The present study is about fiction in Kannada (also known as Canarese), one of the most highly developed literary languages of India. What J.F. Fleet, a nineteenth-century colonial civil servant who was one of the rare early researchers in the field of Kannada language and literature, has expressed about the state of Kannada studies in his time still holds good today: the study of its literature has been sadly neglected not only by foreign scholars but also by Indian scholars outside the Kannada-speaking state of Karnataka, for reasons which will be stated below. This study deals with fiction In Kannada which has appeared since India attained independence in 1947 and focuses on those themes which are found in this literature and which are not known in the major Western literatures because they represent problems which are specific for the culture in which this literature is written.
To my knowledge, this is the first doctoral dissertation about Kannada literature ever submitted at a university in the Western world. Also I believe that it is the first dissertation dealing with culturally specific themes in a modern Indian literature from a literary point of view. This work is therefore a pioneer work in its kind, and such writings can demand much from their readers; but I hope that my readers will enjoy the adventure of exploring this literature as much as I did.
While writing this work I have kept in mind that it may be of interest not only to Ideologists but also to those who are working in other disciplines, for instance in comparative literature or anthropology, i.e. for people without any specialized knowledge about Kannada, its literature, Karnataka or even India. Since we are dealing here with a largely unknown literature, I have given elaborate summaries of the literary works that are discussed in the dissertation, which perhaps would have been less necessary in the case of certain other literatures. Also I hope that the work will reach not only Western readers, but an Indian readership as well. Because I have kept these various kinds of possible readers in mind, every reader will unavoidably come across passages in this study that are unnecessary for him or her: thus the Indian reader will wonder why I explain matters concerning Karnataka and India which are obvious to him, and mutatis mutandis the Western reader will think the same. I hope that the readers w ill bear with me in such cases and skip over those passages without being very irritated. Likewise, I hope that whenever my criticism of certain things seems a bit harsh to my readers, they will realize that such criticism is an expression of my concern for a land and a people that I have learnt to appreciate deeply.
Pioneer work often runs into opposition in established academic circles, and I consider myself fortunate that at the Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands, where I received my training in various Indological subjects, I received ample encouragement for this work. The Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO) must be mentioned here for financially enabling me to undertake the project, and the University of Utrecht again for awarding me the doctorate for this dissertation in 1989.
Another consequence of this being a pioneer work is that no publisher for it could be found immediately. The Kannada language and its literature have yet to receive the recognition that e.g. Bengali and Tamil already have received in scholarly circles, and a book about Kannada literature is as yet uninteresting for commercial academic publishers. Under such circumstances it is fortunate that the Institut francais de Poridichery has accepted the work for publication.
In the transcription of Indian words I have basically followed the inter- nationally accepted standard system. However, in the case of a few words which have become so common among English readers that they have entered into English dictionaries, I have used the Anglified spelling, as also in the case of common Indian names and the names of authors wherever a commonly accepted Latin spelling exists. Thus I have written e.g. 'Brahmin', 'Virasaiva' and 'Gowda' instead of 'Brahrnana', 'Vtrasaiva' and 'Gauda'. In contemporary usage, the anusvara is used in Kannada script to represent the homorganic nasal, and I have rep- resented this in the text by either n or m, as seemed most suitable in each given situation. Also we must realize that the Latinized spelling of many authors' names is not standardized, and often the authors themselves are inconsistent in the spelling of their names.
It goes without saying that a work such as this could not have been undertaken without the help of many other people. In the firs t place, I am very grateful that I could study under my teacher Prof. Dr. K. V. Zvelebil, whose example inspired me to take up Dravidian studies. Acknowledgements are not really necessary for all those who know I am indebted to them, yet I would like to mention here the names of a few people in India who in different ways (of which they are perhaps not completely aware) have contributed to the completion of this study: Chaduranga, G.H. Nayak, H.M. Nayak, Mrs. Vijaya Dabbe, K. Narayan (in Mysore), the Niranjana family and Sumatheendra Nadig (in Bangalore). But I wish to make it clear that for any errors that are found in this work, they are not to blame. My thanks are of course also due to my Kannada teacher in Heidelberg, Pt. K. Parameswara Aithal, and to the late Miss V. Jayalakshmi of Cre-A Publishers, Madras, who gave me my first Kannada novels. I wish to dedicate this book to my daughter Charumati, who was born while the work was in progress, and to the memory of my father, who supported me throughout and did not live to see the book in print.
0.1 Forty years have passed since India attained independence from colonial rule. In a numer of Western countries, we are seeing in our time an increase in the number of Indian immigrants, people who are in search of higher studies, employment or business. Indians are becoming our neighbours more than ever was the case before.
