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Blending tradition and modernity

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The majestic edifice seems like an extension of the Vijaynagara empire in 16th century Hampi, a place that has much significance in both history and mythology. But unlike the ruins which hark back to a rich cultural past, the 15-year-old Kannada University, Hampi, is going from strength to strength. A perfect blend of tradition and modernity, the university exudes an old world charm in keeping with the region which entered a glorious chapter under King Krishnadeva Raya’s reign prior to the Muslim invasion.

The one feature that distinguishes this university is its exclusive focus on research on issues pertaining to Karnataka, either in English or Kannada. “The primary objective of the university is to conduct multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research on various aspects of Karnataka and Kannada. It also encourages comparative studies with other regions and languages,” says vice-chancellor, B.A. Viveka Rai. In the process, the university aims to bridge the socio-academic gap between Kannada-speaking and English-speaking academics and facilitate a fruitful exchange of knowledge.

Nurturing Karnataka

Students can pursue an MPhil, DLitt or a PhD programme. There are four schools of study that conduct research activities — the School of Languages, the School of Fine Arts, the School of Social Sciences and the School of Sciences. Although it is usually students from the southern states who enrol at the university, those from other states can also pursue research activities at the university — the only criterion is that the issue has to be related to Karnataka or Kannada. “The medium can be either Kannada or English,” says V.B. Tharakeshwar who has been involved with research at the university ever since its inception.

The eligibility criteria are the same as those in most other universities: a minimum of 55 per cent at the postgraduate level. Postgraduates are then required to take an entrance exam which comprises both written and oral tests. However, if they wish to take the entrance examination in English and also write their dissertation in English, they have to take permission before submitting the application.

“Researchers can enrol and do research in any field related to their masters degree. For example, a student with a masters degree in sociology can do research in development studies, folklore studies, tribal studies, translation studies, women’s studies or even Dravidian studies,” Tharakeshwar says. Similarly, a student who has a masters degree in, say English, can enrol for a research project in translation studies.

More than a hundred research projects, both individual and group, have been undertaken to date and the results of most of these projects have been published by the university’s publishing centre, Prasaranga, to make them accessible to one and all. Apart from that, Prasaranga also brings out journals and periodicals pertaining to women’s studies, Karnataka’s folklore, Kannada language studies and science, among other disciplines.

Apart from research, which is the mainstay of Kannada University, many departments also conduct teaching courses and certificate, diploma and graduate courses in music, fine arts and sculpture.

“We are also in the process of starting postgraduate diploma courses in women’s studies, Karnataka studies, studies in Dalit culture, folk arts, archaeology, culture and tourism and, for administrators, a diploma in administrative Kannada. Besides, we are planning to undertake diploma courses in theatre training,” says Sheilaja Hiremath, head of the department of women’s studies.

Architectural wonder

The campus of Kannada University spans a hilly terrain of 700 acres. It is named after Vidyaranya, the founder-guru of the Vijayanagara empire. The newly constructed buildings of the university have been built along the same architectural lines as Hampi’s historical structures.

Adhyayananga is the nodal agency of the university, which coordinates research and supplementary teaching activities. It looks after various certificate and degree courses and also organises seminars, conferences, workshops, discussions and coordinates with other academic institutions — both national and international — for improving the quality of research and teaching.

The library is aptly called Akshara (the letter), and houses unique collections of scholars like Chidananda Murthy and Agadi Sanganna, while the administrative building is named after another guru of the Vijayanagara dynasty, Kriyashakthi. In contrast, Navaranga (nine stages), the outdoor auditorium resembles a Greek theatre while the Shilpa Vana (sculpture park) — an integral part of the visual arts department — adds a creative edge to the natural rocks, transforming them into diverse forms which highlight the importance of maintaining an ecological balance.

Another high point of the university is its archaeological and folk museum which is accessible to both the common man and scholars. The university is upgrading the museum to convert it into a national museum. Yet another new building for this purpose is coming up on the sprawling campus. “As part of this mega project, we are planning to construct a mini-Vijayanagara,” says Rai.

Rewinding to a glorious past would perhaps facilitate the process of fast-forwarding to a bright future, not just for the university but hopefully also for the region, which is slowly caving in due to the pressure of mining activities in the area.

Vital Statistics

WHAT IS IT? A university that is devoted to research on Karnataka and its culture.
Which degree programmes are offered? MPhil, DLitt and PhD
WHo’s the BoSS? The vice-chancellor is B.A. Viveka Rai.
HOw many schools does the university have? There are four schools —the School of Languages, the School of Fine Arts, the School of Social Sciences and the School of Sciences.
WHat is the address? Kannada University, Hampi, Vidyaranya-583 276,
Hospet (Taluk) , Karnataka. Telephone: 08394-241337

Vishnupriya Sengupta

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