(949 C.E. - ? / Muduvolalu (Mudhol) Bagalkot district, Karnataka / India)

Biography of Ranna

Ranna (Kannada: ರನ್ನ) was one of the earliest poets of Kannada language. Ranna, Adikavi Pampa and Sri Ponna together are called "three gems of Kannada literature".

Early Days

Ranna was born on 949 C.E. in Muduvolalu (Mudhol) Bagalkot district, Karnataka. His ancenstors were from Balegara community (bangle sellers) of Jains. He took up to learning Sanskrit, Prakrit and Kannada at a young age. He took education from Ajitsenacharya.


Ranna was perhaps the classmate of Chavundaraya, the famous minister of the Western Ganga Dynasty during his youth. Later he came to be patronised by Chavundaraya when he became a Ganga minister.

Ranna was later a poet in the court of King Tailapa II and his successor King Satyasraya of the Western Chalukya Empire. He was rewarded with the title of Kavi Chakravarti (Emperor of Poets). The entire literature written by Ranna were in Halegannada (old Kannada, older version of Kannada language). There were four major literary works from Ranna.He is also attributed with writing the first extant Lexicons in Kannada named Rannakanda. Three of his works are currently available.

Literary Works

Ajitanatha Purana Tilakam
Ajitha Purana is the shortest Jaina purana in Kannada and is written about Ajithanatha, the second Tirthankara. It is second only to Adhinatha purana written to Adikavi Pampa in greatness. Given to emotional disturbances, Ranna was known to divert his emotional feelings into eloquent words of literature. The work describes in detail the life of the second Tirthankara.

Saahasabheema Vijayam
This is said to be his greatest work, a great pocession of Kannada literature and describes the final fight between Bhima and Duryodhana on the eighteenth day of the Mahabharata war. The work is a eulogy of Satyasraya, Ranna's patron king and the king is compared to Bhima. Though the work is in some ways influenced by Pampa work Pampa Bharatha, historians feel the work in no way diminishes Ranna's brilliance as it raises to the level of originality of though and expression. Though the work praises Bhima and his dramatic victory in the setting moments of the evening, it in no way diminishes the valour of Duryodhana either.


Literary Works of Ranna Ranna wrote most of his works on a Jain theme. His most well-known works have been Parashuramacharitha, Ajitha Purana and Sahasa Bhima Vijaya or Gadaa Yudda. The first two are not yet come to light and the fame of Ranna as a poet rests on the other two, which are now extant. A fragment of a lexical work called Ranna-Kanda is also available.

The work the `Ajitha Purana`, completed in 993 AD, was about the traditional history of the second Jain Tirthankara. This is one of the shortest Jaina Puranas in the Kannada language. It recounts the stories of only two previous births of the Jina. It is about a prince who realizes how transitory life is by merely holding a few grey hairs to his cheek. He consequently renounces his life and goes on to meditate and live the life of an ascetic. He is reborn in the next life as the saint Ajithanatha. This is the first part of the work and shows the great talents of Ranna as a poet. The next part is the story of Sagara, the second Chakravarti of Jainism. Though initially reluctant to give up worldly pleasures, he eventually gave in after much persuasion by Maniketu and the death of his 60,000 sons when he realized his helplessness in the face of death. He finally took to a life of penance and found release.

The famous work, `Sahasra-Bhima-Vijayam` was written by Ranna. It was better known as Gada Yuddha around 1000 A.D, which was based on the Mahabharata of Vyasa. It is one of his greatest works which has secured him a permanent place in the history of Kannada literature. It is the story of the final fight between Bhima and Duryodhana towards the evening of the Kurukshetra war. The usual trend of identifying one`s patron with the hero of an epic is followed here by him too, when he sees his patron Iriva Bedanga Satyasharya as Bhima, the hero of the poem. Ranna has built up his work of ten chapters on the basis of the thirteenth chapter of the Pampa Bharatha. Ranna`s mind was essentially dramatic in quality, vigorous action; powerful dialogue, living characterization and emotional fire are some of its elements. The Gada-Yuddha contains within itself a complete and most powerful drama. The poet mainly intended to glorify Bhima-Satyashraya-and he succeeded in it. He also managed to take the character of `Duryodhana`, the tragic hero to a great height without lowering the status of `Bhima`, one of the strongest `Pandava Putra`.

Ranna later became a poet in the court of Chakravarthi Tailapa II and also continued during the rule of his successor Satyasraya in the Western Chalukya court. He was also rewarded with the title of `Kavi Chakravarti`, which means `Emperor of Poets`. Ranna`s literature writings were all in `Halegannada`, which is an older version of Kannada language. Ranna wrote the first extant lexicon in Kannada named Ranna Kanda.

This work is said to be a eulogy of Chavundaraya, the Ganga minister who also patronised Ranna.

Ranna Kanda

This is the first extant lexicons in Kannada. Unfortunately only portions of his work Ranna Kanda are available today.

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