Tikkana Somayaji

[Kavitrayam] (1205 -1288 / Guntur, Andhra Pradesh / India)

Biography of Tikkana Somayaji

Tikkana Somayaji poet

Tikkana (or Tikkana Somayaji) (Telugu: తిక్కన్న) was born into a family of Shaivite family during the Golden Age of the Kakatiya dynasty. He was the second poet of the "Trinity of Poets (Kavi Trayam)" that translated Mahabharatamu into Telugu over a period of centuries. Nannaya Bhattaraka was the first, though he translated only two and a half chapters. Tikkana translated the final 15 chapters, but did not undertake translating the half-finished Aranya Parvamu. The Telugu people remained without this last translation for more than a century, until it was translated by Errana.

Tikkana is also called Tikkana Somayaji, as he has completed the Somayaga.

Religious Conflict

Tikkana was born in Guntur. There is a school and library named after him. It is maintained by a committee headed by Machiraju Sitapati and Kurakula Guraviah, an ex-corporator. Recently they celebrated 100 years of the library's functioning. During the Shiva Kavi period, the new religions Shaivism and Vaishnavism were spreading in Andhra, resulting in conflict between these two groups as well as between the two established religious groups, Buddhism and Jainism. At this juncture, Tikkana attempted to bring peace between the warring Shivaites and Vaishnavites.

Political Situation

Although most of the Northern India came under Muslim rule, the strong Chola, Chalukya and Kakatiya empires in the South prevented the Muslim onslaught. Emperor Ganapatideva (1199–1261) of Kakatiya dynasty brought all the Telugu kingdoms under his rule for the first time. Consequently, the clashes between smaller kingdoms came under control making way for the prosperity and development of art and literature.

Tikkana was the Prime Minister (hence the title Tikkanamatya) of Manumasiddhi, the king of Nellore and a descendant of Kakatiya dynasty. When Manumasiddhi was dethroned by his cousins, Tikkana visited Orugallu (the capital of Kakatiya dynasty and today’s Warangal) to request the help of the Ganapatideva. The Emperor gave him a grand welcome in Warangal and restored Nellore throne to Manumasiddhi.

Tikkana dedicated his first literary work Nirvachanottara Ramayanamu, to Ganapatideva. In this work he narrated the later part of Ramayanamu, the story of Sita’s banishment to forests and the birth of Lava and Kusa to Sita in the forest. Later, Tikkana translated Mahabharatamu and dedicated it to Hariharanadha.

Writing Style

The specialty of his style of writing is that it is mostly Telugu, unlike Nannaya whose work was mostly sanskritized. Tikkana used Telugu words even to express very difficult expressions and ideas. He used Telugu words and parables extensively.


The flavor of Telugu national similes spice up his poetry, e.g., madugu jeerayandu masi daakintlu- as if pure white cheera (sari) is touched by soot, paalalo badina balli vidhambuna-like the lizard in the milk, neyvosina yagni bhangi- like the fire in which neyyi (clarified butter) was poured, mantalo midutalu chochchinatlayina- fate of locusts flew into the fire, kantikin reppayu bole- like the eyelid for the eye, nooti kappa vidhambuna- like a frog in the well, etc.


During the reign of Emperor Ganapatideva, Shaivites, Vaishnvites, Jains and Buddhists were fighting among themselves. The emperor arranged for religious meetings to control this religious intolerance. Tikkana participated in those religious meetings and defeated the Budhist and Jain participants and established Hinduism. During this time he proposed the unity of God. He preached that Lord Shiva (Hara) and Lord Vishnu (Hari) were one and that the apparent differences in names were made up and were untrue. This philosophy is known as “Hariharaadvaitamu (the Unity of Hari and Hara).” To firmly establish this principle, Tikkana translated Mahabharatamu into Telugu. This was a great contribution to the peace and unity of Telugus, who were fighting bloody religious wars among themselves.

Other Works

Tikkana’s other literary contributions include Vijayasenamu, Kavivaagbandhamu, Krishnasatakamu, etc. Though he was second to Nannaya in attempting to translate Mahabharatamu and second poet among the Trinity of Poets, he is second to none in his political, religious and literary accomplishments.

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