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Meet Dr SL Bhyrappa – Padma Bhushan awardee of 2023

Dr Bhyrappa is not only into writing, but is also an avid art collector and traveller

Dr Santeshivara Lingannaiah Bhyrappa (Dr SL Bhyrappa), a renowned Kannada novelist who has written twenty-four novels, six critical works, and an autobiography, has been awarded Padma Bhushan this year. Dr Bhyrappa is one of the highest-selling Kannada authors in recent times. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi fellowship in 2015 and the Padma Shri in 2016. In 2023, he has been awarded the Padma Bhushan. Dr Bhyrappa has received honorary doctorates from six universities.

Dr Bhyrappa has garnered much acclaim as a novelist, his books have been translated into various Indian languages and have been topping the bestseller lists even in Marathi for the past decade. He is among the top five bestsellers in Hindi as well. His works reflect a deep understanding of India’s philosophical and cultural traditions, demonstrated through characters steeped in their Indian identity.

The books he has written have been incorporated into the curriculum of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs in the state of Karnataka and have inspired about 20 Ph.D. dissertations. He has written 24 novels, four volumes of literary criticism, and books on aesthetics, social issues, and culture. Over the past three decades, he has been a Professor of Philosophy at NCERT. His novels have been translated into almost all Indian languages and six of them have been translated into English.

Dr Bhyrappa is not only into writing, but is also an avid art collector and traveller. He has travelled across the globe, including glaciers at the poles, rainforests of the Amazon, deserts of Africa, and several cities around the world.

His first novel Bheemakaya was published in 1958. One of his iconic novels, Aavarana was published in 2007. The novel’s main character, Lakshmi, is a rebellious, intelligent, and free-spirited filmmaker who marries Amir. As the story goes, though Lakshmi was not in favour of conversion, she converted to Islam and changed her name to Razia to marry Amir. Later, she found her husband was not open-minded and progressive, something he had projected himself to be. Amir sided with his family and forced Lakshmi to follow Islam rigorously.

The novel stirred controversy, and Dr Bhyrappa was deemed a Hindu fundamentalist who wanted to divide society. However, through time, it has been noted that what Dr Bhyrappa talked about in his novel is exactly what happens in the cases related to Grooming Jihad (Love Jihad).

In an article, author Sandeep Balakrishna talked about the controversial Tanishq ad that revolves around a Hindu woman who married a Muslim family. While drawing a comparison of Aavarana with the ad, Balakrishna wrote, “The type of Muslim mother-in-law shown in the Tanishq ad exists only in the ad. In the real world, the common terminology is more akin to Razia’s mother-in-law in Dr S.L. Bhyrappa’s iconic novel, Aavarana. To get a first-hand, in-depth understanding of the complete, real-life implications of Lakshmi’s transformation to Razia, read the book.”

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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