Hanumantha Rao and Krishnaswamy Iyer

My studies in Mysore spanned only seven-eight months. That year (1901) was quite unfortunate for my family. My grandfather had passed away in the year 1900 itself. After that in a short duration, my maternal grandmother, who used to take care of my family like a mother, also passed away. Her brothers, who were taking care of my family after that, also passed away in the next two years. All these unfortunate events worried me a lot. I lost interest in studies. I went back to my native for the holidays, never to come back to Mysore. Next year (1903) I joined the school for 5th form in Kolar itself.

Hanumatha Rao

I should remember with reverence and gratitude, a lot of people who were my teachers during those difficult times. Firstly, I should remember Shri. Hanumatha Rao, a scholar in Kannada. I cannot decide if his way of teaching was more endearing or his benevolent nature. I’ve been a beneficiary of both.

While teaching, he would discuss both Chandas, Alaṅkāra in required detail. He would give examples from Kuvalayānanda. I still remember the incident when he provided a verse from a work of Appaya-dīkṣita extolling the deity Varada-rāja of Kanchi (Varada-rāja-stava) as an example while discussing the definitions of Chandas and Alaṅkāra.

manda-smita-sphurita-mugdha-mukhāravinda...॥”[1]

Composing in ‘kanda’

Once I asked him, “how to compose verses in kanda?”. He replied, “One should learn it on their own!”. “Can you please teach me? Sir”, “I have told you already, one gets to know it in due course, one should grow old and gain experience”[2]. Everyone in the class laughed. I think I was ashamed. Those were the times when I had something called shame.

Few days later it was Gaṇeśa-caturthī. All the students residing in the hostel brought a mūrtī of Ganesha and celebrated the festival. On the day of Visarjana there was a Bhajana session followed by the Maṅgaḻārati. I’d composed one or two verses by then. I remember a part of one of those.

ಧರೆಯೊಳ್ ಕಾಂಚನಭಾಗಸಂಸ್ಥಿತಲಸತ್ಕೋಲಾಹಲಾಭಿಖ್ಯ ಸತ್-
ಪುರದಾಂಗ್ಲೇಯ ಕಲೋಚ್ಚಪಾಠಗೃಹದೊಳ್ ನಾಮೋದುವರ್ ಬಾಲಕರ್ । …

[On this planet earth, present in the golden part, is a city named kolāhala (Kolar), in that city exists the English high school, where we are the students… ]

Few kanda verses:

ಶ್ರೀಗೌರೀಪ್ರಿಯತನಯಂ
ವಾಗೀಶಾದ್ಯಮರವಿನುತಪಾದಂ ವರದಂ ।
ಭೋಗೀಶಭೂಷಿತಾಂಗಂ
ರಾಗದಿ ಪೊರೆಯೆಮ್ಮ ಗುರುಗಳಂ ಬಾಲಕರಂ ।।

[O Gaṇeśa, beloved son of Gaurī! Whose feet are revered by Brahma (lit. lord of speech) and other deities, bestower of all desires, adorned with the snake-ornament. With affection please protect/nourish our teachers and students.]

ಪುರದಹನಸಮಯದಂದಾ
ಪುರಹರನುಂ ನಿನ್ನನೈದೆ ಪೂಜಿಸಿದನೆನಲ್ ।
ಧರೆಯೊಳ್ ಮನುಜರ ಮಾತೇಂ
ಪರಿ ಪರಿ ವಿದ್ಯೆಗಳನಿತ್ತು ಪೊರೆ ಗಣನಾಥಾ ।।

[During the destruction of the three cities (Tripura), even that destroyer of the cities (Śiva) first worshipped you. What is left to say about us mortals, bestow upon us all branches of knowledge and nourish us, O lord of all the Gaṇas.]

Hanumantha Rao had also come to the celebration. Noticing me, with a smile, he said, “ Boy, you have made a kanda. Very nice!”. There was neither a beginning nor an end to the peals of laughter that followed.

Hanumantha Rao was extremely pure-minded, an ardent devotee of the lord, humble. He came to Mulbagal, stayed there for a month, devoted that time in serving the deity Śrī-pāda-rāja residing in Nṛsimha-tīrthā. Likewise he did so at the Someśvara temple too.

Even after his retirement, his affection and action oriented attitude towards kannada remained the same. When I was working in Sahitya Parishad, he had visited it a few times and had generously made donations. While his occupation was of an ordinary high school teacher, his magnanimity was something which even ministers should emulate.

