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Kuppali Venkatappagowda Puttappa ( ) (December 29, 1904 - November 11 ,1994) was a Kannada writer and poet, widely regarded as the greatest poet of 20th century Kannada literature. He is the first among seven recipients of Jnanpith Award for Kannada. Puttappa wrote all his literary works using the pen name Kuvempu. He is the second among Kannada poets to be revered as Rashtrakavi (after M. Govinda Pai). His work Sri Ramayana Darshanam, the rewriting of the great ancient Indianmarker epic Ramayana in modern Kannada, is regarded as revival of the era of Mahakavya (Epic poetry) in a contemporary form and charm. He is immortalised by some of his phrases, and in particular for his contribution to Universal Humanism or in his own words Vishwa maanavataa Vaada. He was conferred Padma Bhushan by Government of India.


Early life and education

Kuvempu was born in Hirekodige, Koppa taluk, of Chikkamagaluru districtmarker to a native Kannada family. He was brought up in a place in the lush Malenadu region of Tirthahallimarker, called Kuppalimarker, of Shivamogga districtmarker. His education began at his home by an appointed teacher from Dakshina Kannada. He joined Anglo Vernacular school in Tirthahallimarker to continue his middle school education. He lost his father Venkatappa Gowda at the early age of 12 due to ill health. Kuvempu finished his lower and secondary education in Kannada and English in Theerthahallimarker. He moved to Mysoremarker for further education and completed his high school from the Wesleyan high school. He pursued his college studies in from Maharaja College of Mysoremarker and graduated in 1929 majoring in Kannada. He married Hemavathi on 30 April 1937.

Later life

He had two sons and two daughters. K Poornachandra Tejaswi, Kokilodaya Chaitra, Indukala and Tharini. Tharini is married to K. Chidananda Gowda, the former Vice-Chancellor of Kuvempu University. He responded poetically to even mundane events. When he got a car, he is quoted to have said, "Chakracharanake swagatha!" - Welcome to wheel footed! He named his house as "Udayaravi", "Rising Sun", called the farmer "uluva Yogi" the "tilling Yogi", and called for egalatarian society in his message "Sarvarige samapaalu, sarvarige samabaalu" "Equal share for all, Equal life for all". His "Raso Vai Saha" is a famous work of "kavya mimamsa", the "Principles of literary criticism", in the Kannada thought of twentieth century. He is credited for giving Kannada hundreds of new words, phrases and terminologies with distinctly precise ideas; literary, social, philosophical and spiritual. This led to common people asking him to suggest a name for their newborns, for decades, through postal correspondece, which he obliged!


Kuvempu began his academic career as a lecturer of Kannada language at Maharaja College of Mysoremarker in 1929. He served as an assistant professor in central college of Bangaloremarker from 1936. He rejoined Maharaja college of Mysoremarker in 1946 as a professor. He went on to become a principal of Maharaja college in 1955. Soon in 1956 he was elected as the Vice-Chancellor of Mysore University where he served till retirement in 1960. He was the first graduate from Mysore University to rise to that position.

Works and Message

Kuvempu's house "Udayaravi" in Mysore
Kuvempu started his literary work in English first, with a collection of poetry called Beginner's Mus, and later switched to Kannada.

He spearheaded Kannada as a medium for education, emphasizing the theme of "Education in Mother tongues". To cater to the needs of Kannada research, he founded the Kannada Adhyayana Samsthe (The Institute of Kannada Studies) in Mysore University, which has since been renamed after him as Kuvempu Institute of Kannada Studies. As Vice-Chancellor of Mysore University, he pioneered the study of Basic Sciences and Languages. He also championed the Publishing of knowledge for laymen, started by G. Hanumanta Rao.

Kuvempu was more than a writer, and the way he lived his life was in itself a great message. He was against casteism, meaningless practices and rituals. Kuvempu's writings also reflect his resentment against the caste system according to which the shudras were unfit to attain knowledge. Kuvempu (from the Vokkaliga community) also gives a different perspective to the characters in the Ramayana unlike the portrayal of characters by Valmiki in his Sri Ramayana Darshanam which won him Jnanpith Award. This work is the complete Ramayana in Kannada. It underscores his vision of sarvodaya (Upliftment of One & All). Rama of his Ramayana personifies this when he tests himself along with his wife Seeta, by jumping into the fire.

