Introduction to the Life and Legacy of D V Gundappa

This article is part 1 of 57 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

ಅಸಮದಲಿ ಸಮತೆಯನು ವಿಷಮದಲಿ ಮೈತ್ರಿಯನು ।
ಅಸಮಂಜಸದಿ ಸಮನ್ವಯ ಸೂತ್ರ ನಯವ ॥
ವೆಸನಮಯ ಸಂಸಾರದಲಿ ವಿನೋದವ ಕಾಣ್ಬ ।
ರಸಿಕತೆಯೆ ಯೋಗವಲೊ - ಮಂಕುತಿಮ್ಮ ॥

To find equality in disparity, harmony in oddities,
A gentle strand of reconciling strife,
To find joy in the melancholy of worldly existence –
This attitude of refined taste verily is Yoga – Mankutimma

Given the vast expanse of his work, the sweep of his accomplishments, and the elevating quality of his entire life, one could begin anywhere but the aforementioned verse is among the most representative. It encapsulates and epitomizes the vision, work, legacy, and life of the philosopher-poet-litterateur-statesman who wrote it: Devanahalli Venkataramanaiah Gundappa or D V Gundappa or simply, DVG. 

This essay marks the beginning of a humble attempt to honour and commemorate his multi-hued, eventful and noble legacy spread over nearly seven decades set primarily on the vast canvas of Bharata and Bharatiyata. With the sheer dint of his spotless life, writing, and Loka Sangraha, he gradually came to be known simply as DVG, the three letters uttered reverentially, lovingly, even today by millions of Kannada-speaking people across the globe.

But the chief difficulty in this attempt is the nature of the legacy itself. DVG was a journalist, editor, chronicler, biographer, poet, intellectual, litterateur, critic, scholar, philosopher, preceptor, polyglot, statesman, freedom fighter, and an honest, detached witness of his era. He was all these but he had also transcended all these. Indeed, to what specific facet does one attribute the grandeur of a lush and sprawling forest or the majesty of mountain-peaks? Likewise, how does one couch DVG’s all-encompassing legacy without the trepidation of doing injustice to even one of these facets?

Cyncial Times

As a reflection of the melancholic and cynical period we currently live in, it is indeed a travesty that today, DVG’s name is completely unknown beyond Karnataka. Even in Karnataka, his renown rests primarily (and deservedly) on his 1943 magnum opus, “Mankuthimmana Kagga,” (“Foggy Fool’s Farrago,” in DVG’s own translation) a collection of independent contemplative verses on such topics as the meaning of life, fate, philosophy, God, and creation.

Which is why it might be surprising even to the people of Karnataka to learn that during his lifetime, DVG was associated with such greats as Sir M Visweswarayya, “Right Honourable” V S Srinivasa Sastri, Sir M Puttanna Chetty, Sajjan Rao, Dr. B R Ambedkar, C. Rajagopalachari, M S Subbulakshmi, and had closely worked with at least four Diwans of the Mysore Princely State. What is also mostly unknown is how he was part of several relief efforts in combating large-scale epidemics like influenza and tuberculosis. DVG also officiated as a Purohita in widow remarriages, a “sin” that invited social ostracism in those days. These facets even taken together are but the proverbial tip of the iceberg of his oceanic bequest to this country, its society, civilization, culture, ethos and history, to put it broadly.

What has equally been buried, not under the sands of time, but under wanton national neglect, is the corpus of his journalistic and political writing, which alone run up to over three thousand pages. This includes books and essays on political philosophy and statesmanship, critiques of policy, open letters, reports, editorials, (transcribed) speeches, monographs, and reviews and must be made prescribed reading for students and teachers today.

A distinctive mark of these writings is their innate power to elevate the reader from the mundane and the mediocre to the lofty and the enduring. For instance, DVG adorns the rather dry subject of politics and policy with an originality that bestows a literary and philosophical quality to it.

A Three-tiered Legacy

Given this expansive scope, one can regard the legacy of DVG from the three-tiered perspective that his life and work represents:

  1. Public Life: as a journalist, statesman and political philosopher
  2. Litterateur: as a poet, dramatist, writer, translator and author
  3. Philosopher: as a commentator on the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and other philosophical lore.
Hampi-Image courtesy:- Google Image search

Bharata has seen very few personalities who embodied all these facets as a unified whole both within themselves as well as reflected them in their life and work. In this, it is not farfetched to claim that DVG follows in the path set by Maharshi Vidyaranya, the iconic inspiration and spiritual founding father of the grand Vijayanagara Empire.

