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A Stanza from Kavirajamarga which praises the people for their literary skills

Kavirajamarga (Kannada: ಕವಿರಾಜಮಾರ್ಗ) (850 C.E.)[1] is the earliest available work on rhetoric, poetics and grammar in the Kannada language.[2][3] It was written by the famous Rashtrakuta King "Nrupatunga" Amoghavarsha I, and some historians claim it is based partly on an earlier Sanskrit writing called Kavyadarsa. Some historians believe Kavirajamarga may have been co-authored by a poet in the king's court, the Kannada language theorist Sri Vijaya.[2][4]

The name literally means "Royal Path for Poets" and was written as a guide book for poets and scholars (Kavishiksha). From references made in this writing to earlier Kannada poetry and literature it is clear that a considerable body of work in prose and poetry must have existed in the preceding centuries.[5]


The pre-coronation name of Amoghavarsha I was Sharva. He was born in Sribhavan in 800 to Rashtrakuta King Govinda III during the king's return from his successful northern campaigns in Kanauj. This is known from the Manne records (803), Sirur plates and Sanjan records (871) of Amoghavarsha I.[6][7] Amoghavarsha I came to the throne in 814 at the age of 14 and took great interest in the Kannada language, culture, country and its people, and his writing Kavirajamarga goes into these details as well.[8] The work describes the entire region between the Godavari river in the north and Kaveri river in the south as "Kannada country", which includes large territories north of modern Karnataka where Kannada is now not spoken.[5] An English translation of a quote from the writing goes as follows,[9]

Early writers and literary styles[edit]

Kavirajamarga makes important references not only to earlier Kannada writers and poets but also to early literary styles that were in vogue in the various written dialects of Kannada language. The aim of this writing was to standardize these written styles. The book dwells on earlier styles of composition; the Bedande, the Chattana, and the Gadyakatha, and indicates that these styles were recognised by puratana kavi (lit, "earlier poets"). The term pruvacharyar (lit, earlier grammarians or rhetoricians) has also been used.[10][11][12] The book mentions several early Kannada writers who preceded Amoghavarsha I: Vimalachandra (777), Udaya, Nagarjuna, Jayabhandu and 6th century King Durvinita of the Western Ganga Dynasty as the best writers of Kannada prose; Srivijaya, Kavisvara, Pandita, Chandra and Lokapala as the best writers of Kannada poetry.[3] But the works and compositions of these early authors are yet to be discovered. Kavirajamarga was formative in the literary growth of Kannada and is a guide book to the Kannada grammar that existed in that period. It laid the "royal path" for guiding many aspiring writers.[10][11]

In his criticism, Amoghavarsha I writes that old Kannada is appropriate in "ancient poems" but is insipid in works of the present time, like an "association with an old woman". According to him, a mixture of Kannada with Sanskrit is "harsh to the ear" but a mixture of Kannada and Sama-Samskrita is pleasant to the ear like "music", while a mixture of Kannada and Sanskrit in compounds is disagreeable "like mixing drops of buttermilk (curdled milk) and boiling milk". He also condemned the usage of expletives such as ante, matte, and gadam,.[10]


  1. ^ Times of India - 8th-century book delights Sudha Murthy
  2. ^ a b Kamath (2001), p 90
  3. ^ a b Narasimhacharya (1988), p 2
  4. ^ Sastri (1955), pp 355-356
  5. ^ a b Sastri (1955), p 355
  6. ^ Kamath (2001), p 77
  7. ^ Reu (1933), p 67
  8. ^ Narasimhacharya (1988), p 17
  9. ^ E.P Rice in Das (2005), p 141
  10. ^ a b c Narasimhacharya (1988), p 12, p 17
  11. ^ a b Mugali R.S. (2006), pp 173-175
  12. ^ Sahitya Akademi (1988), pp. 1474–1475


