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Kota Shivaram Karanth (10 October 1902 – 9 December 1997) was a Kannada writer, social activist, environmentalist, polymath, Yakshagana artist, film maker and thinker. Ramachandra Guha called him the “Rabindranath Tagore of Modern India, who has been one of the finest novelists-activists since independence”. He was the third writer to be decorated with the Jnanpith Award for Kannada, the highest literary honor conferred in India.

Shivaram Karanth was born on 10 October 1902, in Kota near Udupi in the Udupi district of Karnataka to a Kannada speaking family. The fifth child of his parents Shesha Karantha and Lakshmamma, he completed his primary education in Kundapura and Mangalore. Shivaram Karanth was influenced by Gandhi’s principles and took part in Indian Independence movement when he was in college. He did not complete his education and went to participate in the Non-co-operation movement and canvassed for khadi and swadeshi for five years up to 1927. By that time Karanth had already started writing fiction novels and plays.

Karanth was an intellectual and environmentalist who made notable contribution to the art and culture of Karnataka. He is considered one of the most influential novelists in the Kannada language. His novels Marali Mannige, Bettada Jeeva, Alida Mele, Mookajjiya Kanasugalu, Mai Managala Suliyalli, Ade OOru Ade Mara, Shaneeshwarana Neralinalli, Kudiyara Koosu, Svapnada Hole, Sarsammana Samadhi, and Chomana Dudi are widely read and have received critical acclaim. He wrote two books on Karnataka’s ancient stage dance-drama Yakshagana (1957 and 1975).

He was involved in experiments in the technique of printing for some years in the 1930s and 1940s and printed his own novels, but incurred financial losses. He was also a painter and was deeply concerned with the issue of nuclear energy and its impact on the environment. At the age of 90, he wrote a book on birds (published during 2002 by Manohara Grantha Mala, Dharwad).

He wrote, apart from his forty seven novels, thirty one plays, four short story collections, six books of essays and sketches, thirteen books on art, two volumes of poems, nine encyclopedias, and over one hundred articles on various issues.

Literary and National honors

  • Jnanpith Award – 1978
  • Sahitya Akademi Fellowship (1985)
  • Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship (1973)
  • Padma Bhushan (He returned his Padma Bhushan honour in protest against the Emergency imposed in India)
  • Sahitya Academy award – 1959
  • Karnataka state Sahitya Akademi Award
  • Sangeet Natak Award.
  • Pampa Award.
  • Swedish Academy award.
  • Tulsi Samman (1990)
  • Dadabhai Nauroji Award (1990)
  • Honrary Doctrate from Mysore University, Meerut University, Karnatak University and others.

Film awards

  • National Film Award – (Posthumously)
  • National Film Award – Special Jury Award / Special Mention Writer – Bettada Jeeva – K. Shivaram Karanth – 2011