Karpura Srinivasa Rao (Part 1)

I have mentioned earlier[1] that Karpura Srinivasa Rao was one of the founding fathers of Karṇāṭaka Sāhitya Pariṣad. In any activity beneficial to the nation, he would always make himself counted.

Like Visvesvaraya, Srinivasa Rao too began his career with the Government of Bombay and retired after serving in prominent positions in the Government of Mysore. Seven or eight days after the demise of Gopal Krishna Gokhale in February 1915, a few friends decided that a public condolence ceremony must be organized in Bangalore. Rao Bahadur Garudachar, K S Krishna Iyer, and I went to Diwan Visvesvaraya to request him to preside over the function. Visvesvaraya said, “Kindly ask Sri Karpura Srinivasa Rao to preside over the function. That will be appropriate.”

We said, “If you oblige, it will bring greater honour to the assembly.”

“I will come to the assembly. If you want, I can also speak a few words. However, Srinivasa Rao is the right person to preside over the function in all respects. He and Gokhale studied together, they were classmates. I am senior to both of them by a year or two. Gokhale studied in the engineering college for a couple of years and then he quit. Srinivasa Rao went on to complete engineering. I can say that he was better than Gokhale in Mathematics. He is honest in his dealings. He is a complete patriot and is free from fear. If he presides over the ceremony, I will attend.”

The ceremony was carried out as per the suggestion of Visvesvaraya. The speech that Visvesvaraya made has not been erased from the mind. It was short but profound.

That day when Karpura Srinivasa Rao was giving his president’s address, as he spoke, all his old memories swelled from deep within and he was unable to hold back his tears. Belavadi Nanjundayya, Ramanna – they were the first among those who went to Bombay from Mysore, became engineers, and made a name for themselves. Srinivasa Rao was shaken as he remembered their names and saying, “O Ramanna!” he wiped his eyes and nose using the edge of his coat. It didn’t occur to him that he was wearing his uttarīya! This shows the purity of his heart.

One could observe a few contradictions between Visvesvaraya and Srinivasa Rao. Visvesvaraya was soft and subtle in his form and personality whereas Srinivasa Rao was haphazard. By nature Visvesvaraya was calculative in his speech. On the other hand, Srinivasa Rao would speak expansively depending on the subject and the free time he had.

Subject Interest

During 1913-14, there was a conference on democratic representation in Mysore. Visvesvaraya’s resolve was to add an important point about the budget for the Kannaṃbāḍi[2] dam in the speech that was scheduled on the first day. If it were to be added, he anticipated that it would be beneficial for the deal that was being negotiated with the Government of India. This point was to be provided by the chief engineer of the kingdom, Sri Karpura Srinivasa Rao. For this, a peon came to Srinivasa Rao at around 7 pm on the eve of the conference. Rao was busy debating on logic with a learned man in Sanskrit. Srinivasa Rao saw the Dewan’s servant and said “wait”. The debate was going on. Fifteen-twenty minutes passed by, one more servant came. Shri Rao smiled at him and again said, “wait”.   After fifteen minutes passed by, a third servant came! Rao told the learned man : “this guy, this Visvesvaraya is always like this, right from his childhood - always hard pressed for time[3]. Just like the British - dressing, language - all like them”. Saying that, he left debating and gave what was needed.

I was witnessing all these from the first storey building which is situated next. Secretary D.M. Narasinga Rao was standing beside me and laughingly quipped “see them, see”. We laughed a lot.

In politics, Rao belonged to Tilak’s party. Rao had an adoration for Tilak and his magazine “Kesarī”. On the tenth day of Tilak’s demise, he went to Kempāmbudhi lake along with hundred others and performed his last rites as per the customs.

Rao was familiar with Marathi literature. He adored Sanskrit literature very much. He used to show a great reverence towards Sanskrit Pandits.

He had not learnt sanskrit in his childhood. Nor did he learn it in a traditional way too. It was from Swami Vivekananda’s triumph and his speeches that his love for Sanskrit was born. He narrated this to many people and used to say “This is an easy language. You don’t have to do anything. Just read Śrīmad-rāmāyaṇa. You can learn Sanskrit easily” - he advised.

Love for the Sahitya Parishat

Rao’s efforts in building Karnataka Sahitya Parishat is herculean. He used to collate money and members from anywhere and everywhere possible. He knew all the scholars of the state. He never missed even a single conference. Being present in each conference, he would add value, not only by his oratory skills but also by his charisma. I will narrate a couple of instances I remember succinctly.

During the conference, lunch break was more interesting than the conference itself. Rao was the president. He mandated that everyone who was having lunch were supposed to sing a song, or a poem or a shloka. Many poems and prose used to float. Once, Nangapuram Venkatesha Iyengar narrated a prose of middle kannada literature of Gubalala Shyamacharya called “Saugandhikā-pariṇaya”. A few said from Jaiminī-Bhārata. Some from Gadugina-Bhārata. Kadapa Raghavendra Rao sang “ಲಂಗೋಟಿ ಬಲು ಒಳ್ಳೆದಣ್ಣ”[4]. In the garb of showing hospitality, there were many types of peculiar proverbs that were coming up. “One who doesn’t take bribes despite being in the government job is the traitor of the family, one who doesn’t eat well in a samārādhanā is a traitor of the self”

Rao used to laugh wholeheartedly when such instances used to occur.

This is the first part of a two-part English translation of the twelfth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 3) – Sahityopasakaru. Edited by G S Raghavendra.

Footnotes

[1]In chapter 10

[2] The present KRS dam

[3] In kannada “ಏಳನೇ ತಿಂಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಹುಟ್ಟಿದವನಂತೆ ಆಡುತ್ತಾನೆ”

[4] A Kīrtanā by Purandara-dāsa highlighting the virtue of renunciation, being content even while being poor.  literally “loin cloth is good”

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:

Dhruva Somayaji holds a bachelor's degree in Electronics and Instrumentation engineering and a master's degree in Business Administration majoring in Finance and Marketing. Dhruva currently works as a senior financial analyst for State Street Global Advisors, a renowned asset management company. His major interests are in history, philosophy, literature, art, politics, and religion. He blogs at http://themeindia.blogspot.in.