THE ANTIQUITY OF ANDHRA : LITERARY AND CULTURAL GREATNESS
It was Appayyadikshita, a great poet, rhetorician and philosopher of South India, who declared that to be an Andhra and to speak Telugu is a rare gift won through a rigorous penance.
आन्ध्रत्वमान्ध्रभाषा च प्राभाकरपरिश्रम: |
तत्रापि याजुषी शाखा नाSल्पस्य तपस: फलम् ||
The Andhras are a society with a long antiquity. There are several references to Andhras in the Vedas, the epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Puranas as well as the Buddhistic literature. The foremost reference to Andhras as a race is as old as the Aitareyabrahmana of the Rig Veda. An episode in the Aitareyabrahmana goes like this.
Harischandra was performing a Yajna in which the sacrificial animal died before it was actually offered for the sacrifice. As a remedial measure, he had to substitute a human being. He accumulated a huge amount of money and wandered from door to door seeking a human being for the purpose. Having failed in his effort, he approached the sage Richika, brother- in- law of Viswamitra, and requested him to spare one of his children in exchange for the money. Although Richika had as many as three sons -- Sunahpuccha , Sunassepha and Sunolangula -- he refused to part with his eldest son while his wife Satyavati was unwilling to give away the youngest son. Thus it fell to the lot of Sunassepha, the middle boy, to oblige Harischandra and undergo the ordeal. While he was reluctantly following Harischandra, he came
across Viswamitra, his maternal uncle, and prostrated before him for relief from the predicament. Having taken pity on him, Viswamitra wanted any one of his own sons to follow Harischandra in lieu of Sunassepha. It so happened that one of his sons bore the name Andhra. Since none of his sons were willing, Viswamitra grew angry and cursed them.
Though not strictly relevant here, the reader may get curious to know the follow-up of this episode. At Viswamitra's instance, Sunassepha invoked Indra and got relieved of the surrogate sacrifice, as Indra was content with the function sans the sacrifice of life.
Though Andhras have existed even from Vedic times, nothing is known about their contribution to Sanskrit literature till recently. Apastamba was the first known person who contributed considerably to Grihya Sutras, a work in Sanskrit known as Apastamba Sutra and this work is the oldest literary contribution of Andhradesa.
Apastamba's assertion 'Atmalabhanna param vidyate kinchit ' which means that there is no higher knowledge than knowledge of one's own self, is said to be the cornerstone of Advaita Vedanta.
The Andhra region of India is a treasure house of rich culture and heritage. This land, though united geographically, is divided into three regions for administrative convenience : Coastal area, Telangana and Rayalaseema. The Coastal region is divinely identified with Saraswati, Rayalaseema, with Parvati, and Telangana, with Lakshmi. The ancient name of the State of Andhra Pradesh is Thrilingadesa as it is in the midst of three Sivakshetras, Draksharama, Kaleswara and Srisaila. This idea is expressed by Vidyanatha, a great rhetorician and a Poet Laureate in the court of King Prataparudra.
यैर्देशस्त्रिभिरेष याति महतीं ख्यातिं त्रिलिंगाख्यया
येषां काकतिराजकीर्तिविभवै: कैलासशैल: कृत: |
तं देवा: प्रसरत्प्रसादमधुरा: श्रीशैलकाळॆश्वर
द्राक्षारामनिवासिन: प्रतिदिनं त्वच्छ्रेयसे जाग्रतु ||
(Prataparudriyam of Vidyanadha, page-151)
The ancient Andhradesa is said to be somewhat different from and wider than the present Andhra Pradesh. According to Vidyanatha the Andhradesa bordered on Maharashtra in the West, Kalinga in the East, Pandya in the South and Kanyakubja in the North.
पश्चात्पुरस्तादपि यस्य देशौ ख्यातौ महाराष्ट्रकळिंगदेशौ |
अवागुदक्पाण्ड्यककन्यकुब्जौ देशस्स तत्रास्ति त्रिलिंगनामा ||
The geographical situations and other ambiance of Andhradesa are congenial for the development of education in all branches of knowledge. This region, which has earned the well-deserved title "the granary of South India" because of the lush green fields encompassing the area producing very rich harvest, is congenial for the spread also of mundane and transcendental knowledge.
The greatness of Andhradesa is also reflected in the writings of the Greek historian Megasthanes and the records of the Venitian traveller, Marco Polo, who visited this country during the reign of Rudramadevi of the Kakatiya race. Great personalities of the East and West have paid rich tributes to Andhradesa in respect of language, culture and heritage.
For example, while describing the greatness of Krishnadevaraya [A.D.1509-29], Barbosa, a famous historian of the West, says : "The king allows such freedom that every man may come and go and live according to his own creed without suffering any annoyance and without enquiring whether he is a Christian , Jew, Moor or Heathen. Great equity and justice is observed to all ,not only by the ruler but by the people to one another". [The Wonder That Was India; vol-2,by saa rizvee p-87.]
