Pampa (Kannada: , 10th century), called by the honorific dikavi ( “First Poet”) was a Kannada poet whose works reflected his philosophical beliefs. A court poet of Chalukya king Arikesari II, a feudatory of the Rashtrakuta dynasty king Krishna III, he is most known for his epics Vikramrjuna Vijaya or Pampa Bharata, and the di pura, both written in the champu style around c.939. These works served as the model for all future champu works in Kannada.

The works of Jain writers Pampa, Sri Ponna and Ranna, collectively called the “Three gems of Kannada literature“, heralded the 10th century era of medieval Kannada literature.

Early life

Kannada poets and writers in the Rashtrakuta Empire
(753-973 CE)
Amoghavarsha 850
Srivijaya 850
Asaga 850
Shivakotiacharya 900
Ravinagabhatta 930
Adikavi Pampa 941
Jainachandra 950
Sri Ponna 950
Rudrabhatta 9th-10th c.
Kavi Rajaraja 9th-10th c.
Gajanakusha 10th century
Earlier Kannada poets and writers praised in Kavirajamarga
Durvinita 6th century
Vimala Pre-850
Nagarjuna Pre-850
Jayabodhi Pre-850
Udaya Pre-850
Kavisvara Pre-850
Pandita Chandra Pre-850
Lokapala Pre-850

There are varying opinions about the early life and native language of Pampa. While it is commonly believed Pampa belonged to a Brahmin family that took to Jainism, their actual place of origin and native language (Kannada or Telugu) is debated. According to the trilingual inscription (in Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada) installed by Pampa’s younger brother Jinavallabha at Bommalamma Gutta in Kurikiyala village, Gangadharam mandal (in modern Telangana), his father was Abhimanadevaraya (also known as Bhimappayya) and mother was Abbanabbe. It also indicated that his grandfather was Abhimanachandra who belonged to the Brahmin caste and hailed from Vangiparru in Kammanadu, Guntur district, Andra Pradesh. According to the modern Jain scholar Hampa Nagarajaiah (“Hampana”), Pampa was born in Annigeri, spent his early childhood on the banks of the nearby Varada river and his mother Abbanabbe was the grand daughter of Joyisa Singha of Annigeri in the modern Dharwad district of Karnataka state. Frequent descriptions of the beauty of the Banavasi region (in the modern Uttara Kannada district) and even the sprinkling (abhishek) of water from the Varada river on Arjuna’s head during his coronation in Pampa’s epic Vikramarjuna Vijaya testifies to the poet’s attachment to the Banavasi region. However, according to the Sheldon Pollock, Pampa is believed to have come from a Telugu-speaking family or region. Through the lines aarankusamittodam nenevudenna manam banvaasi deshamam and puttidirdode maridumbiyaagi men kogileyaagi nandanavanadol banavaasideshadol he has expressed his deep attachment towards Banavasi.

It is very evident from his works that he had mastered Sanskrit and Prakrit and that he must have had a good all-round education including Vedic literature and Jain philosophy. He may have studied and mastered various subjects like music, philosophy, dance, economics, medicine, kamashastra (the science of sensual pleasure). He is said to have studied under a guru by name Devendra Muni of Shravanabelagola.

Sensitive, modest and imaginative, Pampa has earned a veritable place in the world of Kannada literature, which has remained unquestioned even today.

Poetic life

A well-travelled man, he settled down as the court poet of King Arikesari II. Flattered by his knowledge and poetic abilities, Arikesari (who possessed the title Gunarnava) conferred on him the title Kavita Gunarnava. At the age of 39 he wrote his first masterpiece, di pura, in 941, and a little later he completed Vikramarjuna Vijaya popularly known as Pampa Bharata. These two works have remained unparalleled works of classic Kannada composition.

Though there were several Kannada poets centuries prior to him, the quality of their works does not seem to have matched his. Such was the greatness of his literature that Pampa himself proudly proclaims that his works stamped and crushed all the other existing literature in Kannada. Rightly so, he is called the dikavi “first/original poet” of Kannada literature. He is also first of “the three pearls” of Kannada poetry. A later poet Nagaraja says of him, pasaripa kannadakkodayanorvane satkavi pampan “the virtuous poet Pampa is the lone master of the famed Kannada.”


Vikramarjuna Vijaya