Kumararama (kumArarAma) (ಕುಮಾರರಾಮ) offers an interesting study of the ways in which history, legend and folklore merge with one another to create personalities who become a part of the psyche of a given culture. Kumararama is virtually a synonym for valour, truthfulness, chivalry and handsomeness in Karnataka. His biography/story is delineated in many literary texts as also ballads. Scholars have produced dissertations on his life and times. But, in spite of this fanfare not much is available by way of hard and authentic data about his antecedents.

The story of Kumararama enacts the medieval theme of a confrontation between a Hindu king/prince and Muslim invader. Added to this, there is an element of illicit love and a vengeful paramour. Consequently one gets a highly romanticized version of Kumararama. So much so his story has become the stuff with which films are made and dramas are enacted. There are at least three ancient literary works in Kannada with Kumararama as the protagonist. They are written by nanjunDa, pAncALa ganga and mahalingaswamy. Interestingly all the three them are written in the ‘sangatya’ meter which lends itself admirably to music. Of these ‘RamanAtha CAritra’ also known as ‘kumArarAan sAngatya’ written by NanjunDa kavi is well known.

Kumararama, only son of Kampilaraya and Harihara Devi was the crown prince of Kummatadurga, now a small village in Bellary district. He lived during the fag end of the thirteenth century and the first decades of the fourteenth century. (1290-1320 A.D.) The tragic happenings at Kummatadurga are recorded by travelers from abroad such as Nunez, Ibn Batuta and Ferishta. Inscriptions found at places such as saragUr, rAmagaDa and tIrthahaLLi have confirmed his genealogy. Even the Muslim historians have recorded the fact that there was an incident at the Royal court of Muhammed Bin Tughalaq where in an escapee was brought back and punished. Some historians have suggested that some survivors from the court of Kampilaraya played a leading role in the establishment of the Vijayanagara Empire.

However the version given by the literary texts have added a lot of spice and allowed literary imagination to run riot. According to them kampilaraya, kumararama, ratnaaji (Kampila’s younger wife and Kumararama’s step mother) and maatangi (An emissary of Babamma a daughter of the Sultan) constitute the major characters in the story. Ratnaaji makes an overture to gain Kumararama’s love and is spurned by him. The vengeful woman twists the story and complains to her husband that Kumararama made advances to her. An unthinking king orders the execution of his own son. Rama is saved by the clever moves of Baichappa the minister and the sacrifice of Chennigarama a look alike. Kampilaraya gives refuge to a kinsman of Tughalaq who was out of Royal favor. The infuriated Sultan sends an army to combat Kampilaraya under the leadership of Maatangi. Rama is resurrected and demonstrates his valor. However he is killed by Matangi when he refuses to take arms against a woman. Sultan’s daughter gives up her life when she is accosted with the slain head of Kumararama.

This in brief is the story that has become a part of Kannada psyche. History has created a heady brew in combination with morality, romanticism and a value system that emphasizes virtues such as loyalty to wedlock.

Hence the story of Kumararama is more important as a historical construct rather than a presentation of hard facts.


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