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Identity of Modern Telugus – Yamada Keiko ఆగస్ట్ 28, 2010

Posted by Telangana Utsav in Andhra, Culture, Identity, regionalism, SRC, Telangana, Telugu.
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Origin and Historical Evolution of the Identity of Modern Telugus
Yamada Keiko
Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLV No.34 August 21, 2010

The “linguistic principle” following the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 was framed as a cultural bond and administrative facilitator for socio-economic prosperity. It has not only been challenged intermittently but also contested as a unifying concept. From the historical point of view, the emergence of the current separate Telangana movement of Andhra Pradesh is testimony to the failure or even death of regional historiography or history consciousness, out of which the Telugu people’s identity once sought to evolve. The historical understanding of a small group of Telugu intellectuals under colonialism finally developed into an imagined common historiography of the Telugus as Andhras. Giving the name “Andhra” to the Telugu region in the 20th century was arbitrary and was due to the intervention of a new historical consciousness emerging among Telugu intellectuals. From the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, describing the Telugu people as Andhras and the Telugu region as the Andhra region was not a simple matter of naming. It was an example of a particular historical interpretation that was rooted in colonialism and modernisation. The history of a separate Telangana movement, in a sense, follows a process to bid farewell to the colonial legacy of a modern intellectual tradition formed around regional language and history.

The significance of a common language as a major attribute defining a nation or an ethnic group has come under scrutiny in India. The “linguistic principle” following the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 was framed as a cultural bond and administrative facilitator for socio-economic prosperity. It has been challenged intermittently and contested as a unifying concept.

Andhra Pradesh was formed by combining Telangana, the eastern part of the former Hyderabad princely state, with the Andhra state, after the Andhra movement to integrate Telugus into a single political unit. The former Andhra state, the first “linguistic state” of post-independence India, was carved out of the Madras Presidency in 1953, following an emotional upheaval triggered by the fast- unto- death of Potti Sriramulu. The violence following Sriramulu’s death was responsible for Jawaharlal Nehru’s reluctant adoption of the linguistic principle in the federal system, and for his consent to the formation of the first state for Telugu-speaking people of the region. Indeed, it is ironic that Andhra Pradesh, a larger state combining the regions of Telugu-speaking people from the Madras Presidency and the Hyderabad princely state is now facing a demand for a bifurcation and the creation of a sub-regional state – Telangana – irrespective of the language.

However, the demand for a separate Telangana was not new and has a long history, beginning with the arguments and disturbances against the initial merger of the Telangana region with the Andhra state before the Reorganisation Act came into force. Except when violence swept across the Telangana region during 1968 and 1969 for a separate state, it remained a forgotten issue. In 1972, another movement for a separate Andhra state (The Jai Andhra Movement) erupted but ended when president’s rule was imposed in 1973.

In all the debates on Telangana, the main focus is on socio-economic issues like the backwardness of the region, the coastal people’s dominance in employment, and overall indifference towards development on the part of politicians and administrators ever since the birth of the state. All these would have been solved, it was assumed, if the safeguards spelt out under the Mulki agreement had been implemented. However, that did not happen. The key reason behind the emergence of the current separate Telangana movement cannot be solely attributed to the failure of the “linguistic principle” to unite people. From the historical point of view, it is a crucial testimony to the failure or even death of a regional historiography or history consciousness, out of which the Telugu people’s identity once sought to evolve. In this paper, we will see how the historical understanding of a small group of Telugu intellectuals under colonialism finally developed into an imagined common historiography of the Telugus as Andhras. We will also refer to the potential that the terminology “Telangana” once had but is now lost and forgotten. The history of a separate Telangana movement is, in a sense, following the process to bid farewell to the colonial legacy of a modern intellectual tradition formed around a regional language and history.

1 Language Domains and Linguistic States
A name is not just a noun. It appropriates the past and the future to the extent that its connotation allows it to. Therefore, the act of naming, as well as its selection from among options, is a political element worthy of historical debate. “Andhra” in contemporary usage is first of all a place name, such as Andhra Pradesh in a broad sense, or in a narrow sense the Krishna-Godavari basin that is commonly regarded as the heartland of Telugu culture. So when one says “he is a Andhra” he is considered to be from the coastal area but not from Telangana. Applying the word Andhra to Telugu people “at large” is an unusual practice, but was not unusual in history. A dynastic tract did not have to care for the geographical distribution of languages, and so from the time of the ancient Satavahanas to the British period, the Telugu-speaking area was either ruled by bigger dynasties or divided into smaller kingdoms. Even the medieval Kakatiyas, who covered relatively the territory closest to Andhra Pradesh, ruled not more than two-thirds of Andhra Pradesh.1 In that sense, today’s Andhra Pradesh is a rare political unit demarcated overall by language boundaries, and the origin of such an idea cannot be traced back to the pre-British period. Moreover, it seems to be almost the consensus among scholars that the coincidence between language and political domains as well as people’s aspiration is a modern phenomenon in general.2
Thus, the viewpoint that the linguistic states are, after all, fictitious apparatus lacking any historically substantial socio-economic foundation is often expressed by scholars.3 However, in the writer’s view such seemingly resolute opinions may enclose questions about the important issue of language in history that are still left unanswered. In fact, even though major political boundaries could be drawn irrespective of language distribution, the reverse does not always seem to be so. To what extent the geography of “actual” languages is cut from or coincides with any dimensions of political, economic and social reality is an issue that has not yet been probed in depth. We need to cite M N Srinivas here to remember that the geographical distribution of dominant castes corresponds, though roughly, to that of local languages.4 Not only dominant castes but many castes are so aligned with their languages that they are often recognised elsewhere by the names of these languages. For example, Kamma or Reddi are recognised as “Telugu castes” in Tamil Nadu or Karnataka even hundreds of years after migration, and they often speak Telugu at home. This is more so in the case of the brahmins and the rich, since probably they tend to maintain old marriage networks that would easily help them to preserve their “mother tongue”. So, since the caste, language and marriage networks are related to one another, it is natural to presume that the language domain is an indicator of certain socio-economic dimensions of people’s lives.
Language, after all, is not a self-contained autistic culture but a social system. Interestingly, Bh Krishnamurti, in his linguistic study of Telugu agricultural words and their isoglosses, found the correlation between the formation of dialects and the dynastic tracts of the past.5 This may be applied to individual languages also. In spite of that, the reason why linguistic states appear to be an ineffective institution is that the political economy within a state’s boundary is different from its language domain. Moreover, it is not as if the language has nothing to do with the state’s socio-economy or politics (in fact it does) but that it only represents a dimension, like religion or jati, among the many which compose the multilayered structure of people’s lives. Even the state’s boundary is one of these whether or not it is linguistic in nature.

