B. G. L. Swamy

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B. G. L. Swamy
BornBasavanagudi Gundappa Lakshminarayanaswami/ಬಸವನಗುಡಿ ಗುಂಡಪ್ಪ ಲಕ್ಷ್ಮೀನಾರಾಯಣಸ್ವಾಮಿ
(1918-02-05)5 February 1918
Bangalore, Mysore State, British India
Died2 November 1980(1980-11-02) (aged 62)
Mysore, Karnataka, India
OccupationProfessor, Botanist, Writer, Historian
GenreFiction, Botany, History, Literature and Epigraphy
SubjectVarious Subjects
Literary movementNavodaya
Notable worksHasiru Honnu, College Ranga and Americadalli Naanu

Basavangudi Gundappa Lakshminarayana Swamy or B. G. L. Swamy (1918–1980, also known as ) was an Indian botanist and Kannada writer who was professor and head of the department of Botany and a principal of Presidency College, Chennai. He was the son of D. V. Gundappa, an Indian writer and philosopher.

Early life and career[edit]

Swamy was born to D.V. Gundappa and Bhagirathamma. He studied in Central College, Bangalore and obtained his bachelor's degree in botany. After this, and at he suggestion of his father, he began to study the embryology of orchids at home, after obtaining a second-hand microscrope, a microtome and some basic laboratory tools. He received a PhD from the University of Mysore in 1947 and had a brief post-doctoral period at Harvard University, under Irving Widmar Bailey.[2]

From 1953, he served as professor of botany (and later principal) at Presidency College, Chennai.[2]


Swamy's primary research area was plant anatomy, particularly the structure of connections between plants' roots and stem. He discovered a few plant species — examples are Ascarina maheshwarii and Sarcandra irvingbaileyi, named for two of his teachers. In 1976, he was awarded the Birbal Sahni gold medal by the Government of India for his work in botany. [3]


Swamy's literary works encompass a wide range of topics. Many of them are related to botany and introduce botanical concepts to the layperson. A few of his books cover plants used in everyday life in a scientific manner — such as Namma Hotteyalli Dakshina Amerika ("South America in Our Stomach").

Other works by Swamy pertain to literature, and some of them are partially autobiographical, dealing with his experiences as professor and principal. Apart from being an acclaimed botanist, B G L Swamy was widely respected in the history and literary circles.

He extensively studied and researched the histories and literatures of the Kannada and Tamil Languages. His book Tamilu Talegala Naduve ("Among the Tamil Heads") is devoted to examining theories pertaining to language's origins (examining the claims that were being made in those days by the Dravidian parties) and mostly debunking them. In this book he debunks some of the theories put forward by Tamil linguists and historians such as Iravatham Mahadevan and Nilkanta Shastri. He raised questions regarding gaping holes and contradictions in their theories.

Hasiru Honnu[edit]

His book Hasiru Honnu[4] ("Green Gold") won him the Kendra Sahitya Academy award given by the Government of India in 1978.[5] With that, Gundappa and Swamy, became the first father and son duo to win this prestigious award.[6][7]

Hasiru Honnu is a treatise on some familiar and unfamiliar botanical species. It is also a travelogue enlivened by human drama and humor. Students of advanced botany undertake scientific tours in the company of their teachers for the identification and collection of botanical specimens. Swamy was a gifted man of letters with an observant eye and a sense of humour and, at the same time, deeply interested in history and the fine arts such as music, painting and architecture. Thus, as an artist and a scientist, he could explore and explain the world of botany in the light of a wider understanding. He describes the externals of a specimen with vivid precision and technical detail but his account of the genus and species is only a prelude to a livelier non-technical account of its appearance, its locations and practical uses. Sometimes the reader discovers how the specimen claimed attention by figuring in well-known literary works of antiquity.[5]

The book thus unfolds before the reader the abundant riches and the endless variety of the botanical world and the hundred ways it helps humans. The human variety and the different characters all memorably visualized provide ample scope for portraying dramatic situations of all kinds, from the comic to the romantic. The book primarily deals with the world of plants but it deals also with the world of humans. Hasiru honnu is as informative as it is delightful.[5]


  • Hasiru Honnu / ಹಸಿರು ಹೊನ್ನು
  • Colleju Ranga / ಕಾಲೇಜು ರಂಗ
  • Colleju Taranga / ಕಾಲೇಜು ತರಂಗ
  • Pradhyapakana Peethadalli / ಪ್ರಾಧ್ಯಾಪಕನ ಪೀಠದಲ್ಲಿ
  • Tamilu Talegala Naduve / ತಮಿಳು ತಲೆಗಳ ನಡುವೆ
  • Namma Hotteyalli Dakshina Amerika / ನಮ್ಮ ಹೊಟ್ಟೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ದಕ್ಷಿಣ ಅಮೇರಿಕ
  • Pancha Kalasha Gopura / ಪಂಚಕಲಶ ಗೋಪುರ
  • Americadalli Naanu / ಅಮೇರಿಕದಲ್ಲಿ ನಾನು
  • Mysooru Diary / ಮೈಸೂರು ಡೈರಿ
  • Dourgandhikapaharana / ದೌರ್ಗಂಧಿಕಾಪಹರಣ
  • Phalashruthi / ಫಲಶ್ರುತಿ
  • Sakshatkarada Daariyalli / ಸಾಕ್ಷಾತ್ಕಾರದ ದಾರಿಯಲ್ಲಿ
  • Sasyapurana/ ಸಸ್ಯ ಪುರಾಣ
  • Brihadaranyaka (Incomplete) / ಬೃಹದಾರಣ್ಯಕ
  • Beladingalalli Aralida Molle (translation from Tamil : U. V. Swaminatha Iyer) / ಬೆಳದಿಂಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಅರಳಿದ ಮೊಲ್ಲೆ
  • Jnanaratha (translation from Tamil : Subrahmanya Bharathi) / ಜ್ಞಾನರಥ
  • Haridihe Balou Kaveri (translation from Tamil : Chetti ) / ಹರಿದಿಹೆ ಬಾಳೌ ಕಾವೇರಿ
  • Meenakshiya Saugandha/ ಮೀನಾಕ್ಷಿಯ ಸೌಗಂಧ


  • Karnataka Sahitya Akademi Award for Americadalli Naanu
  • Sahitya Akademi Award for Hasuru Honnu
  • Rajyotsava Prashasti by Government of Karnataka
  • Kannada Sahitya Parishat Award

See also[edit]


  1. ^ N. Ranganatha Sharma (1984). Preface to Marula Muniyana Kagga. Kavyalaya Publications, Mysore Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs.
  2. ^ a b Natesh, S.; Ganeshaiah, K.N. (2018). "B.G.L. Swamy (1918-1980): a one-man institution" (PDF). Current Science. 115 (10): 2168–2171.
  3. ^ "Birbal Sahni Medal". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  4. ^ "hasiru honnu".
  5. ^ a b c Amaresh Datta (1988). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: devraj to jyoti. Sahitya Akademi. p. 1563. ISBN 978-81-260-1194-0. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  6. ^ Jyotsna Kamat. "Remembering B.G.L. Swamy". kamatdotcom. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  7. ^ "The Gita for Every Man". Yabaluri.org. Archived from the original on 1 January 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2013.

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