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Maasthi Venkatesha Iyengar

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D V Gundappa

Maasthi Venkatesha Iyengar (Kannada:ಮಾಸ್ತಿ ವೆಂಕಟೇಶ ಐಯಂಗಾರ್) (June 6, 1891 - June 6, 1986) was a popular writer in Kannada language. He was the fourth person among eight recipients of Jnanpith Award for Kannada the highest literary honour conferred in India. He was popularly referred to as Maasti Kannadada Aasti which means Maasti is Kannada's Treasure. He is most renowned for his short stories. He wrote under the pen name Srinivasa. He was honored with the title Rajasevasakta by then Maharaja of Mysore Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadeyar.

Maasti was born in 1891, at Hongenahalli in Kolar district of Karnataka in a Tamil speaking Sri Vaishnavaite family. He spent his early childhood in Maasti village. Due to poverty, he moved from place to place until he obtained a master's degree in English literature (Arts) in 1914 from Madras University. After joining the Indian Civil Service (Known as the Mysore Civil Service in the days of the Maharaja of Mysore), he held various positions of responsibility in different parts of Karnataka, rising to the rank of District Commissioner. He retired in 1943.

His Kelavu Sanna Kategalu (Some Short Stories) was the first noted work in the modern Kannada literature. Maasti also crafted a number poems on various philosophic, aesthetic and social themes. He composed and translated several important plays. Finally, he edited the monthly journal Jivana (Life) from 1944 to 1965. A prolific writer, he wrote more than 120 books in Kannada and 17 in English, for over seventy years. He won the Jnanpith Award in 1983 for his novel Chikkavira Rajendra. The story was about the last Kodava king. Kodava community was displeased with the negative portrayal of their last king. He died in 1986 at the age of 95.

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