The supremacy of the majestic Rashtrakutas and their powerful vassal - the Gangas, designates the ushering in of the classical period of writings in Kannada literature, under royal patronage and the significant swan song of the era of Sanskrit epics. Within the just developing domain of Kannada literature, there existed an accentuation on the implementation of Sanskritic models, even while holding back fundamentals of local literary traditions, a panache that persisted in Kannada literature all through the classical period. Kavirajamarga, precisely written during this period, is a dissertation on the Kannada-speaking individuals, their verse and their language. A section of the writing indeed measures up as a 'practical grammar'. This section of Kavirajamarga delineates defective and corrective examples (the "do's and don't's") of versification, indigene compositional styles distinguished by puratana kavis (literally standing for "early poets") (the bedande, the chattana and the gadyakatha - compositions penned in various intermingling metres) and in some milieu, the term puravcharyar, which might refer to earlier grammarians or rhetoricians. Some historians also ascribe Kavirajamarga to the Rashtrakuta king Amoghavarsha I; but other researchers deem that the book may have been enthused by the king and co-authored or authored in its entirety by Srivijaya, a Kannada language theoriser and court poet.
The earliest surviving prose piece from the Classical period in Kannada literature is Vaddaradhane ("Worship of Elders", 9th century) by Shivakotiacharya. It consists of 19 prolonged stories, some in the class of fables and parables, such as "The Sage and the Monkey". Enthused by the earlier Sanskrit writing Brihatkatha Kosha, dealing intimately Jain tenets, the prose piece describes matters of rebirth, karma, the quandary of humans on earth and social results of the time like education, trade and commerce, wizardry, superstition and the status of women in society.
The compositions of Jain writers Adikavi Pampa, Sri Ponna and Ranna, collectively referred to as the "three gems of Kannada literature", had harbingered the period of classical Kannada literature during the 10th century. Pampa, who had penned Adipurana in 941, is deemed as one of the biggest Kannada writers. Written in the champu style (poems in verses of various metres intermingled with paragraphs of prose, also acknowledged as champu-kavya), Adipurana chronicles the life history of the first Jain Thirtankar, Rishabhadeva. In this spiritual narrative, Rishabhadeva's soul is picturised to pass through a cycle of births, before achieving emancipation in the pursuit for the release of his soul from the succession of life and death. Pampa's other classic, Vikramarjuna Vijaya (or Pampa Bharata, 941), is broadly based upon the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata.
Sri Ponna, patronised by King Krishna III, had authored Santipurana (950), a biography based on the 16th Jain Tirthankar, Shantinatha. Ponna in fact had earned the title Ubhaya Kavichakravathi ("supreme poet in two languages") for his supreme control on both Kannada and Sanskrit. Although Sri Ponna had borrowed considerably from Kalidasa's earlier works, his Santipurana is considered an essential Jain purana from Classical period in Kannada literature.
From the late 10th century, Kannada literature from the Classical period began to take substantial strides under the patronage of the new overlords of the Deccan, the Western Chalukyas and their vassals: the Hoysalas, the southern Kalachuris, the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri and Silharas of Karad. The priceless expertise of Kannada poets began to be appreciated in far-away lands. As its consequent effect, king Bhoja of Malwa in central India had awarded Nagavarma I, a writer of prosody and romance classics, with horses as a sign of his high regard.
Ranna had served as the court poet of the Western Chalukya kings Tailapa II and Satyasraya, during the Classical period in Kannada literature. He was also patronised by Attimabbe, a committed Jain lady. Ranna's poetic writings accomplished their pinnacle with Sahasa Bhima Vijaya ("Victory of the bold Bhima", also referred to as Gada Yudda or "Battle of Clubs", 982), which depicts the struggles between Bhima and Duryodhana in his version of the Mahabharata epic, one of the earliest poetic elegies in the Kannada language. Standing in contrast to Pampa, who had extolled Arjuna and Karna in his writing, Ranna had eulogised his patron King Satyasraya and constructively Ranna's other celebrated and distinguished writing is the Ajitha purana (993), which recites the life of the second Jain Tirthankar, Ajitanatha. Ranna was conferred with the title Kavi Chakravathi ("Emperor among poets") by his patron king.
Chavunda Raya, Ranna's elder contemporary, then had come up with an elaborate work - a history of all the 24 Jain Tirthankaras. The Chola kings of Tamil-land got too hostile and destructive around the 11th century and began to crusade wars. This intended in a lean phase in activities in Classical period in Kannada literature, except for the works of a few writers like Naga Chandra, known for his Jain Ramayana, the Jain poetess Kanti, the grammarian Naga Varman II, who wrote Karnataka Bhasha Bhushana in Sanskrit sutras (aphorisms), and Kirtti Varman and Vritta Vilasa.
Within the domain of grammarians from the Classical period in Kannada literature, Nagavarma II, Katakacharya (poet laureate) of the Chalukya king Jagadhekamalla II, had made momentous contributions with his works in grammar, poetry, prosody, and vocabulary. These are considered the paradigm authorities and their significance to the study of Kannada language is well acknowledged. Among his other writings, the Kavyavalokana on grammar and rhetoric and the Karnataka Bhashabhushana (1145) on grammar bear enough significance since historical times. However, the discovery of Vardhamana Puranam (1042), which has been attributed by a few scholars to Nagavarma II, has given rise to vagueness about his actual lifetime, since it hints that he might have lived a century earlier and been patronaged by King Jayasimha II.
Since the commencement of 6th century, the language and literature in Kannada of Classical period had maturated under the patronage of Karnataka kings and emperors, and had made one of the greatest contributions to Indian art and culture. Even epigraphical records are an eloquent testimony to the beauty and elegance of Kannada style and unwrap the adaptations of Vibhakti, Pratyayas and Hrasvas in harmony with the prevailing practices among the Kannada speaking people. Indeed, Kannada compositions were already chefs-d'oeuvre of Kannada literature and style; with time, a new Kannada style emerged with the mounting intelligence and developing culture and civilisation of the people.
(Last Updated on : 23-02-2009)
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