresalingam did that with rage and fire, Gurajada did it with wit and jest.

Both as a man and a writer what distinguished Gurazada was his sense of humour [1]

He is also praised for his desabhakti. In fact, many today prefer his Desamunna Preminchumanna to any other patriotic song. Though a scholar of English, and a teacher of Greek and Roman history (and later published historian of ‘History of Kalinga’), his Western education provided merely a veneer to the deep Indian concerns that he had. This is apparent in his works of literature.

Telugu Poetry took an innovative turn with the compositions of Gurajada Appa Rao. His anthology of poems, Muthyaala Saraalu (Garland of Pearls), produced not only a new type of poetry, but a new metre as well (fittingly called Muthyaala Saram). Its nationalistic sentiment exhorted the elite and masses alike and showed that Andhras were second to none in their passion for the Motherland. Other works of the great writer include Puthadi Bomma Purnamma and Lavanya Raju Kala (which featured in the Muthyaala anthology). He used his incomplete play Bilhaniyam as a response to his critics of Spoken Telugu as literary medium. He is credited a true story-teller for introducing the short story into the Andhra Bhasha.

But it is Kanyasulkam that defines the man today. It was one of the first Andhra compositions that served as modern social commentary. He almost prophetically wrote:

The modern woman will rewrite human history.[1]

Important Works:


  • Kanyasulkam
  • Neelagiri Paatalu: Songs of the Blue Hills
  • Aanimutyalu
  • Mutyaala Saraalu
  • Kondubhattiyam (lost, partial draft available)
  • Vyasa Chandrika
  • Bilhaniyam (incomplete)
  • Puthadi Bomma Purnamma (song)
  • History of Kalinga


  • The Minute of Dissent to the Report of the Telugu Composition Subcommittee, 1914
  • Introduction to Sri Ramavijaya
  • Introduction to Harischandra


The legacy of Gurajada cannot be minimised. Despite coming from the elite, he himself fought for the dignity of the spoken language of the masses, and recognised the need to communicate not in an anglicised idiom, but our own native idiom.

Of all the modern Telugu writers, he is the most prized, the most discussed, and the most emulated. Every scrap left by him is being collected, collated, edited and published. [1]

Though his advocacy to remove Sanskrit elements from Telugu should be critiqued, his point about imposing archaic grammar structures from old medieval Telugu has resonance. Sanskrit has undoubtedly enriched Telugu, but that does not mean we should try to turn it into it. As he himself noted:

The Telugu literary dialect contains many obsolete grammatical forms, an inconveniently large mass of obsolete words and arbitrary verbal contractions and expansions, necessitated by a system of versification based on alliteration and qualities. A license, which no doubt, has its own advantages of introducing Sanskrit words to any extent has been but too eagerly availed of by poets who brought glossaries into requisition revelled in fantastic compound-formation, and made the Telugu literary dialect double dead.” [1,71]

He rightly critiqued the pedants, and as a scholar of Sanskrit, had the basis for which to do so. It is best to appreciate both for their distinctness: Telugu as undoubtedly a language of sweetness, culture, and politeness, and Samskritam as the deva bhasha, the refined language of the elites, of civilization, and the devas themselves.

He was in love with man as man; he loved man irrespective of the fact whether he was educated or illiterate, cultured or boorish, moral or immoral. [1]

Despite his discordant criticism of Advaita Vedanta, in which place he preferred a humanistic love that ignored the importance of philosophy in guiding that feeling, his love for the masses cannot be denied. From Kanyasulkam to Mutyaala Saraalu, he was both a social conscience and a literary innovator of great skill. Not only did he popularise the use of Spoken Telugu in poetry (kavya) and prose (gadya), but he invented a  matra chandassu (a new classical metre as well). His close association and unstinting loyalty to the Gajapati Royal family of Vizianagaram was and is refreshing in a modern and post-modern era defined by opportunistic careerists. Indeed, it was only after he successfully represented the case of their Estate that he returned to literature and left his lofty legacy.

