SRIKANTAIAH T.N., 1906-1966


T. N. Srikantaiah (ತೀರ್ಥಪುರ ನಂಜುಂಡಯ್ಯ ಶ್ರೀಕಂಠಯ್ಯ) (Ti.en. shrIkaNTayya) or Tee.Nam.Sri. as he was popularly known among his admiring students, continues to be one of the most influential personalities who have shaped the traditions of Kannada literary criticism, literary theory and the modalities of teaching literature. He has achieved all this, as much by his writings as by his teaching practices in the University of Mysore , where he inspired a few generations of teachers. He was truly a blend of traditional and modern scholarship. He could forge a living tradition in the company of his illustrious colleagues such as K.V.Puttappa and D.L.Narasimhachar.

Srikantaiah was born in Teerthapura a small village in Tumakur district. T.N.S. obtained his B.A. degree from the University of Mysore in 1926 with Political Science, Economics, Kannada and Sanskrit as his major subjects. He was selected for the Mysore Civil Services in 1928. He relinquished that opportunity and opted for a career in teaching after obtaining M.A. degrees in both Kannada and English.(1929) He joined the Maharaja’s college as a lecturer in Kannada in 1928 and retired from the University of Mysore as a professor of Kannada in 1962. In between he was the professor of Kannada in the Karnatak University , Dharawada during 1957-62. He was a member of the editorial committee of the Kannada-Kannada dictionary brought by Kannada Sahitya Parishath. He headed the committee for a few years. He was instrumental in laying a firm foundation of modern linguistics to the dictionary.

Srikantaiah developed an abiding interest in linguistics and it was honed in the company of eminent linguists such as Suneethikumara Chatarjee, T.Burrow and M.B.Emeneau. He had the opportunity to visit the U.S.A. and several Universities in Europe. All this resulted in T.N.S.’s pioneering work in the area of linguistics as applied to Kannaada.

Linguistics, poetics, literary criticism, textual criticism and prosody were his major areas of study. He has contributed handsomely to all these academic fields. His erudition in Sanskrit, Kannada and English has resulted in some translations of outstanding merit.

T.N.S. was a poet and essayist of rare merit. ‘Olume’ (Love) (1932) is accepted as the first collection of love poems in Kannada. ‘Bidi Muttu’ (biDi muttu) (1970) is a collection of short poems translated from Sanskrit and Prakrit. ‘Nantaru’ (nanTaru) is a collection of delightful essays which launched him as essayist of genuine merit. ‘Rakshasana Mudrike’ is a translation of the Sanskrit play by Vishakhadatta.

Textual Criticism is an area which did not receive continued patronage from T.N.S. However the quality of the work produced by him is undisputed. The works edited by him are as follows:

1.      Nambiyannana Ragale by Harihara, 1946

(NambiyaNNana ragaLe)

2.      Gadayuddha Sangraha(Abridged version) by Ranna, 1949

(gadAyuddha sangraha)

‘nambiyannana ragale’ was edited and published for the first time by T.N.S. He used five manuscripts and took diligent care in arriving at the appropriate decision in finding the original form in a plethora of variants. He was at the cutting edge of an evolving discipline and the final text is full of various diacritical marks and numbers in evidence of his meticulous labor. However he could not write a detailed introduction to this work.

‘Gadayuddha Sangraha’ is an abridged version of the epic by Ranna. But the abridged versions published during that period are outcomes of great scholarship and diligent care. T.N.S. has examined all the manuscripts used by earlier editors as also many other sources that were not used till then. It’s hard to contend his conclusions. The notes provided at the end of the text are exhaustive and very useful. These two editions are held in high esteem by the scholastic community.

Srikantaiah was a capable literary critic. ‘Kavyasameekshe’, (kAvyasamIkSe) (1947) ‘Samalokana’ (samAlOkana) (1958) and ‘Kavyanubhava’ (kAvyAnuBava) (1970) contain his contributions to this genre. His criticism was based on some principles of Sanskrit poetics. He was essentially an aesthetic critic paying scant attention to the cultural dimensions of the text. However his critical essays on ‘Kumaravyasa’, ‘Shakuntala’, ‘Akkamahadevi’, and ‘Kerege haara’ are counted among the best in the genre. ‘Samalokana’ contains competent book reviews of many contemporary classics. More importantly, T.N.S. and his pedagogy have created a generation of critics which has had an abiding influence on the evolution of literary criticism in South Karnataka. ‘Pampa’ (1939) is a monograph on the great poet, published by the University of Mysore .

Linguistics and prosody fascinated T.N.S. no ends and he has published a number of articles and notes in these areas. He has quite a few publications to his credit in English also. His article on the prosodic patterns of modern Kannada poetry and his brilliant introduction to ‘English Geetagalu’ a collection of poems translated from English by his mentor B.M.Srikantaiah are of seminal importance. ‘Kannada Madhyma Vyakarana’ (kannaDa maDhyama vyAkaraNa) (1939) is a grammar text meant for secondary schools. It is a classic example of lucid writing with captivating illustrations. In addition to these he has published many articles on various topics related to grammar, linguistics and prosody.

“Samagra Gadya’ (Collected prose) and its sequel published recently contain a number of articles hitherto unpublished in book form.

A separate mention must be made of ‘Bharathiya Kavyameemase’ (Indian Poetics) (1953) which has served as a foundational text in Kannada academic studies for more than fifty years. It is an explicatory and interpretive account of the basic tenets of Sanskrit poetics. It gives both a historical overview and a conceptual discussion of the aesthetic principles involved. The illustrations are generally chosen from the literary works of ancient and modern Kannada. Indirectly he was forging tools and methods to be used in Kannada literary criticism in the succeeding generations. He was apparently unconcerned either about the macro situations confronted by Kannada poets or about criticism of a text in its entirety. Consequently he could not have a meaningful dialogue with the literary tradition of Kannada.

The services of T.N.S. to Kannada literature and culture were not amply rewarded during his lifetime possibly due to his premature demise. He was posthumously awarded ‘PampaPrashasti’ for his ‘Bharateeya Kavyameemamse’ (1988), the highest literary award given by the Government of Karnataka. ‘Sreekantha Teertha’, a felicitation volume was brought out in 1976.



References: 1. Tee.Nam.shri. by De.Javaregowda 1970.

2. Kamat's Potpourri: Kannada Scholar TiNamShri

3. Indian Poetics by T.N.Srikantaiah, translated from Kannada by N. Balasubrahmanya, 2006, Sahitya Academy, New Delhi ,

4. ‘Samagra Gadya’, (Collected Prose) published by Kannada Book Authority, 2007, Bangalore .


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