Saraswati’s Son Honoured

It’s more than befitting that Dr. S L Bhyrappa has been awarded the Saraswati Samman this year.

Kannada writer S L Bhyrappa was on Tuesday chosen for the prestigious Saraswati Samman for his novel ‘Mandra’… The jury which selected Bhyrappa was headed by former Chief Justice G B Patnaik. After consideration of works published in 22 Indian languages during 2000-2009, the Chayan Parishad (jury) selected Mandra, a novel in Kannada by S L Bhyrappa for the 20th Samman, a statement said…He is one of the best selling novelists in Kannada over the past 25 years. ‘Mandra’ is one of the most acclaimed epic novels of Bhyrappa.

Actually let me rephrase that: the dignity of the Saraswati Samman has been elevated several notches higher, and the bar for the award has suddenly been raised starting this year. All this isn’t an exaggeration. S L Bhyrappa is truly the lone giant of a writer living amidst us, an artist who constantly meditates on his art and it wouldn’t be a further exaggeration to say that he’s the greatest Indian author alive.

Although Mandra ultimately won the award, any of his sweeping epics—Parva, Tanthu, Saakshi, Saartha, and Daatu—would’ve easily stood to win it. Ardent Bhyrappa fans have on several occasions decried the fact that he hasn’t won the Gnanpith so far but it doesn’t matter. In today’s interview with Kannada Prabha, the author says that an award is not a yardstick to measure a novel’s worth. Here’s a translation of portions of his interview for the benefit of those who don’t know Kannada (translation mine):

The worth of a work neither increases or decreases if it’s conferred with an award. The longevity of a literary work depends on how many hearts it can touch over several generations, and how well it expresses each generation’s problems…readers of all Indian languages have accepted my works as their own. 1 Maharashtrians tell me that I’m an extremely popular Marathi writer who writes in Kannada…I’m an Indian writer. Even in [my] works that have strong regional specificities, the characters and situations therein are pan-Indian…today, there has been a huge increase in the number of books published because there’s a corresponding readership. Those of our youth who don’t read Kannada (Ed: regional) books are products of English education.

Mark that underlined sentence. In his Bhitti, the author remarks that a literary work must shine on its own and not through the torchlight of critics. Dr. S L Bhyrappa’s major and many minor works are the biggest proofs that this secret of producing enduring literature is not idle preaching on his part. No other living writer has managed to write so many books on such varied themes in depth, scope, sweep and quality for close to four decades.

As to those who genuinely lament that he hasn’t yet been given the Gnanapith, I have two things to say at least as far as Kannada literature is concerned: one, that Dr. Bhyrappa is truly beyond awards: this is a man who donated some award money of ` 1 lakh towards efforts to enrich literature, and a man who never goes on tours promoting his own books—the current trend with first-timers and even the high & mighty of literature—and participates as little as possible in public functions. Two, thanks to Gnanapith # 6 & # 7, the galaxy of Gnanapith awardees in Kannada has been permanently sullied. It’s good that Dr. Bhyrappa isn’t part of that galaxy. Actually, we need three categories: The Gnanapith awardees and # 6 & # 7, each a category in his own right.

The Saraswati Samman is definitely an award of merit and deserves the prestige associated with it. And it deservedly went to the son of Saraswati.

34 comments for “Saraswati’s Son Honoured

  1. March 22, 2012 at 10:19 PM

    i have read english translations parva and daatu(crossing over) of slb.Now i am reading saartha in kannada.I have enjoyed reading his books.My heart weeps for draupadi of parva and all praises for satyabhama of daatu.I feel like sharatchandra his novels have women with strong are weak and are poor in decision making.

  2. March 22, 2012 at 10:13 PM


  3. padma a
    November 16, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    i like your style of writing, you are really great. i cant forget the beauty of young widow of vamsha vruksha.
    i cant match the young widow with any bolly wood beauty. how can any body hate you who read vamsha vruksha. you are really born writer.

