1 Mahābhāratas in Kannada: Texts and Contexts 1 T.S. Satyanath 2 Abstract This paper is an attempt to understand the multiple versions of Mahābhārata narratives in Kannada as pluralistic epistemologies. As pluralistic epistemologies they coexist side by side, cater to the sectarian needs of the community and also lead to certain degree of syncretism by mutually absorbing from each other s traditions. Scripto-centric versions of the Mahābhārata narratives from Jaina and Brahminical traditions, phonocentric version from a Tāntric tradition and a body-centric version from a version in sculpture and painting have been discussed to demonstrate various aspects of pluralistic epistemologies of the Mahābhārata tradition in Kannada. It has been further suggested that a complex interrelationship between textual tradition, medieval kāvya recitation tradition (gamakavācana) and the folk performing tradition (yaks agāna) created an intextuality of narrative traditions in medieval Karnataka that has been responsible for coexistence of multiple traditions as pluralistic epistemologies. 1. INTRODUCTION It would be appropriate for us to start the discussion by listening to one of the introductory verses from Karnāt a-bhārata-kathāmanjari of Kumāravyāsa, one of the most popular Mahābhārata texts in Kannada, and known popularly as Kumāravyāsa-bhārata. The text could be dated back to the mid-fifteenth century. The narration of the epic in a singing 1 An earlier version of this paper was presented at the National Seminar on Mahābhārata: Circumstances, Components, Outcome held during July, 2007 at Sri Venkateshwara College, New Delhi. I wish to thank Dr. Muralidhara Rao for inviting me to read a paper at the Seminar. 2 The author teaches Kannada and Comparative Indian Literature at the Department of Modern Indian Languages and Literary Studies, University of Delhi, Delhi. Medieval Indian Literature, Folklore Studies, Cultural Studies and Translation Studies are his areas of interest.
2 style is known as gamaka-vācana and the singer is M.R. Satyanarayana, son of renowned Gamaki M. Ragahvendrarao. 3 Though Kumāravyāsa-bhārata is available in several palm leaf manuscripts, the text actually us in currency only through oral recitation performances called gamaka-vācana. It typically consists of the text s recitation in musical form, set to the Rāgas of the Karnataki style of music, performed orally without using a written text, sometimes accompanied by an oral interpretation in prose in a dramatic dialogue format. Such a performance constitutes a typical gamaka-vācana performance. Although several palmleaf manuscripts of Kumāravyāsa-bhārata are available, their oral transmission has continued even to the present day through gamakavācanas. The text is composed in the metrical form bhāminī-s at padi, a sixline verse form, which is one of the most popular verse forms of medieval Kannada narrative poetry. Kannada folk plays, in particular the yaks agānas, are not only based on themes based on story-line in Kumāravyāsa-bhārata but also liberally make use of verses from it. One of the invocatory verses (1.19) of Kumāravyāsa-bhārata rightly captures the concept of pluralistic epistemology that is going to be discussed here. The verse is usually sung in every performance and is set to rāga Mōhana that is sung usually during the early morning hours. The works in italics and indicate the words used by the poet in the text. This work is- The lesson of velour (vīra) for the Kings, The essence of the great Vedas (parama-vēdada-sāra) for the Brahmins (dvija), The exposition of philosophy (tatva-vicāra) for the mendicants (yōgīśvara), The treasure house of wisdom (buddhi-gun a) for the ministers (mantrajana), The erotic experience (śr ŋgāra) for the pining ones (virahi), The book of poetics (alankāra) for the learned ones (vidyā-parin ta), As though a preceptor (guru) for the poetry (kāvya) itself, Kumāravyāsa composed this Bhārata Pluralistic Epistemology 3 Presently Mr. M.R. Satyanarayana is employed in the All India Radio, Bangalore as a Programme Executive.
