Amongst the prominent languages that have influenced literature the most in India, Hindi and Kannada have bagged seven Jnanpith Awards, the highest of all languages. Kannada writers and poets like Kuvempu have contributed a lot towards this distinction that the language holds. Kuvempu is a prominent Kannada writer who was popular for his different views and striking writing.
His Early Years and Career
Kuvempu was born as Kuppall Venkatappagowda Puttappa, or simply K.V. Puttappa, on December the 29th, 1904, in the Chikmagalur District of Karnataka. He graduated from the famous Maharaja College of Mysore, majoring in Kannada. He married Hemavathi in 1937 and had two sons and two daughters – K.P. Tejaswi, Kokilodaya Chaitra, Indukala, and Tharini.
Kuvempu started his career as a lecturer of Kannada in Maharaja College in Mysore. He then took up the post of assistant professor at the Central College in Bangalore. He returned to Maharaja College as a professor and was made the Principal in some years. He was later appointed as the Vice Chancellor of Mysore University in 1956, the first graduate from the same university to rise to that position.
His Work and Achievements
Kuvempu began his literary work in English and later shifted to Kannada. His major work in English is a collection of poems called the Beginner’s Muse. He was the forbearer of the idea that education should be provided in children’s mother tongues and in his pursuit he opened the Institute of Kannada Studies in Mysore University.
Kuvempu was actively against the caste system and many of his writings reflected his views. His major achievement was his extremely different take on the characters of Ramayana written by Valmiki, which won him his Jnanpith Award. Besides Jnanpith, Kuvempu has also won the Padma Bhushan, Sahitya Academy Award, Padma Vibhushan and recently the Karnataka Ratna awards.
Kuvempu has written around 18 collections of poems, two novels, one epic, 10 plays, one autobiography, three collections of stories, seven literary criticisms, three biographies that include one of Swami Vivekananda, six stories for children and one film called Kanooru Subbamma Heggaditi, which was directed by Girish Karnad.
Kuvempu was a part of the Navodaya literary movement that brought new light into modern Kannada literature. He is considered to be one of the major contributors to the modernist literary movement in Kannada literature.
He is the second Kannada poet after M. Govinda Pai to have received the revered title of Rashtrakavi. The Karnataka Government opened a new state university in 1987 and named it Kuvempu University in memory of one of the greatest literary figures in the state. Kuvempu passed away at the age of 90 on November 11th, 1994.