‘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. By the way, if you need thesis helper for your literature project, don’t hesitate to look for it online.
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.
D R Bendre
Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre was awarded Jnanpith award for ‘Nakutanti’ (four Strings) in 1973. Nakutanti is an anthology of poems and is considered as one of the finest examples of ‘Shrutikavya’.
Bendre, who is often considered as fatherly figure of Kannada poetry, drew heavily from folklores and vachanas of Kannada poetry tradition. He was one of the foremost poet during Navodaya period of Kannada literature and was given the honorific titles like ‘Varakavi’ meaning ‘gifted poet’ and ‘Karnataka Kula Thilaka’ meaning ‘the ornament of the Karnataka family”. He was also honored with Padma Shri award in 1968.
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Kota Shivaram Karanth was a writer, Yakshagana artist, environmentalist, and a film-maker who became the third Kannada writer to be conferred upon Jnanpith award. He received the award in the year 1977 for his work ‘Mookajjiya Kanasugalu’ (Dreams of silent granny).
Karanth made notable contribution to Kannada art and culture including to the revival of Yakshagana, a form of folk theater. His book Mookajjiya Kanasugalu deals with human doubts, faith, origins of beliefs etc. through the duo of old granny and her grandson.
Karanth actively participated in various social and environmental movements like those against the pollution of the Tungabhadra, the protests against the Kaiga nuclear plant, etc. He was conferred with many awards including Pampa award, Sahitya Academy award, and Sangeet Natak Award.
Maasthi Venkatesa Iyengar
Maasthi Venkatesa Iyengar was the fourth Kannada writer to receive the Jnanpith Award. Iyengar who was fondly often referred as ‘Masti Kannadada Aasti’ meaning ‘Masti is Kannada’s Treasure’, received the Jnanpith award in 1983 for his novel Chikkavira Rajendra.
The novel depicts the life story of Vira Rajendra, the last ruler of Kodagu kingdom. The book is highly acclaimed for its balanced handling of the subject and its portrayal of the culture and ethos 19th century.
Iyengar is most renowned for his short stories, and he wrote under the pen-name Srinivasa. He was honored with the title ‘Brahmaa of Kannada stories’. He was also conferred upon the title ‘Rajasevasakta’ by Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadeyar, the then Maharaja of Mysore.
V. K. Gokak
Vinayaka Krishna Gokak was the fifth author to be awarded the Jnanpith award. He received the award in 1990 for his epic ‘Bharatha Sindhu Rashmi’.
Bharatha Sindhu Rashmi is considered as the longest epic narrative composed in 20th century in any language. It deals with the subject of Vedic age, its philosophy and spiritual vision. K. Krishnamoorthy describes the book as: “In respect of literary form, it is an epic, in its size it is encyclopedic, and in regard to the thread of unity underlying the poem as a whole, it is a mystic vision of the spiritual destiny of Man.”
Gokak was also honored with Padma Shri and Kendra Sahitya Academy awards.
U. R. Ananthamurthy
U. R. Ananthamurthy was one of the pioneers of the Navya movement within Kannada literature. He was awarded the Jnanpith Award in 1994. His important works include Samskara, Avasthe, Bharati Pura and Bhava. He was the recipient of Padma Bhushan award in 1998 and was also nominated for Man Booker International Prize for the year 2013.
Girish Karnad is a well-known playwright, film-maker, actor, and cultural administrator. He was awarded the Jnanpith award for his immense contributions of Kannada literature and theatre in 1998.
His important works include Tughalak, Hayavadana, and Yayati. He has also directed and acted in many Kannada movies like Samskara and Kanooru Heggadithi. The Government of India has also conferred upon him Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.
Chandrashekar Kambar is a well-known poet, folklorist, playwright, and film director. He was awarded Jnanpith award in 2010 for his immense contribution to Kannada language. His works harmoniously interlink folklore with contemporary issues. His prominent plays include Jokumaraswamy, Nayi Kathe, and Mahamayi. He was a recipient of the ‘Sahitya Academy Award’ in 1991 for his play ‘Sirisampige’. Apart from this he has also received Rajyotsava award, Pampa award, and Padma Shri award.