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Nov 28, 2007

Mahakavi Pampa

Prof. Yashwant Malaiya

Pampa enjoys the eminence of being the `Adi Kavi' of Kannadaliterature. He is the first Kannada poet. His is the oldest Kannadawork or the first Kannada work available in Kannada literature. Thisdoes not mean that there were no poets or works in Kannada prior tohim. As their works are not available, Pampa stands out as thepioneering master of Kannada literature. Creating a new era, Pampaemerges as the torch-bearer for the next three centuries. To quote apoet, `for the spreading Kannada, there is only one ruler' and he isPampa.

The era of Pampa in Kannada literature is a fully developed era. Itwas a period when literary works of great substance were produced.Hence it is called the `Suvarna Yuga', the golden period. Vigour andvalour flow in the works of Pampa and his successors. The philosophyof Jainism flows in abundance. Their masterly works have broughtpride and prestige for Kannada and Kannada literature. The threepoets, Pampa, Ponna and Ranna stand out as the trinities of Kannadaliterature, as the `Kavirathnas' (poet-gems). Even today, theycontinue to be the `Kavirathnas', the three gems, Pampa standing outas the 'Makakavi' among them.

The period of Pampa is ascribed to 941 A.D. His father wasBheemappayya. His ancestors belonged to Vengi Mandala, the regionbetween the Godavari and Krishna rivers. They belonged to Brahmincommunity. Though born in a traditional Vedic family, Pampa took toJain philosophy. Leaving Vengi Mandala of the present Andhra Pradesh,he came to Karnataka and settled down at Banavasi. Pampa's worksare `Adi Purana' and `Vikramarjuna Vijaya'.

Carried away by the beauty of Banavasi, Pampa glorifies that historicplace in his poetical work, `Vikramarjuna Vijaya'. From Banavasi,Pampa later went to Vemalavada and became the court-poet of the KingArikesari. Comparing his Chalukyan prince, to the Mahabharatha hero,Arjuna, Pampa wrote `Vikramarjuna Vijaya'. Based on `Adi Purana',Pampa is said to have been born in 902 A.D. His masterly works hadbrought him the titles of `Kavitha Gunarnava' and `SaraswathiManihara'. He was a master of poetry and a jewel of the GoddessSaraswathi. He had also earned many other encomiums.

Of the two great classics, `Adi Purana' is his first work with 16chapters and 1630 verses. Though the poet glorifies the Jainphilosophy, the work has become popular among all sections of people.It deals with the life and spiritual progress of Vrishabhanatha orAdinatha, the first Theerthankara of Jain religion. `VikramarjunaVijaya', the other master-piece of the immortal poet, is also popularas `Pampa Bharatha'. It is the earliest and most famous amongthe `Bharatha' epics in Kannada. It consists of 14 chapters and 1609verses.

In the second work, Pampa draws a parallel between the hero of hispoem Arjuna and his benefactor and friend Arikesari. He calls hiswork `Lokapoojya', worthy of worldly worship. It has remained so. Hispoetic style became a model for the subsequent writers, for severalgenerations to come. It influenced their works. The later poets hadto tread the `poetic path' of the master of the Champu form. Evenafter a century, the Adi Kavi's `Pampa Bharatha' continues to bepopular among the masses. Undoubtedly, it has been the one of thegreatest poems in Kannada literature.

The hero of Pampa Bharatha, Arjuna visits Banavasi during hispilgrimage. By bringing Arjuna to Banavasi, the poet creates anopportunity to glorify the beauty of Banavasi and Karnataka in hiswork. Pampa describes the beauty of Banavasi in a captivating manner:

sogayisi bamdha maamarane, thaLthelevaLLiye, poothajaathi sampageye,kukilva kOgileye, paaduva thumbiye, nallaroLmogamnagemogadhoL paLamchaleye kooduva nallare, nOLpodaava bettugaLoLaM aava namdhanavanamgaLoLam banavaasidhEshadhoL

chaagadha bhOgadhakkaradha gEyadha nottiyalampinimpugaLgaagaramaadha maanasare maanisar! amthavaraagi puttalenaagiyumEno theerdhapudhe? theeradhodam maridhumbiyaagi mENkOgileyaagi puttuvudhu namdhanadhoL banavaasidhEshadhoL

themkaNagaaLi sOmkidhodam oLnudigELdhodam, impanaaLdha gEyam kivivokkodaM biridha malligegamdodam, aadhakemdhalampam keLegomdodaM maDhumahOthsava maadhodaM, enanembenaaramkusamittodam nenevudhenna manam banavaasidhEshaM!

`If to be born, one should take birth in Banavasi. It is a virtue tobe born in Banavasi as a human being. If by any chance, one cannottake birth as a human being, at least he should be born as a bee or abird in the garden of Banavasi'. This is the land, the 'Nandanavana',the composer of 'Pampa Bharatha' has seen in Karnataka.

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