2 The Relation between ‘Andhra’ and ‘Telugu’
It would be worth reviewing at this point of time the historical formation of the Telugus and also what has been said so far. All students learn that Dravidians migrated from north-west India upon the precedent Austro-Asian inhabitants. These proto-Dravidians are said to have been ramified between pre-Telugu and the rest around the 11th century BC somewhere in the Deccan.6 Next is the Ashoka edict of Erragudi village of the third century BC, the first written evidence. Since there are regional variations of the Ashokan Prakrit, some elements of the local language must have been reflected in the Erragudi Prakrit, too. However, the distinct local characteristics which developed into Telugu appeared much later than Ashoka, and some peculiar names of places and persons are found in Prakrit inscriptions since the second century AD. Besides, according to the phonological analysis of the regional variations of the past tense of Telugu, it is concluded that two out of the three regional dialects today were the later developments out of the other one.7 We do not know much about this period, but this may suggest that the earliest group of Telugu people was small and linguistically homogeneous and its influence spread over today’s Telugu region much later. Or that there were some unknown and lost Telugu groups out of which only one survived for some reason and its linguistic culture began to spread from a certain point of time.

The oldest evidence directly referring to the existence of a distinct local language is the Brihat Katha, written down from the oral tradition sometime between the third and seventh century AD. Unfortunately, the original version was lost for good, and what we have now are its Sanskrit renderings of a much later period which have undergone many editions and revisions, called the Katha Sarit Sagara. The stories in Katha Sarit Sagara may not be the same as those in the Brihat Katha, but how the legendary Satavahana king became the first editor of the book was explained in Katha Sarit Sagara. The important reference here is the names of four local languages at the time of the Satavahana king. These are Sanskrit, Prakrit, Paishachi and Desi. The original Brihat Katha was said to have been written in Paishachi, a kind of Prakrit.8 So, since the former three have been Indo-European languages, only the last one, “Desi”, indicates an indigenous Dravidian language, a kind of ancient Telugu. Except the Katha Sarit Sagara, the first reference seems to be by Hsuan-tsang in the seventh century, which says that the language as well as its sound is different from those of central India but the script rule is almost the same.9
After going through the period of fragmental inscription evidences, we come across the first Telugu classic in the 11th century, Nannaya’s Andhra Mahabharatam. Interestingly, Nannaya’s Telugu was archaic even when it was being written, and the literal language of the “upper class” is supposed to have diverged from the spoken language five or six centuries before Nannaya,10 that is, the fifth to sixth century. Andhra during this period, i e, from the fall of the Satavahanas and the emergence of the eastern Chalukyas, was generally considered to be in a political jumble, and in economic decline and the caste hierarchy with the dominance of the brahmins in villages was taking form.11 So, the development of the literary tradition of the “upper class” out of the rest must have related to such social stratification. But not only that, this bifurcation is important when we trace back the relation between the two words, “Andhra” and “Telugu”.

The first one to appear in the sources is “Andhra”, not “Telugu”. The oldest evidence is in the Aitareya Brahmana of Rg Veda, which says that Visvamitra cursed his 50 sons to live on the borders of the Aryan settlements, one of which was inhabited by the “Andhra tribe”. Such references to tribal Andhra appear in epics and the Puranas also. However, if we remember the aforesaid opinion that the distinct features of local language started appearing only after the second century AD, no one can be sure of the concrete relation between the Andhra tribe and the Telugu language. In the first century AD, Pliny, citing from Megasthenes of the fourth century BC, wrote that the Andhras were independent and militarily very powerful. The Andhras in Pliny’s reference are legendary, but it is well known that the “Andhrabritiya” in the Puranas was found to be the same as the “Satavahana” in the inscriptions. Hanumantha Rao opined that the Andhras, on the analogy of Aryavarta, lent their originally tribal name to the land in which they had settled.12 G N Reddi also wrote that Andhra was the tribal name that turned out to have been applied to the name of its region.13 It is noteworthy that Hsuan-tsang also described the eastern Chalukyas under the name of the “Andhra country”, and so “Andhra” as designating a region, or dynasty, seems to have prevailed in the seventh century.14

