The first among eight recipients of Jnanpith Award for Kannada, Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa, popularly known by the pen name Kuvempu, is the finest and greatest poet of Kannada literature, novelist and playwright of 20th century Kannada literature. Along with the title of ‘Rashtrakavi’ in 1958 and ‘Karnataka Ratna’ in 1992, he contributed to ‘Universal Humanism’ or ‘Vishwa Maanavataa Vaada’ and composed the Karnataka State Anthem ‘Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate’ which brought him Padma Vibhushan by Government of India in 1988. He was the champion of social equality.
Insight to his Early Life and Education
Kuvempu was born in the village of Hirekodige, KoppaTaluk of Chikmagalur district, Karnataka but was brought up in Maledu region of Thirthahalli of Shivamogga district. His father’s name was Venkatappa Gowda and mother was Seethamma. He was initially tutored at home by local teacher from Dakshina Kannada district and later did his schooling from Anglo Vernacular School in Thirthahalli. In the meantime, his father died and he completed his higher studies at the Wesleyan High School, Mysore. He graduated from Maharaja College of Mysore in 1929, majoring in Kannada.
A Look at his Later Career
On the advice of a faculty of Ramakrishna Mission, Kuvempu married Hemavathi on 30 April 1937 and was blessed with two sons, Poornachandra Tejaswi, Kokilodaya Chaitra, and two daughters, Indukala and Tharini. His career began with profession in field of Kannada language as a lecturer at the Maharaja College in Mysore in 1929. Later on he joined Central college of Bangalore in the post of an assistant professor in 1936. In 1946, he again joined Maharaja College, Mysore where he raise to the designation of principal by 1955 and finally got nominated as the Vice-Chancellor of Mysore University and served there till 1960.
His Passionate Work and Inspirational Message
Starting with the literary work in English and then switching to Kannada, Kuvempu spread the theme of “Education in the Mother tongue” with utter passion. He founded “Kannada Adhyayana Samsthe” in Mysore University, later renamed to “Kuvempu Institute of Kannada Studies”, to proceed with the research in Kannada. He inspired the study of science and language and even published ‘Knowledge for the laymen’ started by G. Hanumanta Rao.
The life of this champion of social equality was itself a great inspirational message as he fought against casteism and he reflected his views in the writing named Shoodra Tapaswi (Untouchable Saint). He addressed the crowd in the convocation ceremony of Bangalore University in 1974 which later got published in the book, ‘Vichaarakranthige Aahwaana.’ In the year 1987, the Government of Karnataka started a new University named after Kuvempu in the district of Shimoga located in the JnanaSahyadri campus.
Awards and Achievements by the Greatest Poet of Kannada Literature
- Kuvempu won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1955.
- The champion of social equality was deservingly awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1958.
- He was also entitled with “Rashtrakavi” (National Poet) in 1964.
- He was awarded with Pampa Award in 1987 followed by the great Padma Vibhushan award in the following year.
- Finally, he won the Karnataka Ratna in 1992 due to his utter passion in his each work.
What he Gave to the Society
In the long five decades of his life, he created liberal 30 major collections of poems, prose, children’s literature, plays and novels. For his richcreative and excellent work in literature, he was honoured as “Rastrakavi.” Some of his great works with utter passion involve Ramayana Darshanam, Kanooru Heggadithi, Kanooru Subbamma Heggadathi, Malegalalli Madumagalu, Jalagara, Smashana Kurukshetra, Shudra Tapasvi, Rakthakshi and many more. Few of the inspiring quotes of the greatest poet of Kannada literature are:
- Chakracharanake Swagatha – “Welcome to wheel footed” when he bought his first car.
- Uluva Yogi (Tilling Yogi) is the title he gave the farmer.
- Sarvarige Samapaalu, Sarvarige Samabaalu (Equal share for all, Equal life for all, when he called for egalitarian society) was truly an inspiring quote by the champion of social equality.
He is truly an inspirational figure for all of us for his utter passion shown in all his deeds.