Jnanapita Award Winners from Karnataka

Jnanpith, the country’s highest literary award was instituted in 1965. Karnataka has won the maximum number of awards till to date, With 36 years of history of this award Kannada bagged seven of them with an average of one in 5 years. Even after present rule, if a language gets the award it is not eligible to get next three years. Kannada literature, which one of the oldest, Indian languages is very much enriched by these icons, whose writings over a range of genres translated into several Indian languages and foreign languages, provide the Kannada world with their fabulous feast of writings.

Chandrashekara Kambara


Kuppalli Venkatappa Puttappa

Kuppalli Venkatappa Puttappa (Kuvempu), the first ever inner of the Jnanpith award from Karnataka,was born on December 29, 1904, in Hirekodige and brought up in Kuppalli, both villages in Shimoga district. He came to Mysore for his school education and joined Maharaja's College for his B.A. degree. He got his M.A. in Kannada in 1929 and started his career as a lecturer in Kannada at Maharaja's College in the same year. He then became a professor and a principal, and retired as the Vice-chancellor of the University of Mysore.

He strode the world of modern Kannada literature like a colossus, starting a whole new school of thought in poetic tradition and bringing unprecedented glory to Kannada in the linguistic and literary sphere of India. His creativity took Kannada poetry to a new peak and immortalized him in the hearts and minds of generations of poets to come, and he brought a new sense of pride to the Kannada-speaking masses at large.

Kuvempu was highly prolific as a poet and produced over 30 major collections of poems in a period spanning five decades. But his creative intellect also expressed itself brilliantly in his various plays, novels and critiques. He also created significant children's literature and translations. Honours and awards 'sought' Kuvempu unceasingly. He chaired the 1957 Kannada Sahitya Sammelana at Dharwad and was conferred honorary D.Litt. by the University of Mysore and by the Karnataka, Bangalore and Gulbarga universities, Padmavibhushana by the Govt. of India and the 'Rashtrakavi' title by the Govt. of Mysore. He won the Central Sahitya Academy award in 1955 (for his epic Ramayana Darshanam), the very first Pampa award in 1988 of Karnataka and of course, the ultimate recognition of literary work in India-the Jnanpith award-for his magnum opus Ramayana Darshanam in 1969. Having lived the life of a true Vishwa Manava-the world citizen conceived and propounded by him-for 9 fulfilling decades, he passed away in 1994. His ever lasting contribution to Kannadiga's is our Nada Gete, "Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujaate".


Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre

Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre, the second Jnanpith award recipient from Karnataka, was born on Jan 31, 1896, in Dharwad. Having lost his father at a very young age, Bendre grew up under the guardianship of his uncle and completed his B.A. at the famous Fergusson College in Pune. He got his M.A. in 1934 and worked as a teacher in different schools in different areas. His poem Narabali (Human Sacrifice) got him 3 years' imprisonment at the Hindalga jail, after which he remained unemployed for more than 5 years. He then joined Masti's monthly journal Jeevana as its honorary editor and went on to work in several more schools and colleges before joining the D.A.V. College of Sholapur as professor of Kannada. He remained in this position for 12 years till his superannuation at age 60. But, even after retirement, he continued to work in several places and his was indeed a highly chequered career which exposed him to untold hardships in family life. But, amidst it all, his poetic genius never failed to flower and in fact, his adversities proved to be an ever-lasting source of inspiration and philosophy for his unique brand of poetry.

Bendre composed close to 30 collections of poems, but also produced many memorable plays, short stories, critiques and translations, and he wrote in Marathi too. Bendre's outstanding contributions to literature were recognized in various forms and on various forums. He was elected the President of the 27th Kannada Sahitya Sammelana of Shimoga in 1943; awarded honorary doctorate by the University of Mysore and the Karnataka University; elected Fellow of the Central Sahitya Academy in 1969; honored with the Central Sahitya academy’s award for his poem “Aralu Maralu” and awarded the supreme literary prize of Jnanpith in 1974 for his anthology of poems Naku Thanthi . Word wizard Bendre passed away on October 26, 1986, after playing a historical role in keeping the rich traditions of Kannada poetry alive for over 5 decades. Dr. Vaman Bendre, a renowned poet, critic and translator of Kannada and Marathi literature and son of D.R. Bendre, has authored a biography of his father titled Bendre Jeevana Parichaya.


