C Rajagopalachari (Part 3)

Literary Work

In reality, Rajagopalachari’s first love was literature. He had deep interest in good books. Once on a visit to Bangalore when he was the Governor General, he sent word for me to meet him. Accordingly, I went to the Residency Bungalow. Instead of sitting inside the building, having fetched some chairs and tables, he was sitting on an easy chair a few yards away, by the shade of some bushes. There were two or three books on the table; he was reading one of them. His complaint was that there was no time for such literary leisure! He repeated this frequently. In every meeting with him, a discussion on some book or the other would come up. One day there was an exploration of the meaning of the word ‘kṣayāya’ from the mantra

…yasya kṣayāya jinvatha[1]

It is memorable for me that he highly admired the interpretation I gave in accordance with the bhāṣya (commentary).

On another occasion he, Navaratna Rama Rao, and I were sitting and chatting in Rama Rao’s house. K R Srinivasa Iyengar, who was a councillor at that time, came to meet Rajagopalachari. Two days earlier, Navaratna Rama Rao had given a lecture in one of Bangalore’s cultural clubs about the works of the French author Maupassant[2]. A reference to that topic came up. Rama Rao said, “A person who hasn’t read Maupassant has no right to call himself a refined gentleman.” KR Srinivasa Iyengar was incensed. He retorted, “One who has not studied the divya-prabandham[3] has no right to call himself cultured!”

On this point, the debate developed substantially. As for Rajagopalachari, he had studied the divya-prabandham with devotion, not only because they were spiritual hymns but also because he revered them as top-class literature. I knew this well. In a letter he once wrote to me, he had cited an example from a commentary on a Tamil prabandham. The summary of it was: In case you get a doubt whether or not you are a true Vaiṣṇava, ask yourself this – you’ve come to know that an enemy of yours is in danger. At that point, in your mind, would you feel, “Ah, that serves him right!” or saying, “Oh, this has befallen him!” would you grieve? Introspect within. If hearing another’s distress makes you piteous, you are a Vaiṣṇava. Instead, if it fills you with enmity, you are not a Vaiṣṇava.

He knew hundreds of such sentences by heart. So, although he was competent in the prabandham literature, that day, Rajagopalachari was listening without interruption, the entire debate between Rama Rao and Srinivasa Iyengar. On completion of their discussion, Rajagopalachari and I spoke a couple of sentences. It was only then that his expertise truly became evident. He said, “Culture means humility. From that comes perception of another’s character. From that comes deference to others. From that comes friendship and sympathy…” The day’s debate was thus concluded and everyone was satisfied. This is an illustration for Rajagopalachari’s scholarship and culture.

Rajagopalachari never set out to write any magnum opus. He preferred elucidation and explanation.

He published a couple of monographs in English about interim political events. A more serious topic is the exposition of Upaniṣads. He selected a few principle Upaniṣads and summarized them in simple English. While writing this treatise, keeping in mind possible doubts and questions of people who mostly use current English, he made the major tenets clear to the common folk of today.

Besides, his lectures on scholarly subjects in several universities, during convocations and other occasions, have been published as a compendium.

His recent English articles have been published in three volumes under the title Satyameva Jayate.

Rajaji laboured a great deal for Tamil. He has written books on Physics, Botany, and other science subjects. People who know these subjects well have told me that the Tamil booklet he has authored on Botany is authoritative.

Importantly, he has written about the ideas of Western philosophers like Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and others. He has translated their original writings to Tamil and published them. His spirit of philosophical enquiry was intense. He translated the Rāmāyaṇa into simple Tamil prose and had it published under the title Cakravartiya Tirumagan (‘The Noble Son of the Emperor’); he translated the Mahābhārata as Vyāsar Virundu (‘The [Literary] Feast of Vyāsa.’)

Rajagopalachari was greatly devoted to the philosopher-poet Tiruvalluvar; and similarly to the poetess Auvaiyar. He used to quote them again and again.

This is what I feel: Rajaji’s scholarly achievements will outlast his political achievements.