Krishnaswamy Iyer

Amongst my teachers in Kolar, I personally like Shri. R V Krishnaswamy Iyer. He taught us english. Later he was the high school headmaster in Channapatna and also in Mysore for a long time. He was a handsome and attractive man. Not too tall, not too hefty, radiant complexion. Clothes always ironed. A Rumaal (headgear) as white as milk, Panche of the same color. Coat and spectacles befitting his personality. This would be his usual attire. His face was always filled with tranquility. But even then none took him lightly. In summary, as dignified as an aristocrat.

His specialty was his English vocabulary. Pronunciation was endearing. So was his sentence construction. His speaking prowess would have even satisfied the British. He wasn’t a talkative person. But whatever he spoke was the best. I have no hesitation accepting that I was a fan of his English speaking ability.

He was a true connoisseur of literature. His residence in Kolar was in a house which was close to the high school. His family was not able to adjust there. So they all used to stay in Madras for six months in a year. He used to visit Madras now and then when his family stayed there. To look after his house in Kolar for two-three days of his absence, he used to delegate two of his close students. One was my friend Venkateshayya from Vijalapur and the other was myself. Because of that, I used to bunk classes many times and read books in his house.

He had maintained a good library. It mainly consisted of English poetry, novels, criticisms and expositions, history books etc. Along with those, were the well-bound issues of the magazine ‘Brahmavādin’, English books about Sanskrit literature and Hindu religion published by B V Kameshvara Iyer and others. My time was dedicated to studying these books.

Meanwhile in Kashi, Annie Besant was running the institution called Benares Hindu college. From their publications, a series of three books titled “Textbook of Sanatana Dharma” was published. I got to know this information from the Central Hindu college magazine which was available at Krishnaswamy Iyer’s house. At once, I wrote a letter to Kashi to place an order. I got the books by parcel service. The postman brought the package to the school during class hours. Krishnaswamy Iyer was conducting the classes. I saw the postman signalling towards me, I went outside the class, paid the required amount, got the package from him and came back. Krishnaswamy Iyer noticed this and realized the situation. As soon as I entered the class he asked:

Krishanaswamy Iyer (KI): “What is that?”

Me: “Book”

KI: “Which book?”

Me: “Textbook of Sanatana Dharma”

KI: “Well well, What can I say! Already your studies are off the track. It will stay so for another eight days. This ghost will possess you now!”

I remained silent

KI: “Venkateshayya! From now on never allow him inside my house. He will be spoilt reading irrelevant things when there is a lot more relevant things to study”

His scoldings remained fruitless. For me, Krishnaswamy Iyer was the reason behind developing taste and interest in general reading. One incident to substantiate this.

Teaching history.

He taught us the history of England. The prescribed text was “Outline of the History of the British People” by Arabella B Buckley. The style of exposition was extraordinary. So was the depiction of the content. Reading the book brought me delight. Krishnaswamy Iyer was ever enthusiastic to teach from that book.

Once while teaching, before coming to the main topic, as a prologue, he spoke around ten sentences. Those were just published on the same day in the newspapers about the publication of “Gladstone’s biography”, by Lord Morley. A few sentences about Gladstone, a few sentences about Lord Morley’s writings, a few more about how this work was magnificent and highly recommended for everyone in India to be read. As soon as I heard him speaking, it was as though some new light had illuminated my heart. Do such great people exist? Do such great writers exist? When would I lay my hands on such a great work? These were some of my thoughts then.

***

Krishnaswamy Iyer was somewhat a strict person by nature. I was afraid of him. He never minced words when it came to criticizing anything worth criticism. But he was compassionate too. Very helpful. I know many poor students who benefited from his largess.

He used to come now and then to visit Rt Hon. V S Srinivasa Sastri. Sastri had great respect towards Krishnaswamy Iyer. When I was in their presence, my teacher would tease me a bit, this would make Sastri happy.

Krishnaswamy Iyer, by his personality, conduct and erudition had earned respect from one and all. He was also interested in music. I’m always delighted to remember him.

This is the English translation of the Twentieth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 8) – Sankirna smriti samputa. translated by Raghavendra G S.

Footnotes

[1] मन्द-स्मित-स्फुरित-मुग्ध-मुखारविन्द...॥

[2] Note that kanda also means a baby in Kannada!

Author(s)

About:

Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.

Translator(s)

About:

Raghavendra G S is currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Science at the Indian Institute of Science. He is a Sanskrit poet and a keen student of classical literature in Sanskrit and Kannada. He is one of the contributing editors of Prekshaa.

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