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Lyrical land

This is the eleventh of a 16-part series on Bangalore, which will culminate in several competitions, including a Quiz, Paint Your City, Photograph Your City, Treasure Hunt, and so on for The Hindu NIE participants.

Kannada Sahitya Parishat: Fostering the literary tradition. — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

KANNADA LITERATURE appears to have flourished even before Kempe Gowda laid the foundations of the city. Mallanna, a well-known writer from old Bangalore, is referred to in the poetic works of Lakkanna Dandesha (1430 A.D.) and Gubbi Mallanacharya (1510 A.D.).

Palkurike Somanatha, the 13th Century Telugu poet, seems to have lived in Magadi. His Basavapuranam, translated into Kannada by Bhima Kavi, brought him fame. Kempe Gowda I is credited with the composition of a Yakshagana piece Ganga Gowri Vilasamu in Telugu.

Guru Nanjesh's Jayastuti (about Kempe Gowda II), Ekambara Dikshit's Veerabhadra Vijaya, Jayaram Pandye's Radha Madhava Vilasa are the other 17th Century literary works to Bangalore's credit.

During the 18th and 19th Centuries, Kannada literature was enriched by the Vachanas composed by the heads of many a Veerashaiva Mathas in Bangalore. Mudduveeraswamy (1700), Sarpabhooshana Shivayogi (1795-1839), Mahant Desika of Thippa Shetty Matha, and Jeerage Basavalingacharya are some of the poets who belonged to this period.

Many a 19th Century pandit wrote on subjects such as grammar, linguistics, drama, Jain and Veerashaiva philosophy, agriculture, geology, and politics. Among them were Siddhanti Velanada Subramanya Shastri, Siddhanti Shivakumara Shastri, Srinivasa, Nagasharma, Dakshinamurthy Shastri, Padmaraja Brahmasuri, Ramanathapuram Raghuraya, and S.N. Narasimhaiah, to name a few.

Doddabele Narayana Shastri, a famous scholar, wrote a commentary on Jaimini Bharatha and Sundarakhanda, and translated Kalidasa's works.

In addition to books on Veerashaiva and Vaishnava philosopy, several noteworthy books were published in the first half of 20th Century. A first time translation of Dhammapada by Bidare Ashwatha Narayana Shastri, a book on printing technology by B. Puttaiah, translation of Bhasa's dramas by Panyam Sundarashastri, a biography of Magadi Kempe Gowda by S.K. Narasimhaiya, a Kannada translation of Trimatha Acharyas' commentary on Gita by Toppulu Raghavacharya of Tulasi Thota, a Yakshagana composed by the Mahant Desika and the first Kannada detective novel by Balasaraswati are some of the noteworthy books.

Other well-known names of the period are Mahadevaswamy (nicknamed as Abhinava Allama), Pt. Shivakumara Swamy, Siddhalinga Swamy of Belimatha, Nanjundaswamy of Guruvanna Matha, and Pt. B. Shivamurthi Shastri. A series of writers and Keerthanakaras contributed to Dasa Sahitya. Sringeri Narasimhashastri, M. Lakshminarasimha Shastri, Varada Desikachar, Jaggu Vakulabhushana, Rarlapalli Anantha Krishna Sharma and Motaganahalli Subramanya Shastri were some of the reputed Sanskrit scholars of the period.

A new generation litterateurs became prominent in the first half of the 20th Century. They have significantly contributed to Kannada literature in its various forms - Navya, Navodaya, or Bandaya literature. There was almost a revolution in the use of Kannada and Prof. B.M. Sreekantaiah was the prime factor in this movement of modern Kannada. Kannada was enriched by their scholarship in English, and modern Kannada was born. We have a select few to indicate their contribution. Masti, the father of Kannada short stories, multifaceted DVG, S.V. Ranganna of Vachana fame, G.V. Rajaratnam of Ratnana Padagalu fame, T.P. Kailasam, and Sri Ranga, the dramatists, Puthi Na of Geeta Nataka, the romantic poet K.S. Narasimha Swamy, Gopala Krishna Adiga, the pioneer of Navya style, humourists Beechi, Rashi, T. Sunandamma, folklorist H.L. Nage Gowda, novelists Anakru, Tarasu, M. Ramamurthy, K.V. Iyer, Devudu, Niranjana, scholarly A.R. Krishna Shastri, writers Na. Kasturi, Thi Nam Sree, Navaratna Ramarao, M.V. Seetharamaiah, journalists T.T. Sharma, Veerakesari, Siddavanahally Krishna Sharma, lady writers R. Kalyanamma, Tirumale Rajamma, Ambabai, H.V. Savithramma, H.S. Parvathi, Chi. Na Mangala, H.R. Indira, M.K. Indira, M.V. Kanakamma, Nirupama, N. Pankaja, Usha Navaratna Ram, Kakolu Saroja Rao, Anupama Niranjana, poets Vi.Si, G.S. Shivarudrappa, K.S. Nissar Ahmed are quite a handful. The literary scene in Bangalore grew during the second half of the 20th Century.

We can never forget the contributions of Christian missionaries and Padris to literature in Bangalore. Rev. John Garret not only set up the first printing press in Bangalore, but also translated the Bible, Bhagavadgita, Panchatantra, Shabda Manidarpana, and other works. Daniel Sanderson and Elis Robert brought out books in Kannada. Rev. B.L. Rice's contribution is remembered by lovers of Kannada literature. Born and brought up in Bangalore, Rice was a proud ambassador of Karnataka history, language, and literature through his Bibliatica Karnatika, Epigraphia Karnataka and the Mysore Gazetteer. He is known as the great grandfather of inscriptions/epigraphs. His son, Edward Peter Rice, was the first to publish the history of Kannada literature in English in 1915.

As a true cosmopolitan city, Bangalore has also encouraged the growth of Telugu, Urdu, and English literature. There were scholars such as P. Kodanda Rao, R.R. Diwakar, V.K.R.V. Rao, C. Hayavadana Rao, and M.N. Srinivas who wrote in English.

Religious/dharmic institutions, ashramas, and maths have promoted philosophical writing and publications in Bangalore. While Veerashaiva Maths in Bangalore brought out philosophical literature from 17th Century, others such as Ramakrishna Mission, Shankara Math, Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya, Vidyapeetha, Buddha Vachana Trust, and Rashtrothana have encouraged Kannada publications from early 20th Century.

The Arya Samaj, under the leadership of the centurion Sudhakar Chaturvedi, has embarked on a grand plan to bring out a 30,000-page treatise in Kannada on Veda Bhashya. Banavathi Granthamala and the Irish Press can be named among the old publishers. Bharata Darshana, a publishing house started in 1957, has published the Mahabharata in Kannada in 32 volumes, 11 volumes of Valmiki Ramayana, and nine volumes of Bhagavatha. Its sale of eight lakh copies is possibly a record in Kannada publishing.

Bangalore is fortunate to have many organisations that promote literature, including Kannada Sahitya Parishat.

(The author would be grateful for additional information, old anecdotes, and old photographs on the subject. He can be contacted on 6520122 or on


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