“The Nārayaṇa of the lotus-heart has
himself turned into the mortal Datta;
as Ambikātanaya he mirrors in Kannada
the universe’s inner voice.”
Since I began to seriously engage with it several years ago, I have come to believe that the Kannada poetry of Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre is the best-kept secret in world literature. Born in the historic, culture-rich region of Dharwad as the 19th century rolled towards the 20th, Da Ra Bendre was a born poet, a true lyric genius whose poetry was “not so much his own as it was Kannada’s” (his own words) and not so much crafted as it was inspired and delivered to him by the ‘poetic power’ within him – alluded to above – that he named Ambikatanayadatta in honour of his mother Ambika. This genius would also help Bendre create a new poetic style in Kannada that was radical, all-embracing and that effortlessly wove the janapada (folk idiom) of his beloved Dharwad into the fabric of modern Kannada poetry….