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Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri's works in Kannada by B. R. Gopal


Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri
Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri

The purpose of this paper is to acquaint reader, specially the non-Kannadigas, with Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri’s works in Kannada. Numerous Kannada articles written by him have been published in various learned journals and in several special issues of daily newspapers, weeklies, etc. Many in Karnataka still remember the great controversy he raised by publishing his work on Purandaradasa in 1964 during the great saint-poet’s quatercentenary celebrations all over the State. In putting forth his views Dr. Sastri had entirely relied on that material that he had collected and was not swayed by any religions considerations.


His books in Kannada have been many. His essays on the great men of history ಐತಿಹಾಸಿಕ ಮಹಾಪುರುಷರು in a Text Book edited by Dr. M. H. Krishna more than 25 years ago have retained their popularity to this day. Since then Dr. Sastri has written profusely in Kannada: ಭಾರತೀಯ ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿ (Indian Culture), completed in 1944; ರೋಮನ್ ಚಕ್ರಾಧಿಪತ್ಯದ ಚರಿತ್ರೆ (History of the Roman Empire, 1948-49); ಪ್ರಪಂಚ ಚರಿತ್ರೆಯ ರೂಪರೇಖೆಗಳು (Outlines of World History, 1957) which is even today a very good text book  for the undergraduate students; ಪುರಾತತ್ವ ಶೋಧನೆ (Archaeology, 1960); ಹೊಯ್ಸಳ ವಾಸ್ತುಶಿಲ್ಪ (Hoysala Architecture, 1964) etc. This brief paper confines itself to an assessment of only three of Dr. Sastri’s Kannada works viz., ಭಾರತೀಯ ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿ, ಪುರಾತತ್ವ ಶೋಧನೆ and ಹೊಯ್ಸಳ ವಾಸ್ತುಶಿಲ್ಪ.


'Bharathiya Samskruthi' (1954) by Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri
'Bharathiya Samskruthi' (1954) by Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri

Bharatiya Samskriti (ಭಾರತೀಯ ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿ) was written in the pre-independence years, in 1944 though it was published only a decade later in 1954. In the preface to the book, also written in 1944, he summarises briefly the contributions of India to world culture. By then Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West had been published and Toynbee had put forward his challenge and response theory of cultures in his first few volumes of the study of History. These so-called philosophers of History, more specially Spengler, had forecast almost the end of human civilization and said that human society stood on the brink of destruction. Progress of science, Imperialism, Capitalism, weakness of religion and religious orders, Nationalism and the like were described by many of these philosophers as reasons for such a breakdown. Reviewing these Dr. Sastri in his preface says that the entire problem could be analysed in three ways. Politically it was a conflict between Monarchy, Despotism and Democracy; economically there was a growing gap between the rich and the poor; ethically mutual suspicions, injustice, deceit among the nations and lack of freedom of action and thought in individual’s life-these were the bases on which human civilization stood and which were now sinking.   It was essential to find suitable answers for the problems that arose out of it and Dr. Sastri said that Indian Culture had in it the answer.


Nationalism and Science are mere tools that could be used both for the welfare and the destruction of world order.  If culture is to be protected at all, these have to be kept under control. Nationalism adopts different forms depending upon the country, its religion, language and basic culture. Science is materialistic, belonging to the range of the senses and hence limited in its scope. It can create an atmosphere of physical pleasure or pain by understanding the physical world around us. It is earthy, and cannot satiate the inner urge for knowledge of the eternal urge to live a cultured life. It creates civilization but cannot be a source of culture.


The word ‘culture’ is associated with agriculture while civilization is associated with the urbane. Civilization has as its aim the establishment of some order-the social order as it could be called-in regulating the natural desires of mankind, for food, sleep, lust and fear, and the race among men for fulfilment of those desires. Culture on the other hand indicates the spiritual progress, of an individual or a group. After establishing social order, there should be sufficient freedom-liberty-for the individual as for the society without which culture and civilization cannot progress. Hence, philosophers like Croce defined History as the story of liberty.


Four factors are essential for social progress and reform; they are economic, political, religious and the urge for knowledge, not only scientific but also of the ultimate. There are different cultures in the world each one of which has its own characteristic, and individuality. The contribution of Asia to World civilization and culture has been immense. Almost all the earliest civilizations have originated in this continent, and through Crete it has spread its impact over Greece and Rome and Modern Europe. Of these, Indian culture is unique. It has the great characteristic of absorption and assimilation.  The main reason for this is not merely its toleration.  Mere tolerant attitude towards other religions or culture and the like would often result in indifference and neglect.   It is on the other hand a sense of appreciation of the good in the others which results in assimilation. One feature of Indian culture is that there is no despotism of the society over the individual who is free. Hence the individual has the scope to grow.


