INDIAS NATIONAL CULTURE
Sri K. Appadurai
Western culture had its early birth in Greece and Rome. India came into contact with Greece politically in the days of Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C. But the cultural contact of the Greek as well as the Greece-Roman world with India was in all probability far earlier and lasted quite longer so far as South India was concerned. The Great Greek dramatists of the 4th century B.C., particularly Euripedes and Aristophanes, appear to have been familiar with the Kannda country and the Kannada language, and had actually used Kannada phrases and expressions in the dialogues of their characters. This shows a far more intimate contact of the Greeks with Kannada Indian culture than with Indian Culture elsewhere.
Kannada and Tamil are two of the most ancient literatures not only of South India, but of All India as well. The antiquity of Kannada literature as at present goes back to the 9th century of the Christian era, but as the first work available in Kannda happens to be a work of grammar, it can quite safely be inferred that Kannda must have already had an older flourshing history before that period. As a matter of fact, references in the Tamil Buddhist commentators of the 10th century A.D. (Comentary on Nemrinatham, a Tamil grammatical work,) show that Kannada literature must have flourished as early as the Post-Sangam period of Tamilnadu, i.e., the 4th century A.D.
The Sangam Literature (5th century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D.) is known to the World To-day as ancient Tamil literature only, but historically it could be strictly called ancient Dravidian literature; for, it is as much the pristine literature of the Kannada, the Andhra or the Kerala country as of the Tamil country propee in those early days. For one thing, the country coverd by that literature extended quite into the Kannda and the Andhra and the Kerala regions as well. Further, if its tradition is now strongly associated with the Tamil Language, the script of that distant period seems to be invariably connect with the Kannda script of to-day. As a matter of fact, when India, particularly South India, carried its trade and culture, its nascent Sanskrit language and its nascent Hindu traditions aborad into the lands and isles that are now known under the generic title of Southeast-Asia, it was in an Old Kannada form of script that Sanskrit inscriptions and Sanskrit works were recorded all over those areas from the 2nd century A.D. onwards.
The Sangam poets sang not only the praises of the Tamil princes and magnates, but also, as students of the pristine section of the South Indian classics are aware, the praises of the princes and magnates of the Kerala, Andhra and the Karnataka regions. The name Mysore, of the city as well as the country, hails from the Sanskrit word Mahishapure which again is a late translation of ERUMAIYUR (the city of the Buffalos), the ancient Tamil name of the city and state as recorded in the Sangam classics. Further, the tittle of the ruler of the state, PULIKATIMAL (the Great one or the Vishnu-like Prince who slew the tiger) is considered by many scholars to be the forerunner of the names of the Great Chalukya emperers who were known as Pulikesi the First and Pulikesi the Second (7th century A.D.).
The Sangam literature bears also ample evidence of the commercial as well as the cultural contact of the Greeks and the Romans then known as Yavanas, with the Kerala-Kannada-Tamil regions all along the early centuries B.C. as well as A.D. The Greeks served also as mercenary soldiers and guardsmen in the cities and forts and palaces of the Pandyas and the Cheras and of Nannan the Great, the Kadamba potentate of the Kannda country. Greek wine encased in bottles was in use among the princes and the richer classwes, and Greek works of art and engines of destruction in forts were quite familiar all over South India. We also find that Greek as well as Roman colonies were founded in the early centuries of the Christian era all along the Karnatic and the Konkan coasts of South India, but especially in the coast line of Kannada country. Cheran Chenkuttuvan, the Lord of the Seas and the Victor over Nannan, subdued the Greeks of one such colony, as dcscribed in the Sangam Classic, Pathittruppathu.
The Kannada country occupies geographically a central position in India, being easily within reach of evry part of it by land or by sea. History shows that it is likewise the core of Indian nationalism as well as its place of birth.
Indian is a land of many national languages and literatures, and as such, a fully national and comprehensive history of India's literary wealth is as yet a desideraturm. But when such a, history is written, it will be found that Kannada-tamil literature, especially Kannada literature, is the key to the successive development of the literary and cultural, as well as the spiritual history of India. For we find, on the basis of Kannada literature mainly, that the course of India's religious, literary, cultural and national evolution can conveni
ently be devided into successive slabs of. (a) Pre-Buddhistic, (b) Bhuddhistic, (c) Jain, (d) Saivite, (e) Vaishnativte, (f) Late Hindu and lastly (g) the Modern periods. This succession is clearly shown in the history of Kannda literature, though the first two slabs,the Pre-Buddhistic and the Buddhistic are lost to us in Kannada and are available only in Tamil and in Sanskrit.
The Jain period in Kannada literature is coeval with what is called the Hala Kannada (Old Kannada) ages and lasted from the 9th to the 12th centuries A.D. The Saiva period covers the 4 centuries that follow. The Vaishnava period succeeded and lasted from about the 16th upto about the 18th century. The late Hindu and the Modern periods flow into each other up to the present day.
We may be sure that these successive slabs are really representative of the general course of religious and cultural life all over India, though we find it clearly reflected as in a mirror in Kannada onhly. In Sanskrit, we get a clear view of the Pre-Buddhist (the Upanishads) and the Buddhist slabs, besides the Late Hindu slab. The other slabs have not found their clear imprints on its history. The Andhra language has vestiges of the Saivite and the Late Hindu periods, and recently signs of a Buddhist era have been uncovered in the Bengali and the Andhra areas. Similar materials of a lost or forgotton literature may, for aught we know, be in time unearthed in other languages as well.
The Tamil language has almost all the above slabs in its exceptionaly long range of more than 25 centureis of literature, and includes in it is Pre-Buddhist as well as the Buddhist slabs which have been lost in Kannda. But students of history of the Literature of Sanskrit and Tamil cannot obtain a clear picture of the succession of the movements in Indian National life in those literatures if they do not follow closely the regular succession in the literary traditions of Kannada.
There is still another aspect of Indian culture and history wherein Kannada along with Tamil plays a great part.
The whole gamut of India's cultural history of thousands and thousand of years can be broadly divided into 3 Great All India Movemtns, themselves lasting not for centuries but for myriads of years, viz. the Rationalistic or the Philosophical Movement represented by the Upanishads and the Sangam Literature and the rise and developemtn of the six Darsanas (1000 B.C. to about 500 A.D.), the Bhakti Movement (300 A.D. to 1900 A.D.) beginning in Tamilnadu close upon the Sangam age and closing with Ramakrishna Paramahamasa and St. Ramalinga quite in our own days, and thirdly, almost coeval with the second, the Nationalistic movement, beginning well before the Vijayanagar period and closing with the Freedom Movement in our own days(14th to 20th centuries).
Of these three movemtns, the Bhakti Movement is probably the latest regional and the most national, as every part of India, every language and every area has contributed to it and every century of Indi's History has had its quota towards its enrichment. It was initiated by the Nayanmars or the Saiva Saints and the Alwars or the Vaishnava Saints in the Tamil country and carried over to the whole of India by the Great Acharyas and Bhaktas, by Sankaracharya and Ramanujacharya from Kerala and Tamilnadu, by the Nutanas or Virasaiva saints and Madhavacharya and Purandaradasa in the Kannda Country, by Ramananda in the Andhra Country, by the Chitanya in Bengal and Sankaradeva in Assam and by quite a host of luminaries like Kabir, Namdev, Tukaram. Tulasidas and others throughout the length and breadth of India. The last of these, Ramakrishna Pramahamsa in Bengal and Saint Ramalinga of the Tamil country have brought the light of this movement to our own times.
It is remarkable that in this great national upsurge which has lasted for almost two thousand years alsredy, Tamilnadu and Kannada have been the pioneers for well-nine thousand years and have also given the fillip to the rise of the mother-tongues of India into literary light.
If Kannada had coupled itself with Tamilnadu in holding up the torch of India's Religions and Literary life, it has a more prominent part in the Great nationalistic movement wherein it had coupled itself with the Andhra country.
The Kannada and the Telingana or Andhra country and to a great extent the Tamil country as well, had the rare good fortune of laying the foundation for a Renascent National edifice for Modern India.
India owes its Hinduism to-day to the great Hindu Empire of Vijaynagar which has not only preserved it but developed it into its present form in more ways that one. The name Hindu as applied to the Hindu empire of Vijayanagar does not connote what that word to-day signifies: it was not a mere religion bt a fully national Indian culture that is the basis of the life of all India to-day -whether of the Hindus or the Musilims or the Christians or the Parsis, or the Sikhs or Jains or Buddhists or others. It prevades most of the customs and institutions and modern life of India to-day-the Sanskrit mantras for the temples, the vaidika form of marriage, the harmonious correlation of the various sections of the society into the Body-Politic of India, etc.
The Vijayanagar empire is the prototype of the Mharashtra empire of Sivaji and the Peshpe, the Moghal and British empire of the later ages in all its intstitutional and administrative prapheranalias. It is also the lincal representative of the earlier empire of India, the Chola, the Pandya and possibly the Chera empires of ancient days. The history of Indian civil service, the Navy, the commercial and maritime activities and overseal cultural expansion-all these can be traced back through the great Vijaya-nagar period alone to its distant origins in India's antiquity.
The Karnataka or Vijayanagar empire embraced in its ample fold all Karnataka and Andhra, all Tamilnadu and Kerala countries and even extended into the Utkal or Orissa region. But as its name implies, it was originally of the Karnataka country and it drew its inspirations from the Hoysalas and the Gangas of the Karnataka country and the Cholas and Pandyas of the Tamil country. But it is chiefly remarkable in raising above all regionalism and in creating the All India Nationalism of to-day in all of its spheres of activities.
The Kannadigas and the Tamils as well as their brethern all over India can be proud of the fact that they have had all through history their due share, if not more, in the raising of the great edifice that is known as Indian Culture and Indian Nationalism to-day.