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`Vachanas a living material for interpretation of culture'

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INTERPRETING VACHANAS: (From left) Critic Ki. Ram. Nagaraj, chairman of KDA G. Siddalingaiah, administrator of St. Joseph's College Hedwig D'Costa and former judge A.J. Sadashiva at a seminar on Vachana Sahitya in Bangalore on Monday. Phot o: K. Murali Kumar
INTERPRETING VACHANAS: (From left) Critic Ki. Ram. Nagaraj, chairman of KDA G. Siddalingaiah, administrator of St. Joseph's College Hedwig D'Costa and former judge A.J. Sadashiva at a seminar on Vachana Sahitya in Bangalore on Monday. Phot o: K. Murali Kumar

Special Correspondent

Bangalore: "Sthavarakkalivuntu jangamakkalivilla" (The stagnant die, and the moving live on) said Basavanna. It is this sprit of dynamism central to the radical socio-religious Vachana movement that has made new interpretations of the poetry of Basavanna and his contemporaries possible many times over in the last 900 years.

The seminar held at St. Joseph's College here on Monday was yet another attempt at reading the Vachanas anew in a globalising world.

In his keynote address, Ki. Ram. Nagaraj, critic, said that it was the first literary tradition in Kannada that looked at contemporary questions straight in the eye and negotiated them not only through poetry but also through a questioning of the entire social set-up.

"Like we open the newspaper today and forge a relationship with the here and the now every day, the Vachana movement constantly negotiated its own present," he said. Just as the Vachanakaras confronted their present through their poetry, a contemporary reader should use this poetic tradition to confront his or her own present, he added.

Calling attention to how the Vachana period was one that gave space to multiple voices, he said it played a significant role in redefining the meaning of knowledge by recognising its earthy roots. It also gave a new sheen to a "tired language" and could well be a model for reinventing language in an age of information glut, he said.

Mr. Nagaraj called the Vachanas "a living material for interpretation of culture."

Placing the Vachana movement in an economic context, Kannada Development Authority chairman Siddalingaiah said that the Vachana movement took birth at a time when vast stretches of agricultural land were given away to temples and agraharas.

While these institutions were exempted from taxes, the artisan class was taxed heavily. The lower classes and castes, who were thus dispossessed, participated in a big way in the Vachana movement, he said. The movement conferred a sense of pride on the dispossessed by giving primacy to "kayaka" (physical labour) and treating all forms of labour as equal, he added.

The inauguration of the seminar was also attended by the former judge A.J. Sadashiva and Father Hedwig D'Costa, administrator of the college.

The seminar was jointly organised by the college and Basava Samiti.

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