The relationship between Kannada poetry and Sanskrit prosody is a corollary of the relationship that prevailed between those languages at various points of time in the history of Kannada language. It should be borne in mind that every language has its own distinctive features that are conducive to particular metrical patterns. For instance, Dravidian languages do not usually have more than two or three syllables in a single word and this has its own impact on its poetry. Similarly, Kannada does not revel in long compounded words. (DIrGa samAsa) and Sanskrit has a panache for such formations. As a result, any language that retains its original form without invasive onslaught of alien languages has a tendency to stick to its own prosodic patterns and innovations if any are internal. On the contrary foreign influences, that too an influx of loan words in to the cultural vocabulary could influence the prosodic patterns also.

Kannada, which is a Dravidian language must have passed through a stage where it did not have any contact with Sanskrit. The literature that came in to being during that period was obviously oral and not much has survived from those days. However, it goes with out saying that many prosodic forms that are indigenous to Kannada were used by these oral poets. A look at Tamil literature of this early period bears witness to these conjectures. Kannada might have been akin to the prose that we see in ‘vaDDArAdhane’.

However, Kannada did come in to contact with the itinerant emissaries of Buddhism and Jainism. The expansionist tendencies of kings and monarchs furthered these activities. Consequently one finds a tangible presence of Sanskrit words even in the earliest documentations of Kannada dating back to 5th century A.D. Most of our inscriptions have a style and structure that combine Kannada and Sanskrit. For instance, the Badami Inscription of 7th century uses ‘tripadi’ and indigenous prosodic form but it has a number words borrowed from Sanskrit.

If we move on to the literary texts, one finds that the ‘Champu tradition’ and the prosodic forms of Sanskrit are interwoven. This is true whether we are talking about a literary classic such as ‘AdipurANa’ or a knowledge based work like ‘kavirAjamArga.’ It is to be noted that Kannada poets were not un duly impressed by the ‘Vaidic Prosody’ that made use of ‘slOkas, but preferred ‘Laukik Meters’ such as ‘Vrutta’and ‘’kanda padya’. Even here they were quite choosy and picked only a handful among thousands of options available. For instance ‘khyAta karnATaka vrutta’s are only six in number and even among them two are used very sparingly. An exception was made only in the case of ‘kanda padya’ and that form makes use of ‘mAtrA gaNa chandassu’. Kannada did take the idea of mAtrAgaNa from Sanskrit but used them in forms that were indigenous to the language. Forms like ‘mAlA vrutta’ and ‘danDaka’ were used very sparingly.

With the passage of time, the prosodic forms of Sanskrit were found only in Champu works whether it was the tenth century or seventeenth century. A shift to medieval Kannada from old Kannada went with the usage of non Sanskrit prosodic forms. Vocabulary was replete with Sanskrit words but the prosody under went a transformation. However Kannada did not go back to the indigenous forms of the pre Sanskrit days. Both ‘akshara gaNa’ and ‘amsha gaNa’ gravitated towards ‘mAtrA gaNas’ which suited the genius of Kannada. It may be mentioned in passing that Bendre a great poet of the twentieth century experimented with Vedic meters and wrote a few poems in that genre.

Some poets who had panache for classical music have used Sanskrit prosodic forms coupled with musical nuances in their poems.


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