3 The verse mentioned above claims that it caters to the needs of everyone alike: the King, Brahmin, mendicant, minister, lover, and scholar. Thus, at the beginning of the performance itself the verse rightly postulates a pluralistic epistemology that is characteristic of medieval Kannada poetry. Apart from this, a pluralistic epistemology of the Mahābhārata story exists as multiple sectarian versions of the episodes of the text, that have coexisted for centuries suggesting the equal significance of such texts for the culture as a whole, and a sectarian monopoly of the sectarian communities over their respective versions. It is in with background that we need to understand the Mahābhārata traditions in Kannada. It will not be possible to consider all the Mahābhārata traditions that are available in Kannada within the scope of the paper. However, four relevant traditions have been discussed which would help us in understanding the significance of pluralistic epistemology. 1. The Jaina tradition: Scripto-centric (manuscript) tradition Nēmināthapurān am. 2. The Brahminical tradition (Hindu): Phono-centric (oral) tradition Kumāravyāsa-bhārata. 3. The Natha secterian tradition (Folk): Body-centric (performing) tradition Arjuna-jōgi-hād u. 4. Folk theatre - Yaks agâna. 2. MAHABHARATA TRADITIONS IN KANNADA: 2.1. The Jaina Tradition: Unlike many other literatures of India, Kannada has a rich Jaina Rāmāyan a and Mahābhārata textual tradition. Similar to the Rāmāyan a tradition, Jains also have a Mahābhārata tradition, which in certain aspects deviates from the Hindu/Brahminical version of the story. The story of Jaina Mahābhārata forms a part of the story of the twenty-second Tīrthankara, Nēminātha. The sub-sectarian versions of the story are also available, corresponding to the Digambara and Śvētātmbara traditions The Life Story of Nēminātha:
4 As a part of the life story of Nēminātha, the stories of the Harivamśa and Kuruvamśa have been narrated, roughly corresponding to the stories of the Bhāgavata and the Mahābhārata. A survey of Kannada literature suggests that there as many as ten texts that have depicted the life of Nēminātha, during the time period A.D. Table 1 given below provides information regarding the author, title, time, the genre of the texts. Author Text Genre Time Gun avarma I Harivamśa 4 campū (?) c. 950 Cāvund arāya Cāvund arāya Purān a Prose c. 980 Karn apārya Nēminātha Purān am campū c Nēmicandra Nēminātha Purān a campū c Bandhuvarma Harivamśābhydaya campū c Mahābali Nēminātha Purān a campū c Mangarasa III Nēmijinēśa-sangati sāngatya c.1509 Sāl va Sāl va-bhārata - c Brahman ānka Jina-bhārata - c Pampa Vikramārjuna-vijaya 5 campū c. 933 Ranna Sāhasabhīma-vijayam 6 campū c Table 1. Details of texts in Jaina Mahābhārata Tradition in Kannada. The following points need to be kept in mind in order to understand the information provided in Table Scholars have pointed out that the Jaina version varies with that of the Hindu version on several accounts. 4 There are references to this text in literary canons and the poems have been used as examples for illustrations. However, the text is extant. 5 Pampa follows the Brahminical version of the Mahābhārata. In fact, he clearly states that he is going to swim across the great ocean of the nectar of narration of the sage Vyāsa and that he has no igo that he is as great as the great poet Vyāsa. 6 Ranna follows Pampa s story line as provided the Gadā and Sauptika parvas but elaborates and develops it into an independent kāvya.
5 2. The Jaina versions in Kannada have been claimed to follow the story line of Gun abhadra s Sanskrit version of Uttara-purân a (c. ninth centuary A.D.) on the one hand and Pus padanta s Apabhramsha version of Tisat ht i-mahāpurisa-gun ālankāra (c. ninth centuary A.D.) on the other. 3. However, the works of Pampa and Ranna follow the story line of the Sanskrit version of Vyāsa s Mahābhārata, despite they deviate from it in several aspects. The following observations could be made regarding the Jaina Mahābhārata tradition in Kannada based on the information given in Table 1. a. It is interesting to note that the Jaina poets gradually switch from the courtly campū style to popular s at padi and sāngatya styles around the fifteenth century A.D. b. This, in turn, suggests a shift from scripto-centric textual tradition to the phono-centric recitation tradition that the Jaina Mahābhārata tradition took over a period of time. c. Such a shift textual to recitation tradition suggests the popularity of the gamaka-vācana tradition in medieval Kannada literature From Court Culture to Popular/Folk Culture: The beginnings of literature in Kannada started during the early part of the tenth century with the Jaina poets composing the purānas and carites pertaining to the life of the sixty-three salākapurusas, whom they highly revere. The genre that they chose was campū 7 that is conspicuously marked by meters from Sanskrit and also in prose. They used a metrical system that is known as aks ara-chandas, derived from Sanskrit metrical system. In this sense, the literary representations of this period are classical, Sanskritic, unitary and homogeneous in nature suggesting a more or less singular epistemology. 7 A style of epic poetry that was popular in royal courts; both verse and prose are used interspersingly.