Shivaram Karanth

Kota Shivaram Karanth, the third Jnanpith award recipient from Karnataka, was born on October 10, 1902, at Kota in Dakshina Kannada district. He had his primary education in Kundapur and his college education at the Government College, Mangalore. The vastness and variety of Karanth's life and works defy any definition. Novels, short stories, plays, encyclopedias, translations, satires, travelogues, essays, biographies, critiques, works on folklore, art and sculpture, philosophy and science no sphere of knowledge and no form of literature was alien to his creativity.

Indeed, none else could have deserved so briquettes such as "Mobile Encyclopedia" and "Bhargava of the Coast" more richly than Karanth. He shunned the beaten track and set his own path in an uncompromising pursuit of truth, based on constant experimentation and exploration. He believed in the plentitude of life and wanted people to experience every aspect of it and share such experiences with others. This was why he did not find any branch of knowledge too big or too small per se, for his cultivation. In fact, he found these branches to be different paths to explore the same truth, and was himself very familiar with every one of them. For Karanth, life was never different from writing and his rich life easily and effectively translated into equally rich literature.


Masti Venkatesha Iyengar

Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, Karnataka's fourth recipient of the prestigious Jnanpith award was one of the tradition-makers of Kannada literature. He was born on June 6, 1891, in Masti village of Kolar district. By the sheer strength of his intelligence and industry, Masti built a distinguished academic career for himself, passing the MCS examination in 1913 and securing M.A. in 1914. As a civil servant, he held various positions of high responsibility in different parts of Karnataka, before retiring voluntarily in 1943. His long and diverse career of 3 decades was marked by total dedication to public service and exceptional administrative ability. And his wealth of experience as a bureaucrat gave immense inspiration for his literary works. His pseudonym Srinivasa is as popular as his native village Masti, in Kannada literary circles today. Masti, in fact, started composing stories right in his student days. His first published work 'Kelavu Sanna Kathegalu' became the first noted work in the history of modern Kannada short stories. A master story-teller, Masti had a unique relationship with this genre of literature and was therefore aptly called the "Brahma of Kannada Stories", "Forefather of Short Stories". His works carry the best elements of literature in story form and with their inimitable language, narrative style and richness of theme and realities, powerfully relate to the readers. His story Subbanna, based on the life of a musician is a good example of this and it has been translated into several Indian and foreign languages. Channabasava Nayaka and Chikkaveera Rajendra, both historical novels, are the best examples of the fertility of Masti's literary gifts. Masti also penned quite a number of poems on different philosophic, aesthetic and social themes which give us an insight into his versatile creative personality. He also composed and translated several important plays and authored several works in English, wrote biographies-including the 3-volume autobiography 'Bhava' and edited the monthly journal 'Jeevana' from 1944 - 1965 which was a memorable era in Kannada journalism.

In terms of quality, quantity, depth and diversity Masti's works present a true challenge to any researcher. He has written more than 120 books in Kannada and more than 17 books in English, over a period of 7 decades, giving abundant inspiration to generations of literary talents in Kannada. Masti's output naturally attracted fellowships, awards, doctorates, presidentships and honors and recognition in numerous other forms.

The most notable of them were, of course, the Jnanpith award which came to him in 1983, in recognition of his historical novel Chikkaveera Rajendra as an important literary work of post-Independent India. After leading an exemplary and complete life in which he succeeded in placing Kannada brilliantly on the literary atlas of India, Masti passed away in 1986 at the age of 95.


