Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
The Life of Harishchandra

The Life of Harishchandra


Translated by Vanamala Viswanatha

ISBN 9780674545663

Publication date: 01/09/2017

A thirteenth-century adaptation of one of ancient India’s most enduring stories, a cornerstone of the Kannada literary canon, translated for the first time into English.

The Life of Harishchandra, Raghavanka’s thirteenth-century masterpiece, is the first poetic rendering of one of ancient India’s most enduring legends. When his commitment to truth is tested by a powerful sage, King Harishchandra suffers utter deprivation—the loss of his wife and son, his citizens and power, and, dearest of all, his caste status—but refuses to yield. The tale has influenced poets and readers through the ages. Mahatma Gandhi traced his own commitment to truth to the impact of a Harishchandra play seen in childhood.

A poet from northern Karnataka trained in the twin traditions of Sanskrit and Kannada, Raghavanka negotiates a unique space for himself in the Kannada literary canon through important thematic, formal, and stylistic innovations. The conflicts he addresses—of hierarchical social order, political power, caste, and gender—are as relevant to contemporary India as to his own times.

Accompanied by the original text in the Kannada script, this spirited translation, the first into any language, brings an elegant and energetic narrative to a global readership.


  • [This] 13th-century epic by the Veerashaiva poet, Raghavanka, is a path-breaking work in many ways. It is the first Kannada epic to give up Sanskrit meters (vruttas) and narrate the entire epic in a native meter called Shatpadi (a six-line stanza, similar to Spenserian stanza in English)… As a translator, [Vanamala Vishwanatha] has done a remarkable job of recreating the experience of the Kannada epic in English… A brilliant work, faultlessly produced.

    —C. N. Ramachandran, The Hindu


  • Vanamala Viswanatha is Visiting Professor at the School of Education, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, India.

Book Details

  • 688 pages
  • 5-1/4 x 8 inches
  • Harvard University Press