‘Dharmaprakāśa’ Sajjan Rao (Part 1)

Along with Mandi Hariyanna’s name, it is Dharmaprakāśa S Sajjan Rao’s name that comes to mind.[1] The two were always together, like the Aśvini-devatas. Every morning, both of them would go for a walk, to get some air. It was the same routine every evening too. Their friendship gave the impression that a single soul existed in two bodies. If any friend encountered only one of them, it was normal to enquire, “How is it that you’re alone? Where is he?”

I had gained Sajjan Rao’s affection long before I was aquainted with Hariyanna. At that time, his business was located in Doddapete, north of Tuppadanjaneya Temple Street.

Sajjan Rao’s son-in-law and my esteemed friend Mannaji Rao was his business partner. An incident of that time has remained in my mind.

Famed Stallion

At that time, Sajjan Rao maintained a top class horse-drawn carriage. The horse was well-known all over Bangalore. Its sheath—from face to tail, without leaving an inch—was a spotless white. And it glistened. Its trot was akin to a dance. Ribbons of silver and silk were tied to it. Sajjan Rao’s horse was a real feast for the eyes of the citizens of Bangalore. What a lovely horse! Such a graceful trot! But then, it died one day; I don’t remember from what cause. There was no one who did not shed a tear in its memory.

I clearly remember the time Sajjan Rao bought a piece of land near Doddapete Square and constructed the building there, which is the place that eventually housed his business. A frightful incident occurred during that time.

While the construction work was still in progress, Sajjan Rao used to sleep upstairs in the premises during the nights. One night, just past midnight, while he was half asleep, he heard a terrifying scream of “Ayyo! Ayyo!” Rao was slightly alarmed. Yet, he arose, stood in first floor verandah of the shop, and looked towards the Doddapete-Chikkapete junction. What did he see? A man ablaze from head to toe. And that was hardly for a minute. The next minute, the man dropped dead.

Who was he? He was Bidare Ashwatthanarayana Shastri, an author of Kannada books. Shastri’s house was on a lane near the Kalamma Temple. Who knows what happenend, he slashed [the throats of] his two wives and two children, wrapped himself completely in a cloth, poured kerosene on it, and lit it up himself; screaming loudly, he ran to the Doddapete junction, fell down, and perished there.

Sajjan Rao himself narrated this ghastly tale to me the next day. Oh my god! Śiva Śiva! Śāntam pāpam

Ramalingaswami

It appears that spiritual bhakti had come naturally to Sajjan Rao even at a young age. He had high reverence for mendicants, sādhus, saints, fakirs, monks, yogis, and such holy people. I have alluded to this in my writing about Avadhūta Mahādeva Śāstri. It was Sajjan Rao’s nature to find, identify, and seek guidance of such noble people.

Under some circumstances, he was introduced to one Ramalingaswami, a recluse from Tamil Nadu. That acquaintance turned to devotion; single-minded bhakti. The Swamiji would never accept anything from anybody for himself. If any devotee insisted, owing to their deep devotion, he would accept a banana or a fistful of roasted corn and a cup of milk. No one seems to know his personal background. He would come often to meet Sajjan Rao. No one knows what transpired in their discussions. It was hidden even from his son-in-law Mannaji Rao, who was extremely close to Sajjan Rao.

But I’ve heard from a few people that Sajjan Rao constructed the Subramanyaswami Temple and the choultry on the advice of this Swamiji; I believe it might be so.

Refinement

Whatever work Sajjan Rao chose to take up, he would do it immaculately. In the temples that he built, it was compulsory to wash not only the pillars and the vigrahas but also the ground, the mats spread on the ground, the maṇṭapa, and so forth. Any oil stains had to be scoured and shined. The monthly requirements of rock salt supplies, brooms, sack clothes – all these cleaning gear were listed and the quantity to be consumed written down. He would inspect whether work was being carried out accordingly, by inspecting with his own hands.

He had to visit Mirza saheb and other officials frequently in order to seek land for the temple. I used to see him often then. I have witnessed several activities that Sajjan Rao used to undertake like preparation of the building plan after obtaining the site, appointment of workers, and arrangement for stone, brick, and cement. There is perhaps not a single inch of stone in that building that has not been personally held in his hands and passed by Sajjan Rao. He ensured that not a single paisa was wasted. My recollection is that the construction work went on for two to three years. Rao used to remain at the site from morning eight to evening eight. His friends and others used to come there to meet him.

“Funds”

The temple construction was complete. Then, the prāṇa-pratiṣṭhāpanā (literally, giving ‘life’ to the vigraha) was done. And then, an amusing incident.

Senior surgeon S Subba Rao’s residence was near the temple. I had been there on a friendly visit. Sajjan Rao too joined within ten minutes. Dr. Subba Rao asked, “What’s this rāyare, you’ve built the temple. But it looks so bare and barren. Won’t you construct a gopura?”

Sajjan Rao replied, “No money, sir!”

Subba Rao immediately went into the room and returning, slammed on the table, a three kāsu coin and a biḍikāsu coin.[2]

Sajjan Rao asked, “What is this?”

“You said you have no money. Take this. Build the gopura. How long can one see a temple without a gopura?”

Sajjan Rao then said, “Sir, I will seek money from all people who are virtuous in this world. There’s nothing in this that’s mine. God’s work has to continue due to the puṇya of people like you. Let this puṇya-kārya (noble work) begin with your money!”  

The gopura construction started within a month or two after this incident. Sajjan Rao wore maḍi clothes and walked on the streets [seeking funds] accompanied by his wife. People were happy that such a good man had begun a noble undertaking. They contributed whatever they could to Rao’s plate. Those contributions should not be valued from the perspective of a bank. Nor from the point of view of numbers; but from people’s attitude. It was Sajjan Rao’s ardent desire that many people’s pure (flawless) devotion should fuse (integrate) with his efforts.

To be concluded.

This is the first part of the translation of the fifth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 7) – Hrudaya Sampannaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.

 

Footnotes

[1] See episode 4 of Vol. 7 of Jnapakachitrashaale for a pen-portrait of Mandi Hariyanna.

[2] Kāsu was the smallest unit of currency, also called ‘damḍi’ or ‘pie.’ Four of this made up one anna. Sixteen annas made up a rupee. Basically Subba Rao gave an amount of one anna, which would amount to fifty rupees or more in today’s context. Biḍikāsu literally means ‘loose change’ but here it refers to a one kāsu coin.

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:

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.

Prekshaa Publications

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni 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...

Yaugandharam

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

Vanitakavitotsavah

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

Vaiphalyaphalam

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

Nipunapraghunakam

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

Bharavatarastavah

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...

Bharatilochana

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...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“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...