K. Shivarama Karanth was a famous Kannada novelist playwright, environmentalist, social activist and film-maker. Ramachandra Guha once fittingly hailed Shivarama Karanth as the ‘Rabindranath Tagore of Modern India’ for being the exceptional writer and social activist that he was.
His Early Life and Initial Years
Shivarama was born to Shesha Karanth and Lakshmi in Kota, Karnataka. He was the fifth child among his twelve siblings, and his elder brother- K. Ramakrishna Karanth, was also a distinguished personality as he was a famous advocate and politician.
Shivarama Karanth was raised on Yakshagana and poetry recitals. As a youngster, he loved listening to the Kannada classics that his father recited, and he grew up to become one of the greatest novelists of Karnataka.
He was a hardcore Gandhian and took part in the Independence movement when he was in college. Halfway through college, he dropped out to join the Non-Cooperation Movement. While working for Swadeshi and Khadi, he began writing detective fiction. Later, in 1936, Shivarama Karanth married Leela Alva, a student from his dance school.
His Significant Achievements
Karanth was a successful novelist and a playwright (having written thirty-one plays). He was also a great art lover and has written thirteen books on art, including one on Chalukyan sculpture and architecture. He is the author of encyclopedias for both adults and children, besides having written about two hundred and forty books for children. He has also scripted an autobiography.
Amongst his novels, Bettada Jeeva, Marali Mannige, Alida Mele, Mookajjiya Kanasugalu and Chomana Dudi are popular even today. While Marali Mannige was widely acclaimed, Mookajjiya Kanasugalu got him the Jnanpith Award for Kannada Literature.
Apart from the Jnanpith Award, he has also been awarded the Sahitya Academy award, Pampa Award, and Swedish Academy Award. The Padma Bhushan was presented to him by the government of India, which he returned after a while, in objection to the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi.
Shivarama Karanth died in the year 1997. Besides writing, Karanth also worked for the good of the society. He had an unsuccessful tryst with politics but was an admirable social activist and a vigorous environmentalist.
He was responsible for experimentally building the first toy train for children in Asia, and his role in revitalizing Yakshagana can never be forgotten. He is survived by his son Ullas Karanth, who carries on his work in conservationism.