  4. padma a
    November 16, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    if you are in england you would have won noble prize. i read your vamsha vruksha whole night it has influenced me so much. i cant forget you. i saw some people (ladies) worship you vamshavruksha novel like god. why you born in brahmin family? that is the mistake

  5. Shree Harsha
    May 25, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    @Ranger, do not blame others for your failure. It’s not like English and Kannada are mutually exclusive or something. You can learn Kannada anytime, even now. Don’t just whine doing nothing else, it makes no sense.

  6. May 9, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    Ranvir wrote @ “ site had scans of British newspapers of that time reporting in England Tipu’s atrocities on Hindus and Xtians but unfortunately the site no longer works.”

    The website still works…and it contains all the scanned British newspaper clippings on Tipu.

    Please see:

  7. Aram
    April 17, 2011 at 8:48 PM


    Nice to come across your comment. Missing your blogs.

  8. mounaprasad
    April 13, 2011 at 10:28 PM


    Try Sapna Book stall or Navakarnataka Publications on Race course road.

  9. Ranger
    April 13, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    I have been to all major book shops in Bangalore – Landmark, Crossword, Gangaram – you wont find a single kannada book in any of them.

  10. Ranger
    April 13, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    Sandeep, I am a Kannadiga, but cannot read Kannada. I bet most people who studied in English schools are like me. What a tragedy ? We are dissing at our own culture. I see young Kanndiga parents talk to their 3 year old kids only in English. Kannadiga children of today in Bangalore do not even speak Kannada, forget reading or writing in it. And the worst part is – they are actually proud of it. Proud of not knowing their mother-tongue.

  11. Ranger
    April 13, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    I am happy one of you mentioned Rajiv Malhotra’s book Breaking India. It is simply wonderful and must be read by every Indian. Spread the word.

  12. Amit
    April 12, 2011 at 8:53 PM

    Anand wrote:

    I’d like to read translations of his books, but I believe there’s often a “translation loss” with translated works that destroys the genius of the original.

    I read “Sartha” in English and I can tell you that it impacted me immensely, and that Shri Bhyrappa’s genius wasn’t destroyed in translation. I think you may be over-exaggerating the loss in translation.

  13. Malavika
    April 12, 2011 at 4:41 PM


    I think you should write about the Jan Lokpal Bill. For me, it appears like a cure worse than a disease.

  14. April 12, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Dr.SLB is an amazing writer. But I wish the award were given to some other novel of his – say, daaTu or parva.

    The less said about Jnanapithis #6 and #7, the better. But as somebody had said once during the Avarana-debate, they provide food for our thoughts and blogs.

  15. Anand
    April 12, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    I’d like to read translations of his books, but I believe there’s often a “translation loss” with translated works that destroys the genius of the original.

  16. cricfan
    April 12, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    @sid said “… Now if only his publisher would have agreed to put the English translation of Sartha in Kindle ..”

    I second that. Seems like the quickest way for good Indian writers to get a level playing field and world-wide reach is via e-publishing. The sooner we get there, the better.

    I got through the first 100 pages of ‘Breaking India’ and it is heart-rending and almost too distressing to read. In is during these moments that one acutely realizes the efforts put in by a few good men and women who are surely making a difference: Thanks, Sandeep, for your services. And I hope Rajiv Malhotra can get a Kindle edition out soon.

  17. Ranvir
    April 12, 2011 at 7:07 AM

    About Tipu, check the following book to know his real face which has been hidden by secularists: site had scans of British newspapers of that time reporting in England Tipu’s atrocities on Hindus and Xtians but unfortunately the site no longer works.

  18. Indian
    April 12, 2011 at 5:24 AM

    can you recommend some SL Bhyarappa’s novels which I shouldn’t miss reading? I recently read his novel Aavarana and was astonished to find how ignorant are we about muslims’ conquest of India and how much India’s history has been tampered with to hide genocides committed by muslims. Even today, history books in Karnataka prescribed for middle and high schools, regard Tippu Sultan as the tiger of Mysore who fought against British and brought communal harmony. But, the facts put out by Bhyarappa speak the opposite. The wide spread islamization of present day Kerala was duly supported by him. And who can forget the bloody massacre of Brahmins at Melukote.

