Biography of Gurazada Apparao
Gurazada Venkata Apparao (Telugu: గురజాడ అప్పారావు) (also often transliterated as 'Gurajada') was a Telugu poet and writer of Andhra Pradesh, India. He wrote the first Telugu play, Kanyasulkam, which is often considered the greatest play in the Telugu language. Gurajada Apparao was an influential social reformer of his age and was lauded as Mahakavi, meaning "the great poet".
He frequently dabbled in poetry, and is credited with creating a new style of poetry in the Telugu Language. He also holds the titles Kavishekara and Abyudaya kavitha pithamahudu.
Early Life and Education
Two dates of birth (according to western calendar) have been calculated based on Gurajada's horoscope, viz., Nov.30, 1861 and Sept. 21, 1862. Apparently, his descendants prefer the second date. Gurajada was born at his maternal uncle's home in Rayavaram village near Yelamanchili Visakhapatnam district. His parents were Venkata Rama Dasu and Kausalyamma, from a Telugu Brahmin family. He had a younger brother by name Syamala Rao. Gurazada's ancestors seem to have moved to Kalinga region from Gurazada village in Krishna district. (hence the family name?) Venkata Rama Dasu worked as a PeshkAr, Revenue Supervisor, and Khiledar in the Vizianagaram Samsthanam. He was well educated and had a good command in Sanskrit. He died in an accident while crossing a small river Utagedda near Vizianagaram.
Gurajada lived most of his life in and around Vizianagaram in what was then called as kalinga rajyam. He and his father before him were both employed by the princely state of Vizianagaram. Gurazada enjoyed a close relationship with the ruling family during his adult life.
Gurajada had his initial schooling (till age 10) in Cheepurupalli while his father was working there. His remaining schooling was done at Vizianagaram after his father died. During that time, he lived in relative poverty and maintained himself as a varalabbayi. He was generously taken care of by the then M.R. College Principal, C. Chandrasekhara Sastri who provided him free lodging and boarding. He completed his metriculation in 1882 and obtained F.A. in 1884. Soon after, he was employed as a teacher in M.R. High School in 1884 with a salary of Rs.25.
In 1887, Gurajada spoke at a Congress Party meeting in Vizianagaram. His daughter OlETi lakshmee narasamma was born in 1887. He was simultaneously involved in social work and became a member of the Voluntary Service Corps in Visakhapatnam in 1888. He was elected vice-president of the Ananda Gajapati Debating club in 1889. His son Venkata Ramadasu was born in 1890. In 1891 he was promoted to Lecturer (Level III) with a salary of Rs.125. He taught the F.A. and B.A. classes several subjects including English Grammar, Sanskrit Literature, Translation, Greek and Roman Histories. His younger brother Syamala Rao died in 1892 while studying at Madras Law College.
In the previous ten years, Gurajada Appa Rao (along with brother Syamala Rao) had been writing several English poems. His Sarangadhara, published in "Indian Leisure Hour" was well received. The editor of the Culcutta based "Rees and Ryot" Sambhu Chandra Mukherji read it and re-published it in his magazine. He encouraged Gurajada in many ways. While praising Gurajada's talent, he actually encouraged him to write in Telugu. He told Gurajada that however talented he might become in English, it is still a foreign tongue and that he would scale greater heights if he chose to compose in Telugu. Gurajada too was gradually coming to this conclusion. During this period, it is also said that Gurajada was also in correspondence with a British Journalist and author. Gundukurti Venkata Ramanayya, editor of the "Indian Leisure Hour" encouraged Gurazada greatly during the same period. In 1891, Gurajada was appointed to the post of Epigraphist (saMsthAna SAsana pariSOdhaka) to the Maharaja of Vizianagaram.