A playwright, a poet, a clerk, a lawyer, a lecturer, an historian, and a social conscience, he defined modern literature as the land of the Trilingas knows it today. For all these reasons, Gurajada Appa Rao remains one of our Great Telugu Literary Personalities.

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Gurajada KavitaluKanyaasulkamThe Telugu Composition Controversy



  1. Narla, V.R., Makers of Indian Literature: Gurazada. Sahitya Akademi: Delhi, 1979

Personalities: Narayana Teertha


From last week’s look at Telugu playback music, we come back this week to Classical Carnatic Music, and the great Andhra Personality and Telugu Saint: Sri Narayana Teertha.

A gem of a composer and spiritual figure, he is oft-forgotten amidst the famous Annamacharya, Ramadasu & Thygaraja, but is a must-know for any culturally-aware Telugu.



One of the outstanding devotees of Sri Krishna, Narayana Teertha (1650- 1745 C.E.) made his name through compositions dedicated to his Ishta Devata. Appropriately, many consider him to be the reincarnation of Maharishi Veda Vyasa. But before he became the saint we know him as today, he was known by another name.

Born Tallavajjhala, Govinda Sastri to Telugu parents from Kaja village (Krishna district), he was a studious boy who grasped the Vedic literature, the Puranas, the six Sastras, and the Srimad Bhagavatam very early on. He was a mighty scholar of Sanskrit and Sangeeta (music). It is said that every significant event in his life had the hand of Lord Krishna guiding it. Indeed, one story in particular is indicative of it.  Though married to a young lady named Uchamma, and preferring Grihasthashrama to the life of a sanyaasi, the Will of the Divine had other plans for him:

Once, he was on his way to his wife’s house. He had to cross the Krishna and was caught in the floods. Apprehending that his end was near, he removed his sacred thread, pulled out a hair as a token of having shaved off his head, chanted the appropriate mantra and took “apat sanyasa.”

The current, however, dragged him into a bush and he was saved. He reached his wife’s house and Uchamma, who opened the door, found a radiant sanyasi standing before her! Govinda Sastri realised that although he wanted to suppress the `apat sanyasa’ episode, it was divine will that he should become an ascetic. He retired to a lonely hill nearby and performed penance (tapas) for over a decade. [2]

Despite the intensity of his desire to stay as a husband and the later concentration of his tapas, he was not yet able to attain enlightenment. He therefore went to Varanasi and engaged in higher study. Taking the sanyaasin Sivaramananda as his guru, he was exhorted to deeply engross himself in understanding the Advaita Vedanta works of Sri Adi Sankaracharya.  His philosophical mastery aside, he always had a strong calling for music.

Returning to Tirupati via Prayaga, Mathura, Puri, Mangalagiri, and Kuchipudi, he experienced Lord Krishna’s Leela in person. He came across a young boy who encouraged him to take prasadam, teasing him that he would get a stomach ache if he did not. Narayana Teertha in fact did, with the lad then laughing and dancing before later disappearing. At that moment, he realised his true purpose in life and is said to have composed the song Bala gopala mammudara right there and then.

He later read the writing on Nama-siddhantha by Sri Bodendra Sarasvati. Understanding the importance of nama-japa (chanting the names of God), he composed the gitam Rama, Krishna, Govindeti. His innate spirituality then led him to Bhupathirajapuram, colloquially called Varahur, and by Divine inspiration, helped raise a temple dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Venkateshvara. His gitams and gadyams (prose writing) were primarily written in chaste Sanskrit. His greatest composition was Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini, a collection of wonderful songs that enraptured the village folk of Varahur, who assembled before the temple. They depicted Krishna’s life leading up to his marriage to Rukmini.

