In his poem ‘Bhaavajeevi’, the note of nostalgia for the years Channaveera Kanavi spent as a child in the pastoral backdrop of a North Karnataka village is nigh audible. However, Kanavi was not without his reservations about rural life. In the same work, Kanavi also lays bare the bane of the caste system persisting in the rural idyll.
Channavera Kanavi’s longing for the pastoral, and his ode to the simplicities of rural life, date back to his years spent through infancy and childhood in a small village. Kanavi was born in Hombal in what is now Gadag district, part of the undivided Dharwad district, on June 18, 1928. While his early days in the rural backwaters of North Karnataka would leave an indelible imprint in his memory, it was in Dharwad that Kanavi the Poet was born. Indeed, in many a passage in his poems, Kanavi waxes lyrical on the influence the city had on him, as if seeking to repay his debt to Dharwad in verse. Kanavi studied at the RLS High School in Dharwad; in those early years in Dharwad, Murugha Mutt was his home. After matriculation, Kanavi enrolled in the BA programme at Karnatak College, where, under the auspices of future Jnanpith awardee Vinayak Krishna Gokak, who was then the principal of the college, the poet in Kanavi bloomed. Kanavi went on to obtain an MA in Kannada from Karnatak University in 1952, following which he joined the varsity’s publication wing, where he would continue to work till his retirement in 1983.
A prolific writer, Kanavi’s literary output was anything if not prodigious. Starting with ‘Kavyakshi’, which was published when he was barely 21 in 1949, Kanavi published 26 collections of poetry, in addition to which he had 28 books of literary criticism and collection of essays to his credit. One award after another acknowledged Kanavi’s literary genius. He won the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award for his collection of poems ‘Jeevadhwani’ in 1982, the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award in 1985, the Rajyotsava award in 1989, the Pampa award a decade later. His alma mater, Karnatak University, conferred on him an honorary doctorate in 2004, while he had been conferred with the ‘Nadoja’ honorary DLitt by the Hampi Kannada University two years prior. The Ambikatanaya Datta National award in 2012 sat on this heap of awards as the crowning jewel of his long and fruitful career.
In addition to the many honours that came his way, Kanavi occupied many a key position in literary bodies, opportunities he used to further the cause of Kannada. He was a member of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi, the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi, the Kannada Book Authority and the syndicate of the Karnatak University. He also served as the president of the Kannada Development Authority, and the Dharwad Sahitya Sambhrama Organising Committee. In 1996, he was named president of the Akhila Bharata Kannada Sahitya Sammelana held in Hassan, and in 2016, inaugurated the Mysuru Dasara festivities.
Kanavi’s verse was reflexive, and, in its calculated use of aphoristic wit, seemed to carry the legacy of the Sharana poets.


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