The world of journalism and public life is essentially a world of speed: of day-to-day, routine events occurring unceasingly at a rapid pace—events which give rise to new ones or are a consequence of prior events, or entirely new events which supplant or distract the world’s attention away from prior ones.

The world of literature on the other hand, is much slower. Literature in its purest definition must have an enduring, insightful, and universal quality to it. In essence, good literature, in the words of Shelley, “pierces the veil” of everyday events and worldly upheavals by holding its thumb over the pulse that drives them: the interplay of human impulses, emotions, and passions. In the realm of Indian thought, these impulses can be distilled into just two concepts: Artha (wealth) and Kama (any kind of desire). In the “real” world, they are transmuted as wealth, fame, and position. Thus, fame can be defamed, positions can be pulled down, and wealth, eroded. And the twin impulses that drive Artha and Kama are Raga (attachment, avarice, greed) and Dwesha (hatred, enmity). In this manner, literature also shows a mirror to the interplay of Raga and Dwesha by eliciting responses within the reader to this interplay.

This contemplation enters the realm of philosophy when we inquire into the causes that produce Raga and Dwesha. These causes in turn, are couched in the term, Gunatraya, or the three Gunas (attributes) of Sattva (peace, equanimity, serenity), Rajas (vigour, passion, zest), and Tamas (laziness, stupor). The imbalance of Gunatraya is what causes Raga and Dwesha. Gunatraya in turn is the characteristic (Lakshana) of Jiva or Life. And the Absolute (Parama) characteristic of Jiva is Sacchidananda (Unqualified, Eternal Joy or Bliss). This then is the manner in which one can trace and elevate the banal worldly events, tribulations and turbulence to the level of pure philosophy. This method is also known as the sopana krama: step-wise deduction.

Unsleeping Insight

This then was DVG’s approach: of regarding one of these three aspects in the light of or with reference to the other two. For example, of regarding a problem related to public life in the light of literature and philosophy. Or extrapolating and analyzing a literary tenet or episode to a political or social occurrence. Or expounding on say, a verse of the Bhagavad Gita with a contemporary incident. The great strength that this approach brings is the insight that it provides in evolving a solution or course correction to contemporary problems.

This philosophical quality that permeates almost all writings of DVG was not accidental, deliberate or laboured: it was intrinsic and natural like a mathematical constant because DVG had realized it within himself.  One is reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s observation[1] about Henry David Thoreau:

If [Thoreau]…defied the opinions of others, it was only that he was more intent to reconcile his practice with his own belief… Never idle or self-indulgent...[h]e chose to be rich by making his wants few… there was an excellent wisdom in him, proper to a rare class of men, which showed him the material world as a means and symbol. This discovery, which sometimes yields to poets a certain casual and interrupted light, serving for the ornament of their writing, was in him an unsleeping insight His soul was made for the noblest society… wherever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a home. [Emphasis added]

Roots in Vedanta

In an age when the Yogipratyaksha or mysticism of Sri Aurobindo and numerous other mystic Gurus and Swamis gained enormous currency, DVG not only stuck to his roots in Vedanta, he disseminated it widely, wrote, presented and re-presented its integral values variously: as essays, monographs, expositions, and commentaries.

He never ventured into proclaiming a “new” philosophy or “school.” He trod the path of his senior contemporaries, the towering scholar-philosopher Prof M Hiriyanna, the Vedantin Swami Sacchidanandendra Saraswati, and Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. Like them, his unshakeable roots in Vedanta made him realize that the prophets and heralds of “new” philosophies were innately enamoured by Rupa (form) and not Swarupa (nature, substance, spirit). Epiphanies and revelations are neither unquestionable nor eternal. Therefore, merely because Vedantic concepts are ancient or age-old is not reason enough to discard them in the quest of elusive newness. The quality of antiquity also means that they will not change in essence or substance. One only needs to provide new commentary or explanation to suit the jargon of the contemporary age. Equally, this contemporary-age commentary must be rooted in and faithful to verifiable experience (anubhavanishTa).

Prof M Hiriyanna accomplished this feat most notably in the realm of aesthetics in works such as Art Experience, and Indian Conception of Values.

Other stalwarts accomplished the same in their chosen fields: for example, Gopal Krishna Gokhale in public life, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa in the spiritual realm, and Swami Vivekananda in rejuvenating the Hindu society and heritage.