“Tarangini became one of the integral parts of the sankeertana tradition and spread to the
whole Bharata desam over the last two centuries. Tarangini consists of 12 Tarangams and
encapsulates 153 songs, 302 slokams and 31 choornikaas”. [5]

Though he spent much time in his native Andhra, including Srikakulam, Sobanadri, Venkatadri, and an agraharam in Godavari district, he found his spiritual home in Tamil Nadu. Throughout his later life Narayana Teertha came to love the beauty ofTirupoonthuruthi and enjoyed walking along the banks of the river Kaveri.


While his devotion inspires us to this day, Sri Narayana Teertha has a long list of accomplishments to his credit. He is, however, best known for popularising the Tarangam musical form, which was spread by one of his disciples, who was a gifted dancer.

  • He was associated with the Bhagavata Mela tradition and composed a dance drama called Parijathe Apaharanam, a  Telugu work completed at Melattur.
  • A master of music, his compositional abilities were steeped in his mastery of the Natya Sastra.
  • Credited with completing over 287 compositions over the course of his long life (153 in the Tarangini alone).
  • Used 34 ragas for his various compositions, such as Hindolam for Govardhana and Bilahari for Puraya mama kamam
  • Composed Subhodini, a Sanskrit treatise on Brahma Sutra Sankara Bhasyam;
    Vivarana Deepika, a Telugu treatise on Sureshvaracharya’s Pancheekarana vartika;  and the notable yakshaganam in Telugu, Parijatapaharanam.
  • “Sree Krishna Leela Tarangini, his magnum opus is an unparalleled musical treatise consisting many Slokas and Krutis in 12 chapters known as Tarangas. These compositions, famous for lyrical richness and beauty of rhythm, evoke the nine ‘Rasas’ and form an integral part of Indian classical dance.” [3]



Along with Jayadeva (of Gita Govinda fame), Narayana Teertha is considered today one of the great musical exponents of spiritual and devotional ecstasy. While there is the  Sri Narayana Teertha Trust of Kaja, situated 15 kms away from Vijayawada, the famous singer Yesudas is one of the Trustees for the sister trust at Tirupoonthuruthi. In fact, he produced a serial on Narayana Teertha through Chennai Doordarshan, and has been one of the tireless exponents of this Telugu saint’s legacy. M.S. Subbulakshmi herself performed in Narayana Teertha’s honour at the inauguration of his Tamil Nadu trust.

Narayana Teertha was undoubtedly a master of Sanskrit. “Although he was one of the greatest Sanskrit scholars, he carefully avoided complex usages and utilized easy expressions“[4]–very much in line with Acharya Dandin’s advice to our over-eager wordsmiths today regarding  Poetics (Kavya Sastra).

With his most famous compositions being the timeless Govardhana Giridhara, Puraya Mama kamam, and Govindamiha, Sri Narayana Teertha is required study for self-respecting Telugus. He is virtually identified with the Tarangam form due to his masterpiece, Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini. His compositions colour the Carnatic world even today, being part of the standard repertoire of notables such as our own Andhraites, the  Malladi Brothers (of Vijayawada) and Padma Vibhushan Balamurali Krishna gaaru. He remains a hidden treasure and one of the great Personalities of the Telugu people.



[Guest Post] Warfare & Chimeric Peace – A Literary Review

The following Post was composed by Navuluri Rao garu. You can follow him on Twitter.

Warfare & Chimeric Peace:

A Literary Review of  Angara Venkata Krishna Rao’s novel Viramam

There is a corpus of war literature in other Indian languages, but the cupboard of Telugu literature is near-empty in that genre. “Viramam” has come to fill that void. The novel, set in East Bengal at the time of World War II, encompasses the military life, human-baseness in the throes of war, and appalling living conditions of the common folk crushed between a man-made famine and the demands of war.

This work is born not of a fertile imagination of an armchair writer; Sri Krishna Rao served the military as a havildar during the wartime and the events of his first-hand account sound doubly authentic and convincing.

Another notable feature is: as against the writers of Indian languages generally writing with their regions as backdrop and depicting the lives of those belonging to their own language groups, this novel (set in East Bengal) has no single Telugu character except Rao.

