DVG was the main inspiration for Vidwan N. Ranganatha Sharma to embark on the prodigious task of undertaking the comprehensive [Kannada] translation of Srimad Ramayana. DVG authored detailed forewords for several volumes of these translations.
All of us in the Gokhale Institute family obtained the Samskara of Sanskrit language, literature and grammar through the guidance of Sri Sharma. Whenever DVG and Vidwan Sharma met, some element of Sastra or literature would invariably, inevitably crop up. These discussions would imbue a great degree of Samskara within all of us.
Once, Vidwan Sharma had the occasion to visit the doctor for repairing his teeth. On that occasion, DVG sent him the following auspices:
ekadaṃtaḥ prabhuH kuryā-
dadya vo daṃtamaṃgalaṃ
Being endowed with just one tooth, let Ganapati bestow auspiciousness upon us.
The next day, the other half of the aforementioned verse came from the Vidwan as follows:
As if stricken by jealousy, Ganapati took away two of my teeth yesterday.
The person who obtains this sort of scholarly wit is truly blessed.
The litterateur A.N. Krishna Rao [A.Na.Kru] had enormous respect for DVG. Equally, DVG had great affection for A.N. Krishna Rao. When A.N.K. died in the early days of July 1971, DVG deeply grieved for him. He said:
“Krishna Rao had talent. Apart from first-rate folks such as Mudavidu Krishna Rao and others, A.N. Krishna Rao was the foremost in the class of fine orators. The arrangement of words, the manner of expounding upon a topic so that it impresses people – this art naturally came to him…not just Krishna Rao, I know several people in his family and relatives. They’re all truly eminent people, magnanimous. Krishna Rao’s father, Narasinga Rao, his relative Kerebagilu Krishnappa, his maternal uncle, his brother-in-law…I know all of them well. All these people have shown tremendous friendship towards me. Likewise with Krishna Rao. I don’t know how he was with others; with me, he has behaved with the same consistent affection over the last thirty or forty years. How does one forget such friendship? How much I have made fun of Krishna Rao! The faults that one can point out in Krishna Rao, we can point them out in hundreds of people. However, how many people are endowed with the kind of good qualities, friendship and genuine affection that was in his character?
DVG’s constant companion till the end of his life was his aesthetic spirit. Music was incessantly strumming in his heart. Whether he was alone or in conversation with friends, he would repeatedly recall various Kritis of Tyagaraja. On occasion, if I was perchance late in arriving at his home, he would hum this Kriti in the Ritigowla ragam, “Nannu vidachi kadalakuraa…” He would say that the words of people who had firsthand experience of divinity were far stronger proofs than the lines in various Sastras. The Samskara of DVG’s Inner Life was truly affluent. It is the special fortune of this land that the Kannada people were benefitted from it.
One evening when I went to his home as usual, DVG was silent for some reason. After a couple of minutes, he said:
“My boy, I have come to a conclusion regarding the place where God does not exist.”
“He is definitely not in the realm of logic.”
DVG had realized the fact that extremities of logic, grammar and endless debates on definition will injure the core essence of pure philosophy [used in the sense of Darshana or Tattva].
Mr. Su, an eminent personality and friend repeatedly prodded DVG at a music concert, “Which Ragam was sung now?” “Which Ragam is this?” After four or five times of this pestering, DVG said: “My dear sir, when you visit a prostitute’s house, why do you want to know her name? And if you ask it, will you get an answer? And even if you get an answer, will that heighten your enjoyment? Shouldn’t you only focus on whether the product is agreeable or no?”
Even amidst his weakness of body [due to old age] and ill-health, DVG’s opportunity for such humour was copious.
Before entering the Gokhale Institute, one has to cross the gate and climb up some six or seven steps. DVG would climb each step and rest for about two minutes. As he climbed, he would recall the Saptapadi Mantras such as “ekamiṣe viṣṇustvānvetu,”and laugh.
Tadbhavananda, a Swami of the Anandamarga sect once invited DVG to deliver a discourse. Explaining his incapability to attend, DVG said, “Just as your god experiences are your own, my arthritis is my own – incommunicable!”