6 However, by mid-eleventh century, the Vīraśaiva literature that emerged used a hitherto unheard genre called vacana 8, which is a form of free verse, probably taken from the local tradition. However, Vīraśaiva poets also made use of campū style and introduced new genre such as ragal e 9 and s at padi 10. Though metrically both the genres have been traced as Kannada s amśi-chandas by scholars, they exhibit metrical characteristics belonging to Prakrit metrical system known as the mātrāchandas. Interestingly, the Jaina and the Vīraśaiva poets made use of the available genres alike except for the fact that the vacanas remained exclusively as the genre of the Vīraśaiva poets. As we come towards fifteenth century A.D., the Haridāsas joined the scene with their Vias n avite Bhakti compositions called the kirtanes. 11 The Vias n avite poets, many of them Brahmins, also composed the Kannada Hindu versions of the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyana. The Jaina, Virashiva and Vias n avite hagiographic and canonization activity continued during this period. The subsequent period, fifteenth to eighteenth century A.D. saw the emergence of historical narratives of the heroes belonging to non-agrarian communities, pastoralists, nomads and hunters, who ruled over the region of Deccan as the feudal lords and chieftains. In additions to the Jaina, Vīraśaiva, Vias n avite and Brahminical compositions, these historical narratives became the characteristic narratives of this period. New genres known as sāngatya 12 and tripadi 13 both based on the Dravidian metrical 8 The term means sayings and refers to the Vīraśaiva Bhakti poems. 9 A style of narrative poetry written in a verse that resembles blank verse, with an end rhyme scheme. Usually used for narratives and hagiographies. Kannada scholars point out that it has been borrowed from Prakrit. 10 A style of epic poetry composed in a six-line meter that is usually sung. 11 Literally means to sing in praise; these are compositions set to various rāgas of Karnataki style of music. 12 A style of epic poetry composed in a four-line meter that is usually sung. Kannada scholars point out that it is one of the native metrical genres. 13 Poetry composed in a three-line meter that is usually sung. Although the meter appears in Kannada inscriptions right from the eighth century A.D., its extensive use could be
7 system called the amśī-chandas emerged during this period and were extensively used by the poets. The entire discussion suggesting a shift from unitary mode of campū style to pluralistic multiple styles could be diagrammatically conceived as given in Figure A.D A.D. Classical, Unitary Sanskrit, c a Prakrit ragal e 1500 A.D. Dēsi vacana 1800 A.D. Pluralistic Epistemologies Folk tripad i Figure 1: Schematic diagram showing the history of Kannada Literature Transforming from Unitary to Pluralistic Epistemologies Towards Pluralistic Epistemologies The emergence of texts on performing traditions, as body-based knowledge systems, such as medicine, knowledge of artisan and professional communities, could also be noticed during this period. In fact, there is a systematic attempt to codify such knowledge systems and bring them into scripto-centric format in the form of śāstra texts and encyclopedias. At the same time, several performing traditions of such as Yaksagāna performing tradition, involving literature, music, and dance come to the forefront during found in folklore. Kannada scholars point out that it is one of the native metrical genres.
