Every culture finds ways of spreading its fragrance beyond its immediate environs. The mobility of cultural resources has marked many aspects of our social existence as much in the past as in the present. Such mobility has always been a source of knowing other cultures and reformulating one’s own ‘window to the world’. Translation is one of the means of cultural transfer. At times, translation takes on multiple roles and follows a more assertive path of self-representation, which is what it is doing in India. Translators from diverse languages are taking it upon themselves to showcase the rich literary traditions of the past as well as the impressive works in the present. Kannada, with a continuous multilingual literary history for more than a millennium, as many other South Asian traditions, has much to offer to the world, because only a fraction of this rich literature in multiple genres is known to the non-Kannada world. Added to this is the ignorance and prejudice that prevails. For instance, E.P. Rice wrote in his book A History of Kannada Literature, way back in 1921, “I am afraid it must be confessed that Kanarese writers, highly skillful though they are in the manipulation of their language, and very pleasing to listen to in the original, have as yet contributed extremely little to the stock of the world’s knowledge and inspiration [...]. There is little of original and imperishable thought on the question of perennial interest to man [...]. Hence a lack of that which stimulates hope and inspires to great enterprises.”
Kannada translators have in the recent past given glimpses of the great treasure of ancient and modern Kannada literature. This includes representative extracts from the first millennium (C.N. Ramachandran and B.A. Vivek Rai), oral epics (C.N. Ramachandran and Padma Sharma), the Vachana literature of the early second millennium (A.K. Ramanujan, H.S. Shivaprakash, O.L. Nagabhushan Swamy, Manu Devadevan and Vinaya Chaitanya) and complete texts of some old Kannada classics (Raghavanka’s The Life of Harischandra by Vanamala Vishvanath and Srivijaya’s Kavirajamargam by RVS Sundaram and Deven M. Patel), apart from the modern era (Sirigannada by Vivek Shanbhag). These translations are the proverbial tip of the iceberg as Kannada has many more literary gems from the ancient, medieval and modern periods. In what has been translated into English, there are many omissions.