According to Aristotle all poetry consists in imitation, and if we allow the remarks of Hermogenes to be true, that whatever is delightful to the senses produces the beautiful, we could not pitch on a spot of the world more abundant in natural objects to excite
poetic effusions, than the Peninsula of India, where the face of nature is furnished with features that strike the imagination with
scenes, the most sublime, imposing, and delightful, so as to raise all human powers of fancy to an elevation that exalts them to the very sublime, and beautiful : there have consequently been several very eminent bards, who have flourished at different periods in India. According to Hindu accounts, the ancient legislator Manu, Bhugu, and other sages have ordained "Sapta Anga" or seven appendages requisite in the courts of all legal Monarchs; namely, Doctors, Poets, Pa negyrists, Singers, Jesters, Moralists, and Historians; the first, to investigate the laws, the second, to write the genealogy, martial
deeds and other actions, and qualities of Sovereigns, to promulgate the same to different quarters of the world; the third, to chant and laud; the fourth to amuse the king by their jokes, and filth, to utter
wise maxims and saws; sixth, to furnish precedents; and seventh, to record transactions, and expound the histories of celebrated dynasties. The above seven officers will cause a Sovereign to rule his country with justice and renown.
The Hindus affirm, that poetry is innate and not to be acquired, and according to their astrologers, mankind obtain this art by a fortunate influence of the planets Jupiter and Venus.
The ancient kings of the north of India were very great patrons of poetry, although in that remote age poems were constructed with much less care and art than succeeding years; but the numerous poets that latterly crowded the courts of various monarchs, have
caused these effusions to be less esteemed, notwithstanding their merits, by patrons who expected panegyrics as a matter of course. Many centuries ago the princes of the lunar race, such as Purura and others; followed this maxim, and were imitated by their successors who kept up their dignity and fame, till the original solar and lunar races became extinct in the person of Nanda, whose downfall is exhibited in a dramatic work called Mudra-Rakshasa*, or seal and signet of Rakshasa, a minister of Chandra Gupta; the effusions of poets may from this date be said to be dedicated to mercenary purposes and not to those exalted themes that distingished them in days more ancient.
According to records Vekramaditya, who was the lord of an aera, employed at Ms court nine poets, who were styled "Nava Ratna" or nine gems. This monarch likewise founded colleges for students, and encouraged literary men in order to perpetuate his fame. Although many poems must have been written to illustrate his actions, yet few have been handed down to posterity, except the Vekrama Charitra; but a number of g^rants that have been discovered by antiquarians, testify the king's liberality to bards, who were no doubt celebrated for their talents at one time, although their works are now lost
Bhoja Raja, sovereign of Dharapore, had for his chief poet the noted Kalidas, together with other excellent bards, who wrote works that are still made use of in schools and colleges. This monarch was a great patron of literature, and many learned men flocked to his court from different provinces, attracted by his patronage and munificence.
It has been asserted that Bhoja Raja used to pay one lac of money for every syllable of a verse that was written on him, and this
verse is cited as a proof:
"Laksham Laksham Punor Laksham Janudagdha Kaviswar.
Pay one lac, another lack, and one lac more to Janudagdha the poet."
The sum of one lac for every syllable is such an instance of liberality, as can no where be found recorded in history, and is too extravagant to deserve credit; but the learned have explained the matter by asserting that the lacs that were given by Bhoja Raja, to the poets, were lacs of shells, as a considerable part of the revenue of his kingdom was paid in shells. It is also averred
that any one on beholding the countenance of the above-named monarch, immediately obtained the gift of poetry; the true meaning of which probably is, that the king was so great an encourager of learning that his patronage brought to light the merits of various authors, who would otherwise have remained neglected.
The three most celebrated poets at Bhoja's court were Kalidas, Dandi, and Bhava Bhuti, and there existed great rivalry between them; it is said, that one day the goddess Saraswati, to whom Kalidas had several times performed sacrifices, became manifest in the form of a beautiful young woman, and paraded the high street, playing with a ball before the three poets, who were sitting together. Dandi said, "this ball
appears of three distinct hues; when struck by. her rosy band it appears red, when parallel with her eyes it is blue and brown, when struck down to the ground." Bhava Bhuti said "she beats it so because it resembles her breast, the the blue lily in her ears falls at her feet, dreading a like fate, as it resembles her eyes." Kalidas said, "that being aware of the intention of the ball to kiss her lips, she frequently beats it down."
The goddess at this moment vanished from their presence, and created a shop at another end of the street, where she sat down in the shape of a betel leaf seller; the three above named poets went to the shop;
the goddess gave some lime to Bhava Bhuti, an areca nut to Dandi, and betel leaf to Kalidas; when Dandi asked of her the reason of this partiality, the goddess replied, that the merits of the poets were not equals she then took them to the back part of the shop and shewed them three heaps, which were emblems of their merits. Kalidas's was the largest, Dandi's was the second, and Bhava Bhuti's the smallest; it is said, that after thin event the three poets became firm friends without entertaining any rivalry or envy towards each other. The successors of Bhoja Raja were warlike princes, and patronized various kinds of poetry according to their taste.
