Sunday, July 05, 2009

Imagining Karnataka

The Karnataka Handbook 1924, Sugata Srinivasaraju says in a truly fascinating article, is one of the early attempts at imagining a State for Kannada-speaking peoples, and presenting the case to influential leaders -- in this case, to the leaders of the Indian National Congress on the occasion of INC's first session "within her [Karnataka] borders" at Belgaum. These attempts eventually led to the formation in 1956 of the State of Mysore, which got its present name -- Karnataka -- in 1972. An excerpt:

The fascinating element though is that all through history, Karnataka was only an imagined home of the Kannada-speaking people. It was a cultural construct and a poetic fancy with no specific political or geographical formation to back it up. In fact, none of the kingdoms that ruled over the geographical spread that now gets denoted as Karnataka -- Chalukyas, Gangas, Rashtrakutas, Kadambas, Hoysalas, Tuluvas and Wodeyars among others -- ever called themselves as Kannada dynasties. It was only a retrospective ascription and an utterly modern enterprise to manufacture a history for the Kannada-speaking people at the beginning of the 20th century. [...]