In recognition of his significant literary endeavors, the Government of Karnataka bestowed upon Kuvempu the title of Rashtrakavi ("National Poet") in 1964 and Karnataka Ratna ("The Gem of Karnataka") in 1992. Further adding to his list of accolades, he was honored with the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India in 1988, solidifying his stature as a highly esteemed literary figure. Among Kuvempu's notable works, he composed the Karnataka State Anthem, Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate, which resonated with the people and became an embodiment of regional pride. Through his profound literary contributions, Kuvempu left an indelible mark on the literary landscape of Kannada and continues to inspire generations of writers and readers alike.
Early life of Kuvempu
Kuvempu's birthplace was the village of Hirekodige in the Koppa taluk of Chikmagalur district. However, he spent his formative years in Kuppalli, a village located in the Shivamogga district of the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore, which is now part of Karnataka. He hailed from a Vokkaliga family, known for their Kannada-speaking heritage. Kuvempu's mother, Seethamma, hailed from Koppa, Chikmagalur, while his father, Venkatappa, was from Kuppali, a village in the Thirthahalli taluk, presently situated in the Shimoga district. It was in this very village that Kuvempu was raised.
During his early childhood, Kuvempu received his education through homeschooling, with a dedicated teacher appointed from South Canara. Subsequently, he joined the Anglo-Vernacular school in Thirthahalli to continue his middle school education. Unfortunately, Kuvempu's father passed away when he was just twelve years old. Despite this loss, he persevered and completed his lower and secondary education in both Kannada and English languages in Thirthahalli. With a thirst for knowledge, he then relocated to Mysore to pursue further education at the Wesleyan High School. Continuing his academic journey, Kuvempu enrolled in the Maharaja College of Mysore and successfully graduated in 1929, with a major in Kannada.
Career of Kuvempu
In 1929, Kuvempu embarked on his academic journey as a lecturer of Kannada language at Maharaja's College in Mysore. His passion for teaching and his expertise in the field led him to assume the role of an assistant professor at Central College, Bangalore, starting from 1936. Later, in 1946, Kuvempu returned to Maharaja's College in Mysore, this time as a professor, further solidifying his commitment to education and the Kannada language.
The culmination of his illustrious academic career came in 1955 when Kuvempu was appointed as the principal of Maharaja's College, a position that showcased his leadership abilities and dedication to fostering a nurturing educational environment. The following year, in 1956, his exceptional contributions were recognized, and he was selected as the Vice-Chancellor of Mysore University, a position of immense responsibility and influence within the academic sphere. Kuvempu served as the Vice-Chancellor until his retirement in 1960, leaving an indelible mark on the university's growth and development.
Notably, Kuvempu's ascent to the position of Vice-Chancellor held special significance as he became the first graduate from Mysore University to achieve such a prestigious role. This accomplishment not only underscored his scholarly prowess but also served as an inspiration to future generations of students and academics, highlighting the possibilities and opportunities that education could provide.
Life in Theatre for Kuvempu
Kuvempu contributed significantly to Kannada theatre with fourteen plays. Yamana solu in 1927 celebrated Savitri's mythical heroism. Kuvempu was one of the first Kannada radicals to revolt against the caste system; Kuvempu delineated the social evil of untouchables perpetrated by Brahmanical values mjalagara i.e. 'Scavenger' in 1928. The ominous Smasana Kurukshetra i.e. 'Kurukshetra, the Cremation Ground' in 1930 symbolically depicted the tragedy of the Mahabharata war. Maharatri i.e. 'Momentous Night' in 1931 dramatized Siddhartha's life and renunciation in ten scenes. Valmikiya bhagya i.e. "Valmikian Fate" in 1931 was the well-known episode of Lord Rama's abandonment of Sita. The controversial Sudra tapaswi i.e. "Sudra Ascetic" in 1944 highlighted the sublimity of the Sudra saint Sambuka mentioned in the Ramayana and questioned the supposed superiority of Brahmanism. Balidana i.e. "Sacrifice" in 1947 dealt with India's independence. Bharatasuta, the protagonist, stands for all Indians and is required to sacrifice his life for the motherland. Beralge koral i.e. "A Throat for a Thumb" in 1947 was a philosophical play on the legend of Ekalavya, the self-made man. Chandmhasa in 1963 described the life of the eponymous hero through classical diction and convention. Kanina i.e. 'Virgin-born' in 1974 related the mythological encounter between Kama and Parasurama, foregrounding the contrast between the accident of birth and man's inner worth.
