Shivaram Karanth
Born(1902-10-10)10 October 1902
Kota, Udupi, India
Died9 December 1997(1997-12-09) (aged 95)
Manipal, Karnataka, India
OccupationNovelist, playwright, conservationist[1][2]
GenreFiction, popular science, literature for children, dance-drama
Literary movementNavodaya
Leela Alva
(m. 1936⁠–⁠1986)
Children4; including Ullas

Kota Shivaram Karanth (10 October 1902 – 9 December 1997), also abbreviated as K. Shivaram Karanth, was an Indian polymath, who was a novelist in Kannada language, playwright and an ecological conservationist. Ramachandra Guha called him the "Rabindranath Tagore of Modern India, who has been one of the finest novelists-activists since independence".[4] He was the third writer[5] to be decorated with the Jnanpith Award for Kannada, the highest literary honor conferred in India.[6] His son Ullas is an ecological conservationist.[3]

Early life

Shivaram Karanth was born on 10 October 1902,[7] in Kota near Kundapura in the Udupi district of Karnataka to a Kannada-speaking Smartha Brahmin family. [citation needed] The fifth child of his parents Shesha Karantha and Lakshmamma, he completed his primary education in Kundapura and Bangalore. [citation needed]Shivaram Karanth was influenced by Gandhi's principles and took part in the Indian Independence movement when he was in college. His participation in the Non-cooperation movement did not allow him to complete his college education which he quit in February 1922. He canvassed for khadi and swadeshi in Karnataka led by Indian National Congress leader Karnad Sadashiva Rao,[8] for five years till 1927.[7] By that time, Karanth had already started writing fiction novels and plays.[7]


Karanth began writing in 1924 and soon published his first book, Rashtrageetha Sudhakara, a collection of poems. His first novel was Vichitrakoota. Subsequent works like Nirbhagya Janma ("Unfortunate Birth") and Sooleya Samsara ("Family of a Prostitute") mirrored the pathetic conditions of the poor. His magnum opus Devaddhootaru, a satire on contemporary India, was published in 1928.[3]

Karanth was an intellectual and environmentalist who made notable contribution to the art and culture of Karnataka.[7] 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.[7] He wrote two books on Karnataka's ancient stage dance-drama Yakshagana (1957 and 1975). [citation needed]

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.[9] At the age of 90, he wrote a book on birds (published during 2002 by Manohara Grantha Mala, Dharwad).[citation needed]

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.[9] His Mookajjiya Kanasugalu novel won Jnanpith award. [citation needed]

Personal life

Karanth married Leela Alva, a student in the school that Karanth taught dance and directed plays in. Leela belonged to the Bunt community and was the daughter of a businessman, K. D. Alva. They married on 6 May 1936. The couple subsequently attracted ridicule from people in the region over their inter-caste marriage; Karanth belonged to an orthodox Brahmin community. Leela, who had her early education in Marathi language, re-learnt Kannada after marriage and translated the Marathi novel Pan Lakshat Kon Gheto into Kannada. As a dancer, she participated in Karanth's operas. The Karanths had four children together: sons, Harsha and Ullas, a conservationist; and daughters, Malavika and Kshama. His mother's influence on Karanth was described by Ullas as: "It was our mother who shaped Karanth's life... She was the backbone of all his endeavours. She was also quite well-read, and she dedicated all of her talents to her husband. She took care of all household responsibilities." The family lived in the Puttur, Karnataka town of Dakshina Kannada, a district in the South Karnataka region, before moving to Saligrama, a town 2 miles (3.2 km) from Karanth's birthplace Kota, in 1974. A few years prior to this, their eldest son Harsha died leaving Leela suffer from "depression and hallucinations". Leela died in September 1986. It was also the year that Karanth's final novel was published.[8]

Karanth was admitted to Kasturba Medical College in Manipal on 2 December 1997 to be treated for viral fever. He suffered from a cardiac respiratory arrest two days later and slipped into a coma. On 9 December, his kidneys began to fail and he subsequently developed severe acidosis and sepsis, following which he was put on dialysis. Efforts to revive him failed and he died at 11:35 a.m. (IST) the following day, aged 95.[3][10] The government of Karnataka declared a two-day mourning in the State as a mark of respect.


Many of Karanth's novels have been translated into other Indian languages. Marali Mannige got translated to English by Padma Ramachandra Sharma, has been conferred the State Sahitya Akademi award. [citation needed]


Shivarama Karantha Balavana

Shivarama Karantha Balavana is notable for its fame under the name of the Jnanapeeta awardee Dr. K. Shivarama Karantha, who lived in Puttur. In his memory his home now houses a museum, a park, and a recreation center.[11]

Literary and national honors

Karanth on a 2003 stamp of India

Film Awards



Science Books


Children's books




Art, Architecture and Other

Kannada and Cinema

See also


  1. ^ "Karanth: Myriad-minded "Monarch of the Seashore"". The Indian Express. 10 December 1997. Archived from the original on 8 October 1999. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Dutt, Kartik Chandra (1999) [1999]. Who's who of Indian Writers, 1999: A-M. New Delhi: Sahitya Academy. p. 575. ISBN 81-260-0873-3.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Shivarama Karanth is dead". Rediff on the Net. 9 December 1997. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  4. ^ The Arun Shourie of the left. (26 November 2000). Retrieved on 2018-11-15.
  5. ^ "Jnanapeeth Awards". Ekavi. Archived from the original on 27 April 2006. Retrieved 31 October 2006.
  6. ^ "Jnanpith Laureates Official listings". Jnanpith Website. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d e Guha, Ramachandra (13 October 2002). "The Kannada colossus". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 15 January 2003. Retrieved 24 November 2006.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  8. ^ a b Rāmacandran, Si En (2001). K. Shivarama Karanth. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 7–22. ISBN 9788126010714. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  9. ^ a b A walk through the life of Karanth – KARNATAKA. The Hindu (26 February 2013). Retrieved on 2018-11-15.
  10. ^ "Literary legend Karanth dead". The Indian Express. Press Trust of India. 10 December 1997. Archived from the original on 17 August 2003. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Balavana". Archived from the original on 1 December 2022. Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Kāranta, Śivarāma (1997) [1997]. Yakshagana. Abhinav Publications. p. 253. ISBN 81-7017-357-4.
  13. ^ "Fellow and Honorary Fellows". Sahitya Akademi-National Academi of Letters. Archived from the original on 1 July 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Sangeet Natak Akademi Ratna Puraskar (Akademi Fellows)". Sahitya Natak Akademi-National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  15. ^ "Recipients of Karnataka Rajyotsava Award". Retrieved 11 February 2022.

Further reading