‘Jnana’ means ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Pitha’ means ‘Seat’. Thus, ‘Jnanpith’ means ‘Seat of Learning’. Jnanapith award is one of the most prestigious literary award given to Indian authors in any of the 22 Indian languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution.
The Jnanpith award, constituted in 1961 by Bharatiya Jnanpith- a trust, is given each year for authors for their immense contribution towards their respective language and literature. The Jnanpith award includes a cash of rupees five lakhs, a citation plaque, and a bronze replica of Vagdevi/ Saraswati- the Hindu Goddess of knowledge and wisdom/learning.
Though as of today, authors of Hindi language have bagged the highest number of Jnanpith awards (ten awards), till few years ago the place of the highest was occupied by Kannada language writers. In total, the Kannada language writers have bagged eight Jnanpith awards, with the latest one being bagged in 2010.
Here is a list of eight Kannada authors who were awarded Jnanpith award and their contribution towards Kannada literature:
Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa, popularly known as Kuvempu, won the Jnanpith award for his magnum opus ‘Sri Ramayana Darshanam’ in 1967. He was the first Kannada author who was given the Jnanpith award.
Kuvempu is considered as one of the tallest poet of 20th century. He was awarded with honorific titles ‘Rashtrakavi’ (national poet) and ‘Karnataka Ratna’ (gem of Karnataka) by the Government of Karnataka. Government of India honored him with Padma Vibhushan in 1988.
Sri Ramayana Darshanam is the modern rendering of the Valmiki Ramayana in Kavya format (poetry) and runs into 22284 lines. The poet has used Ramayana as a tool to express his grand universal vision. The poet is also credited for composing Karnataka State anthem Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate.