Chandrasekhar Kambar on our sense of history

The Kannada poet, playwright and novelist Dr Chandrasekhar Kambar has bagged the nation’s most coveted literary honour, the Jnanpith Award, for 2009, becoming the eighth Kannadiga, the most for any Indian language, to be so decorated.

The former UN diplomat turned politician, Shashi Tharoor, wrote about meeting Kambar at a kavi sammelan in New York in 2003:

“One intervention that I found particularly striking was that of the Kannada poet, playwright and film-maker Kambar, who argued that the Indian cultural sensibility was marked by its non-linear notion of time: ‘Time is not a controlled sequence of events in our minds, but an amalgamation of all events, past to present’.

“Against the Western notion of “history”, Kambar posited a view of “many ages and many worlds”, including the mythic, constituting the Indian sense of present reality. Krishna’s lesson to Arjuna on the Kurukshetra battlefield, Kambar argued, is not remote for us; that is why the frenzied mobs in Ayodhya cannot be persuaded by those (like me) who want them to leave the past alone. (The intellectual who says to the Bajrang Dal thug, “leave the past where it is”, is confronted by the Hindu sage who replies, “the past is here”.)

“Kambar went on to challenge the notion that the ‘lack of historical consciousness is a shortcoming’, and declared that it was only an intellectual surrender to the British that led Indians to ‘consider living outside history an insult’.

“We imitated the West in creating museums to house the relics of our past, whereas traditionally we had lived with our past in our daily present. This British notion of history forced us, Kambar said, to see our own literature through a distorted perspective.

“We are obsessed with the ‘original’ nature of historic texts and with the need to separate them from later interpolations. Instead of swallowing the Western notion of the integrity of a text and its sole author, we ought to celebrate the way in which Indians continually told and retold the Mahabharata, adding to it and modifying it. It is a matter of pride, Kambar declared, ‘that an entire country has collectively created the epic over a period of 10,000 years’.

The other seven literary heavyweights who have bagged the Jnanpith are Kuvempu, K. Shivarama Karanth, Da Ra Bendre, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, V.K. Gokak, Girish Karnad and U.R. Anantha Murthy .

Photograph: Playwright Dr Chandrashekara Kambara, who has bagged the Jnanpith Award, being greeted by his wife Satyabhama at their residence in Bangalore on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Da Ra Bendre on why nitrogen is nonsense

A desi colossus on a par with Yeats and Shakespeare

Karanth, Kuvempu & Gokak, and the one-by-three car

One for the album: a picture worth 7,000 words

Will Kannada literature climb Nobel peak again?

When Kuvempu didn’t want to write in Kannada

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37 Responses to “Chandrasekhar Kambar on our sense of history”

  1. Annurag Says:

    I am sure the national media and the chammak channels would have ignored this.

  2. Dr KRS Murthy Says:

    ಸಮಯೋಚಿತವಾದ ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಕವನ.

    ಕೆಲವು ವರ್ಷಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆ, ಕಂಬಾರರೊಂದಿಗೆ ಮೂರು ದಿನಗಳ ಕಾಲ ಒಡನಾಡಿಯಾಗಿ ಅನೇಕ ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯ, ನಾಟಕ, ಸಂಗೀತಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ವಿಶೇಷ ವಿನಿಮಯ ಮಾಡಿದ ಕಾಲ ನೆನಪಿಗೆ ಬರುತ್ತಿದೆ. ಆಗ ಅವರಿಂದಲೇ ಅವರ ಜೀವನದ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಅವರ ಬಾಯಿಯಿಂದಲೇ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ತಿಳಿದಾಯಿತು. ನನ್ನ ಮತ್ತು ಅವರ ಸೃಷ್ಟಿ ಶೀಲ ಯೋಜನೆಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆಯೂ ವಿನಿಮಯ ನಡೆಯಿತು.

