Atukuri Molla (1440–1530 / Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh / India)
Biography of Atukuri Molla
Atukuri Molla was a famous Telugu poetess who authored the Telugu-language Ramayana. She was popularly known as Molla or Mollamamba.
She was born in a potters' family in Kadapa. She is the second female Telugu poet of note, after Tallapaka Timmakka, wife of Annamacharya. She translated the Sanskrit Ramayana into Telugu.
Her father Kesana was a potter of Gopavaram, a village in Badvel Mandal, fifty miles north of Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh state. He was a Saivaite and devotee of Srikantha Malleswara (an incarnation of Shiva) in Srisailam. He gave her daughter the name Molla, meaning "Jasmine", a favourite flower to the god, and also nicknamed her Basavi in respect to Basaveswara (another incarnation of Shiva).
Molla claimed Lord Shiva as Guru. It is believed that she had inspiration from Potana, who wrote Bhagavata Purana in Telugu. Like him, she was Shivite, but wrote the story of Rama(an incarnation of Vishnu) and also refused to dedicate her Ramayan to any king according to general practice for poets.
According to Varadarajn's book, "Study of Vaishnav Literature", as her popularity spread, she was invited to Royal court and got an opportunity to recite Ramayana in front of Krishnadevaraya and his poets. She spent her old age at Srisailam in the presence of Lord Srikantha Malleswara.
Works and Style
Her work is known as Molla Ramayana and is still one of the simplest of many Ramayans written in Telugu.
She primarily used simple Telugu and only used Sanskrit words very rarely. Poets that had written earlier than her like Tikkana and Potana used Sanskrit words freely in their works.
She was humble and paid tribute to the earlier scholars who had written the Ramayana in her book. The opening poem says - "Ramayana had been written many times. Does someone stop taking food because it has been taken every day? So is the story of Rama and one can write, read and love it as many number of times as possible."
She added fictional accounts to original stories and in some instances, removed some portions from the original story. Sanskrit-to-Telugu translation works from earlier poets like Tikkana followed the exact story sequences in the original work. She was contemporary to Srinatha and poets of the Vijayanagara Empire, who created Prabhandas which are known for adding fictions.
Awards and Honors
Andhra Pradesh government erected a statue of her on the tankbund in Hyderabad along with few other Great Telugu personalities.
She was used as a symbol of women's advancement by women's associations. On one recent occasion a women's rights protest began at her statue in Hyderabad, in 2006.
A movie Kathanayika Molla was made about her, with Vanisri playing the lead role.
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