Dharwad Karnataka’s Zest for Literature

The Kannada renaissance movement had begun several years earlier[1] in the Dharwad Karnataka region. One can say that in some sense, (literary) programs began in Dharwad long before it had started in Mysore. The Karṇāṭaka Vidyāvardhaka Saṅgha of Dharwad is much older than Bangalore’s Sāhitya Pariṣad. The founders of the Vidyāvardhaka Saṅgha came to Mysore, met the Mahārāja Sri Chamarajendra Wodeyar, explained their objectives in detail, and sought his help. The Mahārāja granted them an amount of rupees three thousand. The Cāmarājendra Mandira in Dharwad’s Vidyāvardhaka Saṅgha was constructed with this seed fund.

Among the founding members of the Vidyāvardhaka Saṅgha, I only know the names of a few whom I have heard about. Prominent among them were Narayana Rao Karagudri, Gopalarango Katti, Kembhavi Raghavendra Rao, and Deshapande Hanumantha Rao. The Vidyāvardhaka Saṅgha used to publish a monthly magazine called Vāgbhūṣaṇa. It ran for many years. Several long-form essays and scholarly articles appeared on its pages.

After the establishment of the Sāhitya Pariṣad, there was an increase in the scholars from the Dharwad region coming to the Mysore region and the ones from here going there. Friendship between the prominent litterateurs and intellectuals from both regions grew. Thus I gained the opportunity to get introduced to some of the eminent people from Dharwad. Of those eminences, I wish to recollect a few names.

Deshapande Hanumantha Rao was a well-respected person. He was a high school headmaster. He was instrumental in establishing a bookstore known as the Śaṅkara Karṇāṭaka Book Depot. He was a gentleman of sombre demeanour.

Raghavendra Rao

He himself didn’t know how and when he was related to a place called Cuddappah[2] in the Telugu region. Raghavendra Rao was an advocate; a sprightly man; a leader of men; and an influential orator. During those days, at the Pariṣad’s conferences, there would typically be sumptuous luncheons and dinners. When Karpura Srinivasa Rao was the president of the conference, during one such luncheon, everyone was instructed to compulsorily recite a śloka (verse) or a gadya (prose). Heeding to such compulsion but unable to think of anything else, Cuddappah Raghavendra Rao sang a kīrtanā of Purandara Dasa, “Laṅgoṭi balu oḻḻedaṇṇa…” (“The loin-cloth is really good, my brother…”)

Pujara

Mahadeva Shastri Prabhakara Shastri Pujara was a great scholar with a sharp intellect. He apparently studied under Vidvān Timmappa Shastri at the Training College in Mysore. Apart from being a traditionally trained scholar of both Kannada and Sanskrit, he was a person extremely clean in conduct and character. Bellave Venkatanaranappa had immense reverence for him. Whenever Mahadeva Shastri visited Bangalore, with great honour he would be treated to a feast at Venkatanaranappa’s residence. Mahadeva Shastri has written condensed Kannada translations of Sanskrit treatises and a few essays related to Kannada grammar.

Whenever I visited Dharwad, I would go to see him. Once during our stay at a well-known gentleman’s house, I enquired about Mahadeva Shastri. My host, a distinguished citizen of the town, was completely unaware of Mahadeva Shastri’s existence. Then I posed the question to a few modernists who were considered to be litterateurs. Even they were clueless. In their own town, there was a great scholar, a man well-versed in the śāstras, a person sincerely following traditional practices; we should be introduced to him, we should offer our respects to him – such curiosity and enthusiasm was nowhere to be seen. It doesn’t seem that people who have earned a name as litterateurs or in some other area possess any sort of inquisitiveness to know about people in their neighbourhood who are worthy of respect.

In such an environment, how should ancient scholarship or any other traditional treasures of wisdom survive?

