Maasthi Venkatesa Iyengar (6 June 1891 – 6 June 1986) was a well-known writer in Kannada language. He was the fourth among Kannada writers to be honored with the Jnanpith Award, the highest literary honor 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 honoured with the title Rajasevasakta by then Maharaja of Mysore Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadeyar.
Early life and education
Maasti was born in 1891 at Hungenahalli in Kolar district of Karnataka in a Tamil language speaking Sri Vaishnavaite family. He spent his early childhood in Maasti village. 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. After 26 years of service, he resigned in 1943, as a protest when he did not get the post equivalent to a Minister, which he deserved and a junior was promoted ahead of him. He wrote some pieces in English and then switched over to write in Kannada language. He used pen name Srinivasa to write short stories and novels in Kannada.
He published his first work Rangana Maduve in 1910 and his last work is Maatugara Ramanna (1985). 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. He was the editor of monthly journal Jivana (Life) from 1944 to 1965.
A prolific writer, he wrote more than 123 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 Raja of Kodagu.
He died on his 95th birthday in 1986.
Since 1993, an award in his name, "Masti Venkatesha Iyangar Award" is awarded to well-known writers of Karnataka. His house located in Basavanagudi area, Bangalore is converted as a museum and maintained by Masti Venkatesha Iyangar Jeevana Karyalaya Trust. His house located in Maasti village, Malur Taluk (Kolar District) is converted as library and maintained by Departments of Government of Karnataka. Masti Residential School was started in memory of Masti Venkatesha Iyangar during 2006–07, at Masti village, Malur Taluk by Government of Karnataka.