8 the same period. Thus the development of the history of Kannada literature could be perceived as a movement from a singular to pluralistic epistemologies on the one hand and from scripto-centric court poetry to phono- and body-centric popular and folk performing traditions on the other The Brahminical Tradition: Compared to the Jaina tradition and numerically speaking, one might feel that the writing of Brahminical Mahābhārata in Kannada is not significant. However, the popularity of the only available text and its impact on traditional and folk theatre of Karnataka is so profound that it virtually influenced all aspects of literary expression. The text under discussion, Kumāravyāsa-bhārata, has continued to remain as the most influential Brahminical (Hindu) Mahābhārata text, ever since its composition in the mid-fifteenth century. It is composed in bhāminī-s at padi, a six-line meter that is ideal for rendering in the gamaka style. However, for the author, the text is Kr s n a-kathe, rather than the story of Mahābhārata. The text has continued to exist in oral tradition despite nearly 30 manuscripts have been reported to have been found. Accordingly, there is a great degree of variation, which often is designated as interpolations. At the same time such diversity is the characteristic feature of texts and reflects one of the characteristic features of pluralistic epistemology. The dominance of Kumāravyāsa-bhārata in post-fifteenth century Karnataka is evident from the fact that a need for another version of the Mahābhārata was never felt till mid-twentieth century, when a need for a prose rendering of the epic was felt for the newly educated Kannada speaking community. The importance of the text for our purposes is rather in its process of transmission than the text per say. In section 2.6, a detailed discussion has been done on Kumāravyāsa-bhārata as a text and its musical and performative dimensions The Folk Tradition: Though several versions of the Mahābhārata story has been reported in the folklore of Karnataka, a discussion on the version of the Kinnari Jōgis has been taken up here as the Kinnari Jōgis version represents the version of the Nātha secterian community and there by the Tāntric version of the Mahābhārata story. Kinnari Jōgis, a term usually used to refer to a specific
9 group of itinerary singers in Karnataka, is one among several types of Jōgis who have been identified as belonging to a scheduled tribe. Among these groups, it is the Kinnari Jōgis who as nomadic singers, sing and enact the episodes of the Mahābhārata and other stories to the beats of Kinnari, a sectarian string instrument. There is a fascinating aspect about the multilingual repertoire of the Kinnari Jōgis. Though Kinnari Jogis have been claimed to be professional singers who sing Arjuna Jōgi s song in Kannada, the reality is far different from it and represents one of the most bewildering aspects of the tradition. The sectarian epic that the Kinnari Jōgis sing is a version of Mahābhārata, known as Arjuna-jōgi-hād u, an epic which extends for nearly hours. Apart from the fact that the narrative is sung in Kannada in Kannada speaking areas, Kinnari Jōgis sing the narrative in Telugu during their migration in the Telugu speaking regions. They also claim that they use to sing the epic in Marathi when they use to go to Marathi speaking areas, which has been abandoned among the past one or two generations. A cheap book version of the Arjuna Jōgi episode is available under the title Gil iya-hād u mattu arjunana jōgi-hād u The songs of the parrot and Arjuna Jōgi A Nātha version of the Mahābhārata: The version of the Mahābhārata that the Kinnari Jōgi tradition narrates depicts Arjuna as a Jōgi going to the region of Malayāl a (Kerala) as a part of the pilgrimage and marrying the princes of the region, Citrām gadā and Ulūpi. The association of Kinnari Jōgi tradition to Jōgis on the one hand and to kinnari and singināda (deer-horn) on the other establishes their version of the Mahābhārata to the Nātha sectarian group. A visit to Kadiri (near Mangalore) and Adichunchanagiri (near Mysore), during their itinerary, further establishes their association with the sect. Both places are of religious importance to the Nātha sect as the sectarian mat has have been located there. Repeated reference to Bhairava as the deity worshipped in the two centers and references to 14 The date of publication of the text is not given in the text. Two reprints giving their year of publication as 1992 and 1996 have been mentioned. However, the original publisher of the text has been given as Vanivilasa Book Depot, Mysore suggesting that printing of the first edition may well go back to the later part of the nineteenth century.
