This is one of the major tensions that have been operative right from the beginning of Kannada literature. It has many dimensions such as the choice between the oral tradition and the written tradition, choice between the Dravidian and Aryan cultures as also the poetry meant for the layman and erudite poetry meant for scholars. The pendulum has swung either way during different intervals of time right up to our days of neo orality. Of course, more often than not both the trends are in vogue simultaneously catering to different kinds of receivers. Literally, ‘Odugabba’ (ಓದುಗಬ್ಬ) means, poetry that is meant to be read and ‘hADugabba’(ಹಾಡುಗಬ್ಬ) is poetry that is intended to be recited or sung. This is not a reference to the distinction between poetry and prose. Nor does it have any thing to do with metered verse and free verse; we are not talking about melody that is inherent in all great poetry either.

After this series of negations some thing has to be said about the essential difference between these two categories. Oral tradition lays an emphasis on singing and reciting. Many a time, literature becomes a shared activity by these practices. Languages that do not have a script are more prone to develop such practices and sustain them. As we know, Tamil the premiere Dravidian language did not have an evolved script centuries after the beginnings of literary production and it did rely on oral, musical modes of production. Consequently the Dravidian prosody is more oriented towards musicality. ‘Amsha Gana Chandassu’ forms the basis of this prosody. As a result of this, any attempt in Kannada to promote musicality and recitation indicates a movement towards its Dravidian base.

Old Kannada poetry was deeply influenced by Sanskrit prosody and we find a preponderance of ‘Akhshara Gana Chandassu’ and Sanskrit metrical forms such as Vrutta and Kanda. It is true that Pampa the first great poet of Kannada uses a number of Dravidian meters such as ‘piriyakkara’, ‘geetike’ and ‘ragale’ in his works. But that was not the dominant practice. This situation continued even during the medieval period with the advent of ‘Matra Gana Chandassu’. Of course Dravidian prosody was being used in folklore all through these centuries.

But it was Ratnakaravarni who chose ‘Sangatya’ meter for a long epic namely ‘Bharatesha Vaibhava’. One need not attribute the invention of this prosodic form to Ratnakara. But his choice itself is significant. He wanted his poetry to reach lay men and house wives and his choice was dictated by this decision. ‘Bharatesha Vaibhava’, ‘Hadibadeya Dharma’ and ‘Kumararamana Sangatya’ are ‘hADugabba’s in every sense of the world.

This trend continued in the musical adaptations of ‘Vachanas’ and ‘Keerthanas’. ‘Tatvada Padagalu’ opened up one more possibility like that. Even the modern poets of twentieth century have oscillated between these two possibilities and they have written many poems that could be adapted to music. The re discovery of folk music and folk epics have contributed further to this theory. Amidst all this, many poets have continued to be loyal to the written form which converts the assimilation of poetry to something absolutely private in spite of critical interfaces.

Thus, ‘Odugabba’ and ‘hADugabba’ constitute one of the major concepts that have formulated the patterns of Kannada poetry.



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