FOLKLORE STUDIES IN KARNATAKA- History

            A systematic study of folklore had its beginnings in Karnataka, as else where in India by the initiative taken by western scholars. Col. Colin McKenzi who came to India in 1783 collected 2076 ‘kaifiyath’s in various regions of Karnataka. They contained valuable information regarding folk mythology, legends, stories, beliefs, medicines, rituals etc. McKenzi was perhaps the first person in Karnataka who committed the information available in the oral tradition to writing.

            Later, F. Kittel and J.F. Fleet gave a boost to folk studies. The article that Kittel wrote for a volume of Indian Antiquary (February 1873) about the belief systems of the people of Coorg is entirely dependent on field work. Another article by him in the same periodical is about the ghosts of Coorg. (June, 1873) However it is full of precious material about tribal customs and the rituals practiced in their weddings. KIttel’s celebrated lexicon contains a number of proverbs collected from the general public.

            J.F. Fleet had different interests. He published a series of articles entitled “A Selection of Kanarese Ballads” as early as 1885. It contained seventeen historical ballads (lAvaNi) and four lullaby songs. His method of collecting folk material was quite scientific.

            Other European scholars such as John Leiden, Abbe Du – Bois,(‘Hindu Manners Customs and Ceremonies’, 1906) Mary Friar,)’Old Deccan days’, 1868) Charles E. Grover,’ (The Folk Songs of Southern India’), A.C. Burnell and C. Manor evinced keen interest in various aspects of Kannada folklore and produced valuable material. Gradually the Indian assistants of the European scholars started working on their own. H.K. Mallappa wrote an article called ‘Rejuvenation of Kannada Proverbs’. ‘GeLeyara Gumpu’ a small band of dedicated workers from North Karnataka became active during the early years of the third decade of the 20th century under the leadership of D.R. Bendre. Halasangi cennamallappa, kApase rEvappa, simpi lingaNNa and DhUlA sAhEba were the prominent members in the Bijapura chapter of this group. A paper on ‘Village Songs’ presented by Halasangi Chennamallappa in the 9th All Karnataka Literary Conference held in 1923 was a pioneering land mark. Masti Venkatesha Iyyangar wrote an important article on Kannada ballads in 1925. Betageri Krishnasharma mentions about 65 tripadis (A poem containing three lines) in his article on village songs published in 1930. ‘Garatiya Hadu’ (garatiya hADu) an excellent anthology of 600 tripadis came out in 1931. SrIkaThEgouDa, Narasimha Iyyangar, NadateeriyanDa Chinnappa, Prahlad Naregal, Gorur Ramaswami Iyyangar, N. Anantharangachar, Venkatanayaka Tortee, Archaka B. Rangaswamy, H.S. Acchappa and L. Gundappa are some of the important native scholars, who excelled in collecting folk literature, particularly songs and ballads during the Pre-Independence period.

Even after Independence native scholars were basically interested in collecting folk songs. K.R. Lingappa, Mathighatta Krishnamurthy, B.S. Gaddaginmatha, R.S. Panchamukhi, Go.Ru. Chennabasappa, Ka.Raa. Krishnamurthy, and pAduru Mahabaleshvara Bhat are important among these collectors and each of them has published a number of anthologies.

A.K. Ramanujan, Amritha Someshvara and K.M. Krishna Rao have contributed handsomely to the study and analysis of folklore.

Karnataka Folkloristics acquired academic dimensions in the sixties of the 20th century. It became a part of the curriculum in major Universities. B.S. gAddagimatha, G.S.Paramashivaiah and Viveka Rai motivated folklore studies in the Universities of Mysore, Karnataka and Mangalore respectively. Haa. Maa. Nayaka created a number of technical terms. A course leading to a Post Graduate Diploma in folklore was started in 1972. A number of scholars have obtained their doctoral degrees in folklore since 1974. They are continuing research as well as dissemination of knowledge through their writings. Chandrashekahara Kambara, D.K. Rajendra, B.A. Viveka Rai T.N.Shankaranarayana, Basavaraja Malashetty, P.K. Khandoba, Veeranna Dande, Hi.Shi. Ramachandragowda, Chennanna Walikar, Purushottama Bilimale, Hanuru Krishnamurthy, and K. Chinnappa Gowda are the important ones among this generation of scholars.

Publication of oral folk epics such as Male Madeshvara Kavya and Mante Swami Kavya by P.K. Rajashekhara and G.S. Paramashivayya has opened new doors in the field of folklore studies. There is sustained effort to make folk literature a part of the main stream literature. Kannada University, Hampi has brought a number of important folk epics and tribal epics under the guidance of Hi. Chi. Boralingaiah. They have occupied an important niche in the literary studies also.

Study of folklore is not confined to literature any more. Anthropological approaches have lead to a collection of a vast body of knowledge concerned with the life of common people and marginalised communities. They are still being accumulated and studied. Many scholars, a few with an academic background such as L.R.Hegde, Sudhakara, M.S.Latthe, M.M. Kalburgi and Aravinda Malagatti and others such as S.K. Karimkhan and H.L. Nagegowda are studying various aspects of folklore. Institutions established by the government and private individuals such as ‘Janapada and Yakshagana Academy’, ‘Kannada Sahitya Parishath’ ‘Karnataka Janapada trust and Regional Research Centre of Udupi are conducting a systematic study of folklore. The series of books published by the Karnataka Sahitya Academy on the tribes and castes of Karnataka by under the guidance of Baraguru Ramachandrappa are very valuable. The integrated thrust of all these activities in Karnataka is propelled by a desire to find the roots of one’s own culture amidst ‘alien’ influences.

 

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