As far as the ancient usage of “Andhra” was concerned, except for some Greek and Chinese sources mentioned earlier, it was always found in Sanskrit sources either in the form of literature or inscriptions. One may argue that this is because it is genuinely a Sanskrit word used by orthodox brahmins. Both the pioneers of modern Telugu studies, C P Brown and K Viresalingam also classified it as such.15 However, more importantly, the proper noun of this particular local language before Nannaya is not known, except for “Desi” in Katha Sarit Sagara, and thus the language was nameless in the records. But, as a result, the meaning of “Andhra” changed and it was finally used to signify the indigenous language. According to R Caldwell, the first evidence of “Andhra” being used for the local Dravidian language was by Kumarila-bhatta in the seventh century who referred to “Andhra-Dravida Bhasha”.16 Then in the 11th century, Nannaya wrote in the Andhra Mahabharatam, the name of the local language for the first time in native terminology in two spellings, “Tenungu” and “Tenugu”. However, he also wrote “Andhra Bhasha” in inscriptions.17 And from the 11th century onwards “Andhra” appeared as the language name also. So, summing up, “Andhra” was a Sanskrit word for a tribe in the beginning, next applied to its region or dynasty, and then to the local language after the 11th century.

Compared to “Andhra”, “Telugu”’ made an appearance much later. Although Nannaya wrote “Tenungu” and “Tenugu”, the honour of being the first user of the exact spelling of today’s “Telugu” goes to the second author of Andhra Mahabharatam, Tikkana, in the 13th century. He, in fact used three nouns, “Telugu”, “Tenungu”, and “Telungu”. According to two Telugu phonological rules, (i) “n” drops, and (ii) “n” and “l” are interchangeable, “Tenungu” and “Telungu” are supposed to be the oldest forms and changed into “Telugu” and “Tenugu” later. If we consider the previous argument that Nannaya’s language was already archaic, these words must have been used colloquially much before. And all these four varieties: “Tenungu”, “Tenugu”, “Telungu” and “Telugu” always meant the language, unlike “Andhra” that underwent semantic changes. So, now we can conclude that at least by the 11th century there were two vocabulary groups for the local language name. One is the Sanskrit “Andhra” group, and the other is the non-Sanskrit group with “Tenungu”, “Telugu” and so on. The former was used by brahmins and the latter by others, mostly non-brahmins. C Talbot maintains that “Telugu” and “Andhra” came to be used interchangeably after the 11th century.18 Her observation is explained by the fact that the semantic gap between them must have become narrower as “Andhra” came to be used more and more for the Telugu language.

The question now is, ever since “Andhra” came to mean the Telugu language, did its previous meaning of tribe or region survive or not. In other words, did people continue to indicate or find in the word “Andhra” any meanings of tribe and region. In my opinion, it is doubtful that such ancient usage survived for long after the 11th century.
3 ‘Andhra’, ‘Telugu’ and ‘Telingana’ in the 19th Century
As far as the author’s study goes, Orientalists recognised “Andhra” simply as a Sanskrit name of the Telugu language and nothing else. For example, C P Brown wrote that “Andhram” is the Sanskrit name for “Telugu”,19 and A D Campbell also explained Gentoo (the European name for Telugu) thus:

(Gentoo) is the Andhra of Sanskrit authors, and, in the country where it is spoken, is known by the name of the Trilinga, Telinga, Teloogoo, or Tenoogoo.20

In fact, Orientalists knew well that in ancient times “Andhra” meant region too. However, Campbell wrote that the ancient Telugu region was composed of two subdivisions, the northern Kalinga and the southern Andhra.21 The view that Andhra was only a part of the Telugu region was accepted by R Caldwell also, and he explained how a regional name changed into the language name later. He said that the people in Andhra had progressed more than their counterparts in Kalinga and therefore Sanskrit writers gave the name to the language commonly spoken in both areas.22 Though different from these, another instance is that in the Godavari region Telugu brahmins were called Andhras so as to distinguish them from other brahmins.23 From these descriptions, we learn that “Andhra” was not the name of a region or a people. It is also worth recollecting that the first collected works of Telugu literature written by K Viresalingam was the “History of Andhra Poets” (aandhra kavula caritram), and in that “Andhra” meant only the Telugu language.

However, this Sanskrit name was neglected by Oriental linguists. They recognised only “Telugu” as the language name, and also gathered other variations of it that were not seen in Nannaya and Tikkana. For example, Campbell mentioned “Telinga” and “Trilinga” as cited above, and Caldwell wrote “Telinga” and “Tailinga” adding to “Telungu”, “Tenugu” and “Tenungu”.24 Brown maintained that “Tailinga” and “Telinga” were used by Muslims and those of unknown origin.25 Caldwell also said that the name has been “corrupted” still further by Muslims and foreigners.26 As for the spelling, a French missionary in the 18th century wrote “Telougou”, “Talenga”, etc.27 Campbell spelled it as “Teloogoo”. Sometime later, Brown, Caldwell and others used the same spelling current today, i e, “Telugu”. Why they chose only “Telugu” and discarded other options is not known. The problem here is not that they dismissed “Telinga” or “Tenugu”, but that they did not select “Andhra”. One may guess that this was so because “Telugu” is a Telugu word, not Sanskrit, and majority of the people were Telugu speakers, not Sanskrit users. This may be correct, but such a selection was presumed by some to impose the “Dravida” label not only on the language but also on the racial origin of the people which they found distressing.

