DVG's Shiva Yajna: M.D. Ramanathan, M.S. Subbulakshmi and Love of Mirth

This article is part 18 of 24 in the series DVG Profile by S.R. Ramaswamy

The foremost of musicians of that period regarded meeting DVG as akin to a sacred Tirthayatra. Stalwarts like Rallapalli, V. Doreswami Iyengar, S. Chennakeshavayya and others would frequently drop in, pay their respects and have conversations with him.

In a programme organized to commemorate Mysore Vasudevacharya at the Gokhale Institute, Doreswamy Iyengar’s Vina concert was truly out of this world. The manner in which Sri Iyengar elaborated the renowned Kriti, Brochevarevarura set in the Kamaj Ragam that day was extraordinary. Perhaps Doreswamy Iyengar’s passion was kindled by the sacred memory of Vasudevacharya and the presence of DVG.

Both M.S. Subbulakshmi and her husband, T. Sadasivam had enormous devotion towards DVG. Each time they visited Bangalore, they would unfailingly come to DVG and pay him their respects. On one such occasion, DVG’s health was not all that good. Smt. Subbulakshmi sat at DVG’s bedside and sang pibare rama rasam. On a similar occasion, she sang a composition of TAyumAnavar for him. When she visited the Gokhale Institute, Smt. Subbulakshmi sat amidst all of us and sang a few songs without no musical accompaniments.

The first ever musical concert of Smt. Subbulakshmi that was ever recorded and then cut into an LP by the HMV company was inaugurated at DVG’s home and his blessings were sought.


M.D. Ramanathan too, was endowed with great devotion towards DVG. When he visited Bangalore for concerts during festivals like Sri Rama Navami, he would unfailingly seek DVG’s blessings. On one such visit, the Sri Rama Navami Puja was being celebrated at the Gokhale Institute. Ramanathan sang with great devotion, Rama Rama, his own composition in the Nilambari Ragam followed by a few other Kritis.

We can estimate the extent of Ramanathan’s devotion towards DVG through an incident. On one visit, Ramanathan took off a ring he was wearing on his finger, placed it in DVG’s hands and prayed, “You must touch it, give your blessings and return it to me.”

When DVG asked him what was so special about it, Ramanathan said: “This ring was given by Mysore Vasudevacharya to Smt Rukmini Devi. She has given it to me.”


Shiva’s Sport

One day, DVG wrapped around a red-coloured shawl he selected at random and set out for a walk. He reached the Tagore Circle near Gandhibazar. A Shiva Sharana [typically, wandering minstrels and/or mendicants hailing from the Shiva tradition founded by Basavanna] saw him and mistook him for a Guru from some Matha. He prayed, “Please command a spiritual tenet, my Shiva.” This was the spiritual tenet that stemmed forth from DVG impromptu:

Of what use are your matted locks without a sturdy heart, O Wanderer |
Contentment without melancholy is true Kailasa, O Wanderer||

And so on. The Shiva Sharana was overjoyed at this. He said, “This is really beautiful, my Shiva. Please command another tenet.”

By now, passion had overtaken DVG. He sang:

Such fabulous things he has done, our Shiva
Such amusing things he has done |
Wearing streaks of ash
Marrying that mountain lady
He played all sorts of crazy sport ||
He danced naked, Our Shiva
He made all Creation in darkness|
Dancing naked
Creating in darkness
He made this whole world crooked||

The conception of this cosmos as the garden of Shiva’s sport repeatedly featured in DVG’s speeches and writings. A Kriti that was published in 1956 in Prajavani [a Kannada daily broadsheet] set to the Devamanohari Ragam emanated directly from the depths of his soul:

In the Yaga called Shiva – I have my daily meals |
My salary from doing Shiva’s work – is my great treasure ||
Service in Shiva’s dwelling – is my ablution in the waters of life |
The feast from Parvati’s hands – sanctifies this birth ||


Love for Mirth

Several folks are aware of DVG’s love for mirth and humour. Funny stories, sarcastic lines, farcical commentaries – countless feats of such wit would gush forth from him. One must count his penchant for humour as a chief trait of his nature.

Hilarious expositions would flow from DVG like a continuous torrent.

A devotee of some Swami ji once reported to DVG about an interpretation that the Swami had given regarding the boon given by Brahma to the demon Hiranyakashyipu: “May you be Avadhya [indestructible].” According to the Swami ji, what Avadhya really meant was[i] this: “May you be destroyed only by Vishnu, He who symbolizes the primordial alphabet, अ [a].” DVG immediately said: “Please ask your Swami ji the meaning of the word Amedhya [used in the sense of “feces”] and let me know what he says.”

