Meaning of the word 'Karnataka'


'Karna' means ear, and 'atati' means wander, together giving a meaning for 'Karnata' as where ones ears would want to wander, since this is the birth place of the popular Carnatic music. The region was popularly referred to as 'Karnata desha' in Indian history.

Another etymological derivative of the name comes from lear or black—a reference to the black cotton soil of the region.

Scholars have spun a number of theories in interpreting the word 'Karnataka'. One view is that the original name was 'Kannada' which referred to the land and not to a language or people, and that 'Karnata' was only its Sankritised form. Nripatunga (9th century) and Andayya (13th century) call this land 'Kannada'. Some Scholars, however, argue that the Sanskrit name 'Karnata' was of earlier origin, from which 'Kannada' evolved. This is an amusing theory based upon a story in the Skanda Purana, which says that the land is named after a demon called Karnata.

R. Narsimhacharya derived the word Kannada from Kam + Nadu or Kammitu + Nadu= Kannadu, meaning ' a fragrant or sweet smelling land', hinting at the fragrance of the sandalwood trees that abound the forests of Karnataka.

Religious and Spiritual Heritage:

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Karnataka has been a meeting ground of many faiths and sects. Here flourished saints and mystics whose sublime thoughts and lofty spirituality touched the lives of the high and the low. Jainism is said to have been introduced into Karnataka by Chandragupta Maurya who retired to Sravanabelagola to pursue his spiritual exercises. Many ruling families of Karnataka patronized Jainism, which enriched the cultural texture of the region. Shankara established one of his four Mathas at Sringeri, and it remained the fountainhead of Advaitic thought ever since. Ramanuja, the great Sri Vaishnava teacher, found asylum in the Hoysala kingdom when he was hounded out of the Tamil country.

Madhwacharya, the redoubtable exponent of the Dwaita Philosophy, was born near Udupi, where he established the eight Mathas to expand and perpetuate his system. Karnataka witnessed the Haridasa Movement, with which were associated the hallowed names of Purandaradasa, Kanakadasa, Vadiraja, Vyasaraya, Vijayadasa or Jagannathadasa. The vigorous and progressive socio-religious movement unleashed by Basaveshwara, the "Martin Luther of Karnataka", is an important feature of the spiritual heritage of Karnataka. Islam flourished under the Bahaminis or the Adilshahis, and Christianity found a receptive soil in the Coastal Kanara. Karnataka has all along been adhering to the sober ideal of religious toleration, with a noble emphasis on the dictum of "live and let live".

Cultural glory of Karnataka:

Karnataka also has a special place in the world of Indian classical music with both Karnataka (Carnatic) and Hindustani styles finding place in the state and Karnataka has produced a number of stalwarts in both styles.

While referring to music the word ' Karnataka', the original name given to the South Indian classical music does not mean the state of Karnataka.

The Haridasa movement of the sixteenth century contributed seminally to the development of Karnataka (Carnatic) music as a performing art form. Purandara Dasa, one of the most revered Haridasas, is known as the Karnataka Sangeeta Pitamaha ('Father of Karnataka a.k.a.Carnatic music').

Celebrated Hindustani musicians like Gangubai Hangal, Mallikarjun Mansur, Bhimsen Joshi, Basavaraja Rajaguru, Sawai Gandharvaand several others hail from Karnataka and some of them have been recipients of the Kalidas Samman, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards.