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Contribution of Karnataka to Sanskrit

Contribution of Karnataka to Sanskrit
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Item Code: NAY903
Author: G. John Samuel and Shu Hikosaka
Publisher: Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai
Language: English
Edition: 1997
Pages: 690
Other Details: 9.50 X 7.00 inch
weight of the book: 1.05 kg

The accounts of the literary achievements of different regions are necessary for comprehending the variegated cultural history of India in its true perspective. Almost all the regions of India have some conspicuous aspects of culture peculiar to their own. It is interesting to note that Sanskrit occupied a very important place in the cultural history of different regions of India for many centuries. In the development of Sanskrit language and literature every part of India has had its share. Sanskrit and Prakrit dominated the scene of intellectual life in the early historical and medieval periods. Therefore, for a complete picture of Sanskrit literature as well as for a full appreciation of it, it is necessary to make an intensive study of the Sanskrit literary activity in different regions of India.

The early inscriptions and literary works indicate the prevalence and cultivation of Vedas, Sastras and Kavyas in Karnataka from the beginning of the Christian era. Gangas, Rastrakutas, Calukyas, Hoysalas and the Rayas of Vijayanagara took the lead in patronising and fostering Sanskrit. Even the smaller principalities like Nayakas of Keladi and the landlords continued the patronage of Sanskrit.

Karnataka's contribution to Sanskrit has been remarkable both in quantity and quality. The scholars of Karnataka not only cherished every branch of Sanskrit learning but preserved the manuscripts of many old and outstanding classics produced in distant parts of India which are useful for reconstructing many chapters in the development of Sanskrit literature and Indian thought. A substantial contribution has been made by the people of Karnataka to every branch of Sanskrit studies. The founders of the three schools of Vedanta, the Jainas and Virasaivas established their centres of propagation in Karnataka State and this led to the production of rich philosophical literature. The Jainas who started using Sanskrit from the fifth century onwards produced many important polemical works. The names of Sayanacarya and Madhvacarya alone are enough to highlight the contribution of Karnataka to Sanskrit literature. The Virasaiva and Saiva authors like Srikantha Siva and Sripatipandita who wrote in Sanskrit expounded the qualified monistic theory of Saivism. Sarngadeva was a great exponent of Karnatik music and his work Sangitaratnakara is perhaps the earliest extant work on the theory of Karnatik music. Bhattabhaskara, the author of Siddhanta Siromani made immense contribution to Mathematics. Vijnanesvara, Apararka and Hemadri made significant contributions to Hindu Law and ritual. Karnataka was the abode of virtuous kings, distinguished scholars and skilful aritists.

An attempt has been made here to present an account of Karnataka's contribution to important branches of Sanskrit studies beginning from the earliest period. The study has been presented in such a way that it shows historically the contribution of Karnataka to Sanskrit through the Ages discussing in detail the unique contribution to various genres. This work highlights the important achievements of Karnataka in the field of Sanskrit studies and their peculiar trends and features, which it is hoped, will be regarded as a dependable guide for the scholars interested in the cultural history of this region.

Karnataka's contribution to the different schools of philosophy and technical branches have been dealt with here besides tracing its contribution to Sanskrit Poetry, Prose, Drama, Poetics, Lexicography, Grammar, Music and allied areas.

In preparing this work I have greatly benefited from the labours of the previous researchers in the field, to whose writings I have given constant references in the footnotes. The present attempt is the first comprehensive and connected account of Karnataka's contribution to Sanskrit and no work of the kind, covering exactly the field of this work, has so far appeared which justifies the present attempt. No claim is made to the effect that this work is entirely free from mistakes both of omission and commission. But I have spared no pains to make the work an up-to-date readable source book on the topic as far as possible.

I express my gratitude to Dr. N. Mahalingam, the Chariman and the patron of the project Contribution of South India to Sanskrit but for whose generosity this project would not have materialised.

I thank the atuthorities of the Insititute of Asian Sutdies, Madras for having accepted the project. I remain grateful to Dr G. John Samuel, Director for Research Programmes, Institute of Asian Studies and Professor S. Viswanatha Sivacharyar for having entrusted the project work, related to Contribution of Karnataka to Sanskrit to me.

Professor M.S.Nagarajan undertook the most unenviable task of beating my manuscript to shape. To him I am ever thankful. I am happy to express my gratitude to Dr.V.Gopalakrishna, HOD of Kannada Studies, IAS, for the careful scrutiny of Sanskrit and Kannada words and phrases. I remain grateful to the authorities of the Pondicherry Central University for giving me the permission and facilities to carry out my research. I express my deep sense of gratitude to my professors and well-wishers who gave me encouragement and help. I remain grateful to the authorities of the following Libraries and Research Institutes for allowing me to make use of their valuable collections.


Sanskrit has had a continuous history of literary output from the most hoary past to this day. In this long period of growth, it has been developed by every part of the country. Indeed it has grown into a national language with a unique pan-Indian character by enriching itself with many an element of value and beauty drawn from the different parts of India.

