Rājakārya-prasakta Dewan Bahadur Sir M N Krishna Rao - part 1

According to one set of friends, the letters “M N” in M N Krishna Rao’s name stand for Maḍi [orthodoxy, purity, conservatism, discipline, ritualism] and Niyama [rule, principle, order, justice]. It hints at Krishna Rao’s nature. In all dealings and in all aspects – rules, estimation, conviction, and principle – this was Krishna Rao’s specialty.
One morning, around nine, I was sitting at a friend’s house in Basavanagudi. Let’s call him V. Beside his house lived another friend M. Though the houses were separate, the front yard was one large undivided area without partition. Hence, words spoken in the front yard were clearly audible in both houses.
My friend M, dressed and ready to leave for office, came into the front yard. At the same time, another friend R appeared at the gate. Then, the following conversation took place –
M: Hello Ayyangari, you are coming now! Where had you been?
R: I had been to M N Krishna Rao’s house. Thought of seeing you too, and came here.
M: Why do you trouble that brāhmaṇa?
R: You know, that note I have received, saying that I will retire in three months? I’d been there to see if something could be done about it.
M: Go tell that wall! If there is no blemish in your record, he will not put a spanner in the works. But if there is, he will not suppress it even if your grandfather comes back. What business do you have with such a person who upholds justice at all costs?”
I became curious upon hearing this. I came out and looked at both of them. All three of us laughed together.
What M said was an indirect assessment.

Nyāya-dṛṣṭi – A Vision of Justice

Krishna Rao would not do anything that was less than appropriate to the situation nor anything more. His argument was: being more than fair to one would entail being less than fair to another. As far as I know, no one was intimate with Krishna Rao. Everyone had a love-and-respect-mixed fear of him. Like Kālidāsa says in the Śākuntala – ‘abhyakta-snātam-iva’ [one who has been anointed with oil and bathed] – just as an unclean person would feel in the presence of one who is clean[1]. Thanks to my puṇya [good fortune] from a previous birth, I had gained some of his affection.

Acquaintance

M N Krishna Rao and I were first introduced in 1909–10. A person by name Yogīśvara had camped in a house in Basavanagudi at that time. It seems he hailed from Tirupati; he was apparently an expert in Āyurvedic medicine and mantra-śāstra. I don’t remember why I had gone there. When I went there Chief Engineer K Krishna Iyengar and M N Krishna Rao were sitting there, chatting. Since I already knew Krishna Iyengar, we started talking and some topic came up. I quoted a śloka casually that I recollected from the Nīlakaṇṭha-vijaya-campū. Krishna Iyengar knew Sanskrit very well. His elder brother was a great paṇḍita. Krishna Rao said, “Recite the śloka again.” Krishna Rao was also a Sanskrit scholar. He liked the śloka I recited. Thus began our acquaintance.
Even before I met him in person, I was aware of his fame. Even at that time, I considered his acquaintance a great fortune. Thanks to divine blessing, that fortune remained till the end.

Brothers

Krishna Rao hailed from the town of Mysore. His elder brother was the famous Sanskrit vidvān Prof. M Hiriyanna. Krishna Rao’s younger brother N Seetharamiah worked as Assistant Secretary in the Government and also as a Magistrate. All the three learnt Sanskrit in the traditional system from Periyaswami Tirumalacharya. All three were experts in the English language too. All three had spotless character. Fate had granted me the affection of all three gentlemen[2].

My Delhi Sojourn

Around 1924, I had the opportunity to go to Delhi. Treaties and covenants between Princely States and the Government of India, common practices that have evolved with them, special provisions regarding the country’s defence, and financial arrangements – to gain an understanding on these matters was the purpose of my visit to Delhi.
I came to know that N Seetharamiah was in Delhi at that time. What is the modus operandi of the Indian Legislature in Delhi? Who will prepare the first draft of the bill? What procedures will the bill go through? How will the bill move from being a draft to law? – to study these details, the Mysore Government had deputed two officers to Delhi. N Seetharamiah was one of them; the other was Abdul Ghani saheb, who later became a Judge of the High Court.
Since Seetharamiah was already in Delhi, I felt I could take his help. But I did not know his address in Delhi. I went to M N Krishna Rao’s house one day to get the same. A servant there informed me, “Saheb has gone for a walk at Lal Bagh along with the boss who has come from Mysore.” I too went for a walk near Lal Bagh and went to Krishna Rao’s house around seven-thirty or eight in the evening. The servant said, “Saheb is probably at dinner.” I said, “It’s alright. No need to trouble him now. After he comes from dinner, mention to him this name” (and I gave him my name).
I was living in Shankarapuram then. It was probably around nine at night. I had sat down for my dinner. Both Prof. Hiriyanna and M N Krishna Rao graced my house with their presence. There were no electric lights then in my house. A kerosene lamp was burning in my room. The brothers sat down there. I completed my dinner, greeted both of them with folded hands, and conveyed my purpose. Both were pleased. Krishna Rao gave Seetharamiah’s address – something like ‘Ibsetson Circle, Paharganj.’
We were chatting for some time after this. I remember putting a query to Prof. Hiriyanna on the topic of the eternity of the Vedas according to opinions of the adherents of the Pūrva-mīmāṃsā school and also remember his answer. From the point of view of the spirit of the Vedas, the permanence can be accepted but from a literal sense it is not so easy to accept – this statement of his struck my mind as being extremely pertinent. Further elaboration has faded from my memory. This was forty-four to forty-five years ago.

This is the first part of the four-part English translation of Chapter 12 of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 4 – Mysurina Dewanaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar and Raghavendra G S.

Footnotes

[1] The original uses the words ‘maḍi’ (pure) and ‘mailigè’ (impure).

[2]They were four brothers: Lakshminarasimha (1863–91), Hiriyanna (1871–1950), Krishna Rao (1877–1958), and Seetharamiah (1883–1953) and two sisters: Seethamma and Puttanarasamma.

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.

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