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.


aishu_here said...

Yenna Odahuttakka neenu, Ninna kondu yena padevenu
Yennuta huli haari negedu tanna pranava bittitu.

Never fails to touch.. every single time.

Thanks for brining back fond memories of sitting with appa-amma and watching this movie on sunday noons and trying to stop the flooding tears when this song played.

I am not sure how much of kannada culture this song can convey to a person who has no clue of the story or the mindset, unless effectively translated - which I think is almost impossible.

Divyank Rastogi said...

Though i never asked you this question (not intentionally, at least); still being a North Indian and a one-time friend, i think i need to share some thoughts.
When a North Indian questions the Kannada culture, in all probability, he does so for all the regionalism, to which he had been averse all through his upbringing; and which is so pervasive throughout the rest of India.. South included!!
Kids in North are brought up with love for the motherland(Read INDIA, not Canara, TN, Kerala, Maharashtra etc.); where everyone is alike, no matter the color, language, region.

When there is a talk about culture, its about Indian-ness, the richness preserved across all regions (so called cultures!!), diversities and then we feel proud to talk about 'Unity in diversity'. It hurts equally bad, when this 'Diversity' breaks the 'Unity' in the name of 'culture'. So, though i still cant attach meaning to Punyakoti; i do hope, wish and dream, that the 'true' meaning of 'Vande Mataram' remains un-elusive to 'all' the kids of this country.

Prashanth said...

Dear Aishu there,
Well, give it a shot and try translating... Perhaps with your new connections at MV, we can get it translated to Latino, German and other European languages too... he he he

Dear DR

Your thoughts are most welcome. However, you seem to have not read the entire post. Clearly you have written your response after reading just three words out of the entire blog post - "kannada" "culture" and "North Indian". You have imagined the rest to your liking.

What the h*** is this?
"Kids in North are brought up with love for the motherland(Read INDIA, not Canara, TN, Kerala, Maharashtra etc.); where everyone is alike, no matter the color, language, region" Why do you think it is any different in Karnataka? Children here also sing Vande Maataram with the same devotion. It would be so frog-in-the-well of you to think it is not. Just because they also sing "Jaya Bharatha Jananiya tanu jaate... jaya he karnataka maathe" (a state song) does not make them any less Indian. And if you care for the meaning - "Salutations to mother Karnataka, the daughter of mother India".

India, culturally is a kaleidoscope. Its too huge to be just one color. Each color is as bright, vibrant and unique like all the other colors in it. Together we are just beautiful. Remember its kaleidoscope, not oil paint. You do not get one compromised color when you mix them all... each one stays the same and contributes the big picture just as important as each of the others. There is a distinct identity to each area that they are proud of be it - Punjabi Bhangda, Assamese Bihu, or Kerala's Kathakali. None of these can individually claim to represent India while the whole is truly Indian. To be an "Indian" one need not lose his identity as "Kannadiga", its only in-addition-to. And to be true Indian, one must also let others be a Punjabi, a Rajput, a Iyer, a Maratha, a Ghorkha or a Sherpa in addition to them being an Indian.


PS: Although I am a fight-to-death soldier of free speech, I shall not entertain comments that are orthogonal to the main post.

Divyank Rastogi said...

Hi PK,
Apologies, 'coz i can see the indian in you now. But from the face of the article and the first few lines, i got the antinotes of regional fanaticism and hence my outburst. Even though i read your full article the first time itself; i still continue to disagree that my outburst was orthogonal. Reading the first few lines can cast an overtone for the unintendid soul; moreso, when there have been numerous such instances of regionalism cropping now and again from one place or the other.

However, i do see clearly that i have hurt your sentiments and so, i offer my unconditional apologies. In fact, i invite you to please proceed and delete my comments from this post, if you so please.

Jai Hind.