The arts and sciences were introduced into Dekkan from the north of India at a very early period, and Sanscrit poetry, consequently flourished in various provinces, and in course of time, poetry in the vernacular tongues was cultivated, in different districts of the Telugu and Karnata countries, and subsequently in Dravida, Maharatta, Guzerat, and other provinces, the numerous poems in this dialect gave occasion to a Sanscrit, verse which says, "the poem's in the language of the gods, are like the wild cows (very rare,) and only to be found in forests and mountains, while those in the vernacular dialects are like hogs to be found at every door." Several works in the learned lanugage have been brought to light by the labors of learned Europeans, such as Sir William Jones, Mr. Colebroke, Drs. Taylor and Wilson. Before the birth of Sankarachari there were many works published by the heterodoxical sects of Jainas, Bhaudas, Charvakas and others. Except the Amera Cosha, and other dictionaries, their works are not held in estimation by the Hindus, as the Jainas are the avowed despisers of the Vedes. Although the Sanscrit is a dead language, it
was made use of by various poets at the Court of Kings, and to write down public records, and in deeds of gift, or grants of land to bramins. In the Telugu province Trinetra Palava caused the Sanscrit language to flourish, when, he had established the bramins in his extensive dominions, and this example was afterwards followed by the
princes of the Kakati race, whose metropolis was Orungole, they recorded grants and other deeds of gifts in the Sanscrit language.
Ganapati Deva Roya and his son Pratapa Rudra, made very numerous grants, in which their genealogy is frequently introduced.
Harihara Roya, who was the founder of the city of Vedyanagar, and its first sovereign cleared all the dense woods about the banks of the Tunga Bhadra, and Kristna rivers, devided the land into districts, and built villages, towns, and colleges for students, and other public institutions; in all public records and instruments, the above named
sovereign never used the vernacular tongue in the various deeds of gifts he made, which were inscribed on stone and copper in the Deva Nagre character.
Under the Mysore princes the Sanscrit language was well cultivated, and several excellent poems were written under the, successive sovereigns of that dynasty.
The Andhra or Telugu language is a dialect of the Sanscrit, and is very ancient, for a grammar of it was written by Brihaspati. Kanva, who lived in the reign of Dushyanta king of Pratisthana puru or Prayaga like-wise compiled a copious grammar of this language, which is said to have been taught by Skanda, son of Seva, according to Sanhadri Khonda, a part of the Skanda Puran.
Raja Rajnarendra son of Vishu Vardhn, was a prime patron of the Telugu language. About the A. S. 2028, a bramin named Annaparya alias Nannya Bhat wrote a Telugu grammar, and he was encouraged by the above named monarch to translate the Bharat into Telugu: trhee books were written
by him, and fifteen completed by Tekkana Somayagi a bramin of Pature. Since this time the Telugu language was particularly cultivated, and numerous dramas and epic poems were written by noted poets, Krishna Deva Roya was also a great patron of this dialect, he retained at his court eight celebrated bards, whom he collectively styled Asta diggajas, which being interpretated, means the eight elephants, alluding to the eight elephants, which according to Hindu mythology support the earth. The name of five of these poets were Allasanl Peddana, Mukku Temmana, Tennala Ramalinga, Dhurjati, Pingala-Surana, Bhattu-Murti, Ayala Raja and Rama Bhadra. These poets were the authors of numerous works of all descriptions of poetry, from lyric odes to epic poems. The fifth mentioned individual was an inhabitant of the village called Bhattu Palla: he became tutor to several inferior bards, who afterwards dispersed themselves to attend the courts of petty paligars and officers of districts, such as Kalyanadurga Royadurg, Gutti, Gurarm Konda, Kandanole, &c. and became panegyrists, they were less esteemed for their poetic powers, than the
great masters who proceded them, but they were styled Bhatta-Rajas, and their origin is fully laid down in a paper, communicated by the late Colonel Mackenzie, and published in the Assiatic Annual Register for the year 1804.
The Nayogi bramins, who held official appointments, as ministers, ambassadors, and village accountants liberally patronized poets and many individuals of talents were maintained by them.
Although, the Maratta language was spoken many ages ago and is a dialect of the Sanscrit, it was never brought to a standard till the time of Gnaneswar Namadeo, and Sopanadeo, who compiled dictionaries and vocabularies of that tongue, but still no granmmar was in existence until a long time, afterwards a bramin named Anuntadeva
Bhatt undertook the task, and composed a philological treatise, which is frequently referred to; the work is entitled Sarva Sastra Upayogi, and possesses considerable merit. The Maratta princes and chiefs were principally of a warlike character, and no great encouragers of learning, or poetry, there were consequently very few poets produced
in that country, and their talents were principally confined, to the praises of deities and similar subjects.
The materials to compile the present biographical sketches were collected by me, while I followed man official capacity through different provinces of the Peninsula, my late lamented master Col. Colin Mackenzie; surveyor General of India; the unhappy demise of that meritorious officer has for ever destroyed the prospect which I had been led sanguinely to hope would be realized, but I cannot retrace in my memory the various
scenes we passed through, during our arduous labours, without feeling those sensations, which it is impossible for me to express and which will never pass away from my mind.
The meaner in which I have executed the task I had undertaken, I leave an enlightened public to judge, well knowing they will not expect well-turned periods, or elegance of diction from the pen of a native. Some typographical errors will be found in the work, which my harrassed state of mind has prevented me correcting, and I implore the indulgence of the Public towards a native, who has endeavored to merit approbation.