But most of these stalwarts, with due respect to their matchless contributions, left behind an office, so to say. For example, Swami Vivekananda built the Ramakrishna Mission and incessantly travelled far and wide. While he was a Sanyasin of the highest order, the fact remains that Sanyasa is also an office that brings with it all the concomitant challenges.

The Fulfilment of Life

DVG charted a different but complementary course. He not only accomplished what the aforementioned eminences did in their respective realms but straddled their realms in a unifying sense. In a manner of speaking, he embellished their work with what’s known as the Fulfilment of Life.

DVG-Image courtesy:- Google Image search

DVG never traveled widely. Much before India attained independence, this untiring conscience-keeper and Yogi of public life completely withdrew from it. Neither was his vision of public life based on the sort of dry theorizing that has become commonplace today. The following is a representative sample of this vision elucidated in his masterly Rajya Shastra (Political Philosophy), where avers[2] that:

…it is yet to be known how the Communist ideology actually works in Russia. Set aside Government announcements; it is but natural that they [will be] in favour of the Government. But if we need to believe that they are honest, the evidence needs to come from elsewhere. Let the Communist ideology be as it is; under Communist rule, are commodities available in the markets in Russia? [If so], what are the prices? An ordinary clerk, schoolteacher, other people from the middle class, how do they carry on their daily life? What do they do during festivals and holidays? Is the food they eat tasty to the tongue? We require this sort of investigation. There’s not enough evidence available in this regard.  

Around the same period, the literature characterized by say, W.H. Auden and others began gaining worldwide popularity. It was essentially a literature of hopelessness, a negationism of life. Unfazed, DVG stuck to his roots: to the fact that the innate nature of Jiva (Life in the highest sense) is Joy or Ananda. Every work of DVG’s copious literary output underscores this quality.

His magnum opus, the versified long-poem, Mankutimmana Kagga is the distilled essence of his vision of the triad of philosophy-literature-public life. Although it appears didactic in nature, it is akin to a long monologue in verse narrated by a person to himself. Kagga is essentially a contemplative work and therefore, non-prescriptive. Coincidentally, Kagga was published in 1943, the same period during which DVG withdrew from active public life.

DVG uses images, allegories and metaphors drawn from daily life and draws from the vast bounty of rich repertoire of Indian proverbs, geographical elements and suchlike to expound difficult philosophical concepts. His commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Jivanadharma Yoga (The Yoga of the Dharma of Life) is the most remarkable example of this method. Other examples include his commentary on the Ishavasya Upanishad and the Purushasukta.

A Pioneering Approach to Traditional Commentary

This is a groundbreaking approach when we consider the fact that almost none of the traditional commentaries written for over centuries on these texts employ the said metaphors. More importantly, DVG also takes care of maintaining the reverence for these past masters both in traditional circles and common parlance. For instance, he regards the Bhagavad Gita as a Dharma Sastra while tradition continues to consider it a Moksha (Spiritual Liberation) Sastra. While this is a departure from strict tradition, he not only reconciles[3] this departure with sound reasoning but shows how the two approaches are complementary and not opposed to each other.

The burden that we must carry in the present time is that of the travails of the material world. Earning a living to satisfy hunger, shelter, and clothing…loans and taxes, unremitting work…loss of traditions and customs…never ending worries have become our fate. Amidst such ceaseless disturbances, where then is the space and time for contemplating about things like Moksha? Given this, does the Bhagavad Gita help us? If it does, only then will it have some value.


The fact that it does have this value is evident from its own words. Although our ancient masters and commentators have laid emphasis on Moksha, they have equally stressed on the fact that the Upadesha (Teaching) of the Bhagavad Gita is useful and valuable to worldly life.

Dharma is the most accurate guide to lead our lives in the world. Dharma and Moksha are inseparable from each other. Dharma is the prerequisite for attaining Moksha; and Moksha is the flowering, fruition, and fulfilment of Dharma. Therefore, what was regarded as the text of Moksha by our ancients has become the Dharmasastra in our own time.        