    ಕಂಬಾರ ಜೋಗಿ
    ಡಾಕ್ಟರ್ ಕೆ. ಆರ್. ಎಸ್. ಮೂರ್ತಿ

    ಕಂಬಾರ ಜೋಗಿ, ಪದಗಳಾ ಜೇಡಿ ಮಣ್ಣಿನ ಪೂರ್ಣ ಕುಂಭಗಳ ಹೊಸೆದಾ
    ಗುಂಭ ಕಂಠದಲಿ, ಮಣ್ಣಿನ ರಾಗದಲಿ ತನನಾನ ಜನಪದವಾ ಪಸರಿಸಿದಾ

    ರಾಗಕ್ಕೆ ಒಲವ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿದಾ ಗೆಜ್ಜೆ ಕುಣಿತದಲೀ, ಹಳ್ಳಿಯನೇ ತಂದ ರಂಗದಲಿ
    ಸಾಗರದಾಚೆ ರಾಮಾನುಜ ಗುರುವಿಗೆ ಅನುಜನಾಗಿ ಮತ್ತೊಮ್ಮೆ ಜನಪದದಲಿ

    ಮಣ್ಣಿನ ವಾಸನೆಯ ಸೇವಿಸಿದ, ಹಗಲೂ ಇರುಳೂ, ತಾಪಸಿ ಕುಲಪತಿಯಾಗಿ
    ಹಣ್ಣು ಆಗಿದೆ ಮಣ್ಣಿನ ಕಾಯಕವೆಲ್ಲ ಜ್ಞಾನ ಪೀಠದಲಿ ಕುಳಿತು ಮೆರೆಯೋ ಜೋಗಿ

  3. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Fantastic news! Congratulations to CK!

    Swalpa Girisk Karnad as a literary heavyweight thumba jaasthi aayithu! May be he can be a literary ‘paper weight’?!!

    Jnana peetagalu awardugalu
    Girisha matthu Ananthu, ivarugalu
    Thamma swanthakke PR maduvaru
    Itharara shanthi halumaduvaru
    Life isteney

  4. mpkm Says:

    Congratulations Dr Kambaara. You have proven your self and Kannada Great. You should have been our Rastra Kavi

  5. H K Shivaram Says:

    I am extremely Happy that one more Kannadiga getting Gnana Peeta Prashasti and it is a Feather in our Cap.

    Also Dr Chandrashekara Kambara posted a comment that many more Kannadigas who is deserving to get this Honour of Gnana Peeta Prashasti and this shows how Broad and Open minded that many Kannadigas deserves and Karnataka is proud to be filled Intellects and Sons and Daughters of Knowledge Saraswati.

    My Heartfelt Congratulations to Dr Chandrashekara Kambara on this Occassion and I am proud to say I am Kannadiga with great Honour.

    Siriganadam Gelgey Siriganadam Balige

  6. sanjeeva Says:

    I feel S.L.Bhyrappa also merits the award.

  7. Nastika Says:

    ಕಂಬಾರ ಅವರಿಗೆ ಅಭಿನಂದನೆಗಳು !

  8. Annurag Says:

    Can Kannada as medium of instruction get a facelift atleast now when it has such quality even after missing atleast 3 people for award.

  9. Ananth Says:

    Great!!! AbhinandanegaLu to Kambara.

    Next is should be definitely to S.L.Bhyrappa otherwise its a crime on the part of Jnanapeeth award jury.

  10. Gaby Says:

    This is indeed a happy day- Congratulations to Dr kambara.

  11. kannadada maga Says:

    KANNADA once again proved its RICHNESS and DOMINANCE in the literature.KANNADA 8 times honoured with the most prestigious and highest literary award -JNANAPITH AWARD.CONGRATS CHANDRASHEKARA KAMBAR.

  12. vinod p.kulkarni,Daund. Says:

    congratulations Mr.chandrasekhar Kambara for winning Nataions most prestigious literary award.May god take your service for your language for many more years to come.congratulations once again.

  13. shama sundara s k Says:

    Dr. Chandrashekhara Kambara neither belongs to the center of right nor center of left. Not even a moderate! Simplicity personified, marvelous poetry. 100 % Desi. His Dharwar dialect is like a still in a Kannada Jim. Privileged are those who have listened to him singing folk songs in the drawing rooms.