10 him in the narratives they sing further substantiates this point. Furthermore, thematically speaking, the all powerful women characters of the Kinnari-jōgi version of Mahābhārata points towards a Tāntric version of the Mahābhārata tradition Mahābhārata in Context - The Performing Tradition: It has already been pointed out that the actual contexts of the written Kumāravyāsa-bhārata were the gamaka-vācana performances. There is a surprisingly high degree of agreement in the musical notes (rāgas) that are used in the gamaka-vācana narrations and the Yaks agāna performances, the folk performing theatre of Karnataka. Both performances typically start with rāga nāt a and ends with madhymāvati and saurās t ra. In fact, the poetry narration and folk theatre in other Dravidian languages use similar conventions. Apart from such form sensitive similarities, verses from Kumāravyāsa-bhārata provide the story line for the Yaks agāna performances. In the Yaks agāna performances, it is the Bhāgavata as the narrator who recites the verses and the songs that constitutes the episode that is being performed. We can notice a convergence of the scripto-centric, phono-centric and bodycentric traditions taking place in the cultural milieu of medieval Karnataka bringing an interesting intertextuality among different representations. Kumāravyāsa-bhārata consists of only the story of the first ten parvas; Timmanna (c.1510 A.D.) completed the rest of the eight parvas. In order to understand the structural similarities between the composition of parvas and its subdivisions, namely sandhis (literally means joints ), and the gamaka-vācana and Yaks agāna performances, we need to take a comparative look at them. Each sandhi starts with a sūcanā-padya synoptic verse, a half-verse, that provides a brief summary of the episode that forms the sandhi. In gamaka-vācana performances, a selected episode from Kumāravyāsa-bhārata is narrated which starts with the introductory verses, followed by the synoptic verse and then the episode, ending with verses wishing mangal a and phalaśr ti. Interestingly, the Yaks agāna performances too contain a similar synoptic verse that is narrated at the beginning of the performance and follow a similar pattern. In some performances, the synoptic verse used in the textual version itself could become the synoptic verse of a performance. Thus Kumāravyāsa-bhārata, gamaka-vācana recitation 15 For a detailed discussion on the Kinnari Jōgis, see Satyanath (2004).
11 and Yaks agāna performances have converged to have a structural similarity, thereby suggesting a convergence of scripto-centric (manuscript), phono-centric (oral narration) and body-centric (performance) traditions during medieval Kannada literature. The very fact that all the three traditions remained intact, catering to the needs of different consumers and their sensibilities and at the same time constantly evolving accommodating changes within and from outside suggests the dynamics of pluralistic epistemologies in medieval Kannada literary milieu. 3. THE DYNAMICS OF PLURALISTIC EPISTEMOLOGIES: The discussion done so far suggests that in the case of medieval tellings, renderings, performances, and such cultural transactions, categories such as gender, caste, religion, sect and language not only interconnect multiple representations with each other but also keeps in tact the monopolistic rights of such categories over their knowledge and its representation. Furthermore, the telling and rendering activities, whether they belong to scripto-centric, phono-centric or body-centric tradition, constitute a pluralistic epistemology on the one hand and keep the pluralistic communities aware of the meanings and messages that the multiple tellings and renderings are trying to communicate. This provides an opportunity for the communities not only to sustain their own knowledge and its representation tradition but also appreciate, respect and accommodate the knowledge and representation traditions of others. In order to further demonstrate this point a detailed discussion on the episode of Kirāta Śiva and Arjuna from the Mahābhārata story has been taken up The Episode of Kirāta Śiva and Arjuna: There is an interesting episode in several medieval Indian texts in which Arjuna in the guise of an ascetic performs penance and fights a battle over a wild boar with Śiva who is in the guise of a Kirāta. Scholars (Smith 1987) have pointed out that the episode was highly popular, particularly in the region of Karnataka. The story of the episode as it is generally known is from the Vanaparvan of the Mahābhārata and is distributed over the Arjunābhigamana, Kairāta and Indralokāgamana parvas of the epic. It has been speculated that this episode is not an integral part of the epic as only the South Indian recensions contain the episode. Despite the availability of