  • Sastri, Nilakanta K.A. (2002) [1955]. A history of South India from prehistoric times to the fall of Vijayanagar. New Delhi: Indian Branch, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-560686-8. 
  • Kamath, Suryanath U. (2001) [1980]. A concise history of Karnataka : from pre-historic times to the present. Bangalore: Jupiter books. LCCN 80905179. OCLC 7796041. 
  • Narasimhacharya, R (1988) [1988]. History of Kannada Literature. New Delhi, Madras: Asian Educational Services. ISBN 81-206-0303-6. 
  • Mugaḷi, Raṃ Śrī (2006) [1946]. The Heritage of Karnataka: in relation to India. Read Books [Bangalore: Satyasodhama]. ISBN 978-1-4067-0232-3. 
  • Das, Sisir Kumar (2005) [2006]. History of Indian literature, 500-1399: from Courtly to the Popular. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. ISBN 81-260-2171-3. 
  • Various (1988) [1988]. Encyclopaedia of Indian literature – vol 2. Sahitya Akademi. ISBN 81-260-1194-7. 
  • Reu, Pandit Bisheshwar Nath (1997) [1933]. History of the Rashtrakutas (Rathodas). Jaipur: Publication Scheme. ISBN 81-86782-12-5. 
  • Kamat, Jyotsna. "The Rashtrakutas". Dynasties of the Deccan. Retrieved 2007-02-03. 
  • Kamat, Jyotsna. "Kannada Literature under the Rashtrakutas". The Rashtrakutas. Retrieved 2007-02-03. 

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25 news items

The Wire

The Wire
Wed, 04 Nov 2015 23:17:34 -0800

Tolkappiyam and Kavirajamarga are the first works available in Tamil and Kannada respectively and are significant literary treatises. Tol + kappiyam means the ground preparation needed for creation of poetry. Even Kavirajamarga generally implies the same.

The Hindu

The Hindu
Sun, 01 Nov 2015 10:00:00 -0800

The Murty Classical Library of India, an initiative of Rohan Murty, son of Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy, will release the English translations of four volumes of Indian classical texts in January. They are the second volume of Akbarnama, two ...

The Hindu

The Hindu
Sat, 31 Oct 2015 20:49:54 -0700

Poet Nrupatunga in Kavirajamarga, the earliest available work in Kannada dating back to 9th century, defined the geographical location of the Kannada land as the one that stretches between the Cauvery and the Godavari. However, in modern times, it was ...

The Hindu

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Sat, 05 Dec 2015 16:04:41 -0800

According to historians, Malkhed was the second capital of the Rashtrakutas from 814 AD to 968 AD during which period the famous King Amoghavarsha Nrupatunga reigned. The king is also known for his Kavirajamarga, the first classical work in Kannada.

The Hindu

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Sun, 27 Dec 2015 16:06:49 -0800

Inaugurating Sri Siddalingeshwara Book Mall to commemorate the 39th anniversary of Siddalingeshwar Book Depot and Publishing House here on Sunday, he said that the author of the first classical Kannada text 'Kavirajamarga', King Amoghavarsha ...

Outlook India

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Mon, 31 Aug 2015 09:40:58 -0700

The funeral will be tomorrow noon in the grounds near Karnatak University Campus, according to Lingayat burial traditions, not too far from the lecture halls where he once taught thousands of students for over three decades on the nuances of ...


Wed, 16 Sep 2015 00:07:11 -0700

His doctoral research was on Kannada literature during the time when Kavirajamarga was written. This work, written in A.D. 850, is one of the earliest works to analyse the rhetorics, poetics and grammar of Kannada. While his core work was in the ...

Bangalore Mirror

Bangalore Mirror
Thu, 27 Aug 2015 15:38:03 -0700

Believe it or not, the much-sought-after literary work is a treatise on the 9th century work Kavirajamarga. Recording 25,000 downloads, the Kannada treatise% Kavirajamarga Mattu Kannada Jagattu (Kavirajamarga and Kannada World) by KV Subbanna is the ...

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