Sunday, June 22, 2008

Punyakoti, the jewel of kannada culture

My North Indian friends have often asked me "What is Kannada culture?". I could never give a crisp answer. Culture is collective behaviour. Unfortunately, the whole of Karnataka was never collective in anything. Even geographically, there is the coastal Karavali, mountainous Malanad, Central and South Central Bayaluseeme and the Northern dry lands. Although agriculture is the main occupation through out the state, the ways and means differ a lot. Economic prosperity differs from region to region. Politically also, different regions have been controlled by non- kannada rulers for so long that they reflect their culture to a considerable extent. But then what's culture that is not open for influence? All these led the scenario whcih prevailed in the 80's - we simply did not have anything that can be decisively heralded as the flag-bearer of Kannada cultre

Over the next three decades, for better or worse, kannada activism took vociferous turn. Ironically, the fervor of this movement is mostly felt in the border districts and directed against other languages rather than towards strengthening ours. But that's another story. Last few week, I spent some time trying to dig out is there any thing in out culture that then entire Karnataka would accept as their own... I was not looking for the most visited temples - since the source of their acceptance is not culture but fear. I was also not looking at the welldecorated literary giants. Music, dress, dialects differed too much.

My search finally lead to this folk story: The story of Punyakoti, the cow that offered its life to stay honest.


Musical Rendition (on youtube):

This song has single-handedly shaped the morality of generations. Used as a bed time story by Kannada mothers (urban and rural alike), this has inculcated the culture of honesty and selflessness among the Kannada children. True, over the years we unlearn a few lessons in the rush of being 'street smart'. Nevertheless, whether he knows it or not, Punyakoti resides in the conscience of every Kannada kid.