Telugu Poets

Taallapaaka Annamayya
Nannaya, Tikkana & Errana
Gonabudda Reddy
Bammera Potana
Sri Krishnadevaraya
Pingali Soorana
Gurajada Venkata Appa Rao
Unnava Lakshminarayana
Rayaprolu Subba Rao
Yogi Vemana
Kandukuri Veeresalingam

Viswanatha Satyanarayan
Nori Narasimha Sastry
Tripuraneni Gopichand
Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao
Srirangam Srinivasarao
Puttaparthi Narayanacharya
Baliwada Kantharao
Vasireddy Seethadevi
Paravastu Chinnayya Soori
Madhurantakam Rajaram
Somanaadhudu Paalkuriki

Taallapaaka Annamayya:

The Tallapaka family of poets, music composers and scholars in Telugu and Sankrit popularized the Srivaishnava faith in Andhra Pradesh in the 15th and 16th centuries. Annamacharya, the greatest of them, it is said, had a vision of Lord Venkateswara when he was 16 and then spent the rest of his life composing kirtanas and padams on him, which totalled 32,000. Of these only 14,000 are available now engraved on copper plates which were hidden for centuries in a niche of Sri Venkateswara temple at Tirumala.

Annamayya was born in 1408 A.D. in TallapAka, a village in Cuddapah district. Born with a gift for poetry and song, the boy Annamayya would improvise songs on Venkateswara and was always preoccupied by him. He ran away to Tirupati and fell asleep on a rock after and exhausting climb of the first steep hill at Tirumala. He dreamt of alamelumanga and composed a Shataka in her praise. Upon reaching the lord of Seven Hills he burst into a song of ecstatic praise.

He lived in Tirumala for some time and was initiated into Sri Vaishnava faith. Sometime later his people sought him out and took him home where he was married. His marriage did not interfere with his spiritual interests and he became a disciple of the saint Shathakopayati of Ahobalam and studied all the sacred texts. Although he propitiated other deities like Rama, Krishna, Narasimha and Vitthala, he viewed them as forms of Venkateswara, the Ultimate Reality. He spent the rest of his life in his service and devoting his time between Tallapaka and Tirumala. Annamayya breathed his last in 1503.

Nannaya, Tikkana & Errana (11th - 14th century): Known as the Kavya Traya or the 'Trinity of Telugu Literature' these three poets are the composers of the Andhra Mahabharata, a replica of the Sanskrit Mahabharata. Nannaya is acclaimed as the Adi Kavi or the first poet of Telugu literature. Most of Telugu literature begins with this massive epic transcreated by these three great sage-scholars

Gonabudda Reddy (13th century): Gonabudda Reddy is known for his Ranganatha Ramayanam which is a pioneering work on the theme of Ramayana in Telugu. The whole work comprises seven khandas (parts). The work has become a part of the Andhra cultural life and is also used by puppeteers for their shows

Srinathudu (14th century): Sreenaadhudu (1385-1475 AD) was a born poet. He began a new era that broke away from the translation era in Telugu literature. Sreenaadhudu had authored several independent works in Telugu. Most of his works are very sensual. He worshipped sex and enjoyed life with wine and women. Maruttaratcharitra, Salivaahanasaptasati, Panditaaraadhyacharitra, Sringaaranaishadhamu, Haravilaasamu, Bheemakhanda Kaashikhandamulu, Kreedaabhiraamamu, Sivaraatrimahaatmyamu and Palnaativeeracharitramu are his works. Among these, Maruttaratcharitra, Salivaahanasaptasati, and Panditaaraadhyacharitra are not available. Sringaaranaishadhamu was a translation of Sanskrit Naishadha kaavya written by Sreeharsha. In this work Sreenaadha described the sensual story of marriage of King Nala and Damayanti.

