Settar: An untiring historian with a literary flourish

Prof. S. Shettar | File   | Photo Credit: K. Gopinathan

S. Settar, 85, historian, who breathed his last early on Friday in Bengaluru, was known for his multidisciplinary work, encompassing linguistics, epigraphy, anthropology, study of religions, and art history.

Family sources said he was suffering from respiratory problems and was hospitalised for over a week. Dr. Settar is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Born in 1935 at Hampasagara, Ballari district, he went on to study at Cambridge University and started his career as a professor of History at Karnatak University, Dharwad, his alma mater.

Also read: Tracing the journey of Kannada

Dr. Settar worked till the very end and never rested on his past laurels. “A day before he was hospitalised, he was proof-reading and giving final touches to a book,” said N. Ravikumar of Abhinava Prakashana, who has published several of Dr. Settar’s recent publications in Kannada. Dr. Settar had also said he would need two more years of research to finish some of the projects he had taken up recently. He leaves behind many important works ready for publication.

The cover page of S. Settar’s book ‘Modala Sahasramanada Kannada Shasanagalu’ which is ready for publication.

The cover page of S. Settar’s book ‘Modala Sahasramanada Kannada Shasanagalu’ which is ready for publication.  

Early Buddhist Artisans and their Architectural Vocabulary, a result of his recent research at Kanaganahalli near Sannati, Kalaburagi district, is set to be published by Manipal University Press. For the first time, he had put together all Kannada inscriptions of the first millennium in an eight-volume work, covering 220 inscriptions. He had also compiled a dictionary of every word for over 25 classical Kannada poetry. All these works will be published this year, Mr. Ravikumar said.

Also read: Kannada should assimilate other languages to grow stronger: Settar

Dr. Settar’s early and important works in the 1970s were in the realm of Jain philosophy and ritual death (Sallekhana), with critically acclaimed books such as Inviting Death: Historical Experiments on Sepulchral Hill.

He also wrote extensively on Hoysala and Vijayanagar sculptural heritage. He edited several scholarly volumes on various epochs of Indian and Karnataka’s history. He served as director of the National Museum Institute of the History of Art, Conservation and Museology in 1978 and as chairperson of the Indian Council of Historical Research in 1996. He was also a visiting professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru.

Also read: Scholars discuss growth of Kannada script

It was in recent years that Dr. Settar shifted focus to studying the evolution of the Kannada language and literature with multidisciplinary approach and had chosen to write in Kannada. He believed that his choice of language made his work more accessible. Dr. Settar’s works in Kannada, including Shangam-Tamilagam Kannada Naadu Nudi, and Halagannada Lipi Lipikaara Lipi Vyavasaya are regarded as landmarks. His most recent work was Prakrita Jagadwalaya in 2018.

Noted historian and his student S.K. Aruni said Dr. Settar was “a model for all historians” because of his wide-ranging interests and his multidisciplinary approach to research. He drew from art history, linguistics and philosophy, and strictly followed an evidence-based approach to history, often revising popularly held notions and sometimes changing his stands when new evidence came up. For instance, his 2007 work Shangam-Tamilagam ..., which won the Bhasha Samman from the Sahitya Akademi, proved many of the poets of the Sangam period in Tamil were Kannadigas.

“Using linguistics and epigraphy, he re-imagined the ancient history of Karnataka,” Dr. Aruni said.

A polymath, he had a keen interest in music, art, and cinema as well. He even wrote several short stories under the pen name ‘Priyadarshini’ through the 1970s and 1980s. He had a wide collection of art and sculpture.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 12:55:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/historian-settar-passes-away-at-85/article30939572.ece

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