Andhra: The Baahubali State

As if Mahakal himself had decided to suddenly anoint Andhra cinema with national (and international renown) back-to-back, we follow up our article on Phalke Award winner K.Viswanath garu with an article on the topic of the hour: Baahubali 2.

At first glance, some may groan saying “yet another Baahubali 2 review”. But this is no review.

Many may balk at this title for many reasons. They may say that Baahubali originally refers to Gomatesvara in Karnataka. Be that as it may, for the foreseeable future the name will mean the Baahubali of Amarendra and Mahendra, not of Rishabhadeva.

Others may say that Baahubali belongs to all Telugus. True, but by that token it also now belongs to all Indians. Further, the word Andhra doesn’t just refer to new Andhra Pradesh state, but also old Andhra desa, and by association, the old undivided State of Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, Telanganites need not fear. Unless you consider urdu your state language and mother tongue, and shamefully idolise turk aristocracy (like this jester) rather than native Telugus , the Andhra-Telugu-Telugu States association will remain.

Finally, many of you may ask why this title at all. After all, a dime a dozen Baahubali 2 reviews have already been written (some ripping off in part or whole our Baahubali 1 review from 2015 ). In addition, why should discussion revert to that of only Andhra and Telugus at the very moment all of India (and a good chunk of the World given box office collections) is agog in Baahubali-mania? But it is in fact this precise reason that we must talk about this now.  Long time readers would recall our article about how to Rebrand Andhra. This is the ideal point in time to rebrand our state in earnest.

From lead actors, to producers, to composers, to the man of the hour (the director himself), this was an Andhra movie. Yes, it featured talent from South India (as well as honorary South Indian, and real life Sindhi Tamannah Bhatia), yes the cinematographer Senthil did a splendid job. But this was an Andhra project from its very conception by K.V.Vijayendra Prasad (father of director S.S. Rajamouli). The composer Keeravani is also a Telugu, and even Ramya Krishna married to a Telugu. That is why it’s important to acknowledge BB2 as an Andhra production as well as a presentation of Indic culture.

This is India’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Image result for crouching tiger hidden dragon

True, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was more poetry than popcorn. Yes, it managed to preserve an art house mystique that from the tone and mood, the saga of Sivagami clearly was not interested in. Sure, Baahubali is more Lord of the Rings than Hero. But as usual, our nitpickers and pedantic pseudo-pundits miss the point. Baahubali is the vehicle for Indian Culture that Crouching Tiger was for Chinese culture.

Like many of you, I too had many Punjabi friends growing up (and still have many), and respect their culture and admire them for their ability to keep the Punjabi brand trendy and accessible. And yet, despite the declaration of the Punjabification of India, the South has risen again. Rather than Punjabi-led (and Pak-jabi purchased) Bollywood, it is Andhra’s Tollywood that has produced a Pan-India movie with global appeal. Those of you old enough to remember Chinese hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon from 17 years ago, would remember how after a long lull since the days of Bruce Lee, the Culture of China became trendy again in the West and the rest. It was the first true introduction of mass China cinema to the American masses (By the Chinese, for the World). Baahubali 2 also managed to achieve this balance of high culture for the masses. True, CTHD was more restrained in both special effects and acting while Baahubali was more in the mould of that typical Telugu taste for the scientifically impossible.

But then again, what better represents the Indian character than that? Why did this film strike a chord even with countries featuring our mortal enemies? It’s because rather than looking down upon the masses and their taste for the physics defying, it takes them in like Amarendra took in his subjects and brings them along for his ride and reign.

Why are Telugu films so logic-defying in their heroes’ action (and Chiranjeevi’s films so age-defying in their ammudu-kummudu romances)? It’s because the average Telugu not only imagines his way to victory but emotes his way through life. Of course the coconut trees could double for catapults and trebuchets, the fan emotionally connects with the hero so much, his hero must have done that!

Satyajit Ray gave an introduction  for Indian Cinema to perfumed audiences, but Baahubali is the Brand that represents Indian culture (and Andhra’s in particular) on a grand cinematic scale. For those seeking to characterise Indian culture like this or like that, all one need do is show one clip of Devasena or Sivagami to understand how real Indian culture treats women—like Divine Shaktis. Indeed, it has a lesson on how to behave for not only Modern Girls, but also Modern Boys. It also has a lesson for future filmmakers & lyricists on writing real Romance with better Romantic dialogues than the current college cliche crop.

Ang Lee’s epic, and Ang Lee himself, have gone on to achieve a place in Global Cinema that Rajamouli’s epic, and Rajamouli himself, will soon come within grasp of. Whether it and he achieve it is contingent upon whether they not only stay true to telling our stories, but also stay true to themselves.

Nitpickers again will assert that Baahubali won’t sweep into the Oscar’s like CTHD or even get the same US Collections, but it need not. The simple fact that it placed 1st on Thursday night at the US Box office and finished a close 3rd for the weekend (and ahead of a Tom Hanks movie), only goes to show how much of a splash it made without the US mass advertising that Crouching Tiger had. Moreover, it also sheds spotlight on the irony of Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone trading in her star status for a bit part in the Fast and the Furious Franchise while fellow Kannadiga Anushka Shetty played the lead actress in an Indian movie that also finished in the US Box Office top 3. Self-respect should be non-negotiable. If you have to pick Anushka, better Shetty than Sharma.

Is Baahubali “a mania”?—perhaps. But those whining about it are obviously manic (depressives) and certainly certifiable. So rather than carp and cavil about them, brush the dirt off your shoulder and enjoy the songs instead.

Mahishmati Odyssey from Madhya Pradesh to Andhra

Why was this story about Mahishmati Samrajyam (in modern Madhya Pradesh) and Kunthala rajya (in Karnataka), a Telugu story at all? Well, one need only start with the Palnati Veera Charitra. That epic by Kavi Sarvabhauma Srinatha has not for nothing, been dubbed the Andhra Kurukshetra. The Kalachuris were an intrinsic part of this epic, and through them, the Mahishmati/Haihaya connection to Andhra even more obvious. And for the self-proclaimed history savants, there was even a Bijjala deva ruler among the Kalyani Kalachuris, and Kalachuri Gangeyadeva was one of the commanders in the expeditions of Indic kings against the Ghaznavids.  In any event, Mahishmati through the PVC has a natural place in the Andhra psyche for our own reason.

Should a remake of this movie be done? Can any actor ever feel the shoes of Naata-Nayaka NTR? Maybe, maybe not. But ultimately, the answer will hinge on aesthetics.

Aesthetics

For the paint-by-numbers pedants, criticism always devolves to a mere formula. They remind me of this scene from Dead Poets Society, writing textbooks which graphically analyse the effect of poetry.

Similarly, they ignore the obvious fact that aesthetics is not simply mere rasa. The full translation of aesthetics is rasalankara. That is, the beautiful presentation of sentiment. Baahubali succeeded at veera rasa  for the very reason Manam succeeded at vatsalya: They both had resonance. Contrary to purists asserting aesthetics is mere rasa—to simply reduce this vast concept of aesthetics to only sentiment does injustice to both Bharata muni (author of the original 8 rasas) as well as Anandavardhana and his Dhvanyaloka: Dhvani is resonance, and is considered by many to be the most important consideration for excellent literature, and by extension, excellent cinema. Rasa is generated not only by bhavas and vibhavas, but is made effective by dhvani. If something has resonance, it captures our attention and even imagination.

Like the lifeless beauty of the princess of Pataliputra, paint-by-numbers pedants are flawed in their conception of life and literature. It does not matter if on-paper rasa is easily identifiable, or even if the ancillary bhavas create the necessary rasa, the key question is whether they resonate with artist and audience alike. That is the true test of the power of Art. Why can the same person enjoy both Citizen Kane and Rocky IV? Why is it that individuals can be fans of both Toshiro Mifune and Brahmanandam? It is because these all resonate, albeit in different ways.

As for the question of Saastriya (the true definition of classicism): the issue is not whether the director of Baahubali is steeped in Dhvanyaloka or Kavya-mimamsa or Natya Sastra. The issue is the letter of the law versus the spirit of the culture. Much like the same band of murkhapanditas who believe “beef in vedas” based on questionable interpretation of sastra, paint-by-numbers pedantic pundits can’t move an inch or write a letter without the letter of law guiding them. That is the importance of studying not only the letter of the law but the spirit behind it, whether in Natya or in Dharma.

Perhaps rather than paint-by-numbers, connect-the-dots would be more their speed.

Further, merely repeating the same old themes and stories is not a true sign of creativity. What sets Rajamouli (and Vijayendra Prasad) apart, is that they took inspiration from our Itihaasa-Purana and created something new. Some of the self-same nitpicking critics have attempted to fault the Koduri clan for historical ambiguity. Others have have made comparisons to Maya Bazaar calling them both mythology. But Baahubali’s genre is historical fantasy. In contrast, Maya Bazaar is a putative presentation of Purana.

Purana after all is Divine in conception. And the Vedas themselves, as we know, are apaurusheya. This is the danger of having nastika charvakas, cacophonous casteists, and avowed atheists anoint themselves as acharyas—they refuse to acknowledge that the authors of these divine texts and canons are in fact merely recipients. Mahadev is the author, we are just his keyboards. Srisaila Sri Rajamouli on the other hand, is divinely inspired, and authored these films in honour of Mahadev.

The effects of the two films (Maya Bazaar and Baahubali) may be similar (connected with elite and mass audiences alike, created interest in our epic heritage and ancient history), but their immediate purposes are different. Further attempts to undercut Rajamouli through forced comparisons with K.Viswanath are also maladroit malevolence by malevolents. K.Viswanath gaaru was bringing high culture in the form of art cinema to the masses. There is an element of realism in his films. In contrast, Rajamouli is elevating mass cinema to the heights of high culture. Unless you honestly believe that Baahubali was flying a swan ship in the air, it’s quite clear many pedantic poseurs fail in basic analogies.

It is inapposite to seek out such juxtapositions. Baahubali is not Saahityam, as it is clearly Chalanachitram. But if it has to fit into a literary genre, it is neither Itihaasa-Purana nor Kavya. It is in fact Katha—specifically Nidarsana Katha. Like the Panchatantra it gives stories for the edification and entertainment of viewers. Was there actually a blue jackal? Did the kingdom of crows fight a war with the kingdom of owls? Did four murkhapanditas manage to return a lion to life? The point of nidarsana katha is not whether it stretches credulity (even within certain super-natural assumptions), rather, it is about educating and elevating audiences about topics relevant to life, especially life lived wisely.

Baahubali provided us with examples (the core purpose of nidarsana katha) from which to examine our own lives (Dharma vs Bandhutva, Love vs Duty, Duty vs Law) and gave us figures, most of whom were flawed, but all of whom aspired to some archetype and ended up exemplifying it.  Baahubali is neither Itihaasa-Purana nor Mahakavya nor even Kaavya for that matter—how could it be? But inapposite and inapropos comparisons are appropriate for those who live secret lives of the inappropriate.

What Andhra (and India) now needs are Brand Ambassadors who have actually proven through action  how to revive and reimagine the Samskruthi of Andhra & Bharatavarsha.

Andhra Brand  Ambassadors

Rajamouli, Prabhas, and Rana will be Brand Ambassadors for Andhra for the foreseeable future. Indeed, any neta worth his salt will absolutely deploy these great talents. Rana for his Pan-India glamour, Prabhas for his compelling screen presence and everyman likeability, and Rajamouli for his consistently proven ability to conceive grand visions and implement them on record-breaking scale. Unlike a certain phony “Hollywood-returned” actress who pretends she can’t speak Telugu, all three Tollywood talents are proud speakers of their mother tongue. Indeed, one of the reasons why this film succeeded so well is because it didn’t just feature models who were dubbed (to Tamannah’s credit she was one of the first North actresses to learn Telugu, and neighbouring state Anushka is a natural). As we discussed in the aesthetics section, this is the precise point in time when non-Telugus are taking interest in our maathru bhasha, so Telugus must properly present it. This leads to the next point:

We Are All Andhra Brand Ambassadors Now

Yes, that’s right. Time to spit out that half-chewed pesarattu, wipe your mouth, tuck in your shirt, stand up straight, and start behaving like you represent a language group with a proud cultural and imperial history. Upgrade your tastes, improve your etiquette and manners, and be excellent cultural guides to our Indian brothers and sisters now taking an interest in the Telugu states and their official language.

We have come a long way from the triumphal declarations of “the Punjabification of India”, and “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”. Andhra’s hour is here, and it’s time we got our act together for the big show. Our Tamilian brothers, God bless ‘em, have long managed to convince every Bharatiya north of the Vindhya that only Tamizh was spoken “in Dravidian states”.  Despite the boorish CNN18 anchor’s attempt to claim Baahubali for the Land of Temples & Bharatanatyam, this is an Andhra production and must be asserted as such. But at the same time, trading insults with them and others, or mocking others making a genuine attempt to learn and respect, is not the way to represent your Telugu Thalli. So here are a few pointers on how to ditch your gabbar singh handbook on etiquette and embrace your inner Amarendra (or Devasena).

1.Be gracious, but keep your self-respect. When people take an interest in showing respect to your culture & language, show good upbringing by being respectful. No, you don’t need to fall all over yourself to return praise in unseemly hyperbole. Just return the compliment proportionately and ask them if they need any help learning the language or have questions about the culture.

2.Learn about your Culture! If you were ever wondering why we invested so much time in a site on Andhra culture, now you know why it’s useful, at least  in one scenario. Do you want to be embarrassed at your own ignorance of heritage when your friends from the North finally stop asking what the difference is between Telugu and Tamil? Take the time to read not only our blog posts but our pages,  on Culture and Science and other Topics. Learn now so you don’t look foolish later.

3.Stop being caste crabs. It’s fine to take a small measure of pride in one’s heritage, family, and jati, but come on guys, it’s starting to get ridiculous. I won’t even dignify that Telugu Whatsapp forward that was doing the rounds on twitter trying to bring down Baahubali—but give me a break. Know when to put aside your competition and to show some class by letting someone else enjoy the spotlight in representing our state. There is plenty of blame to go around on the casteism front (UC, OBC, BC, SC, and Hi-C). Show some class, and represent your state with some respectability.

Don’t complain—up your game and treat it as a challenge to show your talent, rather than bring out the worst of your boorishness. Know when to slide out of your caste identity and slide into your Andhra identity, or more importantly the even greater Indian identity, rather than waking up and going to bed with the name of your caste on your lips. Look at it as a high standard to live up to, rather than a mythos that you must prevent reality from popping.

4.Clean up your act! Yes, everyone wants to have fun, and we all need to let loose some times. Sure, you have “worked hard to get job in phoreign”, but the time has come for Andhras to start showing they are serious people. You are not a five year old anymore—so stop dressing, looking, and behaving like one. If you can’t think beyond your caste, you can’t bring up your state to greater heights. If Punjabis, and Bengalis, and Gujaratis have all succeeded to varying degrees for as long as they have, it is because they could think of the common interest.

True, there have been double-edged swords to all of these, all of which will be discussed at a later time, but it’s also important to appreciate what others have done well. Punjabis represented themselves very well and in aesthetically pleasing ways for many years. Bengalis single-handedly managed to appropriate the entire state of Odisha and its cultural heritage into their mythos. And Gujaratis garba-raas’d their way into our hearts and into the PM gaadi. Instead of looking like village rustics, all of them made it a point (to varying degrees of success) to establish themselves and their states as an upscale brand. It is time we did the same.

Instead of waxing poetic over the myriad virtues (“let me count the ways”)  of the Andhra mess dining concept, upgrade your thinking and tastes and start understanding the need to establish Andhra as an haute cuisine. If Madhur Jaffrey could find a way to market irredeemably dessicate Gujarati food as ‘haute vegetarian”, surely given our equity, there’s plenty more we can do with ours. Ditch the biryani and haleem , and bring out the best pulaos and kooras our region has to offer. Enough “vahrevah”. Time for the “ati uttam”. To create new classics, take inspiration from the old ones.

Conclusion

There has been a lot of noise on the topic of Baahubali 2, most of which masqueraded as separating the signal from the noise. Perhaps the most signal mediocrity came in the form of this article, which touched on two aspects which had not been explored to date.

Point 1 is the most obvious and laughable. This is the thesis about how Baahubali is detrimental to cinema because it embodies and promotes “feudal” values. Yet the self-same cognitive defective who compiled this pointed to Lord of the Rings (LOTR) as an example of good fantasy cinema. Our vidusaka-samalochaka apparently didn’t have the basic knowledge or logic to realize that LOTR literally had 1 movie in the Series called “Return of the King”. This is what happens with suited simulacra, whether it is from the left or the right—only foreign feudalism is to be feted, not native Kshatriyas who have their people’s interests at heart. Rai Bahadurs and Gunga Dins on the other hand have no problem doing paimenbos to the pardesi. It is why they are forever searching for connections to outside royalty to serve as courtiers to and legitimize it with asinine, vedavirodhaka theories like AIT.

The second point is more relevant to our Telugu states in particular. It underscores the general fear that anti-India types have to Telugu unity, and even the Andhra name. As we have asserted elsewhere, there should be no place for separatist sedition among the scions of the Satavahanas, yet at the same time, why the great fear for a little trans-Telugu states pride? Why has even the Andhra word (which in fact represents all Telugus, not just those from the Coast) been so vilified?

 It is because Andhra has historically been a bulwark of Dharma. From the Satavahanas to the Kakatiyas to the Musunuri Nayaks to the Reddi Rajas to even the Vijayanagara Empire and the Polygars—Andhra’s contribution from all castes to fighting foreign invasion is undeniable. What has made it all the more potent has been the general decentralised Dharma which it has practiced, which empowered not only clergy/royalty/mercantile elite, but even the lower aristocracy (gentry) and masses alike. It is this power of popular religion, which has given everyone, even the masses a stake.

 Art house high culture cinema can be cordoned off and contained—but what happens when mass cinema aspires to high culture?—that is the real danger for desh drohis. It is this paradigm that has made Andhra, Andhra culture, and Andhra cinema most potent. When even non-Telugus (North or South) have looked to united Andhra as a beacon of Indic Civilizational revival, desh drohis are doubling down on their Andhra hate—only this time the truth tumbled out. Telugu unity is the great fear, not only for neo-nizam nitwits, but breaking India brigadiers as well. Left wing movements misguide masses and exploit them while Right wing movements have contempt for them—it is only a truly decentralised Dharma paksha that causes poco-pomo popinjays to soil their pj’s. And that is why the united Andhra culture (across the Telugu states) causes such trepidation. After all you, heard the fear not from here, but out of the mouth of babes:

No movie represented the power of popular, participatory religion (rather than cloistered ritualism) than Baahubali. Only the difference between Andhra and The Chindu’s TN or Bahubali and what passes for “haute culture” in the sepoy brigades is that Bahubali doesn’t reject the priesthood, but only puts it in its proper place. While bollywood berates Brahmins and kollywood militates against them, tollywood has been at harmony with brahmins (with rare exception). Dharma destroys Dronas and Duryodhanas alike. This is the danger of casteism, whether from upper caste or lower caste.

The innocent Brahmin just trying to make his way in the world is caught between this vice of inveterate caste hatred from others or indecent eugenics obsession from within. Baahubali 1 and 2 represent a 3rd way and we see Brahmins neither sidelined nor self-aggrandising —but merely permitted to play their traditional role not only as priests but as keepers of knowledge, advisers of aristocrats, and preservers of truth.

DMK thugs see near constant power politics and neo-Dronas exploit them—it is neither foreign philosophy nor foreign-concocted Aryan Invasion Theory, but Dharma itself which is the true protection for Brahmin and non-Brahmin alike.

Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha.

That all this was conceived, promoted, and produced by a pro-Hindu, but non-brahmin community praising the virtues of another varna known as kshatriya is what made this movie and this Andhra Aikya Alochana so dangerous to the drohis of Bharata Desa. That is the power of popular religion—everyone has an active stake. That is the power of Baahubali, all castes, classes, and communities are brought along for the ride. And that is why united Andhra is the Baahubali state.

Is Baahubali a permanent characterisation? No—think of it as a temporary marketing campaign to improve Andhra’s image. Are we planning on ditching our previously planned marketing plan for AP?—No. Andhra is still the land of Satavahana Emperors, Rani Rudhrama Devi, Musunuri Nayaks, Prolaya Vema ReddiAnnamacharya, Tenali Ramakrishna, Krishna Deva Raya (yes, Kannadigas and Tulus we have a claim), Thyagaraja, Pingali Venkayya, NT Rama Rao and many, many more…

…But Baahubali is the masthead for Andhra for the foreseeable future.

So next time someone asks you which state you’re from, tell them Andhra: The Baahubali State.

Jai Mahishmati!

Jai Amaravati!

 

Personalities: K. Viswanath

K_viswanath_legend

In honour of the recent announcement for the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, our Post today is on its 2016 recipient.

While it is true that we Telugus often feel short-shrifted on the national award front, it’s also important to recognise when the central committees actually get it right. Continuing our ongoing Series on Andhra Personalities is that stalwart of Telugu Cinema, Sri K.Viswanath.

Background

Born in 1930, Kasinathuni Viswanath hails from Peddapulivarru, in Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh. His parents were Subramanyam and Saraswathamma. His father was a manager in Vahini pictures at Vijayawada (where he would study). Viswanath would later graduate from Andhra Christian College, Guntur and then follow in the family footsteps in film.

What is often not known, is that long before he was a director and writer, he was a technician. In fact, he got his start in the Sound Department on the set of his first movie: Thodi Kodallu. Nevertheless, it was a humble start to what would go on to be a prolific career, as even a short glance at his filmography would show. With 36 films to his name as director (and around 50 in other roles), his movies represent real cultured cinema.

There are no vulgar, double entendre dialogues in his films, which are pleasant, steeped in the local ethos, and with music, dance and traditional art forms. [5]

In a poetic twist, he is said to have been noted for his talent by none other than Nageswara Rao gaaru, and the rest was history. K.Viswanath made his directorial debut in 1965’s Atma-Gouravam, featuring ANR. While he established himself in the 60s and 70s (especially with Siri Siri Muvva), it was in the subsequent decades that the screen-poet of Peddapulivarru made his maximum impact. Starting from 1980’s Sankarabharanam to 1983’s Sagara Sangamam to 1986’s Swati Muthyam to 1987’s Swayam Krushi, this was the decade in which he seemingly dominated.

In the 1990s, he would also make appearance as a mainstream actor, rounding out his cinematic abilities. Subha Sankalpam featured his acting debut, reputedly at the behest of none other than Kamal Haasan, who said the role needed a venerable person before whom he could bow.

Maximum cast in his movies were Jayaprada, Chiranjeevi, and Kamal Haasan. Other actors were Bhanupriya, Venkatesh, Radhika, Vijayasanthi, and Srikanth.

He was also fluent in Tamil and did a number of movies in that language, such as Salangai Oil and Sippikul Muthu. He also made a few Hindi movies such as Eeswar and Kaamchor, although they did not rise to the same level he achieved in Telugu.

At a time when Indic and especially Telugu language and culture is on the defensive, K.Viswanath represents the importance of steeping mass culture in classical culture. After an era plagued by back-bencher blockbusters and item-dance driven nuisance flicks, the cultural quagmire of modern India requires guiding lights to return it to the glory of Maya Bazaar and Missamma. Viswanath garu demonstrates one such deepam.

A presenter of classical and traditional art, music and dance, K Viswanath has been a guiding force in the Indian film industry. As a director he has made fifty films since 1965 known for their strong content, endearing narrative, honest handling and cultural authenticity. His films on a wide range of social and human issues had great appeal to the masses. [4]

We live in an age where stars are celebrated simply for being stars and people are famous for simply being famous. With such social afflictions, is it any wonder that kitsch has captured the market while art is ailing?

Indeed, even the names of his films had an artistic or even poetic quality to them. Whether it is Aapadbandhavudu or Sruthilayalu or Siri Siri Muvva or Swaraabhishekam, his mellifluous movie titles stand in stark contrast to the crass anglicised appellations that have since dominated the industry in descending decades.

Swarabhishekam

For the arts to revive and prosper, not only kalaanidhis but veritable kalaatapasvis and tapasvinis are required. The 2016 Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner is one such.

An ardent art lover, he made a series of films based on varied themes of art, music and dance. His films empathised with courage and frailty, aspirations and convictions, perseverance and distractions, social demands and individual struggle and at the core, believed in the goodness of the human spirit. [4]

Above all, in a vulgar age which fails to understand what real culture is, this cultural exemplar give us scenes rebuking the poseurs and providing the true meaning for samskruthi and natya.

In an industry that has come to be known for its stars dominating the movie marquees, he stood for stories weaving together the talent into an integral celluloid whole.

Achievements

From Siri Siri Muvva to Sirivennala, there is an endless list of quality contributions to Andhra and indeed Indic Cinema by Kasinathuni Viswanath. But if one film stands out, it is Sankarabharanam.

From the electrifying vocals of S.P. to the iconising of Saastriya Sangeeta to the story itself, Sankarabharanam was a modern masterpiece. Of course, who could forget the contributions of composer K.V. Mahadevan. Nevertheless, it was K.Viswanath who brought them all together in one musical magnum opus. Indeed, many even assert that the movie was responsible for increasing interest in Carnatic Music among a generation of South Indians.

It is not for nothing he has been nicknamed Kalaa Tapasvi.

 Renowned filmmaker and actor Kasinadhuni Viswanath, best known for his award-winning movies in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi, has won the Dadasaheb Phalke award for the year 2016 for his outstanding contribution to the film industry. [1]

To receive the Phalke Award is a laudable and sought out distinction for any filmmaker or artiste. To date, 6 Telugus have received it, with  B. Narasimha Reddi, B. Nagi Reddi Paidi Jairaj, L.V.Prasad, Akkineni Nageswara Rao in 1990 and D.Rama Naidu in 2009  being the previous awardees.

But despite working with mass stars like Megastar Chiranjeevi and Kamal Haasan, K.Viswanath garu is a screen legend in his own right. Celebrated and known North and South of the Vindhyas, this Andhra ratna already has a long list of awards and achievements.

  • Honorary Doctorate from Potti Sriramulu Telugu University
  • Ragupathy Venkaiah Award for Lifetime Contribution to Cinema from AP
  • Recognised with 20 Nandi Awards from the State of Andhra Pradesh
  • Received 5 National Awards and 10 Filmfare Awards
  • Won the National award for Swati Mutyam. This was India’s Official entry for the 1987 Oscars Foreign Films Category.
  • Awarded the Padma Sri in 1992 for contributions to cinema

Legacy

KViswaLegacy

Viswanath garu leaves behind an outstanding body of work that would be feted in any era. If ‘Simplicity truly is the Ultimate Sophistication‘, he embodied this in films.

The stories that Shri K Viswanath told through his films were seemingly simple. They provided an uncomplicated, direct and pleasant cinematic experience to the audience. At the same time, they lend themselves to a nuanced and layered interpretation leading many to watch them again and again and come back and discover a new hitherto unseen aspect or a have deeper understanding and realization. [4]

Movies like Saptapadi show precisely the type of introspection any society requires and the balance needed between duty and human dignity. He exemplifies the type of attitude spiritual and artistic elites require: rather than distant reservation and condescending mockery, an empathetic championing of the masses and an upliftment of their plight is what is needed.

Prathi cinema ki oka sandesam undedhi. There would be a social message in virtually all his films, proving the true potential of Indian Cinema. It is not in item dance or idiot fan followings or foreign flesh shows, but in movies that marry culture with sentiment in contemporary context. This is what represents not only state but national cinema as well.

Named for the Maharashtrian Director-Producer Dadasaheb Phalke—the famous filmmaker of what’s considered India’s first Movie (Raja Harishchandra)—this National Award is coveted across Bharat’s various cinematic industries.

The award is conferred by the Government of India for outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema. The award consists of a Swarn Kamal (Golden Lotus), a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh and a shawl. The award shall be conferred by the President of India at a function on May 3 at Vigyan Bhawan. [4]

While at 87 years old, the doyen of the pre-digital cinema era may have been made to wait all too long, it is, as they say, better late than never.

Telugu Cinema has come a long way since the cultural morass of the mid-2000s. Indeed, from Maya Bazaar (now in its 60th year) to Magadheera (and now Baahubali), it has had quite a trip ‘There and Back Again’. If there is filmmaker who embodies the triumph of Art over Kitsch and High Culture for the Masses, it is K.Viswanath garu.

From all of us at ACP, Congratulations, andi! It is a recognition long overdue.

References:

  1. http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/k-viswanath-wins-dadasaheb-phalke-award-for-2016/article18200164.ece
  2. http://movies.ndtv.com/regional/veteran-filmmaker-and-actor-kasinathuni-viswanath-conferred-dadasaheb-phalke-award-1685466
  3. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0899649/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
  4. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/kasinadhuni-vishwanath-dadasaheb-phalke-award/1/936966.html
  5. http://www.deccanchronicle.com/entertainment/tollywood/250417/legendary-kalathapasvi-viswanath-gets-dadasaheb-phalke-award-for-2016.html
  6. http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/true-artists-dont-need-fame/article7455680.ece
  7. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/phalke-award-for-viswanath/article18202634.ece

పంచతంత్రం STORIES OF PANCHATANTRA—Mitra Labhamu (Gaining Friends) Ch.5

panchatantramitra

పంచతంత్రం

STORIES OF PANCHATANTRA

IN SIMPLE TELUGU POEMS — TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH

MITRA LABHAMU- GAINING FRIENDS-Chapter 5

§

[Continuing the Series of Original Poems on the Panchatantra by Chandra gaaru, is Chapter 5 of Mitra Labhamu. Chapters 1 & 2 can be found here, Chapter 3 here, and Chapter 4 here ]

54.
కఛ్ఛపమ్ము బలికె కాకరాజుతొ నిటుల
చూడ మూషికమును చింత తోచు
కారణమ్ము లేక కలత యెటుల యుండు
యనగ కాకి పలికె యౌననుచును! 54
తాత్పర్యము

English: The turtle further said to the crow. “The Mouse King seems to be very unhappy. There must be a reason for his sadness.” The crow agreed it was so and said thus.

55.
యెన్నొ సార్లు నేను యడిగితి యీ ప్రశ్న
విటము చెప్పదాయె విషయ మెపుడు
యనగ విన్న యెలుక యిటుల బలికె సఖ
గాధ చెప్పగాను ఘనము కాదు! 55
తాత్పర్యము

English: The crow said,” I asked this question many a time. But the mouse king never gave an answer about his sorrow.” Hearing this the mouse replied” Oh! Friend! Mine is not such a great story to tell. Anyhow, since you asked again please hear”

56.
మహిలరోప్య మనెడి మండలపు నగరి
తపసి యుండె తారచూడు డంచు
శివుని మందిరము స్థిరనివాసముగ చేసి
బిక్షు వతడు రోజు బిచ్చ మెత్తి
తాను తినుచు తన తోడు నలుగురికి
తినిపించు మిగిలిన తిండి బ్రేమ
చిక్కము పైదాచును చివరకు మిగిలింది
శయనించు హాయిగ శ్రమను మరచి
వాస మచటె యుండు మూషిక మిత్త్రులు
నన్ను చేరి పడిరి నిటుల చింత
తపసి దాచు తిండి తారల నడుమన
తింద మన్న మాకు దొరక దాయె! 56
తాత్పర్యము

English: The King of Mouses further said thus. “There used to live a hermit by name Tara Chaud in a distant town called Mahilaropya. He used to stay in Temple of Lord Shiva and was daily begging for alms. He used to eat a little and donate some to the poor guys who used to keep the Temple clean. The remainder of the food he used to save the remainder of the food in a peg that hanged high.

Some of my relations staying there came to me in sadness and lamented thus. Oh! Lord! The hermit is saving his food high in the air (reaching stars). We are not able to steal the food and eat as we cant reach such heights.”

57.
మరియు యిటుల బలికె మూషిక మిత్రులు
ఎవరి చేత కాదు ఎత్తు ఎగుర
ఎచట కైన నీవు ఎగిరి చేర గలవు
కూడ వచ్చి మాకు కడుపు నింపు! 57
తాత్పర్యము

English: Hiranyaka further told his story thus. “My friends and relations further told me that they were incapacitated to jump such heights and that I was the only one who could reach the food. They urged me to go with them and feed them”

58.
మిత్రు లందరి కూడి ముదమున నే బోతి
యెగిరి యందు కుంటి యతిది పాత్ర
తపసి దాచిన తిండి తృప్తిగ తినుచును
యచటె వాస ముంటి యెన్నియొ దినములు! 58

English: Hiranyaka continued. ” I went to the Hermit’s place accompanied by my friends and relations. At once, I jumped on the vessel containing food and we enjoyed the food that night and many more days to come and we stayed put there permanently.

panchatantramumitra

59.
దాచి నట్టి తిండి తరుగుట కనుగొని
తపసి చీల్చి నట్టి దండము గొని
పాత్ర పైన కొట్టె పలుమారు భయపెట్ట
దండ నీతి మమ్ము తరుము చుండె! 59
తాత్పర్యము

English:

the Hermit one day found that the food he is storing is vanishing on regular basis and kept a watch. Finding us stealing the food, he to took a slit stick and started hitting at the bottom of the vessel making huge noise to scare us away. Scared truly, we did not dare approach the food vessel again.

60.
విడువ డొక్క క్షణము వీక్షించ పాత్రను
సద్దు సేయు చుండె సాధు వెపుడు
వేచి యుంటి మేము వారము మాసము
తపసి విడువ డాయె తొలగ డాయె! 60
తాత్పర్యము

English:

The Hermit never stopped making sound with the stick and never removed his searching eye from the food. We waited for weeks and months but the Hermit was persistent.

61.
గడచి పోవ నిటులె కతిపయ దినములు
యొక్క మిత్రు డొచ్చె యతిని కలువ
సంజె వేళ యతడు చెప్పుచుండె కధలు
తిరిగి వస్తి ననుచు దేశములను! 61
తాత్పర్యము

English:

After passage of few weeks like this, one day one of his friends came to visit him and during the night of his arrival he started narrating the stories of his travels to various nations and places.

62.
మిత్రుడు యాడెడి మాటలు వినకనె
తపసి తట్టుచునుండె తిండి పాత్ర
చెప్పు మాటలు పెడ చెవిన బెట్టెడి నేస్తి
తపసి పోకడ గాంచి తామసమున
యిటుల బలికె కింక యతిధి తపసి జూసి
మిత్రుడనుచు వస్తి మోస కాడ
మోటు తనము తోడ మాట వినవ యేమి
వెడలి పోయెద నేడె వేరె దిక్కు
అతిధి వచ్చు వేళ యాదరముగ పిల్చి
పలుకరించి తగిన పీఠ మీని
మిత్రు విడువ ఎంతొ మేలని పెద్దలు
నీతి చెప్ప నేను నమ్మ నైతి! 62
తాత్పర్యము

English:

Even as the guest was talking the hermit was busily engaged in making sounds with his stick near the food store turning a deaf ear to his friend, The guest, angry at the attitude of the hermit said thus.” You are haughty. You are not at all hearing what I have to say. I will leave today and take shelter somewhere else. I came here thinking you were my friend. But you turned to be a cheat. It was my fault not to have heard the elders say not to enter the place of a host who does not invite you, offer a seat and inquire about your well being.”

63.
మరియు నిటుల బలికె మిత్రుడు కినుకతొ
ధనము మదము నీకు తలకు యెక్కె
నరక మగును నీకు నిశ్చయముగ తెలియు
యెంత తొరగ బోవ యంత మేలు! 63
తాత్పర్యము

English:

The guest further said angrily, ” The possession of wealth has gone to your head. Know that there is hell and you are certain to go there. I am leaving this place immediately for my own good.:

64.
కలత చెంది తపసి కఠిన పలుకులను
చెలుడు పలుక విని చెంత చేరి
చెప్పె యసలు కధ చెలునికి విశదము
నిజము విన్న చెలుడు నెమ్మదించె
యెలుక యుండు నెచటొ యెరుకనె నీకని
యడుగ తపసి చెప్పె యెరుక లేదు
మిత్రు డనియె నంత మూషికు డెంతయొ
దాచి యుండును తిండి దొంగ వోలె
యెంత ధనము యున్న యంత బలము యుండు
యెలుక ఎత్తు ఎగిరె యందు వలనె
జగతి నడుచు రీతి జనమును దోచియె
వినుము గాధ యొకటి వివరముగను! 64
తాత్పర్యము

English:

Hearing his guest speak harsh words, the hermit felt sad and moved closer to him. He told him the entire story of food and the mouse. Hearing this the guest cooled down and asked the hermit if he knew the place where the mouse stayed. the hermit replied in the negative. Then the guest said that the mouse must have accumulated lots of food. that is giving him the energy to jump so high. The ways of world are such that the persons who loot and accumulate wealth are the strongest. The guest then offered to tell a story with this moral.

