Dangerous to auspicious: vernacular transformations of a Telugu epic

Ilanit Loewy Shacham, Harshita Mruthinti Kamath

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Nannaya, an eleventh century court poet, is revered as the first poet (ādikavi) of Telugu literature, and his Mahābhāratamu is considered the first classical Telugu text. This article explores the ways in which Nannaya transformed the Sanskrit Mahābhārata into a vernacular idiom. While the Sanskrit Mahābhārata is a dangerous text associated with the conflicts of kingship, Nannaya's Telugu Bhāratamu is an auspicious regional retelling. We argue that this shift from dangerous to auspicious is connected to its author, the way he positions himself with respect to past epic poets, his royal patronage, and his use of vernacular metre, style, and form. The construction of the image and authority of Nannaya as the first Telugu poet relies on the figures of Vyāsa and Vālmīki, the traditional composers of the two Sanskrit epics, the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa, functioning as another site in which the dangers of the Mahābhārata are pacified.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalSouth Asian History and Culture
StatePublished - 2023


  • Mahābhārata


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