Kannada language, especially the Old Kannada is some times referred to as "kannarese".
Kannada is spoken predominantly in the state of Karnataka in India and it is one of the 40 most spoken languages in the world, and there are approximately 38 million Kannadigas / Kannada Speaking population in the world. It is one of the official languages of India and the official and administrative language of Karnataka.
The Language Kannada is about one and a half millennium old, and literary Old-Kannada (Hale Kannada) flourished in the 6th century Ganga dynasty and during the 9th century Rashtrakuta Dynasty. The Oldest specimen of Old Kannada is found in the inscription of 578 A.D. (Oldest Kannada book - Kavi Raja Marga in 840 AD.). Kannada script, which evolved from the 5th century Kadamba script, is closely similar to Telugu script in origin. Kannada script originated from southern Bramhi Script of Ashoka period. By 13th century, the modern Kannada and Telugu scripts were developed. Today, Konkani, Kodava and Tulu also use Kannada script.
The Kannada script evolved in stages - from ProtoKannada to PreOldKannada to OldKannada to ModernKannada. The ProtoKannada script has its root in ancient Brahmi and evolved around 3rd century BCE. The PreOldKannada script evolved around 4th century CE. OldKannada script can be traced to 10th Century CE. while ModernKannada script came around 17th Century CE.
Kannada has a number of regional and social dialects and has marked distinctions between formal and informal usage. Dialects of Kannada may be classified into three major groups.
1) Coastal dialects - Halakki, Barkur, Havyaka, Kumta
2) North-eastern - Gulbarga, Bellary
3) South-eastern - Nanjangud, Gowda, Tiptur, Rabakavi
There are in addition small scattered dialects spoken by tribal peoples, such as Jenu-Kuruba, Alu-Kurumba, Badaga, Kattunaicka, Cholanaicka (Chola Naikar of the Nilambur forest), Kannada Kurumba, and Sholiga, which may be affiliated with Kannada, but which have also been classified with Kodagu or Tamil.
Contrary to what many believe, Kannada (especially, Kannada in its original form and other South Indian Languages) is, grammatically independent of the Sanskrit influence. While most North Indian languages like Hindi, Punjabi etc belong to Indo Aryan language family, Kannada belong to Dravidian language family. It is estimated that Kannada and Tamil split into independent languages from the proto Tamil-Kannada sub-group around 8th - 6th. century B.C.
Interestingly, many European and middle east languages including English, Parsi(Farsi), Arabic etc are more closely related to Hindi. This is because Aryan language speaking nomads migrated to India from the area near to the present day Iran. Hence, linguistically, culturally and racially, North Indians are closer to Iranians (and to some extend to Arabs) than Dravidian language speaking South Indians.
In later period of history, due to large scale migration of Aryans to Southern India and also due to the influence of ruling class who were originally based in North India, more words from Sanskrit and other Indo Aryan languages were accepted by Kannada language.
The verse form of inscriptions were popular in the 7th century and the Shravanabelagola inscription of Nandisena (7th century). The oldest existing record of Kannada poetry in tripadi metre is the Kappe Arabhatta record of 700 CE. The Karnateshwara Katha, which was quoted later by Jayakirti, must have belonged to the period and was a eulogy of Pulakesi II. Other Kannada writers of this time whose works are considered extinct are Syamakundacharya (650) who wrote Prabhrita and Srivaradhadeva, also called Tumubuluracharya (650) who wrote the Chudamani (Crest Jewel), a 96,000 verse commentary on logic (Tattvartha-mahashastra). Other sources date the Chudamani to the 6th century or earlier. (Source: http://www.zeably.com/Medieval_Kannada_literature).
Jainisim was the predominant Religion in the present day Karnataka during the time the language Kannada was originated. The oldest Kannada book that is available now is king Nripatunga's literary critique Kavi Raja Marga of 840 AD (could not be traced). Jaina poets like Srivijaya and Guna Varman published some of the early Kannada works. In the 10th century, Pampa, Ponna and Ranna wrote in "Champu" style (in which prose and verse mixed) taking instances from sources like Ramayana, Mahabharata and Jain legends. Chavunda Raya, wrote about 24 Jaina tirthankaras, which again is a Jain Religion based work. During the 11th century relatively less Kannada works were published mainly due to the political dominance by Cholas of Tamil.
Two of the early writers of late classical period are Harihara (known for Ragale form of composition) and Raghavanka (known for Shatpadi meter). Jaina writer Janna also is from same period.
In the second half of the 12th century, Jainism was on decline. Veerashaiva works which gained ground during this time, centered around god Shiva and his saintly devotees. A unique and native form of poetry called Vachana sahitya was born in the 12th century, as a reaction to the rigid social customs prevailing at that time. Writers like Harihara, Raghavanka and Kereya Padmarasa came out with their works in 12th and 13th centuries. The Poetess Akkamahadevi, who advocated strongly against the religious rituals, is known for her bhakti poetries.