65.
ఉ: నేనొక విప్రునింటి కడ నిల్చి యభ్యాగతుండనై
పానము యన్నమున్ యడుగ బాపని భార్య మక్కువన్
విప్రవరేణ్య మా కిలలొ వేలుపు మాదిరి వస్తిరీరు మా
యింటనె యన్నపానములు యాదర ముంచియు స్వీకరించుడీ! 65
తాత్పర్యము

English:

I once stood in front of the house of a Brahman and begged for alms. The wife of the Brahman invited me with pleasure and said I came like a God and requested me to stay with them and receive their hospitality.

66.
ఉ: నావుడు బ్రాహ్మణుండటులె నన్ను తనింటి లోపలన్
బూవులు తేవగన్ శివుని పూజలు సేయగ వారికిన్ తగున్
సేవలు సేయగన్ యచటె సమ్మతి సమ్మద ముండిపొమ్మనన్
యావిధి సర్వదా సనువు యాగము సక్రియ సేయుచుండగన్! 66
తాత్పర్యము

English:

Hearing this the Brahman too invited me into his abode and requested me to help in his daily prayers by bringing flowers and other requirements for his daily Yaga and prayers and so I was doing this with pleasure and enjoying their hospitality.

67.
అంత యొక్క దినము యార్యుడు పత్నితొ
యిటుల బలికె నేడు యినుడు దిశను
మార్చి యుత్తర దిశగ మరలుటన్ ధనికులు
దాన మిత్తు రెంతొ తనివి తోడ! 67
తాత్పర్యము

(తనివి= తృప్తి)

English:

One fine morning, the Brahman called his wife and told her that the pious Uttarayana started and that the rich donate alms and gifts to Brahmans and so he is going to the next village to receive such gifts.

68.
పోయి వత్తు నేను పక్క గ్రామము దమకను
తెచ్చు కొనెద వారు ఇచ్చు ధనము
బ్రాహ్మణుడను బిలిచి భోక్తవ్యము నిడుము
కమల ధరుని తలచి కాలు మొక్కు! 68
తాత్పర్యము

English:

“I will go to the next village and come back. In the meantime please call a Brahman and feed him in the name of Sun God.” said the Brahman.

panchatantramu

69.
పడతి చెంత లేవు బియ్యము దినుసులు
కోపమొచ్చి పడతి కస్సు మనెను
కుండ నిండు కొనెను వండెద యే రీతి
కర్మ నాది మిమ్ము కట్టు కొంటి! 69
తాత్పర్యము

English:

As the Brahman Lady had no rice or other items to cook, she became angry and lamented that she did a mistake marrying the poor Brahman.

70.
నొచ్చు కొన్న బాప నెమ్మది బలికెను
అటుల యాడ తగదు మాట మీరి
దేవుడిచ్చి నంతె దక్కును మనలకు
సగము పంచు కున్న సుఖము కలదు! 70
తాత్పర్యము

English:

The Brahman was sad too at his plight and was hurt at his wife’s words but recovered fast and said thus. ” You should not talk in such a harsh tone. Whatever God gives only will remain with us. If we share half of it we shall be blessed”.

71.
ఫలము దక్కు సగము భాగము బంచగ
ధనికు డేమి పొందొ దాన మిచ్చి
పేద వాడు పొందు పంచగ సగ పాలు
పేద ఇంటి గంజి పాయసమ్ము! 71
తాత్పర్యము

English:

If we share half of whatever little we have we will get the God’s blessings. If the rich gives a lot too, such blessing is not available. The poor gets back in kind if he gives half of what he has. The gruel in a poor man’s house is like Nectar.

72.
ఇచ్చు వాని కెపుడు ఇచ్చుట ధర్మము
పిసిని ధనికు జనులు యీస డింత్రు
సంద్ర మందు నీరు సంగ్రహించ రెవరు
బావి నీరు తాగ బ్రీతి మెండు! 72
తాత్పర్యము

English: The man who gives in charity should be helped in need. The miserly rich are shunned by the public. Water in the ocean is never taken by people to drink. But water from well is taken,

73.
అర్హ తెరిగి ఇవ్వ వ్యర్ధ మవదు యేది
ఆశ యెక్కుడైన నాశ మగును
యనగ భార్య యడుగ యది యెటు లనుచును
స్వామి చెప్పె సతికి శాండిలికి కధను! 73

English: If we give to the deserving, it will not be wasted. If a man develops greed he will perish. When the Brahman said so, “How is it so?”. Then the Brahman told her a story in reply.

74.
అడవి పంది పయిన యస్త్రము విసిరెను
విల్లెక్కు బెట్టిన వేట గాడు
గాయ పడిన పంది గర్జించి యురికెను
బోయ ప్రాణము పోయె పంది చేత
పంది కూడ తనదు ప్రాణము వదిలెను
బోయ చేసిన పెను గాయములతొ
జంబుకమ్మొక్కటి జనుచును యాదారి
క్షుద్భాధ పెక్కుడు క్షోభ పెట్ట
బోయ పంది జూసె బాయగ యసువులు
భాగ్యమన్న నాది బాగు బాగు
దొరికె యాహారమ్ము దండిగ యీనాడు
యనుచు తలచి నక్క యాశ చూసె! 74
తాత్పర్యము

A hunter shot his arrow at a boar which was injured. The boar, though injured, jumped on the hunter and killed him on the spot. It too died of the wounds inflicted by the hunter. A fox going that way very hungry and in search of food saw the bodies of the hunter and the boar. It thought in greed that it got plenty of food that day.

75.
దైవ బలము నాకు తోడయె యీనాడు
తృప్తి తీర తినగ దొరికె తిండి
పూర్వ జనమ మందు పరులను సేవించ
ఫలము దక్కు నంద్రు మరు జనమ! 75

English: It said to itself that it was God’s grace that she got plenty of food. Learned say that if one has done all good deeds in the previous births, they will be rewarded in the future births.

76.
వెదుక కుండ దొరికె వెనుక జన్మ ఫలమె
చేయు పుణ్య మొచ్చు జీవి వెంటె
చేసి యుండ నోపు చాల పుణ్యము నేను
విందు దొరికె నేడు వింత కాదె! 76

English: I came across so much of food without any effort. I must have done a lot of good in my previous births, I got a feast now. The good one does follows him for many births.

77.
కొలది కొలది దినెద కూడ బెట్టెద నంత
ధనము యున్న నాడె దాచ నోపు
యనుచు పెద్ద లనిరి యెంతొ ఙ్ఞానులు వారు
వింటి నారి తినెద పంట కొరికి! 77
తాత్పర్యము

English: It again thought that the leaned said that one should save money when it was plenty. I will also eat this food in small quantities daily. For today I will satisfy my hunger with this gut of the bow.

78.
యనుచు జంబుకమ్ము యానందముగ పోయి
వింటి నారి కొరికె పంటి బిగువు తోడ
బిగిసి యున్న నారి తెగివచ్చె వేగమ
నారి ద్దెబ్బ తగిలి నక్క చచ్చె! 78
తాత్పర్యము

English: So thinking the fox tries to snap the gut of the bow with his teeth using all the strength. The gut which was fixed to the bow very tightly snapped with such a speed that it hit the fox on the head and it died instantly.

