Jnanpith (The seat of knowledge) is the highest literary award in India. And Kannada has won eight Jnanpith Awards so far, the recent one (2010) being conferred to Sri Chandrasekhar Kambara for his contributions to Kannada literature.
Kuppali Venkatappagowda Puttappa, (1904-1994) the versatile and prolific writer; was born at Hirekodige of Chikkamagaluru district; wrote all of his literary works using the pen name Kuvempu; he is considered and widely regarded as the greatest Kannada poet of the 20th century. His first literary work was in English –The beginner’s muse; later on he turned to Kannada. The first Jnanpith came to Kannada through him in the year 1967, for his literary work of rewriting the great ancient epic of Ramayana in modern Kannada-“Sri Ramayana Darshanam”.
He is the second Kannada poet to have been revered as “Rastrakavi” (the national poet), the first being M. Govinda Pai. He has penned the state anthem of Karnataka-“Jaya Bharatha jananiya tanujathe, jaya he Karnataka maathe”, meaning Victory to our mother Karnataka – mother India’s own daughter. His popular works beside a number of Collections of poems include the two novels, Kaanuru Subbamma Heggadathi (1936) and Malegalalli madumagalu (1967). Kuvempu is immortalized by his literary work and more particularly for his propagation of Universal Humanism, in his own words “O nanna chetana, aagu nee aniketana”-meaning Oh my soul, never limit yourself to one house, cross all the barriers and let you grow beyond all the limits of caste and religion, faith and nations. Apart from Jnanpith (1967), Kuvempu has been conferred with Kendra Sahithya Akademi Award (1955), Padma Bhushan (1958), Pampa Prashashthi (1987), Padma Vibhushan (1988) and Karnataka Ratna (1992).
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