Kuvempu a dazzling star in the sky
Kuvempu (real name KV Puttappa: 1904-1994) was one the most revered poets of Kannada language in recent times, his pictures could seen everywhere in Karnataka. He is been credited to have revived the era of epic poetry, is regarded as poet philosopher. He also gave Kannada language new words, phrases (this led to common people asking him to suggest name for their newborns!). Kuvempu’s amazing repertoire of literary contribution includes Sri Ramayanadarshana in which he gave different interpretation to the characters of Ramayana, a complete work of Ramayana in Kannada. He was awarded the highest literary award of the country “Jnanpeeth” for this effort. The picture herein is from manuscript of first page of Ramayanadarshana in Kuvempu’s own handwriting. His poems and talks on universal humanism are very popular among people.. He writes “The Religion of Humanity, the Universal Path, the Welfare of All Reconciliation, the Integral Vision – these five mantras should become view of the future. In other words, what we want henceforth is not this religion or that religion, but then Religion of Humanity; not this path or that path but then Universal Path; not the wellbeing of this individual or that individual, but the Welfare of All; not turning away and breaking off from one another, but reconciling and uniting in concord and harmony; and above all, not the partial view of narrow creed, not the dual outlook of the material and the spiritual, but the Integral Vision of seeing all the things with the eye of the Divine”.
There is a beautiful website on Kuvempu (kuvempu.com) where they have posted an incident wherein Kuvempu explains the greatness of weaver bird, I really liked that one but the site has copyright so I wrote a email requesting access to that paragraph onto my blog, they haven’t replied, if it is affirmative I will paste it at the earliest (otherwise readers can visit the website, please read it really is worth it).
These lines from poems of Kuvempu that is translated from Kannada I got it from Sahitya Akademi (Bengaluru) library. These are not complete poems but few lines from each…
Darkness gives us glimpses of world far, far away
what the day conceals, the night reveals.
The splendor of the sky far exceeds the charm of the earth
Life is like the day, death like the night.
If life lights up this world, death illumines
the grandeur of immortality.
Is it life that is blind?
Is it death that has splendid eyes?
I like the poem “The tree’s shadow” a lot, it is an image we see everyday and haven’t given much thought about. That is where greatness of Kuvempu comes in (shadows are tied and tells me about my freedom!. Quite an incredible conception that one). I quote few charming lines from the translated version of the poem.
The tree’s shadow
Is there lying there as usual!
This reign of regulations troubles me
like the curse of generations.
I am anxious to swallow and digest
and transcends these rules-
That tree’s shadow
like spilt ink on the green field
lies lengthily like an ill omen.
Its innocent silent speech disturbs
my soul with its wail and remind me
of the message of freedom
which I have forgotten
These amazing lines from “Clouds”
Clouds? No not clouds but fairest spirits
are these, purest souls, like Christ, like the Buddha
beings that have been here, or will be,
moods from the high, meditation, earth’s bliss!
Kuvempu is someone I have started to like immensely (Indian literature is so wide with so many languages that we really don’t know many of these great souls from regional languages nor do I recall studying about them in school [children in government schools in Karnataka do sing Kuvempu as part of morning prayer. Isn’t that wonderful?!). It is failure of the education system. It is a shame. There should be a subject on “knowing the literary icons” from different Indian languages, as also some amazing people from other countries, in schools]. The more you know about him more you know how great he was. His words are so vibrant that you don’t think he is dead.
I was in Mysuru (Mysore) sometime back and thought of walking to Kuvempu’s house early morning. Its about 4Km from bus stand and Mysore is one of my favorite cities (such a charming place that one) and a great place for morning walks. “Udayagiri”- Kuvempu’s home, was where he spent last decades of his life. This small poem I wrote the other day would have found appreciation with Kuvempu (I like to think that way!!). I was in Western Ghats a week back (I am thinking of making it a regular feature…but the travel in state buses can be back breaking!) and saw this sight early morning and had to express in verse, don’t know whether I succeeded. It is something that comes as impulse, like a lightening of words, from somewhere inside and lo they call it poem!. And yes I too like it…