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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 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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11 news items

Huffington Post India
Sun, 15 Feb 2015 19:45:00 -0800

Kannada's grammatical tradition, right from Kavirajamarga (850 CE) up until a decade or so ago, has essentially followed Sanskrit's, basically because of the huge influence of Sanskrit on the initial grammarians and the fact that Kannada literature was ...
Deccan Herald
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:03:45 -0700

... Malkhed) on the banks of river Kagina in Sedam taluk in Gulbarga district. 'Kavirajamarga', a guide book on earlier poets whose works are yet to be found, played a crucial role in getting the classical language status for Kannada from the Union ...
Tue, 04 Mar 2014 23:13:15 -0800

Indian poetics has often been identified with Sanskrit poetics though there is a whole parallel tradition in Tamil and in Urdu, derived from the Persian tradition, not to speak of individual texts, like Kavirajamarga in Kannada, available in the ...
The Hindu
Mon, 25 Jun 2012 14:28:19 -0700

Underlining the need to have a common Kannada, he noted that Kavirajamarga, the 870 CE text on poetics and grammar in Kannada language by Rashtrakuta king Nrupatunga, professed the need for 'one' Kannada that would unite the people.
Deccan Herald
Mon, 29 Oct 2012 12:49:43 -0700

It is the cradle of Kannada language and literature; the first Kannada literary work 'Kavirajamarga' dating back to 850 AD was found here, proving Kannada's antiquity. The region has seen three mighty kingdoms, the Rashtrakutas of the seventh century ...
The Hindu
Sun, 19 Jun 2011 02:10:48 -0700

Malkhed had a glorious past under the Rashtrakuta dynasty, particularly under the emperor Amoghavarsha Nrupatunga, who ruled for 64 years and penned the first classical Kannada work, Kavirajamarga. Malkhed was the capital of the Rashtrakuta Empire ...
Times of India
Thu, 03 Feb 2011 17:20:26 -0800

Now, not even post-graduate literature students read Kavirajamarga or Shabdamanidarpana (the first two literary works belonging to Old Kannada era). The earlier seminar language has changed now, with writers expressing in simple ways. As lexicographer ...
Fri, 28 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0800

Noting relevance of Kannada epic Kavirajamarga, he recalled the contributions made by Kannada writers to the language. He asked the speakers to use the language in a simple way without interpreting the intensity of the matter being dcussed, keeping in ...

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