Chandrasekhara Kambara is a Kannada poet, playwright, folklorist, film director and the founder-vice-chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi. Kambara, undoubtedly the cultural phenomenon of modern India. He has been conferred with many prestigious awards including the Jnanpith Award, Sahitya Akademi Award, Sangeet Nataka Akademi Award, Padma Shri and Kabir Samman.
Laxmi Chandrashekar: An acclaimed translator, Laxmi has translated several short stories, poems and plays from Kannada into English, including her own solo scripts. Her translation of Dr. Kambara's novel 'Singarevva and the Palace' has been published by Katha, New Delhi and Peak Publishers, UK. She has also won several State and National awards for her translations and her contribution to theatre.
In one autumnal Face ...
I still remember what Kambara said in a radio interview some decades ago: "As a poet, I want to be like the one who composed Silappadigaram".
His present work is the outcome of this overpowering desire. It is strange that Kambara should choose for his model the work of Ilango Adigal, the mother-lode of Dravidian culture, rather than the works of Vyasa, Valmiki, Pampa or Ranna. He does not draw inspiration from what would be considered by most as mainstream Indian or Kannada culture. It shows that he draws inspiration and material from the archetypal memories of great non-Aryan traditions, marginalized by the nationalist cultural framework.
"The ocean may stay within bounds, why should a river?" says Basavanna in one of his vachanas. There is an inexplicable bond between Silappadigaram and River Kiveri, the life-line of the South. Kaveri gushes through vital parts of the epic. The very charm of the epic is like that of Kaveri. It flows on, drawing into its fertile womb different kinds of stories, legends, memories, sayings, proverbs, poems, dances, arts and different time periods.
This does not mean that we can forget the enormous difference between the two works. Their currents are different. At the heart of Silappadigaram is the non-worldly, philosophical view of Jainism which views the body as the site of all the dangers that exist. But the 'Mother principle' which runs through ' Shikharasoorya is pro-life and can contain and nourish all the dualities such as this world and the other, good and evil, light and darkness.
In Kannada, it is rare to come across a writer who shows such amazing growth from one work to the next, the way Kambara does. It is even rarer to find writers who, like Kambara, have built a coherent framework of myths and symbols through their work. Joys and sorrows depicted in his works are experienced in a brilliantly constructed, magical world of myths: Shivapura, which is the centre of this world, is not just an illusion of the past. It is the infinite, timeless egg of Siva as well. The awesome creative power, rooted in this fertile soil, can absorb all times and places, including the upheavals of the present, even of this moment. This lends Kambara's works universality of a unique kind. A major outcome of this magic is that Kambara's works are free from the confusion found in modern, western poets like Yeats and Rilke who work with highly personal symbols. Though the bottom is hidden under dense layers of mist, the lightness of the vapour above daubs Kambara's works with extreme simplicity. One does not need to be highly learned to enjoy his works. It is as easy as tasting a peeled banana.
We are the historians of Kanakapuri.
History documents what things were like, how they came about, how incidents led to other incidents and what significant changes they brought about. History is the narration of incidents as they occurred.
We have heard that even Helavas of Shivapura call themselves historians. But there are certain differences between us and them.
Helavas remember incidents by turning them into stories. They narrate them over and over again and transmit them orally from generation to generation. When one story-teller narrates the story to another, he makes the incident relevant by adding local flavour to it. Scholars say it is impossible for a story-teller to narrate the same story twice. Because his listeners are different, he adds new details and leaves out some of the old ones, to make the story more relevant to the new set of listeners. This means every story-teller re-creates the original narrative each time he narrates it. If this happens to a narrative by a single story-teller, what about narratives passed on from generation to generation?
What the Helavas narrate are actually stories! They bring gods, humans, ghosts, devils, and even animals into these stories, mixing myths, superstition and imagination with actual events. And they call this history! 'The Mahabharatha' is their model of history!
That is the reason why you cannot trust their stories; nor use them as precedents while handing out judgments. However, the inspiration for these stories is firmly lodged in their memory. They are often guided by these memories.
Kings and emperors, who create history, have no memory of their history. They are not guided by it even when it is documented. That is why history repeats itself and the same wars are fought over and over again.
There are fundamental differences between us in the concept of Time itself. While we divide Time into past and future, Helavas call it endless and indivisible. Not only does Hanumantha of the Ramayana appear in the Mahabharatha as well, but is also part of the current, local material and even interacts with today's people. Helavas do not distinguish between history and myth. There is a lot of give and take between the mythical and the present day historical characters! According to them, the seven-crore-loan, Lord Thimmappa had taken for his marriage with goddess Padmavathi, is still being re-paid by devotees, who drop money into his temple kitty in Tirupathi. How do we, who call today's newspaper yesterday's history, deal with such people?
In recent times, efforts have been made to understand history, keeping the common man in the foreground. One does not know how far they will go. According to us, the common man is never the cause of events. It is kings, emperors or officials in similar positions in the region, who create history. The common man simply enjoys or suffers the fruits of these events.
There are folks who argue that history is also a narrative. Their argument makes sense. Do you want to know how? History witnesses everything that happens. True. But truth does not have just one or two sides. As Shivapada of Shivapura says, there are as many truths as there are eyes! Even if there are not that many, you cannot grasp the whole truth through a single discipline. We promise you just this. By the divine feet of Kambara Basavanneppa of Ghodagheri, Sangayya Swamy of Bhoosanuru Mutt* and Shivayogi Siddarama Swamy of Shivalingeshwara Mutt in Savalgi, we shall truthfully narrate what we have seen, as we saw it. Those who come after us, most surely, have the right to make of it whatever sense they can.
Volumes containing the history of the previous rulers of Kanakapuri, are available in the palace. Those interested may consult them. What we write now is the history of the last ruler of Kanakapuri: Shikharasoorya!
Can anyone even imagine the history of King Shikharasoorya beginning in Shivapura? We can tell you nothing about his caste or birth. Those details are buried in the story of Chandamutha*. Our hero, Shikharasoorya, is the sibling of Chandamutha, who, even while living, became a legend, a ballad and a deity, who performed miracles. Shikharasoorya too, struggled hard to be an artiste; resorted to black magic and witchcraft when he could not. Even that did not help. He was cursed by his guru and wandered here and there for a couple of years. Finally, having decided to commit suicide, he jumped into a gorge and lay unconscious there. Jattiga, of Shivapura, picked up and nursed this person, and gifted him to the history of Kanakapuri. Now, witness the history of this Chinnamutha, who lay unconscious in a gorge in the forest, after he was brought to Shivapura by the kind Jattiga!
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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