Old Kannada literature, which developed continuously until the middle of the 12th century, began to enter the second phase after that. Old Kannada, which had flourished under the influence of Sanskrit, introduced a new phase. This new phase is known as the ‘Nadugannada’ or the medieval Kannada literary period. We can trace this new period of Kannada literature until about the 15th century. During this phase, the influence of Sanskrit became less and, Kannada literature took a new developing turn. It found its nativity.
During the medieval period, the classical poetical style of ‘Champu,’ influenced by Sanskrit, gave way to a simple native form, a language that can be understood by the commoner. This is marked as the period of Vachana literature, highlighting the ideals of Veerashaivism. This does not mean that the old classical style was wholly given up, and there were no literary works in the ‘Champu’ style. Even during the medieval period, we can see the production of some classical poetical works.
Another highlight of the medieval period was the arrival of Veershaiva literature in place of Jaina literature. The literature of the medieval period began to highlight the ideals of Veerashaivism, its philosophy, and devotion, instead of Jainism. The unique Vachana literature, which began to evolve independently, was simple in its style. It was full of ‘Desi’ or native idiom and thus could be understood even by the ordinary.
On account of its uniqueness, Vachanas are famous even today. The ‘voice of the God’ became the ‘Voice of the people.’ Thus a significant transformation took place in Kannada literature during this period. Not only Veerashaiva seers, even women produced beautiful Vachanas and carved out a new epoch in Kannada literature. Apart from Vachana, another style ‘Ragale’ also took shape during the medieval period.
However, the period did not mark only the production of literary works of Veershaiva philosophy. The great and famous epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana continued to make their influence. Works influenced by these epics were also produced.
Another notable feature of the Nadugannada period was another branch of poetic style, the Dasa literature. Under this style, the Vedic and Puranic literary continued to flourish but in a new form. Based on Mahabharatha, Ramayana, Bhagavatha, Bhagavadgeetha, and other epics, abundant literature of Vaidic tradition was produced in the way of songs. Great seers of Madhwa philosophy composed hundreds of songs highlighting the Dwaita School of philosophy.
The Nadugannada period continued until about the period of Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar, the king of Mysore. Kannada literature, during this medieval period, saw many new and popular experiments. This gave birth to many new styles. Kannada found a stable footing during this phase, reaching the common man and the devotees of Shiva and Vishnu. It found an independent identity of its own, marking a new epoch in Kannada literature. It was the ‘epoch of the people’ and ‘era of Kannada’ in Kannada literature and language.