In Kreedabhiraamamu drama (the authorship of this work is disputed), he described the contemporary society as observed by two Aryan friends, one belonging to the Brahmin tribe and the other belonging to a Komati tribe, during their one-day visit to the Ekasilanagaram (Warangal city) the capital city of Kakatiya kingdom. Their visit includes various parts of the city including the red-light area (township of prostitutes). This drama gives a clear picture of the Telugu society and the culture in 14th century. In this drama, Sreenaadhudu described the vocations, tribes (castes), classes, games, Telugu cuisine and restaurants, and the culture of Telugu people during the reign of Kakatiya dynasty. Similar to modern cities like New York or Mumbai, in which ghettos and slums are common, the capital city of Kakatiya kingdom also had rich neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods with ghettos. Prostitution was a respected vocation with rules and regulations of the art. Brothel courts resolved the disputes among the prostitutes. Gambling, cockfights, ram fights etc., were popular entertainment in theTelugu nation. Heroic stories of Telugu heroes like warriors of Palnadu, stories of Ekaveera goddess, Parasurama, etc were very popular ballads and songs. Popular religions were Ekaveera worship, Mailaradeva worship, Bhairava worship, Chamadeswari worship, Moosanamma worship, Kumaaraswaami worship, Pandava worship, Macherla Chenna worship and so on. Telugus were interested in painting and other arts. Women used to wear red cheeralu (saries) with borders. He also described the Telugu superstitions. For example, Telugus believed that the cry of an owl in the east was auspicious; Early morning was considered auspicious time to start any new venture.

In Palnaativeeracharitra (the history of warriors of Palnaadu) is the first ballad in Telugu literature. The authorship of this work is also disputed. This is a historical ballad based on the events that happened during 1181-1182 AD. During that time Vaishnavism and Shaivism were dominant rival religions. However, both religions attempted to attract various tribes (castes) and fought against tribalism. This story is popularly known as Palanti Bhaaratam. This ballad has lot of similarities to the North Indian (Aryan) story Mahabharat and is respected by Telugus as much as Mahabharat is respected.

Sreenaadhudu was the Chief Education Officer in the court of king Pedakomati Vemareddi of Kondaveeti kingdom and enjoyed rich sensual and worldly pleasures for eighteen years. His duties included arranging contests and select poets and writers for awards, authoring king’s decrees and orders, reading and reciting science, literature etc., to king, and so on. He traveled in the Telugu Nation and attained several awards and titles from various kings. Sreenadhudu was certainly the beginner of a new era in the Telugu literature.

Bammera Potana (15th century):

Bammera Potana (1450-1510) was born in Bammera, a village twenty miles away from Warangal, into a Niyogi Brahmin family. His father was Kesanna and his mother was Lakkasanamma. He was considered to be a natural scholar (sahaja panditha) without a teacher. Potana was a very polite gentleman. He was an agriculturist by occupation. Though he was a great scholar, he never hesitated to work in the agricultural fields.

At an early age he wrote ‘Bhogini Dandakam’ a poem wrote in praise of king Sri Singa Bhoopala’s concubine Bhogini. This was his first poetic venture which had the seeds of his great poetic talents. His second work was "Virabhadhra Vijayamu" which describes the adventures of Lord Virabhadhra, son of Lord Shiva. The main theme was the destruction of a yagna performed in absence of Lord Shiva by Daksha Prajapathi.

As a young man, he was a devotee of Lord Shiva. Later, Potana became a devotee of Lord Rama and more interested in salvation. His conversion from Shaivism to Vaishnavism was triggered by an incident. One early morning during a lunar eclipse, on the banks of river Godavari, Potana was meditating on Lord Shiva. At that auspicious moment, Lord Rama appeared dressed like a king and requested Potana to translate Bhagavatam into Telugu and dedicate it to him. This inspired him to translate Vyasa’s Sanskrit Bhagavatam into Telugu.

The king of Warangal, Sarvajna Singa Bhoopala, wanted Potana to dedicate ‘Andhra Maha Bhagavatamu’ to him. But, Potana refused to obey the king’s orders and dedicated the Bhagavathamu to Lord Rama, whom he worshipped with great devotion. It is said that Potana remarked, ‘it is better to dedicate the work to the supreme Lord Vishnu than dedicate it to the mortal kings.’ He was of opinion that poetry was a divine gift and it should be utilized for salvation by devoting it to the God.

