The following points highlight the top four south Indian languages that were spoken during the medieval period. The languages are: 1. Telugu 2. Tamil 3. Kannada 4. Malayalam.
South Indian Language # 1. Telugu:
Great progress was made by the Telugu literature during the Medieval times. In fact Telugu language and literature received importance only during the Medieval times. No doubt, there are certain Telugu inscriptions which date back to the 6th century A.D. but there was no regular Telugu literature till 11th century A.D.
The first author who made valuable contribution to the Telugu language was Nanniah who was commanded by the Chalukya ruler Raja Raj I to translate the Mahabharata. Nanniah could however, translate only Adi Parva, the Sabha Parva and certain portions of Aryana Parva. Nanniah’s composition was greatly influenced by Sanskrit.
The other important literary figures who rendered valuable contribution to the Telugu literature were Tikkanna and Erranna. While the former translated the later portions of the epic, the latter filled the gaps by translating the portions which were left over by Nanniah and Tikkanna.
Another outstanding literary figure of Telugu was Srinatha who not only dealt with religious themes but also produced a number of secular works. His Sringaranaishada, is a poem based on history of Nala and Damyanti. The language used by the author is so difficult that it is said that only Pandits can follow it.
Similarly, his Vidhinataka contains descriptions of the street scenes and the persons whom he met on the way. Srinatha was connected with a number of royal families and served as a minister of Pedda Komati Vema of Kondavidu as well as Deva Raya II of Vijayanagar.
Krishnadevaraya, the ruler of Vijayanagar was also a great scholar of Telugu apart from being a great patron of learning. He wrote Vishnuchittya. He also extended patronage to a band of poets popularly known as Ashtadiggajas or ‘Eight Elephants’. One of these literary figures was Allasani Pedanna who was the poet laureate of king Krishnadevaraya.
Rulers of Golconda were also great patrons of Telugu literature. Ibrahim Qutub Shah of Golconda particularly patronised the Telugu scholars. Soon after he assumed the throne he invited scholars like Addanki Gangadhara, Kondukuru Rudra, Ponnaganti Telaganna, etc. to his court.
He appointed Gangadhara the famous author of Tapatisamvaranamu Upakhyanamu as his court poet. It is on record, that the Sultan was a great admirer of learned men and his court was thronged by scholars who had specialised in Vedas, Puranas,’ Vyakarana and cognate sciences.
Ibrahim Qutb Shah not only showered monetary gifts and pensions on Telugu scholars but even granted them jagirs. For example Kondukuru Rudra was granted a village named Chintalapalam in the Nelore district. In addition to the Sultan even his nobles were great patrons of Telugu literature.
Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the successor of Ibrahim Qutb Shah also continued the tradition of patronizing the scholars. He appointed Pallameta Somayaji Kavi as his court poet. The other literary personalities patronized by the Sultan were Ganesha Panditulu, Kami Reddi, Tamma Mantri, etc. With the end of the Qutb Shahi dynasty the creative faculty of Telugu writers suffered a set back.
South Indian Language # 2. Tamil:
Tamil culture made tremendous progress under the Chola rulers, and a number of works in Tamil were produced between 850 to 1200 A.D. Some of the notable works produced during this period include Jivakachintamani by Tiruttakkdevar, a Jain saint of the tenth century A.D. Another prominent work was Kalladam by Kalladanar in which the author has discussed sixty-four sacred sports of Shiva.
Jayangoncar wrote Kalingattupparani, a war poem. Another prominent scholar poet who flourished at the court of Chola rulers was Kuttan. He wrote Nalayirakkovai. In addition he wrote a Work entitled Parani dealing with the war of Kalinga fought by Vikrama.
Another work of Kuttan was Takkayagapparani which deals with the stories of sacrifice of Daksha. The other prominent works attributed to this great scholar are Sarasvatiyandadi, Arumbaittollayiram, Ittiyelupadu, Eluppelupadu.
Another prominent scholar at the Chola court was Kamban, who wrote the great epic in Tamil entitled Ramavataram. He also composed other, works like Erelupadu and Sathakopvandali, which are much inferior to the above said work. Nambi Andar brought out a canon of eleven books on Shaiva.
