Nannaya Bhattaraka was one of the greatest poets of Telugu in Andhra Pradesh in 11th century AD. He was contemporary of other two famous poets named Tikkana and Errana. These three poets were together known as the Kavi-Traya or the Great Trio of Telugu literature. His full name is Nannaya Bhattaraka and is well known as Aadi Kavi, which means the first poet.
Nannaya wrote the Mahabharatamu in 1030 AD, which is considered as the landmark in the history of Telugu literature and the earliest available literature in Telugu. The sophisticated and developed language in Mahabharatamu signifies that it probably is not the earliest works of Telugu literature. But the unavailability of any Telugu literature preceding Nannaya, other than royal grants and decrees, gives it the earliest recognition. This is the Telugu version of the original Mahabharata in Sanskrit and Nannaya freely used Sanskrit words and expressions in his version of writing. It is believed that Nannaya wrote this work at the behest of the king Rajaraja Narendra (1022-1063 A.D.), as he was his patron. Nannaya analysed all the Telugu lexis of the time, and launched Sanskrit terminology, as well as Kannada literature and vocabulary. Hence a distinctive literary approach and grammar was developed by him. Nannaya was a Brahmin and he was writing under this Chalukyan ruler of Vengi (Andhra region).
Nannaya broke the traditional native style, which were used in folk-literature of that time in his Mahabharatamu. He brought the Marjja, which means Sanskrit tradition, in Telugu literature. Therefore, his writings contained more Sanskrit than Telugu words. Nannaya's Mahabharatamu was not a mere translation of Vyasa's great epic; he revealed originality in the composition. Hence, it became one of the greatest literary pieces of the Telugu language.
The Mahabharata written by Nannaya in Telugu is not a complete one. He wrote only the Adi Parva and the Sabha Parva and a part of the Vana Parva. Many reasons were given for this unfinished work. According to one of such reason, it is said that this entire epic ought not to be written in one stretch, but Nannaya flouted this norm and as a result became mad and thus the work was left incomplete. Later, in 13th century this incomplete version of Telugu Mahabharata was completed by other two poets named Tikkanna and Errana. So, it took more than 300 years in total to complete it.
Nannaya translated about 142 verses of Aadi, Sabha and Aranya chapters of Sanskrit Mahabharat. He made several alterations to the original version and re-wrote his own version of Andhra Mahabharatamu by modification, addition and removal of certain elements. But he did not change the storyline and kept the language enjoyable to the reader.
Moreover, Nannaya Bhattaraka also wrote the Andhra Shabda Chintamani, in Sanskrit in 11th century A.D. this thesis is considered as the first in Telugu grammar, and in line with Panini's Ashtadhyayi.
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