The sublime poetry of Ambikaatanayadatta (Dattātrēya Rāmachandra Bēndre, better known as Da Rā Bendre) may be the best-kept secret in world literature. Written in Kannada — an over-2000-years-old language with an extremely rich folk and literary history but with almost no expansionist tendencies and little political mileage — and so intensely native and idiomatic as to be virtually untranslatable, Da Ra Bendre‘s poetry has both delighted and mystified his own people. Lyrical and passionate, personal and universal, whimsical and profound, probing and revealing, constructed and inspired, worldly and otherworldly and with an overwhelming ನಾದ (naada: euphony) of its own, his poetry used the Kannada language’s resources in ways that had previously not been considered much less explored. Indeed, to be lost in the assonance, elaborate conceits, imagery, and music of Bendre’s poetry is to be convinced that he is one of the greatest lyric poets to have lived.

I have just called Ambikaatanayadatta’s poetry untranslatable. And yet, I have looked to translate it into English – both to better understand it myself and attempt to capture some of its magic in the language I know best. I consider it my good fortune that I have, in these attempts, found myself creating metres and rhythms in the English language to mirror the phonetic rhythms of the original Kannada; acts of creation that have brought me much joy and satisfaction.

Note: The translations are not wholly literal. To begin with, English being a non-phonetic language finds it hard to approach the (rhythmic) musicality of a phonetic language like Kannada. As though that was not enough, Bendre’s magical feeling for ನಾದ (naada: euphony) made his poetry abound in both alliteration and rhyme, two essentially intangible untranslatables. Consequently, there are times when I have eschewed a literal translation (of a line or stanza even) for a transcreation that gets closer to the music of the original – without doing violence to the spirit of the original.

8 thoughts on “About”

  1. Hi,

    Do you also have a translation of Naaku Tanti poem? I am trying to find so I could share to my non-kannada friend who loves the poem.

    Look forward to a reply from you soon.


    1. Hello Bhargavi,
      I’m sorry about taking so long to reply.
      And ಇಲ್ಲ, I haven’t translated ನಾಕು ತಂತಿ. And ನಿಜ ಹೇಳಬೇಕೆಂದರೆ, ಅದನ್ನು Englishಗೆ translate ಆಗಲಿ transcreate ಆಗಲಿ ಮಾಡೋದು ಅಸಾಧ್ಯ. ನಮ್ಮದೇ ದೇಶದ ಬೇರೆ ಭಾಷೆಗಳಿಗೆ ಮಾಡಲು ಹೆಚ್ಚುಕಮ್ಮಿ ಅಸಾಧ್ಯ.
      However, the poem has been translated into English. It isn’t very poetic at all…but ನಿಮಗೆ ಬೇಕಾದರೆ, ಅದನ್ನು scan ಮಾಡಿ ನಿಮಗೆ ಕಳಿಸಬಹುದು.
      Let me know.


  2. Namaste, by any chance ಅಂತರಂಗದಾ ಮೃದಂಗ ಹಾಡಿನ English translation ಇದ್ಯಾ? My son is singing this song, but I would like to be able to explain the meaning of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Mr. Srinivasa,


      Do excuse my tardy reply. I am afraid I do not have a translation of the song you mention. Indeed, it is one of those hundreds of Bendre poems that is basically “untranslatable”, at least in its entirety. Having said that, I remember taking a stab at the first stanza many years ago. I might have lost those lines I wrote out then, but I’ll see if I can come up with a translation (of sorts) of the sung stanzas and let you know if I do.

      By the way, while “ಅಂತರಂಗದಾ ಮೃದಂಗ…” is how the opening line of the poem begins, the actual title of the poem is “ಕಣ್ಣ ಕಾಣಿಕೆ”. The poem itself appears in Bendre’s “ಗಂಗಾವತರಣ” collection. What is more, the available song (tuned by Mysore Ananthaswamy) DOES NOT reproduce of the whole poem – which is 9 stanzas long – but instead reproduces only stanzas 1, 2, 3 and 9. Though this kind of “truncation” is not at all uncommon with longish bhaavageete-s, I think it is useful to know whether the song and the poem are the same or different.


      1. Thank You so much for that information. My son was learning this song and so I was trying to see how to convey the meaning to him so that he understands.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ಮತ್ತೊಮ್ಮೆ ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ Mr. Srinivasa,

        It is wonderful to hear that your son is singing Bendre and that you are trying to explain Bendre to him. (May I ask how old your son is?)

        However, there is one matter worth mentioning and that is what Bendre himself had to say about the poem in his “ಭಾವ-ಸಂದರ್ಭ-ಸೂಚನೆ”. It is very terse, but it is at least directly from the poet himself. “ಅಂತರಂಗದ ನುಡಿತವನ್ನು ಆಲಿಸಿ ಬರೆದ ಭಾವಗೀತ.”

        By the way, one of my guesses is that the 3rd stanza might hold the “key” to the poem. That is to say, ಕಲ್ಪದಾದಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಯಾರ್ಯಾರ ವಿರಹವಾಯಿತು? I believe the ವಿರಹಿಗಳು may be the “ಕವಿ” and the “ಹಾಡು”. Or the ಕವಿ and his ಕಣ್ಣು (not the ordinary eye, but something akin to the ದಿವ್ಯಚಕ್ಷುಸ್ that Krishna gives Arjuna so that he can see the ವಿಶ್ವರೂಪ). But this is simply a theory on my part and I’d like you to take it in that spirit.

        Also, I have sent you the text of the whole poem by email. Perhaps reading the whole poem will help. 🙂


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