As for the name of regions, colonial rulers definitely never considered that language was relevant to regional categorisation. Regions were basically revenue units, their boundaries drawn according to the time of the annexation. Thus, in the Madras Presidency, such divisions like “Tamil”, “Kannada” and so on were not enforced, and the zamindari and ryotwari distinctions came first. In the Telugu area also, after zamindari and ryotwari divisions, ryotwari was subdivided into Circar and Ceded districts, and then the district and taluk followed. Circar is the coastal deltaic region given to the British by the Nizam of Hyderabad, and its name, meaning “the land of the Nizam”, was originally used by the French who ruled the area earlier and was adopted by the British later. The Ceded districts, known as Ralayaseema today, is southern dry inland area literally “ceded” by the Nizam after Circar. However, though the British rulers did not think that the language domain was administratively useful, Telugus themselves seem to have had their own vocabularies to denote their linguistic region at large. For example, Campbell wrote that the Telugu country was “known by the name of Modogalingum or Trilingam”.28 Caldwell also explained that the overall Telugu-speaking region was called “Telingana”:

Telugu is spoken all along the eastern coast of the Peninsula, from the neighbourhood of Pulicat, where it supersedes Tamil, to Chicacole, where it begins to yield to the Oriya, and inland it prevails as far as the eastern boundary of the Maratha country and Mysore, including within its range the ‘Ceded districts’ and Karnul, a considerable part of the territories of the Nizam, or the Hyderabad country, and a portion of the Nagpur country and Gondvana. The district thus described was called Telingana by the Muhammedans.29

The word “Telingana” seems to be widely recognised as the name of the Telugu region, and so simple descriptions such as “Telinganaa, that is Telugu region” are seen in the administrative records also.30 Since “Telingana” and “Telinga”, “Trilinga”, “Telinga”, “Tailinga” and “Telugu” sound similar, naturally the controversy over their etymologies arose. Caldwell wrote at length to show that “Telugu” came from “Trilinga”, but it was not “tri-linga” (three lingas) as was insisted by the Telugu pundits and denied by Brown. It was “tri-kalinga” (three regions of Kalinga).31

The focus of this paper is not to argue about the derivation of these words. However, there are two key points to be examined. First, even before the British reign began, some vocabularies of the locals meaning Telugu-speaking region at large were already in existence, and “Telingana” was one of them. Second, whatever the relation may be between “Telingana” and “Telugu”, or “Telugu” and “Trilinga”, and whatever the sources may say about the ancient origin of these words, throughout the 19th century, people’s practice of uttering “Telingana” was considered to be associated with Muslims as cited in the above instances. The latter point in fact needs further verification. My inference is that although it is commonly agreed that after the Circar and Ceded districts were given away to the British the remaining region left in the hands of the Nizam was “Telangana”, the semantic possibility of this word was actually much wider, and as a matter of choice the more adequate and satisfactory proper noun for the overall Telugu region must have been “Telingana” or even “Telangana”, rather than “Andhra”. So giving the name “Andhra” overall to the Telugu region in the 20th century was arbitrary and was due to the intervention of a new historical consciousness emerging among the Telugu intellectuals.

4 ‘Andhra’ and ‘Andhras’

The critical cause for the modern revival of the word “Andhra” was the rediscovery of ancient history that many educated Telugus encountered through Orientalists narratives, and that uncovered information that was unknown till then. The first one is the existence of the ancient “Andhra tribe”. The individual episodes in Aitareya Brahmana in Rg Veda were obviously not known before the Orientalists made them public. The second one is the existence of the “Andhra dynasty” written in the Puranas and particularly its impressive description by the Greeks as a strong and independent kingdom comparable with the Maurya dynasty to the extent that prominent foreigners wrote about it. Studies by R G Bhandarkar and others on the Satavahanas found that the Andhras ruled widely from Coromandel to Arabian Sea and traded with the Roman Empire at its zenith. The third one is the Buddhist culture. The series of discoveries in Amaravati on the bank of lower Krishna by Mackenzie from the end of the 18th century was described by G Fergusson as the biggest discovery next only to Princep’s deciphering of the Ashoka scripts.32 Extensive archaeological excavations revealed that the coastal region was once the centre of Buddhism and produced the unique tradition of art, namely the Andhra school before the Gandhara school. The neighbouring Nagarjunakonda was perceived as the place where Nagarjuna, the giant of Madhyamika Mahayana of Buddhism, was active. These discoveries in history reflect the values of Orientalists in those days. They had a strong interest in big dynasties or empires, their links with Europe (Greece and Roma), and high appreciation for Buddhism.

By the time this history prevailed among the educated, the word “Andhra” came to be seen as a historical domain of much gravity, not just a simple Sanskrit alternation of Telugu language. Thus, Bhandarkar wrote in his Early History of the Dekkan:

The Andhras, who in these days are identified with the Telugu people, lived about the mouth of the Godavari or perhaps farther to the north.33

This sentence shows that two new historical interpretations had emerged by his time. First, the Telugus were not merely Telugu speakers but were the “Andhras” who descended from glorious Andhra ancestors. And second, such Andhras originally inhabited the coastal region and then spread all over. Such definition of the Telugus as the Andhras was seen in other authentic Indian history at the beginning of the 20th century, too. For example, V A Smith gave a much clearer picture of the Andhras in his Ancient History of India in 1904:
In the days of Chandragupta Maurya and Megasthenes, the Andhra nation, a Dravidian people, now represented by the large population speaking the Telugu language, occupied the deltas of the Godavari and Krishna (Kistna) rivers on the eastern side of India, was reputed to possess a military force second only that at the command of the king of the Prasii, Chandragupta Maurya.34