He also wrote six Prabandhas and Tirruttondar-Tiruvandadi. The later work is a sort of biographical creation in which the author has dealt with lives of sixty three-saints.
Another prominent work in Tamil was Periya Puranam by Sekkilar which is considered to be a landmark in the history of Tamil Shaivism. According to Prof. K A. Nilkanta Sastri, “It was hailed universally as a veritable fifth Veda, in Tamil and immediately took its place as the twelfth and last book in the Shaiva canon.
It has influenced profoundly the lives of all the Shaivas of the Tamil country and of those in Andhra and Karnataka through translations and adaptations. It is one of the masterpieces of Tamil literature, and worthily commemorates the great age of the Imperial Cholas and their sustained devotion to Shaivism.”
Jivasanbodanai, by Devendra-Munivar is another prominent work of Tamil literature which deals with the twelve ways of meditation. Another outstanding work was Kalithurai by Buddhamitra in which the author tried to make “synthesis between the Tamil and Sanskrit systems of grammar and comprises all the five sections of a complete treatise-sandhi (eluttu), sol, porul vappu and alankara (ani).”
During the period between 1200 to 1650 A.D. a number of philosophical work and commentaries were written in Tamil. These writers were mostly Vaishnavites or Jains. Thus Meykandar wrote Shiva-Nama-Bodam which contains the tenets of Shaiva-sidhanta.
Haridas of Vijayanagar wrote Irusamaya-Vilakkam which dealt both with Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Another prominent work in Tamil was Setupuranam by Niramba Alagiya Desikar, in which the author has used very rich vocabulary.
The other important contributions of the same author are Puranas on Tirupparangiri and Tiruvaiyaru and a commentary on Sittiyar. In 1650 A.D. the last work on Shaiva philosophy was written by Velliyambla Tambiran and is entitled Nanabharana-vilakham.
In addition to enormous religious literature certain secular works were also produced in Tamil language. Some of the prominent secular works produced during Medieval times were Tanjai- Vanam-kovai of Poyyamoli, the Nalavenba of Pugalendi and the Bharatam of Villiputturar.
The other important scholars who made valuable contribution to the Tamil literature during Medieval times were Mandala, Kumaragurupara, Turaimanglam, Chidambra Revana Siddar and Gangeyan. In fact, so much of Tamil literature was produced during this time that it stands only next to the Sanskrit literature produced in Southern India.
South Indian Language # 3. Kannada:
Kannada is well known for its literature. It made considerable progress in prose as well as poetry during the Medieval times. The three prominent literary figures who rendered valuable Service to the promotion of Kannada literature were Rana, Poona and Pampa, who are considered as the three jewels of Kannada literature.
According to R.S. Mugali, the history of Kannada literature from 10th to the 19th century broadly falls into three periods:
(i) The age of classical tradition from the 10th to about the middle of the 12th century,
(ii) The age of spiritual upsurge and popular appeal from the middle of the 12th century to the 15th century, and
(iii) The age of devotional and classical works which lasted from 15th to the 19th century.
Corresponding to the three ages, the Kannada literature accommodated new ideas and themes and kept on changing. One writer has compared the Kannada literature with the Ganges “‘which gradually descended from classical heights to popular plains in form and content and entered the ocean of people’s consciousness.”
South Indian Language # 4. Malayalam:
During the Medieval times Malayalam developed as an independent language and a number of outstanding works were written in this language. Like the other South Indian languages it also draw freely from Sanskrit. One of the prominent works produced in Malayalam during the 14th century was Unuunili Sandesan by an unknown author.
In this work the author has followed the Sanskrit metres. Puranic episodes from the themes of the composition, although certain references to the contemporary usages and personalities are also made. Certain scholars and poets tried to evolve independent styles also.
One great scholar who rendered great service to the Malayalam literature was Rama Panikkar who is known as the Chaucer of Malayalam. The other important literary figures in Malayalam were Cherusseri Nambudari and Tuncat Ramanujan.
While the former wrote Krishnagatha, the later is credited with the authorship of Adhyatma Ramayana Kilippathu, Bharatam Kilippattu Harinamakirtanam and Chintaratnam and a number of other works.