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Durable Link to this BlogFriday, October 19, 2007

Forest Scene in a Kannada Classic

FOREST SCENE IN A KANNADA CLASSIC

While searching material for an article on people’s love for flora and fauna in ancient times, I came across Torave Ramayana a Kannada classic of 16th century. The conventions for writing poetic works were strict; the theme had to be mythological, gods had to be heroes, and all 18 traditional descriptions were to be included. It is a wonder that with all such descriptions, masters like Pampa, Ranna & Janna excelled in their literary works.

Narahari of Torave, whose pen name is Kumara Valmiki (Valmiki, Junior) is also a distinguished writer of Ramayana in Kannada. No biographical details about this poet are forthcoming. He was a devotee of god Narasimha of Torave, a small village four miles away from Bijapur which was once capital city of Adilshahis who ruled for more than 200 years. Torave, suburb and source of perennial water supply due to springs was an important suburb with great tanks and wells which still are an archaeological wonder. Narahari perhaps lived and wrote in Torave.

Narahari compares himself to great Kumara Vyasa who wrote the immortal Mahabharata in Kannada. There was no royal patronage to both these poets. Both the classics are bulky, running into thousands of verses. But Kumara Vyasa is more popular because of the appealing, lucid and narrative style.

Kumara Valmiki's style is more descriptive. It is admired by the learned. He has devoted more than 30 verses, to name the rare flora & fauna of his times. He has created a sequence wherein Rama explains forest life to Sita while passing through the Dandakaranya forest. The trees named by the poet are the strong ones growing in virgin forests as also those plants and creepers cultivated by people.

The list of birds, with native Kannada names is amazing as also that of wild beasts. Many of the birds named have become extinct.

The Kannada poets were specialized in many arts and crafts besides writing. Narahari seems to have loved outdoor activities and was familiar with forest life. In the chapter of Vali Vadhe (Killing of Vali), several types of trees with which Vali and Sugreeva fought, are mentioned. Battle scenes in Torave Ramayana also are vivid and the terms of knock and grips pechu in wrestling are several and render difficult for translation. It is worthwhile some student with zoological and botanical background undertakes study of such Kannada classics, which describe contemporary environmental scene. We have lost many precious plant and animal species already, due to mindless destruction in the name of building roads and dams without undertaking studies in respective regions.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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