Venkata Rao

Alur Venkata Rao was extremely popular. He was one of the foremost proponents of the Karṇāṭaka Movement. He has written treatises hailing the past glories of Karnataka. He translated Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s treatise Gītā-rahasya from Marathi to Kannada. He has written many introductory essays. For a long time he was the editor of the Jayakarṇāṭaka newspaper. He presided over the literary conference held in the city of Mysore during 1933–34. He was pious and free from malice. Occasionally, while speaking he would get carried away in excitement.

Mudavidakar Krishna Rao

Mudavidakar Krishna Rao for a long time used to run an energetic weekly magazine. Krishna Rao was a brilliant orator. Among the political orators of the Kannada-speaking region, I’m not aware of anyone of a better class than Mudavidakar Krishna Rao. There was no other Kannada orator as influential as Deshapande Gangadhara Rao and Mudavidakar Krishna Rao.  

Mudavidakar had a giant physique. He was dark-skinned, body structure proportional to his height, a heavy man with a broad face and broad eyes. Be it worry, happiness, anger, or humour, his looks would spill the emotions at the very instant of their creation.

No amount of praising Mudavidakar Krishna Rao’s kindness, love, and affection will suffice to satisfy me. Around eight to ten of us travelled to Dharwad from Hubli conference and stayed for a day as the guests of Ramachandra Mahishi. The next day we had to resume our journey. The train would leave at five in the morning. We had to reach the railway station by then. Unable to find porters or vehicles to transport our luggage, we were worried. Right at that moment Krishna Rao came there and saw us anxious. He asked, “How many pieces of luggage are there? How many vehicles would they fill?”

We showed him our beddings and trunks.

Krishna Rao said, “What’s this man? Just these many? Why do you need a vehicle for this?”

Saying thus, he picked up two rolls of bedding and held one under each arm; then he placed two more rolls of bedding, one by one, on each of his shoulders; leaning forward, he had the trunk placed on his back. After this, he stood up and said, “Does anybody wish to sit on the top, you can!”

We all laughed. Within ten minutes, he reached the railway station, even before we did.

More than his physical might, this made us aware of his magnanimity.

Free from desire, adhering to truth – this was Mudavidakar Krishna Rao.

He often visited Bangalore to deliver lectures. During one such lecture he said, “We had such incredible poets! Such talented personalities! Such brilliant composers of poetry! We had Ranna, Ponna, Janna!” and thus he cast his oratory web over the audience. Listeners were overjoyed.

After the discourse I went up to him and told him how elated I was. Then I asked, “What has Ponna written, what all has Janna composed?”

Krishna Rao said in response, “What do I know my friend! You people speak of them, don’t you? People like you don’t lie, after all! Your words are proof enough!”

We all floated on a wave of laughter.

During one of Mudavidakar’s visits to Bangalore, he delivered a lecture, which was attended by one of my friends, S G Shastri. On the following day, Shastri visited the place where Mudavidakar was residing, bowed down to his feet in reverence, placed a few gifts in front of him, and said, “I would be greatly obliged if you accept this.”

I was a witness to this incident. It becomes evident the sort of people that Krishna Rao and S G Shastri were.

Narayana Rao

Huyilagola Narayana Rao was the composer of the Kannada rāṣṭra-gītā, “Udayavāgali namma cèluva kannaḍa nāḍu…” (“May our beautiful Kannada land rise…”) He was an advocate by profession; well-versed in ancient poetical works. He was a devotee of Vīranārāyaṇasvāmi of Gadag and sincerely performed the pārāyaṇa[3] of the Kumāravyāsa Bhārata.

Narayana Rao’s was a huge family. He was an affluent man as well. A person who had witnessed the sorrows of family life. Due to the trials and tribulations of family life on the one hand and intense piety for the Supreme on the other, he had become gentle and humble. He was extremely generous and led a simple life. A man of few words. Time and again my mind reminisces about his goodness.

Gangadhara Rao

Deshapande Gangadhara Rao was a popular leader in both Karnataka and Maharashtra. Apart from being a rich landlord, he had also practiced as a lawyer. A well-built man with a lovely skin tone. He was among the most favourite of Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s assistants.

