SUBBANNA K.V., 1932-2005
Kuntagodu Vibhuti Subbanna (kunTagODu viBUti
ವಿಭೂತಿ ಸುಬ್ಬಣ್ಣ) was scholar with a creative bent of mind. His scholarship
was a blend of the eastern wisdom and the western modernity. This note does not
propose to give a comprehensive portrayal of this multifaceted personality. It is
confined to the engagements of Subbanna with the ancient culture and arts of Karnataka.
As usual a very brief biographical accompanies it. Subbanna, born in Heggodu a small
village in Sagara talluk of Shivamogga district in an agriculturist family returned
to his village after obtaining a B.A. (Hons.) degree in Kannada from the
well versed in the literary history of the main stream and he was pre occupied with
the marginalized little traditions also. His adaptation of Sanskrit classics is
not merely an act of translation. He was providing a new mode of approaching these
texts and there by made them relevant to our times.
Subbanna has translated ‘Dasharupaka’ by Dhananjaya from Sanskrit. This goes well with his lifelong pre occupation with theatre. ‘Loka Shakuntala’(lOka shAkuntala) and Vidisheya Vidushaka’ (vidisheya vidUSaka) are trans creations of the original works by Kalidasa. He has translated ‘Bhagavadajjukiya’ another Sanskrit play as ‘Sule-Sanyasi’. Subbanna reinterpreted the story to create texts that were all together different.
His article on
mattu Kannada Jagattu’, an important book that fetched Subbanna a Sahitya Academy
award is another attempt in looking at an ancient text in a very insightful manner.
‘Kavirajamarga’, which was till then considered as a text delineating Alankara Shastra
with some local details thrown in, becomes a mile stone in the cultural history
of Karnataka in Subbanna’s interpretation. Subbanna studies the text in the context
of the history of Karnataka both in its political and cultural dimensions. Kavirajamarga
was trying to find ways to negotiate the all pervading influence of Sanskrit. Subbanna’s
contention is that Kavirajamarga was a text set in to motion with the tacit approval
of the king. The king was interested in the standardization of the language at the
cost of myriad dialects that were prevalent at that point of time. Kannada did not
adopt the exclusivist policies of Tamil and Subbanna feels that it was a step in
the right direction. For him, Sanskrit has not hindered the progress of Kannada
and the closed door policy adopted by Tamil was detrimental to that language. He
has given a detailed analysis of Kavirajamarga and delineates the modes in which
that foundational text has shaped the consciousness of the Kannada community.
Another essay in this text is about a perennial favorite of Kannada people, ie the story of Punyakoti the truthful cow and its confrontation with Arbuta the tiger. Subbanna has thrown new light on this story and the philosophy that underlies it.
Subbanna is important
in the context of ancient literature because his insights have given us ways of
understanding the classics in the modern context. His ideas are polemical and need
further discussion. Subbanna has won the coveted Magsaysay award and the
Links: 1. Of Many Worlds: Essays on Modern Kannada Literature - Page 107