Even as we celebrate the fourth World Telugu Conference, it is time to work towards restoring the past glory to Telugu language and culture.
Telugu land produced numerous scholars like Apasthamba, celebrated author of Sutras; Dignaga, reputed logician; Nagarjuna, founder of Mahayana Budhism and others. A university of merit flourished in Amaravati. And the stupas, carvings of Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda are reflected in the Ajanta caves. Their empires stretched from India to Nepal and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Telugus gave India the era of Salivahana, who colonised the west coast of erstwhile Burma. Andhra’s oldest communities are said to date back to 500 B.C as mentioned in Aitareya Brahmana literature. Budhist Jatakas show their reign extended from the river Telavaha in the central province to the present Telangana region and to Tirupati in the South. The Hatigumpha inscription of Kharvela (180 B.C.) indicates the powerful Satavahana dynasty established by Srimukha ruled over the Deccanin the last quarter of third century. The Mughals invaded these lands after the rule of Chalukyas, Satavahanas and Kakatiyas. People in the region gradually developed their language, literature and culture. Enterprising rulers Pallavas of Kanchi, Rayas of Vijayanagara and Nayakas of Tanjore and Madurai were all Telugus. According to Prof. Dubreuil, the Pallava prince Mahendravarman ruled Telugu region; Rock-cut temples were commissioned by him in Kanchi on lines of the buildings in Amaravati. These kings not only acquired political identity but also patronised great architecture. The literature from the time of Hala down to Vijayanagara was enriched by poets in royal courts. Works based on puranas and epics by Nannaya down to Ketana, Nachana, Pothana and Srinatha enriched literature. Ships sailed from Krishna and Godavari rivers to distant Burma, Indo-China and Java, all indicated in coins that Satavahana and Pallava princes minted. The later periods of Krishnadevaraya who ruled almost the entire South with Vijayanagara as capital bore a great history that is still cherished.
The days of glory seem to be a thing of the past. Telugu language is in no currency now. With the changing times, Telugu language has been eroded of its richness. Even schools have failed to protect Telugu. Losing one’s mother tongue means losing knowledge of history and culture of the land.
This is even more evident in the period between the first World Telugu Conference held in Hyderabad in 1975 and the fourth festival now being held in Tirupati. We need to preserve Telugu in its pure form. Telugu is ‘Ajanta Bhasha’, meaning words ending with ‘Acchulu’ (vowels). It is a language carved out of Sanskrit, retaining all its alphabets. Some feel that Telugus in India do not match up to non-resident Indians in showing their love for the language. Our NRIs even got Telugu language introduced in some Universities in the United States, says TANA president Totakura Prasad. He extols people in the mainland, “Please teach your children Telugu at least as much as we do in America.”
The State Government recently announced its intention to make Telugu compulsory in all schools. The TTD plans to hold verse writing and verse rendition competitionsto preserve classical literature. It is necessary to create separate libraries to preserve age old books and reprint those that have been lost over time, including some compositions by Thyagaraja and Bhakta Ramadasu. Telugu university plans to get Krishnadevaraya’s Amuktamalyada reprinted. This fourth World Telugu Conference in Tirupati is the right platform to deliberate on all these lapses. Apart from presentations of dance, drama and music, seminars on culture and language are to be held. We hope this festival will be a turning point in the revival of Telugu culture and language.
The fourth edition of World Telugu Conference will conclude on December 29.