Descriptions such as these were quickly adopted by the Telugus, and cited with much appreciation in their historiographies. The most notable examples were two pioneering works, the Hindu Desa Katha Samgraha (The Brief History of India) by Kommaraju Venkata Lakshmana Rao, the first historiography of India written in Telugu, and the other, Andhrula Charitram (The History of the Andhras) by Chilukuri Virabhadra Rao, the monumental first historiography of the Telugu region in the Telugu language by a Telugu historian.35 K V Lakshmana Rao is known as the father of modern education in Telugu, since he propagated the need for modern science and history education in Telugu. He started the publishing enterprise Vignana Chandrika Mandali, and became its chief editor. Its first publication was the first volume of his book in 1907. C Virabhadra Rao was his assistant and published the first volume of his Andhrula Charitram from Vignana Chandrika Mandali in 1910. Lakshmana Rao contributed the preface which says:
Andhrulu (the Andhra people) in ancient times enjoyed glory. But those who don’t have history knowledge mistook that Andhrulu did not have glorious past, and created the theory that Andhrulu came from Maharashtra thinking that the glory would increase by mixing Maharashtra connection! However, this book clarifies that we do not need such weak state of mind as making effort to borrow others’ name, that Andhrulu were not born from the Maharashtrians but actually Maharashtrians might have been born from Andhrulu, that once in ancient times country flourished with high civilisation and intellectual prosperity, and that Andhrulu were not inferior people to others.36

Needless to say, the Andhrulu (the Andhra people) in this context were not just the Telugu speakers, but a people who had a glorious history as Andhras. C Virabhadra Rao in his introductory remarks mentioned his great gratitude to the Orientalist historians and acknowledged as follows:

Our literatures have many difficulties to know the true history. Our ancestor rajas did not leave us the methods necessary to understand the accurate history. In their times, though they wrote inscription to announce their laws, conducts, religions, powers and conquest and erected stone pillars or held metal inscriptions, all of them ruined as time goes by, and were just left surrounded by fire without anybody seeing. To God’s mercy, recently we came under the British rule, and our rulers spend all money and pain for useful works to find out our Indian ancient history and discovered. …Therefore to our rulers and truth-pursuer western scholars, we, as Andhrulu, have to express our special gratitude. Only by their unrelenting hard works the excellence of our ancient Andhrulu was revealed.37

So, it is clear that the concept of a linguistic nation, the Telugus who are the real descendents of ancient Andhras and who spread from their homeland Godavari-Krishna basin, built a glorious past and became the present Telugus, is the result of colonial learning of modern scholarship. In fact, there was no need to believe that the Telugus had spread from the coastal region, since in those days linguists estimated that the Dravidians possibly came from the north.38 Lakshmana Rao and Virabhadra Rao were familiar with these works but they were obsessed with the idea that the coastal region was the citadel of the Telugus since the history was based there. Their learning was not totally passive but it was selective. From the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, describing the Telugu people as Andhras and the Telugu region as the Andhra region was not a simple matter of naming. It was an example of a particular historical interpretation that was rooted in colonialism and modernisation.

5 Social Change and Nationalism

In writing popular regional history, Telugu intellectuals at the beginning of the 20th century were responsible for inducing people to pay special attention to two theories. The first one is, as already explained, was that the coastal region is the homeland of the Telugus. The Orientalists’ vision that the coastal region is the centre was very much welcome since, from the end of the 19th century, the Niyogis, whose population was concentrated in the Krishna-Godavari delta, emerged as modern local leaders backed by English education and socio-economic development of the deltaic region. Niyogi is a major sub-caste of brahmins whose traditional occupation was the village secretary, but they ranked below the Vaidikis who were eligible to learn Sanskrit. As they stayed away from Sanskrit learning and orthodox Hindu rituals, they turned to modern education faster and led and participated in modern literature movements and socio-religious reform movements, as typically seen in K Viresalingam’s case. Some of them also started wearing the sacred thread, performing pujas instead of inviting the Vaidikis, and learning Sanskrit and the Vedas. The Niyogi caste association is the first such association in the Telugu region, and was organised in 1903 to demand Hindu religious rights.39

The rise of the Niyogis had much to do with that of other groups. One of them was a merchant group. For example, A Kaleswara Rao wrote about the Komatis who adopted Hindu rituals, but when the Vaidikis refused to perform these rituals for them, the Niyogis performed them instead.40 The Pyda, a rich Komati, was also known as one of K Viresalingam’s patrons. Another group was that of the zamindars. They were major providers of higher education since the modern education in Telugu region was backward compared to other parts of Madras Presidency, and the colleges founded by the Vizianagaram, Pithapuram and Bobbili rajas were very reputed. They were also active in running literal and cultural salons and publishing, like the Andhra Sahitya Parishad and Vignana Chandrika Mandali. The Niyogis were the most active in such activities. The third group, the rich peasants, was the most important. The construction of anicut and irrigation facilities on both sides of the Godavari and Krishna rivers and also infrastructure like roads and railways brought rapid agricultural and commercial development in the delta since the 1880s, and as a consequence, a substantial “middle peasantry”, in D A Washbrook’s words, emerged.41 They started conducting conferences and meetings to discuss agricultural problems like irrigation or increase of revenue from the 1890s, and when they inaugurated the first district conference, Krishna Mandala Sabha, in 1892, a Niyogi and also a member of the Indian National Congress, presided over it.42 Thus, by the beginning of the 20th century, new communication networks centred upon the Niyogis began to take shape. It is symbolic that K Viresalingam said: “Why are there languages? Languages are there for the people to communicate!”43