Vinayaka Krishna Gokak

Vinayaka Krishna Gokak, the fifth person to win the Jnanpith award from Karnataka, was born on August 9, 1909. He had his primary and high school education in Savanur, got his B.A. in 1929 and M.A. in 1931. In 1931, he began his professional career as an Assistant Professor in Fergusson College, Pune and became the principal of D.E.Society's Willington College, Sangli, after finishing his advanced studies with distinction, at Oxford, in 1936. But, soon he gave up his principalship following an incident that hurt his self-esteem, and the resultant unemployment set him on a path of serious introspection. In 1946, he went to Rajasthan and set up a college in its desert region and in 1949, with the reorganization of Indian states, his services in Rajasthan got transferred to the Government of Bombay and he became the principal of Karnataka College, Kolhapur, in 1952. He steadily grew in his academic career there on, and attained a peak with his appointment as the Vice-chancellor of the Bangalore University in 1966.

The main phase of his literary career and his life itself began in 1925 when he was swayed by the magnetic force of the towering figure of Kannada poetry D.R.Bendre, like many other young poets of his time. Seeing his knowledge of English literature, and his talents in English poetry, Bendre prophesied "if Gokak allows his talents to blossom in Kannada, his own poetry as well as Kannada will have a great future." Thus with Bendre as his Kavya Guru, Gokak embarked upon a unique career in the world of Kannada letters, a career in which he made unparalleled contributions to poetry (including composition of the epic Bharatha Sindhurashmi), drama, criticism and various other forms of literature, apart from producing many scholarly works in English.

The literary distinction of Gokak naturally attracted scores of awards and honors. Of these, mention must be made of his Presidentship of the 40th Kannada Sahitya Sammelana in 1958, honorary doctorates from the Karnataka University and the Pacific University of the USA, the 1961 Central Sahitya Academy award for his 'Dyava Prithivi' and of course, the highest award for literary excellence in India-the Jnanpith award-for his monumental contributions to Kannada literature, in 1990.

Gokak saw not only peaks of glory but also a peculiar complexity of happiness and sorrow at many turning points of his life, a complexity that became a characteristic mark of all his works. He passed away on April 28, 1992.


U.R. Anantha Murthy

Born in 1932, at Melige, a remote Village in Tirthahalli Taluk, in Shimoga District. Dr. Udupi Rajagopala Acharya Anantha Murthy had his early Sanskrit education in a traditional Patashala. He completed his graduation and Post-graduation from the University of Mysore in 1956. Later in 1966 he earned a PhD (English & Comparative Literature) from the University of Birmingham, U.K. He began his career as a Lecturer in English in 1956 & continued till 1963. During the period from 1970-80 he served as the Reader in English at Mysore University. He has served as a visiting Professor at a number of foreign and Indian universities. During the period 1987 to 1990 he served as the Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. Besides, he has also served as the Chairman of the National Book Trust of India at Delhi in 1992-93, Indian Institute of Social Sciences in 1998 and The Film and Television Institute of India at Pune in 2002. He was the President of the Sahitya Academy from 1993 to 1998.

He has been the winner of a number of awards both from the Government and also Academies for his invaluable contributions in different fields. Notable are the 'Jnanapeeta Award won in 1994 and the Padma Bhushana in 1998. Besides these, the other important awards are the Literary Distinction, awarded by the Government of Karnataka in 1984. Karnataka Sahitya Academy In conferred the Fiction Award and Award for Literary Achievement, the year 1983 & 1984 respectively. He won the Masti Award in Literature in the year 1994. He is also the winner of the Ganakrishti Award for Literary distinction, Kolkatta for the year 2002. Besides these awards mentioned above he has been the winner of a number of awards from the, Karnataka Film Development Corporation for best stories like Samskara, Ghatashradda, Bara etc., at different periods. Seminars, Lectures, Tours. Since 1974 to this present day he has undertaken innumerable tours, attended thousands of Seminars and has given a number of lectures on various topics.

