While former Chief Minister D. Devaraj Urs is credited with renaming the Mysore State as Karnataka on November 1, 1973, according to historians, usage of the word ‘Karnataka’ was in vogue some six centuries ago. They say all of southern India was united under one banner called Karnataka at that time.
They are arguing with empirical evidence that what is referred to as the Vijayanagara empire (1336) was actually called Karnataka Samrajya (empire), with Vijayanagara only being the capital.
Underlining the need to reconstruct post-colonial history, they say there is a tendency to blindly follow Robert Sewell’s (1845-1925) A Forgotten Empire, Vijayanagar , despite Sewell actually mentioning that the empire was called Karnataka.
Jnanpith recipient and playwright Girish Karnad refers to the Vijayanagara region as “Karnataka desha” in his recent play ‘Rakshasa-Tangadi’, which is based on A Social History of the Deccan , 1300-1761 by Richard M. Eaton of the University of Arizona. “Vijayanagara was not in vogue at that time; the region was referred to as Karnataka,” says Mr. Karnad in no uncertain terms.
Historian, epigraphist and iconographist Vasundhara Filliozat, who has a few significant historical works to her credit, including Vijayanagar , Alidulida Hampe , and Hampi-Vijayanagar: The Temple of Vithala, says the empire was given its present nomenclature by Sewell and Kannada historians such as B.A. Saletore and P.B. Desai only to placate Telugu scholars.
She says inscriptions show that the Karnataka empire was founded in 1336, with scholar Vidyateertha — the teacher of Vidyaranya — instrumental in it. Inscriptions also reveal that Vidyaranya did not exist at the time. The last great Hoysala ruler, Ballala III (1292-1342), started attempting to bring all of south India together, and the move yielded results in the time of Harihara I. “My historical conclusions are based on inscriptions and iconography I studied for nearly a decade. I don’t know why colonial historians glossed over the fact that the region was known as Karnataka and why post-Independence historians blindly followed Sewell. None of them is ready to take the truth head-on,” Ms. Filliozat says.
Srinivas Ritti, another historian, says the empire was never called Vijayanagara. According to him, historians chose the name as it was better known. He, however, believes that historians and scholars in the days to come should think of using the correct names — Karnataka for the empire and Vijayanagara for the capital.
Ms. Filliozat also says that Tipu Sultan should be given due credit during Hampi Utsav, which is celebrated yearly by the State government. She says the Nizam of Hyderabad was eyeing Hampi, which was in his dominion, but Tipu wanted Hampi to remain in Karnataka. Because of monetary help extended by Tipu, the Maharaja of Anegundi, who was surviving on a meagre revenue, stayed in Karnataka. “Hampi is now in Karnataka because of Tipu. The Karnataka government has to remember Tipu for what he did during Hampi Utsav.”