Introduction to the Kathāmṛta – Part 20 - Conclusion

This article is part 20 of 20 in the series Introduction to the Kathāmṛta

Conclusion:

Even as I wrote this work, my daughter Smt. Shanta and grand-daughter Smt. Leela went through different segments and expressed their delight. They have now completed their studies and are married. This work contains several stories which they can tell their family and friends. This collection of stories cannot be read in a day and hands extended seeking another story book. It contains such a huge number of stories. For a person who has got bored of eating sweet delights only and would like to try something spicy and tangy can take up the reading of these stories – as he reads the work, his head may even start reeling. There are works in English which compile stories from around a certain country – similarly, this work puts together the best of the stories from ancient India – there are hundreds of stories here. It wouldn’t be wrong to call this a treasure chest of stories – if the Kannada populace reads and enjoys them, I will deem my efforts fulfilled.

The ‘stories of fools’ that occurs in the work were read by my grandson, Satyamurti – he is a seven-year-old kid! He has also given me assurance that he will not turn out to be like them. I pray got that his confidence will find fructification.

I was pleased by the kind of appreciation ad reception that my work ‘Vacana Bhārata’, published about two years back received from our people. I felt happy that our people still have regard for Vyāsa and Valmiki. I request my brothers and sisters of the country to display similar affection for this work as well. Though Guṇāḍhya does not hold the title of maharṣi, like Vyāsa and Vālmīki, he certainly belongs to their ranks and is as popular as them. He has been considered a second reincarnation of Vyāsa by several scholars of the past -

atidīrghajīvidoṣāt vyāsenayaśopahāritaṃ hanta!

kainocyeta guṇāḍhyaḥ sa eva janmāntarāpannaḥ ||- Govardhana

It was the German scholars who brought this work to light. There are several works composed in English based on the writings of Brockhaus, Weber, Winternitz and others. The Kathā-sarit-sāgara has been translated into several European languages as well. Yet, there has not yet been a concise retelling of the work in its entirety in the Kannada language and I thus, took this job up. 

There is a lot more material in English to expand the prologue, notes, and detailed explanations. There are volumes written just on Sāta-vāhana. Who will buy this book if all such materials are presented? How many will read it with interest? No matter how much the English have exploited our resources, from their interest in literature definitely our literature has gained a lot, and will continue to gain. There have been attempts to banish it out of our country as soon as possible and prop up hindi as the alternative. In the  crevices of Hindi what would happen to English, Sanskrit and Kannada? Kannada is no less compared to Hindi in any aspect, antiquity, breadth or quality. Given enough opportunities it can grow along Hindi; it can even grow beyond; but who has given a thought about this? Hindi has become the government’s language by the strength of the legislature; that is indeed the National language, not others, is what the whole country is trumpeting about. In this difficult situation we neither are proud of our mother tongue like how Telugu/Tamil speakers are when it comes to their language; If there is a need for an encyclopedic work, the education minister himself/herself would form a committee and preside over it; providing lakhs of rupees as funds; giving honorarium to the writers. The work starts immediately. In our state, the benefit we sometimes get from even a small-time book vendor, we don’t get from the government.

Kathā-sarit-sāgara was born in Kashmir; Kashmir in the backdrop of the divine Himalayas shone as the abode of Sarasvatī in ancient times; Probably the Mahā-bhārata text found it’s final (current) form there; that’s where the oldest manuscript was found too. Famous by the time of Ādi-śankara as the place of higher learning and it made him travel from the southern tip of India. Great scholars like Vāmana, Abhinava-gupta, Ānanda-vardhana etc were born in Kashmir and composed great works both in literature and sciences. Kṣemendra and Soma-deva too belong to the same illustrious array of scholars. Soma-deva’s work has now been translated to all the important languages of the world and has been of great use to study and research on the topic of story writing. After him, in a span of eleven centuries, the situation of Kashmir has turned upside down; even now it is world-famous for its natural beauty; but where is the knowledge, where is the erudition? What lies in the future? In the next three hundred or even a thousand years, by the grace of the Goddess Sarasvatī, will it again be able to rebuild the palace of erudition and knowledge?

During the writing of Vacana-bhārata and also during this work, my friend Shri. H.M. Shankaranarayana has been a great help. For one year, his copy of the Kathā-sarit-sāgara lies in my hands, torn and soiled. Even though he might be sad to see the current state of his book, I feel, he might be relieved to know that it helped in bringing out this book in Kannada.

Last but not the least, I express my heartfelt gratitude to the officers incharge of the Wesley press. They have printed this book with efficiency, in a beautiful manner, without delay. The respect they have bestowed upon me and my work is boundless.

vaidagdhya-khyāti-lobhāya mama naivāyam-udyama

kintu nānā-kathā-jāla-smti-saukarya-siddhaye

 

वैदग्ध्यख्यातिलोभाय मम नैवायमुद्यमः

किन्तु नानाकथाजालस्मृतिसौकर्यसिद्धये

 

This work has not been undertaken by me greedy of erudition or fame, but to just facilitate ease of memory of the web of stories (as a compilation/ready reckoner).

 

Bangalore,

December 9th, 1951                                        A.R.Krishnashastry

 

 

This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Kathāmṛta by Raghavendra G S, Arjun Bharadwaj,  Srishan Thirumalai, and Hari Ravikumar. This brings the introductory segments of the work to an end. Starting next week, we are going to see the stories from the work.

The original Kannada version of Kathāmṛta is available for free online reading here. To read other works of Prof. Krishna Shastri, click here.


 

Author(s)

About:

Prof. A R Krishna Sastri was a journalist, scholar, polyglot, and a pioneer of the modern Kannada renaissance, who founded the literary journal Prabuddha Karnāṭaka. His Vacana-bhārata and Kathāmṛta are classics of Kannada literature while his Saṃskṛta-nāṭaka and Bankimacandra are of unrivalled scholarship.

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