Spiritual unity of Telugu people

Spiritual unity of  Telugu people
Highlights

Spirituality as a transcendental dimension of human experience is precursor of organised religion. It was recorded or carried on as an oral tradition in different societies till very recently. However, there are still groups and individuals who consider their understanding of spirituality is superior to that of others.

We have witnessed the spirit (religious) recently in the queues in front of temples in all parts of the State, seeking blessings of the same gods to keep the State united or bifurcated

Spirituality as a transcendental dimension of human experience is precursor of organised religion. It was recorded or carried on as an oral tradition in different societies till very recently. However, there are still groups and individuals who consider their understanding of spirituality is superior to that of others.

On the other hand, the concept of spirit is used in ordinary parlance to signify the essence of thought or metaphysically refer to the soul, occult experience, etc. Keeping the spirit of the matter, I wanted to cultivate the concept of Telugu spirituality and mooted the idea with a friend. He immediately retorted that I am not qualified to do so as I am a teetotaller and do not beThere is no harm in claiming that Telugus are the original people of India, and in all probability due to its vastness (from Brahui Sindhu-Ganges and Kaveri), the language might be the proto-Dravidian language (linguists may differ).

But, it is unusual to find that every dominant caste in the State claims (in their caste chronicles) that they have migrated from somewhere in the North or Rajasthan or UP or extreme South and none from the Telugu soil. It seems the stigma is carried from generation to generation and, at the time of outmigration, this character unconsciously dents the youngsters to be comfortable in the foreign language rather than in Telugu.

The recent upsurge of the so-called Telugu cultural extravaganza can be contrasted with the Bengal or Tamil or Sindhi assemblages which are more secular and essentially distinct culture-specific. For, the present geographical location of the Telugu State is unique in the country, perhaps indicating the ubiquitous nature of a vast Telugu land unlike our brethren who have limited territory. It is our narrow mindset that limited our immensity by withdrawing from our claims over our expansive Telugu history and culture beyond the borders of our country in the past and also in the contemporary world.

However, it is time that an effort must be made to bring the distinctive Telugu culture as a universal category and not to be bothered about narrow specifics. This will be possible by attempting to bring out the spiritual unity among the Telugu people. We have witnessed the spirit (religious) recently in the queues in front of temples in all parts of the State, seeking blessings of the same gods to keep the State united or bifurcated.

Different tongues close to Telugu are spoken in the East from Gangetic plains, Tamralipti, Mahanadi, Khandamaland in other places that have not been studied so far, according to Balasubrahmanyam (Odissa civil servant). It may be due to the prejudice of some scholars/pundits that Telugu does not exist beyond Godavari (restricting it to three districts). It is surmised that the aliens after reaching the Ganga found that it was formidable to cross Dandaka where most of the so-called Dravidian languages were spoken (currently practise).

They have approached the South through the East Coast crossing Mahendragiri and built Arasavilli (2nd century BC and rebuilt by Devendra Varma), the first Sun temple to record their entry into dakshinapath. The Lord Narasimha of Simhachalam (much senior to Tirupati) later crossed the Godavari and entered Dhramapuri in Telangana and helped the cult of Yadagiri (place). Without entering into the controversy of how Vaishnavism became popular in the South through Telugu country, one could see the contribution of Telugu Alwars, pundits and poets influencing the religious worldview of the common man.

The transition from Buddhism to Vaishnavism (marginalising Shaivism) seemed to be total by the time Krishna Devaraya ushered in Telugu (Tulu) land. The elite of the Telugus with the support of British India officers have established systematic and uniform methods of worship (with compromises between Pancharatra and Vaikhanasa) in all parts of the State.

Bhadrachalam built by Kancharla Gopanna in 1630AD was regularised by the Muslim Tanisha later. Similarly, all the regions of Telugu country were brought under the sway of Sri Venkateswara or his modern avatars in different forms. In fact, Maharashtrians used to jeer at the Telugu folk converting Saibu (Muslim) as Saibaba in Shiridi, and his avatar as Satya Sai Baba is also a creative skill of our own people. It is said that the astute Malayalee found the popularity of our lord Venkateswara attracting more devotees and Anantpadmanabha becoming obsolete initiated Ayyappa to get more Telugu biddas around.

We have now branches in Delhi, Mumbai and places wherever our Telugus moved out. Thus, Telugu culture and pride are intimately twined with our spirituality or patronage of a particular branch of dominant Hindu faith. The Muslim and Christian minority communities are internally differentiated, but externally appear to be identical in the Telugu land. There have been different categories of heretics from the time of Ajvikas, Tantriks, Lokayatas, etc, who seemed to have lost their support- base. The materialist worldview popularised by the Left is uniformly spread in the State. The spirituality thus obtained appears to be very constricted compared to the size of the Telugu speakers in the world. What is projected and explained here is only of the elite and the literate who have traditions of going to temple or places of worship at regular intervals. But a majority of non-traditional communities like the Adivasis who gather at Sammakka and Saralamma (mostly Telugu speakers) once in two or three years is equal to the total number of devotees attending (with all the comforts of travel, accommodation, etc) our national deity in a year.

Interestingly, there is a parallel system of spirituality among the ordinary people called as little tradition (mischievously by the missionaries with the support of local clerics) that is uniform and universal in all parts of Telugu country. They are the local or village deities. Remarkably, there seems to be no competition among the peoples’ goddesses and do not bother about huge and elaborate rituals and are happy with the local low-caste person officiating as a priest till it gets sufficient income to attract others.

This is unique to Telugu people and seems to be not found in our neighbouring States. We have been as a particular language speakers with uniform culture remained uninterrupted and enriched our common traditions of spirituality. The exuberance of Telugu spirituality endured similar rituals and practices all over with marginal differences.

Interestingly, there are around 500 temples (mostly Vaishnava and no village deities) in the USA with Telugu-speaking Tamilians or Tamil-speaking Telugus conducting rituals. Thus, we have our Telugu pride carried far and wide through the notion of spiritual unity. Is Telugu spirituality not adequate to fix all the Telugu speakers under one shade of unity with administrative diversity?

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