Balavana, a nursery of ideas

EXPERIMENTS IN EDUCATION


Balavana is where Shivarama Karanth spent a major part of his lifeThe beauty and silence of Parladka in Dakshina Kannada has a serene effect on the first time visitor. The monsoon has lashed the coastal belt just the previous week and there is sign of life all around. The road flanked by verdant countryside leads to an unpretentious place spread over five acres of uneven terrain. There is a play area with a concrete cave. A few children are playing on the slides and swings. There is a museum, library, auditorium, open air theatre and a swimming pool as one walks up the terrain.

Being a weekday, there are only a handful of visitors at Shivarama Karanth’s famous abode, Balavana, in Puttur.

This genius’s involvement in children’s education and his contribution to children’s literature are well known.

Karanth called the place Balavana, a nursery where children could explore and be nourished. Karanth lived here for over 40 years and wrote many of his literary gems, conducted many an experiment in Yakshagana and also ran an experimental school.

This home of Karanth, is now an active cultural, recreational and educational centre, run by a committee appointed by the state government. It explores myriad interests just like its founder did.

The place gets around 50 visitors on weekends, says Naveen, the library-in-charge who enthusiastically showed us around the place and answered queries. A bust of Karanth sits on a pedestal at the entrance of the museum.

Once the home of Karanths

The museum is the erstwhile living quarters of the Karanths. It houses many photographs spanning several decades of Karanth’s life. 

A young handsome Karanth with his bride, with his family members, playing with his dogs, applying make-up for a yakshagana performance, there are also pictures of him with Gandhiji and at the Kannada sammelanas, marching against the Kaiga plant etc.

The older and almost sagely looking Karanth with his hair swept back is of course immediately recognisable in the photographs.

The museum also houses a collection of Karanth’s correspondence. The firm hand in both Kannada and English offers vignettes of the author’s life.

There are a few household articles, the mud vessels in the kitchen and the butter churner. Also on display is the walking stick the nonagenarian used. Given pride of place is the Jnanapeetha prashasthi which is barricaded and lit.

For the book lovers

The library is just by the side of the museum. Its winding staircase, now reinforced, takes you to an open hall where Karanth is said to have done much of his writing. The library with its characteristic musty smell of old books has a good collection, from the great writer’s encyclopaedia to Simple German Cooking to John Grisham’s Painted House.  

The books from the writer’s collection have been supplemented by the state government’s department of library.

The swimming pool opposite the museum was completed in the year 2002 and has trained many people including a few national-level competitors, a fact that Ashok, the manager is quite proud of.

Open-air theatre

Naveen then takes us to the open air theatre with a large seating capacity. Trees form a cool back drop to the place and cultural activities like bharathanatya and drama are regularly conducted here.

The closed auditorium a few meters away holds workshops for teachers/artists and children. There is also an unused building which previously housed the printing press of the multifaceted Karanth.

Walking down the winding pathway with leaf litter we breathe in the cool air and try to take in the spirit of the fiercely independent and individualistic Karanth whose nature and immense range of contribution earned him the title- “King elephant of the forests”.

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