Kuvempu wrote two children's plays in 1930-31. The names can be mentioned as Nanna Gopala i.e. 'My Gopala' and Modannana tamma i.e. "The Cloud's Little Brother". He also adapted two Shakespeare plays. Birugali i.e. 'Tempest' in 1930 freely draws on the history of Keladi kingdom in Karnataka to parallel Shakespeare's drama but makes it look like an original Kannada work. Raktakshi i.e. 'Bloody-eyed Maiden' in 1945 based on Hamlet, borrows the historical events of Bidanur kingdom, and indianizes the sexual and political aspects convincingly. All of the plays by this eminent Kannada theatre personality are poetic drama, known for their mellifluous Sanskritic Kannada. Amateur groups in different parts of Karnataka have performed many of them. Kuvempu also published Nenapina doniyali i.e. 'In the Boat of Memory' in 1965. This was a very detailed autobiography by him. Kuvempu died in 1994 at the age of 90.
Personal life of Kuvempu
On 30th April 1937, Kuvempu married Hemavathi, a union that was arranged by the Ramakrishna Mission. Although it was a decision influenced by external factors, Kuvempu embraced his marital life. Together, they were blessed with two sons, namely Poornachandra Tejaswi and Kokilodaya Chaitra, as well as two daughters, Indukala and Tharini.
Kuvempu's residence in Mysore was affectionately named Udayaravi, signifying a place where the dawn of new ideas and creativity flourished. Notably, his son Poornachandra Tejaswi followed in his father's footsteps and emerged as a polymath, making significant contributions to Kannada literature, photography, calligraphy, digital imaging, social movements, and agriculture. Poornachandra Tejaswi's multifaceted talents further enriched the literary and cultural landscape of Kannada, leaving a lasting impact on various artistic domains.
Awards Received by Kuvempu
Jnanpith Award - 1967
Padma Bhushan - 1958
Sahitya Akademi Award - 1955
National Poet - 1964
Pampa Award - 1987
Padma Vibhushan- 1988
Karnataka Ratna - 1992
Bibliography of Kuvempu Novels
Kaanuru Subbamma Heggadati (1936)
Malegalalli madumagalu (1967)
Modern epic (Mahakavya)
Sri Ramayana Darshanam, Volume-1 (1949), Volume-2 (1957)
Collection of Poems
Kindarijogi Mattu Itara Kavanagalu (1938)
Kogile Mattu Soviet Russia (1944)
Shoodra Tapaswi (1946)
Kavya Vihara (1946)
Prema Kashmira (1946)
Chandramanchake Baa Chakori (1954)
SmashaaNa kurukshetram (1931)
Shoodra tapaswi (1944)
Beralge koral (1947)
Malenaadina Chittragalu (1933)
Nenapina Doniyali (1980)
Collection Of Stories
Malenaadina Chitragalu (1933)
Sanyaasi Mattu Itare KategaLu (1937)
Nanna Devaru Mattu Itara Kategalu (1940)
Atmashreegagi Nirankushamatigalagi (1944)
Vibhuthi Pooje (1953)
Draupadiya Shrimudi (1960)
Vicharakrantige Ahvana (1976)
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa(1934)
Stories For Children
Janapriya Valmiki Ramayana
Kuvempu's Works in Visual Media Movies
Kanooru Heggadithi, directed by Girish Karnad.