My brother and I were often interested in tracing the origins of Telugu culture - not to prove its supremacy over other cultures, but simply to understand what made the Andhras a large cultural group different from the other major Indian cultures. So the first question is : When did the Telugu people become a separate linguistic cultural group & when could they be seen distinct from the other cultural groups ? History as observed from stone inscriptions dates this to around 500 BC. So it must be the case that Telugu usage without being grossly incomprehensible to a Telugu speaking person of today must have existed atleast by 1000 BC. Who were all the people speaking Telugu around 1000 BC ? Can we say that all the region marked as 'Andhra Pradesh' today was speaking Telugu ? The answer is not so easy to be stated. We were more than fascinated when we set out to understand the origins of the Telugu culture.
An eminent 20 th century linguist called Ganti Somayaji Jogi had written a voluminous treatise tracing the origins of several telugu words in Tamil. My brother, however, notes that there is a larger body of Telugu usage that does not intersect with any of the other major languages of India. The infusion of large volume of Sanskrit into Telugu is relatively a more modern event in the history of the Telugu language. Also, telugu has distinct linguistic patterns that definitely do not belong to Tamil, in addition to a large body of diction which is specific to Telugu. He observed that somewhat more primary 'document' of the usage of ancient Telugu are in the family names of Telugu people and in the names of the villages and towns of Andhra. These are mostly specific to telugu people and also a large source for making convincing etymological constructions for telugu diction.
More reflection on the origins of Telugu led us to believe that Telugu is not the language of any one specific dominant people of the Eastern India, but the confluence of the individual languages of a dozen-to-twenty big tribal groups living in Eastern India. It is difficult of date this process (which must have continued for a period of 1-2 millennia) - safe it put it somewhere before 3000BC. Thus a major language group such as the Telugu could not begun from a single monolithic group. I can compare it only with the formation of a river. A large river as we see it in the plains has a very cognizable course, identity and shape. But its origin is too complex to be traced. Drops of rain water that precipitate in higher up rocks and mountains flow through the crevices of rocks and mountains and join together to form minor streams. These streams slowly merge at the foothills to form smaller rivers, which merge into the larger river in the plateaus and finally become the immense river in the plains. The river has no simple identity or nomenclature at the point(??) of its formation. So can not one localize in time and space the development of a major culture such as of the Telugu people.
I invite comments and criticism from the knowledgeable on the history of Telugu culture.
Tadepalli Hari Krishna