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Durable Link to this BlogThursday, December 23, 2004

Kuvempu: A Birth Centenary Tribute

Message of Universal Man
Kuppalli Venkatappagowda Puttappa (1904 1996)

K. V. Puttappa was born on 29th December 1904 of a well-to-do family of agriculturists. His father was Venkatappa and mother Seethamma. A child prodigy, he imbibed everything he heard and saw from the forest-rich land of Malenad area.Plant and animal world provided constant company to this shy and self entertaining and ever-inquisitive boy. Folk songs and plays left a strong impression. After village-schooling he came to Mysore for higher learning and it was in this culture-rich city that his poetic genius bloomed. He was drawn to English literature and turned an avid reader of Shelley, Milton, Wordsworth, Tolstoy and other English writers.

He first started writing in English and brought out a collection named 'Beginners Muse'. When he presented a copy to Irish poet James Cousens, then in Mysore, he appreciated the young poet's efforts. However, he advised him to write in Kannada to reach the masses. That was a turning point (1921).

Puttappa's stay in Ramakrishna Ashram, brought spiritual lacing to his writing. Influence of Shri Ramakrishna's teachings and Swami Vivekananda's life left a deep and profound impression. His biographics of both, are land-marks in Kannada literature.

He was appointed as Kannada lecturer after his completion of Master's degree, at Mysore itself. He continued at his alma mater and finally retired as Vice Chancellor of Mysore University.

During his tenure, study, teaching, research and publications in Kannada received a big boost. Manasagangotri, his brain child, a complex of huge campus with faculties of Sciences, Arts Extension and specialization in many branches of learning came up.

His writing continued. Out of the seventy books he wrote, thirty eight comprise of poetry and one epic, Shri Ramayana Darshanam. He wrote fourteen plays with mythological themes but with relevant and modern interpretation. He condemned superstitions and upheld human virtues. Jalagara, Shudra Tapasvi, Beralge Koral, Smashana Kurukshetra are some of the plays, which show the deep concern the poet had for social evils and the need for human spirit to rise above caste, creed, region and religion. He upheld rational thinking and scientific approach to tackle everyday problems. This he could achieve through poetry and plays with imaginative and lively dialogues which used to be lyrical.

Kuvempu was first and foremost a poet. But, his two novels, Kanuru Heggaditi and Malegalli Madumagalu will also be remembered as great works of fiction because of the first hand description of nature, tribal world, plant and animal life and now fast disappearing rural life. All the characters, human and animal are so lively that they continue to haunt long after the reading of the novel is over.

Honours followed in plenty. There were Academy awards, honorary doctorates, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. He was the first Kannadiga to receive Jnanapeeth Award. He had a very happy domestic life. Wife Hemavathy was inspiration to many of his earlier poems. He has four children. Poorna Chandra Tejaswi is an eminent writer and photographer in his own right.

Kuvempu influenced two generations of writers and thinkers, some of whom form frontline in Kannada.

Kuvempu died at a ripe age of ninety two in 1996.

See Also:
• Kuvempu Picture Album
• Tommorrow: Kuvempu and I

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Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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