The West has a tradition of Indological studies, approximately two centuries old, which is a late result of the humanistic scholarly attitude that arose in Europe with the coming of the Renaissance. Just as the intellectuals of the Renaissance had been primarily interested in European antiquity as it was reflected in classical Latin and Greek literature, much of Indology has been concerned with ancient India as reflected in its classical languages, of which Sanskrit is the foremost. Indeed a serious student who truly wants to understand Indian culture cannot do without knowledge of that language. It is one of the world's most splendid vehicles of thought, and a huge quantity of research on the basis of Sanskritic material is still to be done. But just as the West is more than Latin and Greek, India is more than Sanskrit. This may sound over-obvious; but the number of publications appearing on contemporary Indological topics in the West, in comparison with those on classical topics, suggests that the Western academic community is not fully aware of this. Whatever notions Westerners - laymen as well as some, if not most scholars - may have about Indian culture are largely based on the Sanskritic literary tradition: the Vedas, the Upanishads, the epics, perhaps some kavya, But like Latin in Europe, Sanskrit was and still is an elite language, immensely useful for the spread of a Hochkultur and keeping a cultural region united. Though the importance and richness of the Sanskritic tradition can hardly be underestimated, it has its limitations. Just like in the case of Latin, Sanskrit literature was meant for intellectuals and people who were in close contact with them, and does not give us a complete picture of cultural life. And when it comes to understanding modem Indian culture, it is absolutely imperative that we give attention to the literature in the so-called 'regional', but more properly called national languages I of India.
The Western layman who has taken an interest in contemporary Indian writing will have read some sporadic translations of older authors, like Tagore (or translations of translations: thus Tagore received his Nobel prize for a German translation of an English translation of his Bengali work) 2. More likely, he will have read some Indian fiction written in English. Some of this fiction makes interesting reading; yet we must bear in mind that English in India is not exactly a native language, and also that most Indian writing in English that reaches the West has been written specifically to please the Western reading public. As the famous late Hindi poet Ajneya (S.H. Vatsyayan) has stated, "India cannot have any literature - I mean a great literature, a literature in which the Indian mind can express itself - in anything other than an Indian language".
0.2 The Kannada-speaking part of India has been one of major historical importance for India as a whole. Religiously and philosophically, it has been the home and haven of the three great Vedantacarya-s: Sankara, who according to tradition established a matha at Sringeri, Ramanuja, who fled from religious persecution in Tamilnadu and then lived in Melkote near Mysore for twelve years, and Madhva, who was a native of the southern coastal region. As one may expect, the standard of Sanskrit studies in Karnataka is relatively high. Karnataka was the centre of two huge empires: the Calukya, which spread along the coast into what is now Gujarat, and that of Vijayanagara, the southern empire which stopped the southward expansion of political Islam from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. Of the two main styles of Indian classical music the southern style, which is the more purely Indian, is called 'Carnatic', since the man who is said to have given the system its final form is Purandaradasa of Karnataka. However, Karnataka has not drawn much attention from scholars from outside the .state: studies of Kannada language and literature are hardly found outside the state, and they are practically non-existent abroad. This dearth of philological interest cannot be because Kannada is philologically uninteresting: the previous section should have given some indication that this is not the case, and I hope the present book will help convince its readers that there is interesting modern writing in Kannada.
The lack of interest shown till now can be attributed, in my view, to three things. Firstly, Kannada as a language is geographically limited largely to Karnataka state, because Kannada- speaking communities outside the state tend to merge with the local majorities and learn Tamil, Marathi etc. to a level that enables them to use the majority language for all their daily needs: hence they have not made political language claims outside Karnataka. Apart from a community of Kannada speakers in the United States and Canada (consisting generally of highly skilled technicians, scientists and physicians) there are no large groups of Kannada speakers who live in other countries, as is the case with for instance Bengali, Urdu and Tamil.
In Karnataka, the meekness of Kannada speakers has not been rewarded by the members of other speech-communities. There are sizeable linguistic minorities in Karnataka which speak Urdu (9%), Telugu (8.2%), Marathi (4%), Tulu (3.6%) etc. 6, unevenly spread through the state, and Karnataka has had a liberal language policy towards non-Kannada speakers 7. People whose mother tongue is Telugu, Tulu or Konkani have accepted Kannada as the language for official use in Karnataka; but the tolerance which in previous times gave shelter to Ramanuja could not curb the physical violence committed by Tamil speakers (3.36% of the population of Karnataka) in Bangalore or Marathi speakers (4.05%) in Belgaum, which was aimed against giving the language of the two-thirds majority of this state (which was formed on a linguistic basis) its rightful status. Urdu speakers have opposed the extended use of Kannada as "hostile to their religion and asserted that Islam... is in danger 8" - as though Islam is identical with Urdu, or any religion with any language. Only recently have Kannadigas begun to struggle for their language in their own state, and their movement (known as the 'Gokak Movement') is "unique because it aims at giving the sole first language status to Kannada in Karnataka.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend