The advanced and well developed language used by Nannayya suggests that Nannayya Mahabharatamu may not be the beginning of Telugu literature. Unfortunately, any Telugu literature prior to Nannayya is not available, except royal grants and decrees, though Telugu or Andhra language started to develop even before the Common Era.
Eastern Chalukya Dynasty supported Jainism and Shaivism (Vaishnavism became popular later during the Reddy Dynasties). Rajaraja Narendra was a Shaivite. He respected Brahmins, their Sanskrit language and religion. He learned from the success of Jains and Buddhists that the only way to popularize the new religions and Puranaas was to translate them into Telugu. Even a thousand years before, Buddhism and Jainism became very popular using local languages for their sermons and teachings. So, Rajaraja Narendra requested his teacher, adviser and court poet Nannayya Bhattaraka to translate Sanskrit Mahabharata into Telugu for his subjects.
Nannayya Bhattaraka took the challenge very seriously. He scrutinized all the Telugu vocabulary that was in usage at that time, introduced Sanskrit vocabulary, and took characteristics of already well developed Kannada literature. Thus he developed a distinct literary style, meter and grammar. Nannayya translated about 142 verses of Aadi, Sabha and Aranya chapters of Sanskrit Mahabharata. But, he didn't stick to the original. He almost created his own version of Andhra Mahabharatamu by modification, addition and deletion, while maintaining the story line. His language was very sanskritized and was pleasurable to the reader.
It took 300 more years and two more Brahmin writers, Thikkana and Errana, to complete the work started by Nannayya. This period was known as period of translations, because during this period various Sanskrit texts and Puranaas were translated into Telugu by scholars. This resulted in a very long lasting impact of Sanskrit on Telugu language and literature and the beginning of a new era in the history of Telugu literature. Nannayya was the first to translate a Sanskrit text into Telugu language and he rightly holds the titles Aadi Kavi (the First Poet) and Vaaganusaasanudu (the dictator of the language).