Vanamala Viswanatha traces the life of Harishchandra

Vanamala Viswanatha traces the life of Harishchandra

October 20, 2019

Mysuru:  Acclaimed translator and academic, Prof. Vanamala Viswanatha spoke about ‘Why read a Kannada Classic: Reading Harishchandra Kavyam’ at the Third Edition of Mysuru Literary Fest-2019, organised by Mysore Literary Association at Senate Bhavan inside Manasagangothri campus in city yesterday. 

Vanamala Viswanatha has translated old Kannada text Harishchandra (Kavya) by Raghavanka into English — ‘The Life of Harishchandra (Harvard University Press, 2017). She has also retold the story through excerpts in English and Kannada, accompanied by a musical recitation. 

At the literary festival, Vanamala Viswanatha spoke of the complexities of translating across time, place and cultural sensibilities. She traced the aesthetic, philosophical and political dimensions of translating the classics with vibrant examples from her own practice.

The Life of Harishchandra, Raghavanka’s thirteenth-century masterpiece, is the first poetic rendering of one of ancient India’s most enduring legends. When his commitment to truth is tested by a powerful sage, King Harishchandra suffers utter deprivation — the loss of his wife and son, his citizens and power, and, dearest of all, his caste status — but refuses to yield.  

A poet from northern Karnataka trained in the twin traditions of Sanskrit and Kannada, Raghavanka negotiates a unique space for himself in the Kannada literary canon through important thematic, formal, and stylistic innovations. Vanamala Viswanatha also touched upon hierarchical social order, political power, caste, and gender. Her session got a good response from the audience. 

Her translation of ‘The Life of Harishchandra’ is the first-ever translation of a medieval Kannada poetic classic — in the Murty Classical Library of India Series — has broken new ground in the translation of Kannada classics into English. Her spirited translation brings an elegant and energetic narrative to a global readership. 


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