Selected Speeches on Prakrit and Jainology ► Gratitude Unbound

Posted: 28.05.2012

Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving into another intensity.



Childhood memory matrix reloaded

I was born (1936) in a rural traditional middle class Jaina family. My father PadmanAbhayya was a ŚAnubhoga, 'village accountant', in Hampasandra (Chikkaballapur Dt., GowribidnUr Taluk). He belonged to ikshvAku-vamSa, Soudharma-gotra, AdiparameSvara sUtra, tribhuvan pratisUtra, padmAkara-pravara and dravyAnuyoga-SAkA. My parents, mother in particular, rigidly followed all rituals of Jaina convention. Often snakes, more frequently scorpions, and most regularly bugs visited our houses in the village. Such frequent insect guests threatened even elders and the children were obviously frightened. But my pious mother would comely negotiate even with poisonous creatures. She would gently pick up the bugs one by one, put them in a glass and carefully dispatch them out of the village. With the help of a broom she would insert the reddish - yellow scorpion into the iron-seru, a measuring vessel, and taking it to the open filed on the out skirts of the village, would release scorpion to escape from the wrath of the people. She would throw a neat cotton cloth on the cobra eagerly looking to strike, place a bamboo basket on it and carefully covering the basket in another piece of cloth, would take it near an anthill away from the village and uncover it to allow snake to enjoy its freedom. Well, even now at the age of 75, I consider my mother a daring and dashing lady! Like in any Jaina family, my parents instructed not hurt even a small insect-an ant, a fly etcetera- and save every soul to live its full life. Now I realise that compassion is the natural act of an enlightened mind.

As a kid I have often heard my grandmother talk about growing up in our native village. I used to run across big fields to reach our ancestor's garden, a km away from home and spend time by swimming in the stepped well, plucking fruits and flowers, and returning home to the aroma of curries made with veggies fresh off the farm. The rods (cakes) laden with home­made white butter which soon satisfied my appetite. Even now, after seven decades, the smell of fresh earth mixed with oxygen-laden air reminds me of the lost glory of yester years.

My father, PadmanAbhayya, learned he was and studied in the Banumayya's High School at Mysore, was versed in Sanskrit too. He would get up early in the morning, but only after my mother, and after attending the usual nature call walking half a km outside the village, take a hot water bath. He, devoted Jinabhakta, would bind up the little tuft of hair on the crown of his head and recite or chant the hymns sitting before the small devara-mane, 'God's house', or pUjAgriha, room meant for worship, where mostly images of Jina and other deities were enshrined. He would anoint the main image with sandal-wood paste mixed in water, chanting traditional mantras in praise of Jina, joss sticks were lit, lights flowers and fresh fruits placed on the wooden seat kept in front of the worship room. Mother would invariably assist the process of worship and Join in the prayer. Again at midday and in the evening worship in the short form was performed. Children joined parents and at the end of worship, jina-gandhodaka, sacred water was sprinkled on the head. Father and male children wear a sacred thread diagonally from shoulder to waist.

My mother, PadmAvatamma, had spiritualised her simple life after the death of my father. Her wants were barely minimum. She would spend more time in her prayer corner. In fact the tiny room called devara-mane, 'God's house', was her favourite monastic retreat cell. It was her secluded spot to practice peace. She had mastered how to strike a rhythm with worldly life. For her, spiritual retreat was so simple, easy and natural. Attending daily individual pUja, fasting, singing stavana, 'devotional songs', participating in festivals and pilgrimages occupied half of her long life. Her home was her hermitage. Her monastic discipline was exemplary. She died peacefully at the age of 97.1 only regret, at this distance of time, that I did not properly realise her unique way of life. She was cent precent Gruha-tapasvini, 'austere of the house'.

My parents did not tell me how to live, they lived, and let rne watch them do it. They were a role model from whom I derived strength, persistence and courage to the extent that I could take my life's partner against their will, like their ancestors, were drawn to the syncretic sant tradition of devotion to deities. When I was growing up, I vividly remember my illiterate mother telling stories from the Jaina treasury of tales, while my literate father recited verses and other relevant passages from canonical texts. Despite this I grew up like many Indians with a liberal and radical attitude, a mixture of scepticism but sympathy towards all religion including my own tradition. Later in life, I never cherished to enter politics, though its doors were open for me, nor I aspired to devote my studies on religion alone. Being a secularist, I never felt intolerant of any faith. Often I feel sad that secularism is hijacked by the terrorists.