He was quite fond of using rhythm and repetition of sounds giving a majestic grace to the style of writing. He was very skilful in using alankaras (figures of speech) like similes and metaphors. Potana imparted the knowledge of the divine to the Telugu people along with lessons in ethics and politics through Andhra Maha Bhagavatamu.

Even illiterate Telugus readily quote verses from chapters 'Gajendra Mokshamu' and 'Prahlada Charitra' of his work, ‘Andhra Maha Bhagavathamu,’ the crown jewel of Telugu literature. Andhra people are greatly indebted to the most beloved poet Bammera Potana.

Sri Krishnadevaraya (16th century): A renowned emperor of the famous Vijaynagar kingdom, Sri Krishnadevaraya is also known for his great epic Amukta Malyada (A Garland Dedicated to the Lord). The whole work of Amukta Malyada has a grand poetic style and the work blends the eternal and the temporal in a masterly fashion even as it unfolds an interesting tale.

Pingali Sooranna (16th century): Soorana was a pioneering figure in the field of Telugu classical poetry of the medieaval age. He has to his credit mainly three works Raghavapandaviyam a dyvarthi-kavya, Kalapurnodayam (Full Blooming of Art) and Prabhavati Pradyumnam. Kalapurnodayam has been hailed as the first original poetic novel in Telugu literature.

Paravastu Chinnayya Soori (1807-1861): Who does not know Sri Chinnayasoori among us? He was one of the most famous pandits of the 19th century. He was born in 1807 in Perambur of Chengalpattu distt. and died in 1861. He was a Saivaite. Sri Cninnayasoori was a Telugu pandit in the Govt. college of Madras. He dedicated his entire life to the progress and promotion of Telugu language and literature.

Sri Chinnayasoori wrote the baala vyaakaranamu in a new style after doing extensive research on "Andhra Grammar" which is the greatest gift to all of us. One can not come across any one who has not studied his grammar on the entire Andhra soil. Other well-known writings by Chinnayasoori are: (1) Neetichandrika (2) Sootandhra Vyaakaranamu (3) Andhra Dhatumoola and (4) Neeti Sangrahamu.

Chinnayasoori translated Mitra labham and Mitra Bedham from the sanskrit "panchatantram" as "neeti chandrika". Moonlight of Morals is the English meaning of the Telugu word Neeti Chandrika. Later, Veeresa lingam translated Sandhi and Vigraham . No one translated the fifth tantram, viz., kakolukeyam.

Chinnayasoori's writing style is the most classical one. Several writers tried to follow his style of writing Telugu but failed desperately. The stylistic elegance in his prose is unparallel to any other known, even today. Sri Kandukuri Viresalingam and Sri Kokkonda Venkataratnam followed Chinnayasoori's style of prose writing and wrote Vigrahamu and Sandhi in a different pattern. But, they were unable to provide the depth of style of Chinnayasoori's prose writing to the readers.

Many of us might have read the Neetichandrika as the text book at the high school level. Those who do not have good command over the Telugu language will also be enthusiastic to read the Neetichandrika. Chinnayasoori's intention in writing the Neetichandrika was not only to translate the honey of morals into telugu but to enlighten the readers with the cool rays of Telugu language which is ever glowing. Sri T. Balanagayyasetti was fortunate to publish this famous classic, the Neetichandrika, and above all we are more fortunate to read it. (based on Vidwan Dandipalli Venkatasubbasastri's preface from Neetichandrika in Telugu. Posted in Soc.culture.indian.telugu by PALANA.)

Gurajada Venkata Appa Rao (1862-1915): Hailed as the father of Modern Telugu literature, G.V.Appa Rao blazed a new ttail in play-writing as also in poetry and short story Kanyasulkam (Bride-Price) is one of his outstanding plays. It was the harbringer of modernism of Telugu literature.

Sri Gurajada Apparao was a social reformer, poet, writer, philosopher, and a friend. He was born in 1863 in Rayavaram of Visakhapatnam distt.. He graduated from the Maharaja's College (MR COLLEGE) of Vizianagaram, the so called VIDYANAGARAM of ANDHRA where he synthesized de novo the greatest of his writings which are superb, unforgettable, and immortal. "dESamanTE maTTika'dOy - dESamanTE manushulOy" has had been shacking the hearts of every Telugu soul, whether literate or illiterate.