The second theory is that the Telugu language is the determinant of people’s characteristics and therefore its speakers should be under the same political and administrative unit. In fact, it sounds contradictory to the first one since Niyogis were, after all, a minority and they would become so all the more if a larger territory was taken into account. They could have advocated another framework wherein their power would function more effectively. Therefore, the fundamental question here is why they had to, or needed to, imagine the particular linguistic geographical domain, far beyond Circar and including Ceded districts and Telangana. One may answer this by referring to K Viresalingam whose literal works brought the modern identity and awakening of the Telugus. However, the problem is that he does not actually seem to have ever appealed for the Telugu people’s unification or their common identity. He regarded “Desha Bhasha” just as a convenient medium or tool to take up reformist ideas like widow remarriage. He was in fact not only indifferent to “Andhra” history, unlike K V Lakshmana Rao or C Virabhadra Rao, but even antagonistic to the Indian National Congress and the nationalist movement, which the Andhra movement started in 1913 was a part of. In my opinion, his legacy to the Telugu people’s identity is richer by way of his language than through his reform movements or literal activities. That is, in practice he made the coastal Niyogi dialect the modern standard Telugu. Another possible answer to the question is the rivalry between the Telugus and the Tamils. Telugus were minorities in the Madras Presidency and the Tamils benefited more in the fields of education, transportation, job opportunities and economic development. It is worth remembering that when the Andhra movement started there were many Telugus who did not agree with the idea of the united Telugus merely on grounds of the same language.44

That the Telugus were ranked third after Hindi and Bengali speakers and were larger than Marathi or Tamil speakers was not known till the beginning of the 20th century. The third rank was unexpectedly big. In 1911, Andhra Patrika said that Telugus were not so advanced as Bengalis, Maharashtrians, Gujaratis and the Tamils in spite of their population.45 The Hindu ran a series of discussions titled “Are Telugus (a) Backward Race?”, and in that, the small numbers of Telugu civil officers and the low level of education disproportionate to their population size was lamented.46 All this made it difficult for them to imagine any categories other than language. Thus, the combination of population theory and that of history became essential for the identity of the newly emerging Telugu elites. An example is given below on the issue of employment in the army. A letter from the Godavari district Conference to the government, demanding the enlistment of the Telugus for military service said:

The Telugus who inhabited the tract (a) along the east coast of the peninsula from the shores of Chilka Lake to Madras; (b) inland as for as Mysore, the eastern boundaries of the Maharatta country including the Ceded districts and the Hyderabad dominions; and (c) a considerable portion of the Central Provinces, are descendents of an ancient people with a glorious past. Their ancestors were the founders and rulers of the famous Andhra Empire, which, immediately after the extinction of the Mauryan dynasty, held undisputed sway over the greater portion of India. They were an enterprising people, having established colonies in several islands of the Eastern Archipelago. They had thus established a reputation and left traces of their civilisation both within and without the boundaries of India.47

To this problem, Konda Venkatappayya appealed in the third Andhra Maha Sabha session in 1915 as below:
Look at the ancient Andhra Kingdom, the Kakatiya state, Chalukya dynasty, the never-to-be-forgotten empire of Vizayanagar and the principalities of the Velamas, Naiks and Reddis, established by boundless Andhra valour, and we that are the descendants of such Andhras, are, forsooth, unfit for the army…What could be more humiliating to us than this? …If you are victorious, you will enjoy happiness here. Bear in mind that word of Lord Krishna. Remember to the valour of the ancient Andhras, Maintain yourself respect. Wash away the unmerited slur on the honour of the Andhra country.48
Such theorisation as above has to be taken in the context of nationalism. Contrary to the imagined unification of the Telugus, from the end of the 19th century the sharp socio-economic divides in the regions were becoming apparent. Not only that the Circar became affluent, but in the Ceded districts, for example, transportation led to Madras rather than Circar, so that people’s life in the Ceded districts was linked more with the Tamils. Telangana was under a different government, the Nizam, and modernisation lagged behind. Since people were aware of it, the idea of united Telugus could be easily intertwined with the national movement and reinterpreted in its context. The presidency boundaries were drawn from colonial considerations and were thus to be rejected by the colonised. Thus Konda Venkatappayya, the father of the Andhra movement, said:
The Andhra country, which was comparatively a single unit, with common history and tradition, with common customs and usages, common language and literature and under the supremacy of one common king was, after the advent of Mahomedan rule, spilt up into divisions and forcibly placed under different Muslim governments. And when the British established their power in the South, they gradually extended their territories by compelling the Navabs to surrender one territory after another, till the whole of the Madras Presidency came under their control. Thus, new acquisitions, one after another, were added on to old possessions and placed under one single administration without any regard to ethnological, linguistic, historical, or geographical considerations. Thus the territory under Madras government is a conglomerate of races and languages, of customs and traditions, and a combination prejudicial to the development of people living in it.49

Here, along with the British rule the Muslim government was also referred to as responsible for dividing the Telugus. This connotation became significant later in the Telangana armed struggle and the Vishalandhra movement from the end of the 1940s when the annexation of the Hyderabad princely state turned into reality.

The memory of the Andhra movement and the existence of the state crowned with the name “Andhra” leads many to presume that linguistic identity is self-evident beyond any doubt. But such an idea not only has a long history with much politics and social change behind it, but it has also been challenged and contested. In the 1920s, even among those from the Krishna-Godavari delta, some zamindars remained members of the Justice Party and did not welcome the idea of a separate Andhra state. In the Ceded districts, the Rayalaseema Maha Sabha was formed in 1933-34 by those who were against joining the Andhra province. They advocated their own regional history different from Andhra and took up Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar as a symbol. The reconciliation of their interests continued till the Sri Bagh Pact was inked in 1936. In case of Telangana, it was even more difficult since the discourse of common historical heritage was not at all convincing.

