Kannada vacanas

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at FLEVOLAND.XS4ALL.NL
Sun May 10 13:02:36 EDT 1998

Replies to msg 09 May 98: indology at listserv.liv.ac.uk (S Krishna)

 mC> I read the translation of a Kannada vacana by dEvara
 mC> dasimaiya that goes as:(paraphrase mine)

 mC> A man with a gunny sack
 mC> which was tattered
 mC> walked all night long
 mC> fearing the toll gate

 mC> By the time he reached the gate,
 mC> all the grain had fallen thru the holes
 mC> and all that he had was a torn gunny bag

 mC> It is thus with the devotion of the
 mC>   faint-hearted, O Ramanatha!

 mC> My questions are:
 mC> 1. Can anybody please post the original in Kannada and
 mC> provide a translation/explanation for the connection between
 mC> being faint hearted and the analogy given in the first part
 mC> of the vacana

I can look up the original for you in about a month from now, when I am back in India. (It would be helpful if you could give the opening words in Kannada.)

As for an explanation, I suggest this: many vacanas of that period deal with relationships between the (at that time) new Virasaiva community and the orthodox around them. It appears that many new followers hesitated to openly admit their beliefs for fear of public opinion. Daasimayya's imagery may mean this: the grain is the man's faith, the sack is his conduct (not firm and in agreement with the faith he would like to profess), the toll gate represents orthodox society, which he fears to face, and when finally he is confronted by the orthodox (which may be relatives, friends, or just anybody) his faith has weakened so much (because he is too faint-hearted to live in agreement with it) that it is practically no longer existant.

 mC> 2. I find that the signature of the poets in the vacanas is
 mC> seldom their own name,

True. (In fact, I cannot recall any ankita (the term which you have rendered as 'signature') of a major vacanakaara containing that author's own name.)

 mC> but the name of a God to whom the poem has been
 mC> dedicated..i.e. basavEzvara uses "kUDala sangamEzvara!"
 mC> mahAdEviyakka uses "cennamallikArjuna", dasimaiya uses "O
 mC> rAmanAtha!"...is there any special reason for this?

What is obvious from many vacanas is that they are addressed to the divinity who is referred to in the a:nkita, i.e. Basavee;svara is telling Kuu.dalasa:ngamadeeva something, or asking something from him, etc. Or something may be stated to the listener / reader about the divinity, and the a:nkita is not merely an interjection but a regular part of the sentence in which it is found (and hence it is declined and assumes a case form: dative, accusative, etc.).

But it need not always be the case that a vacana is addressed to or says something to us about the divinity. In any case the a:nkita serves as a unique identifier of the author.

The a:nkita need not contain the name of a divinity either. For instance, in the case of a few women authors, the ankita contains the name of a male relative (brother, husband).

 mC> At a subsequent stage, we find that many of the signatures of
 mC> poets belonging to the "dAsakUTa" school are largely their
 mC> own names i.e. purandAra dAsa uses "purandara viTThala",
 mC> viTThala dAsa uses "vijaya viTThala dasa" etc( though
 mC> kanakadAsa uses "kAginEle kEzava" which is closer to the
 mC> style of the vIrazaiva school than the dAsakUTa)..What is the
 mC> reason for the stylistic change?

Though I am not sure, I suspect that this difference is a subtle one, rooted in a metaphysical difference: the haridaasas are Dvaitins, the ;siva;sara.nas are ;Saktivi;si.s.taadvaitins, and these doctrines have different notions about the ontological status of the individual. (Here it is worth mentioning that Kanakadaasa apparently was from a ;Sriivai.s.nava, i.e. a Vi;si.s.taadvaitin background.)

Robert Zydenbos
zydenbos at flevoland.xs4all.nl

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list