The style of Gurajada's poetry, neither pedantic nor enigmatic, but was the purest, crystal clear, lucid, and vivaceous. His poems awaken the weeklings even and energize them. Gurajada's intellectual creativity gave us a keepsake, historical landmark, and a precious literary diamond - "KANYASULKAM" play.

It is one and the only book in Telugu in which dedication and preface were written in English (there may be others in existence, but they mushroomed afterwards). On the 13th of August, 1992, "Kanyasulkam" celebrated its 100th birthday, eversince it was staged for the first time.

"Kanyasulkam" centenary celebrations were held at Gurajada's residence in Vizianagaram. Poets and writers from various places in Andhra held literary discourses on Gurajada's works. On the 76th death anniversary of Sri Gurajada, Sri Jonnalagadda Somayajulu and his party performed the "Kanyasulkam" play. Sri Jonnalagadda Ramanamurty, well known for his Girisam role in the play, was honored.

Sri Gurajada wrote the "Kanyasulkam" in 1869 for an excellent cause - social reformism. Girls at ten years of age were married to men of 65 years of age or older in return the girls' parents used to receive a sum of Rs 1000/- or more. This unfortunate act of selling young girls who did not either attain mental maturity or puberty to men (ready to be buried under 6 feet of mud) performed by their ignorant parents can be envisioned in this play, even now. No where in this entire world, a play like this or similar to this, was ever written.

One will be surprised to know that the era of Modern Telugu Literature was born from Gurajada's pen and his "Kanyasulkam". "Kanyasulkam" was performed for the first time by the "Jagannadha Vilasini Sabha" of Vizianagaram in 1892.  (Contributed by Palana)

Unnava Lakshminarayana (1877-1959): Known for his famous novel Mala Palli (The Harijan Colony), Lakshminarayana was also an ardent freedom fighter who launched a crusade against untouchability. The novel combines within itself both social realism and spiritual idealism, a rare combination to be found in a single novel.

Rayaprolu Subba Rao (1892-1984): Rayaprolu is hailed as one of the pioneers of modern Telugu literature.Lalitha, Andhravali, Truna Kankanam (Grass Bracelet), Kashta Kamala (Kamala in Distress), Ramyalokam (Aesthetic Perception) and Jadakutchulu (Braid Ornaments) are some of his principal works. Andhravali si considered as the watershad in Telugu literature for its modernity of themes such as naturalism, rural life, platonic love, a sense of history and fierce nationalism.

Viswanatha Satyanarayan (1895-1976): Won the Jnanpith award for his Ramayana Kalpa Vriksham and is the author of more than a 100 works. He won the Sahitya Academy Award for his Madhyakkaras and also was conferred the title of Padma Bushan..His Veyi Padagalu (A Thousand Hoods) is the most outstanding of his novels.

Nori Narasimha Sastry (1900-1980): N.N Sastry was a poet, novelist, dramatist, essayist, critic and translator. A versatile and prolific writer, he laid his hands on all the literary genres, but it was the novel and particularly the historical novel which brought him fame and popularity. Narayanabattu, Rudramadevi and Mallareddiare are the major novels penned by him. The uniqueness of his novels is that each novel has a great poet as its central character.

Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao (1909): A prolific story writer, Rao produced 400 stories..His principal works are Chadvvu, Braduku Bhayam, Kalalushastriya Vijnanam, Kalabhairavudu and Karunyam.

Tripuraneni Gopichand (1910-1962): Telugu novelist, short story writer, editor, essayist, playwright and film director, Gopichand's writings are ramarkable for an interplay of values, ideas and 'isms' -- materialism, rationalism, existentialism, realism and humanism. He is celebrated for his second novel Asamardhuni Javayatra (The Incompetent's Life Journey).This is the first psychological novel in Telugu literature.

Srirangam Srinivasarao (1910-1983): Known for the landmark anthology Mahaprasthanam (The Great March), Srinivasarao was a pioneer of the progressive poetry in Telugu. His poetry took an amazing leap and astounding depth when he wrote the Desa Charitralu (History of Nations). He was acknowkedged as Mahakavi of the New Proletarian Age.