    ಕಂಬಾರರ ಭಾಷೆ ಗರಡಿ ಮನೆಯ ಸ್ತಬ್ಧ ಚಿತ್ರದಂತೆ, ವಾವ್. ಅಭಿನಂದನೆ. ಅವರ ಜತೆ ಕುಳಿತು ಅಮೃತಪಾನ ಮಾಡುವುದು, ಅವರ ಕಂಚಿನ ಕಂಠದಿಂದ ಹೊಮ್ಮುವ ಜಾನಪದ ಹಾಡುಗಳನ್ನು ಆಲಿಸುವುದು, ದಿವ್ಯ ಅನುಭವ. ಕಂಬಾರರಿಗೆ ಅಭಿನಂದನೆಗಳು.
    Anjali Ramanna profusly quotes from his works, Take a look :

  14. M K Vidyaranya Says:

    Will Sadananda Gowda government honour ‘Jnanapeetha Award’ recepients ?
    by M K Vidyaranya

    Kannada, has been recognised as classical language from the
    Government of India and it is really noteworthy that Kannada
    litterateurs have scaled new heights by winning the highest number of
    eight prestigious Jnanpeetha awards – the country’s highest literary
    award instituted in 1965 It pains to note that the 2000 years ancient
    language is suffering a great deal in Karnataka, its home land, due to
    other regional languages and from within.

    Based on the recommendations of the 9 member Committee of Linguistic
    Experts, appointed by the Ministry of Culture, the Government of India
    officially recognised Kannada as a classical language on October 31,
    2008, bringing it into a league was occupied by only Sanskrit and

    A provision to confer classical status to languages was made by a
    constitutional decree in 2004. Among the criteria by which this is
    judged are the antiquity of the language, its existence as the root
    language for others, well-established theory of language, and a rich
    body of literature. In July 2011, it set up a Centre for study of
    Kannada as a classical language at Mysore to facilitate research and
    other activities related to Kannada, which will function under the
    aegis of Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL ).

    A language with classical status gets two international awards for
    eminent scholars in Kannada, a centre for excellence for studies in
    Kannada and professional chairs on Kannada are created in Central
    universities under University Grants Commission (UGC) .Only languages
    which have a proven antiquity of over 1,500 years can qualify for this

    But so far, nothing has moved–notwithstanding the noises raised by
    various Kannada organisations in the state following a Petition filed
    by an advocate in the MADRAS high court. Since the PIL challenging
    classical tag for Kannada has been pending in the Madras High Court,
    the Union government has not yet released the grant of Rs150 crore
    that is made towards promoting a classical language annually. Kannada
    is yet to get even a single paisa.

    It would be appreciated if the Sadananda Gowda Government installs
    bronze busts of all the eight ‘Jnanapeetha Award’ recipients –
    namely-Kuvempu, D.R. Bendre, Shivaram Karanth.Masti Venkatesha
    Iyengar. V.K. Gokak, U R Anant Murthy.Girish Karnad and
    Chandrashekhara Kambara in front of Kannada Bhavana on the JC Road or
    at any appropriate place such as Lal Bagh or Cubbon Park in a
    befitting way, arrange a separate place to facilitate study of their
    work and multimedia exhibition about their works so that Kannada
    Language can be propagated among the majority of the present day
    children and youth who have lost interest in studying Kannada.

    Long live Karnataka ,Kannada and Kannadigas who have made us proud.

  15. ravisagar Says:

    kambararaige abinandanegalu

  16. sanjeeva Says:

    On one side, Kannada is shining in literary circles. But as a household language of citizens of Karnataka, it is dying slowly, particularly in cities like Bangalore and Mysore with the onslaught of English and other languages and inferiority complex of Kannadigaru. A great pity. I would be happier to see Kannada living, growing and shining in the cities and towns instead of awards.

  17. gopal h s Says:

    we r realy proud of u Sir u had proved about karnataka and kannadigas we r realy proud of u sir keep it up

  18. Vijay Says:

    Where the hell is the English media which was all over the Darshan – Nikita issue, now when Chandrashekar Kambara has won a record 8th Jnanapith Award for kannada? are they in a deep slumber ?? #Hypocrites #Propoganda #indianmediasucks

  19. Faldo Says:

    It is really a proud moment for Kannada and Karnataka.