I have been thinking for a long time that a series of critical regional studies of Sanskrit literature would help give us a comprehensive view of the literary and historic development ,of Sanskrit through the ages as also the full result of the mutual impact and influenc of Sanskrit and the regional languages. About five years back I was able to arrange at the Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai, a project to coordinate research o the history and growth from ancient times to the present day of Sanskrit language and literature, in the four linguistic regions in South India, namely, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. It was also proposed, besides a historical survey, that the studies should discuss the various spheres of literature including inscriptions in the four regions in detail within a comparative framework, and undertake linguistic survey of the shaping influence of Sanskrit on the four languages and vice versa so as to establish Sanskrit as a substratum language.

I am indeed happy that the Institute has now been able to accomplish almost all the requirements and objectives with the assistance and co-operation of competent scholars, and that the Contribution of Karnataka to Sanskrit Literature has been successfully completed by Dr Panduranga Bhatta, Professor of Sanskrit, Pondicherry Central University, a reputed scholar who has already made valuable contributions to varied branches of Sanskrit literature.

In the present publication Dr Bhatta has presented in 17 chapters, systematically and with documentation, the diverse contribution of Karnataka to the important branches of Sanskrit literature, like the Vedic studies, language and literature, religion and philosophy, fine arts and technical sciences. The rich material is dealt with in such a way that it highlights historically and in continuity not only the chief achievement of Karnataka in the field of Sanskrit but also its unique trend and features from the Satavahana period (2nd century A.D.) to the 8th century. Dr Bhatta has culled the valuable information from a vast range of primary and secondary sources, in print and in manuscript, that include inscriptions and copper plates.

The book is not just a comprehensive chronological survey of Sanskrit works. Chapter III, for example, deals with the unique method of Sanskrit education as was available and encouraged in the Hindu Maths, Jaina Bastis and Buddhist Viharas, and libraries containing various printed books and manuscripts. Chapter XIII explains in detail the influence and principles laid down in the Dharma and Arthasastras and other works of the Karnataka rulers. Chapter XIV is noteworthy in that it not only deals with the contents of the works on Sangita (Comprehensively understood as Dance, International and Vocal Music) but also presents substantial technical details in Sangita as reflected in the sculptures and painting in the different parts of the Karnataka region. Scenes from Sanskrit epics and poems depicted in Karnataka coins are discussed in Chapter XV. The mutual influence of Kannada and Sanskrit, linguistically and otherwise, is treated in Chapters, VIII, XVI, XVII and Appendix II.

I am sure that this scholarly and comprehensive publication will be welcomed by researchers and specialists interested in Sanskrit language and literature and its growth from the pre-historic times to the present. I look forward to similar monographs related to Tamil Nadu, Andhra, and Kerala being brought out by the Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai.


The early periods of the history of Karnataka are veiled in darkness and practically no material for literary history worth the name has been handed down to us. Indifference to chronology on the part of most of the writers of this country is a well-known fact. Most of the writers who flourished even in the later periods left no dependable clue to determine the place of their origin. It is obvious, therefore, that the task of fixing the date as well as the place of birth in the majority of cases is a difficult one. The conclusions arrived at, regarding the place of birth on such grounds as the provenance of the manuscript available and the popularity of the writer in a particular region, are very often not wholly dependable.

Therefore, the compilation of a comprehensive account of the literary history of any particular region of India is really a difficult task fraught with many drawbacks. As noted earlier, no definite information is available on the literary activities of Karnataka in the early periods of history.

Early archaeologists and epigraphists like Buhler are seen underrating the contribution of South India to Sanskrit poetry. Buhler observes; "It is, however, very questionable whether the poetic art had reached in South India that degree of development which it had reached at the special centres of intellectual life in North India."' But, as pointed out by D. C. Sircar, recent finds show that Buhler doubts were unjustified.' That the Kavya style was cultivated in South India is fully established by a number of inscriptions discovered in Karnataka. Kubja, the author of the Talagunda inscription of the Kadamba king Santivarman (fifth century A.D.) was a master of varied metres and striking figures of speech. Ravilkirti, the famous poet of Pulikesin II, could compare himself with the great Sanskrit poets like Kalidasa and Bharavi on account of his composition in the famous Aihole inscription (634 A.D.). Such examples of rare poetic finish do indicate that Sanskrit poetry was being regularly cultivated in the region of Karnataka. Unfortunately many a great work, mentioned in the epigraphical records of Karnataka, is irrecoverably lost. The Dattaka sutravrtti, a work on the Vaisika chapter of erotics composed by the Ganga king Madhava II (fourth century A.D.) and Durvinita's (sixth centuary A.D.) Sanskrit version of the famous Brhatkatha of Gunaddhya supposed to have been composed in Paisaci Prakrit and his commentary on the fifteenth canto of Bharavi's ornate poem Kiratarjuniya and Ganga king Sripurusa's Gajasastra, a book on the treating of elephant, have not come down to posterity.