Puttaparthi Narayanacharya (1914-1990): Narayanacharya was a front-ranking classical poet, literary critic, composer, musicologist, translator and polyglot. He has about 50 works of poetry to his credit.. Considered an authority on the history and literature of the Vijaynagar period, he has written in Telugu extensively on Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam literatures..He has about 3000 musical compositions in Telugu and Sanskrit to his credit and 200 of them have been notated by himself. He had the unique and ironic experience of having written a poetic work called Penugonda Lakshmi at the age of 14, prescribed as a text when he took the Vidwan examination in his thirtees. Shivathandavam (The Cosmic Dance of Shiva) is the most representative of his genius.

Baliwada Kantharao (1927): Kantharao is the author of many works including Vamsadhara and Daga Padina Tammudu (The betrayed Younger Brother) and also hundreds of stories.

Vasireddy Seethadevi (1933): Seetahdevi is an acclaimed writer in Telugu. She has published around 40 novels and 10 short story collections. Mattimanishi (Son of Mother Earth) is one of her best novels. The novel is a landmark in modern Telugu fiction.

Yogi Vemana

Of Vemana's history, little is known. He was not a Brahmin but a capoo, or a farmer; a native of Cuddapah district and born, I believe, in the neighborhood of Gandicotta. He lived in the beginning of the eighteenth century. It is said that in a verse he has fixed the date of birth which is believed to have been his own. This date coincides with A.D. 1652. The date is given in the cycle of sixty years; but which cycle is intended is unknown. Many verses, however, prove satisfactorily that he wrote in the latter part of the 17th century when the Mohamedans were governors of that part of India. His family was powerful, but that he renounced the world and became a sanyasee or ascetic. He calls himself a yogee.

The verses communicate hardly any idea of his history or connections, and like all solitary ascetics (sanyasees or yogees) he has dropped his family name - calling himself simply "Vemana" or "Vema" at pleasure. This solitary life has led him to address all the verses to himself, which, if this be not recollected, certainly looks like the grossest egotism. This practice is far indeed from being peculiar to Vemana.

The names Vema and Vemana do not appear to be used by the Telugus of the present day. Vema or Vemana in Sanskrit signify a loom. I believe these names to have been practical titles alone, without a definite meaning. Thus it is well known that the titles or names of Dante and Hafiz were not original names of those poets; the first of whom was named Durante or Durando and the second Muhammed Shemsuddin.

These poems have attained very great popularity and parts are found translated into Tamil, Malayalam, and Kannada. Their terse closeness of expression sometimes renders them difficult to translate with elegance, but such passages exemplify the manly force of a language that in the common dialect is often weak and verbose.

Of his aphorisms many have become common proverbs. Parts of them are evidently close translations from Sanskrit works, particularly the Hitopadesa and Bhagavat Gita. In a few of thes every word is pure Sanskrit.

Vemana was evidently, in philosophy, of the Vedanta school, a disciple of VYASA, whom Sir William Jones has (in the Asiatic Researches, Vol. I) entitled the Plato of India. With the mystic tents of Plato, those of Vemana closely correspond while his moral doctrines as closely answer to those of DEMOCRITUS.

Madhurantakam Rajaram

Madhurantakam Rajaram has been contributing to Telugu literature for more than four decades. He left no genre of literature untouched. He writes novels, plays, essays and lyrics besides short stories. Yet he is more well known as a short story writer. The author himself once said, "I am a short story writer ... it is in the short story that I could find out my medium of expression. It overwhelmed me by completely occupying my consciousness. It made me laugh. It haunted me and taunted me. It also made me shed tears ... I was in ecstasy when I realised that a writer could successfully communicate his impression as intensely as he experienced to the reader."

Madhurantakam Rajaram is adept at realistic portrayal of life. He comes from Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh which has its own identity. There the life style is different, especially of the village folk, who are naive, down to earth, loving, caring yet bearing the burden of poverty as stoically as they can. Their hard life with its day to day problems has not hardened their attitudes and perceptions. All these aspects and many other nuances get reflected in Madhurantakam Rajaram Kathalu which won the Sahitya Akademi Award for 1993.