  20. Vijay Says:

    i am personally sick & tired of all the negative talk about kannada dying as a language. What if people who speak other languages are making karnataka their home. People who’s mother tongue is kannada will not change it, i still speak kannada and very proud to do so, whether i am in Bangalore Mall or Basavanagudi or New York. It is achievements like Jnanapeeta Awards that instill and inspire kannada speakers. The media should highlight such feats instead of the negative talk about kannada dying n all. Kannada has always been and will always be a royal language !!

  21. Shami Says:

    Most heard is least read.

  22. Nastika Says:

    @sanjeeva, I don’t say Kannada is dying. I would say it is evolving. Like nobody speaks ಹಳೆ ಕನ್ನಡ now, nobody will speak present Kannada after 100 years. And the change doesn’t happen in a day – its gradual.

    Coming to your comment on ‘Kannada Shining’ than ‘Awards’, they are 2 different things and not related to each other at all.

    Awards are exemplary individual contribution and must be celebrated irrespective of whether the language is shining or not.


  23. M Says:

    @ M K Vidyaranya

    Re Gurugale ; isn’t it an irony that you make a case for kannada in English !

  24. December Stud Says:

    Very good for Kannada and Kambara. A very good writer indeed.

    And, how fortunate are we to read the language played by such modern day greats as SL Bhyrappa and GS Shivarudrappa,.Talking of greatnessm, we will never forget DVG, Adiga and Pu.Ti.Na either.

    Oh, and in your list of literary heavyweights, can you please add an asterisk for the two exceptions?

  25. v.n.mulimani Says:

    Congratulations for receiving the jnana peeth award from Dr.BB pujari Dept of Kannada sangameshwar college solapur and v.n.mulimani librarian,solapur
    You deserve for this award.

  26. M K Vidyaranya Says:

    Dear Mr M
    Let the IAS officers who do not properly understand Kannada read this post and advice those who take decision and take proper action.
    What is your views on majority of others who have commented in English.

  27. M Says:

    @ MK Vidyaranya.

    Personally, I feel IAS should be abolished; there should only be state Administrative Services; and central govt. should draw from this pool. In general IAS people don’t understand anything be it language or healthcare. In Karnataka, the small number of IAS officers who actually deliver some service began in KAS and were subsequently promoted to IAS.


    I totally disagree with your line of argument as it is purely bureaucratic. A language flourishes not because of Chairs/Classical Status but by enriching it with readable material. Kannada chauvinists have made kannada subject in schools and colleges a rigmarole. The consequence is that even ‘appata’ kannadigas cannot learn literary kannada. Well educated kannadigas are now more adept at writing in English than in Kannada. This means less and less newer material in kannada.

  28. Dave Says:

    Why must intellectuals like Kambar always have a bone to pick with ‘Western’ ideas? Would they rather India remain stuck in an a-historical worldview?

  29. prakash Says:

    Kannada should be medium till 10th standard and should be imparted by government itself
    Kannada is 15 years/5 yuga behind contemporaries

    I second these points. His work with Tejaswi is not even touched by any enterpreneurs. Shame.

  30. prakash Says:

  31. Babunath L Says:

    This is a travesty that an obscurantist like Kambar has got the Jnanapitha award. His ideas about history are an embarrassment mainly to himself and to all Kannadigas and Indians everywhere. Why do certain Kannada intellectuals pretend to be “neutral” while promoting totally insane and anti-scientific ideas? At the same time, we witness the brutal behavior of one of our top actors and the ridiculous follow up to it in the form of the industry banning some actress who allegedly “distracted” the pure-minded poor soul of Darshan. In the meanwhile, the wholly incorruptible and true Indian patriots in the BJP government convert the state into the most corrupt state in the country! All these occurrences are deeply disturbing ones and indicate our society is completely going to pieces.

  32. Abhishek Says:

    super man of the world

  33. Thejesh M B Says:

    Great man of INDIA

  34. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    Is it true that Shri Kambara has donated all of his prize money to Kannada U, as URA did to Maisur U and Karnad to Karnataka U? I cannot wait for these three to get their Nobels. Not posthumously, as Sri Sri Sri Channamalla Swamy has taken to blessing our writers.

  35. Mahanand charati Says:

    I pray to god that let dr. Kumbar bring world status to Kannada by winning Nobel prize for literature

  36. ranju Says:

    let kannada be spread in all countries

  37. roshana Says:

    there is nothing to say rather than telling kannadigas save our state

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