O nanna chetana, Agu nee aniketana (ಓ ನನ್ನ ಚೇತನ, ಆಗು ನೀ ಅನಿಕೇತನ ) which can be translated as "Be unhoused o my soul, only the infinite is your goal" is a very popular note by Kuvempu on Universal Humanism.

His speech during the convocation ceremony of Bangalore University has been published in the book, vichaarakranthige aahwaana. It calls for a re-assessment of developmental policies. Though it was delivered in 1974, the message is still considered relevant.

In the year 1987, a new university was started in Shimoga districtmarker, Karnatakamarker in the name of Kuvempu. It is located in Jnana Sahyadri campus, 28 km from Shimogamarker.

His son Poornachandra Tejaswi was a polymath, contributing significantly to Literature, Photography, Calligraphy, Digital Imaging, Social Movements, and Agriculture.

Further reading

  • Poornachandra Tejaswi, Annana Nenapu
  • K.C. Shiva Reddy, Yugada Kavi
  • Dr. Pradhan Gurudatta, Kuvempu
  • Tharini Chidananda, "Magalu Kanda Kuvempu"


  • Kuvempu was accused to be proclaiming Vishwamanava ideals, but not practising it. After his turn as chancellor of Mysore University, He chose his Man-Friday De Javaregowda. When M P L Shashtry (who founded M E S Instituitions in Malleshwarammarker, Bangaloremarker) and Mallaradhya opposed it in Syndicate Meeting, saying there were better candidates, Kuvempu was siding towards vokkaliga's. Kuevmpu replied that though he wanted to be Vishwamanava, he had to sail with the winds. It was alleged that Kuvempu laid the seeds for Vokkaliga dominance in Mysore University. However, Kuvempu neither confirmed nor denied such accusations.

  • Balagangadharanatha Swamiji of Adichunchanagiri Mutt tried many times to invite Kuvempu to his Mutt. However, Kuvempu denied to enter the premises. He, however, remained tied up to Ramakrishnashrama, Mysoremarker throughout his active days.

  • Kuvempu's works attack purohita system, where rights to offer pooja to God, remained with a select few across communities. His thought of Sarvodaya ring in all his works. Notably, in "Sri Ramayana Darshanam", Rama jumps to fire along with Seetha, to purify himself.




  • Kaanuru Subbamma Heggadati (1936)
  • Malegalalli Madumagalu (1967)

Modern epic (Mahakavya)

  • Sri Ramayana Darshanam, Volume-1 (1949), Volume-2 (1957)

Collection of Poems

  • Kolalu (1930)
  • Panchajanya (1936)
  • Navilu (1937)
  • Kindarijogi Mattu Itara Kavanagalu (1938)
  • Kogile Mattu Soviet Russia (1944)
  • Shoodra Tapaswi (1946)
  • Kavya Vihara (1946)
  • Kinkini (1946)
  • Agnihamsa (1946)
  • Prema Kashmira (1946)
  • Chandramanchake Baa Chakori (1954)
  • Ikshugangotri (1957)
  • Kabbigana kaibutti
  • Pakshikaashi
  • Jenaaguvaa
  • Kutichaka
  • Kadiradake
  • Kathana KavanagaLu


  • Birugaali (1930)
  • Maharatri (1931)
  • SmashaaNa kurukshetram (1931)
  • Jalagaara (1931)
  • Raktaakshi(1932)
  • Shoodra tapaswi (1944)
  • Beralge koral (1947)
  • Yamana solu
  • Chandrahaasa
  • Balidaana


  • Nenapina Doniyali (1980)

Collection of stories

  • Malenadina Chitragalu (1933)
  • Sanyaasi Mattu Itare KategaLu (1937)
  • Nanna Devaru Mattu Itara Kategalu (1940)

Literary criticism

  • Atmashreegagi Nirankushamatigalagi (1944)
  • Kavyavihara (1946)
  • Taponandana (1951)
  • Vibhuthi Pooje (1953)
  • Draupadiya Shrimudi (1960)
  • Vicharakrantige Ahvana (1976)
  • Sahityaprachara


  • Swami Vivekananda(1926)
  • Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa(1934)
  • Guruvinodane Devaredege

Stories for children

  • Bommanahalliya kindarijogi(1936)
  • Mari vijnani(1947)
  • Meghapura(1947)
  • Nanna mane(1947)
  • Nanna gopaala
  • Amalana kathe

Kuvempu's works in visual media


See also


External links

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