The book contains 40 short stories written over a period of four decades. They truly represent the range of Rajaram's canvas. Here every story has its place, its identity, its message and adds color to the kaleidoscopic view of life that emerges out of the volume. The characters we come across in his stories are ordinary people we see in our everyday life. They are convincing and realistic and help us have an insight into human nature because of the magic touch of the author. Madhurantakam Rajaram's stories are purposeful and they have subtle message which only the discerning readers can discover; their author is never blatantly didactic. As a writer he firmly believes that literature should denounce the bad and uphold the good. He says, "Literature may not be strong enough to transform the society. But it can infuse the spirit needed into the public which can provoke a marvelous revolution of ideas. It can also describe an Utopia which is the goal for the humanity."

The author confines his stories to middle class or lower middle class. He depicts life as he sees it in its various hues and dimensions. He prefers first person narration in many of the stories perhaps to bring the story near to the reader. In certain cases he uses Rayalaseema dialect just to give the story its right flavor.

Madhurantakam Rajaram as a writer comments on people's weaknesses, strengths, noble and mean qualities. He gives an overview of life without any pretension of self-righteousness. In its citation, Sahitya Akademi says that "Madhurantakam Rajaram Kathalu" is recognized as a masterpiece of Indian short fiction in Telugu "for its faithful delineation of the outer and inner life of the rustic folk, its proper employment of dialect, its total comprehension of social and existential reality and its directness and force of narration."

The language and presentation of Rajaram are so inimitable that they acquire a character of their own. All pervasive flavor of Rayalaseema and intrinsic naturalness reminds one of the fragrance of the wet earth, newly-cut grass and the gurgle of a brook.

Somanaadhudu Paalkuriki

Somanaadhudu Paalkuriki (1160-1240 AD) belongs to the Trinity of Shaivite Poets, known as "Shivakavi Trayamu," and to an era of Brahmin Shaivite poets, "Shivakavi Yugamu," in the history of Telugu literature. This is considered to be the time between Nannaya and Tikkana (12th century AD). Nannechodudu and Mallikarjuna Panditaradhryudu are the remaining two poets of the Shivakavi Trayamu.

Somanadhudu was an eminent litterateur and scholar in three languages, Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada. He was a Shaivite missionary who spread Shaivism in Telugu and Kannada nations. Veera Shaivites believe that Somanaadhudu was an incarnation of Bhringiriti, one of the chief attendants of Lord Shiva. Unlike other Brahmin Shaivite poets who respected Brahmins, Somanadhudu derided Brahmins and mocked at their practices in his works. The purpose and goal of his life and poetry was spread of Shaivism and he was quite successful.

Somanaadhudu was the first poet to write in Telugu, using native Telugu vocabulary and meter. Somanadhudu created "Ragada," another Telugu meter. His Ragada was known as Basavaragada, and was the basis for later Ragada meter in Telugu literature. This was his favorite meter after Dwipada. Dwipada is an indigenous Telugu meter. He also used several other native Telugu meters like Seesamu, Tribhangi, Krounchapadamu, Taruvoja, Vanamayuramu, Chaturvidha Kandamu, Tripaasa Kandamu, Dwipaasa Kandamu, etc.

Deviating from his predecessors like Nannechodudu, he chose local Telugu stories for his works instead of stories from Sanskrit literature. His works include Basava Puranamu, Panditaaradhya Charitramu. In these works he describes the life histories of non-Brahmin Telugu people of different tribal origins. He created a great literary art out of the life stories of common Telugus like Bejjamahadevi, Godagoochi, Sangayya, Duggavva, Udumoori Kannappa, Sakalemaadiraajayya, Madivaalu Maachayya, Kummara Gundayya, Kakkarayya, etc. His major contribution to the Telugu literature was the selection of the contemporary people and their lives as his subject.

His language was easy and understandable to common Telugus. He avoided difficult Brahminical Sanskrit vocabulary. Sanskrit was the language of elite, just like English is today. Popular international languages like Sanskrit, Urdu, Hindi or English always fascinate Telugu elite. It is prestigious to use one of these languages in their literary endeavors. Today we see more English words than Telugu words in written and spoken language of Telugu elite. Somanaadhudu didn’t like this slavish nature of elite Telugus and was determined to establish the pride of Telugus by using Telugu vocabulary rather than Sanskrit vocabulary. It was the only way to establish Shaivism firmly in the Telugu country. He was quite successful in reaching the common man through his literature by removing the elite Sanskrit from his literature.