The claim for a united Telugu state in the beginning of the 20th century was reasonable, for the Niyogis assumed hegemony over other surrounding regions socio-politically and intellectually through a common language and history. However, the people who substantially benefited from the geographical framework of linguistic regions were in fact not the Niyogis, but the Kammas who later came up as the most powerful community in the state politics and economy, and challenged the Niyogis’ leadership from the 1920s.50

Since the knowledge of history and the attachment to region and language is not acquired but needs to be learnt, the spread of mass education, preferably in regional languages, was very much required. Second and more crucially, people had to benefit from such learning not only intellectually but socio-economically as well. The growing separate Telangana movement proves that both these needs were not fulfilled. The history of Andhra Pradesh is the history of a united Telugus, but at the same time it is also the process of disuniting them, something that the once hopeful historiography had never meant to do.


1 C Talbot, Precolonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra, Oxford University Press, 2001, p 26.
2 For example, B Anderson, Imagined Community: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London, 1983.
3 For example, see D Ludden, “Spectres of Agrarian Territory in Southern India”, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 39, (2 and 3), 2002, pp 233-57.
4 M N Srinivas, Caste in Modern India and Other Essays (Bombay: Asia Publishing House), 1962.
5 Bh Krishnamurti, Language, Education and Society (New Delhi: Sage Publications), 1998, pp 86-105.
6 Bh Krishnamurti, The Dravidian Languages, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp 501-02.i, Language, p 111.
7 Bh Krishnamurti, Language, p 111.
8 R Caldwell, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages, 1856, rept (New Delhi: Oriental Books), 1974, p 5.
9 Hsuan-tsang, Ta T’ang Hsiyü Chi (translated into Japanese and annotation by Mizutani Shinjo), 3 (Tokyo: Heibonsha), 1999, p 248.
10 Bh Krishnamurti, Language, pp 202-04.
11 B S L Hanumantha Rao, Socio-Cultural History of Ancient and Medieval Andhra, Telugu University, Hyderabad, 1995, pp 45-50.
12 Ibid, p 58.
13 G N Reddi, “Aandhra, Tenugu, Telugu” in Bh Krishnamurti, Telugu Bhaasha Caritra (in Telugu) (Hyderabad: Telugu Academy), 1995, pp 3-4.
14 Hsuan-tsang, op cit.
15 C P Brown, Dictionary of Telugu English, 2nd (ed.), New Edition Thoroughly Revised and Brought upto Date by M Venkata Ratnam, W H Campbell and Rao Bahadur K Veerasalingam, 1903, rept (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services), 1983, p 106.
16 R Caldwell, op cit, p 27.
17 G N Reddi, op cit, p 4.
18 C Talbot, op cit, p 36.
19 C P Brown, op cit, p 106.
20 A D Campbell, A Grammar of the Teloogoo Language Commonly Termed the Gentoo, 1849, rept (New Delhi: Asian Educational Service), 1991, p i.
21 Ibid, p vii.
22 R Caldwell, op cit, p 27.
23 F R Hemingway, Madras District Gazetteers: Godavari, 1915, rept (New Delhi: Asian Educational Service), 2000, p 51.
24 R Caldwell, Op cit, p 27.
25 C P Brown, Essays on the Language and Literature of the Telugus, Madras, 1840, rept (New Delhi: Asian Educational Service), 1991, p 1.
26 R Caldwell, op cit, p 27.
27 For example, Grammaire Pour Apprendre La Langue Talenga, by French Jesuit Missionary, written about 1720-30.
28 A D Campbell, op cit, p vii.
29 R Caldwell, op cit, p 25.
30 For example, see A C John Boswell, Manual of the Nellore District in the Presidency of Madras, Madras, 1873, p 436.
31 R Caldwell, op cit, pp 27-29.
32 G Furgusson, Tree and Serpent Worship, 2nd (ed.), London, 1873, Introduction.
33 R G Bhandarkar, Early History of the Dekkan, Down to the Mahomedan Conquest, 2nd (ed.), 1895, rept (New Delhi: Asian Educational Service), 1981, p 6.
34 V A Smith, The Early History of India, from 600 BC to the Muhammadan Conquest, Oxford University Press, 1904, p 206.
35 K V Lakshmana Rao, Hindu Desa Katha Samgraha (Brief History of India), (in Telugu), Madras: Vignana Chandrika Mandali, 1(1907), 2(1908). C Virabhadra Rao, Aandhrula Caritram, (in Telugu), Madras: Vignana Chandrika Man­dali, 1(1910), 2(1912), 3(1916), 5(1936).
36 C Virabhadra Rao, op cit, pp 3-4.
37 Ibid, pp 9-10.
38 R Caldwell, op cit, pp 106-09.
39 Krishna Patrika (in Telugu), 17 June, 1916.
40 A Kaleswara Rao, Naa Jiivita Katha (in Telugu) (Vijayawada: Andhra Granda Mandali), 1959, pp 24-25.
41 D A Washbrook, The Emergence of Provincial Politics, The Madras Presidency, 1870-1920 (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House), 1976, pp 90-96.
42 K V Narayana Rao, The Emergence of Andhra Pradesh (Bombay: Popular Prakashan), 1973, pp 10-11.
43 K Viresalingam, Sweeya Caritra (in Telugu), 2, Madas, 1915, rept (Vijayawada: Vishalandhra), 1990, p 125.
44 For example, B P Sitaramayya (ed.), For and Against the Andhra Province, Machilipatnam, 1913.
45 Andhra Patrika, Ugadi Sanchika (in Telugu), 1910, pp 37-41.
46 The Hindu, 15 April 1911 in Narayana (1973), pp 22-23.
47 “Letter from the Godavari District Conference to the Government of India, 3 June 1912” in G V Subbha Rao, compiled by, History of Andhra Movement (Andhra Region), Vol 1, The Committee of History of Andhra Movement, Hyderabad, 1982, pp 119-20.
48 K Venkatappayya (ed.), Report of the Third Andhra Conference, Guntur, 1915, p 19.
49 K Venkatappayya, The Andhra Movement, Guntur: The Andhra Maha Sabha, 1938, p 12.
50 Yamada Keiko, “Politics and Representation of Caste Identity in Regional Historiography: A Case Study of Kammas in Andhra” in The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 45, 3, 2008, pp 353-80.

