Literary Shelf

A Treatise on Good Governance:

Fall of Kalyana

Indian Literature in English has earned acceptability, authenticity and global acknowledgement. In a multilingual country like India knowledge of more than one language has enabled people from ages to translate culture and literature from one speech system into another. Infact, translation is integral to Indian psyche.

Ramayana’ and ‘MahaBharatha’ have been translated into all Indian languages resulting in establishing and giving a thrust to value based life. Despite subjugation through centuries, India has always been known for her resilience and zeal for reformation. This alone must have sustained this great nation with a hoary past!

Ability to absorb, observe and offer lasting solutions  to perplexing problems has been the bedrock on which, the edifice of Indian culture rests. ‘Unity in Diversity’ has been the channel allowing flow of free thought, action and subsequent sublime solutions. Inspite of apparently rigid frame work of traditions and exemplary desire to enforce discipline, there arose on the social firmament stars blazing trails.

One such blazing star is Basava, who triumphed in transforming the social and religious contexts in Karnataka. His strife to convert socio-religious-political cultures from static to dynamic level is indeed, highly appreciable, where alleviating the situation of the subaltern, has been of supreme significance.

“Basaveswara has been one of the greatest social reformers of Karnataka, India. His magnificent personality shines through his countless mystic utterances and vacanas [Basava Raj Naikar, 2003]. As Basavaraj Naikar, proposes in his translator’s note of Fall of Kalyana’, Dr. M.M. Kalburgi, a veteran scholar and an ardent ‘Basavalogist’ has succeeded in portraying the total personality of Basava in his play ‘Kettitu Kalyana’ in Kannada.

Fall of Kalyana may be termed a play of ideas and can be favorably compared with similar plays in other languages. The dramatist Kalburgi’s focus is on  the pattern of  Basava’s  progressive views. Although Basava belonged to twelfth century Karnataka, his preaching is relevant even now.    

“The personality of Basava is so grand, noble and multifaceted that it has tantalized many a writer from twelfth century down to the present one.” [R.M. Girji, Indian journal of English studies, vol XLI, 2003-04-P.251].

Yes. There are many works of art that try to project the personality of Basaveswara, in their own way. Kalburgi’s work foregrounds Basava and the encounters with Brahminical thought and king Bijjala’s views of governance. His play brings to limelight concepts like Kayaka, Dasoha, Istalinga worship and efforts to establish  equality among  divergent genders and castes.

If righteous indignation is considered worthwhile, then the fire that was ignited at the agrahara, spreads slowly and splendidly reducing to ashes the centre of all adharma, the kingdom itself.

As Prof I.K. Sharma observes objectively, “Kalburgi does not falter a bit. The play is firm, with no padding. Our interest in the play doesn’t flag because episode after episode comes in quick succession, each one opening on a new perilous sea that adds a new shade of color to the character of Basava.: [I.K.Sharma, ReflectionsVol V, no 1&2, 2006]

The play presents how Basava passed through three phases in his life: the agrahara-culture of Begawadi,  the temple-culture  and the palace-culture of Kalyana. His growth from static to dynamic level is traced vividly.

In his social outlook and values cherished most, Basava appears as a forerunner to Marx, Gandhi and Ambedkar. His confession to his servants is quite revealing:

 “Though I am the son of this family, the property there of should belong to you as you have worked as servants here from generation to generation. Therefore, this house and lands are your property now.” [Fall of Kalyana—p.17]

His argument is illuminating:

“This property has grown on account of your sweat. I am giving it back to you . You release me from the debt I owe you. Later you distribute the land, the house, the open site and the cattle among yourselves.” [Fall of Kalyana—p.17]

The leitmotif  “The static perishes, the dynamic perishes not” is heard repeatedly. Basva is appalled by the rituals and environment of the agrahara. He gets injured while trying to free a sacrificial lamb from the hands of Vipras. He denounces ‘the religion devoid of compassion’.

