This volume of research articles on the history and culture of Karnataka was released during the 20 {+t} {+h} Karnataka History Congress, held in Bangalore, last year. Of the 30 articles in the volume, four are in English and the rest in Kannada.

While most of the articles are by scholars of history, a few are by scholars of Kannada literature and one is by a scientist in astrophysics. In such an anthology, inevitably, articles included tend to be of varied quality and scholarship. While a few are just introductory and superficial ( the articles on literature as legitimate history, history of women’s literature in Kannada, reformist versus conformist ideologies in two of the early Kannada novels, etc.), a few more just repeat what has already been thoroughly discussed (the ones on Hyder and Tipu, etc.). Still, it is heartening that there are quite a few scholarly articles that provide a new insight into Karnataka history and literature.

In the first section (interface between history and literature), Pavamana analyses the way early Marathi-Kannada novels mythified Shivaji and Vidyaranya during the colonial period, and argues that influenced by Tilak’s ideology, such novels projected a kind of ‘ swaraj’ that stood for the ‘revival of ancient Hindu traditions,’ and ‘Brahminic domination’ (p. 81). On the basis of literary works by Gangadevi, Kanakadasa and others, S. Shettar describes in detail the various types of royal tanks and lakes built during the Vijayanagara period, in which, the emperor’s queens and mistresses vied with each other to catch his attention during water-sports (p 45-46).

 Among the essays based on archaeological findings, Devadevan, basing his argument on a coin found in Chandravalli, speculates on the ancient trade-routes and the rise and fall of such places like Chandravalli which could have been the ‘resting places’ on those routes (p 100); and Rajarama Hegde discusses carved memorial-stones called ‘ gosaasa’ (gift of one thousand cows), to be found in large numbers during a certain period and becoming scarce later, and argues that the plenitude or lack of such memorial stones could indicate ‘a great shift in the economic system’ (p 117).

Two articles discuss the ‘identity struggles’ of modern India and elsewhere. While Lokesh, focusing only on the Kodava agitation for “Coorg freedom”, argues that the Kodava-identity as a martial race was ‘a colonial construct for imperial reasons,’ Vijay Poonachcha considers a wide number of such ‘identity agitations’ in India and elsewhere, and concludes that ‘today all such regional agitations, having lost their earlier force, are getting replaced by caste-community-religious identities’ (pp. 273, 303).

Rahamat Tarikere brings to light many Indian women Sufi saints (like Bibi Fatima of Delhi and Mama Jigani of Karnataka) and their contribution to Indian thought and culture. Bilimale considers Kumararama of the 14 {+t} {+h} century who was highly revered, and concludes that for the common folk what matters isn’t wars or conquest, but deeds that make their lives easier like building water reservoirs and canals, and ways of rain-harvesting, which Kumararama undertook extensively (p.358).

Vasu, the editor of this volume, makes an incisive point on the dearth of scholarly writing in Kannada: “In Humanities, scholars seem to have either an illusion that writing in English gives them greater respectability or expectation that it gets them wider readership; and hence scholarly writing in regional languages suffers.” This is an important issue that scholars and institutions in Karnataka have to seriously ponder over.

– C. N. RAMACHANDRAN

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