Karnataka made significant contributions to Sanskrit. Though Buddhism prevailed in Karnataka upto the twelfth century A.D., there is no extant Buddhist literature of Karnataka. But the Jainas by giving up the Prakrit and writing in Sanskrit from the fifth century A.D. onwards brought into existence many important polemical works. The illustrious names of Samantabhadra, Pujyapada, Bhattakalanka, Vidyanandin, Jinasena I, Srivardhadeva (praised by Dandin), Asaga, Camundaraya, Gunabhadra occur in the Ganga and Rastrakuta records. Under the Calukyas of Kalyani, Vadiraja, Ajitasena, Nemicandra wrote upon Jaina Philosophy.

In the books of Sanskrit anthology we come across a number of stray verses ascribed to different poets belonging to Karnataka. In consideration of poetic beauty, lucidity of expression and tenderness of imagination most of these poems bear the unmistakable marks of poetic genius. But it is a matter of much regret that in most of the cases those poets left nothing else except the stray verses.

The achievements of the Karnataka kings form one of the most glorious chapters in Indian history. The famous rulers among the Satavahanas, Gangas, Rastrakutas, Calukyas, Yadavas, Hoysalas, the Vijayanagara rulers and the feudatories like the Nayakas of Ikkeri were great promoters of Sanskrit learning and very often great contributors to literature themselves. The orthodox Vedic religion, Jainism and Saivism received equal encouragement at their hands and because of this attitude Karnataka produced great writers in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Kannada in the long period of its recorded history.

For a few centuries (first century A.D. to fourth century A.D.) in the beginning, Prakrit was the language patronised by the Satavahana rulers who ruled over the present Maharastra and North Karnataka (known as Kuntala earlier). In this period an anthology of 700 Prakrit verses known as Sattasai was compiled by Hala Satavahana. It is significant to note that even in those early days, Sanskrit was the language preferred by the learned throughout India. The credit goes to Satavahana rulers for getting a simplified grammar of Sanskrit, known as the Katantaravyakarana.

This work composed by Sarvavarman became a boon to beginners, who are deterred from the complexities of the Paninian grammar. It is interesting to note that this grammar provided the inspiration for similar attempts in Bengal and Kashmir as late as the fourteenth century. There are clear evidences to state that the famous Sanskrit poet Kalidasa did visit the Kuntala court as a messenger of his king. The Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi may be regarded as the first ornate court epic which provided the model for the definitions of Mahakavya framed by Bhamaha and Dandin at a later date. Descriptions of set poetic themes which are said to be eighteen in number, a style bristling with conceits, both verbal and figurative are the main features of Bharavi's court epic. This is the new ornate tradition in Sanskrit poetry which Bharavi initiated from the South, and it has remained the all-India poetic tradition in Sanskrit ever since. Two works namely, Avantisundarikatha and Avantisundarikathasara corroborate the fact of Bharavi's contemporaniety with Ganga king Durvinita who wrote a commentary on the difficult fifteenth canto of Bharavi's Kiratarjunlya. Bharavi is expressly praised along with Kalidasa in the famous Aihole inscription of Ravikirti (634 A.D.).

The renowned drama namely Mrcchakatika by Sudraka has been ascribed to the Ganga court ( 670-750 A.D.) by scholars like Saletore.

On the basis of references in the Bhasyas, S.Srikantha Sastri comes to the conclusion that the great Sankaracarya wrote his commentaries in the dominion of the Calukyas namely Balavarma and Jayasimha. But the early Calukyan history is shrouded in mystery, and there is no other evidence, to corroborate this fact. If it is established with sufficient evidence this will remain as the greatest contribution of Karnataka to Indian philosophical literature in Sanskrit. According to S.Srikantha Sastri, the Samksepasariraka of Sarvajnatman, which is a renowned work in post-Sankara Vedanta, was also written in the realm of the Calukya king Adityavarman, son of Pulakesin II. The quality of poetry found in the Aihole inscriptions of Ravikirti helps us to conclude that Pulakesin must have, like Harsa in the North, patronised a number of literary luminaries, though their works have not come down to posterity. It is an established fact now that the Buddhists and the Jainas--two non-vedic sections of the society--contributed a lot to the cultural heritage of India. The Jainas of Karnataka have rendered appreciable service to Sanskrit literature by contributing their best to the different branches of knowledge such as grammar, poetics,lexicography, prosody, mathematics, medicine, religion and philosophy, etc. The Jaina saints of Karnataka have contributed to all the areas of poetic activities. They have composed the puranas, the mahakavyas, the message poems, the prose and the poetic works and the Campus. In quantity and quality their contribution is note-worthy. Through their works they proved that religious spirit can be a perennial source of inspiration not only to the poets but for the society at large. Their works are indispensable from the historical point of view also. They are useful in reconstructing the political, social and cultural history of India in the Middle ages. The Yasastilaka Campu of Somadeva is a glorious example to illustrate this fact. The Jaina writers of Karnataka assiduously wrote valuable commentaries on prominent works of classical Sanskrit, and thereby preserved and enriched the stock of human knowledge. Their critical works on poetics explored new possibilities of development in literary criticism.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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