Posts Tagged ‘Kannada Sahitya Sammelana’

What can a statue at Rs 25 crore do for Kannada?

21 February 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji applauded the Kannada Sahitya Sammelana president G. Venkatasubbaiah for his forthright remarks.

Kaddi thundu mado haage helidrallo on corruption. He didn’t mince any words.”

Ajji, at his age and wisdom, he doesn’t have to hide behind niceties. In fact, being a lexicographer, he could have chosen any number of synonyms to drive home his point.”

“I am happy Kannada ruled in the City even if it was for only five days. People seem to have woken up after a deep slumber,” replied Ajji.

Howdu Ajji. I thought they did a mistake in not having a sammelana for nearly five decades in Bangalore. We had almost lost Bangalore for Kannada.”

Adu seri, Ramu. Bhuvaneshwari statue maadtharanthallo. They should erect ‘bhoomi thayi’ statue considering the enormous love and obsession our leaders have for bhoomi that is site-u, especially in Bangalore.”

Ajji had bowled an unexpected doosra, just like Bhajji.

Ha, ha adu nija, Ajji! Bhuvaneshwari statue will be similar to the Statue of Liberty in New York. Our CM has announced Rs 25 crore for it.”

“Your brother Suri had sent a picture of that long back.  A lady wearing a crown which had horns.”

“Horns alla Ajji, she wears seven spikes representing the seven continents and the seven seas.”

“Anyway, kannadakke kombu bandilva… that will represent our present seven Jnanpeeth winners: Kuvempu, Da Ra Bendre, Shivarama Karanth, Masthi Venkatesh Iyengar, V.K. Gokak, U.R. Anantha Murthy, Girish Karnad.”

Sariyagi heLde Ajji, it is indeed a great pride for us.”

“They will start with 25 crores and end up spending  somewhere near 250 crores.”

“That is a distinct possibility, Ajji.”

“Later, all sorts of temples will spring around this. Before you say Yenappa -Hogappa, duplicate temples of Shani Mahatme, Mookambike,  etc would have sprung up in the vicinity making it another centre for agni pareekshe and dosha parihaara. It should be a centre for Kannada and only Kannada here.”

Howdajji, there is always that danger.”

“Why can’t we have a  good Kannada library? Or a mini-theatre for watching art movies and documentaries in Kannada? Or a research centre for development of Kannada.”

Nija Ajji, this will help promote Kannada arts.”

“By the way, Ramu, how will outsiders and foreigners learn Kannada? Namma software Seethamma helthidru, in France, they use only French for all their daily transactions, it seems. She spent six months visiting her daughter, a software engineer. Seethamma rattles some kind of ‘butler French’ now.”

“Almost like your ‘Butler English’!”

Ajji ignored my comments.

Namma Airport-galalli, gandasara picture haaki ‘Gents’ antha bareethare. Naavu Englishinalle ‘Gandasaru’ antha yaake bareebaardu? Haage hengasina picture haaki, ‘Ladies’ antha bariyo  badulu ‘Hengasaru’ antha Englishinalli bariibahudu. After sometime I am sure they will start using the term.”

Howadjji! This can definitely work.”

Haage ‘push’, ‘pull’ baagila picture baredu arrow haaki ,  ‘thalliri‘,  ‘eleyiriantha Englishnalli bareyabahudu. Hanigoodidre halla. A drop finally becomes an ocean. We can start slowly and innovate. We can indicate by picture and write Kannada words in English alphabets to start with. Once people become familiar with lots of words, we can introduce Kannada letters. We all learnt Hindi after mastering Hindi songs!”

Nija Ajji.”

“Bangalore has great artistes and young enthusiastic students and engineers. They can create Kannada words through symbols in malls, cinema theatres, railway and bus stations, traffic signals etc. The Rs 25 crore should go for such initiatives. That is what Karave, Kannada rajya koota, AKKA, Thamma, etc should be doing to promote Kannada.”

Ajji, you are now hitting sixers like Sehwag for Kannada. Wonderful.”

Hodeebeku kano. If we don’t make efforts to spread our language, who will”

Noorakke nooru nija, Ajji.”

KRV is now mainstream. Is that good for Kannada?

7 February 2011

PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes: The 77th Kannada sahitya sammelana ended in Bangalore on Sunday.  Everything—the speeches, the controversies, the complaints, the compliments, the arrangements—has been seen, heard and watched.

