Image 01


September 23rd, 2010 by anuradha

After erecting three pillars

The gross, the subtle and the causal bodies

After beating the buffalo's rough hide with a staff

Of the manifest and the hidden to remove the flesh;

After tanning the hide with the fiber of dualism;

The caustic juice of quintessence;

The blemishes of the soul thus destroyed,

I have come to reach the sandals to the feet of the wearer.

Take care, not of the ground below

But of the path they tread

Do not be a slave to the hand-awl, the blade or the peg

Know Ramarama, your own true self

The joy of joys. 



Prose poems that could be sung, recited and performed forms the bulk of the Vachana literature of Medieval Karnataka. They were written to question and respond to dualities , largely by poets from the artisan and untouchable castes. Vachana poetry is also the longest, continuous critique of the caste system, spanning several centuries (11th to 18th century).

The Dalit poet, Madara Channiah is considered the father of Vachana poetry. He pioneered the effective use of metaphors from the everyday, marking a clear departure from the earlier ornate and contrived poetic traditions of ancient Kannada literature.

H.S Shiva Prakash says “ The manner in which this cobbler-saint combines abstract philosophical preoccupations with a vision of a society free of caste differences and expresses them in concrete metaphors taken from the cobbler’s trade is astounding”.  

Source: H S Shiva Prakash's chapter on 'Medieval Kannada Literature' in the book Medieval Indian Literature: an anthology, Vol 3. 


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