Sunday 19 May 2013

Brief profile and rare photos of Prof. K.V. Iyer of Karnataka

                                        PROFILE OF PROF. K.V. IYER (1898 – 1980)         

Prof. K.V. Iyer was born in a traditional Brahmin family on 8th January 1898 at Devaraya samudra, a small village at Kolar district in Karnataka state. Prof. Iyer belonged to the priest family. He had studied up to 7th standard in those days.  He lost his mother at a very young age of 10 years after which he migrated to Bangalore, along with his father.  He could not continue his studies due to financial problems and had to join his father in a hotel at Bangalore as an assistant cook. His jobs were to fetch water from the well and to grind Idly and Dosa batter regularly. Along with his work, he used to go to the gymnasium to build his body. The owner of the hotel encouraged young Iyer to continue his bodybuilding practice.
At the age of around 18 years Iyer got married to Smt. Janakamma, who was just 10 years old.  In the year 1927, the young couple was blessed with a son whom they named, Karna, after whose birth, the couple voluntarily swore to celibacy for life. He used to call his wife ‘AMMA’- meaning ‘mother’. Their son went on to hold a Master’s degree in physiotherapy and became Dr. Karna, making them proud of him.

Iyer was a total vegetarian and teetotaler. His food contained lots of grains, vegetables, chapattis, ragi, unpolished red rice, fruits, butter milk and greens. He even advised and recommended vegetarian food for his students. From sources of authenticity and also his students, I have gathered information that Prof. Iyer used to do 3 hours and 30 minutes exercises regularly, every day. His Guru in body building was Sri. Venkatakrishnaiah.

Sometime in the year 1925 Prof. Iyer started his own gymnasium.  He must have trained not less than 25,000 students personally and also through his postal tuitions in India and abroad.  For the students who were coming from outside he even offered a small hostel facility. Iyer believed in “teaching by demonstration, explanation, imitation, personalized correction and teaching”. At the beginning of the month he used to take the measurements of his students which meant their height, weight and dimensions of chest, waist, thighs, biceps etc. He used to maintain records. He used this documentation as their main motivation. Even during those days, he photographed his students for his album, from time to time.

In the year 1929 Iyer met Sri T.P. Kailasam, a great writer, dramatist and humorist. But for some time, they were unable to meet each other as, Sri Kailasam was busy, working as a geologist. After 3 years, Iyer met Sri. Kailasam again and this was the turning point in Prof. Iyer’s literary life.

The story goes that, once when young Iyer made a mistake while speaking in English, Sri. Kailasam is said to have commented, “My dear son, Venkatesh, do you know that BRAIN AND BRAWN CAN GO TOGETHER? Along with your body, you can try and develop your brain also!” It was then Iyer started reading books in English, Kannada, books on medicine, anatomy and physiology, thereby enriching his knowledge. Sri. Kailasam encouraged and guided Iyer to read books on various subjects.

By and by, Iyer became so well versed with Gray’s Anatomy and Physiology, that he was granted special permission from the government to perform dissection in the Government College of Medicine, Bangalore. He was also subscribing to the renowned medical magazine called LANCET and this helped him to enhance his medical knowledge. He became a perfect combination of a power packed Brain and Brawn .