12 the Sanskrit Mahābhārata and the Kirātārjunīya (Bharavi, c. sixth century A.D.) versions of the episode, the Kannada poets, Sthal apurān as, sculptors and painters appear to follow a local version of the episode. A detailed survey of the literary works in Kannada in which the Kirāta Śiva and Arjuna s episode appears has reported in detail in Rao (1979). Apart from this, Karnataka has rich folk, sculptural and painting representations of the episode Kannada Local Version: Several textual versions of the episode have been written in Kannada, and they can be broadly classified into two traditions. In the Kirāta and Arjuna episodes of early Kannada Jaina Mahābhārata narratives, a local folk version of the episode appears which differs radically from the epic and Bharavi s versions. In the version of Pampa, Vikramārjana-vijayam 16 (c. 932 A.D.), after a series of fights using different weapons, Arjuna pushes Kirāta to the floor and is about to throttle him from his toe. Śiva is said to have accepted this defeat happily as he wanted to fulfill Pārvatī s desire of seeing the auspicious mark on the right shoulder of Arjuna. Pampa s version of the Mahābhārata belongs to the Jaina tradition. However, Ranna, a contemporary of Pampa, also a Jaina poet, refers to this version in only one poem in his epic Gadāyaddha (c. 993 A.D.). Similarly, Nemichandra s Līlāvatī-prabandham (c A.D.), another Jaina work, refers to this version in just one poem. There are also several Kannada renderings of the episode based not on the folk version, but on the story in the Hindu version of the Mahābhārata. To name a few instances, we have Lakkanna Dandesha s Śivatatva-cintāman i (c.1440 A.D.), Virupaksha Pandita s Cannabasava-purān a (1585 A.D.), and Shadaksharadeva s Śabaraśankara-vil āsam (c.1670) constitute the Vīraśaiva version of the Mahābhārata tradition in Kannada. There is also a rendering of the episode in the Karnāt aka-bhārata-kathāmanjari (also known as Kumāravyāsa-bhārata) by Kumara Vyasa, a sixteenth-century Brahmin poet. Several other literary works in which the Kirāta Śiva and Arjuna episode can be found are reported in detail in Rao (1979). In addition to these two traditions, the Karnataka region has rich folk, sculptural and painted representations of this episode which follow the local 16 Pampa ( A.D.) was the court poet of Vengi Cālukya King Arikesari II and is known as a great Kannada poet.
13 folk version and differ radically from the Mahābhārata and mahākāvya versions Sculptural and Painting Versions: What makes the sculptural and painting version interesting is that despite the presence of the scripto-centric versions (textual) of the episode around, the local version of the episode is found in these representations. Out of 15 sculptural and 7 painting representations available from the Badami Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Kalyani Chalukya, Hoysala and Vijayanagara periods, and spanning over a period of eighth to fifteenth century A.D., a majority of them actually follow the local version of the episode (Rao 1979). 17 It is only during the post-vijayanagara period that we notice the epic version s influence appearing, that too in the paintings. The information regarding the distribution of sculptural and painting representations is given in Table 2. The following observations can be made based on the information in the table. 1. The Mahābhārata and Kirātārjunīya versions of the episode are conspicuously absent in the sculptural representations from the Bādami Cālukya, Rās t rakūt a, Kalyān i Cālukya, Hoysal a and Vijayanagara periods. Although the Sanskritic version of the episode was in currency in the courts and among the elite, the sculptural representations many of which were, interestingly, sponsored by the royal court followed the local folk version rather than the epic or the mahākāvya versions. 2. It is noteworthy that it is the local folk version that was followed in most of these early representations in sculpture. As sculptural and painted representations belong to a body-centric knowledge system and are executed by the community that owns the knowledge system, it appears that these communities retained their version intact without being influenced by the version from the scripto-centric knowledge system. 3. The Mahābhārata and mahākāvya (i.e., non-local) versions of the episode start appearing only after the fifteenth century A.D. It is noteworthy that 17 Rao (1979) reports in Appendix C twenty-two instances of representation of the Kirāta Śiva and Arjuna s episode in sculpture (15) and paintings (7) from the region of Karnataka and six instances of representations of the episode from outside Karnataka, out of which three each from sculpture and painting respectively.