But I have been wrestling with our ancient and medieval texts, dipping into the bells-letters and 5j4sflr,a-literature composed in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Kannada and English. By dint of hard work and a twist of destiny, I once again returned to poetry which was my first love. I dreamt of becoming a teacher and succeeded in fulfilling my desire. Subsequently I became a renowned scholar and author, thanks to my teachers who taught me, and students who inspired me to become all this and much more.

I wanted to marry the girl whom I loved. There was lot opposition from parents and relatives, because she belonged to a different caste (schedule tribe). I ventured to marry the same girl C.R. Kamalamma, who was also my class-mate for six long years. Yes, our love was not at first sight, but it was of many many sights. I have no regrets for this adventure of inter-caste marriage.

I vow so much of my life to the cooperation and sacrifice of my learned wife NADoja Prof. Dr. Kamala Hampana, who is equally, rather more qualified in many respects than me. To be fair to my parents, I must place on record their magnanimity. Though they bluntly refused my marriage with Kamalamma later, after coming to know about my wife's virtues, they reconciled and accepted Kamala as their daughter-in-law. It is their greatness because they did not resort to maryAda hatya, 'honour killing', which, unfortunately, is happening even to this day.

Thus it is gratifying for me that the cherished desires- of becoming a teacher, marrying the girl of my choice, and becoming an author of recognition - are so meticulously materialised one by one, slowly but steadily. I take this achievement, not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the unseen force, call it divine, that guided my steps on the work which I began five decades back. Significantly, I am delighted to see many of my ambitions fulfilled during my life time, though often they looked like impracticable dreams. I feel thrilled even at this distance and at this age to remember some touching moments etched permanently in my psyche. It is a joy to recall such instances which have left deep impression in my mind.

With my family background of generations and boyhood association with rituals and festivals, obviously I developed a love for the heritage. My parents infused in me a deep curiosity about cultural legacy. This led to my further study and research on similar complimentary texts and subjects. More I read the original sources in Prakrit and Sanskrit, I could find solid evidences by venerated Rishis. I became crestfallen at the deluge of astounding material. I was over joyed of realising what an amazing heritage we are blessed. When I started first lecturing, followed with articles/books which earned encouraging accolades that made me determined to go deeper into the subject. Later, particularly after my retirement from service, I started writing in English language. I know I have a long way to go.

Jain tradition has attached great importance to copying, recitation and veneration to scriptures. Jaina monasteries were houses of scholars and  monks of letters.

Blessings and good wishes will inspire and lead me to walk on the foot prints of early masters who have achieved great feats by dint of their hard, honest and devoted work.

I request and venture to suggest that the western scholars working in the field of Indology and Jainology to learn Kannada. They will be highly benefited by reading the brilliant classics in this language and will open new vistas for a meaningful comparative study.

In the Deccan the literary scenario sparked in its early phase thanks to Jaina litterateurs. The sixth and seventh century Jaina scholiasts of KamATaka invented a quaint style called the maNi-pravAlam, 'crystal and coral', loaded with Sanskrit and Prakrit words. Abhinavagupta, celebrated scholar- author to KASmIr was aware of this innovative style. He writes;

padamadhye sarhskritam madhye
deSabhAshAdi yuktam tadeva kAryam

[NATyaSAstra, Vol. IV: 1964: 379]

In Kannada scholiasts TumbalUrAcArya, SyAmakund AcArya, and Srlvardhdeva of 6th century, and VIrasenAcArya (735-820) and JinasenAcArya (770-870) wrote commentaries on canons.

Kamataka has hosted all religions and from the beginning people were cordial. The racial spirit of Kamataka gets codified in an inscription from BelUr, an heritage centre in Hassan District;

He whom the Saivas worship as Siva
the VedAntins as Brahma
the Bauddhas as Buddha
the NaiyAyikas, skilled in proof, as karttA
the followers of Jina as Arhat
the MImAmsakas as Karma
- that God KeSava, ever grant your desires.

Kannada, State language of KarnATaka, is spoken by more than fifty million people. The language has an unbroken history of over 2500 years. The contribution of Jaina litterateurs to the all-round development of Kannada language and literature is significant and seminal. They thought globally and acted locally. Being pioneering promoters, they made fresh experiments in the regional language. Assimilating the then existing native forms of poetry, ballads, folk forms, they gave a new dimension to the local spoken dialect to assume greater proportions of national Poetry. Almost all the known authors, from the fifth to the tenth century were Jains.

