Kumaravyasa’s Bharata is a crown jewel of Kannada literature, beloved by scholars and common people alike. In this 15th-century classic, Kumaravyasa reimagines Vyasa’s epic, making it more compact, dramatic, closer to everyday life and language. He dispenses with most didactic material, cuts out subsidiary tales, and concludes with the end of the war. Here, Krishna, who is cool, clever, charming, and charismatic, is the central character, but many others, such as Draupadi, Karna, and Duryodhana leave an indelible mark. He narrates the story through fast-moving, deftly crafted situations, where characters confront grand conflicts and articulate subtle and complex emotions in brilliant metaphorical language. In this series of masterclasses, Professors SN Sridhar and Krishnamurthy Hanuru will introduce the audience to several aspects of Kumaravyasa’s poetic genius, illustrating them with the modern English translations the first volume of which has just been published as The Kannada Mahabharata by Harvard University Press in the Murty Classical Library of India series.
The third session delves deeper into Kumaravyasa’s narrative techniques and stylistic brilliance and originality, which have earned him the title, the “Emperor of Metaphors”. We will examine his bold extension of the boundaries of the language, his creativity in forging a hybrid idiom, an easy commerce between Sanskrit and Kannada. In this episode of BIC Talks, we see how he compares with the masters of world literature, such as Shakespeare, and why his work belongs in the pantheon of Indian and world classics.
This is an excerpt from an in-person masterclass series that took place in January 2024.