14 these are paintings, not sculptures. This suggests a drastic change in the medium and style of representations during the Vijayanagara period. 4. The high number of representations from uncertain traditions suggests the mixing of traditions and styles that took place during the Vijayanagara period, and it corresponds with their painted representations. 5. The type and nature of interface category as an overlapping system 18 that has been suggested central to the history of South India during the postfifteenth century period also appear to hold good in the case of textual and sculptural/painted representations, giving rise to mixed versions of the episode. 6. A high number of representations from the uncertain category suggest the mixing of the traditions that takes place during the post-vijayanagara period and interestingly corresponds to painted representations of the episode. 7. The composition of Kumāravyāsa-bhārata and its usage in forms like Gamaka-vācana, Yaks agāna and puppet theatre might have been responsible for the emergence of mixed versions of the episode. This however, needs further investigation. Style Mahābhārata Kirātārjunīya Local Uncertain Badami Chalukya* Rashtrakuta* Hoysala* Vijayanagara* Post-Vijayanagara# Total Table. 2: Table showing the Episodes of Kirāta Śiva and Arjuna in Sculptures and Paintings. (* Sculptures; # Paintings) 18 The ecosystems of agrarians and non-agrarians during the medieval period have been designated as habitat (nād u) and wilderness (kād u) respectively. However, the ecosystem of the non-agrarian communities (pastoralists, nomads and hunters) constitute an interface zone between habitat and wilderness, where the characteristics of the two ecosystems becomes blur to constitute an interface zone. Grazing pastures, hunting lands, sacred groves traditionally constitutes such interface zones. For a detailed discussion see Satyanath (2001).
15 In order to substantiate the point made above, we need to look at the earliest and the latest representations of this episode in sculpture and painting. Figure 2 shows a sculpture that is located on a pillar in the navaranga of the Virupaksha Temple in Pattadakal and depicts Kirāta Śiva and Arjuna in the fighting scene. It belongs to Bādami Cālukyan style and has been dated to 740 A.D. The lines of the sculpture are remarkable for their pleasing aesthetic appeal and balanced ornamentation. This representation provides an ideal example of the folk version. The following details of the episode can be observed. (The panel needs to be read from left to right.) Figure 2: Kirāta Episode from Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal Badami Chalukya Style (c. 740 A.D.) The details of the episode are as follows: Arjuna is performing penance standing on one leg. Arjuna shooting at Mūkāsura, in anthropomorphic as well as boar form. Kirāta, followed by Kirāti and a dog, is shooting an arrow at Mūkāsura.
16 Arjuna and Kirāta are engaged in fighting with bow and arrows. Arjuna and Kirāta are engaged in wrestling; Kirāta has been put down. Arjuna is about to deliver a blow from his left-hand. Kirāti is watching the wrestling. Śiva and Pārvatī are bestowing the Pāśupata missile to Arjuna. The depiction on two more sides of the pillar (that have not been given here) show Arjuna being escorted by Mātali is proceeding to the world of Indra (heaven) and is being received by the Apsarās. Finally, Arjuna is coming back to his brothers in the forest. In order to understand and appreciate astonishing continuities with in the body-centric representation traditions such as sculpture and painting, we can look at a nineteenth century painting, reproduced here as Figure 3, from illustration XLI in Rao (1979). The painting has to be read from left to right and from the bottom panel to the top in order to get the right sequence of the events of the episode. Notice the significant change in the details of ornamentation as compared to its sculptural counterpart done almost twelve centuries ago. Figure 3: Kirāta Episode: Traditional Painting, Mysore Style, 19 th Centuary A.D Rao (1979) notes that the reproduction of the painting is due to the couttesy of Sri. M.C. Krishnaswamy of Mysore. It is reproduced here again for the benefit of the readers
17 The details of the episode are as follows: Arjuna is performing penance. Arjuna and Kirāta are killing the wild boar. The sages and ladies of the forest are observing Arjuna. The Kirāta with his retinue arriving on the scene. Arjuna worshipping the linga. The Kirāta is sitting in front of Arjuna observing him. The flowers offered to the linga by Arjuna are falling on the Kirāta s head. The Kirāta and Arjuna are fighting with bow and arrows. The Kirāta deliberately falls down, indicating with his index finger to Pārvati, the auspicious mark on Arjuna s back, while Arjuna is throttling him with his left hand and about to beat him with right. Pārvati is standing behind Arjuna, indicating with her right hand that she has seen the mark. Arjuna is prostrating to Śiva who is blessing him. Śiva and Pārvati are handing over the Pāśupata and Anjalīka missiles to Arjuna in the presence of Gan ēśa and S an mukha. Arjuna is returning to his brothers and Draupadi. The merging of distinctions between the written, oral and performance texts - or to put it the other way, lack of distinctions between scripto-centric and phono-centric texts on the one hand and the crucial role of body-centric performing traditions in shaping and determining the performing texts on the other - have played an important role, both at conceptual and performing levels, eventually shaping the construction, composition, maintenance and transmission of textual, oral and performing traditions of Karnataka. Such multiple tellings and renderings have significant implications for understanding the nature of cultural transactions among different sectarian and social groups in medieval India on the one hand and the nature of text and its context on the other. It has been suggested here that the multiple communities maintain an intimate and monopolistic control with their version of the episode of Kirāta Śiva and Arjuna, which eventually is responsible for the retention and continuity of multiple versions of the and viewers with due acknowledgements to Dr. Nagaraja Rao and Sri. Krishnaswamy.