Royal patrons and the wealthy class of literary taste Welcomed mature men of letters with generous mien. They encouraged gifted authors with endowments and gifts of land, villages, cattle, attendants, befitting titles, position, and jewellery. Thus awards and rewards adorned highly talented writers. The epics and classics of ĀdiguNavarma (900 CE), Pampa (942 CE), Ponna (965 CE) and Ranna (993 CE), NAgacandra (1100), NAgavarma (1042), Nemicandra (1175), Janna (1209), RatnAkaravarNi (1557) and a host of other Jaina men of letters are extraordinary works of literary excellence. With their scholastic proficiency they wrote unique epics and classics in Kannada as early as in the 10th century CE, when English language was not even in its embryo stage. By the time Chaucer (13th century) could author the Canterbury Tales, and the celebrated Shakespeare (1616) was born, hundreds of Jaina poets, SivaSaraNas, and VishNubhakta dAsas had written important works in Kannada. Jaina poets, patriarchs and pontiffs produced vast literature on the duties of the house holders. They maintained cordial relationship by educating and involving the laity in their spiritual life. Consequently lay votaries too felt the same sense of participation. This resulted in collective consciousness in the caturvidha-samgha. Jaina literature has stressed the sanctity of life and implanted a strong sense of environment consciousness.

Nearly 492 Jaina writers - including poets, SAstrakAras, scholiasts, grammarians, anthologists, prose writers, - have authored about 572 works. In spite of some of the ancient works being not extant, luckily many of them have survived the vicissitudes of time. The range of Jaina literature is vast enough to include major and minor works from muktakas, 'short poem', to mahAkAvyas, mathematics to medicine, mockery to cookery, from science of elephants, horses and rain to lexicon, songs of devotion to astronomy, and from poetics to prosody. Because these authors wrote in the vernacular Kannada, non-trans local language, the literary world outside the regional territory is not aware of the nuances of these works. Classics of highest literary merit were deprived of their due recognition for the simple reason that they were written in the local languages which could not travel far and fast.

So is the story of early literature in Tamil and Telugu, the other two literary Dravidian languages in the South. The celebrated Tirukkural, Silappdikaram, JivakacintamaNi, NUakesi, Tolakappiyam and some grammars in Tamil language were creations of Jaina authors. In Telugu language also the eraliest poet was Jinavallabha (950 CE), younger brother of Pampa (941) of Kannada literature. The one line inscription in MaraThi by CAvuNDarAya (981 CE) at the foot of monolithic colossus of BAhubali on the crest of Vindhyagiri at SravaNabelagola became one of the earliest inscriptions in MaraThi language.

Srlvijaya (850 CE) authored the KavirAjamArga, (=KRM) a matchless manual of poetics of global significance. The work, matching Sanskrit models, though not a poem in the strict sense of the term, is fantastically conceived with all ingredients to make it unique. The KRM mentions names of a number of prose & Poetry authors. Unfortunately only the names are preserved and nothing is known about their works and the theme of those works. The AKMglorifies its patron, while illustrating rules of poetics and at times of grammar, whenever there is an opportunity to do so. Occasionally verses of the theme of the RAmAyaNa are quoted. With due reverence to the author, the KRM is often remembered to this day more for its stanzas sparking Kannada language, literature, prosody, grammar, dialects, stylistics, religion, important cities and rivers, the State and the people, than for its main theme on the rules of poetics. In the words of Sheldon Pollock « This singular work in the history of literary vernacularization is the KavirAjamAgra, 'The Way of the King of Poets', a text to place beside Dante's De Vulgari Eloquentia (1307) - or, rather, before it; it may in fact be the first work in world culture to constitute a vernacular poetics in direct confrontation with a cosmopolitan language »[Pollock 1999: 29-31].

The history of Karnataka at once enlivens with the Mauryas who inherited the land from the Nandas, great patrons of SramaNa cult, who were in possession of NAgarakhaNDa region. The SAtavAnanas, successors of the Mauryas to rule KuntaladeSa, extended liberal support to Jinadharma.

The Jaina charter from TADapatri [ 798.1198 ce] states that the Andhra-dharaNItala is situated to the east of KumtaladeSa, i.e., KarnaTaka. Kuntala, a synonym for KarnATaka, comprised of saptArdhalaksa, 71/2 lakh, villages, stretched from Vindhyagiri towards south. The Kumtala country included the following sub-divisions; Banavase 12000, PAnungal 500, Puligere 300, Belvola 300, KUNDi 3000, Toragal 6000, BelagAvi 70, KelavADi 300, KisukaDu 70, BAgaDige 70, TardavADi 1000, Alande 1000, AvaravADi 700, SAyirabADa, KarahaDa 4000, Sakkarage 90, Amkulage 80, Bodhana 700 and ANamdUru 300. The KisukADu 70 is described as shining bright in the middle of Kumtala country [SII. Vol. 69. 1033 CE. RAjUr (Gadag Dt., RoN Tk) p. 60]. MAnAmka, possibly the earliest king of the MAnpura branch of the RAshTrakUTa's, figures as Kumtala prince; MAnAmka nripatih SrlmAn kumtalAnAm praSAsitA. In fact the Kadambas of BanavAsi are referred as Kumtala kings. PrithvIsheNa II (C. 5th century CE), the VAkATaka king, was son of MahAdevi AjitbhaTTArikA, daughter of KurhtalAdhipati.

