The Jnanpeeth Award is the highest literary honour conferred in the Republic of India. An Indian citizen who writes in any of the official languages of India is eligible for the honour. The award carries a cheque for Rs. 5,00,000.00 a citation plaque and a bronze replica of Vagdevi. The Jnanpeeth Award was instituted on May 22, 1961 The first award was given in 1965. Its first recipient was Malayalam writer G. Sankara Kurup in 1965.
Kannada has won eight, the highest number of Jnana Peeth Awards, the most prestigious literary award given by the Government of India. The poets who won them are: Rashtrakavi Kuvempu, Girish Karnad, Shivaram Karanth, Vinayaka Krishna Gokak, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, Vi. Kru. Gokak, Girish Karnad, U. R. Ananthamurthy & Chandrashekar
‘Jnana’ means ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Pitha’ means ‘Seat’. Thus, ‘Jnanpith’ means ‘Seat of Learning’.
Jnanapith award is one of the most prestigious literary award given to Indian authors in any of the 22 Indian languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution.
The Jnanpith award, constituted in 1961 by Bharatiya Jnanpith- a trust, is given each year for authors for their immense contribution towards their respective language and literature. The Jnanpith award includes a cash of rupees five lakhs, a citation plaque, and a bronze replica of Vagdevi/ Saraswati- the Hindu Goddess of knowledge and wisdom/learning.
Though as of today, authors of Hindi language have bagged the highest number of Jnanpith awards (ten awards), till few years ago the place of the highest was occupied by Kannada language writers. In total, the Kannada language writers have bagged eight Jnanpith awards, with the latest one being bagged in 2010.
Here is a list of eight Kannada authors who were awarded Jnanpith award and their contribution towards Kannada literature:
KUVEMPU:Kannada Author, winner of Jnanpith Award
Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa, popularly known as Kuvempu, won the Jnanpith award for his magnum opus ‘Sri Ramayana Darshanam’ in 1967. He was the first Kannada author who was given the Jnanpith award.
2. D R Bendre: Kannada Author, winner of Jnanpith Award
6. U R Ananthamurthy: Kannada Author, winner of Jnanpith Award
U. R. Ananthamurthy was one of the pioneers of the Navya movement within Kannada literature. He was awarded the Jnanpith Award in 1994. His important works include Samskara, Avasthe, Bharati Pura and Bhava. He was the recipient of Padma Bhushan award in 1998 and was also nominated for Man Booker International Prize for the year 2013.
7. Girish Karnad: Kannada Author, winner of Jnanpith Award
Girish Karnad is a well-known playwright, film-maker, actor, and cultural administrator. He was awarded the Jnanpith award for his immense contributions of Kannada literature and theatre in 1998.
His important works include Tughalak, Hayavadana, and Yayati. He has also directed and acted in many Kannada movies like Samskara and Kanooru Heggadithi. The Government of India has also conferred upon him Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.
8. Chandrashekhar Kamber: Kannada Author, winner of Jnanpith Award
Chandrashekar Kambar is a well-known poet, folklorist, playwright, and film director. He was awarded Jnanpith award in 2010 for his immense contribution to Kannada language. His works harmoniously interlink folklore with contemporary issues. His prominent plays include Jokumaraswamy, Nayi Kathe, and Mahamayi. He was a recipient of the ‘Sahitya Academy Award’ in 1991 for his play ‘Sirisampige’. Apart from this he has also received Rajyotsava award, Pampa award, and Padma Shri award.