The acclaim the novel won from Narla Venkateswara Rao (V. R. Narla), a doyen of journalism and bilingual writer, may serve as the last word on its merit. Writing in “Books India”, released by the National Book Trust of India in the Fourth National Book Fair (Dec 29, 1970 to Jan 15, 1971), he says:

But Venkata Krishna Rao does not falter or stumble; he    proceeds steadily, confidently, in the writing of his war novel, VIRAMAM, for he was a havildar who fought in the Second World War on the Burma Front. He knows war and all its horrors. His plea for the abolition of war is, therefore, wholly sincere, moving, convincing. His is the best and so far the only authentic war novel to appear in Telugu (emphasis added).

Puranam Subrahmanya Sarma, well-known writer, editor of the weeklies Andhra Jyoti and Udayam, and critic, in his foreword to the novel observes:

This Telugu novel, written on the ill-effects of war, is on the same footing as “So Many Hungers” of Bhabani Bhattacharya… It gives a new turn to Telugu literature… In subject, language, style, technique and characterization, “Viramam” is comparable to any of the good novels in other Indian languages… He is of the same class as Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadyay, Manik Bandopadhyay, T. Sivasankar Pillai, R. K. Narayan, K. N. Subramaniam,….

Serialized in the Andhra Jyoti weekly during 1967-68, it was published by the Visalandhra Book Publishing House in 1970 in book form. In February 2008 it was reprinted by the Jyestha Literary Trust, Visakhapatnam. Rao has to his credit 300 short stories published during 1948-74 and four other notable novels.


Not only for the two world wars that were fought during the first half of the 20th century, for any war there can be any reason. The Ancient History Encyclopedia says that the tribe mentality always results in a dichotomy of an ‘us’ vs. a ‘them’ and engenders a latent fear of the ‘others’ whose culture is at odds with, or at least different from, one’s own. This fear coupled with a desire to expand, or protect, necessary resources, often results in war. It says the word ‘war’ comes to English by the Old High German language word ‘werran’ (to confuse or to cause confusion).

In a study on pre-civilisational wars, 87 per cent of primitive races fought with other races more than one war 65 per cent of races were engaged in un-ending wars. Twelve thousand years ago, a half of the Nubians, who lived between Egypt and Sudan, fell to violence. According to archaeological proofs, among the pre-historic initial wars, one occurred near the Nile. There is a view that war happened 7,000 years ago. Since 5,000 years, however, it had been expansionism that was at the heart of wars. The Zhao war in China dates back to 4,500 years; the Kurukshetra and the Trojan wars to about 3,200 years. In destroying each other both the civilized and the savages are in the same boat, the difference being the kind of weapons used. Probably there is another difference—that of the rapes during wartime.

The murder of Franz Ferdinand, archduke of Austria-Hungary, by a Serbian nationalist on the 28th June 1914 served as a pretext for the Great War, which is also called World War I. The death of a king-designate was an issue of self-respect for Austria-Hungary. The context also was thought to be an opportunity to serve certain other national interests. Into the fight between Austro-Hungary and Serbia, Russia, Germany, France, Britain, America and several other countries were dragged because of variance alliance treaties that existed among them.

In the war that started in 1914 and ended in 1918, lasting four and a half years, 10 million soldiers were dead, 17 million civilians lost their lives and 20 million people were left wounded. The war that was described as “The war to end all wars” sowed seeds for another world war.

Japanese imperialist ambitions as one stream, and Hitler’s racial hatred and German’s wish to avenge the humiliation it had suffered in World War I as the other stream led to another World War. Hitler said that if there were no Jews, let them be invented. The war that started in 1937 lasted eight years and then ended in 1945. A 100 million soldiers took part in it and 50 million people lost their lives, not to speak of the six million Jews who were massacred.

