Kannada literature has been a major influence on the broader field of literature in India. With notable poets and authors, Kannada literature has managed to add onto the repertoire of literary works in our country and has also brought forth avant-garde and new age literary movements.
The Navodaya, Late Navodaya and the Navya movements in literature have not only affected Kannada literature but also other languages which have structurally altered their perspectives. Masti Venkatesha Iyengar is one of the famous icons in Kannada literature.
His Early Years and Education
Masti Venkatesha Iyengar was born on 6th June, 1891. He was born at Hongenahalli, a town in the district of Kolar in Karnataka. He hailed from a Tamil Iyengar family. His nickname Masti comes from the name of the village where he spent most of his childhood.
Masti received a master’s degree in English Literature from Madras University in 1914 and he cleared the Indian Civil Services examination and held various posts in and around Karnataka. He held posts of great responsibility and rose to the level of District Commissioner.
His Work and Achievements
Under the pen name of Srinivasa, Masti’s first notable work was his collection of short stories called Kelavu Sanna Kategalu. It was one of the most recognized and critically acclaimed works in Kannada literature during its time of transition.
Masti was also renowned for writing many poems on social, philosophical, and aesthetic themes. He was credited for composing and translating many important plays. His last prominent role was as the editor of the monthly journal Jivan between 1944 and 1965.
Masti was prolific with his writing and he has written about 120 books in Kannada and 17 in the English language. He was the fourth of seven Kannadigas to have won the Jnanpith Award.
He won his Jnanpith in the year 1983 for the novel Chikkavira Rajendra, a story concerning the last of the Kodava kings. He was conferred the honorable title of Rajasevasakta by the then Maharaja of Mysore, Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
Masti and His Legacy
Masti was popularly known as Maasti Kannadada Aasti that translates to Maasti is Kannada’s Treasure. He was a popular part of the Navodaya literary movement that took Kannada literature by storm. His life stretched beyond the titles that he received, like the one given by the Maharaja of Mysore.
He was a bold writer and his aggression was reflected by his award winning novel on the Last Kodava King, Chikkavira Rajendra, which brought forth some mild criticisms from the Kodava community who did not approve of his negative portrayal of their king. Masti passed away in the year 1986, at the age of 95.
Even today, years after his demise, he’s well remembered by generations of fans who continue to read his works, thanks to their timeless appeal.