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C. P. Brown, the Savior of Telugu Culture

    British rule in Andhra had both positive and negative aspects.  On the positive side of the coin, we have eminent people like Charles Philip Brown who rejuvenated the Telugu literature.

    Charles Phillip Brown’s father Reverend David Brown, a Christian missionary, came to Calcutta in 1786. Reverend Brown learned several Indian languages to understand the culture and religion.  Charles was the second son of Browns, born on November 10, 1798. The family went back to England after the death of Reverend Brown.  Charles studied Sanskrit in college with an aim to work for East India Company and obtained a gold medal in Sanskrit Studies.  East India Company sent him to Chennai (Madras).

    Charles arrived in Chennai on 4th August 1817.  At that time he didn’t even know that there existed a language and nationality called Telugu or Andhra, just like anybody outside India even today.  He joined St. George College to learn Telugu from Kodandarama Pantulu.  He became proficient in Telugu within sixteen months at the time when Telugu Pundits didn’t know any English at all.

    In 1820 Sir Thomas Monroe came to Chennai as governor and ordered that every official in the Company should be proficient in the local language and perform their duties in the local national language. (Compare the situation today: Many officials feel shy to speak in Telugu in State government offices.  Central government officials have a right not to speak Telugu. Even the kirana merchant in Hyderabad looks at you like an idiot villager if you speak in Telugu. English or Hindi or Urdu works wonders in Hyderabad, the Capital City of Telugus).

    Charles started his career in Kadapa (Cuddapa) as an assistant to the Collector, Mr. Han Bury.  The collector used to speak very fluent Telugu. (Many collectors in Andhra Pradesh today are non-Telugus and don’t speak Telugu at all.) Mr. Bury became the role model for Charles. Charles tried to emulate him. Charles Brown established two schools in Kadapa and arranged for free education in Telugu and Hindi with Indian teachers. He arranged for free meals to the school children. He also started two more schools in Machilipattanam, with free food for students.

    He got interested in Vemana's literature in 1824. He studied Vemana's and other Telugu literature, and Telugu meter and grammar under the guidance of Venkatasivasastri Tippabhatla and  Advaitabrahmasastri Vatthyam. Charles Brown was transferred to Rajamundri in 1825. He continued his study of Telugu literature. He collected the written scripts of Telugu Kavyas (poems) that were on the verge of extinction.  He hired some copyists/writers (raayasagaallu) to prepare fresh copies. He reprinted Andhra Mahabharatamu and Andhra Mahabhagavatamu.  He found a shelter for the destitute Goddess Telugu Saraswati and was able to redecorate her like a married Indian woman.

    He went to London on vacation (during 1835-38) and collected 2,106 hand written books in South Indian Languages from the India House Library and sent them back to Chennai Library.  He edited and published several Telugu and Sanskrit books after he came back from London. He collected sayings, stories, poems etc. that were popular at that time among common population.  He also wrote several grammar books and learning materials for English people who were interested in learning Telugu.  Madras Oriental Library hoards several of C. P. Brown works.

    Charles Brown spent his own money for the development of Telugu and even took loans for the same. He saved every penny for the development of Telugu. Even in the tough financial times he didn’t give up his Telugu development programs. He retired in 1854 and settled in London. He worked at London University as Telugu Professor for some time. He died in 1884 on December 12 at the age of eighty-seven. His selfless service to Telugus and their culture and literature is unparalleled even among Telugus. Every Telugu Indian should remember his services to Telugu culture and its preservation.

     Hanumachchastri Janamaddi says, “minuku minuku mantunna Telugu waangmayadeepaanni snehasiktam chesi prajwalimpachesina aandhrabhashodhdhaarakudu C. P. Brown.” (C. P. Brown, the savior of Telugu Culture and Literature, rekindled the dying lamp of Telugu literature with his friendship and service.) 

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