by Dr. (Mrs) Jyotsna Kamat
The rise of the 12th century saw the versatile growth of Kannada literature. Jain, Brahmin as well as Virashaiva works which tried to depict true bhakti or devotion and self attainment (moksha) emerged. Attempts to glorify their patrons were forgotten for the time being. Works on mathematics, medicine, veterinary science, and encyclopedic works like Lokopakaram dealing with science in every day life were composed. Verse form was popular and all these works are in poetry form only. Astrology, architecture, medicine, horticulture, cookery, perfumery, veterinary science are compiled in the Lokopakaram. Other Kannada works of the period include:
Poet Harihara and his nephew Raghavanka are recognized as trend setters in Kannada literature. Girijakalyana of Harihara adopted the story of the birth of Kumara or Shanmukha to propound Shaivism as visualized by him. Ragale () or a form of blank verse is Harihara's creation. The lives and achievements of Shaiva saints and Veerashaiva saints were narrated by Harihara in forceful style. He is often compared to Chaucer of Canterbury tales for his narrative style and assemblage of characters.
Raghavanka established Shatpadi or the six-lined stanza () which became immensely popular in the following centuries as an indigenous metrical form. He wrote six works, all in Shatpadi meter. Harischandra Kavya, Siddhara Chanitra, Veeresha Charite,Sharabha Charitre and Harihara Mahatwa. These works have dramatic elements, fine and artistic portrayals of Rasa (see: The Rasas) or sentiments, and rich Kannada vocabulary. Rudrabha has Jagannatha Vijaya is written in classical style and deals with the life and the exploits of Lord Krishna. Nemichandra's Neminatha Purana deals with the life and message of the 22nd tirthankara, Neminatha. Leelavati, his other work is better known as romantic Kavya. Vardhamana Purana of Achanna ( 1195 )deals with the life and teachings of the 24th tirthankara.
But the greatest Jain poet of the age was Janna who was given the title Kavichakravarti by Hoysala king Ballala. His book Yashodhara Charitre deals with Jain tenets, and Ananthnatha Purana deals with the teachings of the 14th tirthankara. Janna is recognized for the depiction of love in all its multilateral facets. Though apparently religious both the masterpecies are intensely human. Supreme form, perverseness, and helplessness, pitiable and tragic forms of love are depicted. He greatly succeeded in pointing out the eternal values of life.
Sukti Sudharnava, an anthology by Mallikarjuna is helpful for a study of ancient Kannada poetry. The author quotes twenty poets, who preceded him as examples.
Mallikarjuna's son Kesiraja is the great grammarian. His Shabhamanidarpana is an exhaustive and authoritative work on Kannada grammar. Kesiraja was a great scholar in Sanskrit as well and quotes profusely all earlier authors. This work also points out the development of the Kannada language through the last three centuries.
Nayasena (1112 A.D. ) and Andayya (1235 A.D. ) also belong to this age. They laid stress on the pure usage of the Kannada language in their own way. Nayasena wrote more for commoners while Andayya tried desperately to use only Kannada words. Nayasena's 'Dharmamrita' is a collection of stories which reflects contemporary Jain beliefs and customs. The author uses hundreds of proverbs in vogue to stress the point. Every story has a moral based on tenets of Jainism. The lucid and simple style makes one understand them without extra effort.
' Samayaparikshe' of Brahmasiva ( c. 1150 A.D.) is a unique work which gives comparative study of contemporary religions and tries to establish the superiority of Jainism, the author's faith. He is a bitter critic of all the other sects and their beliefs. Jainism was on decline and Veerashaivism was gaining grounds, a very evident fact in this work.
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