Tikkana Somayaji

Tikkana (1205-1288) was born into a family of Shaivite Brahmin litterateurs during the Golden Age of Kakatiya Empire.  He was the second poet of  “Trinity of Poets (Kavi Trayamu)” that translated “Mahabharamtamu” into Telugu over a period of several centuries.  Nannaya Bhattaraka was the first one and was also known as the First Poet (Aadi Kavi) who translated only 2.5 chapters- Aadi, Sabha and half of Aranya Parvams (chapters or books).  Tikkana translated last 15 chapters, but didn’t touch the half-finished Aranya Parvamu.  Telugu people had to wait for more than a century for the remaining half of the third chapter to be translated by Errana.

During the Shiva Kavi Period (see Shivakavi Trayamu, the Trinity of Shaivite Poets), new religions- Shaivism and Vaishnavism spread in Andhra, resulting in conflict among the two growing major religions and also the two major old religions- Budhism and Jainism. At this juncture, Tikkana attempted to bring piece between warring Shaivism and Vaishnavism.

Although most of the northern India came under Muslim rule, strong Chola, Chalukya and Kakatiya empires in the South prevented the Northern Indian Muslim onslaught.  Emperor Ganapatideva (1199-1261 AD) of Kakatiya Dynasty brought all the Telugu kingdoms under his rule for the first time.  With the strong Kakatiya Empire, the clashes between smaller kingdoms came under control making way for the prosperity and development of art and literature.

Tikkana was the Prime Minister of Manumasidhdhi, the King of Nellore and a tributary of Kakatiya Empire.  When Manumasidhdhi was dethroned by his cousins, Tikkana visited Oarugallu (the capital of Kakatiya Empire and today’s Warangal) to request the help of the Emperor Ganapatideva.  The Emperor gave him a grand welcome in Warangal and restored the Nellore throne to Manumasidhdhi.

Tikkana dedicated his first literary work “Nirvachanottara Ramayanamu,” to the king Manumasiddhi.  In this work he narrated the later part of Ramayanamu, the story of Sita’s banishment to forests and the birth of Lava and Kusa to Sita in the forest. Later, Tikkana translated Mhabharatamu.

The specialty of his style of writing is that it is mostly Telugu, unlike Nannayya.  Nannayya’s work was mostly sanskritized, with difficult Sanskrit words.  Tikkana used Telugu words even to express very difficult expressions and ideas. He Telugized the Sankrit sayings and used them in his work.  He extensively used Telugu proverbs and parables. He even modified and used the informal and slang Telugu.

The flavor of Telugu national similes spice up his poetry, e.g., madugu jeerayandu masi daakintlu- as if pure white cheera (sari) is touched by soot,  paalalo badina balli vidhambuna-like the lizard in the milk, neyvosina yagni bhangi- like the fire in which neyyi (clarified butter) was poured, mantalo midutalu chochchinatlayina- fate of  locusts flew into the fire, kantikin reppayu bole- like the eyelid for the eye, nooti kappa vidhambuna- like a frog in the well, etc.

During the reign of Emperor Ganapatideva, Shaivites, Vaishnvites, Jains and Buddhists were fighting among themselves. The emperor arranged for religious meetings to control this religious intolerance.  Tikkana participated in those religious meetings and defeated the Budhist and Jain participants and established Brahminism. During this time he proposed the unity of God. He preached that Lord Shiva (Hara) and Lord Vishnu (Hari) were one and that the apparent differences in names were made up and were untrue.  This philosophy is known as “Hariharaadvaitamu (the Unity of Hari and Hara).”  To firmly establish this principle, Tikkana translated Mahabharatamu into Telugu.  This was a great contribution to the peace and unity of Telugus, who were fighting bloody religious wars among themselves.

Thanks to such great philosophers and their hard work, the Indian religions are synthesized into one Indian complex religion, called Hinduism today in which respect for each and every distinct and diverse component religions of the Indian Continent such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Buddhism, Jainism, Shaktism, etc. and even outside religions like Christianity, Islam, Judaism etc. are equally respected. Telugus don’t fight among themselves on these grounds anymore.  Today, Telugus visit both Shivaite and Vaishnavite and other temples.  In North America, Indians went a step further and built modern temple complexes where they pray to Shiva, Vishnu and many more Gods together, representing the indigenous religions of the vast Indian Continent.

Tikkana’s  other literary contributions include Vijayasenamu, Kavivaagbandhamu, Krishnasatakamu, etc.  Though he was second to Nannayya in attempting to translate Mahabharatamu and second poet among the Trinity of Poets, he is second to none in his political, religious and literary accomplishments.

Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, 10/07/1999.

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