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Kesava Shankara Pillai (Malayalam: കെ. ശങ്കര് പിള്ള) (31 July 1902 – 26 December 1989), better known as Shankar, was an Indian cartoonist. He is considered the father of political cartooning in India. He founded Shankar’s Weekly, India’s Punch in 1948. Shankar’s Weekly also produced cartoonists like Abu Abraham, Ranga and Kutty, he closed down the magazine during the Emergencyof 25 June 1975. From then on he turned to making children laugh and enjoy life.
He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1976, the second highest civilian honour given by the Govt. of India.Today he is most remembered for setting up Children’s Book Trust established 1957 and Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in 1965.
Shankar was born in 1902 at Kayamkulam, Kerala. He attended schools in Kayamkulam and Mavelikkara. The sleeping posture of one of his teachers was his first cartoon. He drew it in his classroom. This made the headmaster angry. But then he was encouraged by his uncle who saw in him a great potential as a cartoonist.After schooling, he studied painting at Ravi Varma School of Painting at Mavelikara (Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts).
Shankar took keen interest in dramas, scouting, literary activities etc. He amazingly did good campaign for the collection of funds towards flood relief. This concern for the poor and the distressed people continued all through his life and reflected in his cartoons.
After graduating from the Maharaja’s College of Science (now University College), Trivandrum, in 1927, he left for Bombay (now Mumbai) for higher studies and joined the Law College, but quit his law studies midway and started working.
The name of Shankar’s wife was Thankam. He had two sons and three daughters. The Government of India released two postal stamps in 1991, depicting two of his cartoons. He was a member of Kerala Lalit Kala Academy. He also published an autobiographical work, ‘Life with my Grandfather’in 1965, a Children’s Book Trust publication.
In 2002, ‘A Symphony of Dreams’, an exhibition to commemorate his birth centenary year, was organised at the Lalit Kala Academy, Delhi. In May 2012, a cartoon of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar sketched by him in 1949 caused “furor” in Indian Parliament, in reaction to its inclusion in NCERT education material, resulting in resignation of concerned NCERT personnel.Individuals claiming to belong to “Republican Panthers” indulged in vandalism to protest against the cartoon. These vandals damaged an office in the University of Pune
Honors and awards