Aatukuri Molla was born on 13th March 1440 in Gopavaram village of Nellore district. She is known in school textbooks as “Kavaitri Molla” which means Poetess Molla. Molla’s Ramayana in Telugu is very popular among the masses because it is in a simple and beautiful language. Molla’s Ramayana contains 870 poems and prose. She was the first women poet who wrote Ramayana in Telugu. There is a temple dedicated to Molla in Guntur town. She passed away in the year 1530.
Her father, a Potter
Aatukuri Molla’s inspirational story shows that birth is no bar when it comes to literary achievements. Molla was the daughter of a potter by name Kesana from a Gopavaram village in Nellore. She was born after her parents prayed intensely to Shri Kantha Malleshwara for a child. A humble potter, her father sent her to the local village school where Molla took her studies seriously.
She has become immortal in the annals of Telugu literature by the composition of her 138 verse Ramayana.
Her Ramayana which was told in a simple, down-to-earth style, with minimum Samskrt words, endeared itself to Telugu bhaktas, devotees and soon became a classic quoted even by grammarians to illustrate the beauties of the Telugu language and made the Ramayana accessible even to the common folk.
Tenali Raman’s Challenge
When she was 12, her father took her for initiation to Srisailam, the famous Shiva Temple town. There, their family priest prophesied that Molla would become a Saint and bring glory to her family. There is a folk tale which says that once the jester Tenali Raman mocked an old poet from Gopavaram stating that his village was incapable of producing any poets. When Molla heard this, she took up the challenge, with a fierce resolve to prove Tenali Raman wrong for mocking her village. She vowed to compose a Ramayana in just 5 days. Tenali Raman laughed at such a challenge coming from a woman from a hamlet of potters!
Composing Ramayana in 138 stanzas
Seated in the temple with her mind fixed on Rama, the potter’s daughter poured forth 138 stanzas in 6 chapters in simple, natural language which one and all could understand.
Vijayanagara’s culture endured through such poets
This is a pattern which we see repeatedly recurring in the great singer poets of the Vijayanagar Empire. They truly reached out to the masses in a language which they could understand. Thus, even long after the fall of Vijayanagara, its culture still endured and passed on through the voice of such poets who infused the spirit of bhakti in emperor & peasant alike.
Salutations to Atukuri Molla, who has won an eternal place in the hall of bhaktas, where none of the divisions of birth or caste matter.
Molla finds her place among her literary giants of the Telugu literature in the series of statues at Hyderabad.
True to her name Molla meaning Jasmine one of the most fragrant, and local earthy flowers, Molla’s poetry has been fragrant and earthy with the local flavor.
More on poets from Telugu poets and Telugu culture can be seen in our book Telugu Talli and film Telugu Talli Vaibhavam : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzPtbEZH5s4.