Pundur Venkatraja Puninchathaya, belongs to the famous Pundooru family known for scholarship, cultural interest, social work and philonthropy. Son of poet and freedom fighter Laxminarayana Puninchathaya, Venkatraja grew in a rich tradition and later became a worthy successor to it.
P V learnt Kannada, Sanskrit alsong with mother tongue Tulu at home. A disciplined and hardworking person, he did his school and Vidwan in Sanskrit in quick succession. Later he did his M A in Kannada and M A in Sanskrit, besides a degree in Hindi. He became a teacher and later continued his vocation at the Swamiji’s High School Edneer , sponsored and managed by Sri Edneer Mutt, a famous cultural centre of Kasargod. Puninchathaya remained a close confidant of both the Swamijis – Ishwarananda Bharati and the present pontiff Keshavanada Bharati, both encouraging him in his scholarly persuits. He taught Kannada and Sanskrit at Swamiji’s school, besides disseminating knowledge to many who came to him. He is an untiring teacher, a real Guru dedicated to spread of knowledge.
Puninchathaya conducted extensive research in Tulu language, Tulu script, Sanskrit manuscripts, Folklore and other related subjects. His main contributions to the filed are – discovering the epics in old Tulu language – Kaveri, Sri Bhagawatho, Mahabharatho and his research on Tulu script. He proved that Tulu has a quite a long history of written literature and Tulu script was actually being used for Tulu language, and the present Malayalam script is actually originated from Tulu script.
Puninchathaya is good Arthadhari in Yakshagana. He limited his interest in Yakshagana to his native place and to the Edneer Mutt. His presentation is fine and characterisation is mature. He is known for his ‘female roles’ in Talamaddale. He has also composed some prasangas inlcuding Sri Shankara Vijaya, on the life of Sri Shankaracharya.
Sri Puninchathaya has been honoured with many awards such as the National Award for Teachers, Tulu Akademy Award, Kerala and Karnataka State Awards and many more – all deservedly. Sri Puninchathaya has published collection of poems, translations, articles, besides his Tulu classics and research papers. He is being consulted by people from far and wide, including foreign students and scholars. He is always ready to help all seeking knowledge and guidance. He has done his research on his own, by real interest without much of institutional funding or government support. He is a real ‘Vidhwan’.
A very simple, friendly, low profile, dignified and mature person, a real scholar and a real teacher – P Venkatraja Puninchathaya fully deserves the Muliya Thimmappayya Award given to him this year for his services in literature. (The award instituted in the name of the great scholar writer teacher Muliya Thimmappayya, considered to be one of the leaders of Kannada renaissance).