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The recognized epigraphy of Kannada dates back to the 3rd century BC and that of literary history to the early 6th century AD during the rule of Gangas. A rock edict of Emperor Ashoka at Brahmagiri has many Kannada words inscribed on it. Halmidi inscription of 450 AD clearly manifests the strength Kannada has acquired as an established language. Bruhathkathe is the literary work by Durvineetha, a poet in the Ganga court in about 600 AD; unfortunately the work is not available now. Literary works such as Kavirajamarga has laid the foundation for the forthcoming literary works as early as 850 AD. Vaddaradhane by Shivakotyacharya in about 900 AD, excellent works by the three jewels of early Kannada literature Pampa, Ponna and Ranna such as Adipurana, Pampa Bharatha, Shanthipurana, Ramakathe, Gadhayuddha, and Parashurama Charita and Karnatabhashabhushana, a treatise on Kannada grammar by Nagavarma 2nd , Shabdamanidarpana yet another work on Kannada grammar by Keshiraja are spanned in between 950 AD and 1250 AD. Harihara and Raghavanka, who produced notable literary works, also belong to this period. 

 

The Vachana literature is a unique literature in Kannada; it is an apt blend of verse and prose. The literature is more or less in the spoken form, easy to remember and reproduce as well. The middle part of 12th century AD is the period of Vachana literature. Allama Prabhu,   Basaveshwara, Channabasava, Akkamahadevi are the chief Vachanakaras, they used Vachanas in religious as well as social reformation of the contemporary society. Soon begins the era of Kumaravyasa, Lakshmisha, Sarvajna and Haridasa literature by Kanakadasa, Purandaradasa in between 1400 AD to 1550 AD. The rulers of Mysore patronized many Kannada scholars in their courts from 1600 to 1947, among them Bhattakalanka, Govindavaidya, Thirumalarya, Kempunarayana produced noteworthy literature in Kannada. Muddana wrote some of the best modern Kannada literature during the end of 19th century. 

 The modern Kannada literature under the stalwarts of Govinda Pai, Panje Mangesharaya, Kuvempu, Masthi, Bendre, Shivarama Karanth, UR Ananthamurthy, GS Shivarudrappa , SL Bhyrappa, Nissar Ahmed, VK Gokak, Chandrashekara Kambara, Hampa Nagarajaiah, Devanuru Mahadeva and many alike has produced profound literature of  acclaimed repute and quality. The fact that Kannada has bagged 8 Jnanpith and 51 Sahitya Akademi awards so far is the very manifestation of its rich literary legacy. 

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