Telugu language literature is 3500 years old. Though ambiguity exists in this regard, it might be even older than or even contemporary to the professed South Indian ancient languages. Archaeological work regarding its antiquity has been restrained because of poor funding to such authorities. There are books such as Gadha Sapta Shati dating back to 100 AD. Poetry from the language covers spiritual, mythological and secular writings. Earliest available poetry was found on the Epigraphs and Victory Inscriptions. Nonavailability of ancient literature despite the language being quite old is attributed to the little support that the language received from the pre-1000 AD rulers. During the period of patronage of Eastern Chalukya rulers in 1000 AD, the language attained its present script, rich vocabulary and grammar rules. This standardization led to development in the quantity and quality of literature of Telugu Language, which was predominantly composed of poetry. This phase of development reached its zenith under the rule of Sri Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagara Empire. Modern Telugu poetry has seen English transliterations. Sri Riasat Ali Taj (1930–1999), a prominent personality, poet, author, critic, writer, educationist, linguist and translator from Karimnagar, has made poetic translations (Manzoom Tarjuma in Urdu Rubaiyaat) published in popular Urdu magazines and newspapers in early 1950s.
This era saw the beginning of the translation of the epic Mahabharata into Telugu by three great scholars Nannaya, Tikkana and Errana. These three scholars were reverently called as Kavitrayam (trinity of poets). They completed the great epic in three parts by adopting styles and setting standards, thereby paving way for the future writers. However, despite the best efforts of the scholars of this era, Telugu language used in the poetry included various words imported from Sanskrit and was thus out of reach of the common man.
Pre Prabandha era
This includes various poets such as Nanne Choda and Somanadha who concentrated on using more native words and styles such as Dwipada to reach common man. Srinatha famous for his famous works, Sringara Naishadham, KasiKhandam and BhimaKhandam. This era also saw the most widely quoted Telugu poet Potana and his poem Srimad Bhagavatam. A folk-style rendering of poems was also initiated by Annamayya during this period.
This era includes writers such as Allasani Peddana, Tenali Ramalinga Kavi and Dhurjati. It is considered as the Golden Age for Telugu literature. Telugu language received patronage of the Vijayanagara Empire. Most of the masterpieces of Telugu literature, such as Manu Charitra and Panduranga Mahatyam, were written in this era.
Post Prabandha period
This era includes writers such as Pingali Surana who is famous for his Kalaa Purnodayam and Raaghava Paandaveeyam and Bhattumurthy / Ramarajabhushana, who wrote Vasucharitra and Narasa Bhoopaaleeyam.
This era indicates degeneration of standards in the literature. Poets struggled for patronage and concentrated on styles such as Chitra Kavitvam and on composition of erotic literature to please their patrons. Some patrons tried to preserve the traditions but on the whole it was a dark age. There was some light seen at the end of tunnel when Tirupati Venkata Kavulu flourished at the end of this period. They started a new style of poetry Avadhanam and wrote Krishna Raayabaaram and Devi Bhagavatam.
This started with Gurajada Apparao, who changed the face of Telugu poetry with his Muthayala Saralu, and was perfected by later writers in the Romanticism era including Rayaprolu and Devulapalli Krishna Sastri. Gurajada's attempt to reform Telugu poetry by shedding old rules and styles reached a zenith with Sri Sri. SriSri's famous work "Maha Prastanam" is an instant hit with every corners of society. Many writers followed his style and continue to enrich the literature.
The Paryavaran Kavitodyamam movement started in 2008. It aims to bring awareness and concern among not only the elite class but also the masses through creative forms of literature. The Jagruthi Kiran Foundation initiated it under the leadership of Narayanam Narasimha Murthy, popularly known as "Vidyavachaspati". The movement has literary activities including Harita Kata. Lot of literature has been produced by various poets, writers on Environment. Magazines such as Malle Teega and Kadhakeli are associated with Jagruthi Kiran Foundation. More than 500 poets and writers are involved in this movement.
While the mainstream poetry based on rhythm and meter is growing up, Telugu literature also saw a rise in folk-poetry. Most famous were Satakam, Dwipada and Padalu. These were mainly used by Bhakti Reformers to reach the common man and spread their ideas. Some notable writers are Annamayya, Vemana, Ramadasu and Somanadha. Tyagaraja's Kritis and Muvva gopala Padalu cannot be missed in this list. Tyagaraja Kriti's are considered most important compositions in Carnatic Music.
Some famous satakams are listed below.
- Vemana Satakam
- Sumathi Satakam
- Sri Kalahastiswara Satakam
- Dasarathi Satakam
- Bhaskara Satakam
- Kumara Satakam
- Narasimha Satakam
- Sarveswara Satakam
- Kumara Satakam
- Kumari Satakam
- Andhra Nayaka Satakam
- Sri Kishna Satakam
- Bharthruhari Neethi Satakam
- Bharthruhari Vyragya Satakam
- Bharthruhari Srungara Satakam
- Daksharama Bhimeswara Sathakam
- Ismail Award
- Given every Year for the first book of the poet, established in 2005.
- CP Brown Award
- Given Every year for Translations and the people who has worked for Telugu literary activities