By then Iyer’s fame had spread far and wide and he was now personal physician to the Maharaja of Mysore, as he had good knowledge of the Indian system of Medicine and Nature Cure. He used to treat many complicated diseases like back ache, neck pains, paralysis and the like with massage, physiotherapy, UV lamp, vibrator, steam bath etc.,
Iyer was a multi-faceted personality. He was very good at cooking, carpentry, palmistry, astrology, (he had predicted his own death date) yoga and body building. He had a vast knowledge of classical music and also in western music. He had a good collection of LP records (still in possession of his son Dr. Karna), a rare hobby of those times. He used to play on the harmonium and on weekends, along with his students, he used to sing Bhajans (hymns). He was a voracious reader and owned a huge collection of books. He was a very good photographer too. Prof. Iyer was a stage artist also, he had his own drama troupe called RAVI ARTISTS.  This troupe presented dramas for 27 years and won many prizes at the state as well as the national level. It is worth mentioning here that, Iyer had purchased and collected various equipments, which included curtains, spot lights, broad lights, foot lights, dimmers, speakers, mikes, including swords, imitation jewelry, etc., for his drama troupe, all worth around Rs. 40,000/ - by the year 1969.
Iyer had a stage built in his residence, which had an in-house gymnasium, in the heart of the Bangalore city called JC Road. Every evening, artists used to practice dramas and on weekends these dramas were staged for an eager audience. The stage would double up as an arena for many cultural activities including marriages, many a time.  In short, it is not wrong to say that  Iyer was JACK OF ALL AND MASTER OF ALL that he practiced…. he was perfect with all he did.
In those times, Iyer encouraged and performed inter-caste marriages and widow remarriages.   It was Iyer who performed the marriage of the great Carnatic musician Smt . M.S. Subbalakshmi and Sri. Sadashivam Iyer. He had a very close friendship with people of eminence like Pandit Ravi  Shankar, Pandit  Ali Akbar Khan and the  well known dancers Padmini and Ragini who used to take pride to come  and perform at Iyer’s house. Even the great dancer Smt. Chandrabhaga Devi and Prof. Krishna Rao used to perform regularly at his residence.
By 1930 Prof. Iyer had developed contacts and friendship world wide with contemporary bodybuilders like Eugene Sandow, John Grimet, Monrow Brown, Sigmund Klein, Anthony Sansone, George F. Jowett, Adolph Nordquest, Leon Nole, and Milton Smith. Iyer had sent many of his photographs to his friends and in turn, possessed huge collection of photographs of his friends. His own photographs and articles  had already started to appear in many magazines, to mention a few,  England’s Health and Strength, Superman, America’s physical culture and strength,  and other health and muscle building magazines.

Many articles have been written on Prof K.V. Iyer, all over the world, in many leading magazines. The following are some of them-
1.      Forgotten secrets of the old times strongmen by Dave Yarnell.
2.      Encyclopedia of Indian physical culture by Mr. Majumdar.
3.      Www. Body building muscle control in India.
4.      Committee of Indigenous system of medicine India 1948 interview of K.V. Iyer by Dr. A. Lakshmipathi   (the original copy is with California University).
5.      Physical Culture Correspondence school and Vyayamashala
6.      For men only-- With a 30 day guide to looking better and feeling younger --by Jack Leanne and Jim Allen.
7.      Autograph of an MP. N. Keshava.
8.      American National Biography by Roussean Simmons (an Oxford University Press release 1999).
9.      Iron game history by Stark Center.
10.  Prof. K.V. Iyer‘s novels SHANTALA AND ROOPADARSI were text books for degree classes (for a few years) in Karnataka.
11.  Prof. Iyer had translated Ibson’s 2 dramas -DOLL HOUSE AND MASTER BUILDERS; and Oliver Smith’s SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER into kannada language.
12.  Online physical culture museum, Sandow and golden age of Iron men.
13.  Recently released book YOGA BODY by Mark Singleton (an Oxford release).
14.  Adonis Male physique pin-up --1870 to 1940 --by David Chapman.
15.  Sandow, the magnificent and Beginning of body building -by David Chapman.
16.   History of Freedom movement in Kannada volume 2, 1964 by MVK Rao and Halappa.
17.  Report on Modern Yoga Workshop 21-23 2006 April By Benjamin smith (university of Cambridge).
18.  Body building and muscle control in India.
19    Physical training Mark Berry Milo Barbell 1936.
              20 Muscular Development, an article by John C. Gremec, June 1980 A Tribute to India’s    
Most Outstanding Body Builder,
In the year 1934, Iyer wrote a small book on SURYANAMASKAR. In this book, he has given scientific explanation in detail for each and every movement of the yogic postures involved. In this traditional and unique Suryanamaskara system, there are just ten steps or postures and with this method it is very difficult to do more than 21 sets. By just doing 18 sets of these Suryanamaskara, one can really keep fit. It will be of great use for those who want to keep fit at any age that, the maximum time taken to do these 18 sets is between 20 and 25 minutes!