DVG also infuses aspects drawn from the social and political milieu in Jivanadharma Yoga—for instance, in the portion dealing with Arjuna’s moral dilemma and the inevitability of the war which was forcibly, unjustly thrust upon the Pandavas. Equally, DVG doesn’t lose sight of the poetic beauty of the Bhagavad Gita. This becomes evident when we read the verses he composed using a mixture of prose and poetry to extoll its greatness as also his liberal usage of analogy, humour, and mirth. If one needs to explain Sastra (philosophy, in the highest sense) effectively and engagingly, it needs to be direct, simple, and clear. Thus, when we regard DVG’s work in this sphere, it becomes clear that he was endowed with the clarity of contemplation required for philosophy and the compassion of heart required for poetry.

Tireless Exponent of Dharma

Dharma is the other major sphere of the Indian ethos to which DVG has bestowed lasting contributions which are truly original and exemplary. The term “Adhidharma” is his own coinage not found in our traditional works on philosophy.

In his typical self-effacing manner, DVG explains how he derived this term from the annals of the selfsame traditional lore. When the Upasarga, or prefix, “adhi” (besides, after, upon, above, over and above, etc) is added to “dharma,” we derive “adhidharma.” But when we consider the fact that Dharma is itself a relative term, we obtain greater clarity about DVG’s coinage. If Dharma becomes absolute, it will be akin to Moksha. In this light, the term, “adhidharmaindicates the absolute nature of Dharma itself as a value of sustenance. Therefore, various other Dharmas and their relative status to one another like Putra (Son) Dharma, Pitr (Ancestors) Dharma, and Apaddharma (Dharma during emergencies) can be seen in the light of Adhidharma. In fact, DVG himself provides an oblique explanation[4] for Adhidharma in his note on the renowned verse, Traigunya vishayA vedhAh (Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2: 45):

The various Dharmas and Karmas enumerated in the Vedic and Sastra lore relate to fruits emanating therefrom. Those who desire for Heaven (Swarga), wealth, etc perform such Dharmas and Karmas. But you (O Arjuna) perform the same Dharmas without any desire for the fruits ensuing therefrom. That is when your actions become Adhidharma…you aspire to become someone who has transcended the Three Gunas [Sattva, Rajas and Tamas explained earlier in this essay].     

Nature and Features of DVG’s Body of Work

If one were to characterize DVG’s body of work from another perspective, the following features and themes emerge:

  • AklisTa Karma: The attribute of doing all work (Karma)—big and small—without complaint or tears.
  • Satya and Soundarya: Or Truth and Beauty. Although his writings have a quality of all-encompassing abundance, they are also characterized with an innate beauty while explaining profound truths. DVG’s view was that unless a work is endowed with beauty, it won’t appeal to the proverbial common man.
  • Jivanotkarsha: Or exuberance of life. This attribute can be termed as the central theme of his work. DVG regarded life itself as a precious good, a value to be pursued and upheld for its own sake. It was the exuberance of the spirit, not of the matter.

These aspects illuminate themselves when we notice the kind of people that DVG regarded as ideals. He paid rich, lyrical, and generous tributes to heroes like Parashurama, Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, and Sri Vidyaranya who upheld Dharma. He celebrated Rishis and saints such as Valmiki, Veda Vyasa, Maharshi Kanwa and Thyagaraja. Nor were they outside the purview of his critical scrutiny as evidenced for example, by his Sri Rama Parikshanam, and Sri Krishna Parikshanam.

Sri Vidyaranya represents an ideal in which we discern a beautiful mix of intense enjoyment in the external world and profound contemplation within one’s own self. The contrast and paradox is truly sublime: when intense sensual enjoyment doesn’t lead to inner contemplation, it becomes mere exhibitionism, and when contemplation becomes exhibitionism, it results in unadulterated hypocrisy.

His Antahpura Geethagalu (Song of the Harem), and Jivana Soundarya Mattu Sahitya (Beauty of Life and Literature) among others, fleshes out very useful insights derived from a heartfelt exploration of truth and beauty in its various manifestations and dimensions. One key insight derived from his explorations is the fact that truth must attain the manifestation of beauty and beauty must graduate to truth.

Even his political and journalistic corpus reflect this same all-inclusive philosophical outlook. At every turn, we see DVG advocating individual or self-empowerment in the sense that as a democracy, we must first be deserving of governing ourselves. And at every turn, he emphasizes duties over rights because every person is endowed with rights bestowed upon us by nature. However, duties must evolve within ourselves with conscious effort, as part of culture. Therefore, culture in tune with nature (in the sense of Rta) must constantly monitor all aspects of a person’s life. It is this wholesome view that made DVG fully realize the status of Indians as subjects of the British imperial power. It is also the reason he never endorsed Gandhianism fully. His opinion piece in the aftermath of Gandhi’s reckless statements following the Vidurashwatha police firing [6] is a good example of DVG’s worldview in the realm of politics and public life.

In today’s parlance, the moniker of “cultural conservative” would be applied to DVG. However that maybe, the fact is that DVG didn’t want anarchy to develop in any system: all change had to be gradual and deliberated upon. He was strictly against change for its own sake or because it had to meet a temporary demand or fad. DVG was opposed to any change that would cause needless turmoil and turbulence among the masses. Needless, this is perfectly consonant with the timeless Indian spirit of admonishing violent revolution as an agent of change.

Advocate of Dharma in Politics

Few have contributed as much as DVG to educating the Indian people about a new political system called democracy at a time when it was wholly alien to India. Equally, few have shown how this new system must be adapted to a nearly-unbroken and centuries'-long tradition of Indian polity as brilliantly as DVG. Like many other eminent statesmen and political thinkers of his time, DVG repeatedly warned against the disasters of blindly following the Western (mainly, British) system of democracy. The contemporary period is the living illustration of this warning which went unheeded.

Image courtesy:- Google Image search

Indeed, DVG’s entire corpus of political writing was inextricably rooted in classical Indian thought. His classic, Rajyanga Tattvagalu (Principles of Statecraft) begins with the invocation from the Taittirya Brahmana of the Yajur Veda (the portion dealing with the Ashwamedha Yaga), which he fittingly titles as the “National Anthem of the Rishis.” It is this same spirit of the Rishis that moved DVG to pen Swatantra Bharata Abhinandana Stava (A Hymn Celebrating Independent Bharata) an extraordinary paneygric in verse on the night that Bharata finally attained freedom.

It is therefore unsurprising that DVG elevates political philosophy, statecraft, statesmanship, and public life in general to the standard of a Darshana (loosely translated as philosophy) in the finest traditions of Sri Krishna, Kautilya, and Sri Vidyaranya, which holds Dharma as both the pulse and the spirit that guides politics and public life: in institutions as well as people. The scholar and literary critic, H M Nayak offers a valuable observation[7] in this regard:

Dharma is greater than the state. In reality, the state is just one part of Dharma. From this perspective, Rajya Sastra [Political Philosophy] and Dharma Sastra aren’t different or separate from one another. Those who wish to separate Dharma from Politics know neither politics nor Dharma. It is impossible for politics to exist without Dharma. But a lot of confusion has ensued because people are unaware of how the two need to be integrated…DVG had no such confusion…those who read DVG’s writings will clearly understand the substance of Dharma and will also discern how [Dharma] can be used to distill and purify politics. [Emphasis added]

To the contemporary mind, such conceptions and notions may appear fantastic and idealistic, even. However, unless we have this ideal at least in our working consciousness, we will have no goal that has any value beyond, for example, increasing the material prosperity of the nation. In DVG’s own words, this goal in politics like in life was “dhanyateya betakaata,” or the quest after fulfilment.

Personality, Character and Life

This quest reflected itself in myriad ways in DVG’s personality itself. A significant repository of anecdotes and writing regarding various facets of his life has been left behind by DVG’s contemporaries and a large swathe of disciples that he attracted. Among others, this list of DVG's contemporaries includes such stalwarts as Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, V Sitaramaiah, Shivarama Karanth, A R Krishna Sastri, and T S Venkannayya. His prominent disciples include luminaries like D R Venkataramanan, Padmanabhan, and Dr. S R Ramaswamy, who is the only surviving link to DVG.

In his Virakta Rashtraka (The Renunciate Nationalist), D R Venkataramanan brilliantly recounts[8] how DVG “bestowed upon me an accurate and comprehensive vision of the philosophy of life.” This also finds an echo in Dr. S R Ramaswamy’s note[9] that DVG’s contact by itself would “inculcate Samskara, or culture and refinement.” In turn, this faculty for infusing culture and values in others stemmed from DVG’s innermost convictions developed very early in his life. D R Venkataramanan traces the seeds of these convictions by quoting DVG’s own[10] words:

Since childhood, whenever I used to spot Jogis, Dasayyas, Bairagis, Sanyasins, Fakirs, I would think, “when can even I wander around like them with nary a worry?” – like caged monkeys think. What attracted me most in that unfettered mendicant lifestyle was their absolute freedom from worries. Not for a second did they worry about “will I get food tonight?”, “where will I be in the morning?” An abiding and total faith and conviction in some ideal. And because that conviction was strong, absolute courage, and unchained mind set. It was this enthusiasm for the non-worldly that revolved within my inner self.

D R Venkataramanan then narrates[11] how on various occasions, he and several others had seen DVG singing devotional songs, Kritis, etc with an Iktara (one-stringed musical instrument) as an accompaniment, and how he always kept a Rudraksha garland, and a Saligramam deity under his pillow.

But DVG didn’t follow the path of the Sanyasins and the Bairagis and the Yogis. On the contrary, he became so deeply inseparable with the world that he knew at least one person drawn from every conceivable walk of life: Sanyasins, heads of Mathas, politicians, Diwans, freedom fighters, judges, lawyers, mediapersons, writers, musicians, dancers, potters, cart-pullers, vegetable and fruit vendors, barbers, courtesans…he had the names of their family members and even far relatives on the tip of his tongue. On occasion, he would converse for hours with any one of them: on topics as mundane as the weather, crop, the person's health, news from their native villages, various happenings in the circles of their family and relatives, etc.

If this wasn’t enough, he used to reply to every single letter he received from different corners of the country. He always offered a kind word, sage counsel, and consolation for everybody who wrote to him. None returned empty-handed. It was this sort of prolific letter-writing that lead his close friend, K. Sampathgiri Rao[12] to remark that

Gokhale, Sivaswami Aiyar, Srinivasa Sastri, Gundappa—these Liberals have contributed more towards the enrichment of the Postal Exchequer than anyone else. These are all literally men of letters.    

This is Loka Sangraha of the tallest and noblest order, and the purest form of lived Karma Yoga. Writes D R Venkataramanan[13], “God did not grant the mendicant’s life that DVG so craved. This became the country’s great fortune.”

Giraffe Eats Only the Topmost Foliage

Dr. S R Ramaswamy briefly, pithily lists the chief qualities that contributed to and characterized DVG as a person:

  • Simple living
  • Unceasing, penance-like pursuit of letters
  • Lively conduct
  • Friendship
  • Love of the arts such as music and poetry
  • Reverence for scholarship
  • Mirth and laughter
  • Non-jealousy
  • Unselfishness
  • Nationalistic thought

It was these qualities[14] that made “his character far loftier than all his published writings. To those who had earned the fortune of being with him in close quarters, he was an inexhaustible mine of wonder and surprise.” And in the words[15] of his contemporary V Sitaramaiah, “DVG was a giraffe. It eats nothing but the topmost foliage.”

Among numerous others, one specific instance brilliantly illuminates DVG’s character, attitude, and outlook towards life. DVG was a Member of the Mysore Legislative Council as long as Mirza Ismail was the Diwan (1926-41). After he retired, DVG decided to withdraw from public life completely and focus on reading and writing. But his close friends like K T Bashyam exerted enormous pressure to reconsider and said that they would arrange for the necessary funding, campaigning, and allied activities. DVG requested for a day’s time to think about it. Dr. S R Ramaswamy narrates[16] what happened next:

Contemplating on what was to be his next duty, DVG was strolling around in Cubbon Park in the afternoon. From a loudspeaker from afar (perhaps from some wedding function), his ears heard the strains of this Thyagaraja Kriti:

Oka mATa oka bANa
oka patnIvratuDE|
oka cittamu galavADE
oka nADunu maravakave|

[O My Mind] SrI rAma is wedded to one Word, one arrow and one wife. He is endowed with an unwavering mind.

DVG’s earlier resolve became unalterable the moment he heard these words from Thyagaraja. He withdrew from public life.   

Nor did he harbor or ascribe any greatness to his work or least of all, to himself. He lived and worked like an epitome of one of his favourite ideals encompassed in his poem, Vanasuma (Forest Flower). In a letter[17] to Sri Narasimha Murthy (who he regarded as his Atma Guru), DVG writes:

You ask whether I am conscious of any mission. What a question to ask!...I have always viewed life as a supreme ‘Leela’—sport if you please…how could I fall into the error of making a missionary of myself? It is only people wanting in modesty that conceive great ideas of themselves and their so called mission here. So you need have no fear whatever of my ever turning into that most insufferable of all bores, a man with a mission.  [Emphasis added]

Indeed, DVG was first of all, a Rasika, a connoisseur of food, fun, frolic, music, poetry, literature, and people. His numerous study circles attracted truckloads of people who would hang on to and savour his every word. His Sunday discourses on the Bhagavad Gita went on unremittingly for a record twenty-five years come sunshine or rain, whether he was in good health or had fallen ill. The agglomeration of these discourses emerged in book form as Srimad Bhagavad Gita Tatparya or Jivanadharma Yoga referred earlier in this essay.

