Social Scientist. v 23, no. 269-71 (Oct-Dec 1995) p. 10.

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A set of about 300 Telugu inscriptions datable from about the sixth to the eleventh centuries C.E. and the early literary works ofNannaya, NannecO^a etc., provide the basic data for understanding the Andhra phenomenon.2

Linguists and historians of literature who have made use of this data provide us with a good picture of the trends of growth of Telugu language and literature. Summarizing the results of such inquiries one scholar states that there is a recognizable difference between the language of common use as seen in the inscriptions ofNannaya'stime (eleventh century) and th^tkavya literature in Telugu may have started five or six centuries earlier than Nannaya (Krishnamurti 19 74:449). Another scholar has recognised its developmental stages through pre-Telugu stage (before 200 C.E.), pre-literary stage (third to sixth centuries C.E.), literary stage ^ (seventh to ninth centuries C.E.) and Classical or full-fledged Kavya stage (tenth-eleventh centuries C.E.) (Radhakrishna 1971 :LXXIV-LXXV, CVIII-CIX). These linguistic perceptions display clearly that there must have been considerable cultivation of the language for a long time before Nannaya's Mahabharata was composed. Our endeavor now should be to analyze the socio-historical content in the above data to recognise the social underpinnings of the stages of language evolution recognised by linguists; after all, language is the mirror of society.

As written records are essentially the creations of evolved social groups, an analysis of the distribution of the earliest Telugu inscriptions should provide us not only the evidence of first attempts towards vernacular cultivation but also the spatio-temporal context of the emergence of higher social classes distinctive from the Sanskrit-using dominant society of the day. The new phenomenon emerges not in the then agriculturally rich, politically well-consolidated, and culturally forward regions of the Krishna and Godavari valleys, but in the far southern region of Andhra, in Rayalaseerna to the south and west of the Nallarnalai hills. The earliest Telugu inscriptions datable to the sixth century C.E. come from the district of Cuddapah. From the seventh century Telugu inscriptions begin to appear in the adjoining districts ofAnantapur, Chittoor, Nellore and Prakasam, and in the western dry belt ofGuntur. In the next century (the eighth), the use of Telugu in epigraphical records is seen father to the north in the districts of Mahaboobnagar and Nalgonda. Except for one doubtful record, the early Telugu inscriptions in Krishna district are datable to the ninth century. The first Telugu inscription in Warangal district belongs to the late ninth or early tenth century C.E. All other districts of northern Andhra (Karirnnagar, West and East Godavari, Visakhpatnam, Vijayanagaram, and Srikakulam) open their accounts only in the eleventh century C.E. The "ripple movement" is well in evidence.

This spatio-chronological distributional pattern also reveals that the key for the understanding of the historical process resulting in the elevation of a vernacular to become the vehicle of high culture is to be sought in southern Andhra, particularly the Rayalaseerna districts, where we see not only the genesis of the cultural vernacular but also its assiduous cultivation in its formative period, as revealed from

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