Emergence of Regional Identity and Beginnings of Vernacular Literature: a Case Study ofTelugu
It is well known that in the history of ancient Andhra, for about a millennium commencing from the third-fourth centuries B .C.E., there is a distinctive process of increasing spread of pan-Indian cultural patterns among the dominant sections of the Andhra society. The process perhaps commenced in the Mauryan period. Succeeding centuries saw the expansion of the upper class, through the influx of small groups now and then from the then progressive regions elsewhere, and by way of inclusion of some elements of the local population which could command a higher position through the political or economic power gained by them from time to time.
This process of integration land the simultaneous acceptance of the ideology of the dominant groups by the larger populace from the indigenous tribal and peasant groups were achieved ostensibly peacefully by accommodating them variously into the hierarchical social structure of the varna-jati system. The monasteries, temples, and agraharas, established in regions of economic and political importance and maintainedby land andmonetary grants by the leading aristocracy,playedakey role in this direction. By the latter part of the first millennium C.E. the process had become well consolidated. The varna-jati social system had stabilised and many of the ruling nobility were proud to proclaim themselves in l,jtieir inscriptions as ardent followers of Manu's code and protectors of varnaSramadharma (e.g. El 31:40,42; El 38:193-94). Sanskrit had become the language of high culture. A large number of monastery and agrahQra establishments assiduously cultivated and promoted Sanskridc learning, so effectively as to be able to produce such stalwarts in the field as DinnSga and Dandin. At the same time scope for social mobility had become truncated. Education and corridors of power were accessible only to the upper classes. They were the protectors and promoters of high culture, too. Telugu language or the culture of the lesser folk hardly found a place in this system. How then in this situation literature in a vernacular language like Telugu could have
Department of History, Central University, Hyderabad.
Social Scientist, Vol. 23 Nos. 10-12, October-December 1995