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Kannada

Kannada is one of the major Dravidian languages of India, spoken predominantly in the southern state of Karnataka. It is the 27th most spoken language in the world, with native speakers called Kannadigas Kannadigaru) numbering roughly around 35 million. It is one of the official languages of India and the official and administrative language of the state of Karnataka.

Kannada is attested to by one of the earliest epigraphies in India. The first written record in the Kannada language is traced to Emperor Ashoka's Brahmagiri edict dated 230 BC. At present, a committee of scholars is seeking a classical language tag for Kannada based on its antiquity.

The Kannada language is written using the Kannada script. The other native languages of Karnataka, Tulu, Kodava Takk and Konkani are also written using the Kannada script. Contemporary Kannada literature is the most successful in India, with India's highest literary honor, the Jnanpith awards, having been conferred seven times upon Kannada writers, which is the highest for any language in India.

Literature

The oldest existing record of Kannada poetry in tripadi metre is the Kappe Arabhatta record of 700 CE. Kavirajamarga by King Nripatunga Amoghavarsha I (850 CE) is the earliest existing literary work in Kannada. It is a writing on literary criticism and poetics meant to standardize various written Kannada dialects used in literature in previous centuries. The book makes reference to Kannada works by early writers such as King Durvinita of the sixth century and Ravikirti, the author of the Aihole record of 636 CE. Since the earliest available Kannada work is one on grammar and a guide of sorts to unify existing variants of Kannada grammar and literary styles, it can be safely assumed that literature in Kannada must have started several centuries earlier. An early extant prose work, the Vaddaradhane by Shivakotiacharya of 900 CE provides an elaborate description of the life of Bhadrabahu of Shravanabelagola.

The Middle Kannada period gave birth to several genres of Kannada literature, with new forms of composition coming into use, including Ragale (a form of blank verse) and meters like Sangatya and Desi. The works of this period are based on Jain and Hindu principles. Two of the early writers of this period are Harihara and Raghavanka, trailblazers in their own right. Harihara established the Ragale form of composition while Raghavanka popularized the Shatpadi(six-lined stanza) meter. A famous Jaina writer of the same period is Janna, who expressed Jain religious teachings through his works

The Vachana Sahitya tradition of the twelfth century is purely native and unique in world literature, and the sum of contributions by all sections of society. Vachanas were pithy poems on that period's social, religious and economic conditions. More importantly, they held a mirror to the seed of social revolution, which caused a radical re-examination of the ideas of caste, creed and religion. Some of the important writers of Vachana literature include Basavanna, Allama Prabhu and Akka Mahadevi. Kumara Vyasa, who wrote the Karnata Bharata Kathamanjari, has arguably been the most famous and most influential Kannada writer of the fifteenth century. His work, entirely composed in the Bhamini Shatpadi meter, is a sublime adaptation of the first ten chapters of the Mahabharata. The Bhakti movement gave rise to Dasa Sahitya around the fifteenth century which significantly contributed to the evolution of Carnatic music in its present form. This period witnessed great Haridasas like Purandara Dasa who has been aptly called the Pioneer of Carnatic music, Kanaka Dasa, Vyasathirtha and Vijaya Dasa.

Modern Kannada in the twentieth century has been influenced by many movements, notably Navodaya, Navya, Navyottara, Dalita and Bandaya. Contemporary Kannada literature has been highly successful in reaching people of all classes in society. Works of Kannada literature have received seven Jnanpith awards, which is the highest number awarded for the literature in any Indian language. It has also received forty-seven Sahitya Academy awards.

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