In 1892, Gurajada's celebrated drama "Kanyasulkam" was staged for the first time. It became an instant hit. It was the first Telugu drama expressly written in spoken dialect. Prior to that, there were dramas that employed spoken dialect in a few parts of the drama. Vedam Venkata raya Sastri wrote a very popular drama "Prataparudreeyam," where he followed the Sanskrit example in allowing the so-called "lower" characters to use spoken dialect while the so-called "upper" characters used chaste literary dialect. Veeresalimgam Pantulu wrote some dramas, notably "Brahma vivahamu," with some spoken dialect content. This drama was written more as an accessory to his crusade against social evils than for literary enjoyment. The Kanyasulkam was the first to achieve both the aims. And an unparalleled achievement it was! The success of Kanyasulkam encouraged Gurajada to open up and seek out others with similar views. He came in contact with several contemporary luminaries. The rumbling sounds of movement to support spoken dialect as a platform for literary activity were gathering around that time. Gurajada's childhood friend and classmate in Chipurupalli, Gidugu Rammurty (1863–1940) was the leading light of this school of thought. The highly successful staging of Kanyasulkam gave this movement a big boost. It conclusively showed that works that have undisputed literary value and are very popular could be composed in spoken dialects. Even the opponents of the spoken dialect movement such as kaseebhatta brahmayya Sastri had to concede that the kanyASulkaM has a significant literary merit. The success made Gurajada a sort of celebrity. He was being sought after for literary events and for reviewing other literary works.
He also wrote the great Telugu patriotic song Desamunu Preminchumanna in 1910. The following lines appears in his poetry Desamunu Preminchumanna - Desamante matti kaadoyi, desamante manushuloyi meaning, A country is not made of land; a country is made of its people.
In 1896, Gurajada tried to establish a magazine by name "prakASika." In 1897, kanyASulkaM was published (by Vavilla Ramaswamy Sastrulu and Sons, Madras) and was dedicated to Maharaja Ananda Gajapati. In the same year, the prince died following a brief illness without leaving a successor. After this, Gurajada was appointed as personal secretary and advisor to the Maharani of Reeva (Appala Kondamamba - sister of Anada Gajapati). Gurajada had his second daughter (third child) PuligeDDa Kondayyamma in 1902. In 1903, a court case was filed challenging the right of Ananda Gajapati's mother (alaka rAjESvari) to adopt an heir to the throne of the principality. Gurajada was put in charge of taking care of all the legal proceedings. The case dragged on for many years and ended in an out of court settlement in 1913.
In 1905, Gurajada's mother died. In 1906, his close friend P.T. Srinivasa Iyyangar, principal of Mrs. A.V.N. College, Visakhapatnam started an association to promote curriculum reform in high schools. One of the chief aims was to introduce spoken dialects. Along with him, J.A. Yates (1874–1951) -a British civil servant, Gidugu and Gurajada were the principal members. Another friend S. Srinivasa Iyengar (1874–1941) also gave a lot of support and encouragement. Incidentally, this Srinivasa Iyengar was a well-known lawyer and was the President of AICC (All India Congress Committee) annual session at Guahati in 1926.
1908 Congress session at Madras
Gurajada attended the 1908 Congress session at Madras. Gurajada developed some health problems and took some time off to convalesce at the Nilgiri hills. While taking rest, he got around to preparing the second edition of kanyasulakam and published it in 1909. This edition was completely revised and greatly expanded compared to the original version. It is this edition that made the drama a truly outstanding work of art. Each character developed a life of its own and they all came together in an unforgettable comedy. The next year, he participated in a community meal at Berhampur where people of various classes and castes shared the same food and ate together. Around this time, Gurajada started writing very prolifically and composed several poems, songs and short stories. These works are among the most famous in Telugu literature.
In 1911, he was appointed to the Board of Studies by Madras University. The same year, Gurajada and his friends started the Andhra Sahitya Parishat to promote the use of spoken dialects. The next year, he was invited to attend the meeting of the bangeeya sAhitya pariShat (Bengal Literary Association) at Culcutta.
The same year, his second patron, Maharani of Reeva died.
Gurajada took retirement in 1913 with a pension of Rs.140. Madras University honoured him by making him a "Fellow." His health started deteriorating slowly. He constructed a new house worth Rs. 139 and moved into it in 1915. He was left with nothing but a rupee. After a few months of illness and poverty, Gurajada died in 1915.