Here are seven trends that you may have missed:

1. Make no mistake and we suspect this will be ‘the’ legacy of the 77th sahitya sammelana: the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KaRaVe) has entered the mainstream of Kannada cultural conversation. This would not have happened had the sammelana been held anywhere else but Bangalore where the organising capabilities of KaRaVe meant they were given several key responsibilities.

We heard that KaRaVe organized the procession on the first day when Prof. G.Venkakatasubbaiah was brought to the National College Grounds. We noticed that key KaRaVe activists were present almost everywhere and playing a key role in the background.

What this might mean for Kannada is a matter for another day.

However we want to note a simple development. Since it has now become fashionable to sport the red/orange KaRaVe neckwear, we have been seeing a different kind of saffronisation of the Kannada cultural space. Somewhat regrettable in our mind, given the aggressive, masculine connotations that the neckwear carries.

2. Prof. G. Venkatasubbaiah’s presidential address was a superb antidote to this general aggressiveness of the Kannada chaluvali. Even if we don’t agree with everything he said, we can be immensely proud of this: that we chose a 98-year-old lexicographer to address us, offer his vision of Kannada’s future and he lived up to our expectations.

Not only was his remarkable energy and gentle conduct throughout the sammelana an inspiration, I was even more impressed by the way he addressed the task on hand, with great civility and decency, which was a credit to the Kannadiga spirit.

His gentle but precise comments on the decline of political morality in Karnataka were spot on. He wasn’t raising hell. He didn’t sound anxious or insecure. On the contrary, he sounded confident and fearless, someone ready to get to work. Exactly, what we need and how we ought to act.

3. Most Bangaloreans wondered why the sammelana wasn’t organized in the sprawling Palace grounds. Informed speculation honed in on the fact that National College grounds in Basavanagudi falls under the Bangalore of R. Ashok, home minister and chair of the organizing committee, whereas choosing palace grounds would have brought Katta Subramanya Naidu and Shobha Karandlaje into the limelight. Perhaps, there is some merit in this twisted logic.

4. Electrifying is an adjective often used, without much justification. So I won’t use it describe the three days of the sahitya sammelana. We didn’t hear any electrifying speeches or witness unforgettable performances.

Still, the response to the sammelana was overwhelming. We estimated roughly 300,000 people visited the venue each day and this was perhaps because it has been 40 years since the previous sammelana in Bangalore.

Moreover, the media attention added glamour and brought intensity to the event. Each of the major newspapers and television channels had 8-10 journalists reporting. We will not vouch for the accuracy of their reporting though.

5. This intense focus seems to have led to an interesting new demand: that the sammelana be organized in Bangalore at least once in four or five years. This was the chatter on day one, much before the chair of the organising committee, R. Ashok, made the demand official.

The logic behind the demand is a simple one: if the sammelana were to be a more frequent occurrence in Bangalore City, then there would be less of a stampede.

Moreover, there are other compelling reasons to hold the sammelana in Bnagalore more often. Nearly, one-sixth of the population of Karnataka resides in Bangalore. Further, the city is also the centre of media and government, which will only help the Kannada Sahithya Parishat to get the necessary support, from both the state and society, to effectively respond the needs of Kannada language, society and culture.

In any case, Bangalore is the epicentre for the most of the challenges Kannada is facing and so if the City were to host the sammelana more frequently it would only help the cause of Kannada.

6. In fact, this demand should make us rethink the process of selecting cities to host the sammelana. Perhaps, it is time for the Kannada Sahithya Parishat to come up with a well thought out and widely publicised criteria to pick the host cities.

For example, along with Bangalore, border districts of north Karnataka in particular could have priority as the Sahithya Parishat seeks to find a regional balance in the selection.

7. Amidst all the cultural performances and socializing, clearly, the highlight of the sammelana was the book exhibition. The stalls were packed with book buyers of all ages and many authors added star quality. Several unconfirmed reports put the book sales at three crore rupees at the very least, and the book exhibition has been extended for two more days.

In our humble opinion, majority of the exhibitors didn’t reciprocate the attention they were getting. Even though the exhibitors had come from all parts of Karnataka, the majority of the big stalls were quite similar in that they all had the same stock and offered the standard 10% discount, which some book buyers thought was inadequate. Of course, the exceptions were the University publications and Kannada Sahithya Parishat, whose publications are subsidized by state support.

