Ratnakaravarni was a 16th-century (born 1532 A.D.) Kannada poet and writer who lived at Moodabidri in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka.
He is considered to be one of the trailblazers in the native shatpadi (hexa-metre, six line verse) and sangatya (composition meant to be sung to the accompaniment of musical instrument) metric tradition that was popularised in Kannada literature. He live in the court of Bhairaraja of Karkala who was a feudal of the Vijayanagara Kings. Hi Diksha guru was Acharya Charukirthi and Moksha Guru was Hamsanatha. He was titled as Shringara Kavi and Ratnakara Siddha.
He is considered as the formost among all the sangatya poets. His works include Bharatesha Vaibhava, Trilokashataka, Ratnakaradishwara Shataka and Aparajiteshwara Shataka.
Written in 1556 A.D. It contains 129 ‘kanda padyas’ which delineate the salient features of the external world according to the Jaina world view.
Written in 1567 A.D. this is the most important and greatest of all his works. It is in eighty cantos and runs into 10,000 verses. Bharata, the son of the 1st Tirthankara of Jainism is the hero of this work. It has been divided into three parts – Tyaga Vijaya – sacrificial victory, Bhoga Vijaya – victroy of material enjoyment and Digvijaya – conquests victory.It is a version of the earlier Poorvapurana by Jinasenacharya and brings out a different perspective compared to the Adipurana written by Adikavi Pampa in 941 A.D. Centered on the glorification of the enlightened Bharata and focusses on those aspects that were the ignored by Pampa. Ratnakaravarni gives minute details about prince Bharata, who according to him serves as the ideal balance between detachment (yoga) and attachment (bhoga). Though married to “96,000 women”, Bharata is depicted as one who at once can separate himself from worldly pleasures. Unlike Pampa who focussed on the conflict between the brothers, Bahubali and Bharata, ending with Bahubali’s asceticism and Bharata’s humiliation, Ratnakaravarni’s eulogy of Bharata leaves room only for Bahubali’s evolution towards sainthood. Eventually, Bharata attains moksha by burning himself in ascetic fire. The author showers encomium on Bharata in his various roles as a monarch, husband, son, friend and a devotee, a rare description of a “perfect human being” among Jain writings. Since details of the early life of Bharata as a young ruler did not exist in previous writings or in tradition. This work finds its pride of place in Kannada’s epic poetry for being the lengthiest poem in the folk sangatya format.
Written in 1577 A.D. it is a collection 228 poems. These are essentially philosophical poems veering towards a renunciation of worldly pleasures. The poems are lyrical because they contain more of personal agony than theological musings.
Written in 1582 A.D. Aparajita Shataka is a collection of 128 poems and it is complementary to the Ratnakara shataka. These two shatakas delineate the growth of a soul towards mellowness by an act of intense introspection. They transcend the boundaries of religion and document universal themes.
Adhyatmageethegalu – Written in 1587 A.D.
Ratnakarvarni’s Conversion to Veerashaivism
Known to be a troubled and restless person, tradition has it that Ratnakaravarni converted from his religion Jainism to Veerashaivism when a less-meritorious poet superseded him. During this brief time, he wrote the Basavapurana, a biography of the 12th century social reformer Basavanna.
This picture postcard on “Ratnakaravarni” has been released by the Mangalore Postal Division, Department of Post, Government of India, on the occasion of “Kannada Rajyotsava – 2022” under the “Jina Ratna Bhushanaru” series. The picture postcard has been sponsored by Hombuja Jain Math. The entire project has been led by Mahavir Kundur, Hubli.