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Katta Varadaraju – 17th century Telugu poet

Katta Varadaraju was a prince and poet who wrote three works in Telugu in the 17th century CE – Parama Bhagavata Charita, Sri Ranga Mahatmyam and the Ramayana. All three are in dvipada (couplet) meter and are regarded as knowledge texts in the Vaishnavite tradition.

Varadaraju claims to be a descendant of the solar race. He traces his surname Katta to the famous Karikala Chola who built a dam across the Kaveri River. Father of Varadaraju, Haridasa Raju, donated liberally to temples, and this is supported by epigraphic evidence. Varadaraju called himself Sahiti Bhoja (the reference is to the well known King Bhoja, who was a patron of arts), which meant that he was both a scholar poet and also a patron of poets.

His Parama Bhagavata Carita is only partly available. Varadaraju must have written the stories of all the fourteen Parama Bhagavata-s, or supreme devotees of Bhagavan Vishnu (Prahlada, Narada, Parasara, Pundalika, Vyasa, Ambarisha, Suka, Saunaka, Bhishma, Dalbhya, Rukmangada, Arjuna, Vasistha and Vibhishana), but only those of Pundalika and Rukmangada are available now.

Sri Ranga Mahatmyam translated from Garuda Samhita, is one of the widely read Kshetra Mahatmya (religious importance of a temple explained with reference to legends in Puranas).

The fame of Varadaraju mainly rests upon his Ramayana. He translated the first six books (kandas) of the Ramayana in about 24,000 couplets, equal in number to the Valmiki Ramayana. Not satisfied with the earlier translations of the Ramayana, Varadaraju followed Valmiki very closely and faithfully, only deviating from the original in certain places. He made his work more appealing by introducing contemporary customs and practices into the ancient story.