Then came the Cold War between the two camps, during which the world saw the Vietnam War and the Korea War. In 1962, the firing of a missile by the USSR led to the US readying itself for an atomic war. War of one kind or the other has not stopped since then.

The foregoing account of various wars support what the writer of “Viramam” says:

Human life is an interminable war. Peace is just an interlude. It is of the same kind as the curtain coming down between one act and another of a drama. Even during this brief interregnum the preparation for a war is underway behind the curtain.”

Albert Einstein was reported to have said, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Obviously he hinted at the destruction of the human civilization if there were to be World War III. Incidentally, caught on the horns of a dilemma the letter he wrote in August 1939 to the President of the USA indirectly goaded him to be prepared with an atomic bomb of its own to counter the Germans. This gave birth to the Manhattan Project that produced three atom bombs in five years. America tested one and exploded two on Japan.

Bengal famine 1943 – A worried woman.jpg

As the novel Viramam is set in Bengal, we need to have a glimpse of the ghastly living (?) conditions that were prevailing at the time of World War II. The moment Japan captured Burma, the whole of Bengal was agog with rumours that its invasion by Japan imminent. The British government was nervous. It implemented the notorious Scorched Earth policy. Anything that would be of use to the Japanese like food and transport were to be made inaccessible. Bengal is full of rivers. The main means of transport is the boat. Nearly 56,000 boats belonging to 500 villages were destroyed. It bought corn and paddy from the poor by deception and transported them from that region for the use of the army to various parts of the world. As the last straw on the weak camel’s back, the Burmese rice that used to meet the Bengal requirement to an extent of 15 per cent was unavailable thanks to the Japanese invasion of Burma. When a request was sent to Winston Churchill by the Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy, he replied, “If food was so scarce, why Gandhi had not died yet?” His other observation was: “The Indians breed like rabbits”. His response typified his government’s attitude to India.

British imposed Bengal Famine 1943

The people, rendered poor, lived on garbage. Even the skinny and bony women with their flesh taking leave of them due to hunger were pounced upon by rapists. In all historical war situations or famines, women had to pay with their bodies. They had to protect themselves from hunger on the one hand and from the rapist on the other. Such humans in name were countless in Bengal then. In 1937, the invading Japanese went on committing atrocities against the Chinese in Nanjing region of China. In addition to children and elderly deaths, 20,000 women were raped.




Padma, who was pure and innocent, protecting her family by working in the army, was full of love for Kamal. She was full of hope, though anxious, when she appears in the opening chapter of the novel. She was raped by a British soldier. The Kurukshetra was fought to avenge the humiliation of a woman. This cruel war proved to be a curse on women like Padma. In the novel we come across a few more unfortunate women. The 20-year old Gonthi at the Akhaura station; Abdullah’s 19-year old fourth wife Salma; his another wife Razia; Nazibullah’s two daughters; the prostitutes at Brahmabaria; Sheela who works as a duty nurse at the Chittagong advance base hospital; the bodies of women which were lying on the mound near the Akhaura railway station–all these women come under the wheels of the war juggernaut.

The main storyline relates to the love between Padma and Kamal. It is not so lengthy. But we come across it in bits and pieces. In between, we read war news interspersed with the military life and the individual lives of the soldiery. Every character and episode flashes before our eyes like lightning and disappear.

Padma who appears in the first chapter is seen again only in the last chapter; waving her hand to Rao. She looks to be a lightning which hides in itself a thunderbolt. He feels she is India; yes India that was under siege by the British. Padma is a flower; one which was trampled upon by a British military boot. Padma is also the river Padma (as is called by that name in East Bengal). If a river becomes polluted, one has to accuse those who did it; it is not the Padma that has to be ashamed of the pollution, but those who are the perpetrators.

We find in the novel an incident which is both poetic and pathetic. A shepherd boy”, smoking a cigarette given by Rao, sings the song of a love-lorn girl, whose lover was in a far-off land, finally rejecting his love for the logistics reason, “O bides bonthore! Ami tore chaina ..jokhan tore mone ..podee, ta khon tore paaina... Then he shepherds the cattle into the darkness of the forest. Even before they turn their eyes from his side they hear his screams of death. They know he has fallen prey to a tiger. 

