Kuvempu's contribution to Karnataka's heritage

Kuvempu's contribution to Karnataka's heritage

On Kuvempu's 113th birth anniversary, Deccan Herald reached out to Thejaswi Udupa (@udupendra), who was named after Kuvempu's son Tejaswi.

Here, he shares some thoughts on Kuvempu's poetry, songs, literature, and contribution to Kannada culture, and why Kuvempu is still a potent guiding force in Karnataka's heritage.

1. Share your thoughts on Kuvempu's naadageethe.

Naadageethe literally means "state song/anthem" and refers to the Kuvempu song 'Jaya bharata jananiya tanujaate'. This is something that most school kids in Karnataka grew up singing regularly, just like they would have sung the national anthem.

2. According to you, what makes him a force in Kannada culture/heritage?

In a sense, he occupies the same role that Rabindranath Tagore occupies in Bengal. He is more than the sum of his writings, and shaped the direction in which Kannada intelligentsia thinks. That there is a humanist slant among writers and artists in Karnataka today, much of the credit goes to Kuvempu.

3. Your thoughts on his full name and acronym?

Kuvempu, is just the initials of his full name, Kuppalli Venkatappa Puttappa, as written in Kannada. Fairly standard practice among writers (which is how you have PuTiNa, TaRaSu, and so on), and have to admit Kuvempu has a much better ring to it than either KVP or Puttappa. And being a poet, I'm sure he saw it too.

4. Your thoughts on Kuvempu being Karnataka's 'Rashtrakavi'.

Rashtrakavi is a title, sort of an equivalent of Poet Laureate as seen in the UK. Kuvempu wasn't the first Kannada poet to be bestowed the title, there was Manjeshwara Govinda Pai before him. He wasn't the last either, there was GS Shivarudrappa after him. But for most people, "Rashtrakavi" always brings Kuvempu to mind. That's how much he owned that title.

5. First memory of a Kuvempu poem. Why did it speak to you?

Before I came across any of Kuvempu's poems in school, I was already familiar with a bunch of them as movie songs. Probably the earliest one I can think of is the classic "Doni saagali".

6. Your favourite among Kuvempu's works? Why?

Based on its relevance now, and the need for Kannada to assert its identity as a language, I will pick "baarisu Kannada dinDimava".

7. Any thoughts you would like to share?

I was named for Kuvempu's son, K P Tejaswi, a rather accomplished writer himself. If Kuvempu hadn't chosen that name for his son, I probably would have been named something else :)

Here is his translation of a short poem by Kuvempu.


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