K. Shivaram Karanth

Kota Shivaram Karanth (Kannada:ಕೋಟಾ ಶಿವರಾಮ ಕಾರಂತ ) (October 10, 1902 - December 9, 1997) was a major Kannada writer, social activist, environmentalist, Yakshagana artist, movie maker and thinker. He was described as the "finest novelist-activist of modern India by Ramachandra Guha. He was the third person among seven recipients of Jnanpith Award for Kannada the highest literary honour conferred in India. He was conferred Padma Bhushan by Government of India which later he returned in protest against the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi.

Early life

Shivaram Karanth was born in Kota in Udupi taluk of Udupi district of Karnataka to a native Kannada family. Being the fifth child to 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 while he was in college. He left his degree half way to participate in the Non-cooperation movement. He worked for khadi and swadeshi for five years, till about 1927. By that time Karanth had already started writing fiction-detective novels, to begin with — as well as plays. He married Leela Karanth when he was well past 30.


Karanth was an intellectual and environmentalist who tremendously contributed to art and culture of Karnataka. He may be called No. One novelist in Kannada, as some of his novels are outstanding e.g., Marali Mannige, Bettada Jeeva, Alida Mele, Mookajjiya Kanasu, Chomana Dudi. In total he has written 42 novels and it is said that he tried to write at least one nevel per year! His contribution to revival of Yakshagana will forever be remembered. Yakshagana-Bayalata (1958) in Kannada, and Yakshagana(1975) are two of his masterpiece books on Yakshagana. He tried to revive this age old semi-folk art and made some experiments in Yakshagana using Ballet and other modern form of dances. He took Yakshagana troops to European countries which was a unique effort to in those days. He also made experiments in printing during 1930 - 40s and printed his own novels, but lost heavily. Interestingly, his earlier novels have cover pages of art work made by himself and this fact, that the novelist drawing the cover page of his own books may be a unique record in modern literature! At the age of 95, he wrote a book on birds (published during 2002 by Manohara Grantha Mala, Dharwad) and this may also be a world record of some sorts!

He was the winner of Padma Bhushan and Janapith awards.

His work includes 42 novels, 31 plays, Four short stories, Six books of essays and sketches, thirteen books on art, including a history of world art in Kannada and an authoritative work on Chalukyan sculpture and architecture, A standard treatise on the Yakshagana, with which dramatic form, his name is identified, A three volume book of knowledge for children, A four volume encyclopedia on science for grown ups, 240 children's books Six books on travel, Two books on birds Three Travelogues and the list is still incomplete.

Effect of his works

He was awarded Jnanapith for his book "Mookajjiya Kanasugalu"(literally means "the dreams of a mute grandmother") which tries to unveil the secrets of nature. Being himself a non science student he has written a series of science related books which are very effective in understanding science even today.

His main literary works are Mookajjiya Kanasugalu, Marali Mannige, Chomana Dudi[Chomana Dudi was made into a movie],Alida Mele, Bettada Jeeva etc. He has written an autobiography, Hucchu Manasina Hatthu Mukhagaluin earlier days and he wrote second part of his autobiography also!

He attempted to improve the lives of common people by entering into politics of his day, by contesting in an election, unsuccessfully, in Kalpathuru, Karnataka on the issues of environmentalism. He led a movement to oppose an Atomic energy plant at Kaiga near Karwar as the plant may pose danger to the lives of people and as it leads to destruction of forest. But the movement failed miserably and ironically, the dome of Kaiga Atomic energy plant collapsed at the time of construction itself! He is also known for strong and sharp tongue and he being a good orator, earned a nick name "Kadala Theerada Bhargava". He used to raise his voice on several issues ranging from conservation work at Hampi to Art forms of Karnataka to environmental issues.

His book "Sarasammana Samadhi" deals with the "sati" system, and the cunningness and hypocrisy of the Indian society. It has some supernatural elements too.

Conservation work

He rescued 2 tiger-cubs from starvation when their mother was killed by poachers. He experimentally built the first children's toy-train in Asia which was later copied in Cubbon Park, Bangalore. His son, Ullas Karanth continues his work in the field of environmentalism with an internationally acclaimed body of research into the ecology, biology and future of the tiger in India.

Foray into Politics

Shivram Karanth plunged into Politics once but was defeated in the Parliament election from Canara Constituency

Further reading

  • Malini Mallya, Hattiradinda Kanda Hattu Mukhagalu
  • Malini Mallya, Naanu Kanda Karantaru

Awards and Honors

Shivram Karanth has to his credit around 87 books written by renowned authors on him. He is the only person in Asia on whom so many books have been written.

And many more.


  • "Mookajjiya Kanasugalu"' - dreams of a silent granny (Jnanpith award winning novel)
  • "Marali Mannige" - back to the soil
  • "Chomana Dudi" - drum of choma
  • "Mai Managala Suliyalli" - in the whirlpool of body and soul
  • "Bettada Jeeva" - life on the hills
  • "Sarasammana Samadhi" - grave of sarasamma
  • "Dharmayana Samsara" - family of Dharmayana
  • "Alida Mele" - after death
  • "Kudiyara Kusu" - infant of kudiya
  • "jnana" - (Knowledge )
  • "mailikallinodane matukate" - Talks with the milestone (small stories)
  • "adbhuta jagattu" - wonderful world (science)
  • "vijnana prapancha" - The World Of Science (science)
  • Yaksagana, English transln., Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (1997)
  • Hucchu Manasina Hatthu Mukhagalu, autobiography, English translation: Ten Faces of a Crazy Mind, by H.Y. Sharada Prasad), Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,


Karanth's works in visual media


  • Chomana Dudi
  • Chigurida Kanasu
  • Maleya Makkalu (from Kudiyara Koosu Novel)

See also


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