Venkateswarrao Katuri (1895-1962)

Venkateswarrao was born into a Brahmin family on October 15, 1895, in Katuri village in Krishna district. His father was Venkatakrishnayya and mother was Ramamba.He was adopted by Kondayya and Lakshmamma, his granduncle and grandaunt.Ancestors of Katuri family were from Kalpatam village near Bandaru.They migrated to Katuri as they were appointed as village heads by the Zameendar (ruler) of the region and changed their family name from Kalpatam to Katuri. Their family belongs to Srivatsasa gotram (lineage).There was another Katuri family in Katuri village, but their lineage was Haritasa gotram.

Venkateswarrao was also a multifaceted personality like Pingali Lakshmikantam with whom he paired up to write poetry and became famous as Pingali-Katuri-Poets.He was a poet, teacher, editor, National Congress Party activist, and a follower of Gandhi.In 1921, while he was studying for BA, he responded to Mahatma Gandhi’s call for non-cooperation movement and since then he became an active member of independence movement and the Congress Party. He served as a manager of Congress Party Office for a while in Krishna district.During this period he wrote poetry to instigate freedom for which the British jailed him.

He taught Telugu literature from 1933 through 1939 at newly formed Andhra National College in Badaru and later served as Vice Principal of that college until 1943. He was the editor of Krishna Patrika from 1945 though 1953. In 1945, he was elected as president of Navya Sahityaparishattu.

Pingali-Katuri-Poets wrote two poetic works “tolakari” and “soundaranandanam.”Venkateswarrao’s independent works include maaooru, poulastyahridayam, gudigantalu, panneetijallu, muvvagopala, sreenivasakalyanam, sahityadarsanamu, kavyamala, pillanagrovi pilupu, ratapupata, avadbrudhotsavam, otupata, ugaditarana, memandhrulam, varalakshmi, etc.His Sanskrit translations include, soundaryalahari (by Adi Sankara), devyaparadhakshamapana strotram (by Adi Sankara), sivaparadhakshamapana stotram (by Adi Sankara), swapnavasavadatta (by Bhasa), and pratijnyayougandhrayanamu (by Bhasa). His English translations include, sitapendli, dharmapadhamu, bhavabandhamu, styaparisodhana ane Gandhi kadha, kavindra kadha, moulana abul kalam azad, nallakaluva (‘Black to Live’ by Alexander Dumas), mugguru moortulu (‘Three Men of Destiny’ by Judge Panchapakesa Iyyer),He discusses, in his devotional work gudigantalu, two of Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite themes- violence and segregation. This poem was written in 1947 when Murty and Bansal arranged for the segregated people to enter Tirupati temple.The main theme of the poem is the plight of segregated masses and their entry into temples. He also discusses the violence of Second World War.This poem became very popular indicating the mood of the people for a change.In this poem he indicates that the segregated and low class masses would take over soon the entire world like mythological Vamana, a short Brahmin, who took over the entire world with his foot and dethrones the demon emperor Bali.

Although, he was a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi and his principles, he defied Mahatma and supported the formation of a separate state for Andhra people in his long poem memandhrulam.In this poem he described the difficulties of Andhras in Madras province of British India and the greatness of Andhra past.

 In the modern Telugu literature, Pingali-Katuri Poets are as eminent and famous as their gurus Tirupati-Venkata Poets. Venkateswarrao Katuri’s contributions to Telugu literature and society make him a bright star of Telugu literature.

Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, February 2002

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