Andhra Pradesh is a state that belongs to the southern part of India. It is the fourth largest state in terms of area. This mighty state is bordered by Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Maharashtra in the north, Tamil Nadu to the south and Karnataka and the Bay of Bengal on either side. It is called the “Rice bowl of India” because more than 75 percent of the crops that grow here is rice.
The main languages spoken in Andhra Pradesh are Telugu, Urdu, Hindi, Banjara, and English followed by Tamil, Kannada, Marathi and Oriya. Telugu is the principal and official language of the State. It was also referred to as `Tenugu’ in the past. `Andhra’ is the name given to it since the medieval times. Some argued that `Telugu’ was a corruption of `Trilinga’ (Sanskrit meaning three `lingas’). A general description of the land of the Telugus was made in the medieval times as `the land marked by three lingas of the three famous shrines of Draksharamam (East Godavari district), Kaleswaram (Karimnagar district) and Srisailam (Kurnool district).
Telugu is the most widely spoken language of the Dravidian family which consists of 24 languages spanning the entire South-Asia, from Baluchistan to Sri Lanka. In terms of population, Telugu ranks second to Hindi among the Indian languages. According to the 1981* Census, Telugu is spoken by over 45 million in Andhra Pradesh. It has also spread to the other parts of the globe, i.e., Burma, Indo-China, South-Africa and the U.S.A. Being a mellifluous language, it is called, by its admirers as the `Italian of the East’.
Its vocabulary is very much influenced by Sanskrit. In the course of time, some Sanskrit expressions used in Telugu got so naturalised that people regarded them as pure Telugu words. Some Kannada and Tamil words were also taken into Telugu but they did not gain much currency.
With the advent of the Muslim rule, several Persian and Arabic words entered into the Telugu language. But they were confined to the spoken language and to the language of the judiciary and the executive. The influence of Persian and Arabic is discernible to a considerable extent in the languages spoken in Telangana due to its long association with the Muslim rule. There is also a great element of English words in the vocabulary of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema because these regions were directly under the British rule for nearly a century and a half.
The evolution of Telugu can be traced through centuries in terms of its form as well as its function. Although culturally Telugu is close to its southern neighbours — Tamil and Kannada — genetically, it is closer to its northern neighbours — Gondi, Konda, Kui, Kuvi, Pengo and Manda. There is evidence to show that these languages were freely borrowed from Telugu even from the prehistoric period whereas borrowing between Telugu and Tamil and Kannada has been mostly during the historic period, i.e., post-5th century B.C.
Origin of Telugu Language
Telugu, which got classical language status, has a 4,000-year old history. This was revealed by a Hyderabad city-based author S Venugopal in his book titled ‘Vishwa Vietnam’. Venugopal claimed that the word Telugu derived from ‘Trikalinga.’ Later it became ‘Tenugu’ and people in the Deccan plateau used to call it as ‘Telanga’ and now it has become ‘Telugu’. In fact, historians found a word ‘Telangana’ near Jeedimetla (earlier Jeedimatta) of Hyderabad city on stone inscriptions dating back to 13-14 AD.
Interestingly, the original pronouncement of ‘Telugu’ is Tel and Agu. Tel means ‘south corner.’ A poet Sanganabhatla Narasaiah said that river Godavari was called as ‘Telivaha’ and Telinadi.’ Gradually, Telinadi has become ‘Telugu.’
The word ‘Telanga’ is also used in the Mahabharata, Venugopal asserted. He claimed that during the Mahabharata time, Anga Desam was famous for female elephants. Anga means a female elephant. These elephants ate only ‘Tala’ trees. So these elephants were referred to as ‘Tala Angadulu’ and later became Tala Anga then Talanga and now Telugu.During King Harishchandra’s regime, the Telugu language comes into limelight, he added.