The Navodaya or new wave of Kannada Poetry was the golden period for Kannadigas as during this time, they got a chance to renew the dormant poetic prowess trapped in the shackles of the British rule. It was this period when the beauty of the language and its poetry reached new heights, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of oppression and indifference.
The notable poets of this era were Srikanthaiah, Kuvempu, Bendre, Karanth, and many others. They broke the limitations imposed upon literature by conventional and orthodox poets and started narrating religious epics in their own way, while trespassing beyond the contemporary or historic Indian society and capturing aspects from other cultures.
The Initial Years of D.R. Bendre
A Chitpavan Brahmin by birth, Bendre was born on 31st January 1896, in Dharwad, Karnataka. His family had many scholars, especially of the Sanskrit Language. Bendre did his bachelor’s course from Fergusson College Pune. He later became a teacher in Victoria High School of Dharwad and later did his Masters in Arts.
His main work was always teaching when he taught at Victoria and then at D.A.V. college of Solapur. He later became an advisor at All India Radio. Later in his life Dattatrey started a group called as Geleyara Gumpu, which attracted many poets from all over Karnataka.
His Work and Achievements
Dattatrey wrote under the penname Ambikatanayadatta, which translated to Datta, the Son of Ambika. He took up the name in honor of his mother. His earlier works were simple and in a language used colloquially, but later he started taking deep insights into the society and human philosophies. In fact, his suave and simple life style was threefold, as described by G.S. Amur.
His biological self was represented by D.R. Bendre, the thinking individual was represented by Professor Bendre, and the creativity was represented by Ambikatanayadatta. Bendre was one of the earliest poets in the field of modern Kannada poetry and he was almost like a father figure. His poetry was an all pervasive form of art still practiced in telling folklores and as hymns and chants.
He employed many points of views and thought lines while writing poems. One of his famous works of poetry is Nada Lila. In this collection of poetry he incorporated the aspects of patriotism, reformation, traditions, Indian culture, and many other aspects. In poems like Patargiri or Mudalmaneya, he brought out his use of different symbolisms and idioms while penning down some rhyming lines.
Bendre also had a fixation with numbers which became a part of his book Vhishvadharanasutra. He has won six awards for his contribution to literature, and he won the Jnanpith in 1974 for his poetic collection Naaku Tanto. Before that he also won the Padma Shri in 1968, the Kelkar Prize, and the fellowship of Sahitya Academy.
His Legacy and Demise
Being such a notable poet of the Navodaya period, Bendre was given the title of Varakavi, or Gifted Poet. He was the second among seven Jnanpith award winning kannada authors. Udupi Adamaru Math confferred the title of Karnataka Kula Thilaaka on him.
Bendre came up with the tradition of Nada-habba, a festival that celebrates all land and its produce, and this is still practiced. He was also sentened to imprisonment after he wrote the book Nara Bali, or human sacrifise.
He was house arrested on the grave charges of sedition after writing that book. Girish Karnad made a documentary on Bendre’s life, as he is very easily considered to be one of the greated poets of Karnataka. He passed away on the 21st of October, 1981.