The transformation of Iyer’s simple education status to that of a Professor is a profound tale of sheer wisdom of the man and the awe that he held. In the year 1938, Iyer wrote a book called CHEMICAL CHANGES IN PHYSICAL EXERCISES, in English, without realizing the profundity of his own work. In the year 1940, he was aptly awarded The Doctorate degree from MISSOURIE University. This was how Iyer became Prof. Iyer. In this  book, he writes about the standards and secrets of physical fitness, muscle anatomy, chemical composition of muscle, mechanism of muscular work and protein metabolism, demand of oxygen during exercise, influence of muscular exercise on oxygen intake, physical and chemical changes in the muscle during exercise, chemical changes in  respiration during exercise, frequency and depth of breathing, capacity of the lung, oxygen reserve, effects on sugar contents of blood, effects of regular exercise, types of fatigue and a whole lot of related topics.

In the year 1940, Prof. Iyer wrote another book by name PHYSIQUE AND FIGURE and dedicated this book to HIS HIGHNESS SRI KRISHNARAJENDRA WADIYAR BAHADUR, the then king of MYSORE. In this wonderful book, Prof. Iyer, explains A COMPLETE COURSE OF DUMB-BELL EXERCISES, in 160 pages, with a lot of actual photographs of Prof. Iyer himself performing the said exercises. While explaining the exercise procedure, he makes specific points about precautions to be taken while doing these 18 different types of exercises and suggestions on the weekly routine schedule that one can easily follow. This book covers topics like connection between the body and mind, general health, vitality and vigour,HEALTH, VITALITY AND VIGOUR the difference between solid dumb-bells and spring-grip dumb bells, importance of bath, rest and recuperation, dietary regimen, constituents of normal food stuffs, hints on routine to be followed before, during and after exercising and certain do’s and don’ts about exercising, and the duration of daily exercises for each person. Prof. Iyer has gone on to explain further, about the very important symmetry in physique building, which talks about a well developed chest, lungs and its functions, physical and chemical aspects of respiration, different types of breathing, super expansion of the chest and the physical carriage of the upper body.  Prof. Iyer wrote two more books- MUSCLE CULT a PRO-EM TO MY SYSTEM and PERFECT PHYSIQUE – which are available on Google search.
Prof. Iyer has another book to his credit called SAMUDYATA - a collection of 14 short stories.
He also wrote a novel called NATYARANI SHANTALA which is based on a historic episode, going back to 11th century and this was a text book for the university students. This book was written in the year 1954 and has been translated into 7 languages and has been his most successful commercial literary venture, ever. Even today it is in great demand.
Prof. Iyer  wrote one more great novel called ROOPADARSHI and its an awesome novel. ITS A  MUST READ FOR EVERY is a small note of the novel....