'Purathatva Shodhane' by Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri
'Purathatva Shodhane' by Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri

All this is due to the great seers of our country who have left behind a rich literature and whose knowledge has been transcendental, says Dr. Sastri. It is this that has sustained our culture which is anadi and ananta. This book has 12 chapters and within 400 pages Dr. Sastri has made a survey of its physical features, pre-history, vedic culture, search for spiritual truth (i.e., Religions and Philosophy), social and economic conditions, political systems, literature and arts and sciences. In the last chapter there is an account of Indian Culture outside India-what is generally called Greater India.   Thus, it is not merely an outline of ‘history’ but all other things too.   Herein you have an account of all-from Anthropology to Zoology. It shows the extent and depth of knowledge of Dr. Sastri who is not only well read, but has assimilated all that he has read. Bharatiya Samskriti is the quintessence of Dr. Sastri’s scholarship. In 1960, the University published his Puratattava Sodhane  (ಪುರಾತತ್ವ ಶೋಧನೆ) (Archaeology). This is divided into two parts, the first dealing with the general features, scope, aim and methods of Archaeology while the second relates to Indian Archaeology in particular. Giving an account of the progress in archaeological studies he shows how developments in geological and anthropological studies led to an interest in the archaeological, how Darwin’s theory of evolution encouraged the scholars to brush aside the Biblical account of the ‘universe’ and how Pitt Rivers declared, most courageously in his days, that History is evolution. Dr. Sastri, in a lucid style describes the methods in archaeology, shows that archaeology is now a science and not mere antiquarian speculation. The use of Kannada terminology for explaining several technical terms like artefacts, type, typological classification, culture sequence are illuminating. He explains the methods of exploration and excavation, and of dating the artefacts; the interpretation is of course the last job of an archaeologist, but the most important. The learned author gives a succinct account of this ‘job’ of the archaeologist. Under archaeology, he includes epigraphy and numismatics also.


The second part of the book deals with Indian Archaeology. In this we find an evaluation of the work that has already been done, its lacunae and the huge amount of work that awaits scholar’s touch in all the branches of archaeology. Basically, this is meant to be a text book in Kannada. But there is so much of originality in the presentation of the subject matter that none in the near future is likely to surpass this. Again, this book is a fitting answer to those who say that time is not ripe for writing books in Kannada, on technical and scientific subjects.


'Hoysala Vasthushilpa' by Dr S. Srikanta Sastri
'Hoysala Vasthushilpa' by Dr S. Srikanta Sastri

The latest of his Kannada books, Hoysala Vastushilpa (“ಹೊಯ್ಸಳ ವಾಸ್ತುಶಿಲ್ಪ - 1964”) is on Hoysala Architecture. In this work Dr. Sastri has given an account of the beginnings of Hoysala Architecture, which has imbibed the features of Chalukyan architecture and made further improvements. Hoysala architecture in one sense witnesses the culmination of Karnataka architecture and, although, later on, the Vijayanagara rulers adapted some of the features, yet that is a different style altogether. The Chalukyan style reaches the peak of plastic ornamentation under the Hoysalas. In the later Chalukyan temples in the districts of Chitradurga, Shimoga, Dharwar and Bellary, we can see some features which form the points of contact with the Hoysala temples. The introduction of figure sculpture as a decorative element in the wall, treatment of plinth mouldings, the star shaped plan, leaning bracket figures etc., that occur in the Somesvara temple, Gadag, the Doddabasappa temple, Dambal and the Mallikarjuna temple, Kuruvatti are such points of contact. These have been explained lucidly by the author.


The book is divided into two parts; in the first is given, as an introduction, a brief history of the Hoysalas and an account of Chalukyan architecture. Analysing the epigraphs of Vishnuvardhana recording grants to the temples etc., he has shown that 60 per cent of these refer to the grants made to Saiva temples, 20 per cent to the Vaishnava and the remaining 20 per cent to the Jaina. Hence, he says that there is no evidence to show that this king had greater leanings towards Vaishnavism. The statement made by Pallava Mahendravarma that he was the first to construct temples in stone has been shown to be an empty boast. On the other hand, the Pallavas were influenced by the Chalukyas in this respect. The turned pillars and decorative features indicate that Chalukya-Hoysala masonry was more the work of a carpenter and a goldsmith. No literary work on iconography or art appears to have been produced in the Hoysala period. The architects must have made use of texts of the earlier periods, like Manasara, Abhilashitarthachintamani. But it is not possible to say that the Vaikhanasa or Pancharatra agamas were followed for Vaishnava temples, the Karanagama or  Isanagurupaddhati for Saiva and the Jaina puranas for the Jaina temples. Besides the kings and other royal personages and officials, ordinary citizens also got built temples according to their capabilities. Such ones may not be artistic or gorgeous; and on that ground they need not be dated prior to the Hoysala temples, when no other confirmatory evidence is available.  Jakkana and Dankana are mere mythical figures and no sculptor of that name lived in the Hoysala period. In no other part of India do the names of the sculptors’ figure, except in Karnataka. These are some of the points made out herein.


In the second, third and fourth parts we find descriptive accounts of both the major and minor Hoysala temples. Naturally enough the temples of Belur, Halebid and Somanathapur and those of Sravanabelagola have been treated in greater detail. Epigraphical and other evidences have been appropriately cited while discussing the date of construction of the monuments or scooping of sculptures etc. This has made the volume authentic and all the relevant details given herein have been very useful for a student who wishes to pursue further studies in the subject, from the political, economic, social and artistic angles

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