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Durable Link to this BlogSunday, March 14, 2010

Grammarian Bhattakalanka

Great Grammarian of Kanara (C.1587 1655 C.E)

Bhattakalanka, the grammarian is considered great because he wrote his magnum opus "Karnataka Shabdanushasana" in Sanskrit. It is till date the standard book on Kannada grammar. Bhattakalanka upheld all the common norms and frame propounded for formation of words by the greatest grammarian Panini (6th century B.C). At the same time he made it broad-based providing room for the growth of Kannada language, and establish its universality, for absorption of new terms, and verbs .

For writing several works, Bhattakalanka made Bilgi (now in North Kanara district) as his place of work. In Bilgi there is an inscription of 1581 CE in the Ratnatraya Basadi built by the Bilgi chiefs which records that the basadi was built by king Ghatendra II at the instance of Jaina Saint Bhattakalanka. Later the king of Sonda (swadi) Arasappa made the Saint scholar to come and stay at his court.

Bhattakalanka was one of the most learned scholars of his time. He was master of logic, drama, poetics, Natyasastra (dance and music), astronomy, Vedic-lore, sculpture, law, jurisprudence, smritis, puranas medicine and mathematics. These were the subjects a scholar had to master in ancient times.

The inscription only confirms that irrespective of their personal faith, teachers and scholars had to study religious texts of all faiths. Bhattakalanka was a Jaina but he was master of works written by non-Jaina scholars.

Bhattakalanka has created a character in his work, who criticizes Kannada only as a native and spoken language, as there are no shastras written in it. In reply, Bhattakalanka quotes several works in Kannada on epics, plays, poetics and various arts, and establishes greatness of the Kannada language. He also proves Kannada as a fully developed language and perfect to write all shastras just like Sanskrit language.

Tradition records that the name of Bhatkal was given to the emporium and international (naval) port in North Kanara district in honor of Bhattakalankadeva, much respected and honored scholar of those times.

Bhattakalanka strived hard to establish superiority of the Kannada language. Sanskrit was a link language throughout the Indian subcontinent and most of the scholars seem to have chosen only Sanskrit for various subjects, mainly treatises and science works, for teaching and learning. Bhattakalanka was master of both languages -- Kannada and Sanskrit.

Persons who are making such a noise over "Kannadakke shastreeya sthanamana" must know that Bhattakalanka established that Kannada as a fully developed language was equal to Sanskrit in all respects and had gained scientific language status, 500 years ago!

See Also:
• History of the Kannada Language

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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