A Fortunate, Fulfilled Life

In the final analysis, it can be said that Rajagopalachari occupies a prominent place among the greats of his time. The almighty had endowed him with several different strengths – scholarship, intelligence, courage, bravery, practical ingenuity, vision, knowledge – and many benign influences. Having said this, it doesn’t mean he was universally accepted. In many cases, he followed his way, while others did not. On matters of opinion, there was disagreement and opposition. Therefore, his initiatives lacked full support. But then in which matters has our country been completely united? Which leader has been the only one for all citizens? Difference of opinion is a natural thing. Divisiveness is in-built in the design of man. It is generally not possible to completely resolve differences and establish unity. In the end, standing in front of the almighty, Rajagopalachari may say thus: “Lord, I have used scrupulously the tools you have given me, in your service. On some paths, if it hasn’t been fruitful, it is not due to my shortcoming. The power to remove all shortcomings and make them right belongs to you. Only the opportunity to set apart what has been given to me is mine.” He can say this confidently. Not everyone can declare thus. Those who can are fortunate. Among such fortunate ranks, Rajagopalachari would be prominently remembered.


There is a class among politicians called ‘statesman’ (vicakṣaṇa). He is the best of the best. He is the chief or the leader, meaning one who rules. Many qualities come together in a statesman. Primary among them are: i. Wisdom and ii. Fortitude.

There are three types of Wisdom:

1. The Wisdom of Discrimination between the Spiritual and the Material

2. The Wisdom to be Practical and realize what can be achieved, what can’t

3. The Wisdom to Prioritise and know what to do first

Required alongside Wisdom is Fortitude.

Among the things that people need, śreyas (enrichment) and preyas (entertainment) are both a part. Śreyas means real benefit. Preyas means instant gratification. The nation needs schools: this is śreyas – enrichment, benefit. Dance schools are also needed: this is preyas – leisure, entertainment.

Constructing a stairway to the moon is a benefit to many people. But is it possible? All that is beneficial is not feasible. A statesman can make several good resolutions in his mind. But he has to check whether he has suitable tools and finances.

Let’s assume that a certain course of action is beneficial and feasible. But is it urgent? Is there nothing more urgent? This needs to be looked into. Your son wants both education and marriage; both are necessary. But what should come first?

In this manner, after the thinking has been through all three stages, comes the decision. A statesman should be committed to the course of action without flinching. This is determination. This needs courage. Let anyone say anything, let any obstacle come, I will do it at any cost – this obstinacy is needed. Enormous courage is needed for decision-making.

nindantu nītinipuṇā yadi vā stuvantu
lakṣmīssthirā bhavatu gacchatu vā yatheṣṭam

adyaiva vā maraṇamastu yugāntare vā
nyāyyāt pathāt pravicalanti padaṃ na dhīrāḥ
Masters of morals may criticize or praise
Great wealth may be firm or might slip away
Death may come now or at the end of a century –
But the man of courage swerves not from the path of justice

What did Śrī Rāma tell his younger brother Bharata?

himavān vā himaṃ tyajet

atīyāt sāgaro velām
na pratijñām aham pituḥ

(Ayodhyākāṇḍa 112.18)
The moon may lose its lustre
The Himalayas may forsake its snow
The ocean might transgress its shores –
But I will not abandon the promise I made to Father!

This is an example for courage and determination. Rajagopalachari was a devotee of Śrī Rāma. In accordance with that, he relied upon courage and determination. Hence he became eligible in every way to be called a ‘Statesman.’


This is the third part of a three-part English translation of the fourth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 6) – Halavaru Saarvajanikaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.



[1] Ṛgveda-saṃhitā 10.9.3.

[2] Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant (1850–93) was a French short story writer and a representive of the naturalist school of writers.

[3] The Nālāyira Divya-prabandham is an anthology of four thousand Tamil verses composed by the twelve Āḻvārs (Vaiṣṇava poet-saints) and was compiled in its present form by Ranganatha Muni (popular as Nathamuni) during the ninth and tenth centuries CE.



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.



Prof. Vedavyas M G is a visiting professor of Strategy and International Business at PES University, Bangalore. He is on the Advisory Board of Atria Institute of Technology. Before moving to academics, Prof. Vedavyas was Senior Vice-President at Mahindra Satyam, responsible for its global telecom business. Earlier he was the Regional Manager for Tata Consultancy Services at Birmingham. Prof. Vedavyas is a graduate of IISc., Bangalore (BE in E&C) and IIM, Bangalore (MBA). He has an abiding interest in everything Kannada.