English Writings of D V Gundappa - 4

This article is part 4 of 6 in the series English Writings of D V Gundappa

Volume Three (1923–1927)

               DVG congratulated the Hindu Mahasabha on its attempt to consolidate our community. He explained the salience of the endeavour and the perils of neglecting it:

When Mahomedans and Parsis and Christians are developing a vivid sense of religious community, the avoidance of that sense by Hindus alone would be clearly suicidal. Further, the Sanghatan movement, by fusing the narrower prejudices of caste and sect, can make for greater solidarity among the Hindus. (p. 3)

               Today, elaborate mechanisms are in place to counteract concerted efforts aimed at revitalizing our civilizational ethos. The fragmented Hindu society continues to suffer.

               Birkenhead (1872–1930) was a reputed jurist and statesman. Known for his florid eloquence, he delivered a much-publicized speech in the House of Lords on 7 July 1925. DVG exposed the mismatch between Birkenhead’s reputation and record in his critique of the speech:

… The source and substance of Lord Birkenhead’s reputed brilliance is not any high and fervent humanitarian inspiration or generous political idealism such as that which impelled Montagu or was the very life-breath of Morley. The renown of Lord Birkenhead, far louder no doubt than theirs, is the creation, if we may say so, of a prolixity, as hollow as facile, of the pen and of the tongue. (p. 14)

               Several constitutional reforms were introduced in Mysore in the 1920s, building on the extraordinary work of M Visvesvaraya. They were concerned with the state’s economic development. Unfortunately, public leaders were not competent to utilize them completely. DVG made a pointed observation on this: “Power has preceded knowledge” (p. 25). The statement found its way back to him after years: State-level leaders of independent India were woefully ignorant of political concepts central to the newly formed Republic, and DVG had to give elementary lessons on democracy, sovereignty, nationhood etc. to them.

               DVG’s unsleeping political acumen foresaw the horrible ramifications of communalism. When the faction led by Mahomed Abbas Khan and G Paramasivaiya began to increasingly dominate the proceedings of the Mysore Representative Assembly, DVG issued a clear warning to nip the ‘communal caucus’ at its bud. Saddened by the ‘death of decorum’ it had caused, he urged immediate action:

The needless malignance of the epithets used, the persistence in pugnacity, the brawling tone, the angry gesticulation, – these disclosed a spirit of uncitizenlike jealousy and want of charity and the desire of revenge, which cannot be contemplated by any lover of the country without grave misgivings as to the future of our national aspirations … Communalism in our country is the greatest enemy of democracy; and it is to prevent the crystallization of Communalistic Parties that we have to direct our most urgent effort. (pp. 30–31)   

               George Curzon (1859–1925) wrote a two-volume tome titled British Government in India. DVG’s masterful review of it began by explaining the author’s implicit objective—‘to oil the lamp of England’s imperial pride’—and isolated select portions of the work that are of interest to Indians. DVG commended Curzon for his considered views on bureaucracy and the preceding viceroys and condemned him for his noncommittal stand regarding the political future of India. He painted a life-size image of the viceroy in hues of highly effective adjectives: aristocratic, imperiolatrous, prestige-obsessed, and pageant-loving. He gave due respect to the British and even implored Indians to learn from them when appropriate. The closing remarks of his review are soaked in sympathy:

Whether we agree or not with Lord Curzon’s estimate of the characters and achievements of his predecessors, none among us is likely to remain untouched by the note of sadness with which he refers, in closing, to the sacrifices and sufferings which they bore in the services of their country. Many of them had to contend against persistent ill-health in — to them — the trying climate of this country, to put up with prolonged separation from home and family, and to bear tragic bereavement. Not a few of them had to face the opprobrium of their own countrymen. “Over the Viceregal throne,” — pleads Lord Curzon, — “there hangs not only a canopy of broidered gold, but a mist of human tears.” This represents the human and personal side of patriotic service for even the most high-placed among the Empire’s far-deputed servants. Therein is a lesson for India. If Englishmen — and the most select of them — are prepared to dare so much for the sake of their England’s Empire, how much should Indians be prepared to dare and to bear for their India? (p. 46)

               DVG swore allegiance to the Liberal school of thought in politics.[1] Among others, Mahadev Govind Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and V S Srinivasa Sastri were his predecessors. The hallmark of political liberalism was a constructive but non-confrontationist approach to public life. This comes across clearly in DVG’s stand regarding the problem of the Native States:

I plead for tact side by side with courage, for knowledge along with enthusiasm, and for sober discretion equally with warm earnestness. Let us not be unnecessarily harsh in our language and cantankerous in our attitude. Let us try all the means of friendly persuasion first; and, above all, let us be scrupulously constitutional in our methods. (p. 49)

               DVG did not adhere to Liberalism without ascertaining its strengths and weaknesses. True to his position as ‘internal critic,’ he delineated the pitfalls of his favourite system of political thought:

What is wrong with the Liberals is, not in their views or programmes, but in their utter lack of propagandistic zeal and energy … Unless they put more vigour and momentum into their methods of work, the Liberals will soon cease to be a factor worth reckoning in Indian politics. (p. 112) 

               DVG tirelessly championed the case of the Native States in India. Unmindful of his efforts, some refractory Princes dragged him into disputes. In one such instance the ruler of Nabha took offence to DVG’s calling him ‘Ex-Maharaja.’ DVG wrote the following note of clarification:

I am pained that I have been invited to a controversy regarding the use of the expression “Ex-Maharaja.” It seems to me that the propriety or the impropriety of it depends upon the sense in which the term Maharaja is to be employed. If it is taken as only a title, I am perhaps at fault in having attached the prefix “Ex” with reference to Your Highness. But if the word Maharaja is taken as a synonym for the phrase “Ruling Prince,” which is my practice, I feel that there can be no objection to the prefix; for, I see from the Government of India Communique of 7.7.1923 that Your Highness “voluntarily expressed willingness to sever connection with the administration of the State” and that the permission therefore was given, the administration being handed over to the Government of India. With this brief explanation, I should prefer to let the matter be dropped, adding, however, the assurance that no discourtesy was ever intended by me and that my attitude will always remain one of regard and esteem. (p. 53)

               Astonishingly, such unsavoury episodes did not dissuade DVG in the least. Soon after the Nabha fiasco, he submitted a draft scheme of federation of Indian States for the consideration of the Imperial Government. He expounded the subject methodically in seventy-five points and answered criticisms in a further twenty-five. The draft was eminently practicable, because DVG was convinced that “politics is not mathematics and … the stubbornness of our conditions and the complexities of our circumstances should receive more attention … than the fastidious demands of theory and logic.” (pp. 55–6)

               DVG wrote a tract titled The Reform of the Hindu Mutts in 1923. He made bold to express himself in favour of radical reform in the traditional seats of authority. He was against the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Bill that tried to sanction authority to the legislature to interfere in religious and spiritual matters. “A place of worship is like a work of art, and individuality is of its very essence,” he argued. (p. 149)

               He unequivocally stated that the State should never overshadow the conscience of a community:

When a legislature acts gratuitously and on its own initiative in a matter where the conscience of the community is or ought to be the sovereign principle, it can only serve, as indeed will be obvious, to throw the community’s own powers of rectification and recuperation into disuse, to close up the outlets of such scanty springs of social zeal and popular energy as are still left, to encourage the habit of being dependent for everything upon governmental action, and finally, to add a new vexation to all except a small body of faddists and officials. (p. 148)

               It appears DVG anticipated the exact mistake that a string of subsequent governments would—wilfully or inadvertently—commit. Ignoring the bell of caution he has rung will cost us dearly.



[1] The meaning of ‘Liberal’ has undergone a sea change from DVG’s time to the present. DVG’s political outlook was liberal in the sense of being magnanimous, accommodating, and open-minded. Over time—especially after the second world war—the term got divorced from its original moorings and became highly politicized.

To be continued.

Nāḍoja S R Ramaswamy introduced me to the nuances of editing and provided incredible insights into the personality and works of D V Gundappa. Śatāvadhānī R Ganesh breathes life into all my activities. Sandeep Balakrishna patiently polished my prose and offered valuable suggestions to shore up the observations in this essay. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to all of them.

 

Author(s)

About:

Shashi Kiran B N holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master's degree in Sanskrit. His interests include Indian aesthetics, Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit and Kannada literature, and philosophy. A literary aficionado, Shashi enjoys composing poetry set to classical meters in Sanskrit. He co-wrote a translation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh’s Kannada work Kavitegondu Kathe.

Prekshaa Publications

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...