At times, these emotions would take the form of a poem or song.
goṇagadade baṃdaddannellā nī-
nanubhaviso guṃḍā ||
Undergo it Gunda
Without cribbing, everything that comes [your way]
You undergo it||
This song would be set to swaras and elaborated musically. Once when the [music] Vidwan N. Chennakeshavayya was visiting, DVG sang these lines in some Ragam and said, “Isn’t this a Panchama Ragam, Chennakeshavayya?”
“Of course it is!” said Sri Chennakeshavayya, laughing.
At times he would sing such lines set to a Ragam:
Whatever is lost
Throw your bundle
Ring the bell[i]
Such philosophical lines would repeatedly take birth.
AntahpuragIta, a collection of sixty songs that he wrote in 1950 praising the coquetry and dalliances of the Madanikas[ii] at the Belur Chennakeshava Temple is akin to a feast for [classical] music and dance connoisseurs. Equally, his Gita-Shakuntala is a musical translation of Kalidasa’s renowned play, Abhijnana-Shakuntala.
“Natyacharya” V.S. Kaushik adapted Vedanta Desikar’s famous work, Sankalpa Suryodaya into dance form. When he visited DVG to give the invitation card to the performance, DVG mocked him.
“This is all fine, Sri Kaushik. But if the sun rises [Suryodaya=Surya + Udaya. Surya=Sun; Udaya=To rise] by the time the Sankalpa is taken, when does the actual work happen?”
Connoisseurial spirit, poetry and music were inseparable organs of DVG’s Inner Life. When he was admitted to St. Martha’s Hospital in 1972 after suffering from a paralytic stroke, the Vina Vidwan V. Doreswami Iyengar came visiting. DVG was filled with enthusiasm the moment he saw him. Although he found it difficult to speak, he began to hum this mellifluous Tyagaraja Kriti set to Mohana Ragam:
The Lord of my Life
You came walking to
Towards the end of his life, DVG would repeatedly recall this Kriti.
DVG had extraordinary devotion towards Tyagaraja. He would constantly recall this saint’s life-incidents and Kritis. Once, Tyagaraja received an invitation from the Maharaja appointing him as the court singer. Tyagaraja respectfully bowed to him saying, “The joy and happiness I derive from serving Sri Rama is not available from following any other path,” and returned home. Tyagaraja’s elder brother who sensed an opportunity to lead a comfortable life thanks to this royal appointment was greatly upset. While he was asleep at night, this brother took the Vigraha of Sri Rama which Tyagaraja had kept for his daily puja, and threw it into the river. The next day after Tyagaraja finished his bath and got ready for his Puja, he didn’t see the Murti which he so dearly loved. In this state of deep anguish, the Kriti that manifested itself on his tongue was set in the Athana Ragam, Ye pApamu jEsitirA rAma [What sin did I commit, Rama?]. In this Kriti, he has lamented with great feeling, “How can I bear this difficulty? I am unable to fathom what to do. Come, stand before me and speak, My Lord. Do you have such forgetfulness towards me?” In another Kriti set to the Devagandhari Ragam, Tyagaraja has openly spoken about “the troubles from my brother.”
On scores of occasions, I have witnessed DVG shedding tears recalling this and other, similar episodes in Tyagaraja’s life. Indeed, DVG faced many such trying situations in his own life. A close relative was upset with DVG – because DVG had not used his influence with higher officials to help him get a promotion. To this relative, DVG wrote an ancient tenet that he had regarded as an ideal for his own conduct:
agatvā khalanamratām |
anutasṛjya satāṃ vartma
yat svalpamapi tad bahu ||
Inflicting no hurt on others
Not bowing before petty people in positions of authority
Not abandoning the honest path that naturally comes to good people
The livelihood that one earns in this fashion
No matter how materially poor it is,
It is the only way that is deserving of respect.
To be continued
[i] This verse is notable for its profound simplicity in sketching the essential transient nature of everything, especially the human life. Here, “bundle” signifies the numerous material accumulations and attachments of a person, and “ring the bell” denotes a readiness for departing from this mortal world with serenity.
[ii] Celestial damsels typically carved in sculpture on the walls of temples