Today, we are in dire need of another Somanadhudu to resurrect the lost glory of Telugu and to unshackle Telugus from the false pride of English/Hindi usage at home and in day-to-day social intercourse.

Kandukuri Veeresalingam

Kandukuri Veeresalingam (1848-1919) and Paravastu Chinnayasuri are considered prophets of Modern Andhra. Veeresalingam awakened Andhras out of their suffocating medieval orthodox customs and superstitions. He was not only a reformer, but also a literary activist. His literary activities were varied. He was the first to write a Telugu novel, Telugu drama, books on natural sciences and history in Telugu, and Telugu prose for women. He was considered the father of renaissance in Andhra.
Veeresalingam was born into a poor Brahmin family on 16 April 1848 at Rajamundry. His father was Subbarayudu and mother was Purnamma. He lost his father at the age of four. In spite of poverty, his mother sent him to the Government District School. He finished Matriculation in 1869 and worked as a teacher in Korangi Town. Later he worked in Rajamundry City as a Senior Telugu Pundit.

He was a reformist writer. His initial writings were in classical style of Prabadhas. He wrote several Satakas, such as, Gopala Satakamu, Markandeya Satakamu etc. Later he became interested in erotic literature. His sensual writings include Suddhandhra Niroshtya Nirvachananaishadhamu, Rasikajana Ranjanamu, Suddhandrottara Ramayanamu, Suddharndhra Bharata Sangrahamu etc. His Abhagyopakhyanamu is a humorous satire on the Andhra society. His novel Rajasekhara Charitram was the first Telugu novel.

Veeresalingam was one of the greatest personalities and earliest reformers in India to demand for radical changes in Telugu Indian society. He had a keen insight, great courage and dynamic energy. He fought against untruth and championed the cause of progress with vigor. He fought for education for women, and remarriage of widows. He started Vivekavardini, a monthly journal, to point out and criticize the defects in the society. He also maintained several other journals like Chintamani, Sateehitabodha, Satyasavardhani, Satyavadi etc., and helped develop the Telugu literature and reformation of the society. He established in 1874 a girls school at Dhavaleswaram to encourage women's education. In 1884, he established another school for girls at Innispeta in Rajamundry. He also established an organization called Hitakarini Society and donated all his property for the social activities to improve the society and support various organizations set up by him. He ridiculed the opponents of women's education in many satires, lampoons and drama like "Brahma Vivaham." Through his writings he criticized early marriages, Kanyasulkam (price of bride) and marriages of old men with young girls.

Veeresalingam developed contacts with influential British officials and other eminent citizens of Madras. He began to give seminars to convince the orthodox leaders that re-marriage of widows was not prohibited by Dharma Sastra (Scriptural Law). In these seminars he used to quote verses from scriptures to prove his point. The orthodox leaders took up the challenge and arranged special meetings and debates to counter Veeresalingam's arguments. The opponents of remarriage failed to prove their point and resorted to physical violence against Veeresalingam. He didn't back down and fearlessly established a Remarriage Association and sent his students nook and corner of the Andhra Nation to find young men willing to marry widows. He arranged the first widow remarriage on December 11, 1881. Because of these reformist activities Veeresalingam became famous even abroad. The Government in appreciation of his work conferred on him the title of "Rao Bahadur" in 1893. Later he established a Widow Home.

He also fought against the system of concubines called nauch system. Keeping concubines was regarded as a status symbol. Most of these concubines were from Devadasi tribe/caste. Usually in the houses of these Davadasis the corrupt officials made illegal deals. So, it became a common practice to use these concubines to get favors from the officials. Veeresalingam attacked this sexual corruption in the society.

Sir Kandukuri Veeresalingam was a multifaceted personality and he reformed the society with his literature and revolutionary activities. He was a crusader and one of the greatest leaders that India ever had.