Basavappa Shastri

M Venkatakrishnaiah, M S Puttanna, C Subbarao, and other language enthusiasts in Mysore decided to publish a monthly magazine called Hitabodhini. They decided it would have topics and discussions useful to the general readers that would encompass literature, science, history, and social welfare. After having finalized the size and the design, they decided to print a poem on the cover page that would convey their purpose. How to obtain such a poem? They requested many people. Those scholars composed their poems and handed it to them. But none of those poems were unanimously accepted. A few people accepted the poems due to some reasons. One day, all those people involved in the publication assembled together – to make a decision. Among those who were in attendance, there were people who had a taste for poetry and were in the habit of composing poems. But everyone was wondering about what was to be done.

Basavappa Shastri’s Poetic Prowess

In the mean time, Basavappa Shastri, who was also invited, arrived at the gathering. When the leaders of that assembly narrated their predicament to Shastri, he smiled, and picking up a pen that was lying around he scribbled something on his left thumb; then he said, “Write down what I recite; we’ll see how it turns out” and read out the following: āvaḻa kaiviḍidā rā- | jīvabhavaṃ nikhilalōkanirmāṇakalā- || kōvidanādano ā vā- | gdēvate meyvettu merege hitabōdhiniyoḻ || (Brahmā held her hand in marriage and was then able to create the three worlds, becoming the great god of creation. May that same Vāgdevī pervade the pages of the Hitabodhini.) Upon listening to this verse, everyone’s face beamed with joy. “This is how a poem should be, isn’t it?” they said.

Basavappa Shastri


Basavappa Shastri had gained mastery over both Kannada and Sanskrit. Not only did he translate plays like Śākuntala, Śūrasenacarite, Ratnāvali, and Uttararāmacarite into Kannada, he also wrote campūgranthas like Damayantī Svayaṃvara and Kṛṣṇarājyābhyudaya as well as ṣaṭpadigranthas like Sāvitrīcaritre in Kannada. He composed several Sanskrit stotras like Śivabhakti Sudhātaraṅgiṇi, Sarasvatīdaṇḍaka, and Aṣṭamūrti Tanayāṣṭaka. Several songs in the Bālikāgītamuktākalāpa that was published during the reign of Chamarajendra Wadiyar were composed by Shastri. The famous Kāyau śrī gaurī is also his composition. Basavappa Shastri was a disciple of Vidvān Garalapuri Shastri, who was famous as a scholar of both Kannada and Sanskrit during the reign of Mummudi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. Basavappa Shastri’s Kannada student was Ayya Shastri, the son of Garalapuri Shastry. Basavappa Shastri was a good rasika. Great physical features, radiance, soft and sweet speech – these treasures made everyone who met him desire to befriend him. Shastri had many famous and influential people in his circle of friends, the chief among them being the landlord Nilagiri Paapanna. In Bangalore, Paapanna’s house was in the fort – i.e., the place where the maternity hospital is situated currently. I’ve heard from many sources that Paapanna is an admirer of music and literature as well as a generous man. Venkatakrishnaiah used to mention this often.

Rachoti Shastri

During 1912-13 when I visited Mysore during Dasara, one afternoon I went to Venkatakrishnaiah’s house to meet him. I was told that he was in school. When I went to Marimallappa School and asked for him, someone said, “He’s upstairs!” I sent word that I had come. He sent instructions asking me to go upstairs instead. When I went there, I saw a large gathering. People like M Shyama Rao and Bapu Subba Rao were present. The attraction at that time was a Bhāratavācana by one Rachoti Shastri. He sang in various rāgas the magnificent poetry composed by Kumāravyāsa and gave a wonderful experience to the listeners. What a voice! What a wonderful sense of ārohaṇa and avarohaṇa! And the pronunciation! Such animated facial expressions and hand gestures! Everyone was mesmerized and listened to him forgetting everything else. Shyama Rao turned towards me and asked:

SR: “Hadn’t you heard him before?”

Me: No! “Who’s he?”

SR: He’s a student of Basavappa Shastri. He’s treading the path of his guru!”

By that time, it had already been many years since the death of Basavappa Shastri. Venkatakrishnaiah said, “If you had listened to Basavappa Shastri’s rendition, how much happier you would have become!”

I didn’t have that good fortune.

After returning to Bangalore, I casually remarked about this incident to Puttanna Chetty. He told the same thing as Venkatakrishnaiah.

I’ve heard from many elders that just as Basavappa Shastri had great talent in poetry, he also had a grasp over the subtleties of singing and a keen musical sense.

Whenever Basavappa Shastri visited Bangalore, he stayed in the house of the erstwhile senior surgeon Dr. Armugam Mudaliar and his brother Kuppuswami Mudaliar. I’ve heard that he translated Bhavabhūti’s Uttararāmacarita to Kannada while he was staying in Kuppuswami Mudaliar’s house and that sections of the manuscript were kept in the house for some time. I’ve observed that both Dr. Armugam and Kuppuswami Mudaliar have a spiritual bent of mind. Both are generous. But what made it special was that they kept their charity and philanthropy a secret. They never breathed a word about the good deeds they did. If someone found out by some means, they would brush it off, making a joke about it.

I feel that the pronunciation of our students will greatly improve—and will be ear-worthy—if they can learn from memory the Sarasvatīdaṇḍaka that appears in Basavappa Shastri’s Damayantī Svayaṃvara.

The works of Basavappa Shastri is not widely taught in today’s schools and colleges – in my view, among the lacunae of today, this is a primary shortcoming.

This is an English translation of the third chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 3 – Sahityopasakaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar. Thanks to Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh for his kind review and thoughtful feedback.



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.



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

Prekshaa Publications

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...