Reverend George Ferdinand Kittel (ರೆವರೆಂಡ್ ಜಾರ್ಜ್ ಫರ್ಡಿನಂಡ್ ಕಿಟ್ಟಲ್) is one of the most celebrated scholars who worked untiringly in the nineteenth century for the cause of Kannada culture and literature. His lasting contributions in the fields of lexicography, textual criticism, literary history and criticism, knowledge bases such as grammar, prosody and poetics have earned him a reputation beyond compare. The fact that he could accomplish all this in conjunction with his other activities speaks volumes about his commitment, erudition and hard work. Kittel had a firm conviction that Christian missionaries should have a thorough knowledge of the local language, the history and religion of the local people and an abiding interest in their everyday activities and problems.

Kittel was born in a place called Rosterhoffe in the North Western part of Germany . He pursued a course in theology at the Mission College in Bassel town for about three years and arrived in Mangalore in the year 1953 as a protestant missionary. Later on he was sent to Dharawada and Hubli centers in North Karnataka and it was during this period that he undertook a serious study of Kannada and acquired a command of not only the spoken variety of Kannada but also of its various historical stages and dialects. He studied many English and Sanskrit works dealing with the history and the religion of this country and this erudition prepared him for his life’s mission. He worked in various places in different capacities for almost four decades before he returned to Tubengen in the year 1892 due to failing eye sight. He worked in places such as Mangalore, Dharawada, Hubli, Mercara and Anandapura. He was the Head Master of the Bassel Mission High school , Dharawada for a short period. He was too preoccupied with his scholarly work to take many administrative posts.

Kittels’s contribution to Kannada could be classified under different categories such as original works, translations, textual criticism, Biblical publications and of course his Kannada-Kannada-English dictionary which is the crowning glory of his career. It is difficult even to draw up a list of his works.

a.      Textual Criticism:

1.      Shabdamanidarpana, 1872

2.      Chandombudhi, 1875

b.     Original Works

                1.Sanna Karnataka
                    Kavyamale, 1866, (Minor Canarese Second edition, Poetical Anthology. 
                        Compiled by F. Kittel, with introduction, notes, and vocabulary. 



    Mission Press :
        Mangalore, 1868. ) Abridged Sutras of Old Kannada Grammar, 1866

2. Kavyamanjari, 1877 ( A Text book for Primary School Children)

            (Kavyamanjari. First book of Canarese poetry with notes and vocabulary pp.
                iv. 60. 


    Mission Press: Mangalore, 1877.) 

                3.Grammar of the Kannada
                    Language, 1903. (A Grammar of the Kannada Language in English,
                        comprising the three dialects of the language, ancient, mediaeval
and modern, pp. vi. i. 483.) Basel Mission
                    Press: Mangalore, 1903. )

4.Many articles in the ‘Indian Antiquary’ and other journals on Kannada literature

and allied topics.

                5.Third Book of Lessons in Canarese. Adapted to the vernacular schools of the Madras
                Presidency . Second, revised edition, pp. viii. 246, ii. Basel Mission

                Press: Mangalore, 1866.) 


c.      Translations:

1.      Kathaa Maale, 1862

2.      Panchatantra (In to English)

3.      History of England by Morris, 1864 (In to Kannaada)

d.     Religious Works:

1. ‘Paramaatma Jnaana’ 1863

            ([Paramatma-jnana.] Knowledge of the Supreme Spirit, a dialogue on the Hindoo doctrine of God's by
                the Rev. F. K[ittel]. pp. 90. 



    Mission Press
            : Mangalore, 1863.

2. ‘Yesukristana Shrameya Charitra’

            (The Sufferings of Christ. Third edition. pp. 62, i. 




    Mission Press: Mangalore, 1869.)

            3. Kraista Sabha Charitre (Translation)

4. Short Survey in the Vedic Polytheism and pantheism

5. Tract on Sacrifice, (Yajnasudhanidhi) 1872

6. Ueber den Ursprung des LingKultus in Indien (German)

e. Kannada-Kannada-English Dictionary (1894)

This is the monumental work of Kittel. The officials of the Bassel Mission were very appreciative of Kittel’s scholarship and the task pf preparing a dictionary for Kannada was entrusted to him. The work began in the year 1872 and the publication of the dictionary took place in 1894 after twenty two years of hard labour. He was assisted in this task by capable native scholars such as Vastrada Shivalingaiah, M.C.Srinivasacharya and Shivarama Bharadhwaj. This dictionary is a veritable and authentic source of knowledge even to this day and very few Indian languages can boast of a comparable work. This has many scientific and unique features. He has given many illustrations for almost every word from the spoken varieties of the language as well as many literary texts both ancient and modern. The proverbs and idioms given by him are really charming. The original words are given with an appropriate English translation and many shades of meaning. Kittel’s awareness of the fact that Kannada was a Dravidian language has made his deductions and conclusions very objective and correct.

This dictionary received ungrudging admiration from one and all and Kittel was awarded the doctorate degree from the Tubengen University of Germany for this accomplishment. The renaissance of Modern Kannada in the early decades of the twentieth century would have been a pipe dream but for the selfless service of great scholars and missionaries such as Kittel and B.L.Rice.

References: 1. ‘Hosagannada Arunodaya’ Dr Srinivasa Havanur, 1974, Institute of Kannada Studies, Mysore University , Mysore .

2. Ferdinand-Kittel-Seminar 2003 - FRAMEWORK


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