The author was the most authoritative member of the celebrated, but still little-known, Ḍiṇḍima clan, the scholarly family which uninterruptedly served the Vijayanagara imperial ideology for more than three centuries. Apart from the philological work of textual reconstruction, a significant effort during the research has been devoted to tracing and analysis of all the available sources about the family. The attestations concerning the Ḍiṇḍima poets come from a very heterogeneous realms, mostly connected to the epigraphical, literary and historical ones. The impossibility of recovering historical or, at least, reliable data about the classical writers in Sanskrit is a matter of regret in the history of literary studies. Surprisingly, the history of the Ḍiṇḍima poets is far from uncertain, due to surviving narrations from which it is possible to coherently trace the origin and establishment of this scholarly family. Among the available sources, the Vibhāgaratnamālikā, “The Garland of Gems of Partition”, represents the most systematic exposition about the origin of the family. This anonymous work gives some glimpses about the ancestors of the clan, but it is devoted to the celebration of the principal and most representative figure, namely Aruṇagirinātha, the court poet of Devarāya II (1422-1446). After a close reading of the text and survey of the most relevant portions, the study will be directed towards the examination of the genealogical prastāvanā of the Somavallī, in which the poet outlined the history of his family and ancestors. Among the more reliable documents, two Tamil inscriptions in the village of Mullandram (North Arcot district, Tamil Nadu), which record examples of land donation by Aruṇagirinātha himself, will be taken into consideration as well.
The figure of the poet will be examined also through the consistent traces left by the ancient cāṭu tradition, in a series of spurious stanza which depict a literary contest between the Telugu author Śrīnātha (15th century CE) and Ḍiṇḍimakavi. This historical event, confirmed also by Āndhra sources, will be studied also in the wider perspective of literary changes which took place in Vijayanagara with the spreading of religious movement (vīraśaivism) and the rise of the vernacular production in Tamil and Telugu. The principal result of this exposition will be developed in an analysis of the literary patronage to the Sanskrit production in the 15th century Vijayanagara, whose faceted multilingualism mirrored at the political level the process of expansion and conquest by the imperial apparatus.
A relevant part of this research will be occupied by the many problematics connected to the works authored by Aruṇagirinātha. If the authorship of the farce Somavallīyogānanda remains undoubted, the one of the mahākāvya Rāmābhyudaya remains problematic. Following also Lidia Sudyka’s recent conclusions (2013), I will try to offer new evidences that seem to convincingly attribute the authorship of the poem to Ḍiṇḍimakavi, and not to the emperor Sāḷuva Narasiṃha (1485-1491). The demonstration will involve a study of artificial oral traditions, orbiting around a supposed rivalry between Aruṇagirinātha and Vedānta Deśika, formed in 17th century in vaiṣṇava circles to glorify the ācārya and falsely place the religious current at the beginning of Vijayanagara history. In order to offer a complete overview about the Ḍiṇḍima family, I will focus also on the later members of this scholarly clan. Considering the unedited status of the majority of the works by these poets, the study will be conducted directly on manuscript material collected during previous research missions in India. In primis, some portions of the mahākāvya Sāḷuvābhyudaya by Rājanātha Ḍiṇḍima, especially the birudas (epithets) in the colophons of each sargas, will be carefully analysed and translated for the first time. This step will also offer the opportunity to closely examine the process and modality of artistic auto-perception by the Ḍiṇḍima poets. To enlarge the genealogical aspect of the research, the dramatic prologue of the unedited Vīrabhadravijaya by Kumāra Ḍiṇḍima Aruṇagirinātha (16th century CE) will be inserted in this detailed account of the Vijayanagara poets. Lastly, my recent discoveries have allowed to trace an unknown member of the Ḍiṇḍima family beyond the Vijayanagara era, namely in Thanjavur Nāyaka period (16th-17th centuries CE). Focusing on this last evidence will allow to throw light on the surprising continuity of a scholarly family active and attested for more than three centuries.