Adikavi Pampa

(902 CE -941 CE / Annigeri or Banavasi, Karnataka or in Vemulavada, Andhra Pradesh / India)

Biography of Adikavi Pampa

Pampa (Kannada: ಪಂಪ), called by the honorific Ādikavi (ಆದಿಕವಿ "Original Poet") is one of the greatest Kannada poets of all time.He is very famous even today for his philosophical beliefs. A court poet of Chalukya King Arikesari II, a Rashtrakuta feudatory, he is most known for his epics, Vikramārjuna Vijaya or Pampa Bharata and the Adipurana, both written in the Champu style, which he created and served as the model for all future works in Kannada.

The works of Jain writers Ādikavi Pampa, Sri Ponna and Ranna, collectively called the "three gems of Kannada literature", heralded the 10th century era of Medieval Kannada literature.

Pampa was born either in Annigeri or Banavasi in modern Karnataka or in Vemulavada, Karimnagar District in modern Andhra Pradesh.

Early Life

Very little is known about Pampa's early life. Whatever is known has been obtained from inscriptions, references by other poets, Pampa's own accounts in some of his poems and a few other such meager sources. It is believed that he was born in Annigeri near Gadag to a Jaina family of Brahmin ancestry. His father was Abhiramaradevaraya (also Bheemappayya as per Pampa's younger brother Jinavallabha's Gangadharam inscription) and mother Abbanabbe.

They have been basically Kannada speaking and must have migrated to the Kannada speaking country of Banavasi when Pampa was a young boy. In fact, Pampa's mother hailed from Annigeri which was a part of the Kannada country. The beautiful Banavasi, located in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, with thick forests, mountains, streams and waterfalls, must have made a great impact on this poet at a very young age. Through the lines aarankusamittodam nenevudenna manam banvaasi deshamam and puttidirdode maridumbiyaagi men kogileyaagi nandanavanadol banavaasideshadol he has expressed his deep attachment towards Banavasi.

It is very evident from his works that he had mastered Sanskrit and Prakrit and that he must have had a good all-round education including Vedic literature and Jain philosophy. He may have studied and mastered various subjects like music, philosophy, dance, economics, medicine, kamashastra (the science of sensual pleasure). He is said to have studied under a guru by name Devendra Muni of Shravanabelagola.

Sensitive, modest and imaginative, Pampa has earned a veritable place in the world of Kannada literature, which has remained unquestioned even today.

Poetic Life

A well-traveled man, he settled down as the court poet of King Arikesari II, a Chalukya king and a Rashtrakuta feudatory. Flattered by his knowledge and poetic abilities Arikesari (who possessed the title Gunarnava) conferred on him the title 'Kavita Gunarnava'. At the age of 39 he wrote his first masterpiece, Adipurana in 941 and a little later he completed Vikramarjuna Vijaya popularly known as Pampa Bharata. These two works have remained unparalleled works of classic Kannada composition.

Though there were several Kannada poets centuries prior to him, the quality of their works does not seem to have matched his. Such was the greatness of his literature that Pampa himself proudly proclaims that his works stamped and crushed all the other existing literature in Kannada. Rightly so, he is called the 'Adikavi' (first poet) of Kannada literature. He is also first of 'the three pearls' of Kannada poetry. A later poet Nagaraja says of him: "pasaripa kannadakkodayanorvane satkavi pampan' (the virtuous poet Pampa is the lone master of the famed Kannada).

Adipurana

Adipurana, written in Champu style, a mixed form of prose and verse, is a Kannada version of the Sanskrit work by Jinasena and details in sixteen cantos the life of the first Tirthankara of Jainism, Rishabha. The work focusses in his own unique style the pilgrimage of a soul to perfection and attainment of mukti. In the work, Pampa describes the struggle for power and control over the entire world of two brothers Jadabharata and Bahubali, sons of Rishabha. While Bahubali wins, he renounces the worldly pursuits in favour of his brother. Many Jaina puranas of Middle Ages found a role model in this work.

Vikramarjuna Vijaya

Vikramarjuna Vijaya, also known as Pampa Bharata, is a Kannada version of the Mahabharata of Vyasa. Several poets prior to Pampa had composed poetry based on parts of the epic but had not translated it in its entirety. Pampa's work was written in praise of his patron king Arikesari. He compares the king with Arjuna's character in the epic and centers his work around Arjuna. He says this himself in the 51st verse of the first chapter, Kannada: '... ಕಥಾನಾಯಕಂ ಮಾಡಿ ಸಂದರ್ಜುನನೊಳ್ ಪೋಲ್ವೀ ಕಥಾಭಿತ್ತಿಯನನುನಯದಿಂ ಪೇಳಲ್...' (Kathānāyakaṁ māḍi sandarjunanoḷ pōlvī kathābhittiyananunayadiṁ pēḷal.).

Vyasa's original work, however, does not portray any particular character as the hero of the epic.

Pampa made several modifications to the original story. While some of his modifications seem absurd and even erroneous, some others seem to blend perfectly and add shine to the original story. In Pampa's version, Arjuna is the only husband of Draupadi. As polyandry is not considered a virtue, this goes well with the story. On the other hand, to please his king, he refers to Arjuna with the titles of Arikesari at some places. The titles Chalukya Vamshodbhavam "of the Chalukya clan" and Samanta Choodamani "jewel among the feudatories" among others to the greatest archer of the world from the Kuru clan does not seem to go well. After the war of Kurukshetra, it is not Yudhishtira who is crowned king but Arjuna, and his wife Subhadra becomes the queen royal. It is said that Bhima who played such a big role in Vyasa's epic and Draupadi who suffered much humiliation are not given much credit in Pampa's work.

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