The Two Parties
This controversy raged on quite intensely. Several public meetings were held by the prominent citizens of the State, countless petitions were filed, and innumerable newspaper articles were published. People believed that M Venkatakrishnayya was the leader of the party that wanted the Mahārāṇī—and no one else—to be the regent. Rumours were rife that Ambale Annayya Pandita, who was Seshadri Iyer’s wife’s relative, was the leader of the other faction.
According to a few, the allegation of selfishness against Seshadri Iyer might have been due to a feeling of intolerance towards others, which germinates as a result of a high sense of self-esteem. The fear of losing the State of Mysore sparked a sense of doubt in the fanatic Mysoreans, who felt that Seshadri Iyer, an outside, might hinder their intentions; with a view to resolve this suspicion, they made several allegations against Iyer: this was the argument of one of the parties.
Now it is not possible to examine the arguments, weigh their merits, and infer what the reality was then. Whatever the reality might have been, it is an indisputable fact that the environment, for some time, was quite unfavorable to Seshadri Iyer. An equally indubitable truth is that once the decision was made and the Mahārāṇī assumed regency, Seshadri Iyer heartily accepted it, and in all obedience to the Mahārāṇī, conducted himself with absolute loyalty. He remained the Dewan for six years under the Mahārāṇī’s regency.
Was it Favouritism?
While one complaint against Seshadri Iyer was concerned with his disregard for democracy, the other was about the special accommodations he provided to people from the Madras Province.
During his early days, Seshadri Iyer hardly knew any Mysoreans. Secondly, there weren’t many competent people amongst Mysoreans during those days. After all, English education first started in Madras, didn’t it? That was the reason why English education had spread widely across many regions such as Madras and Kumbakonam. Owing to these reasons, there had been occasions when Seshadri Iyer brought people from Madras to Bangalore. There were also instances where they have occupied many a plump post. Following them, several dependents came – like the traditional saying ‘First, a rat mother, then, a rat father, and then, a rat grandmother.’ In this manner, various professional roles such as those of cooks, attendants, small-time clerks, and writers were filled by Tamilians. Nobody can say that the sense of displeasure amongst Mysoreans about their homes being intruded by outsiders was unjustified. From this grew the great ‘Mysorean versus Madrasi’ conflict. For a few years, it raged like a wildfire. With passage of time, as the non-Mysoreans settled down permanently in the Kingdom of Mysore, they became naturalized citizens. This conflict ended during Visvesvaraya’s tenure.
Sincerity and Good Conduct
In his personal life, Seshadri Iyer was a distinguished nobleman. He was clean in his dealings. If he ever heard any news of corruption or bribery, he would become furious and spare no effort in finding the culprits and penalizing them.
Seshadri Iyer was not negligent about rituals and beliefs that he had inherited by tradition. However, during his early days, apparently he never showed any keenness towards traditional customs and practices.
The Impact of the Esteemed Annie Besant
The venerable Annie Besant was the most popular amongst the leaders of the Theosophical Society. A few people say that Seshadri Iyer’s mind transformed due to the lectures about divinity that Annie Besant delivered during her visit to Bangalore. That may be true. Annie Besant was an influential orator and possessed great knowledge of science. She apparently delivered her speeches in the premises of the District Office, Bangalore. The first discourse made a lasting impression on the minds of thousands of people, who showered praises on her oration.
This news reached Seshadri Iyer’s ears and kindled his curiosity. He attended the remaining two of Annie Besant’s lectures. He was extremely elated upon listening to her. Her words about the significance of the Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā deeply impacted his mind. Thereafter, he met her in person and spoke to her. That incident, people believe, was one of the most divine incidents of his life.
Audience with the the Jagadguru of Sringeri
Within a few weeks of this [i.e., Besant’s speech], Seshadri Iyer travelled to Sringeri and met Śrī Saccidānanda Śivābhinava Nṛsiṃha Bhāratī Mahāsvāmī. He shared all his doubts and suspicions with the jagadguru. He felt a sense of relief from the jagadguru’s answers. Ever since, Seshadri Iyer was counted as one of the most promiment of disciples of the Śṛṅgeri Sannidhānam. He used to visit Sringeri often for guru-darśana [vision of the teacher]. He describes the time he spent in conversation with the jagadguru as the most cherished opportunity of his life.
I have heard about another incident from a reliable source. ‘Kumara Bhavana’ – the name of Seshadri Iyer’s house – is derived from a part of his own name. The complete form of his name is ‘Kumarapuram Seshadri Iyer.’ Kumarapuram is probably his place of birth. ‘Kumāra’ is another name for Lord Subrahmaṇya. I have heard that it was Comptroller Erode Subbarayar who prepared the plan of Kumara Bhavana and had it neatly constructed. It is the same Government Building/Choultry that is popularly known today as ‘Kumara Park’ and ‘Kumara Krupa.’
The house construction was complete but alas, the lady of the house (Sir K Seshadri Iyer’s wife) was not ready to reside there. She expressed her discontent with those who were close to hear. Subbarayar, Srikanteshwara Iyer, and many others pleaded with her in a variety of ways. Seshadri Iyer's wife apparently said the following –
“The region in which you have got the house constructed is a wild jungle. It has no neighborhood. Neither brāhmaṇas nor married women will ever visit the house. There is no temple in the vicinity. I won’t be able to come to such a building. Whoever wishes to go may go and live there. I will stay where I am!”
After realizing that she continued to be obstinate in such a manner, it took several days of discussions to finally convince her. Herculean efforts were made by relatives and friends to change her mind. In the end, she announced her decision thus –
“Devatārcanā should be conducted the three times a day. During Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, Kuṃkumārcanā, Sahasranāmārcanā, Sūrya-namaskāra, and Rudrābhiṣeka should be conducted without fail. Once a week, pūjā has to be offered to married women and brāhmaṇas, and every afternoon, the Purāṇas or the epics such as the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata should be narrated and sung. I will be happy to come there only if my husband agrees to all these things.”
To be continued...
This is the sixth part of an English translation of the third chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 4 – Mysurina Diwanaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.