His lectures were on varied topics such as on politics, culture, literature, Art and a number of other present day issues. In Kannada Literature Mr. Murthy's works can be classified into stories, poems, novels and essays. His works like Endendu Mugiyada Kathe (1955) Mauni, (1967), Prashne (1962), Akasha Mattu Bekku (1983), Mooru Dasakada Kathegalu (collected stories), 1989, Suryana Kudure (1995), Aidu Dashakada Kathegalu, (Collected Stories) 2001 are stories. His poems like Mithuna (1992), Ajjana Hegala Sukkugalu (1989), 15 Padyagalu (1967), Eeevareginal Kavithegalu (collected poems) 2001, Eeevareginal Kavithegalu (collected poems) 2001 are famous. His novels include Samskara, (1965) which has been translated into English, Russian, French, Hungarian, German, Swedish, Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Urdu,Tamil and Gujerati, Bharathipura (1974), Divya (2001) and others.

Mr. Murthy's contribution to English language is no way less compared to Kannada. Many of his works in Kannada have been translated to English by different authors. For instance, 'Initiation' is a Kannada story translated by Gary Wills, 'Avasthe' a novel, translated by Shanthinath Desai, 'Bhava', & 'Twenty Vacanas from Sunya Sampadane' is a set of twenty poems translated from Kannnada by Judith Kroll, 'Bharathipura' a novel has been translated by P. Srinivasa Rao.


Girish Karnad

Girish Karnad, the seventh and latest Jnanpith award winner from Karnataka, was born in Maharashtra on May 19, 1938. He got his bachelor's degree from the Karnataka University in 1958 and then proceeded on a fellowship to study at Oxford where he secured his M.A. degree in 1963.

Karnad is internationally known as a playwright, but is also a highly talented film-maker, a versatile actor, an able cultural administrator, a noted communicator and a person of wide accomplishments and interests. Based on his serious explorations of folklore, mythology and history, the subject of his plays reflect the problems and challenges of contemporary life, and endeavor to forge a link between the past and the present. The creative intellectual that he is, he obviously views the subjects of his plays from his own perspective, develops them in the crucible of his own imagination and personal experiences, and employs them as a medium to communicate his own-independent and original-feelings, thoughts and interpretations.

Karnad's play Hayavadana won the Central Sangeeth Natak Academy award and the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya award in 1978. In 1993, his play Nagamandala was premiered in Minneapolis in the USA. It was later staged, and became widely popular, across the world. His other famous works (in Kannada) are Yayati, Tughalak, Anjumallige, Hittina Hunja, Taledanda, Agni mathu Male and Tippuvina Kannasugalu. He has translated his plays from Kannada into English and Tughalak into German and Hungarian as well.

As for films, Karnad has been director, actor and screenplay writer for many famous Kannada movies including Samskara, Vamsha Vriksha, Kadu and Kanooru Heggadithi, and several Hindi movies. Samskara won the best film award, Vamsha Vriksha got national and state awards and many of his films have won medals and awards. He has also made a number of documentaries and tele-serials.

Karnad has also served as director of the Film and Television Institute of India and Chairman of the Central Sangeeth Natak Academy and the National Academy of Performing Arts. He was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago in 1987-88 and as an intellectual, has presented his thought-provoking views and ideas on culture and allied topics on many national and international forums. He has always taken a leading part in movements and crusades concerning social and cultural.

Chandrashekhara Kambara

Chandrashekhara Kambara (born January 2, 1937) is a prominent poet, playwright, folklorist, film director in Kannada language and the founder-vice-chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi. He is known for his effective usage of North Karnataka dialect of Kannada language in his plays and poems and is often compared with D.R. Bendre.

Dr. Kambara's plays mainly revolves around folk or mythology interlinked with contemporary issues, inculcating modern lifestyle with his hard-hitting poems and has became a pioneer of such literature. His contribution as a playwright is significant not only to Kannada theatre but also to the Indian theatre in general as he achieved a blend of the folk and the modern theatrical forms.

He has been conferred with many prestigious awards including the Jnanpith Award in 2011 for the year 2010, Sahitya Akademi Award, the Padma Shri by Government of India, Kabir Samman, Kalidas Samman and Pampa Award. After his retirement, Kambara was nominated Member of Karnataka Legislative Council, to which he made significant contributions through his interventions.

Source : TotalKannada

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