The museum is the house where the writer spent the last four years of his life
A walk through the Dr. Kota Shivaram Karanth Museum at Saligrama about 20 km from Udupi takes you through the various aspects of the life and achievements of Jnanpith award winner Kota Shivaram Karanth (1902-1997).
Karanth, born on October 10, 1902, at Kota in Udupi district, was a multi-faceted genius. His literary output includes over 40 novels, four anthologies of short stories, two volumes of poems, more than 90 plays, nine encyclopaedias, and hundreds of articles on various issues and subjects. He won the Jnanpith Award in 1978. He brought in many innovations in the field of Yakshagana. He was also a painter and an environmentalist, known for his stand against nuclear energy.
The museum on the ground floor has since got extended and now houses an art gallery and a library on the first floor and an auditorium called Karanth Ranga Ratha on the second floor.
A Yakshagana Kendra is being run in the adjacent building. Together, they are now known as Dr. Kota Shivaram Karanth Research and Study Centre. What makes the museum special is that Karanth spent the last four years of his life in this house called ‘Manasa’, which was converted into a museum.
The museum was established in 2002 thanks to the single-minded determination of Malini Mallya, who was part-time secretary of Karanth for 23 years. She is the curator of the museum and managing trustee of the centre.
The first room of the museum has various books and rare photographs of Karanth in showcases, and clippings related to him for the last seven decades neatly laminated and filed.
There is a rare photograph of Karanth playing the role of a villain in the silent era film Bhoota Rajya . The film was written, produced and directed by Karanth in 1931. Then there is the room which Karanth used as his office. It has Karanth’s books translated into other languages. The cover page designs of his various books designed by Karanth himself have been neatly arranged under a glass cover over the dining table, also designed by Karanth. In Karanth’s bedroom, you can find his walking sticks, medicines, toothbrush and dentures. The daily schedule of Karanth and what food he ate are also mentioned. In the next room, various doctorate certificates given to Karanth have been preserved.
In the art gallery, there are paintings based on Karanth’s novels. Handwritten letters by Karanth since 1932 have been laminated and displayed. Karanth’s photograph with Mahatma Gandhi, when the latter came to Mangalore in the 1930s, and the replicas of the ‘Pampa Prashasti’ and ‘Indira Gandhi Paryavarna Puraskar’ are also displayed.
There are over 5,000 books in the library. Yakshagana is taught by two teachers at the Yakshagana Kendra. The Centre holds literary functions and workshops. “Researchers from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala come here to do research on various aspects of Karanth,” Ms. Mallya said.
What prompted Ms. Mallya to start the museum? “Till 2002, there was no effort by the government to construct a memorial or museum for Karanth. That made me determined to start a museum. I got Rs. 10 lakh grant for the construction of the auditorium from the government. I did not seek nor intend to seek any grant from the government because bureaucratic interference will spoil any project,” she said.
The museum and indeed the centre is a must-see on any person’s itinerary to understand Karanth and his achievements.