Synopsis of RUPADARSHI- 
This poignant semi-fiction is written in a backdrop of old Italy where the traditions and family values run high. Ernesto is the main protagonist, around whom the first half of the story revolves. In the second half, the hero is a physically mutilated character, by name Garibaldi. Another central character is none other than one of the most celebrated artists of that century, Michelangelo, who succeeds in bringing together the two main heroes, at the very end of the story, giving it the most unexpected finale.
The story begins where Michelangelo is requested by the concerned authorities to paint and showcase the entire life of Jesus Christ on the inside walls of Sistine Chapel of Florence, Italy. After an extensive search, a young, orphan boy, Ernesto, who is being brought up by his grandmother at Pisa, is chosen by Michelangelo, to be his model for the boy-Christ.  In his own enthusiasm, Michelangelo comes across to be an angel, when he promises the world to the impoverished family. He even succeeds in fulfilling their dreams.
Life goes on in a very predictable way for Michelangelo, until one day, he is summoned by the authoritative Pope at France. He is forced to leave his work unfinished at Florence, to bow down to him. He spends a long time there, nearly two decades, sacrificing his youth and vigor, doing the paintings and sculptures there.
When the time comes for him to finish the work at Florence, he goes in search of a model for the depiction of the traitor, Judas, all over once again, despite his growing age and ignoring his aches and pains. After an extensive search, he finds a drunkard-hooligan, Garibaldi, who in all ways, suits his own imagination of Judas, in a God-forsaken town, Empoli. Again, in his fervor to complete his work at Florence, he entices the reluctant Garibaldi with a huge sum, to model for him.
When Michelangelo actually brings Garibaldi to Florence, a lot of things start happening and he is forced to face a few dark truths of life, something that the pious Michelangelo had never imagined, not even in his wildest dreams.
The novel takes a very interesting turn, when the fierce and brutal Garibaldi’s memory returns on seeing the old paintings at the church, and he declares that he is none other than Ernesto, whom Michelangelo found very  to be cherubic, pious, affectionate and promising, eons ago.
How did Ernesto turn into Garibaldi? Why on earth does he blame Michelangelo for this complete transformation? How is the pious Michael actually responsible for it? Is Garibaldi telling the truth, after all? The rest of the novel is all about Michel finding answers for these and more, as Garibaldi unravels his tale of misery and wretchedness.

Professor Iyer
by David Chapman

India has an ancient tradition of strength building. On the other hand, it also has the poverty, ignorance, and poor health that plague most third world nations. In spite of the many problems which beset the subcontinent, there have been many fine Indian strongmen who have brought glory to the land of their birth. One of the best of these was Professor K.V. Iyer.

 Professor Iyer attracted world acclaim when his photographs began appearing in British and American magazines in the mid-1930s. His physique studies were as muscular as they were dramatically posed. It was quickly obvious that Iyer possessed one of the finest, most symmetrical bodies of his generation. He was like a bronze temple God that had somehow come to life.

In his prime, Iyer was considered by several authorities to be one of the ten most perfectly developed men in the world. Although they might be judged unremarkable by contemporary standards, his measurements reveal a finely tuned, tight physique. He was 5 feet 7½ inches tall and weighed 160 pounds. He had a 44-inch chest and a 30-inch waist. His 23-inch thigh and 17½-inch biceps completed his well balanced body. Although his pictures caused an immediate sensation in the West, the Indian athlete had not shown up magically on the world stage. He had, in fact, served a long apprenticeship in his own country. He had established the Hercules Gymnasium in Bangalore City in 1935, and soon had a membership that reached several hundreds. In those days, this was the largest membership of any body building gymnasium in the world.
Iyer was a pioneer in other fields, too. He Initiated India's first physical culture correspondence course which was reported to be one of the best in the world.

Iyer was a strict vegetarian and he enjoyed explaining his nutritional theories to anyone who would listen. Like other Hindus, he refused to eat beef, but when queried on the subject of diet, he attempted to put a scientific reason behind his philosophy. The Professor's theory of nutrition proposed that meat in the diet includes too much fat and waste. Iyer suggested substituting beans or other vegetables since they contain all the protein, with none of the fat associated with meat. Despite his personal doctrines, however, Iyer never tried to impose his ideas on others. "I am not a faddist," he wrote in 1939, adding, "Tolerance is the keynote of my outlook on life and the living world around me."


  1. Are the article s written about Prof Iyer and his literary works like Natyarani Shantala are available online.

  2. I am awe struck right now... I am a kannadiga... I never knew about Prof.K.V.Iyer... this is just ... you know what we Indians never bother about glorifying our own geniuses work... OMG... Prof.K.V.Iyers work should be in print for every body to read... each and evry work should be treasured... Thanks for sharing this article. Is Prof.K.V.Iyers book on suryanamaskara is in print.. If yes where can I get it...