In his discussion with Isanyaguru, his teacher at Kudala Sangama, Bsava explains the difference between his concept of istalinga  and that of the saivas. The icon of the saivas is a symbol of  the Linga in the temple, where as his is a symbol of the inner soul of man. ‘Concrete symbol of the invisible soul is a simple means  for self-purification.’

“The sacred thread classifies people on the basis of their birth , the istalinga  does it on the basis of merit. In the former approach birth is more important, where  as in the latter approach merit is more important.”[ Fall of Kalyana—p.21]

Basava’s views are progressive and humanistic. As he opines the principle of istalinga is clearly different from that of sacred thread. Where as the latter gives a man power to conduct sacrifice, the former paves the way  for spiritual purity. The holy service to the istalinga is necessary for the transformation of material body into divine one. It is a day-to-day self-examination paving the way for manifestation of virtues like truthfulness, peace, kindness etc…thereby humanizing the individual.

Basava emphatically informs Isanyaguru:

“Yes, revered sir. We must defy temples  which have become centers of misusing God. Instead our legs should be the pillars, our head the golden crown and our body, the temple. Every man should be a moving temple. Our personality should be transformed from static to dynamic.” [Fall of Kalyana-p.26]

Basava’s observations  about the contemporary society  are highly relevant to the prevailing situation now. He tells Nagalambika, his elder sister :

“Yes, sister.It seems as though in  the society  of bad people , it is the worst fellows who will be the leaders. These people seem to  think that  they can do any thing in the name of religion, if they have a little money and a few evil followers. But the time is not  far when this money, these pontiffs and their followers  will prove to be the death of this monastery.” [Fall of Kalyana—p.29]

Basava, notices the financial business growing rampantly in the monastery. He obliquely refers to the role of financial interests that sustain human relationships, an essentially Marxist view. Social concerns of Basava come to the fore when he responds to the statement of  Isanyaguru,

“The dynamic chairs have been occupied by  static pontiffs”, by stating that ‘the relatives of the pontiffs enjoy butter and their feline devotees taste milk, where as the poor ones have to be content with only buttermilk.’

Basava speaks out :

“universal experience is nothing but socialization of spiritual experience. Every individual should partake of the universal experience…it is, therefore, not possible for people  until  and unless they destroy the old order of society and create the new.” [Fall of Kalyana—p.33].

He categorically  states that the society had been divided into two streams---the exploiters and the exploited.

King Bijjala is impressed with the   forthrightness and honesty of Basava and appoints him the finance minister. He is   highly impressed with the way  work is carried out.---‘doing the right work  at the right time’.  Basava is known for practicing what he preaches. He never discriminates between the jobs. He becomes  a role model for all people. He virtually lays a firm foundation for  modern management policies.

The king is pleased with the way the state treasury is augmented. He appreciates Basava’s policy, ‘my honesty is my  capital’. Basava believes that remaining clean in midst of money will be a sort of self examination for him. For him it is an experiment in spiritual purification. 

His clarity of thought and rational   approach are amazing. He declares:  “ The  caste difference  between the privileged and the under privileged is born out of religion. Where as   the difference between the poor and the rich is born out of labour”. [Fall of Kalyana--p.40] . He informs the citizens that labor is the only means   to over come their poverty. He further enlightens them: “Yes, it is the moral responsibility of the kingdom to provide the basic  necessities in their life as they are its primary citizens. It is, therefore, arranged to supply a house to live in, a little cloth to cover themselves and a few other things from the treasury.

 It is understood that Kayaka means not only physical labor but mental labor as well. It means not only for one self  but also  for the society. The principle of  Kayaka emerging from the divinization of labor is combined with that of  Dasoha  also thereby bringing more happiness and contentment in the society. Now, one  can understand why vacana literature angers people with vested interest ---  it propounds social justice also, in addition to conveying a humanitarian message.