79.
విప్రు డిట్లు యనియె వింటివ గాధను
యెన్ని దినము లుండు యెపుడు బోవు
ధనము, ఙ్ఞాన మెంత తనవిధి యెటులుండు
కర్త నిర్ణయించు కర్మ ఫలము! 79
తాత్పర్యము

English: The Brahman said. “Did you hear the story?” When does money come and where does it go? Who can predict the fate of his life? Only Lord Brahma decides the Karma and its effects”

80.
నక్క కధను విన్న నాతి యిటుల బల్కె
అర్ధ మయ్యె నాకు యాశ యనగ
యెంత చేటు దెచ్చొ యిచ్చి పుచ్చు కొనుట
భాగ్య మెంత యనగ బోధ పడెను! 80
తాత్పర్యము

English: Hearing the story of the greedy fox the wife of the Brahman said she understood the ill-effects of greed and the pleasure in giving and taking.”

81.
నువ్వు లుండె కొన్ని నాకడ పాతవి
పొట్టు తీసి వాటి రొట్టె సేతు
బ్రాహ్మణుడను బిలిచి భోజనము పెడుదు
బాపడేగె ముదము ప్రక్క గ్రామమునకు! 81

English: “I have with me un-husked sesame seeds with me in the house. I will remove the husk, make a roti and feed a Brahman” said the lady. Hearing this Brahman left to the next village.

82.
పొట్టు తిలలు నాన బెట్టి పొట్టును తీసి
పెట్టె యెండ యందు పడతి బాప
నాయి యొక్క టొచ్చి నాకి పోయె తిలలు
పడతి ఇంట వేరె పనిలొ యుండ! 82
తాత్పర్యము

English: the lady soaked the sesame seeds in water, removed the husk and kept them outside for drying. As she was engaged in household chores, a dog came and licked the seeds.

82.
ఇంతి చింత చెంది ఇటులను యోచించె
కుక్క ముట్టె నువ్వు కార్య మేమి
నువ్వు పప్పు ఇచ్చి నువ్వులు యడిగెద
పప్పు సాటి రాదు పొట్టు నువ్వు! 82

English: seeing what happened, the lady lamented how she could feed the sesame seeds touched by the dog and decided to exchange the husked seeds for un-husked from some one. she thought anyone would be willing to exchange husked seeds for the un-husked ones.

83.
పడతి పోయె పక్క బాపని యింటికి
పప్పు నిత్తు బదులు పొట్టు నువ్వు
నిత్తు రేని యనగ నటులనె బాపత
మగడు వచ్చి వలదు మోస మనియె! 83
తాత్పర్యము

English: The lady went to a neighbor’s house and offered to exchange the husked sesame seeds for un-husked one and the lady of the house gladly accepted the exchange. But her husband, who overheard, prevented her to do so as there must have been some cheating involved.

84.
పప్పు ఇత్తు రెవరు పొట్టు నువ్వు బదులు
మర్మ మెరుగ కుండ మారకమ్మ
విన్న విప్ర వనిత వల్లె యనుచు చెప్పె
కారణమ్ము లేక కదల దేది! 84

English: “Who will give husked seeds for raw seeds unless there is some hidden secret in the exchange? ” said the husband. So, the lady of the house declined the exchange. Without reason, nothing happens nor moves.

85.
అతిధి కధను చెప్పి యతి తోడ ఇంటులనె
మూషికమ్ము ఎగుర మర్మ మెరుగు
దాని కొచ్చె బలము దాచిన తిండితొ
అర్ధ బలము మిన్న యంగ బలము కంటె! 85
తాత్పర్యము

English: The guest told the story to the hermit and said thus. “You should know the hidden reason how the mouse was able to jump so high. It is because of the huge pile of food it saved. Always know that the strength from hidden treasure is greater than strength of one’s limbs.

§

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न कोई किसी का मित्र है और न ही शत्रु, कार्यवश ही लोग मित्र और शत्रु बनते हैं॥

Happy Ugadi (2017)

Happy-Ugadi-2017

From all of us at ACP, in this Hevilambi Nama Samvatsara we wish you a happy and prosperous (Telugu) New Year.  Ugadi Subhakaankshalu!

Ugadi comes from the Sanskrit term Yuga Adi, or new era.

Typical greetings include: Nutana Samvatsara Subhakaankshalu or Ugadi Subhakaankshalu.

Today we celebrate the arrival of the year 5119 (Kali Yuga reckoning), which is named  Hevilambi (last year was Durmukhi), in this 28th Chaturyuga of the 7th Manvantara (Vaivasvata) in Sveta Varaha Kalpa.

Here is our Post from 2014 explaining the Festival and its Traditions in detail.

Ugadi-2017-Pictures

Normally, Ugadi naturally coincides with the Pan-India Yugadi, and notably Gudi Padwa—united Andhra Pradesh’s neighbour to the west, Maharashtra. This year, there was a mild controversy over calendrical dates and the was a 1 day divergence. Here is the explanation.

So whether you celebrated yesterday (along with the rest) or you are enjoying the Utsav today, we wish a happy Hevilambi Samvatsara.

Per tradition, here is the 2017-2017 Hevilambi Samvatsara Panchanga Sravanam.

Thanks to all our loyal and regular readers for your interest, comments, and support. We look forward to another great year of Preserving and Passing on our wonderful common Culture and Tradition.దుర్ముఖి నామ సంవత్సర శుభాకాంకషాలు! Happy Ugadi!

Personalities: Vasantaraya

lakumadevi1
Source: Vasantarajeeya book, via Spandana

Those of you following us on our All-India site, Indic Civilizational Portal, would have seen our article on Vasant Utsav. Well, it just so happens that Andhra had a king who became so identified with the festival, he took his name after it.

The next installment in our Continuing Series on Andhra Personalities is none other than King Kumaragiri Reddi, better known as:  Vasantaraya.

Background

Kumaragiri Reddi (1386-1403 CE) was the son of Anavota I. He succeeded his uncle Anavema after the latter’s highly successful reign as the greatest king of the dynasty. “The Anaparti grant, his earliest extant record, dated in S.1312/1390 A.D., says that he had, by that year, friendly relations with the kings of the north, east, south and west. ” [1, 122] His reign is generally considered to have run from 1386 to 1403,

The family tree of the Reddi dynasty also plays an important part in the fate of the Kingdom. As previously discussed, there were 3 main families that decided its fate: the descendants of Prolaya Vema Reddi, Maacha I, and Kataya Reddi.  Thus we see that “Kumaaragiri’s succession to the throne was not a smooth and peaceful one and that he had to fight for it.” [1,122]

ReddiRajyamGenealogy

The “rival claimants to the throne might have been his cousins, Vema and Maaca, sons of Peda Komati, and grandsons of Maaca I, brother of Prolaya Vema.”[1,123]

Despite being known more as a man of culture and less as a warrior-general, it is said that…

Kumaaragiri fought successful wars with the kings of the west, north and east, that is, probably with Vijayanagar, Raajakonda and Kalinga respectively. [1, 126]

Either way, the meteoric expansion of the Reddi dynasty that occurred under Kataya Vema’s generalship, also led to its later contraction and final division and downfall. The campaigns of this era, therefore, are better attributed to Kataya than Kumaragiri, and should be described under his account, focusing on Vasantaraya today.

Vasantaraya

A man of pleasure, learning, and celebration, Kumaragiri revived the ancient Vasantha Utsavam (spring festival).

There was a great carnival and the King would go to a park specially decorated for Vasant. There would be a pandal for Kama and Rati, Vishnu and Lakshmi, Siva and Sakti, and Sachi and Indra. Perfumes such as camphor, musk, civet, saffron, sandal were used, rosewater was freely sprinkled on people along with water mixed with turmeric. A bamboo water soaker was used (like pichkaris in holi). “The sport included sprinkling and scattering of various powders, coloured and un-coloured, perfumed and non-perfumed, and sandal paste. Camphor pieces and powder were showered on the crowds” [1, 358] People mixed freely and the Reddi kings, especially Karpoora-Vasantharaya, gave it royal grandeur.

