Restoring Shivaram Karanth’s legacy, one brick at a time

It was in Balavana that Kota Shivaram Karanth penned his Jnanpith winning book, Mookajjiya Kanasugalu. All photos: Raghuram M

A quaint house in Karnataka’s Puttur town sat hidden in plain sight for decades - its walls crumbling bit by bit. Built by Jnanpith awardee Kota Shivaram Karanth in 1930, Balavana is spread over five acres of uneven terrain flanked by a verdant countryside in Dakshina Kannada district on the foothills of Western Ghats.

The house that had seen many a tale spun under its wooden roof was silently caving in as termites infested the wood and heavy monsoon rains led to seepages that made its walls wobbly over time.

It was in this very house that Karanth penned his Jnanpith winning book, Mookajjiya Kanasugalu. The house, however, fell into ruin after Karanth - described by historian Ramchandra Guha as Rabindranath Tagore of modern India - moved to Kota (Karnataka) in 1973.

For years, the house and its surrounding structures, also built by Karanth, silently endured neglect and the resulting dilapidation. In 1997, Balavana also absorbed the grief of the death of its owner in faraway Manipal. But sometime around the early 2000s, the people of the region and Karanth’s admirers beyond Puttur started a desperate bid to restore the house.

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