Bellave Venkatanaranappa - Building a Temple Prākāra

Commitment and Attention to Detail

Venkatanaranappa always considered the Mallikarjuna temple as an extension of his residence. He visited the temple at least once everyday. On Mondays, he didn't have his phalāhāra (food consisting mainly of fruits) until he performed puja and maṅgalārati to the deity. I've witnessed his devout adherence to such rituals with my own eyes. During the time when I regularly published the magazine 'Vijaana' (ವಿಜ್ಞಾನ), it was close to midnight by the time we got back home. We would all be tired. Even on such days, Venkatanaranappa never gave up his commitment. He was hardly agitated and never felt lethargic to visit the temple to perform the ritual.

The yearly gathering of the Mallikarjuna swami devotes took place on the amāvāsyā night of the Kārttika month (The no moon day of the seventh month of the Hindu lunar calendar. Kārttika usually falls during the Greogrian months of October and November). After the maṅgalārati was performed before the deity, Venkatanaranappa read out a yearly report the income and expenses of the temple on the occasion. He was meticulous in his accounts to the decimal place. He would not skip any information and read out all minute details like - Three rupees, seven annas and five paisa were collected on the maṅgalārati plate. He gave his account for every penny.
Venkatanaranappa also reported the quantity of essentials that were remaining. For instance, he would read out 'there is about a quarter portion of camphor remaining, there is about three-fourths of oil left in the container.'
I once asked him - 'Shouldn't you do away with maintaining the accounts of such minor things (trifles) ?'
He replied - 'How is that possible? We accumulate resources by collecting these trifles. It is money related to God. We must keep track of every paisa. It is important not to lose people's trust.'
 


Inspection

Venkatanaranappa was appointed as the convenor for a committee that was to supervise the administration of three temples - the Mallikarjuna temple, the Basaveshvara temple and the Dodda Ganesha temple. Once, the Muzrai commissioner informed Venkatanaranappa that the department would send a representative from its office to look into the accounts maintained at the Mallikarjuna temple and other associated organizations. Venkatanaranappa prepared all the required documents and was at the temple at a premeditated day and time. He was wearing a formal black coat, an uttarīya (a piece of cloth worn on the upper torso) and a rumālu (a kind of scarf). G. Srinivasayya, the manager of the Muzrai office had come in person for the inspection.

As soon as he spotted Srinivasayya, Venkatanaranappa welcomed him with folded hands and picked up a tray containing a floral garland and two lemons. He approached the manager who looked embarrassed. Srinivasayya then told him - "I'm your student, sir!" with these words, he bent his back down to touch Venkatanaranappa's feet. The teacher stopped the student from doing so and said - 'This is not the place for all that, my dear! It is meant for a different place and time! Here, you are a representative of the King. It is the duty of this temple to keep the King happy and bring him glory. There is no people without the King. Everything here is because of his grace. Thus, you will need to accept whatever we have offered to you.’ Saying so, he got maṅgalārati and rājāśīrvāda performed in the temple. The tallying of accounts took place thereafter. Srinivasayya then told Venkatanaranappa that he would remember this experience all his life and stretched himself on the ground as a mark of respect to his teacher (sāṣṭāṅga-namaskāra).

 

Attempts at building a Temple Prākāra

We have mentioned earlier that Venkatanaranappa built the Mallikarjuna-swami temple with his own hands, quite literally. A few friends had joined hands with him in his endeavour. Prominent among them were KG Shyamanna, Bellave Narasimha Shastri, Shivarama Shastri and B. Ramayya. Venkatanaranappa was particular about getting a prākāra built for this temple. (A prākāra is the compound and other external auxiliaries of a temple)

When the old walls of the Bangalore fort were torn down, there were heaps and heaps of stones that had previously been a part of the walls. Venkatanaranappa thought that purchasing those stones would aid in the construction of a compound for the temple and voiced his idea to a close friend. The two were, in fact, friends since their childhood and their comradeship was very deep. They went to the place where the stones were put out to auction and quoted a price they would pay. The friend was in a governmental position that was more influential that the position held by Venkatanaranappa. Moreover, he was adept in worldly matters. Therefore, Venkatanaranappa wanted him to actively call out quotations to lay hands on the stones. As soon as the friend made a quotation, the auction came to a halt. Accordingly one fourth of the predetermined price for the item under auction had to be paid right there and the auction had to be given assurance. The friend paid the advance amount as a confirmation for the purchase of the entire lot. Venkatanaranappa was thrilled that his resolve was fulfilled and he performed maṅgalārati to the deity.

Two to three years passed. Venkatanaranappa was in the process of raising funds for the construction of the temple walls. Once a little amount was collected, he went to the friend and broached up the topic of the stones from the Bangalore fort. To his surprise, the friend said that as he had paid the advance amount on the spot during the auction, he had later purchased the whole lot and the stones belonged to him. Therefore he had used them up for his own needs.

Venkatanaranappa gulped in the rude shock he had undergone and gave up all cordial transactions with the friend thereafter. Yet, he still retained superficial, but affectionate exchange of pleasantries with the person. He often said – ‘Money is the testing stone for any friendship’.

 

Venkataramayya’s Dharma

Venkataramayya was one of the poor people who was well known to Venkatanaranappa. He never held on to any profession and was constantly switching from one job to another. For a few days he served as an expert at octroi in the Municipality. He earned his livelihood by performing such odd jobs now and then. His wife worked as a cook in different houses and also prepared spices for them. She helped him in earning his livelihood that way. During his last days, Venkataramayya was a security personnel at the crematorium. After his wife passed away, he too was diseased and got bred-ridden. When it dawned upon him that his final days were not far away, he called for Venkatanaranappa. When the latter went to visit Venkataramayya, he said the following – “Dear sir, I don’t think I will live for long. I have no off springs or dependents. All that I possess is this mud-house. I have invested the trifles that my wife and I earned on this house. There is no debt over this place. You should please sell this house and use the money for the services related to the Mallikarjuna temple built by you. I only request this little favour from you.”

Venkatanaranappa consented for the request. Accordingly, he got an agreement formulated and got the signatures of Venkataramayya and a few witnesses.

After the Venkataramayya passed away a few miscreants joined hands with the officials of the Taluk administration under the pretext of having auctioned the house and tried to procure the property for a couple of hundred rupees.

Venkatanarapppa went to the Revenue Official connected with the temple and pleaded – “Sir, the property belongs to the deity. I am telling you this on behalf of the temple. The official who has been personally appointed by you has to be ordered to auction the property in public.” Accordingly, an auction took place. Venkatanaranappa was present during the auction as a representative of the temple. The house was finally rated at about three thousand rupees. The plan was to keep this amount as a Fixed Deposit in the Governmental Treasury and the interest earned upon it was to be used in the following ways –

  1. Abhiṣeka and meal for the brāhmaṇas in the memory of Venkataramayya on his death anniversary
  2. Kuṅkumārcana for the Devi and meal for the brāhmaṇas in the memory of Venkataramayya’s wife on her death anniversary
  3. Abhiṣeka and Pūjā on one of the days during Navaratri (Dussera)

I have heard that most of the above takes place even to this day.

To be continued...

This is the seventeenth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 3) – Sahityopasakaru. Thanks to Hari Ravikumar for his thorough review.

 

Author(s)

About:

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.

Translator(s)

About:

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. He research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature.