Gundopanth Road—Abode of Renowned Vidwans

Diwan Gundopanth Road[i] in Bangalore lies to the north of City Market when we traverse from Arcot Srinivasacharlu Road towards Doddapet. The word “Diwan” has been in vogue in the Kannada language for a really long period. I’m unware of the root language from which this was borrowed into Kannada. The word is prevalent even in Marathi and Hindi. Its usage is in the following sense: “The chief of any office or organization,” or “head of office.” We can discern this meaning in the usage, “Diwan of a Matha.” In the era of Chief Commissioners in the Mysore [Princely] State, the office manager used to be addressed as “Diwan.” For example: Diwan Krishnam Naidu. Purnaiah, the Prime Minister of Nawabs Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan, too occupied the same position. Accordingly, in the era of Commissioners, the Diwan of their office was Sri Gundopanth. I’ve heard two stories with regard to Sri Gundopanth:

  1. In his time, the taxes and levies that people had to pay to the Government increased significantly. The outcome was a poem on democracy in Telugu: “GundopantuNi diwAnagirilO daMDagameMDAye.”
  2. It appears that Sri Gundopanth was personally generous by nature. When a certain seeker went to him asking for money, he gave him half a rupee (eight Annas). The seeker wasn’t satisfied and exclaimed, “Gundopantulu ardha rUpAya!” meaning, “Gundopanth’s Rupee was halved!” At this, Sri Gundopanth’s courage and brilliance was diminished. He thought again and added another half rupee and gave it to him. The seeker was then satisfied and said, “Gundopantulu hO rUpAya!” Now Sri Gundopanth’s courage and brilliance returned and became whole.

[The phrase “Gundopantulu ardha rUpAya!” has two meanings: (1) Does Sri Gundopanth give only half  a rupee? Is he worth only so much? (2) Sri Gundopanth’s brilliance was reduced to half. Equally, the phrase “Gundopantulu hO rUpAya!” has two meanings: (1) Sri Gundopanth returned to his full, undivided form. (2) Sri Gundopanth gave a full[ii] rupee.] There’s also the phrasal variation of “pUrNarUpAya” in the aforementioned poem. This instance shows the impact of poetic language. As the [Sanskrit poet] Bhavabhuti has said,

kavInAm punarAdyAnAm vAcamarthOnudhAvati || Events occur according to the diktats of the words flowing from the poet’s mouth.

This was how Diwan Sri Gundopanth became famous. He hailed from the Madhwa Deshastra Brahmana sect. There’s also an Agraharam near the outskirts of Bangalore named “Gundopantha Agraharam.” Sri Gundopanth’s house was located in the middle of the cluster of houses in the northern portion of the road named after him. The printery named Irish Press and the office of the Karnataka paper were housed in that building for a few years. After that, the office of The Mysore Economic Review, a journal published by the political historian extraordinaire, “Rao Bahadur” Hayavadana Rao, was run from the same building. Much later, the banana market and similar commercial establishments began operating from there.

The Singing of Sri Sadashiva Rao

During Sri Gundopanth’s period, various Pujas, celebrations, felicitations and charitable meals for Brahmanas used to be a regular occurrence in that building. Sri Bharati Sampangiramaiah once told me that a grand musical concert took place in the hall on the first floor—now the location of the Karnataka office. The artist that sang in the concert was the renowned musician-composer Mysore Sadashiva Rao. The audience was packed, overflowing. The niche in the easterly wall of that hall was resplendent with a beautiful picture of Sri Krishna—I’ve also seen this picture. His Majesty, the Emperor Sri Krishna had placed one arm each around the shoulder of his two consorts, Radha and Rukmini. The picture was an exquisite work painted in Rajavarti[iii] colours. The picture’s dimension measured about four or five feet. It was encased in glass with a door in front. On the occasion of Puja or Bhajan, the door was opened and the picture was decorated. Sri Sadashiva Rao sat in front of it and started to sing the composition, “NarasimhuDu udayiMcenu.” Goosebumps coursed through the audience. Sri Sadashiva Rao was fired by this. He took up the caraNa phrase, “nIdu paramAdbhutamaina” and sang it in a high pitch praising the Bhagavan with devotional fervor. Apparently, the flame of the lamps in front of the picture intensified to a sudden blaze at this. The glass around the picture cracked with a clinking sound even as the audience watched in amazement. Not only were the people there stunned, they also experienced the power of devotion. Sri Sadashiva Rao got up, performed the Arati and sang the Mangalam, the composition indicating the closure of the concert.

Siddi Katte

Purnaiah’s charitable hall, a well, and a temple are located to the east of Sri Gundopanth’s house. Readers are requested to bear this in mind. “Vidyanidhi” Sri Vasudeva Sastri’s house was bang in-between Sri Gundopanth’s house and Purnaiah’s hall. That general region is known as Siddi Katte. In those days, there were localities of both Madhwa and Smarta Brahmanas in that region. It is for this reason that importance accrued to the aforementioned charitable hall. Sri Vasudeva Sastri’s home was the headquarters of Smarta Brahmanas while Purnaiah’s hall was the capital of Madhawa Brahmanas. Both places were filled to the brim with students and those seeking food.

A Fight

Because Smarta and Madhwa youths were such close neighbours, the spectacle resembled two clay pots tied at each end of a rope and made to collide with each other. Heated arguments erupted between them every day. This typically took the following shape: “Shankaracharya did this!” claimed a Madhwa. To which, “Madhwacharya did that!” claimed a Smarta. “Shankaracharya’s position was condemned by Madhwacharya in this manner!” “The same thing that Madhwacharya condemned was countered by Sureshwaracharya like this!” On occasion, such arguments and counter-arguments would reach a feverish pitch. One day, in the heat of such arguments, the debaters lost patience and took to blows. That escalated into a real brawl. A random person brought the police along. The police arrested both parties, put them in prison and presented them before the City Magistrate, Sri Vaidyanatha Iyer. He patiently listened to the case and investigated it with compassion. Then he addressed the prisoners: “What’s all this! In what period did Shankaracharya flourish and where? And in what period did Madhwacharya flourish and where? Aren’t you aware of this simple fact?” Answer: “We don’t know.” V: “Still you resorted to hooliganism without the basic knowledge of time and space! Good. Because you’re all very young, I don’t want to punish you severely. If you write me an undertaking that you will behave in an appropriate manner henceforth, I will release all of you.” The prisoners happily agreed. In this manner, the students were released after they wrote a Good Behaviour Bond, valid for one year. That sort of hooliganism was never repeated. This is the English translation of the tenth chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 5 titled “Vaidikadharma Sampradayastharu.” Translated by Sandeep Balakrishna.

Notes:

[i] Since known merely as “Gundopanth Road.” [ii] The word “rUpa” in Indian languages means “form.” [iii] Rajavarti is a gemstone, light blue in colour.

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:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.