  3. Silent hero, A man worth being Inspired by.

  4. He is an inspiration to all flying people who want their dream to be achieved at any cost

  5. Is the book on devi Shanthala is available in English? Anywhere....
    Ashok Singh Satyaveer

  6. I was lucky to be a student of Prof. in the late '50s, at his home Gym. At that time, there were many batches, in the morning and evening. I was in the first batch since, I had to attend school and later college classes. He was a great man, very enthusiastic in all his activities and was a role model and inspiration to all of us. He was one of the "great trio" of that time with Prof. TP Kailasam and Prof GP Rajaratnam(who was my Prof. during my student days at Central College, Bangalore). Though he had employed many instructors to train us, he would personally supervise our progress.

  7. I regularly meet Dr.Karna at Bangalore Club. He is quite fit at 88 years.
    I had the privelege of spending a week at Devaraya samudram in 1963 in Prof. K V Iyer's daughter in laws house.

  8. I regularly meet Dr.Karna at Bangalore Club. He is quite fit at 88 years.
    I had the privelege of spending a week at Devaraya samudram in 1963 in Prof. K V Iyer's daughter in laws house.

  9. * एक नया इतिहास बनाऐँ *

    मानस के कुछ मोती बिखरे,
    अत: मिली कुछ असफलता।
    एकत्रित कर उन्हें, पिरोकर,
    उर की मृदु, पर अकट सूत्र का,
    एक नया सा हार सजाऐँ।
    समय आ गया हम भी जग में, एक नया इतिहास बनाऐं।।१।।

    दुर्वह कर्म हेतु अब जगकर,
    सकल ग्रन्थियों को कर भंग।
    एक नव्य- संगीत सृजित कर,
    होवें पुलकित सारे अंग॥
    ऐसा राग रचें, सब जानें, मानें हमको, औ दुहराऐं।
    समय आ गया, हम भी जग मेँ, एक नया इतिहास बनाऐं।।२।।

    हमें सिखाया यही गया है,
    नमन करें सत्पुरुषों को,
    या कि जिन्हे कहते विभूति हम,
    उनके कदमों पर ही चलकर,
    प्राप्त करें हम अच्छा कुछ।
    हमने कितने पुष्प चढ़ाये,
    उनकी छवि पर।
    रचीं पोथियाँ, रखे नाम नगरों के,
    पथ के उनकी पावन स्मृति में ।
    पर अब तो कुछ हम भी कर लें,
    अपना पथ हम खुद तय कर लें,
    हम भी अपने शुभ कर्मों सेअँधियारे के कुटिल वक्ष पर,
    नवयुगकारी दीप जलाऐं।
    समय आ गया हम भी जग में एक नया इतिहास बनाऐं।।३।।

    अशोक सिंह 'सत्यवीर'
    { पुस्तक: 'यह भी जग का ही स्वर है' से}

  10. It's one of the best collection s of photos and information of great k v over welldone

  11. All the facts about Prof. Kolar Venkatesha Iyer, are true with no exaggeration. I read his novels and short stories. They are golden. Inspired by his Surya Namaskar book-let, I even today do Surya Namaskars. It is very scientific and has great benefits of health,but one must follow his system of SuryaNamaskar to get good health. I came to know about him after his death. I got only three months of physical training in his "Vyayama Shala" in 1983.
    I had the opportunity of meeting and talking with his Dr.K.V.Karna and his daughter-in-law Smt.Vasantha, great human beings.

  12. I am searching for k v iyers books. Kindly help me with this

  13. I am so proud to say that I was one of his student in his vyayama shala in Bangalore for couple of years in 1966-67. I salute him for the efforts he was taking to teach us.
    Mysore Suresh

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