He generally left administration to his brother-in-law, Kataya Vema Reddi, to pursue artistic and literary interests.

He was a great lover of music and dance and studied all the old works on dance written by Bharataacaaryas and dance-experts and produced a comprehensive work on that art called Vasantaraajeeya after his own name.  [1,145]

The sanskrit treatise on dance was called Vasantarajeeya as he was called Vasantaraya. A man of art and aesthetics was naturally a great lover of loveliness. He was said to have been enamoured by the narthaki Lakumadevi, who was a stunning beauty. The love story between the two is a touching tragedy, as recounted here, but is nevertheless symbolic of the sacrifice and burdens of ruling a kingdom.

Due to varied attacks from the Bahmanis, Recherlas, and Vijayanagara Emperors, Kumaragiri had many threats to face.  Kumaragiri eventually elevated Kataya Vema to generalissimo.

They were simultaneously attacked by the Gajapatis who were defeated outside of Viharanagari or Kridaad. Vijayanagara also attacked and occupied a portion of the south. Kumaragiri also had to face a rebellion by the Kandukuru branch, and prince Komati Reddi, son of Maacha I occupied territories as far as Tenali in Guntur district. [1, 148]

An invasion by the Bahmanis, under Firuz Shah, threatened the Reddi kingdom in 1398 C.E. “Gajaraavu Tippaa Naayaka, a distinguished noble of the kingdom, appears to have defeated the muslims on the plain outside the town of Kambamumetta and driven them back.” [1,147]

A matrimonial alliance was concluded with Vijayanagara, and Kataya Vema was given Harihara Raya’s daughter (Hariharamba) in marriage. This would have ramifications on the Reddi Kingdom in a few years. Kataya Vema would go on to make conquests in the East and expand the dynasty’s direct rule to Rajamahendri.

As mentioned previously, the campaigns to Bengal are better discussed in future articles. Nevertheless, Kumaragiri’s military commanders such as Kataya Vema and Allaya Reddi are said to have taken Vasantaraya’s banner to central and eastern India. Another name that bears mention is Ariyeti Annamantri (from the family of Musunuri fame). He was appointed governor of the fort of Bendapudi.

Kumaragiri’s only son and viceroy at Rajamahendravaram, Anavota II, died prematurely, some time around the year 1395. He therefore appointed his brother-in-law and prime minister Kaataya Vema the Raajamendri Rajya ruler, out of gratitude for recovering southern territories from Vijayanagara. “This step caused considerable discontent in the country and we cannot call Kumaaragiri’s action exactly wise. Kaataya Vema, always had many bitter opponents in the court. Peda Komati Vema and his supporters had always looked askance at his achievements; and their jealousy and resentment at this signal recognition by their king, of this daring rival of theirs must have been impossible to bear.” [1,146]

This led to an internecine dispute within the dynasty, and Pedda Komati Vema took back the throne for the main line of Reddis and drove away Kumaragiri, who took refuge in Kataya Vema’s court at Rajamahendri. This also led to division of the Reddi kingdom, and courts at Rajamahendravaram and Kondaveedu warred with each other. Kumaragiri Vijayam, rather ironically, marks his reign.

Vasantaraya’s rule ended under his viceroy’s protective care. King Kumaragiri passed away in 1402 C.E., with no heirs.

Achievements

HoliHai

While the Reddi Kings traditionally had reputations as warrior-generals and as defenders of Dharma, King Kumaragiri demonstrated the softer power of culture that they also wielded. If Kataya Vema represented the Vaana (bow) of his reign, Kumaragiri represented the Veena (lute).

Perhaps nothing showed this more than the Vasanta Utsava from which Vasantaraya takes his name. Although this title was also attributed to his predecessor, it is Kumaragiri who truly owned it. The enthusiasm with which he celebrated that festival, rightly earned him the title of Vasantaraaya, which was later embellished to Karpoora-Vasantaraaya by the generous quantities of camphor he scattered among people during this festival. [1, 145]

  • Celebrated and Revived the ancient Spring Festival known as Vasant Utsav
  • Well-read Sanskrit scholar and authority on dance and music
  • Composed a respected Sanskrit text on Dance called Vasantarajeeya (now lost).
  • Brought the Reddi Dynasty to new cultural heights, with not only learned Brahmanas but the Aristocracy and the King himself actively leading literary and musical accomplishment
  • Gave patronage to a large circle of cultural exemplars, such as poet Annaya, son of Pinnaya, son of Manuma Durgasuddhi.
  • Presided over the most widespread, successful campaigning of the Reddi Kingdom, with commanders such as Kataya Vema and Allaya Reddi. Under him, Coastal Andhra arms reached as far as Odisha, Bengal and Jharkhand.
  • Led a building programme which beautified Kondaveedu and constructed many structures such as the grha-raja samjhanam, dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi.

Legacy

Image result for kumaragiri reddy

Kumaragiri’s rule is recorded in the work Kumaragiri Vijayam. From his brave biruda-rahatta (knights-cavaliers) to his love for Lakumadevi to his Vasantarajeeya to his revival of the Vasant Utsava, Vasantaraya’s reign truly represented the noon-tide of the Reddi Rajyam: Romantic Age of Andhra.

King Kumaragiri was freed from burden of ruling & became a lover of music & arts. He was an artist (kalaavan) in every sense. “Vasantaraaya (another name of Kumaaragiri) constructed many pleasure houses (leelagrhaan) with gold and precious stones, a lofty palatial mansion, termed grharaaja-prasada with pinnacles (prasaadam-unnata-sikha griharaaja-samjnam), pleasure-ponds (kreedaasaraamsi) and pleasure-chariots (keli-radhaan), and sported with his beloved women (priyaabhih).” [1,449]

Despite the cultural accomplishment of Vasantaraya, his reign shows the dangers of a king completely outsourcing administrative responsibility to his Prime Minister and other officials. Kataya Vema was a skilled general and brave warrior, but his own ambition for power led to the break up of the Reddi kingdom. The Antar-yuddham or Civil War in which it was plunged in the later part of King Kumaragiri’s reign demonstrated this danger.

The Reddi kingdom split up in 1402 CE, with Pedda Komati Vema taking the throne of Kondaveedu from Kumaragiri, who fled to Rajamahendri. While Kumaragiri nominally ruled, it was Kataya Vema who was the real power behind the throne. It was thus natural that after Kumaragiri’s passing, that Kataya Vema would formalise his bid for power. Despite his loyalty to Kumaragiri, once the way was clear, he would make his own claim to the throne, and the warring of the Reddi kingdoms made the downfall of both inevitable.

In the succeeding decades, Vijayanagara would swallow up Kondaveedu and the Gangas of Odisha would take over Rajamahendravaram. Kumaragiri may not be directly to blame for this outcome, but his reign shows the danger of a king retiring completely from administration and becoming too dependent on ministers, and especially, prime ministers.

Nevertheless, Kumaragiri will remain Vasantaraya in the hearts of Andhras, not only for reviving this great festival, with which he is identified, but for truly making the Reddi Rajyam the Romantic Age of Andhra.

References:

  1. M.Somasekhara Sarma. History of the Reddi Kingdoms.Delhi:Facsimile Publ. 2015.
  2. Rao, P.R. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the earliest times to 1991. Delhi: Sterling. 1994
  3. http://gloriousindianpast.blogspot.com/2016/01/lakuma-devi.html
  4. Prasad, Durga. History of the Andhras. P.G. Publishers. 1988