In literature, Andhras have made rich contributions in almost all branches of knowledge. In the words of Dr.V.Raghavan, an eminent critic and Indologist of the South, the Andhra output has been remarkable in quantity as well as quality. In Kavya, Andhra evolved a large variety of panegyrical poems, Prasasti Kavyas or Kshudra Prabandhas. Historical Kavya and Kavya by women writers are two other noteworthy features of the productions of Andhra. In some branches, the works of Andhra Sanskritists gained pan-Indian vogue. In Alamkara Sastra, the Prataparudriyam of Vidyanatha under the Kakatiyas initiated a form which was imitated in other areas. In several branches, the works produced in Andhra gained places of honour in the curriculum of studies in the respective branches all over India. There is no study of Veda without Sayana's commentary; no Advaita without Panchadasi and Jivanmuktiviveka; Annambhatta's Tarkasangraha and Dipika form the beginning of all study of Tarka; Jagannatha's Rasagangadhara occupies a similar position in Alamkara Sastra. Above all, one name is enough to highlight Andhra contribution to Sanskrit - Mallinatha, the prince of commentators, a name synonymous with the study of Sanskrit and the Panchamahakavyas with which that study begins.
So far we have had a broad idea of the contribution of Andhras to literature in general. We now take up their specific role with regard to Advaita Vedanta, the central topic of this paper.
The Vedanta philosophy -- the philosophy based on the concluding portion of the Vedas, i.e., Upanishads -- occupied a prominent place among the orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. The edifice of the entire Vedanta system is built mainly upon the literary tripod of the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and the Bhagavad-Gita which are known as Prasthanatraya. On the basis of the above works, Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhwa established their own theories - Advaita, Visistadvaita, and Dwaita respectively. Quite a number of people, scholars as well as laity, are aware of the unique nature of Advaita Vedanta. The essence of Advaita is summarized in the following line :
'Brahma satyam jaganmithya jivo brahmaiva naparah'
which means Brahman is the only reality and the world is not real and jiva is not other than Brahman Itself.
It may not be out of place here to mention that South India bags the credit of producing the principal Acharyas of Vedanta Darsana - Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Srikantha and Vallabha. All these celebrated exponents are from the South. Historically, Sankara was born in Kerala, Ramanuja in Tamilnadu, and Madhva in Karnataka. While on this nativity issue, Sri Kota Venkatachalam, a famous historian of Andhradesa, states that the surnames 'Asuri' and 'Nadiminti' of Ramanuja and Madhva respectively prove the Andhra nativity of their ancestors.
Ramanujacharya was the son of Asuri Kesavayajwan and Kantimathi, the sister of Mahapurna, a disciple of Yamunacharya. Ramanuja was born in 1017 A.D. Madhvacharya was the son of Madhyagehabhatta, who lived in the city of Rajatapitha, near Udipi which is about forty miles west of Sringeri, where there was a famous Mutt of Sankara. Vallabhacharya, the propounder of Suddhadvaita philosophy, [A.D. 1481-1533] also hailed from Andhradesa. He was born in the linege of Yajnanarayana Bhatta.
Nimbarka alias Nimbaditya alias Niyamananda is also said to be an Andhra who probably lived in Nimba or Nimbapura in the present Bellary district. His commentary on the Brahmasutras is called Vedantaparijathasourabha.
The early reference of Advaita in Andhradesa is found in the reign of Kakatiyas. There is an inscription on the thousand-pillared temple at Hanumakonda dated A.D.1163. The author of this inscription was Achintendradeva, son of Rameswarapandita. He flourished in the court of Kakatiyas from his very early life. He belonged to Bharadvajasagotra and was a disciple of Advayamritayathi [corpus-3;verse-4]. The name Advayamritayathi indicates that in the period of Kakatiyas the Advaita was in prominence. Similarly the very name 'Advayacharyatirumala' [A title of Annambhatta's father, Meligirimallinatha] and 'Advaitanandatritha' [a name adopted by Kurumganti Subrahmanyasastry in his later life after Asramasweekara] prove the prominence of Advaita in those days.
In this context, it is necessary to state that there were many scholars in Andhra who toiled for the development and preservation of Advaita Vedanta. Their monumental contribution can be divided into three categories:
1.Independent works 2.Commentaries and 3.Minor works.
Some scholars like Vidyaranya, Chitsukha and Bellamkonda Ramarayakavi wrote independent works while others like Gundayyabhatta wrote commentaries. For example, Chitsukha wrote Tattvapradipika, also known as Chitsukhi after his name, on Advaita Vedanta. Gundayyabhatta wrote a succulent commentary on the most difficult Advaita classic of Sri Harsha, The Khandanakhandakhadya. In addition to the above, many works were authored by scholars of the 19th century and beyond. Similarly, the contribution made by Mutts, Gurukulas and other educational institutions of higher learning deserves a scrutiny. Also, there were Mutts, Gurukulas, Principalities, besides individual pundits, all having made immense contribution to Advaita Vedanta.
In other words, the contribution made by Andhras to Advaita Vedanta is luminous and voluminous. An attempt is made in this paper to present the literary acumen of some of the scholars.