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Karnataka History

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History is the mirror of people's personality, potentiality and achievements. It is rightly pointed out that the fundamental justification for historical study is that it meets the basic instinct and need of men living in society. For, history is the memory of men living in society, and it is only through knowledge of its history that a society can have knowledge of itself. " As a man without memory and self-knowledge is a man adrift", says Prof. Arthur Marwick, "so a society without memory (or more correctly without recollection) and self-knowledge would be a society adrift". The knowledge of the history and culture of Karnataka in right perspective is indispensable for the people of the state to discover themselves and realize their identity.

It is with this fervent hope that the great patriarch of Karnataka nationalism Sri Alur Venkat Rao wrote his famous book "Karnataka Gatavaibhava" in1917, in which he called upon the Kannadigas to discover the greatness of their past- their dynasties and rulers, their economic prosperity, their religious heritage, literary glory or architectural splendour. He hoped that a sense of pride in their past, would inspire them and harness their energies to greater deeds in the present.

Meaning of Karnataka:
Scholars have spun a number of theories in interpreting the word 'Karnataka'. One view is that the original name was 'Kannada' which referred to the land and not to a language or people, and that 'Karnata' was only its Sankritised form. Nripatunga (9th century) and Andayya (13th century) call this land 'Kannada'. Some Scholars, however, argue that the Sanskrit name 'Karnata' was of earlier origin, from which 'Kannada' evolved. This is an amusing theory based upon a story in the Skanda Purana, which says that the land is named after a demon called Karnata.

Yet another speculation is that it is because of the two tribes, namely Karna and Nat who flourished in the territory that the land came to be so known. Dr. Caldwell and Dr. Gundert have propounded the derivation Kar + Nadu = Karnadu, meaning the Black Country, which refers to the black soil of the Deccan Plateau. Prof. T. N. Srikantaiah too subscribed to this theory. Hattangadi Narayan Rao, on the other hand proposed ' Karu + Nadu', which suggested "an elevated land", as the major parts of Karnataka are situated in the Deccan Plateau, at an average elevation of 1500 feet above sea level. Manjeshwar Govind Pai preferred to interpret 'Karu-Nadu' as 'great or extensive land', with the same connotation as Maharashtra.

R. Narsimhacharya derived the word Kannada from Kam + Nadu or Kammitu + Nadu= Kannadu, meaning ' a fragrant or sweet smelling land', hinting at the fragrance of the sandalwood trees that abound the forests of Karnataka. S. B. Joshi has argued that Kannada is derived from Kan + Nadu. Kan refers to the Kanna race, which is the ancient stock of the later Kannada people. It is true that all these speculations and theories do not arrive at any final solutions. In fact, finality is not one of the virtues of history. After looking at the various theories, we should marvel how the words 'Karnataka' or 'Kannada' mean so much, to so many.

Antiquity of Karnataka:
Karnataka can justifiably take pride in its antiquity. Rev.Fr.Heras believed that the people of Karnataka were apparently mentioned in one of the seal inscriptions of Mohenjodaro, although this view is not accepted by many other scholars as more than a hypothesis. The earliest known references to Karnataka are found in the Sabha Parva and the Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata. Panini mentions Karnadhaka as the Gotra of people. Mrichchakatika and Kathasritsagara make references to Karnataka. Varahamihira's Brihatkatha or Rajashekhara's Kavyamimamsa mention 'Karnataka'. The word is mentioned in the Matsya Purana, Skanda Purana and the Markandeya Purana. The Tamil classic of the 7th century Sillapadikaram refers to the ' Karunatakars'.

The Birur plates of Kadamba Vishnuvarman call Shantivarman " the master of the entire Karnataka region". The Rashtrakuta inscriptions refer to the armies of Chalukyas of Badami as 'Karnatakabala'. These facts go to prove that Karnataka had achieved its definite identity long back in history. Scholars are of opinion that Kannada is one of the oldest Dravidian languages and that it is next only to Tamil in antiquity. Prof. D. L. Narsimhachar was convinced that Kannada was a spoken language in the 3rd century B.C. Plolemy's Geography (2nd century A. D.) speaks of many places of Karnataka. A Greek play written on papyrus and discovered in Egypt is believed to contain a number of Kannada words. As a language, Kannada must have developed considerably by the 5th or the 6th century, for the Kauirajamarga of Nripatunga (9th century) speaks of some earlier poets in Kannada.

Honourable Record of Kannada Dynasties:
Many ruling dynasties held sway over Karnataka and played decisive roles in the politics of the land. The rule of the Nandas and the Mauryas had extended to the Karnataka region. The Kadambas of Banavasi were considered worthy of alliance by the Guptas and the Vakatakas. The Gangas of Talakad had an incredibly long political existence of about seven hundred years, and could hold their own against the Chalukyas of Badami or the Rashtrakutas. The Chalukyas of Badami rose to great political heights when their irrepressible ruler, Pulakesi II, established his hegemony over Deccan, thwarting the ambitions of Harshvardhana of Kanauj and routing the Pallava ruler of Kanchi. The Rashtrakuta arms under Dhruva or Govinda III excelled in the North, and could proclaim their supremacy at the expense of the Gurjara-Pratiharas, the Vengi Chalukyas, the Gangas or the Cholas. The Chalukyas, of Kalyani had to contend against the Cholas in their bid for supremacy.

The Hoysalas established a compact kingdom in Karnataka and successfully projected their political influence into the Tamil country. The Vijayanagara Empire held the stage for over three centuries, and its power and wealth evoked the admiration and envy of its contemporaries. The Wodeyars of Mysore or the Nayakas of Kaladi played emphatic roles in the post Vijayanagara period, though in much narrower spheres. Haidar or Tipu had the honour of being singled out by the British as their inveterate foes; and the latter had to fight four bitter wars before they could overcome the Mysore challenge. Thus by any computation, the record of Karnataka dynasties is creditable. The military prowess of its rulers rivalled their statesmanship, as their ambitions were sustained by their resources.

The glory of Karnataka under its remarkable rulers has been attested to by many foreign travellers, from Hieun-Tsang to Nicolo Conti and from Abdur Razzak to Peter Mundy. They have bestowed ungrudging praise on the benevolent rule they had witnessed and its wholesome effects on people's lives.

Religious and Spiritual Heritage:
Karnataka has been a meeting ground of many faiths and sects. Here flourished saints and mystics whose sublime thoughts and lofty spirituality touched the lives of the high and the low. Jainism is said to have been introduced into Karnataka by Chandragupta Maurya who retired to Sravanabelagola to pursue his spiritual exercises. Many ruling families of Karnataka patronized Jainism, which enriched the cultural texture of the region. Shankara established one of his four Mathas at Sringeri, and it remained the fountainhead of Advaitic thought ever since. Ramanuja, the great Sri Vaishnava teacher, found asylum in the Hoysala kingdom when he was hounded out of the Tamil country.

Madhwacharya, the redoubtable exponent of the Dwaita Philosophy, was born near Udupi, where he established the eight Mathas to expand and perpetuate his system. Karnataka witnessed the Haridasa Movement, with which were associated the hallowed names of Purandaradasa, Kanakadasa, Vadiraja, Vyasaraya, Vijayadasa or Jagannathadasa. The vigorous and progressive socio-religious movement unleashed by Basaveshwara, the "Martin Luther of Karnataka", is an important feature of the spiritual heritage of Karnataka. Islam flourished under the Bahaminis or the Adilshahis, and Christianity found a receptive soil in the Coastal Kanara. Karnataka has all along been adhering to the sober ideal of religious toleration, with a noble emphasis on the dictum of "live and let live".

Cultural glory of Karnataka:
Creativity of human mind has found a generous expression in Karnataka in literature or art and architecture. Several literary forms in Kannada language have found remarkable exponents in Pampa, Ranna, Kumaravyasa or Sarvajna in the past and in K. V. Putappa, D. R. Bendre or Shivarama Karanth in the present. Architectural traditions of the Kadambas, the Chalukyas, the Hoysalas, the Vijayanagara or of the Bahamanis reflect the different dimensions of the Karnataka genius in the realm of artistic creativity.

Banavasi, Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal, Belur, Halebid, Hampe, Bidar or Bijapur contain living monuments of the past which speak of the architectural splendour and excellence which the people of Karnataka achieved different times. Sculptural art attained its loftiest stature in the Gomateshwara of Sravanabelagola as it achieved its most delicate forms in the temples of Belur, Halebid or Somnathapur.

Music in its classical mould flourished in Karnataka, and it had the services of such dedicated souls as Purandaradasa, Veena Sheshanna or Violin Maestro T. Chowdiah. Hindustani music too has been promoted in this region of the South by such distinguished practitioners of the art as Sawai Gandharva, Mallikarjuna Mansur, Gangubai Hangal or Bhimsen Joshi. Karnataka can thus take pride in its distinguished past. Its people excelled in every sphere of human endeavour which has indeed rendered its history colourful and meaningful. It can certainly inspire the Kannadigas to greater efforts in the present and to march into a rosy future which beckons them.

to be continued...
Mr. Arthikaje

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