South Asia Institute
South Asia Institute

Vanamala Viswanatha on "Raghavanka in Kannada Literary Culture"

Thu, September 27, 2018 | Meyerson Conference Room (WCH 4.118), UT Austin Campus

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Vanamala Viswanatha on

Raghavanka, a medieval Kannada poet and author of the well-known classic ‘Harishchandra Kavyam’ (The Life of Harishchandra, Murty Classical Library of India, Harvard University Press, 2017) lived and wrote sometime between  the later decades of 12th and  early 13th century.  Coming soon after the famous Virashaiva poets Allama Prabhu, Basavanna and Akka Mahadevi, Raghavanka was a contemporary of Harihara, yet another important Virashaiva poet as well as his uncle and mentor. Raghavanka took pride in being a pandita-kavi (scholar-poet) and enjoyed the title ‘ubhayakavi’, well-versed in Sanskrit and Kannada. In his oeuvre, Raghavanka combined the gravitas of the Marga/classical tradition  inaugurated by Pampa and Ranna and the vital energies of the Desi/nativist tradition represented by Harihara.

However, lore has it that when Raghavanka presented his acclaimed ‘Harishchandra Kavya’ to Harihara, his guru rejected it as the text had a mere, mortal king at the centre, instead of focusing on venerable Shiva devotees, befitting a Virashaiva poet. When Raghavanka protested that Harishchandra was no ordinary king but an ardent devotee of Shiva, Harihara is said to have assaulted him and broken his teeth. Later a repentant Raghavanka wrote the other five works on eminent Shiva devotees and regained his teeth. Using this curious story as a trope, I would like to explore the nature of the tension between the guru and his disciple, drawing on the shifting grounds of what constituted the literary in the Vira/shaiva period in Kannada  culture  in terms of the writer and writing, theme and form,  as well as dharma/ religion and kavya dharma/poetic practices and the reading community.

An acclaimed translator and academic, Professor Vanamala Viswanatha has taught English language and literature over the past four decades at several premiere institutions in Bengaluru, India, including Indian Institute of Science, Regional Institute of English, Bangalore University, and Azim Premji University. Vanamala Viswanatha has also worked as Honorary Director, Centre for Translation, Sahitya Akademi, Bengaluru and as a member of the Advisory Committee, National Translation Mission. She  has translated and introduced Sara Aboobacker's Kannada novel (Breaking Ties, Macmillan India,2001) and an anthology of Lankesh's  short stories(When Stone Melts, 2004, Sahitya Akademi), and co-edited Routes : Representations of the West in Short Fiction from South India, (Macmillan India,2000); and translated J Krishnamurti’s writing into Kannada. She has co-translated Ananthmurthy's Samskara into Swedish (Samskara - rit for en dod man, Ordfront Forlag, 2001) and Torgny Lindgren's Swedish novel into Kannada (Havina Donku, 2002). Her translation of The Life of Harishchandra (Harvard University Press, 2017), the first ever translation of a medieval Kannada poetic classic, in the Murty Classical Library of India Series, is a landmark publication. Her English translation of Gulavadi Venkata Rao’s Indira Bai, the first social novel in Kannada, in collaboration with Padikkal, is being shortly published by Oxford University Press.

Sponsored by: South Asia Institute

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