The Sprawling World of DVG's Literature

This article is part 12 of 14 in the series DVG Profile by S.R. Ramaswamy

Honours and Felicitations

For years on end, DVG kept refusing the requests from the public and government for honouring and felicitating him. Without waiting for even a moment, DVG rejected the pension that the government voluntarily offered him.

Once an employment opportunity, which Sir M Visvesvaraya thought suited DVG’s temperament, afforded itself. It was the editorship of the Lahore-based newspaper, Tribune. The paper’s management had requested Visvesvaraya to suggest a suitable editor. The first name that flashed to Visvesvaraya was that of DVG’s. When he indicated his name, the paper’s management expressed great happiness. By then, DVG had earned great renown and esteem. The editorship of this paper, which enjoyed great prestige nationwide was a position enough to evoke desire in any person. However, DVG refused to let go of his mantra: “I will fill my stomach somehow. This life has grown in a haphazard manner by rolling and suffering on the streets throughout its existence. It is not suited for such great positions and status.”

DVG’s manner was an abiding love for absolute independence. This is why his political commentary and critique was completely objective and sharp. Even Residents and Diwans weren’t spared from his attacks.

It was but natural that the Emergency of 1975 caused great anxiety to DVG: “All that all of us had so far was our mouths. Now they have fastened locks even on that! What might happen to the country?”

He agreed to accept some felicitations in his advanced years only due to the pressure of his friends and well-wishers. In 1961, the Mysore University decided to confer an honorary doctorate on John Kenneth Galbraith and DVG. The then vice chancellor Prof N.A. Nikkam had to undertake a veritable adventure to get DVG’s assent to this. On one occasion, Sri Nikkam had returned with disappointment. Still, he came back to DVG to make another attempt. By then, the retired High Court Judge A.R. Nageshwara Iyer, who was older to DVG and akin to an elder brother, had managed to convince him. In this manner, DVG who had earlier rejected the Rajasevasakta award from the Mysore Princely State, now received the honorary doctorate at the hands of the Chancellor, His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. This brought enormous joy to his vast section of admirers. An elated Rajaji wrote in a letter – “…an honour sometimes conferred on the deserving.”

Although he had rejected it once in the past, DVG now agreed to accept the Central Sahitya Akademi Award for his work, Srimad Bhagavad-Gita Tatparya (The Essence of Srimad Bhagavad Gita). He donated the award money to the Gokhale Institute.

Then, as was his custom, when Sri A.R. Krishna Sastri visited the Gokhale Institute, he remarked in his characteristic language: “What is it that they have given, the c**t! I can myself give the ten thousand rupees award money. Even if you’re given one lakh rupees, that’s also less.”

In the beginning of 1970, the industrialists, V.S. Natarajan, M.V. Krishnamurthi and others began to insist on a public felicitation to DVG. On his part, DVG agreed to it on the condition that the entire money had to be donated to the Gokhale Institute. In this manner, an amount of roughly one lakh rupees was collected and deposited with the Gokhale Institute.

It was the same story with the Padmabhushan Award. DVG didn’t show even an iota of interest in it. Even on this occasion, DVG submitted to the pressure of his well-wishers and close friends.

As far as he was personally concerned, he had already decided to reject it. It was DVG’s habit to discuss such important matters with Nittur Srinivasa Rao. On this occasion as well, he asked Srinivasa Rao: “This nonsense has come my way? What should I do?”

Srinivasa Rao said in a mixture of seriousness and semi-humour: “Accept it for the great man that you are! Don’t rake up trouble. Simply accept it!” DVG didn’t protest after this.

He had also opposed the move on the part of the City Corporation to name the street in which his house was located, in his honour.

***

The World of DVG’s Literature

DVG wrote an astonishing range and corpus of literature. However, an equally important fact is that every single piece of his writing delivered refinement and culture (Samskara) to the society. He never set out to write anything that did not elevate the cultural standard of society.

DVG wrote an essay in the Current Science magazine in which he detailed the steps necessary for the physical sciences to progress in the direction of uplifting society. The renowned Nature magazine based out of London cited this essay in glowing terms and wrote a lengthy editorial on it (1941). Citing DVG’s essay titled Science and Morality, the Nature magazine wrote, “Mr. Gundappa’s account…should serve as a most useful introduction to this important phase of human thought.”

New poetry that emerged in the garb of translations: poetry collections such as Umarana Osage (1930), Vasanta Kusumanjali (1922), Nivedana (1924); Antahpurageethe (1950), a unique gift to the world of both literature and music; intellectual discourses such as Jivana Soundarya Mattu Sahitya (1932), Sahitya Shakti (1950)—no matter in which language and country they are written, all these works are praiseworthy. These works have an innate value that is beyond the confines of country, time, and language. To those who wish to refine their minds, this material is deserving of deep study. DVG’s words are applicable to his own works:

This is an enthusiasm to
Learn the secrets of the world’s functioning
It is relevant in the Court of the
World’s Sculptor
||

DVG’s Baligondu Nambike (1950), Samskruti (1953) and related essays are akin to guiding lamps for anybody who wishes to elevate their life. The purpose of these essays is to offer a detailed contemplation on such questions as: what does “good” in one’s life mean? How does one attain it? How was the conduct of great people like Sri Ramachandra who lived a meaningful life? What does culture mean? What is the nature of the contemporary challenges faced by Indian culture? What is the nature of the relationship that exists between culture, literature, art, and our mental and intellectual faculties? The subtitle given to the essay on Culture (Samskruti) is highly meaningful: “The Beauty of Wish, Conversation, and Conduct.”  

DVG’s poetry collections garnered enormous popularity in a short span after their publication. After the close of the 1920s decade, the Vanasuma poetry collection quickly joined the ranks of prayer songs sung in thousands of schools across the state. It became the invocatory song at public gatherings. To tell the name and explain the features of the Athana raga to novices,  music teachers would say, “this is the Raga of Vanasuma.” In the beginning these poems would be sung in two or three different ragas. Later, when it was found that Athana was the most appropriate raga, Vanasuma was sung in it and popularized on scores of public platforms by Sri H. Ramanna (father of the famous singer, Smt H.R. Leelavathi). Thanks to this, that great musician became known as “Athana Ramanna.”

To be continued

Author(s)

About:

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 greats like D. V. Gundappa and Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs.

Translator(s)

About:

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.