How old is Telugu? Well, at this point of time, it is very hard to tell. But one thing is sure. It is much older than Nannaya. He wrote a book too perfect to be the first book in any language. There is this argument that Nannechoda is a century older than Nannaya. Same goes for him as well. Now, let’s take the argument in a different direction. Till the time of Rudradeva, all Telugu lands were split between the Kannada Chalukyas and Tamil Cholas/Pallavas – meaning – the only languages with royal patronage are Kannada, Sanskrit and Tamil. Unless Telugu is a powerful language, no one would dare to use it in inscriptions. There are Telugu words in Kubbeeraka’s Bhattiprolu inscription and Asoka’s Jonnagiri/Erragudi Inscription; there are Telugu words in Hala’s Gathasaptasati. Does that mean these words are Telugu words or are these words of a different language altogether which transmorphed into Telugu? If it transmorphed, how do you differentiate between the extinction of the older language and the start of the new one? Same argument can be put forward for languages which have an even solid base like Tamil – did Tiruvalluvar write in Tamil or did he write in a different language? Well, we don’t know which is the first inscription, but there is a plethora of inscriptions from 6th Century AD with Kalamalla Inscription of Dhananjaya of 575 AD
as one of the first and the 600 AD inscription of Erragudipadu by a person of the same clan(both use the title Muthuraju).
The second makes more sense, may be because of the language or may be because of the completeness.
Coming to poetry, the first ones are considered to be the 844 Addanki inscription(dvipada, with Yati and Prasa; style taruvoja)
and 930 AD Vijayawada inscription of Yuddhamalla.
Well, my Telugu is not that strong enough to give a serious translation of these inscriptions and would solicit any sort of help in achieving this.
The story completely changed only after Kakatiyas declared independence.