Ever since civilisations sprang up on the banks of vast rivers, human intellect continued to soar, and the literary and cultural history of Karnataka is not different from it. KAveri and GodAvari were the perennial rivers of the southern and northern region of the then known Kamataka olim Kumtala. Factually it should have been said from Nllagiri to GodAvari (the modem Rev A) since for Kamataka Nllagiri was the real boundary in southern region. The SilappadikAram, a Tamil epic (c. 6th century CE) has recorded that SemguTTavan (2nd century ce), the Cera king, on his way from south to north, witnessed dance performed by KannaDigas, the Kannada speaking people, when he had encampted at Nllagiri, now in TamilnADu.

The KavirAjamArga of Srlvijaya (860 CE), a thousand and one hundred forty years ago, has recorded the range and principal seats in Karnataka, were Kannada was the language of the people and administration;

KAveriyimdamA Go
dAvarivaram-irda nAdadA KannaDadoL
bhAvisida janapadam vasu
dhA valaya villna viSada vishaya viSesham.

adaroLagam kisuvoLalA
vidita mahA KopaNa nagaradA PuligereyA
sadabhistutamapp - onkun
dada naDuvaNa nADe nADe KannaDada tiruL

This unmapped mapping of historical space in southern India, corroborated by inscriptions and literary evidences, constitute some of the prominent political places of the Kannada culture. The spatial marking of the boundary denoting the apparent KannaDa nADu, achieved sharper focus in the subsequent centuries. The extensive land between the rivers kAverl in the south and GodAvarl in the north, is the fertile KannaDa country or the KarnATaka, the El Dorado of southern India. Here, people speak KannaDa and live merrily. The famous cities and core areas of political and cultural importance in the kingdom were KIsuvoLal or PaTTadakal near AihoLe, the well-known great KopaNa nagara, Puligere or LakshmeSvara, the highly praised OKKunda near Palasige or modem Halsi in Belgaum Dt., once a residence of BanavAsi Kadambas. The area in the midst of these towns was the quintessence of Kannada country. These were the boundaries of the well of pure Kannada undefiled.

Generally, felicitation volumes act as a messenger to whom the Volume is dedicated, to instruct to pack and get ready to say goodbye to this life. Often a felicitation volume means showering praises on the person to whom it is dedicated. Albeit, Prof. Nalini Balbir of Paris University, a celebrated Indologist and Jainologist, has, as Chief Editor of the Festschrift, evinced keen interest to meticulously plan the theme- based Volume in such a way that it should be purely a useful compendium of studied articles on various aspects of Jainology. She has, inspite of her busy schedule and many projects pending on her research table, taken lot of trouble and devoted so much of time to contact, correspond and collate the articles. She has spared her precious time to go through the articles. Words are not sufficient to express and record my sense of gratitude to Mme Nalini Balbir. Earlier she had graced my book the Stories of AbhayakumAra with her learned Foreword. In fact she extended an invitation to me to give lectures in the Paris University. Her kindness did not end their. Now she shouldered the responsibility of editing the volume Svasti. Mme Professor Nalini Balbir ji, enshrining all my feelings of gratitude and joy in a few words, I just say 'a very big thanks' to you.

In fact my delight is doubled because the theme of the Felicitation Volume is on the area of knowledge in which I have worked for over half a century. Again my happiness has swelled to see the galaxy of International scholars present here as witness to the celebration. I shall strive hard to deserve this tassel of learned articles so affectionately authored by a row of research scholars and most of them being present on the occasion. What a rare sight of a Milky Way of litterateurs and so many scholars blessing me! I remember my parents, my teachers and all others who have shaped me to become what I am;

It is good to have lived all these years
Now that I see these auspicious moments.


Speech delivered by Nagarajaiah, Hampa (Hampana), on 15-10-2010, at Bangaluru on the occasion of his 75th Birthday, when the Felicitation Volume SVASTI was presented in the premises of Kannada Sahitya Parishat.

Hon'ble Justice Shri M.N. Venkatachalayya, Former Chief Justice of India, Presided over the function. Shri B.S. Yediyurappa, Hon'ble Chief Minister of Kamataka, released the volume. Prof. Nalini Balbir, Editor of SVASTI, Felicitation Volume presented to Prof. Hampana, were on the dias.


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