Rayaprolu Subbarao

Rayaprolu Subbarao (1892-1984) is one of the pioneers of modern Telugu literature. Anumati (Permission), Bhajagovindamu (Pray to Govinda), Soundaryalahari (Billow of Beauty), Sundarakanda (Beauty Section), Dootamattebhamu (Messenger Elephant), Lalitha , and Madhukalasamu (Liquor Pitcher) are his translations. Trunakankanamu (Grass Bracelet), Andhravali (Andhra Row), Kashta Kamala, Ramyalokam (Beautiful Sight), Swapnakumaramu, Telugutoata (Telugu Garden), Vanamala (Forest Necklace), Misramanjari (Mixed Bouquet), Kannepatalu (Virgin Songs) and Jadakutchulu (Braid Tassels) are some of his independent works.   Subbarao, inspired by the Western literary movement, brought romanticism into Telugu literature by breaking away from the traditional translations of Sanskrit literature. 

Romanticism is a style (of literature, art and music) characterized by the emphasis on the imagination, emotions, and creativity of the individual artist. By the late 18th century in France and Germany, literary taste began to turn from classical and neoclassical conventions. Inspiration for the romantic approach initially came from two great shapers of thought, French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau and German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Romanticism, as a movement in the literature,  of virtually every country of Europe, the United States, and Latin America lasted from about 1750 to about 1870, characterized by reliance on the imagination and subjectivity of approach, freedom of thought and expression, and an idealization of nature.  Romantic literature everywhere developed into a vast body of literature of great sensibility and passion, where imagination was praised over reason, emotions over logic, and intuition over science.  This literature emphasized a new flexibility of form adapted to varying content, encouraged the development of complex and fast-moving plots, and allowed mixed genres (such as mixing of grotesque and the sublime) and freer style.  An increasing demand for spontaneity and lyricism led to a rejection of regular meters, strict forms, and other conventions of the classical tradition.

Subbarao's literature is a mixture of Telugu Indian culture and Western ideas.  He brought Western romanticism especially English lyric style to Telugu literature.  However, he followed classical Sanskrit and Telugu meter in his writings and he didn't abandon Sanskrit Telugu form common language. His literature can be distinguished into various kinds: sensual, love of nature, patriotism, spiritual, humanitarianism, social reformation etc.  Sensuality, in general, may be divided into two kinds, union and separation.  Rayaprolu preferrred separation in his writings.  In his first independent poem, Trunakankanamu, Rayaprolu narrates love pangs of separation. The hero's lover marries another man and he remains unmarried to suffer from the memories. By the end of the poem, hero's love transforms into a platonic love and friendship.  In this poem, Rayaprolu's heroin continues a platonic relationship with the hero while married to another man.  In Kastakamala, Kamala loves (platonic) two men. However, when one of them writes a love letter, she commits suicide.  Rayaprolu was a great patriot and Telugu nationalist. He praised the (past) greatness of Telugu warriors to awaken the sleeping Telugu pride.

Rayaprolu Subbarao defined Telugu romanticism and began a new era in Telugu literature.  His romantic literature is considered as the watershed in Telugu literature for its modernity of themes such as naturalism, rural life, platonic love, a sense of history, libertarianism, patriotism, and fierce nationalism.

Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, April 7, 2001

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