  19. Sid
    April 12, 2011 at 2:18 AM

    Congratulations to him!!!
    Now if only his publisher would have agreed to put the English translation of Sartha in Kindle I would have the opportunity to read him. But apparently they r not interested; at least that is what amazon customer service is telling me. The smug #6 and #7, well, what can we say about them.

  20. Shiv
    April 10, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    I am feeling bad now that my Kannada is broken and unfluent. Or may be if I pick up Dr SLB’s books I can improve my Kannada. What say?

    BTW, it was great meeting you yesterday. But I should first apologize! To be frank, I was unable to recall that you were the person who dumped Ram. Guha headfirst in the trash can just a week or so back. I so loved it that I mailed it to him. Didnt want Guha to lose on the fun, you know 😀

    And I also totally forgot that very entertaining and informative series of posts on the knowledge (or the lack of it) of Girish Sahane about Indian Heritage some time last year.

    In spite of my failed memory, I still had a lively conversation (I cannot forget that look you gave and told me to ‘not go around changing the world’) and hoping to have more. Please provide me with your e-mail ID.

  21. vivek
    April 9, 2011 at 4:51 AM

    The tragedy is that the Sarkar will grant recognition to those with genuine literary genius and deep knowledge of the mother tongue only when the scope for emulation amongst the younger generation has already been destroyed. Then, it will be quite safe to re-import such works from foreign Universities.
    Prof. Pollock of Columbia has in eloquent terms described the cultural genocide carried out by the post Independence Sarkar against Bhraj and also Kannada- both languages of the highest importance for theistic philosophy as well as the full flowering of Indic literary alamkaras and rasa-dhvani aesthetics.
    The following is a quote from p941. his

    ‘The Union Government may now, according to newspaper accounts, be “likely to accord the much-awaited classical language status to Kannada,” but the language’s political apotheosis is ironically being shadowed by its earthly mortality. It is almost certain that within a generation or two the number of people able to read classical Kannada will have approached a statistical zero.’

    In his recent Tehelka TV interview you can see the interviewer dragging him over the tired old ground of Hindutva- Ramayana is about ‘othering’ Mahabharata is about ‘brothering’ and other such utter nonsense. If L.K Advani stood upon a chariot, Prof. Pollock may be aware that the Deendars claimed the Nizam as incarnation of Lord Ram in ’48- i.e. Ramayana does not have history of being a communal text. But the fault is not with the foreigner. It seems the Indians only want him to talk about issues from 20 years ago. His complaint re. neglect of manuscripts in private bhandars falls on deaf ears.

  22. vijayashankar
    April 8, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    No samman is needed for SL Bhyrappa. He is a story teller par excellence. The amount of research he does before writing any thing is unimaginable as I know it from my personal experience when he stayed with us in our village for a fortnight before he wrote parva. I remember shivaram karanth should have been awarded with nobel prize if only he had written in english was a comment by an english critique,and our SLB also deserves one. your observation that saraswati samman got elevated in stature after SLB was selected is highly appropriate. I hope persons like #6 and #7 get it later in the day to reduce its worth. my hearty congratulations to you sir SLB and sandeep for the post.

  23. deepak
    April 8, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    As a reader of SLB’s books and a gerat fan, I feel happy for him.

  24. Pratap
    April 7, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    Looks like my previous comment in Kannada was garbled (it was in Unicode though!). Here it is again:

    The day they decided not to award DVG a Janapith award, it lost all its lustre! Can there be a greater philosopher, statesman, thinker, poet, writer and community builder than DVG? they say that Kagga was written by someone named Somi (as it appears in the Somiya kathe at the beginning), it was DVG who just transcribed it and hence he did not deserve it! Huh… Can someone read and assimilate the sum total of its content, Sreemad Bhagavadgeeta Taatparya, Sri Rama Pareekshanam, etc in one lifetime?!? And who can write 1000s of verses in acordance with Chandassu, alankaara (metre), etc?

