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Bilimale praised Moily for the democratic values he brings to the epic, and for highlighting the underrated virtues of Lakshmana and Urmila



Ramayana with Lakshmana as hero

Veerappa Moily, former chief minister of Karnataka, has accomplished something few politicians can ever dream of: written an epic poem

Moily's epic: 12,500 lines in the first volume When a politician makes an impressive speech, cynics say, "There, he's got a good ghost writer to write his speeches for him". And then they go about wondering which retired hack has made it to the politician's inner circle. With distinguished exceptions like Nehru and Namboodripad, Indian politicians aren't all that famous for writing, or for having much to do with the literary world. All of this makes Veerappa Moily's Sri Ramayana Mahanveshanam a special book. The Congressman and former Karnataka chief minister has embarked on a poetic epic, and the first volume is already on the book stalls.

On December 1, Sri Ramayanana Mahanveshanam was released in Delhi. The Delhi Karnataka Sangha's seminar on Moily's work saw many well-known writers praising him for taking up a genre that most writers found forbidding.

The first volume, with 12,500 lines, shows the path the rest of the epic will take: Moily hints at parallels in today's society as he retells the Ramayana, a story that has fascinated India through the centuries.

Dr H S Shivaprakash, poet and writer of such widely discussed plays as Mahachaitra, described Moily as a politician by profession but a poet by heart. Future generations will remember Sri Ramayana Mahanveshanam, he said, not because its author was a politician but for its literary beauty.

Moily: politician and poet Shivaprakash said the modernist Navya movement of the '70s had misled creative writing in Kannada. Worse, it had killed the genre of Kannada epic poetry. The movement had instilled among readers the silly notion that only the work of English-knowing academics had any value.

Shivaprakash lashed out at English-speaking Kannadigas and English teachers trying to assume the lead in Kannada literature. Their knowledge and experience were nothing, he said, when compared to those of writers who spoke no English.

Moily's work is the best Ramayana in Kannada after Kuvempu's, Shivaprakash said. Some Ramayanas have been written in Kannada, like the Torave Ramayana, before Kuvempu's Ramayanadarshanam, but in Shivaprakash's view they are big only in size, not in literary merit.

Shivaprakash's play on Basavanna, Mahachaitra, had provoked protests from Lingayat groups, which had called for its ban. Their complaint: the play paints the great poet-philosopher in a bad light. That was untrue, and the groups were taking lines in the play spoken by Basavanna's detractors as reflecting Shivaprakash's views! Moily had been among the few politicians who had publicly stood by the literary work.

At the Delhi seminar, Dr Purushottama Bilimale described Moily's work as a "protest epic". The renowned folklorist said Moily had taken time off from his political commitments to write this work.

Bilimale praised Moily for the democratic values he brings to the epic. "Moily gives Lakshmana centrestage, which is why this work can be called 'Lakshmanayana'," he remarked. He thanked Moily for highlighting the underrated virtues of characters like Lakshmana and his wife Urmila.

"Moily's epic is significant for its beauty of language, its lucidity, and its analysis of the socio-economic conditions of that age," he said.

Dr Venkatachala Hegde, Dr K P Rao and M K Dharmaraja also spoke about the various faces of Moily's epic.

The complete epic will have more than 70,000 lines in five volumes. A gamaki sang excerpts from Moily's epic, which impressed the audience very much.

S D Patel

Published on 6 December 2001

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