I found a Kannada translation of the 12th century Sanskrit work Manasollasa by Someshvara III, the Chalukya emperor. This, for the nerd in me, was the most exciting moment of the conference. I got to stress this because a journalist who spoke to me about my impressions reported the exact opposite of what I had mentioned.

At a purely personal level, the sammelana gave yours truly a opportunity to explore all the old tiffin rooms of Basavanagudi, Gandhi bazaar and Chamarajpet. In particular, we should give a shout out to New Modern Hotel and Mahalakshmi tiffin room.

We also saw several TV performers (actors, singers and reality show participants) at the sammelana. They were all mobbed, seemed to revel in the attention, and had a spring in their steps. Compared to the littérateurs, their eyes twinkled and perhaps, this is one sign of the future.

Photograph: Prof G. Venkatasubbaiah, the president of 77th all India Kannada sahitya sammelana, at a book stall at the conference venue, the National College Grounds, in Bangalore on Sunday. (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: What our sahitya sammelana should be all about

Karnataka Rakshana Vedike: good, bad or sad?

If a Kannada don can warn of repairee

What our Sahitya Sammelana should be all about

3 February 2011


PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes from Bangalore: In his classic Jnapaka Chitrashale, D.V. Gundappa (more popularly known to all as DVG) reports on the 1922 Kannada sahitya sammelana in Davanagere; M. Venkatakrishnaiah, also known as “Tataiah“, who was the doyen of Mysore journalism, presided over the session.

In those early years of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat, the sahitya sammelana used to be a modest affair. An advance party would go from Bangalore to the designated city and work with the local literary figures on the logistics.

So, in 1922, when a small advance party arrived in Davanagere, no arrangements had been made; even the venue hadn’t been decided. The advance party couldn’t buy groceries from the local stores nor could they get pots and pans to cook their own food.

The local community, it appeared, had decided to be non-cooperative, if not downright hostile.

There was quite likely some caste animus against a Brahmin-dominated Kannada Sahitya Parishat. While DVG hints at this, he never spells out the details. In any case, these details aren’t relevant for our story.

So, the advance party reported the matter to the office-bearers of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat.

Since the deputy commissioner, Chitradurga, couldn’t be contacted quickly enough, DVG went to meet with the then diwan, Albion Bannerjee. The Maharaja himself was the chief patron of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat and so assuring his visitors of government assistance, the diwan asked them to leave for Davanagere without any anxieties.

The next day DVG, Karpura Srinivasa Rao, Bellave Venkatanaranappa and others went to Davanagere and tried to negotiate with the prominent local leaders, but couldn’t make any headway. So they reluctantly wired their concerns to the diwan.

The next day, the DC arrived at the high school where all the visiting dignitaries were staying and ensured that the sahitya sammelana was conducted smoothly. While a section of Davanagere didn’t attend the sammelana, DVG reports, the organisers managed to get the pots and pans, as well as a venue.


I was reminded of this story on the eve of the 77th edition of the sahitya sammelana,which begins in Bangalore on Friday. It is no longer a modest affair. Vast amounts of money is mobilized from various sources, including the government.

Tens of thousands of people attend the event. Politicians and swamijis compete with each other to participate, often overshadowing the real heroes, the writers. Hundreds of booksellers set up stalls. Colleges are closed so that students and teachers can experience the festivities. And picking the president of the sahitya sammelana has become a big, somewhat political affair.

Let us also not forget the changed circumstances.

Cities compete to host the sahitya sammelana and rarely do we see caste groups or local communities boycotting the event. Local politicians, both of the political as well as literary and cultural variety, are keen to see themselves in the limelight.

Indeed, this annual event has become a big deal.

More importantly, the circumstances that motivated the organisers in the early decades of Kannada sahitya parishat have changed. Note that until 1956 Kannada speaking regions were administered by at least four major administrative entities—the presidencies of Bombay and Madras and then the kingdoms of Hyderabad and Mysore.

Except for Mysore, Kannada speakers were a minority in the other administrative regions, which meant Kannada wasn’t the language of the administration and rarely received the necessary state support. Consequently Kannada couldn’t develop as a language of administration, culture and literature.

As surprising as it may seem today, even the early discussions at the Kannada Sahitya Parishat were held in English. When B. M. Shri was invited to give a talk at one of the early parishat-sponsored events, he spoke in English on the great accomplishments of pre-modern Kannada literature.

I note this to point out the objective of the sahitya sammelana in the 1920s and 1930s was quite simply to organize likeminded litterateurs and activists, and to use the occasion to discuss the challenges confronting Kannada language, culture and people.

The office-bearers of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat opted to take the conference to different parts of the Kannada speaking regions and primarily celebrate Kannada, especially its literary accomplishments. That meant the Kannada writer was always the hero.

These early conventions were small enough to actually conduct useful discussions and hence there was a substantial intellectual dimension to these events. Equally important was a desire to build a sense of community among the participants, who would have come from different states and this was especially critical in the emergence of a Unification Movement.

Especially this latter goal was an important aspect of Kannada activism prior to the reorganization of linguistic states in 1956.

In the last 3-4 decades, the sahitya sammelana has evolved into more of a celebratory event. The last significant political interruption was during the height of the Bandaya literary movement in the late 1970s and since then ecstatic celebratory character of the sammelana has become more important.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong in that.

The principal challenges that confronted Kannada have changed significantly. Be it the challenge of globalisation, or the marginalisation of Kannadiga in Karnataka itself and in the national arena or the slow progress of Kannada IT or most importantly, Kannada’s future as the language of education, administration and commerce—none of these are going to be discussed at and solved in a three-day event, even if we manage to find the right format and forums.

So, the main thrust of the critique articulated by many that the event doesn’t have a constructive dimension seems to be misplaced. I say don’t think about what doesn’t happen in these three days. Instead, consider what we need to do for 362 days and then we can spend these three days of the sahitya sammelana celebrating our achievements.

My reasoning is quite simple. When the Kannada Sahitya Parishat was established in 1915, Karnataka had no Universities, very few colleges and no other state institution that could do the work of Kannada.

Now, we have more than 20 universities, and thousands of colleges; the various academies, and other government institutions such as the Kannada book authority and Kannada development authority along with numerous civil society institutions function throughout the year.

While we may not be happy with their functioning and many of our problems remain unsolved, the entire burden of Kannada doesn’t fall on the sammelana itself. We must use the rest of the year to organize conferences and brainstorm on what we need to do.


Up until the 1950s, the sammelana was the only venue for such strategising but that no longer is the case. During the sammelana, if there has to be any speech-making, let that be to put forward the big picture and tell the Kannadigas what we need to do during the next year.

My hope is that such speeches wouldn’t be utilised to abuse our neighbors or lament globalisation but to put forward a constructive agenda. This could mean actually working on setting up sustainable Kannada schools, with rich curriculum and world-class facilities, instead of simply demanding that the government implement Kannada as the medium of instruction.

Or it could mean working on open source Kannada software projects.

Let this be the occasion when we, all of us, get to hear what our intellectuals and writers thought and figured out throughout the year.

Let this be a populist avenue where our writers and thinkers can have a wide audience.

Let this be an occasion for book exhibitions and cultural performances and poetry meets.

Thus, in my mind, the purpose of the sahitya sammelana seems to be something different, far simpler.

The sammelana offers a platform to highlight the cause of Kannada and bring attention to it. We could celebrate our accomplishments and articulate programmatically a vision for the future.

The sahitya sammelana also serves a different cultural and political purpose. As in the past, it puts the Kannada writer on a pedestal and celebrates him. Here the critics are right when they point out that politicians and swamijis have come to occupy the center stage. It would be perfectly all right to kick them out, and bring back the writer to the centre.

It would be extraordinary to have a 98 year-old Kannada grammarian address one-hundred thousand people in the heart of Bangalore. Such a privilege eludes the cosmopolitan Indian English writer, as Dr U. R. Anantha Murthy is fond of pointing out.

The English writer might get a huge advance and publicity in the English press but there is something spectacularly magical, and indeed culturally empowering about a writer demanding and holding the attention of sixty million Kannadigas and outlining his vision for their future. This is why our writers choose to write in Indian languages.

Let the celebrations begin


Photographs: A view of the main hall for the 77 all India Kannada sahitya sammelana at the National College Grounds, in Bangalore on Thursday (top); and Mysore pak being prepared for the participants at a kitchen at Kempegowda Nagar (Karnataka Photo News)