    SLB knows the people hindering his chances and has rightly given up hopes instead of bemoaning it like some of the others who are after it all the time.

    If Kuvempu and Bendre were alive today, they would have returned their awards see the current awardees! Sir MV, Radhakrishnan, etc would have returned their Bharata Ratnas after seeing who won it in 1971, 1988, 1991!

  25. Pratap
    April 7, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    ? ?? ???? ??.??.?? ?????? ????????????? ?????????? ???? ??? ????? ????????????. ???? ????????? ?????? ????, ???? ???? ????????? ??????????? ??.??.?? ?????????????? ???????????!!

    ???? ????????? ????? ?????? ?????? ???????????? ????????? ???? ????????????????. ????????? ? ????? ????? ????????? ???????????? ?????????. ?????? ???????, ??????? ??????? ???? ?????????? ???? ?????????????? ?????????????????? ???!

  26. Jayant
    April 7, 2011 at 7:09 PM


    English and Hindi translations of some of Bhyrappa’s works are available at

  27. Ravi Kulkarni
    April 7, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    The #6 and #7 are Girish karnad and U R ananth murthy. two of the hyrocrites/left liberals in kannada literature.
    and BTW my favorite of novel from bhyrappa is parva. im sure no author in india writes with such depth on various subjects as bhyrappa.

  28. ava
    April 7, 2011 at 12:34 AM

    Thanks Viva
    I will look up the english translation…I hope all of his books get translated into English as well so that people who appreciate good literature everywhere can appreciate it…Many foreigners ask me about Indian literature and to recommend comtemporary books, I am sure Byrappa is superior to those people who currently write in English, so I hope his major works get translated into English…
    The only writers who can produce literature worth reading are writers rooted to their culture…not the deracinated literature that India produces today in English. I am not saying that English cannot be the medium of good literature, simply that only those who are deeply rooted in the culture and understand it will have anything substantial to say. ..

  29. Viva kermani
    April 6, 2011 at 11:03 PM

    His books are available in different languages – I recently picked up Sartha (The Caravan) which has been translated into English by S Ramaswamy – this was about 7 to 8 months ago so I am sure you will be able to get yourself a copy.

  30. mounaprasad
    April 6, 2011 at 9:31 PM


    His works has been translated to almost all prominent Indian languages…I am sure if you look in your local book store you might find a translation of his works.

  31. ava
    April 6, 2011 at 8:40 PM

    Are there translations of Byrappa in English for those who cannot read his books in the language in which they are written? How can Byrappa be available to people who do not read the language of Kannada? How can regional language books be made availabe to a wider audience and translated?

  32. dharadhar
    April 6, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    This is indeed a pleasant news! Hearty congratulations to Dr Bhyrappa!

    And regarding Bhyrappanavaru not getting the Jnanapith, one can only say that he is in good company of kavis such as DV Gundappa who have made genuine contributions to Kannada literature.

  33. Rankie
    April 6, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    I myself am sadly a product of that english education system that Dr Bhyrappa has rightly criticized.. I decided recently that it was a shame that I have never read a book in an indian language so i picked up anandamath in hindi last week and it has been a thrilling read so far.. So pleasantly surprised.. especially with the nascent women’s rights tilt of the book. All this anglicization had let me to expect only backwardness, ignorance, wife-beating and girl-child-murder from non-english-educated indians. Ive lived in big cities all my life and i had a recent stint in a rural area. You may not believe it, but i was shocked to see that even hindi-speaking, illiterate indian peasant men could show love to their baby daughters and joke with their wives. Going by what the english media feeds me day in and day out, I was expecting that women in villages would be beaten with lathis all day long. Eye opening trip it was. I realized how much our deracination is leading to our english educated elite thinking of the rest of the nation as somehow subhuman. we are the new colonizers, now that the whites have left….
    Bankim chandra was a genius and he has immensely boosted my confidence in my country’s cultural output. If dr bhyrappa is anything like that, I salute him.

  34. Madhu
    April 6, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    For the benefit of people not well-versed with Kannada literature, could you name #6 and #7?

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