November 1 every year is celebrated as ‘Karnataka Rayotsava’ to remember of formation of the state. On this day in 1956, land for Kannada-speaking people to call their own was carved out from several states of Independent India.
This momentous occasion was the culmination of years of struggle for the recognition of regional identity based on the Kannada language. History has given the struggle a name – Movement for Unification of Karnataka.
Many are unaware that the movement for statehood for Kannadigas, began much before India’s independence from British colonial rule. The first seeds of Karnataka’s unification were sown in 1905 by Aluru Venkata Raya.
Alur Venkat Rao or Alur Venkata Raya – a writer, historian, and journalist – was born on July 12, 1880, in Bijapur in the then-Bombay Presidency of British India.
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He effectively used the Press for the cause of Kannada and Karnataka. For making the dream of statehood of Karnataka a reality, he began a newspaper named ‘Jaya Karnataka’ which raised consciousness and unity among Kannada speaking population of the erstwhile British Indian provinces.
Alur Venkata Raya participated in the Satyagraha movement started by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921. He is known for his pivotal role in many of the Kannada-related activities — including the establishment of Karnataka Itihasa Mandal, the establishment of Kannada Sahitya Parishad, mooting the idea of Karnataka University, instituting Vijayanagara Mahotsav, Nadahabba Yojana, Karnataka Vidyavardhak Sangh (Dharwad) to name a few.
When Kannadigas were unified on 1 November 1956, under the state of Mysore, Rao was overjoyed. He performed pooja to the goddess Bhuvaneshwari in the Virupaksha temple in Hampi. This earned him the monicker “Karnatakada Kulapurohita.”
On November 1, 1956, the Kannada-speaking areas of Madras, Mumbai, and Hyderabad provinces were merged to form Mysore State and the newly formed Mysore State was identified in three regions namely North Karnataka, Malenadu, and Old Mysore.
The present-day name of the state was declared on November 1, 1973. The name of the state was declared as “Karnataka”.
The fledgling movement that started in 1905, has given an inseparable identity for Kannadigas all over the world. The red and yellow flag evoke feelings of one-ness among all Kannada-speaking people.