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BornLate 12th century
DiedEarly 13th century
OccupationPoet, writer
Harishchandra Kavya (magnum opus)

Raghavanka (Kannada: ರಾಘವಾಂಕ) was a noted Kannada writer and a poet in the Hoysala court who flourished in the late 12th to early 13th century. Raghavanka is credited for popularizing the use of the native shatpadi metre (hexa metre, 6 line verse) in Kannada literature.[1] Harishchandra Kavya, in shatpadi metre, is known to have been written with an interpretation unlike any other on the life of King Harishchandra is well known and is considered one of the important classics of Kannada language. He was a nephew and protégé of the noted Early 12-century Kannada poet Harihara.[2][3] Although the shatpadi metre tradition existed in Kannada literature prior to Raghavanka, Raghavanka inspired the usage of the flexible metre for generations of poets, both Shaiva (devotees of God Shiva) and Vaishnava (devotees of God Vishnu) to come.[4]

Epic Writings[edit]

  • Harishchandra Kavya
  • Siddharama charitra
  • Somanatha charitra
  • Viresvara charita
  • Hariharamahatva
  • Sarabha charitra

Although Harishchandra Kavya (c. 1200 or c. 1225) is Raghavanka's magnum opus, it was rejected by his guru, poet Harihara (or Harisvara). In some ways, Raghavanka's writing surpasses his guru's talent, especially in describing characters in his story.[5] Legend has it that his guru was aghast at Raghavanka Pandita, a devotee of Hindu God Shiva, for writing about ordinary mortals (such as King Harishchandra) instead of writing about Veerashaiva saints. According to the same legend, five of Raghavanka's teeth "fell off instantly" for going against his guru's wishes. In order to expiate his sin, he authored five writings eulogising Veerashaiva saints, one writing for each fallen tooth, and the teeth "returned one by one".[6] According to another source, Raghavanka's guru physically abused him, punishing him for wasting his poetic talent in eulogising a mere mortal.[7] These five writings are the Siddharama charitra (or Siddharama Purana), a eulogy of the dynamic and compassionate 12th century Veerashiava saint Siddharama of Sonnalige which brings out a larger-than-life image of the saint in a simple yet stylistic narrative;[8] the Somanatha charitra, a propagandist work which describes the life of saint Somayya (or Adaiah) of Puligere, his humiliation after being lured by the charms of a Jain girl, and his achievement of successfully converting a Jain temple into a Shiva temple; the Viresvara charita, a dramatic story of the blind wrath of a Shaiva warrior Virabhadra; the Hariharamahatva, a eulogy of Harisvara of Hampi, and Sarabha charitra, the last two works now considered lost.[1][5]

Magnum opus[edit]

In the Harishchandra Kavya, Raghavanka brings out the clash of personalities with lively dialogues; between sage Vishvamitra and sage Vashishta, between Harishchandra and Vishvamitra and between Harishchandra and the "unreal" girls ("dancing girls"). Also narrated is Harishchandra's fidelity to truth against all odds and the redemption of Harishchandra after being rescued by an untouchable he had once rejected.[5] According to professor L. S. Sheshagiri Rao of the Sahitya Akademi, in no other language has the story of King Harishchandra been dealt with this interpretation. The writing is original both in tradition and inspiration fully utilizing the potential of the shatpadi metre.[8] One piece of elegiac verse, written in the mandanila ragele metre (rhymed couplets) is the mourning of Chandramati over the death of her young son Lohitashva from snake bite, while gathering firewood for his Brahmin taskmaster.[9] The poem has remained popular for centuries and is recited by Gamakis (narration of story accompanied by music).[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sastri (1955), p. 362
  2. Narasimhacharya (1988), p. 20
  3. Kamath (2001), p. 134
  4. Shiva Prakash in K. Ayyappapanicker (1997), p. 208
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Shiva Prakash (1997), p. 207
  6. Shiva Prakash (1997), p. 206
  7. Nagaraj in Pollock (2003), p. 364
  8. 8.0 8.1 Rao in Datta, Sahitya Akademi (1988), pp. 1181
  9. 9.0 9.1 Sahitya Akademi (1988), p. 1149


  • Sastri, K.A. Nilakanta (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.
  • Shiva Prakash, H.S. (1997). "Kannada". In Ayyappapanicker (ed.). Medieval Indian Literature:An Anthology. Sahitya Akademi. ISBN 81-260-0365-0.
  • Various (1988) [1988]. Encyclopaedia of Indian literature - vol 2. Sahitya Akademi. ISBN 81-260-1194-7.
  • Nagaraj, D.R. (2003) [2003]. "Critical Tensions in the History of Kannada Literary Culture". In Sheldon I. Pollock (ed.). Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia. Berkeley and London: University of California Press. Pp. 1066. pp. 323–383. ISBN 0-520-22821-9.
  • Kamath, Suryanath U. (2001) [1980]. A concise history of Karnataka : from pre-historic times to the present. Bangalore: Jupiter books. LCCN 80905179. OCLC 7796041.
  • Shanthaveeraiah, Hi.Chi. (2009). Siddarama Charithre. Bangalore: Sachin Publishers.

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