It was perhaps at Bagalkote or someplace else that I had heard his speech in Kannada. It was about politics. During the talk he profusely made fun of Srinivasa Shastri and other prominent people of the Madhyagami Party.[4] “These Madhyagamis deliver grand lecture supporting the ‘Kayade seer’ and ‘Sannad seer’ movements, speaking highly of them, don’t they? What have they achieved from the ‘Kayade seer’ movement? What has happened because of the ‘Sannad seer’ movement?” His discourse progressed in this tone. It was on that day I realised the power of Kannada to strongly inspire and awaken people. I don’t belong to Gangadhara Rao’s party. However, many a time I have wondered why god hadn’t gifted me with oratorical skills as powerful as his.

Kaujalagi Srinivasa Rao

Srinivasa Rao Kaujalagi was hailed by the people as the ‘Lion of Karnataka’ and ‘Tiger of Karnataka.’ He was as brave as a lion and would roar like a tiger. He was not a man of many words. His words would result in decisions. Kaujalagi was a truthful, generous, and diligent worker. A complex situation arose during the Raichur conference. A certain group of people from Manvi, a nearby village, was opposed to the conference. Many citizens living in the city of Raichur who hailed from the same community also looked upon the conference with disdain.

Somewhere near Manvi, there’s a temple of Jagannatha. It has the vṛndāvana[5] of the famous haridāsa, Jagannatha Dasa. An image of Basavanna is carved on the frontal face of the wooden chariot belonging to that temple. The images of elephants, horses, and others were there too. Even so, the idol of Basavanna in place of a charioteer was the cause of discontent.

Kaujalagi Srinivasa Rao received the news of the situation. He travelled to Manvi as well as to Raichur, visited every house of those opposing the conference, spoke to everyone individually, and within a span of a day and a half, he reassured everyone and convinced them to attend the conference. In his willingness to serve the land and the language, his ego and self-image had been completely erased.

On another occasion before the Raichur conference, perhaps in Bijapur, a proposal of mine was supposed to come before the conference. At that point, Srinivasa Rao and I didn’t know each other by face. Srinivasa Rao had come to the place where we were lodging and was in conversation with one of his friends. Meanwhile, the topic of my proposal surfaced. That proposal of mine was concerning the renovation of the Pampa region. The building repairs, the facilities necessary for travellers, and other such details had been mentioned in the proposal. Srinivasa Rao asked his friend, “Whose proposal is this man?”

I told him that it was mine and then told him my name. Srinivasa Rao asked, “Have you seen Hampi?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“In that case you better visit Hampi first and then write the proposal. With a mere glance of the proposal it becomes evident that the person doesn’t know the subject properly. Even if our State pledges its budget completely to this Pampa renovation, ignoring all other activities, not even a hundredth of what you’ve mentioned in your proposal can be fulfilled. You must be mad!”

I was disappointed by the fact that such an eminent statesman spoke so discouragingly about the plan of action that I had prepared so enthusiastically.

The following year I went to Hampi. With my own eyes I saw all the buildings, towers, channels, and ponds that were on my mind. I realized what a pragmatic and objective person Srinivasa Rao was. There were several people who had perused my proposal before he had. Many of them had also visited Hampi a couple of times. Even to them my plan might have appeared impractical. However, the courage to say that could only be mustered by Srinivasa Rao.

This is an English translation of the twentieth chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 3 – Sahityopasakaru. Thanks to Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh reviewing the translation and offering valuable suggestions. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.

 

Footnotes

[1] DVG perhaps wrote this piece in the late 1960s.

[2] Modern-day Kadapa.

[3] Refers to the recitation of traditional works.

[4] Possibly a reference to the Indian Liberal Party, which V S Srinivasa Sastri established along with Tej Bahadur Sapru in 1922.

[5] Final resting place of a saṃnyāsi or saint.

 

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:

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.