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Kannada Literature under the Rashtrakutas

by Dr. Jyotsna Kamat

First Online: April 23, 2005
Page Last Updated: April 04, 2014

Kannada works of Rashtrakuta times, specify an important landmark. Pampa named Adikavi or First poet in Kannada belonged to this period. His two epics ‘Adipurana' and ‘Vikramarjuna Vijaya' make him the greatest poet in Kannada language. Born in 902 A.D., he wrote Adipurana at age of 39 and Vikramarjuna Vijay or Pampa Bharata slightly later. He was a friend and companion of Arikesari of Chalukya dynasty who was a feudatory of Rashtrakutas. While Adipurana deals with life and achievements of Rishabhadeva, first of the 24 Tirthankars, Pamp Bharata is the Kannada version of Mahabharata as visualized by the poet. Umpteen works in the past and present have appeared which attempt different interpretations of Pampa's usage of deshi (local slang) his command over Kannada language hi innovative use of spoken language with classical Kannada and his selection of idioms and phrases.

Ponna's Shantipurana, Chavundaraya's Chavundarayapurana are other two Jaina classics of the period, written in Champu or mix of prose and verse style.

Vaddaradhane (worship of elders) is the most important prose work of the period (10th century). These 19 stories, mostly borrowed from Sanskrit Brihatkatha – Kosha, deals with Jaina tenets regarding torments of the flesh and spirit. Didactic in nature, the stories interpret karma theory, rebirth and sad plight of human birth on this earth. The work also throws light on social life of period like education, trade and commerce, magic and superstitions, position of women etc.

Kavirajamarga earlier ascribed to king Amoghavarsha is a work on literary criticism and poetics. It is based on earlier Sanskrit works. There were many dialects of Kannada in vogue, and this work was aimed at standardizing written Kannada. It is called a hand book for poets – ‘Kavishiksha'. The work also mention's about the land, people, their language and literature. Many of the works of the poets quoted in this work are not available. But it is evident that Kannada was a fully developed language by the time Kavirajamarga was written. This book provided guideline to writers which set down norms for centuries.

Vardhamana Purana of Asaga, who wrote it in Sanskrit as well, was another classic of the age. Poets and writers of this age were masters in both Kannada and Sanskrit languages. It was common practice to write all works literary or non literary, in verse-form. Hence Master mathematicians, grammarians, physicians etc were to learn composing verses and study literature.

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