File spoon-archives/sa-cyborgs.archive/sa-cyborgs_2002/sa-cyborgs.0207, message 1

Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 16:33:48 -0400

The evolution of female writing in Andhra Pradesh up to 1960s: A brief 
historical perspective

I am working on the premise that each society evolves out of its own 
environment. As such the rules norms are specific to that culture.

a] The female fiction writers of 1960s evolved from the female scholarship, 
which dates back to 11th century.
b] In our culture demographics play a vital role.
c] What is understood as lack of space in the west is a norm in our 
culture. Both males and females adapted to their own environment.

Having said that, if we look back, we would notice that women in upper 
classes (brahmin and kshatriya castes) were educated. Rudramadevi was 
another example, she was trained systematically in all the subjects and 
groomed to rule the country. Similarly, Krishnadeva rayalu coaxed his 
daughter Mohanangi, "I have been telling you and you turned a deaf ear 
until now. I am anxiously waiting to hear your poetry..." (Lakshmikantamma).

Oral tradition helped to impart knowledge. The scholarship of Molla, a 
woman from lower class/caste, could be attributed to the rich oral 
tradition in AP.

In terms of themes, the female writers stayed within the norms set by 
society which meant writing only religious, secular and heroic poetry at 
the time.

Veeresalingam, the father of modern epoch (for Telugu nation) has 
enunciated several programs to improve the lot of women in several 
fieldseducation, widow remarriage and eradication of prostitution. (All 
these themes are prominently featured in the 1960s fiction). Veeresalingam 
however looked back for guidance in dictating the women's role in society.

     In his own time, women grew out of that mode and showed signs of 
independent thinking. Battula Kamakshamma is a good example of how Telugu 
women digressed from the rules where it mattered to them (Her 
autobiobraphical essay smruthulu, anubhavamulu will be published in 
September Thulika) and compromised in others. That again is part of 
evolution. Social change does not happen overnight and in all matters 

In the final analysis, the major issues are recognition and reward. As 
mentioned earlier, women acquired erudition while staying within the 
confines of their homes. Since they came from upper classes, possibly they 
paid no attention to economic reward. Recognition also was unimportant in 
the preceding centuries possibly due to the traditional tenets which 
insisted on self-effacement.

With the advent of nationalist movement in the 19th century, changes have 
become increasingly female-oriented. The political atmosphere contributed 
to encourage women to write and publish. Magazines exclusively for women 
together with library movement (that included delivering books to women at 
home), contributed to female education and accelerated women writing 
tremendously. Significantly, all these movements were initiated by men. 
Arguments on both sides were proffered by males and females. Some males 
opposed women's education, while others advocated it. Same thing happened 
in the case of widow remarriage.

  It is significant that women expressed hesitation to publish in their own 
names for fear of ridicule from their female friends and neighbors (Potturi 
Venkateswara Rao 87-88). In other words, ridicule was presented as a human 
weakness (jealousy?) rather than a gender issue.

     To summarize, historically, education was available to women in upper 
and middle class families. After declaration of independence, and the 
abolition of zamindaries and princely states, the middle class came into 
prominence with renewed vigor. Women from royal/ruling class became part of 
the middle class. Almost all the female writers in post-independent Andhra 
Pradesh belonged to middle class in terms of social strata. Their values 
represented the values of the new emerging middle class. The Telugu women 
started writing about the values of the middle class families, which were 
changing dramatically because of the social and political changes in the 

     Secondly, the controversies surrounding women's education was not 
gender-specific. The dissent was between two groups, each group consisting 
of males and females, rather than separate groups of males and females.

     A third distinction was between the academy and the public--a modern 
concept. With the popularization of adult and women's education, the 
non-scholar readership has increased exponentially, and it was responding 
to fiction with enthusiasm, irrespective of the academic evaluation of 
women writing.

This trend continued in to 1960s. For instance, Ranganayakamma mentioned in 
her interview with Telakapalli Ravi (in Gamanam) that she and her sisters 
in her natal home never faced humiliation based on their gender; and that 
she felt 'the male domination and/or oppression' only after her first 
marriage. After her second marriage her husband is fully supportive in her 
literary activities (that is the impression the public are given). Malati 
Chendur also seem to receive her husband full support.

The western type feminist terminology possibly entered Telugu literature in 
late 1970s. To be specific, Ranganayakamma may be the first female writer 
to use terms like "male domination, patriarchy, and female 
oppression/suppression ..." in her famous novel, Janaki Vimukti.  This is 
beyond the scope of my book. While I don't have current information on the 
current status of women writers in Andhra Pradesh, I do continue to wonder, 
how much of this male support for female feminists in modern times is 
genuine (from the heart) and how much of it is just a romantic/platonic idea.

Kamakshamma, Battula. "Smruthulu, anubhavamu [Memories and experiences]."
    Kandukuri Veeresalingam Smarakostavamula Sangham:  yugapurushudu 
Veeresalingam. Hyderabad: Author, n.d. 69-72.
Lakshmikantamma, Utukuri. Andhra kavayitrulu. Hyderabad: Author, 1953.
Ranganayakamma.  Interview by Telakapalli Ravi. Gamanam: Sahitya Pratyeka 
Sanchika. Hyderabad: Prajasakti House, April 2001. 14-16.
     ----                Janaki vimukti. 3 Vols. Hyderabad: Author, 1979, 1982.
Venkateswara Rao, Potturi. nati patrikala meti viluvalu. Hyderabad: Rachana 
    Kalasala, 2000.

for more work by Malathi Rao -see


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005