Dewan Rungacharlu (Part 1)

The First Proponent of Democracy in India

I have never seen Chettipunyam Rungacharlu [alternatively, Rangacharlu or Rangacharya.] I was born five or six years after his demise.

I wrote a fairly exhaustive treatise about Rungacharlu’s administration in both English and Kannada. That was fifty-seven or fifty-eight years ago. The aspect of his history that caught my mind and firmly fixed itself in my psyche was his understanding of the democratic system such a long time ago.

Dewan Rungacharlu was the first ever champion of democracy in India. The Representative Assembly that he established in 1881 no longer stands today; it is destroyed. The torrents of time has washed away an innumerable number of states, monarchies, schools of thought, and literary works. It has made many great things seem as if they never happened. The Representative Assembly is one of those things that came in the line of time’s assault and vanished never to be found again.

Representative Assembly

The manner in which the Representative Assembly of Mysore was established will be quite instructive to our generation. Although Rungacharlu pioneered such an extraordinary and unprecedented venture, he did not organize any ceremony for its inauguration. He had no trumpets blown, no pavilions erected, no stages built. During the year when the Mahārāja [Chamarajendra Wodeyar X] took the reins of the kingdom [from the British, in 1881], the Navarātra durbar was a magnificent spectacle. A festival that had not been celebrated for years had started again, so the citizens were, quite naturally, jubilant. To participate in the celebrations, important personage from all across the state had congregated at the capital. To make use of this opportunity for the state’s welfare, Dewan Rungacharlu invited those eminent people to a friendly get-together and discussed the kingdom’s state of affairs with them.

Thus, in a friendly manner, untangled by rules and regulations, the Representative Assembly began functioning. Rungacharlu said that­ the government had learnt many useful things from the experience of the first, informal meeting and that the state would profit from such regular interactions and knowledge exchanges between the government and people of eminence. This would, he felt, gradually eliminate the gap between the government and the citizens, and strengthen the feeling of co-operation since the government and its citizens were, after all, two limbs supporting the same body. He followed it up by sending out a government hukum for the Representative Assembly to convene once every year regularly.

The idea of a Representative Assembly had been on Rungacharlu’s mind for a very long time. The British Government had come up with a pact that the Mahārāja had to concur with during the handover of the Mysore kingdom to him [as per the Rendition Act of 1881]. The then British Commissioner had to recommend the terms of the pact to be finalized. Rungacharlu used to be the Revenue Secretary and Advisor to Commissioner Gordon. As a result, Rungacharlu got the opportunity to include the previously-mentioned idea along with the list of terms in the pact. It was worded as follows: To learn the opinions of the citizens, a Citizens’ Representative Assembly consisting of prominent farmers, traders, and other people of eminence shall be instituted.

However, the British Government rejected that recommendation. How can a system not implemented in the British India directly ruled by us be brought into effect in a mere Princely State! What would its consequence be in British India! – This was their fear.

Perceiving the intent [behind the rejection], Rungacharlu pretended to have dropped the idea at that point of time and waited for an opportune moment. Right when one such convenient occasion took place, he turned the idea to reality.

No drums beaten, no trumpets blown…

Perhaps, Kālidāsa intended something like this when he said, “…phalānumeyāḥ prārambhāḥ…” (“…it is only from the results do we know that it was ever started…” - Raghu-vaṃśam 1.20) Without any preparation, without attracting anybody’s attention, the Representative Assembly, which started like a sapling that sprouted from the soil in the wild, grew into a giant tree over sixty years.

Engrossed about National Welfare

Rungacharlu served as Dewan for less than two years. He briefly directed the procedure for the state’s progress. All his actions were based on these two rules of thumb – strengthening democracy and improving economic resources by reducing administrative expenditure.

Apparently, the idea of developing national resources struck his mind while he was in the Madras Province. Learning from the experts about different kinds of timber in the forests of Wayanad, he got a square foot of planks chopped from each type of tree as a sample, had it smoothened, and had a ‘bureau’ (cupboard) made from it. I had seen that in his house. Likewise, he had got a wooden box made from a camphor tree. The forests in our country are abundant with resources; putting these resources to use was his desire.

Intending to establish textile mills near Bangalore or at some other suitable location in the State of Mysore, he had got designed plans of machinery, equipment, and buildings – much later, all these were found in between the pages of his books. Thus, in the matters of the economy, Rungacharlu had a wonderful long-term vision.


He was similar in politics, too. The markings, symbols, and notes he had made in his books show us how well he had studied the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s treatises. And during his lifetime he examined the works written by those who had been social reformers and political thinkers of England. It appears he loved the lectures of the philosopher John Stuart Mill. In his copy of Mill’s Representative Government, Rungacharlu had made a lot of notes. I have seen that book; however, I was not able to read it. That’s how legible his handwriting was. The letters were not clear and appeared as if worms were crawling on the paper!

Rungacharlu never liked his handwriting; he would dictate everything he was meaning to write and make a scribe write it down. Among Rungacharlu’s amanuenses, M Narayana Rao was one. He later rose to the rank of Deputy Commissioner and served the state. Another was Annaji Rao, who rose to the position of Assistant Commissioner.

This is the first part of a three-part English translation of the second chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 4 – Mysurina Diwanaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.



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.



Karthik Muralidharan is an entrepreneur, educator, and a motivational speaker. An MBA in Human Resource Management, Karthik currently runs businesses in Leadership Education, Training, and Wealth Management. He is deeply interested in prosody, philosophy, and literature.

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...