18 episode for centuries. It is in this sense that the pluralisation of religious space be it in a temple, hagiography, sthal apurān a, or different versions of the episode of Kirāta Śiva and Arjuna eventually leads to the accommodation of multiple communities and their supra-local versions of the episode within the repertoire of medieval Karnataka. The entire discussion has been represented diagrammatically in Figure 4. Mahābhārata Sanskrit Hindu PANINDIAN IAN Kirātārjunīya Sanskrit Hindu Kumāravyāsabhārata Kannada Hindu LOCAL Vikramārjunavijayam Kannada Jaina O Legend/sthal apurān a Kannada Multiple Sculpture/Painting - Multiple Figure 4: Schematic diagram showing the Tellings/Renderings as Pluralistic Epistemologies. 4. IMPLICATIONS: a. Mahābhārata traditions are pluralistic epistemologies, both in terms of religious systems and representation systems. b. Mahābhārata as pluralistic epistemologies suggest the coexistence of sectarian textual traditions such as Jaina, Brahminical and Nātha.
19 c. Mahābhārata tellings and renderings exist in multiple representational systems such as manuscripts, oral traditions, performing traditions, paintings and sculptures. d. Often, convergences among such pluralistic systems are possible suggesting a collective appropriation of textual and contextual traditions. e. Mahābhārata tellings and renderings are neither hierarchical nor in a relationship of power, suggesting epistemologies of equal significance. f. The merging of distinctions between the written, oral and performance texts - or to put it the other way, lack of distinctions between scripto-centric and phono-centric texts on the one hand and the crucial role of body-centric performing traditions in shaping and determining the performing texts on the other - have played an important role, both at conceptual and performing levels, eventually shaping the construction, composition, maintenance and transmission of textual, oral and performing traditions of Karnataka. The issues of text and context that has been raised here suggests that in the case of tellings and renderings as cultural transactions in medieval Karnataka on the one hand and texts and contexts on the other, categories such as gender, caste, religion, sect and language not only interconnect with each other but also protect the rights of these categories over their knowledge and information systems. Furthermore, the telling and rendering activities be they scripto-centric (writing traditions), phono-centric (oral traditions) or body-centric (performing traditions), tend to become an ingroup activity meant for the exclusive consumption of the categorical groups who were rightful owners of their knowledge and information systems. Thus, although different groups shared a pluralistic epistemology, which enabled them to understand each other s epistemology, their group-specific right over knowledge and information remained protected through multiple telling and rendering systems, over which they retained monopolistic control. It was through unique cultural transactions such as the retention of multiple telling and rendering traditions through multiple texts and contexts that medieval Karnataka was able to keep the pluralistic knowledge and
20 information systems intact and alive, thereby preventing them being dominated and appropriated by others. REFERENCES: Rao, M.S. Nagaraja Kirātārjunīyam in Indian Art (with special reference to Karnataka). Delhi: Agam Kala Publications. Satyanath, T.S Peripatetic Performers and Pluralistic Epistemologies: Understanding the Knowledge System of Kinnari Jogis. Paper presented at the International Conference on Religion in the Indic Civilizations held during December 18-21, 2004 organized by the Association for the Study for the History of Religions and Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. Satyanath, T.S Problematizing Folk Popular Traditions: The Pastoralist Traditions of Mailara/Mallayya/Khandoba. In Dravidian Folk and Tribal Lore, ed. by B. Ramakrishna Reddy. Kuppam: Dravidian University. Smith, D The Dance of Shiva: Religion Art and Poetry in South India, Kuncitanghristava: The hymn in Praise to (Nataraja s) Curved Foot by Umapati Sivacarya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.