Once DVG said this to Sri N. Chennakeshavayya: “I didn’t understand a specific point in your article about Vina Subbanna.”

It didn’t take long for Sri Chennakeshavayya to understand that this was the prelude to some mischief. He said, “Please command me.”

DVG: “Writing about Subbanna’s daily routine, you mention, ‘after finishing his music concert and taking his meals, he took rest, etcetera.’ I didn’t understand the meaning of this ‘etcetera.’”

Humour and mirth were serious business as far as DVG was concerned; he wouldn’t let it float lightly.

Once, he hit upon the idea of conjuring a nickname for a close friend. For about half an hour, we mulled over and debated the most appropriate nickname. We were not satisfied. He said, “You make a list of all the names that come to your mind. I’ll make a note of the names that occur to me. We will make a decision when we meet tomorrow morning.”


It was the occasion of a marriage or some other auspicious function at someone’s home. A friend named Shyame Gowda was sitting next to DVG. Shyame Gowda was a gentle soul. He was endowed with virtuous conduct and was loved by all friends. He was devoid of habits like drinking coffee.

Presently, coffee was served to DVG and other friends. When the coffee cup was placed before Shyame Gowda, he roared:

SG: “No way! This is poison!”

DVG: “What is the poison, Sri Shyame Gowda?”

SG: (Pointing to the coffee) “That is poison. It shouldn’t be drunk.”

DVG: (Smiling) “If that is coffee, I am Hara, Ishwara.”

Saying so, DVG began to drink the coffee.


Once Sri Kudali Chidambaram[ii] was bedridden with fever. Chidambaram’s son, Krishnamurthy had come to Bangalore for some work. DVG enquired about Chidambaram’s health.

Krishnamurthy: “The fever has now subsided. However, he is still weak. He says he can’t lift his hands.”

DVG: “Who should he lift his hands against? If someone needs to be beaten up, call me. I’ll take care of it.”


Once a university professor supplied some bizarre meaning to a certain verse of Kalidasa after a lot of hard effort. Immediately, DVG suggested an even more outlandish meaning to it. The stunned professor asked, “Which book supplies this meaning?” DVG said, “A work named Gaundya.” Still not understanding DVG’s mischief, the professor went around asking random people, “Have you read a work titled Gaundya? Where is it available?” The professor didn’t understand the simple (grammatical) truth: guṃḍasya bhāvaḥ  gauṃḍyaṃ -- the feeling of Gunda[appa] is Gaundya.


A friend had sprained his neck. Another friend who was nearby said, “The sprain will be cured if a Mantra is chanted.” DVG instantly said: “Yes of course, when the Mantra is chanted and a massage is given, it will be cured.”


Once when DVG received some award, Sri K. Sripadacharya who knew him since childhood asked:

S: “Hey Gundappa, do you know how you have received all these awards?”

DVG: “Due to the blessings of Pranadevaru [Vayu], right, Sripadu?”

S: “If you put it that way, I have no quarrel with you.”

Hundreds of such incidents occurred. This level of scholar-humorists and learned connoisseurs are really few in number in any era.


DVG had once gone to Melukote with a group of friends. As they were walking engaged in random small talk, they came face to face with a Rathotsava [chariot procession of a Deity]. DVG and a couple of others attempted to proceed on their way by skirting the procession sideways. Sri S.G. Sastri stood behind; he told others to come behind him.

DVG: “Why is this Sastri?”

S: “The procession is coming towards us, right?”

DVG: “So?”

S: “What? Why do you say that? Isn’t it said, ‘Upon seeing the Swami seated in the chariot?’”

DVG: “Who said that?”

S: “How should I know? One of our ancients must have said it.”

DVG: “That’s okay. At least tell me what they have said. Let’s hear it.”

S: “Upon seeing the Swami seated in the chariot… Upon seeing the Swami seated in the chariot…seated in the chariot… (fumbling, he asked the person next to him)…do you remember the full thing? (several folks fumbled similarly).

DVG: “Upon seeing the Swami seated in the chariot, one should take a bath fully clothed. Perhaps that is the full verse.”

To be continued     

[i] Avadhya is the antonym of vadhya, meaning “to destroy.” When the prefix “a” is added to “vadhya,” it means “indestructible.” Thus the aforementioned interpretation will mean that Vishnu as the primordial sound, “a” is the only one capable of making the indestructible, destructible.

[ii] Founder and publisher of Kavyalaya Publishers, Mysore, which published scores of DVG’s works.




Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of stalwarts like D. V. Gundappa, Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma, V Sitaramaiah, and others. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and served as the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs for many years.



Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

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