He was a recipient of the 1998 Jnanpith Award - the highest literary honour conferred in India.
Karnad, known for his work in the field of literature and cinema, also became a renowned face in the country after essaying the role of Swami's father in Malgudi Days TV series. Mr Karnad's works were translated into English and directed by theatre greats such as Ebrahim Alkazi and Alyque Padamsee.
Jnanpith victor and noted theatre personality, actor and playwright Girish Karnad passed away at his home here on Monday, the Karnataka Chief Minister's Office confirmed.
While studying at the University of Oxford, he wrote his first play Yayati in 1961, and the same was critically acclaimed. He worked with mythology and history and gave them a contemporary resonance in plays such as Tughlaq and Hayavadana. He made his acting and screenwriting debut in the 1970 Kannada film Samskara, based on U.R. Ananthamurthy's famous novel.
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Kaadu, Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane, Ondanondu Kaladalli and Kanooru Heggadithi were some of his acclaimed works as a director. In the 1990s, he hosted the science magazine Turning Point on Doordarshan. Featuring Indian scientist Yash Pal, the award-winning show explained complex, modern scientific discoveries in simple language.
Outside of his work on stage and on screen, he was an active voice against violence against writers and journalists in India. When he sent a copy to O'Casey seeking an autograph, he received a curt reply asking Karnad not to waste his time.
He completed his Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Mathematics and Statistics from Karnatak Arts College, Dharwad, in 1958.
He is survived by his wife Saraswathi and son Raghu Karnad.