Kannada, Kannadiga, Kannadigaru, Karnataka,

Kannadigarella ondaagi Kannadavannu ulisona, kalisona and belesona

Pampa (942 A.D)

Pampa (942 A.D)

Pampa was the greatest poet of the century. He has been a venerable name in Kannada literature even after many centuries. His position of pre eminence as a poet has never been questioned and his influence is still alive.  The poet himself gives a few biographical details to us.

Pampa was born in 902 A.D. His ancestors were followers of the Vedic religion. But his father was a follower of Jainism. Of his early life nothing much is known. He must have spent a good number of years in equipping himself for his future career as a poet. He deeply learned the classics of Sanskrit and Prakrit literatures. The Ramayana and the Mahabharatha were familiar to him. He was a master of Jain Philosophy and hagiology.

Treatises on music, dancing, painting, sculpture, medicine, politics, economics, embroidery and other fine arts had claimed his earnest attention. It is amazing how an individual could acquaint himself with so many subjects.

It is no exaggeration to say that Pampa was the most learned of the Kannada poets. In addition to his vast learning he had the divine gift of poesy in him. He had a penetrating imagination, which could see into the heart of things. His emotional response to the beauty in nature and the human spirit was intense. But its expression was remarkable for its restraint. He was sensitive and modest and could not compromise with mediocrity and pretence. A healthy confidence in his powers as a man of letters has lent dignity to his personality. With a complexion neither dark nor light, with a head crowned with curly hair, with a stature neither tall nor short, with a language soft and sober and charming Pampa was a very delightful person to behold and converse with.

As a young man he must have traveled widely and must have seen for himself the very best in the life of people. He finally settled himself as a poet in the court of Arikesari II, a prince of the Chalukya family and a feudatory of the Rashtrakuta monarch Krishna III.  In 942 A.D. when he was thirty-nine years old he composed the ‘Adipurna’, a few years later, he produced ‘Vikramarjuna Vijaya’ popularly known as Pampa Bharata.  These two works are the glory of Kannada literature and are of permanent value.

The Adipurana depicts the story of Adinatha or Purudeva, the first of the twenty-four Thirthankaras in Jainism.  It is religion poem narrating the pilgrimage of a soul towards perfection and its final attainment.  Pampa inherited the theme from Jinasena II who wrote his ‘Adipurna’ in Sanskrit in elaborate and leisurely way and with classical dignity.  In abridging this work and endowing it with an artistic form Pampa had to exercise his faculties to the utmost.  He has mercilessly cut down the long didactic sections on Jaina dogmatic and omitted the inter loping episodes and stories whose connection with the central theme was casual.  Divested of this lumber, the central story rises to the forefront and grips the attention.  

In the ten stories of the previous birth of the Thirthankara, which appear to be unconnected with each other, Pampa could perceive a principle, which united them into a whole.  In the first five births the desire for enjoyment is supreme and intense; in the succeeding births it gradually wears off yielding place to renunciation culminating in the realization of infinite and everlasting happiness, which is the inherent nature of, the soul.  It is the perception that makes the Adipurana of Pampa a work of Art.

Vikramarjuna Vijaya:

It is also called as Pampa Bharatha; it is a work of vaster magnitude and exhibits the faculties of the poet in their ripeness and richness.  It is an abridged version of the great epic, the Mahabharatha of Vyasa.  The central story is of universal appeal and Pampa concentrates his energies in retailing it.  In his view the Mahabharatha was a secular work and so he could take liberties with the sequence of events in the story and insert new incidents.  He was fascinated by the intense human drama, which forms the core of the great epic and admired the moral grandeur of its principal actors. 

Pampa had to fix his attention on a single hero around whom he could weave the story.  It is difficult to say exactly who the hero of the epic of Vyasa is, because the action is concerned with a number of individuals each of whom assumes the heroic role in the particular incidents in which he or she appears. At best the Pandavas as a group may be considered, the heroes, with Kauravas constituting the opposing party; but this does not bring order into the story. 

So Pampa, after a deep thought, chose Arjuna, the central figure of the Pandava Cluster, as the hero of his epic.  Whether he received any hint in this direction from any previous poet is a matter for investigation. The courage with which he recasts the story around Arjuna is admirable and so is the humility, which makes him bow down to Vyasa and the quiet confidence that he can do his job.  His poem was called Vikramarjuna Vijaya the victory of the mighty Arjuna. 

Wherever Arjuna appears in the story, Pampa devotes ample attention and space to his doings.  Every chapter commences with the praise of Arjuna and ends with a panegyric of his powers.  After the Kurukshetra battle is over and the Pandavas emerge victorious, it is not Dharma raja, the eldest brother that is crowned king but Arjuna who was responsible for the victory.  And his wife Subhadhra wears the queen’s diadem.  Bhima who was equally responsible for the victory and Draupadi who suffered most from the insults of the Kauravas are ignored.  This may not be aesthetically satisfactory. 

Pampa was greatly honored for his poem and received magnificent gifts from his patron. Krishna III, the Emperor of the Rashtrakutas was also aware of this honor done to a poet.

His Comments: –   
The style and diction of Pampa are remarkable for economy and suggestiveness.  He senses, almost by instincts the conclusion of a series of related actions or the core of a character or the essence of a situation and states it in as few words as are necessary for proper comprehension, with out revealing to us the processes by which the perceptions arose. This conduces to great economy of expression, a contemplation of which reveals layer after layer of significance.    

Hence the style acquires depth and the poet means much more than that he says.  He leaves much to the imagination of the reader after stimulating it a little.  The reader is tempted to go to him often and is never disappointed in finding something new.  Judged by any standard of criticism, however Austere, Pampa is sure of an easy victory. 

He is the father of Kannada poetry and is an enduring master of it. 

Shivakumar, Mysore.


November 22, 2007 - Posted by | KANNADA KARNATAKA


  1. Good to know the Pampa’s history.

    Comment by Sudarshan | November 26, 2007 | Reply

  2. Namaskara,

    Adikavi Pampana charitre odi bahala santhoshavaithu. bahala chennagide.


    Comment by ashwin | November 26, 2007 | Reply

  3. Where can I get Pampa’s poems?
    Is there a place I can buy or download his complete body of work?

    Comment by Anand | May 21, 2011 | Reply

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