One is free to have a reservation about the greatness of the novel as compared to other war novels. But, irrefutably, Viramam is the first and, by far, the last Telugu war novel that is authentic as it is written by an insider—and that fact ensures it a niche in Telugu literature.

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Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Personalities: P.Susheela


In honour of her completing 80 wonderful years last week, our next great Andhra Personality this week is none other than the Nightingale of the South, Smt. P.Susheela.

A singer and philanthropist who dominated playback singing in the 60s and 70s, she embodied sweetness of melody and range in modulation to Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada music lovers alike.


Hailing from a well-to do family from Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh, Pulapaka Susheela was born in 1935 and began studying music from a young age. She credits her lawyer father for this interest as he was musically inclined.

She was trained in Carnatic Music and passed first class from Vijayanagaram Music College. She was discovered by Pendyala Nageshwara Rao when she was on All India Radio, and he had her sing in her first movie: A Tamil film called Petra Thaai. Having made her entry into the music industry in 1952, there was no looking back. She went on to dominate playback singing in the South for Decades.

She debuted in Malayalam in 1960, and spread her wings thereafter into other industries. P.Susheela sang many duets with illustrious vocalists such as Ghantasala, T.M.Sounderarajan, and even a very young S.P. Balasubramanyam. But it was in the movie Missamma that she truly established her reign in playback singing.

Despite he prolific professional career, she eventually married Shri Mohan Rao and started a family. She has a long-standing friendship with Lata Mangeshkar, and was mentored by composer and music director M.S.Viswanathan. Though now retired from the Cine industry, she still teaches informally on occasion.


With such melodious classics such as “Mirajaala Galada” from the movie Sri Krishna Tulabharam and “Pillallu Devudu Challani Vaadey” from Leytha Manasu, Padma Bhushan P.Susheela needs no introduction to Telugus and Tamilians everywhere.  Though born a Telugu, she made her debut in Kollywood, and soon expanded to the other southern industries, including her mother tongue’s, Tollywood.

Despite being offered many opportunities to sing in Hindi, she declined most of them. Nevertheless, she performed for a couple of Bollywood films after she was long-established in the South. She is famous not only for the sweetness of her voice, which earned her the moniker “Nightingale of the South”, but also for the precision of her pronunciation. Even in languages she is not familiar with, she has an excellent reputation for taking the time to master modulation and intonation, providing an outstanding musical experience for even the most nitpicky of native speakers. Most interestingly, she is famous for her range, having been able to sing for heroines and child stars alike, even in her later years.

  • She Completed over 50 years in the Cine Music Industry
  • Sang over 40,000 songs in 12 languages
  • Sang over 5000 songs in Kannada alone–the most of any recorded singer
  • Recipient of numerous awards at the state level  in Karnataka, Kerala & T.N.
  • 6 time Nandi Award winner
  • 5 time National Award winner
  • Finally received the Padma Bhushan in 2008


Melody Queen“, “Gandharva Gayaki“, “Lata of the South“, and even “Kannada Kokila“, true blue Telugu P.Susheela gaaru is known by many names and many titles. Her prominence in the music of the Dakshinapatha cannot be minimized. Even to this day and across continents and generations, she has a dedicated fan base.

She is recognisable through the South and even in Sinhalese songs for her sweet voice and care in pronunciation. She has touched both listeners and talent alike. In fact, S.P. Balasubramanyam sang his first cinematic song with her at the young age of 18. He credits her for his branching out from Telugu and achieving multi-lingual musical success.

A musical talent that has inspired numerous generations and countless singers and fans, she is undoubtedly a great vocal personality, not only in the Telugu states, but throughout the Indian Peninsula. Our best wishes to Smt. P.Susheela gaaru on the recent occasion of this milestone.