Apart from Vachana Sahitya, Brahminical writings were on the Vaishnava Hindu epics, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata, Puranas and Vedic related subjects. Samayaparikshe of Brahmasiva is a contribution to Jain literature during this period.
The development of poems, literary criticism, grammar, natural science and translations from Sanskrit literary works is the highlight of the 13th century.
Kannada literature became dominant with Hindu religion based and puranic inspired texts during the Vijayanagara empire of 14th and 15th century. Bhima Kavi, Padmanaka, Mallanarya, Singiraja and Chamarasa associated with Viajaya Nagara Kings. The Bhakti Movement, which lasted till the 16th century, and influenced Kannada literature and society very powerfully, originated in the 15th century. (Hari)Dasa (Servants of God) Sahithya, devotional songs sung in praise of God, which are inspired by the teachings of Madhwacharya, were compiled, which formed an important part of popular literature. The renowned saints who are also called Vaishnava trinity, namely, Sripadaraya, Purandaradasa and Kanakadasa lived during this time. This period also marked with competition between Vaishnava and Veerashaiva writers. Chamarasa, a Veerashaiva poet, was a tough contender of Kumara Vyasa in the court of Devaraya II. Mutual reciprocation between Kannada and Telugu literatures, a trend which had begun in the Hoysala period, increased further during Vijayanagara period. During the period between 15th century to 18th Century, Sanskritic influence in Kannada literature became widespread. During this period, several Hindi and Marathi words came into Kannada.
Medieval Kannada Literature covered a wide range of subjects and genres which can broadly be classified under the Jain, Virashaiva, Vaishnava and secular traditions.
A vast amount of literature came to be written on non-religious subjects generally classified as Kanada Secular Literature in the fields like grammar (sabdagama), logic (yuktyagama), philosophy (paramagama), poetry, romance, biography, history, medicine, mathematics etc.
Under Wodeyar kings, Bijapur Sultans and Mughals more and more literary works emerged during 16th and 17th Centuries. Bhattakalanka Deva's grammar book Karnataka Shabdaushasana (1604 A.D.), Sakdakshara Deva's romantic writings the Rajshekhara Vilasa (1657 A.D.), many Kannada works during the Wodeyar period (1650-1713 A.D.), Lingayat writer Nijaguna Yogi's Viveka Chintamani (a voluminous compendium of Shaivalore -17th century), Nanja Raja's Puranic works, the Shiva Bhakti Mahatmya and Hari Vamsa (1760 AD) are important Kannada literay works during this period. Yakshagana a form of dramatic presentation combined witth singing originated in late 18th century, and this became very popular mass entertainment and art form.
Writers patronaged by Wodeyar kings, produced a number of historical compositions in Sanskrit and Kannada. Prose work based on "Mahabharat" was prepared, while other works in prose dealing with moral and devotional themes and Vedanta philosophy were also produced in good numbers. A large number of folk poetry on domestic and labour themes also were produced. Some collections of translations from Sanskrith and Telugu in Kannada Prose were also done and this practice was continued later.
New influences on Kannada literary life, came to be introduced through Christian missionaries. During 17th Century, the Christian missionaries in Goa are reported to have written and published a number of works in Kannada. Leonardo Cinnoma wrote a grammar and dictionary of Kannada in 1774. John McKerrell wrote Grammar of Kanarese language in 1820. Caldwell brought out in 1856 "A comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or the South Indian Family of Languages" and a second revised edition of it was published in 1875. These missionaries brought out "Kannada Grammar"(in 1903), the most systematic and complete grammar on Kannada and "Kannada-English Dictionary" (both by Dr. F. Kittell), Bible and some other books of Christian inspiration etc.
The first modern movable type printing of "Canarese" appears to be the Canarese Grammar of Carey printed at Serampore in 1817, and the "Bible in Canarese" of John Hands in 1820.
The modern period of Kannada may be considered to have started from the beginning of the 19th Century. By second half of the 19th Century, many translations of English and Sanskrit classics are published in Kannada. Experimentson new forms of literature, viz, drama, novel, biography and criticisms, etc, were made, while the novel was the best established of these forms.
Between 1900 to 1920 writers of repute like B'Rama Rao, Alur, Muliya Timmapaya, Panji Mangesh Rao, Mudavidu and S.C. Narasimhachar became active. Poets like S. Katti, V, M, Tatti, Santa Kavi and others added their output also Kerur flourished with his genius as a pioneer in the fields of plays, novels, and short-stories. The "Karnataka Sahitya Parishad" was founded in 1914 and with this and the efforts of literary luminaries, Kannada emerged as one of the modern Language with a very live literature.
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