A Modest Attempt to Recount DVG's Legacy and Life

It is in light of this introductory backdrop that this modest attempt at bringing out DVG’s multifaceted legacy will involve an in-depth examination of the following:

  • Philosophies, ideas and ideals that shaped his political views both in theory and practice.
  • Role as a freedom fighter, a chronicler, participant and eyewitness of the freedom struggle.
  • Insights as an observer and dispassionate critic of post-Independence politics of India.
  • Contribution as a political, social and cultural biographer.
  • Distinction as an advocate and practitioner of clean public life and as a statesman of global standing, and as a detached nationalist-philosopher who transcended all political and other currents.

Note: I owe an immense debt of gratitude to the indefatigable Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh who has patiently guided me, held my hand, and corrected my numerous errors and filled various shortcomings while preparing this essay.  My gratitude also extends to the young and brilliant scholar, Shashi Kiran B N.  And to the quiet and unassuming Rishi of our times Sri S. R. Ramaswamy, who chose to remain, in the finest tradition of DVG like a Vanasuma.

To be Continued


[1] Thoreau: Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Atlantic: August 1862)

[2] Pg 3, Munnudi: Rajya Shastra (DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5, Govt of Karnataka, 2013)

[3] D V Gundappa, Srimad Bhagavad Gita Tatparya or Jivanadharma Yoga (Kavyalaya Publishers, Mysore, 2007), pp 21—22. Extract translation by Sandeep Balakrishna.

[4] D V Gundappa, Srimad Bhagavad Gita Tatparya or Jivanadharma Yoga (Kavyalaya Publishers, Mysore, 2007), Pg 105. Extract translation by Sandeep Balakrishna.

[6] Vidurashwatha near Gauri Bidanur in Karnataka is known as the "Jallianwala Bagh of the South." On 25 April 1938, as a part of the freedom struggle of India, a group of villagers had congregated to organise a Satyagraha. The police fired indiscriminately at the group, resulting in the death of around 35 people. A memorial has been erected in this location bearing the names of those who lost their lives in this incident.

[7] H.M. Nayak, Munndi: Rajyashastra, RajyangaDVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013) Pg xix.

[8] D R Venkataramanan, Virakta Rashtraka DVG (Navakarnataka, 2014) Pg 28

[9] Dr. S R Ramaswamy, Divatigegalu (Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana, 2009) Pg 8.

[10] D V Gundappa, Hrudaya Sampannaru: Jnapaka Chitrashaale (Govt of Karnataka, 2013)

[11] D R Venkataramanan, Virakta Rashtraka DVG (Navakarnataka, 2014) Pg 29

[12] Dr. S R Ramaswamy, Divatigegalu (Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana, 2009) Pg 41.

[13] D R Venkataramanan, Virakta Rashtraka DVG (Navakarnataka, 2014) Pg 31

[14] Dr. S R Ramaswamy, Divatigegalu (Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana, 2009) Pg 5.

[15] Dr. S R Ramaswamy, Divatigegalu (Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana, 2009) Pg 1.

[16] Ibid, Pg 24

[17] Quoted in: D R Venkataramanan, Virakta Rashtraka DVG (Navakarnataka, 2014) Pg 113




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.

Prekshaa Publications

Indian Perspective of Truth and Beauty in Homer’s Epics is a unique work on the comparative study of the Greek Epics Iliad and Odyssey with the Indian Epics – Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. Homer, who laid the foundations for the classical tradition of the West, occupies a stature similar to that occupied by the seer-poets Vālmīki and Vyāsa, who are synonymous with the Indian culture. The author...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the sixth volume of reminiscences character sketches of prominent public figures, liberals, and social workers. These remarkable personages hailing from different corners of South India are from a period that spans from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Written in Kannada in the 1970s, these memoirs go...

An Introduction to Hinduism based on Primary Sources

Authors: Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh, Hari Ravikumar

What is the philosophical basis for Sanātana-dharma, the ancient Indian way of life? What makes it the most inclusive and natural of all religio-philosophical systems in the world?

The Essential Sanātana-dharma serves as a handbook for anyone who wishes to grasp the...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

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...