Opinions on Kannada literature

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Kannada literature is the corpus of written forms of the Kannada language, a member of the Dravidian family spoken mainly in the Indian state of Karnataka and written in the Kannada script.

Attestations in literature span something like one and a half millennia, with some specific literary works surviving in rich manuscript traditions, extending from the 9th century to the present. The Kannada language is usually divided into three linguistic phases: Old (450–1200 CE), Middle (1200–1700 CE) and Modern (1700–present); and its literary characteristics are categorised as Jain, Veerashaiva and Vaishnava—recognising the prominence of these three faiths in giving form to, and fostering, classical expression of the language, until the advent of the modern era. Although much of the literature prior to the 18th century was religious, some secular works were also committed to writing.

Starting with the Kavirajamarga (c. 850), and until the middle of the 12th century, literature in Kannada was almost exclusively composed by the Jains, who found eager patrons in the Chalukya, Ganga, Rashtrakuta, Hoysala and the Yadava kings. Although the Kavirajamarga, authored during the reign of King Amoghavarsha, is the oldest extant literary work in the language, it has been generally accepted by modern scholars that prose, verse and grammatical traditions must have existed earlier.

The Veerashaiva movement of the 12th century created new literature which flourished alongside the Jain works. With the waning of Jain influence during the 14th-century Vijayanagara empire, a new Vaishnava literature grew rapidly in the 15th century; the devotional movement of the itinerant Haridasa saints marked the high point of this era.

After the decline of the Vijayanagara empire in the 16th century, Kannada literature was supported by the various rulers, including the Wodeyars of the Kingdom of Mysore and the Nayakas of Keladi. In the 19th century, some literary forms, such as the prose narrative, the novel, and the short story, were borrowed from English literature. Modern Kannada literature is now widely known and recognised: during the last half century, Kannada language authors have received eight Jnanpith awards, 58 Sahitya Akademi awards and 9 Sahitya Akademi Fellowships in India.


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