Kannada literature of the period from the 12th to 15th centuries may be considered as the era of “Veerashaiva” literature. The subsequent period from the 15th to 19th centuries is considered the era of “Brahmin” literature. During this period, Kannada literature took another turn with the sidelining of the ‘thripadi’ Vachana literary style. The era of “Hosagannada”/ “Navagannada” or new Kannada began to shape from this period.
Kannada literature began to see a change in its focus from the philosophies of Jainism and Shaivism to “Vaishnavism”. Vaishnava philosophy began to gain ground in the literary works in this era. According to the Vedic thought, Kannada literature took a turn towards Puranas, philosophy, and history. These aspects began to be reflected largely in the Hosagannada or new Kannada literature that was produced during this period.
The arrival of the new Kannada tradition can be specially noticed during the period of the Mysore Maharajas. It was more so during the reign of Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar (1672-1704), starting from Chikkupadhyaya, the court poet of the Maharaja. Several classical literary works were produced during this era. Though the production of Kannada literary works became less during the 18th century, it was revived during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. A number of Kannada works were written during his period.
About 150 years prior to Independence (1974) we can see the new era of Hosagannada works. During this one and a half-century, Kannada prose and poetry came in abundance in the new style. The works of the Brahmin era were produced in the ‘Shatpadi’ style. Scholars of the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar’s court belonging to Srivaishnava and Veerashaiva philosophies wrote a number of works in prose. The Kannada language began to drift towards Hosa Kannada or Navagannada or the new Kannada.
But even during this period, works were produced in the traditional old Kannada style also. Many poetical works with Jain and Veerashaiva philosophy were produced during this era. Literary works can also be traced in Old Kannada.
Some Kannada literary historians have classified the Hosagannada era into two divisions. They consider the period from 1500 to 1850 as the Hosagannada period and the period after 1850 as the period of ‘Navagannada’ or Modern Kannada. During this Navagannada period, we can see the influence of Indian history. After the 1857 war of Independence, more or less peace settled in the country with the Britishers beginning to rule. In 1799, Krishnaraja Wodeyar came to power.
With the Britishers holding control over the administration, the English system of education was introduced. With the arrival of the Christian missionaries, the printing era began. The setting up of the printing presses brought about a revolution in the production of books. Publication of printed works and newspapers began. Some of the missionaries also began to produce works in Kannada. With this began the era of modern Kannada.
Publications in Kannada began to increase from this period onwards. It was possible to print and publish hundreds of copies at a time, making it possible for readers to procure these books. With the availability of books, the number of readers also began to expand.
The last decade of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century brought about a rapid expansion in Kannada and Kannada literature, making its own impact, as in all other fields in the country, heralding the modern era in the State. It marked the turning point for Kannada and Kannada literature. Kannada literature heralded into the modern era, attaining higher and glorious status.
With the influence of the English language and literature, Kannada literature began to find new branches. The translation of English dramas and poems began to appear. Short stories and novels also began to be written. Even among them, special areas were carved out. Instead of traditional philosophy and religion or historical base, Kannada literature widened into areas of social aspects. Social life and problems became the background for modern literature. Finding a new epoch, Kannada began to grow into newer areas.
With the influence of English and English literature, Kannada literature widened to newer areas. Translation of English dramas and poems apart from short stories and novels began to appear in Kannada. In place of Puranic and historical background, social aspects and problems began to find a place in Kannada writings. Finding newer themes, it began to expand vastly. Entering a new phase, based on the problems of the people, it became closer to them. Thus it began to find newer goals.
Kannada literary historians have classified the period after 1850 into ‘Navodaya’, ‘Pragthisheela’, and ‘Navya’. Between 1870 and 1920, on account of the influence of English literature and national awakening, Kannada literature entered into a new phase. With novel and newer experiments, literature of different kinds began to appear. Many English works were translated into Kannada. The period led to a new era in Kannada literature. The doors of the modern Kannada literature were opened by the end of the 19th century.
After 1920 Kannada literature began to expand further. It found newer areas like short stories, life history, autobiography, criticism, poems, translation, research, children’s literature, journalism, and other branches. Newspapers made a big impact on Kannada literature. Prose works took different forms. This period is identified as ‘Navodaya’. This kind of literature lasted till about 1945.
Then came the ‘Pragathisheela’ movement. While during the ‘Navodaya’ period Kannada literature looked towards only English literature, it expanded its vision towards Europe and Russia. Writers began to produce their works influenced by Leftist thoughts. Their works created a new section of readers. This made Kannada literature more popular.
The ‘Pragathisheela’ movement continued for about a decade. Subsequently ‘Pragathisheela’ movement gave place to ‘Navya’, the modern literature.
Navya writers based their works on experience. Apart from the disappointments arising after Independence, they began to write about various other aspects of the society – the oppressed and down-trodden class, exploitation, casteism, untouchability, class distinction, and similar other aspects. With this arose ‘Dalit’ and ‘Bandaya’ literature. Women writers also found their values and began to write against exploitation and other issues related to them.
Reflecting on the changing trends and aspirations, Kannada literature has expanded vastly during the last 40-50 years. During the last century, it has seen several changes. With these several changes, it has come to be living literature, responding to the changing trends. Now, what changes it will see in the new century and the Millenium?
Will it change its pattern to the changing situations? In what way will it reflect the revolution that the electronic and information technology is creating? How will it reflect the impact of the electronic and information technology expanding every day affecting the life of the common man and the society? These are the questions before it in the new Millenium.