Saturday, August 31, 2013

Vara Kavi Bendre

Young Bendre
D.R. Bendre (1896-1981): Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre, widely acknowledged as one of the greatest poets in the Kannada language, is a household name in Karnataka. He appeared on the Kannada poetic scene in the early decades of this century with Gari, a highly impressive volume of lyrics, and dominated it for five decades. Though open to influences from all over the world, he was firmly rooted in the Indian and Kannada poetic traditions to which he brought new life and vitality. He received the Sahitya Akademi prize for Aralu Maralu in 1959, the Jnanpith award in 1974, and was a Fellow of the Sahitya Akademi.

31/1/1896 Born at Dharwar, Karnataka, India

1913 Passed Matriculation and joined Ferguson College, Poona, for higher education.

1916-1918 Wrote earlier poems, like Thuthuri, Kogile etc. Recited poems at the Fourth Karnataka Literary Conference. Joined as teacher at Victoria High School, Dharwar.

1919 Married Laxmibai at Hubli

1920-1922 Published first poem collection Krishnakumari. Conceived Geleyara Gumpu (a group of friends interested in Literature).

1926 Launched a new cultural movement - the celebration of Nada Habba (festival of land)

1922-1944 Kshemendra, Rama, Bhaskar, Panduranga, Lalita, Vaman, Prema, Mangala, Ananda were born. Of these only the two sons Panduranga and Vaman and daughter Mangala are surviving1.

Edited Swadharma, Jaya Karnataka.

1930 Presided over the Mysore writer's conference

1932 First edition of Gari; Sentenced to imprisonment for writing Nara Bali (Human Sacrifice), branding it as seditious.

1935 Passed M.A. examination. Presided over the poets meet at Bombay.

1936-1944 A span of unemployment and tribulations. Edited Jeevana, a leading Kannada journal.

26/12/1943 Presided over the prestigious 27th Kannada Literary Conference at Shimoga. Read the paper Sahitya Virata Swaroopa.

1944-1956 Worked as Professor of Kannada at the D.A.V. College, Sholapur

1946 Public felicitation at Dharwar on completion of 50th year

1956 Appointed advisor, All India Radio, Dharwar station.

60th birthday celebrations at Sholapur, Poona, Dharwar.

Felicitations at Bangalore under the auspices of the Kannada Sahitya Parishad

1958 Aralu Maralu, a collection of poems awarded Sahitya Academy (New Delhi) prize.

1964 Felicitation at Mysore during Dasara festivities.

Naku Tanti first published.

1965 Samvada a book in Marathi gets Kelkar prize.

1966 70th year celebrations at Shirahatti.

1968 Padmashree awarded; D. Litt. conferred by the Karnataka University.

1969 Honoured with the fellowship of the Sahitya Academy.

1972 Conferred the title Karnataka Kula Thilaka by Udupi Adimaru. production of a documentary produced by the Govt. of Karnataka.

7/4/1974 Declared the Jnanapith award winner.

8/11/1974 Presented the Jnanapith award at a special function held in Delhi.

26/10/1981 Passed away at the Harkishandas Hospital in Bombay.

The Trinity

Bendre believed in the value of an integrated personality but loved to project himself as a threefold being: Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre, the biological self, the dehi; Professor Bendre, the thinking self; and Ambikatanayadatta, the creative self. The three selves were conceived as mutually supporting selves, as the imagery Bendre used to concretise this idea clearly suggests. He spoke of Ambikatanayadatta and Professor Bendre as closely related to each other as the banks of a river or the belly and the back. One could not exist without the other. (From G.S. Amur's book).

With rare exception, Bendre signed his poems using the pen-name "Ambikatanayadatta". Of course, it was the poet, the creative self that was finally responsible for the form of the poem though his intellectual/academic self may have had a large part in the creation.


This section contains links to those who had a great influence on Bendre's life and poetry.

Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran (pronounced Jibran) was a Lebanese poet of the early 20th century. His work "The Prophet" is a veritable masterpiece ... and it's on the web in it's entirety !!


AE is the pseudonym of the Irish poet George William Russell, once considered to be the equal of Yeats. You can find one of his poems here.

Rabindranath Tagore

No need for any introduction here. In addition to the Indian page linked above here's a Bangladeshi page. You can also find the full text of his Nobel Prize winning work "Gitanjali" on the web.

Sri Aurobindo

The Bengali poet and philosopher who was intially involved in the Indian freedom movement and later on dedicated his life to his spiritual quest at his Ashram in Pondicherry.


Bendre has been hailed as the father figure of modern Kannada poetry. His poems are linked to the Kannada poetic tradition through their use of folklore, the vachanas and the kirthanas. Apart from native prosodic forms, Bendre has also employed native imagery, folk beliefs, references to Indian mythology and the language spoken by common people. Nada Lila (The Play of Sounds) is perhaps the most remarkable of his poetry collections.. All the features of Navodaya poetry like the feeling of patriotism, the reformatory zeal, critical attitude Indian culture, consolidation of traditional strength, mystical faith and assertion of a poet's individuality can be found in this collection. 

(From the Discover India pages.)


Towards the end of his life Bendre was deeply absorbed in numbers. This was not a new interest for him but now it became a central concern. When Dom Moraes visited him during his exploration of Karnataka in 1976, he found him totally immersed in numbers. He was still a Garudiga but the Garudi had been replaced by a calculator. `Only great poets', Moraes concluded, `have such interests and ideas as Dr. Bendre'. In his Vishvadharanasutra and A Theory of Immortality he made ambitious attempts to intuit all knowledge into numbers, but these are beyond the reach of the ordinary reader and await the scrutiny of experts. Appropriately enough his last message before he died in the Harkishandas Hospital in Bombay on 26th October 1981 was: `881+441. This is my mahakavya'. 881 symbolised Hridaya and 441 symbolised Viveka.

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