Yamada Keiko (yamadak@mx.ibaraki.ac.jp) is with the Faculty of Humanities, Ibaraki University, Japan


1. కృష్ణశ్రీ - ఆగస్ట్ 28, 2010

కొన్ని అసంబధ్ధాలున్నా, ప్రయత్నం, వ్యాసం, చాలా బాగుంది.

చివరగా–నియోగులు సాంఘిక రాజకీయ/బౌధ్ధిక ఆక్రమణ చేశారనడమేమిటో అర్థం కాలేదు.

దీనివల్ల నియోగులు కాదు కానీ కమ్మవాళ్లు బాగుబడ్డారనడం, నియోగ నాయకుల్ని యెదిరించారనడం కూడా అర్థం కాలేదు!

ఆన్‌ధ్రదేశం లో వివిధ రాజ్యాల్లో చక్రం తిప్పినవాళ్లలో, నియోగులే కాకుండా, వైదికులు, ద్రావిడులు, తెలగాణ్యులు, వ్యాపారులు, శ్రీవైష్ణవులూ–ఇలా చాలా మంది వున్నారు.

రాజుగారు నచ్చకపోతే, యే దాసీపుత్రుణ్నో రాజుని చేసి, మంత్రులుగానే వుండిపోయారు తప్ప, రాజ్యాలు యేలలేదు. అలా చేసి వుంటే చరిత్ర వేరేగా వుండేదేమో!

ఇక కమ్మవాళ్లే కాకుండా, రెడ్లు కూడా రాజకీయం గా యెదిగి, నేటి మన రాష్ట్ర స్థితికి కారకులయ్యారు.

ఇంక, దేశానికి స్వాతంత్ర్యం రాకముందు నుంచీ, ప్రత్యేక ఆంధ్ర రాష్ట్రము (ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్) యేర్పడక ముందునుంచీ, నేటి శ్రీక్రిష్ణ కమిటీ వరకూ, కాంగ్రెస్ అధిష్టానం పేరుతో–మోతీలాల్ నుంచీ నేటి మొయిలీల వరకూ, తోలుబొమ్మలని యెదరపెట్టుకొని రాజకీయులు ఆడుతున్న ‘తొండి ‘ ఆటని గమనించండి!

ఆంధ్రుల బుధ్ధి ప్రవర్తిల్లుగాక!

2. Rajasekharam Mallipudi - డిసెంబర్ 1, 2011

a very insightful article, which dealt with many issues like identity of language and its relation with a particular region, etc. he must be appreciated for dealing such kind of complex issues, which many social historians from Andhra Pradesh are unable to deal with.

3. gopireddy chandra sekhar reddy - మే 19, 2013

excellent research work hats off to my friend keiko

4. M.VAsudev Rao - డిసెంబర్ 27, 2013

While the author’s attempt in presenting the subject matter graphically is appreciable, I notice that: he has laid excessive emphasis drawing an exclusive conclusion attributing the progressive role played by the Niyogi Brahmins. The other sub-sects of the Andhra Brahmins were also equally active and contributed in the development of social, religious, political fields. He states that the Niyogis were a sub-caste of Brahmins and that when they were not allowed by the Vaidiki Brahmins from learning Sanskrit and rituals, they started wearing sacred thread. Thats not correct. Niyogis are a sub-sect of the Andhra Brahmins and not sub-caste. They are also Brahmins and have the right to wear sacred thread like other Brahmins. The division between Vaidik Brahmins and the Niyogi are functional since some Brahmins were engaged in religious/spiritual activities such as rituals and Vedic lore, the others were engaged in temporal activities such as governance etc. They were not prevented from learning the Vedic lore. The author has also likewise limited himself to Kammas. The Kammas are basically agrarian people and a late entrant to the power centres. The Yadavas, Velamas and particularly the Reddy community etc have a hoary history of producing powerful naiks, warriors, rulers who were educated and great patrons of arts, architecture etc. The Reddy community like the Brahmins of the olden days have entered into almost all fields of human endeavour such as education, law, politics etc. While he is right in stating that the division in the three regions is sharp in 19th century, the roots for the sub-conscious division go much deeper historically from the period of Vijayanagar empire. Lack of historical consciousness has only made things worse. State unification was achieved on linguistic basis, but no efforts were made to imbue the andhras with their glorious historical past to erase the divisive legacy inherited from their past. Is it a coincidence or historical fallacy that the last great act of Andhras was to lay the foundation of re-organization of Indian states post independence on linguistic basis which is now being undone by them.


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