Basava disapproves  the practice of  velavali  sacrificing his life when his master dies. His outlook is remarkably rational and absolutely progressive. “Truly speaking it is the  citizen who is greater than the king. It is the citizen who is the basic member  and  wealth of the kingdom. That is the reason why, it is the king who should  become the velavali of the citizen instead of vice-versa.” [Fall of Kalyana---p.55]. He further declares that the king need not sacrifice his life for the citizens’ sake, but, he must love them as if they are his life-breath and he must maintain velavali  relationship with his subjects.

Basaveswara denounces the practice of   untouchability .The earth and water are to be equally available to all. None is low or high  by birth. The low is he who created the divisions. Basava wonders ‘how is a mental worker superior to physical worker’. As he rightly believes, “Our ancient religions advocated individual welfare by neglecting social welfare. That is the reason why we grew strong  individually and weak socially. Social welfare should be our target  now , in order to rectify the wrong.” [Fall of Kalyana—p.58].

One has to agree with Basaveswara when he emphatically proclaims, “The food prepared out of earnings  from hard labour is ,indeed , great food.” He has the courage to inform the king Bijjala, “These are the  hard working laborers , therefore, these are my people. They  are  the masters not merely of their kingdom, but of the whole world.” [Fall of Kalyana—p.52].This sparks the rift between him and the ruler. Untouchable men and women  and people in the lower strata of society rally round Basava. The king is sustained by  priests and pontiffs.

Basava’s  steadfastness is impressive and inspiring. He  is prepared to give up even his life but he  can not leave economic equality, social equality and religious equality and the citizens practicing these ideals. He establishes dharma in place of karma   and formulates the body-temple culture  in place of stone-temple culture. Palace-culture gives way to  spiritual-home culture and social-spiritual culture replaces monastery-culture. His followers, saranas, imbibe the principle -- ‘compassion is the foundation of religion’. The play ends with a confrontation between King Bijjala and Basava turning violent. The king is killed by his bodyguards.  Chaos reigns supreme.

Basavaraj Naikar  succeeds in presenting the towering personality of Basavewara through this play. A versatile scholar an eminent creative writer and an accomplished translator, Naikar appends the play with splendid notes, which is intended to enlighten non-kannadigas and non-saivites.

Naikar calls the heralds in king Bijjala’s court the court-flatterers.   

A person making announcements in town is called the town-crier. The dialogue is crisp and there are ample opportunities for the actors to modulate their voice to intensify impact of the situation. Nowhere is the translator visible, though his commendable craftsmanship is conceivable.  Fall of Kalyana is another colorful feather on the illustrious cap of Basavaraj .S .Naikar.

Naikar the eternal seeker and creative writer par excellence has brought out two volumes titled Sarvajna, the Omniscient Poet of Karnataka and Musings of Sarvajna, which enable non-Kannada audience grasp the essential truth and wisdom radiated by saiva cult in Karnataka. It will benefit any seeker to consult the above mentioned texts to appreciate the yeoman service rendered  by  Basavaraj  Naikar in lending elegance to Indian Literature in English with an exquisite contribution like Fall of Kalyana.


  • Basavaraj Naikar: Musings of Sarvajna, Sivaranjani Publications, Dharwad, 1993 Sarvajna, The Omniscient Poet of Karnataka, Sivaranjani Publications, Dharwad, 1984.
  • Choudary, S.D: Glimpses of Indian Poetics, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2002.
  • Girji,R.M: Book Review of Fall of Kalyana in Indian Journal of English Studies, vol XLI,2003-2004
  • Kalburgi,M.M (Tr)  Basavataj. S. Naikar, Fall of Kalyana, Basava Samithi, Bangalore,2003.
  • Naik, M.M & Mokasi-Punekar, S(ed): Perspectives of Drama in English, Oxford University Press, Madras, 1977.
  • Rajan, P.K & Swapna Daniel: Indian Poetics and Modern Texts, S. Chand and company, New Delhi,1998
  • Shantinath, K.Desai (ed): Creative Aspects of Indian English, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1995.
  • Sharma, I.K: Book Review of Fall of Kalyana, in Reflections, (ed) G.S.Jha, vol v, No 1 & 2, 2006.


More by :  Dr. T. S. Chandra Mouli

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