ETHNONYMS: Canarese, Kannadiga

These are some 66 percent of the inhabitants of Karnataka, in south-central India, who speak the Kannada language. In 1991 they numbered about 31 million speakers (four percent of the national population). The Kannada language belongs to the Dravidian family. It has an ancient, mainly devotional, literature, stretching back to the ninth century A . D . The Kannada script, though similar to that of Telugu, is only used for writing Kannada and the closely related languages Tulu and Kodagu, both of which are spoken in the western parts of Karnataka.

The great majority of Kanarese (85.9 percent) are Hindus, but 11.1 percent of the state's population is Muslim and 2.1 percent Christian. There are also two important sects present: Jains and Lingayats. The Jains are a monastic sect often considered beyond the pale of Hinduism. The Lingayats are a Shaivite reformist sect of Hinduism, founded in the twelfth century A . D ., and having a strong monotheistic tendency.

Most of the Karnataka state was from 1578 to 1947 the kingdom of Mysore, ruled by a maharaja based in Mysore City. Even before this kingdom there had been culturally brilliant Hindu kingdoms in the same area, as the temple art of the Hoysalas (1007-1336 A . D .) and the city polity of the Vijayanagar Empire (1336-1565) clearly attest. During the eighteenth century the Muslim adventurer Haidar Ali and his son Tipu Sultan fought four wars against the British, which culminated in Tipu's death in 1799; but after that the British never ruled Mysore directly, preferring to prop up the Hindu house of Mysore. It had a relatively efficient state administration and was one of the largest princely states in South Asia. As a result, in the twentieth century Karnataka has become one of the most prosperous and modernized Indian states.

Although its economy is still largely rural, the state includes the great city of Bangalore, one of the two major industrial centers in South India. Universities, technical colleges, and high-technology industries all abound in the Bangalore area. Aircraft, silk, and motorcycles are three of the bestknown products. The important cultivated crops of the state are millet, rice, sorghum, tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, potatoes, onions, turmeric, cardamom, and chilies. The major plantation crops are coffee and coconuts, but there is some tea and rubber; and there are still extensive forests in the west. Gold is the major mineral product.

See also Coorg ; Jain ; Lingayat ; Okkaliga


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