Literary prose in Kannada can be traced back to one thousand and five hundred years and inscriptions form the basis for this conclusion. Of course, early inscriptions of Kannada contain a fair share of Sanskrit vocabulary and many of them are written in stanzaic pattern. But some inscriptions are in prose and they contain occasional glimpses of literary merits. This is restricted to the use of figures of speech and very rarely the narration itself poignant. An inscription from Shravanabelagola, where in a Jaina saint compares the transitory nature of human possessions to a rainbow, morning mist and lightning, is a classic example. Another inscription from Athakur in which a loving master erects a memorial for his pet dog which sacrifices its life in a hunt is another touching narrative. Memorial stones praising the sacrifice of a ‘sati’ or the valor of a soldier are some times inscribed in fine literary prose.

The Champu tradition was a combination of prose and poetry and great poets such as Pampa , Ranna and Nagavarma have used prose (Vachana gadya) whenever the occasion demanded. Many a time an idea that begins in a poem is brought to its logical conclusion in the prose that succeeds it. Descriptive passages which do not have much room for poetry are given in prose which often becomes a link between two poems. ‘Vaddaradhane’ is an important narrative which is composed entirely in prose. The prose used in ‘Vaddaradhane’ is unique and very refreshing. It is relatively free from a preponderant use of Sanskrit vocabulary. On the contrary there is a distinct influence of Prakrit language and its vocabulary. The syntax is close to the spoken language. Conversations in particular throw a lot of light on the use of Kannada. The stylistic choice made by the author is significant and totally different from the options exercised by Pampa who was his predecessor. ‘Dharmamruta’ by Nayasena and ‘Panchatantra’ by Durgasimha have made extensive use of prose in their Champu Works. In fact poetry has taken the back seat in these two epics.

Gradually we move on to the twelfth century and medieval Kannada comes to the forefront at this juncture. Vachanakaras like Basavanna composed poems which were heirs to all the qualities that good prose can boast of. They did not cling to strict rules of prosody. Many Vachanas may be recited as dramatic prose. The syntactic and morphological forms that were selected by them were very close to the spoken version of Kannada.

Harihara indulged in an interesting experiment in two of his major ‘Ragales’ namely ‘Nambiyannana ragale’ and ‘Basavarajadevara ragale’. The chapters in these Works alternate between prose and poetry. This practice of writing entire chapters in prose makes Harihara one of the master prose writers of Kannada. He found ways of creating situational humour, rage, pathos and simple descriptions of things all in captivating prose.

Later poets such as Kumaravyasa, Purandaradasa, Lakshmeesha and Chamarasa have made use of the salient features of good prose within the confines of prosodic stipulations. Many a time they have made better use of prose than works written entirely in prose. Many philosophical treatises by writers such as Nijaguna Shivayogi, Maggeya Mayideva and others are composed in prose. A special mention must be made of Muddana who declares that he prefers prose to poetry. (¥ÀzÀåA ªÀzsÀåA, UÀzÀåA ºÀÈzÀåA) ‘Ramashvamedham’ and ‘Adbhuta Ramayanam’ are his prose works.

Of course many knowledge based works have used prose for a proper explication of tenets written in the form of poems. They are usually designated as ‘Vrutti’ and ‘Teeku’.

Some important prose works written in Kannada during the pre modern era are enumerated below.

1.      ‘Vaddaradhane’, Shivakotyacharya, 10th century

2.      ‘Chavundarayapurana’, Chavundaraya, 978 A.D.

3.      ‘Purvapurana’, Hastimallishenacharya, 1300 A.D.

4.      Bhairaveshvarakathamanisutraratnakara’, Shantalingadeshika, 1672 A.D.

5.      ‘’Chikadevaraya Vamshavali’, Tirumalarya, 1700 A.D.

6.      ‘Mudramanjusha’, Kempunarayana (Narayana Sharma), 1843.

7.      Chikadevaraja Binnapa’, Chikadevaraja, 17th Century

8.      Sougandhikaparinaya, Mummadi Krishnaraja, 1850 A.D.

9.      ‘Tulakaveri Mahatmyam’, Cheluvmabaa, 18th Century

10. ‘Rajavali Kathasara’, Devachandra, 1840 A.D.

11. Batteesaputthali Kathe, Multiple authors,

12. Karnatakada Kaifiyattugalu


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