KANNADA AND SANSKRIT
The relationship between Kannada and Sanskrit (ಕನ್ನಡ ಮತ್ತು ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತ) has been a contentious issue right from the documented beginning of Kannada speaking communities. It has been a clash of cultures with diametrically opposite ethnic and linguistic identities. It is now proved beyond any doubt, that Kannada belongs to the Dravidian family of languages and that it has not originated from Sanskrit or any other Indo Aryan language. However, there is a deep rooted conviction in a sizable percentage of Kannada speakers that Sanskrit has sprung from Kannada. They base their conclusions on the abundant presence of Sanskrit words in the vocabulary of Kannada. They are also influenced by the pedagogy of Kannada in our schools and colleges right from the beginning of the twentieth century. An unreasonably heavy dependence on the models provided by Sanskrit in matters relating to grammar, poetics and prosody has lead to a wrong understanding of the situation. The traditional scholarship, which was a part of the Vaidic hegemony was decidedly in favour of fostering a mindset inclined towards Sanskrit.
The influence of Sanskrit on Kannada speaking communities is twofold. Unlettered communities have unhesitatingly used words that are assimilated in to Kannada with necessary modifications. (tadbhava) On the contrary, words that are borrowed from Sanskrit without any modifications are generally used in cultural and scholarly registers. (Tatsamas) The Sanskrit influence is present in many abstract, religious, scientific and rhetorical terms. No doubt, many indigenous Dravidian words are dropped in favour of their Sanskrit equivalents. Certain phonetic items such as the aspirated sounds, velar and palatal nasals, fricative ‘sh’ (ಶ) retroflex ‘S’ (ಷ) are used exclusively in the educated, urban, upper caste communities, more particularly in their writing practices. Sanskrit has not made any significant influence either on morphology or on syntax. The fact that the cultural vocabulary of the language is Sanskrit laden cannot be denied. The habit of coining Sanskrit equivalents to English words has increased the preponderance of such items in Kannada texts.
The geographical position of
Karnataka has in a way increased the intensity of Sanskrit influence on Kannada
when viewed in comparison to Tamil. Tamil could afford to follow more
exclusivist policies right from the beginning there by keeping the Dravidian
elements of their culture and language intact. This is manifest in Tamil
literature and other facets of its cultural panorama. Kannada, Malayalam and
Telugu were in greater contact with the Aryan culture and hence they were
forced to be more inclusive. This fact becomes obvious if one looks at the
history of Kannada language and literature after the separation of Kannada from
the proto-dravidian. It was a story of continuing domination by Sanskrit
punctuated by certain periods where Kannada made a valiant attempt to assert
its individuality. The vachana movement of the twelfth century is one such
watershed. There was a creative tension between the indigenous artistic modes
of expression of the Dravidian culture and the all pervading invasion of the
Aryan/ Sanskrit forces. Poets such as
Of course, the royal dynasties that have ruled in Karnataka over the preceding centuries have unequivocally supported Sanskrit writers and scholars during their regimes. Many a time, the balance has tilted towards the Sanskrit/Aryan supremacy. Consequently Karnataka has contributed handsomely to the Pan-Indian scholarship all through its history. Sharvavarma, (kAtantra vyAkaraNa) Vasubhagabhatta, (Panchatantra) Bharavi, (kirAtArjunIya) Jinasenacharya, (mahApurANa) Mahaveera, (gaNitasArasangraha) Trivikramabhatta, (naLacampU) Veerasena and Jinasena, ( dhavaLA, jayadhavaLA and mahAdhavaLa) Somadeva Suri, (yashastilaka campU) VAdiraja, (yashOdhara carita) Jayakeerthi, (CandOnushAsana) Bilhana, (vikramAnkadEvacarita) Someshvara-3, (mAnasOllAsa) Vijnaneshvara, (mitAksharA) Madhvacharya, (37 works including commentaries on Vedas, Upanishads and and Brahmasutra) Sayanacharya (18 works enriching various disciplines of Vedic literature) Gangadevi, ( madhurAvijaya or vIra kampaNarAyacarita) and Basavabhupala (Shivatatvaratnakara) are the important ones among the writers and scholars who have written extensively in Sanskrit till the advent of the eighteenth century.
Further Readings and Links:
‘The language of the Gods in
the world of men’ By Sheldon I. Pollock, 2006,
2. ‘Literary cultures in history: reconstructions from South Asia’ edited By Sheldon Pollock, 2003, California Unversity Press
3. ‘History of grammatical theories in Kannada’ By Jayavant S.Kulli, 1991, Inter National School of Dravidian Linguistics.