Outline of Kanyasulkam
Kanyasulkam is about the deplorable condition of widows in traditional Brahmin families in the Andhra region of India during the 19th century. The play is a highly thought-provoking social drama dealing with social issues relevant to the time. Gurajada Apparao was deeply troubled by the double standards, hypocrisy and social inequalities in the Indian society. The English preface to the first edition of his play states: "Such a scandalous state of things is a disgrace to society, and literature can not have a higher function than to show up such practices and give currency to a high standard of moral ideas. Until reading habits prevail among masses, one must look only to the stage to exert such healthy influence." Perhaps for the first time in Telugu literary history, a prostitute was given a very positive image so much so that she is shown to better the lives of many people during the course of the play. The play is ageless in the sense that its projection of the Indian mindset and psyche is very relevant and applicable in Indian Society today. The play was in some ways way ahead of its time and was very bold in criticizing the popular opinions and practices during that era. It frequently jabs at the male-dominated society of India, by bringing to the forefront certain egoistic idiosyncrasies of a typical Indian male, in an unflattering manner. It also questions the practices of witchcraft, sorcery, and their popular usage in medical practice during that period in India.
He was married to Appala Narasamma in 1885. In the mean time, he continued his studies and graduated with B.A. (Philosophy major and Sanskrit minor) in 1886. For some period during 1886, he worked as Head Clerk in the Deputy Collector's office. On Vijayadasami day, 1887, he joined as a Lecturer (Level IV) in M.R. College with a salary of Rs.100. Around the same time, he was introduced to Maharajah Pusapati Ananda Gajapati Raju (1850–1897). This prince had a significant role in encouraging the arts and education in these parts of the country. Gurajada gradually developed a cordial relationship with the prince. This association led to his involvement with the princely family for a long time.
Gurajada Apparao is popularly known in Andhra pradesh as Gurazada. He is the most popular poet among Telugu literature. The townhall is constructed on his name at Vijayanagaram and Vijag by the Govt of A.P. Almost every popular town has a street named after Gurazada. Statues of Gurajada are seen in Hyderabad, Vizag, Vijayawada, Rajahmundry, Vijayanagaram and many more towns. His poem 'desamunu preminchumanna' is the most popular patriotic song in the Telugu language.
Gurazada Apparao's Works:
The Cook (N/A. An English Poem -1882)
Sarangadhara (An English long poem, padya kavyam -1883)
Chandrahasa (N/A. An English long poem, padya kavyam -Date uncertain)
Victoria Prasasti (English poems in praise of Queen Victoria presented to the then Viceroy of India by Maharani of Reeva -1890)
KanyaSulkamu (Drama, First Ed. -1892, Completely revised second Ed. -1909)
Review and Introduction in English to Sree rama vijayam and jArji dEva caritaM (both Sanskrit works -1894)
Edited (1890s) "the Wars of Rajas, Being the History of Hande Anantapuram," Thathacharyula kathalu," both originally collected by C.P. Brown. These works were published after Gurajada's death.
Review and introduction in English to Harischandra (An English Drama -1897)
Minugurlu (children's story, perhaps the first in modern style -1903?)
Kondubhatteeyam (Unfinished humorous drama -1906)
Neelagiri patalu (Songs describing the beauty of Nilagiri hills where Gurajada recuperated from an illness -1907)
Newspaper articles on the 1908 Congress Party Annual Session at Madras criticizing the lack of focus, integrity and strong will to take on the British rulers. An English poem parodying the session.
"Canna kalapu cinna buddhulu," essay denouncing the superstitions associated with the appearance of Haley's Comet in 1910.
Mutyala Saralu and Kasulu (Poems in Gurajada's own meter, matra Chandassu -1910). Many poems and short stories in modern style during the same year. These were perhaps the earliest instances of modern short stories in Telugu. Also published several essays supporting the use of vernacular as formal language. His famous patriotic song "Desamunu Preminchumanna" was written around this time.
Bilhaneeyam (Unfinished drama, Act I -1910, Act II -1911)
Lavanaraju kala (Poem -1911)
Poornamma (Poem -1912)
Kanyaka (Poem -1912)
Subhadra (Poem -1913)
Visvavidyalayalu: samskrita, matru Bhashalu (Report submitted to Madras University -1914)
Asammati patram (Minuet of Dissent -report against the decision of Madras University to retain classical language as the platform for curriculum development -1914)
Dimcu langaru (Poem -1914)
Langarettumu (Poem -1915)
"Sree gurajada appa ravu gari Daireelu," Collected dairies of Gurajada published many decades after Gurajada's death. Editor: Burra Seshagiri Rao
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