At 70, he has the passion and energy of a youngster to work for a cause. He does not mind travelling long distances and working long hours to let people learn more about a dimension of Telangana’s culture, literature, art and other aspects.
All his works, including poems, stories and articles, revolve around Telangana’s culture and its vast literature and portray the hidden facts and facets of the people, especially from rural areas.
For Prof Jayadhir Tirumala Rao, writing, reading, studying and learning more about rural Telangana, especially the tribals and folk artistes, is an untiring job. It is his passion.
The moment he comes to know about a rare music instrument used by folk artistes or tribals, or about a book or a collection of their works and practices, he packs his bags and heads there to learn more about such aspects. He, later, tries to impart his knowledge to others through his works.
But, how did he develop this passion? Well, it all started in his childhood at his native place Hanamkonda in Warangal when the life, ambience, and people, especially the folk artistes, used to fascinate a young Jayadhir.
“In those days, an artiste used sing songs at 5 am playing ‘Jegantalu’, to wake up people. The songs, which served as alarms, used to explain the importance of farming, leading a healthy life, working for society and other aspects,” says Jayadhir.
“The songs, short and sweet, used to reverberate in my ears even from long distances,” shares Jayadhir, who used to wake up just to listen to those songs and go back to sleep again, with a smile.
“Those were beautiful times when folk artistes used to come and perform during festivals. That society is lost but I still long for that human touch. So, it’s my passion to locate such people and promote their talent,” says Jayadhir.
He fuelled his liking for culture, literature and art by spending most of his time at the Raja Raja Narendra Grandhalaya and reading newspapers, especially Sunday supplements. This exposed him to different aspects of the society and, thus, he penned his first poem on love and society in 1951, when he was just 18 years old. Though many of his poems were published in different publications, Sopati, a poem on friendship and its value, was the first to be published in a leading magazine of a newspaper.
Ever since, he has written many poems, stories and over 400 articles on folk, folk artistes, tribals, and oral literature. His works always focus on the marginalised sections and different aspects of their life.
During the 1970s when there was political turmoil and progressive movement, proper attention was not given to the oral literature and art of the poor sections. They were not recognised and not given their due importance, he explains.
“That’s the reason I made up mind to promote their culture, art, literature and knowledge system. All this is part of Telangana and its great culture,” reasons Jayadhir.
Works of fort poets and temple poets dominate the Telugu literature and they generally are related to individuals. But, field poets, production poets are related to masses. There is spontaneity and context in their works and without that, literature is like body without a soul, he adds.
Having been a professor and retired from the Telugu University, he now works towards the cause of highlighting the language, expressions, communications of the marginalised sections, their culture, and literature at national and international literature platforms. He also works on translating their literature.
“There is no desi methodology to study or highlight marginalised sections’ art and works. We need to create one,” he says. UNESCO has declared this year as ‘Indigenous Languages Year’ but not much effort is being made to save the languages, he points out, adding that without focusing on saving the scripts, languages cannot be saved.
Tale behind the name
Many know Jayadhir Tirumala Rao as a retired professor from the Telugu University but not many know the story behind his name. P Jayadhir Reddy and R Tirumala Rao have been friends since childhood.
They wrote many poems, stories and tales together and that’s how, he came to be known as Jayadhir Tirumala Rao. Later, as Reddy, who is also a professor, focused on science and other aspects, Rao worked on folklore and tribals.
How Rao got his PhD
In 1982, when Jayadhir presented his works to his professors Jnanpith awardee C Narayan Reddy, N Krishna Kumari, and professor B Rama Rao, they were impressed as they had already read them in different newspapers and magazines.
“I was immediately awarded my PhD with ‘Peasants Struggle and Literature in Telangana’ as title. I did not even file the application. But, later, I realised the importance of my works,” recalls Jayadhir.