PS Shivaswami Iyer - Part 4


PS Shivaswami Iyer's lifestyle and eating habits were largely aristocratic. He wanted to have a big house. It was not to have thresholds. The house had to be well lit. He was very particular and quite fussy about the clothes he wore. There were about four-five small tables in his dressing room next to the wall. On the table lay collar strips, neck-ties, pins and hand-kerchiefs. One could also find shirts, wrist buttons and collar buttons. Next to them lay his coats, shawls and perfume bottles. There were about four or five varities of each of these. All clothes were ironed and neatly stacked. Shivaswami Iyer would choose his clothes depending on the occasion and his current state of mind. This was his practise and he was fuzzy in this regard.

His food habits were aristocratic and lavish as well. He would have ten to fourteen kinds of side-sides – a great range of pickles and chutneys. His main course was to have at least two types of palya, kosumbari, paḻadya, sāru, happaḻa, saṇḍige, a few other fried items and sweets such as jilebi and lāḍu. Curd and buttermilk were musts. He used a large plantain leaf to eat off food from. The meal was unhurried and was in the company of several people. His mates were to eat just like him in his company. They were to eat with pleasure and there was no hurry.

A Query and a Concern

Once, Shivaswami Iyer asked me “Hey! I would like to visit you house often. However, I fear that you might acquire bad fame because of me!”

Me: Why will I be defamed?

Shivaswami: Your house is at a height from the street. Though there are stairs from the street leading to your house, it is possible that I may trip down if I try climbing them. I might even lose my life and that will bring you a bad name. I am a hefty person, old and have huge legs. I am bṛhaccharaṇa and the steps in your staircase are narrow…

(bṛhaccharaṇa means broad-footed and also the name of the sub-community Shivaswami Iyer belonged to)

I understood his intent and said-
“If you can kindly let me know the dimensions of your foot, I shall have the stairs rebuilt.”

Shivaswami Iyer put forward his boots and said – “This is more than eleven inches. The steps should at least be a foot wide. The height of each step should not be more than three and a half inches. If this is taken care of, I will not fear for my life.”

I called for labourers the same day and had a new staircase built. Of late, as we have built a compound and laid new stairs, there might have been some more change.

Gorochana (A Red Pigment)

During one of his summer visits to Bangalore, Shivaswami Iyer had taken residence in front of the Southern gate of M.N. Krishnarao Park. His house was located a few feet above the street. Just as was the usual practise, that evening, about 10-15 people gathered. Shivaswami Iyer was turning deaf by ten. He asked me something that day and I replied to him. He remained silent for a couple of minutes, tuned to someone else and said:

“There is something called ‘gorochana’ available in the stores. Do you know anything about it?”

Everyone looked at each other. D. Venkataramayya said

V: It is supposed to have some medicinal value. It is used to treat kids.

S: Why do they use it on kids?

V: I do not know

G Srinivasayyar: Gorochana clears and smoothens the throat. It will help bring clarity in voice and speech

S (Pointing at me) – “His grandmother must have fed him with tonnes of gorochana!”


Another evening, we had gathered in the Vishweshvarapuram house. Mr. Sheshachalam, the son of Peshlar Nagamayyar who was the diwan of Tirvancour and a friend of Shivaswami Iyer, visited us. After exchanging plesantaries, Sheshachalam broached up a topic connected with politics. As our discussions continued, the tax reforms made by C. Rajagopalachari when he was the Chief Minister of the Madras Province was brought on to table.

Shivaswami Iyer: Was the taxation justifiable?

Sheshachalam: How will the nation progress if not for the taxes?

Shivawami Iyer: Have the British taken care of the nation’s needs solely depending on the taxes collected by Rajagopalachari so far?

Everyone laughed out loud. Looking at this, Shivaswami Iyer said :

“ I don’t mean to demean Rajagopalachari. He is very capable and is bold. He is shrewd and clever at the same time. He broke the back-bone of Justice Party and created a havoc. There is none other who can dare to undertake such a task’

In about 1925, Shivaswami Iyer agreed to deliver a few lectures in the Madaras University on Indian constitutional problems. His lectures have been documented in the form of a book.

A part of the book speaks about the regional provinces. He discusses what role the provincial power-centers play at the national level. Shivaswami Iyer was to dwell on the topic in detail. Amongst the range of topics he chose for his lecture, those connected with provincial governance was an important one. I had prepared a list of points in this connection and had also published it. Shivaswami Iyer wanted to quote the directives I had prepared and discuss about them in his lecture. However, who was the one who prepared the points in the first place?


To be concluded…

This is the first essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 6) – Halavaru Sarvajanikaru. Thanks to Hari Ravikumar for his edits.



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.



Arjun is a poet, translator, engineer, and musician. He is a polyglot, well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, Hindi, English, Greek, and German. He currently serves as Assistant Professor at Amrita Darshanam - International Centre for Spiritual Studies at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Bangalore. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature.