It can be surely said that the rejuvenation of modern Kannada literature started during the regime of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. The mahārāja offered shelter and patronage to several vidvāns (scholars). The scholars in his court—i.e. āsthāna-vidvāns—rendered their service to literature by translating into Kannada great works like Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata, Bhāgavata, and other devotional texts (bhakti sahitya).
Subsequently during the regime of Chamarajendra Wodeyar X, Kannada literature got a touch of modernity. The monthly magazines of that time bears testimony to this. Some of the magazines that I can recollect from memory are –
1. Hitabodhinī, run by M Venkatakrishnayya, M S Puttana, and others
2-3. Karṇāṭaka Kāvyamañjarī and Karṇāṭaka Kāvya-kalānidhi, run by M A Ramanuja Iyengar and S G Narasimhacharya
4-5. Karṇāṭaka Granthamāle and Vidyādāyinī, established and run by M Shamaraya and Bapu Subbaraya.
The Vidyādāyinī magazine was appreciated not only by the teaching class but also by students. Inspired by it, many teachers began writing poems, songs, and articles. When I was in the Lower Secondary class, our headmaster Chandrashekara Shastri read out to our class a song written by his younger brother Erukaluve Subbashastri and taught the students to sing it. Recalling one of his travel experiences, D C Subbarayappa had written a heart-touching travelogue [in the Vidyādāyinī]. The magazine also used to publish model questions and answers to help students in the exams. In this manner, Vidyādāyinī was useful for many people.
In the Karṇāṭaka Granthamāle, essays, plays, and poetry of modern writers used to get published in parts [i.e. as a series].
Like this, many great works have come to light. Writings of Nanjangud Subba Shastri, Anantanarayana Shastri, and Srikanta Shastri; Karṇāṭaka Nāgānanda, Basavappa Shastri’s rendition of the Uttara-rāma-caritam, and other great works were published in series.
During the tenure of Chamarajendra Wodeyar X, the palace theatre company Śakuntalā was established and for that purpose Divan Rungacharlu had requested Basavappa Shastri to translate the Śākuntalā into Kannada. Around that time, people like Venkatakrishnayya, M S Puttanna, M B Srinivasa Iyengar, R Raghunatha Rao, and others began composing works in Kannada. In this manner, school books like Hindu Caritra-darpaṇa, Maisūru Caritra-sāra, and Bhū-vivaraṇā were also published.
The signs of modernity were further witnessed in the works of a publishing house by name GTA Press. The founders of this institution felt that it was the duty of every youth who had earned a bachelor’s degree or certificate (like B. A.) from a university to put efforts in spreading their knowledge and scientific learning among their own people. The prominent ones among such graduates included B Dasappa, C Ānanda Rao, C Subba Rao, M L Srikantesha Gowda, P Raghavendra Rao, Venkatasubbayya, and L Jayaraya. These men formed an institution called Graduates Trading Association Press (GTA Press) to accomplish their objectives. It was located in Mysore’s Doddapet in a big building near the place where the statue of Chamarajendra Wodeyar stands today [c. 1970]. It had two major branches – one was a printing factory and another was an outlet for selling books and writing materials.
I was a regular visitor to this bookshop in 1903-04 when I was a student in Mysore. I had two major attractions there. That was a time of Rupee-Anna-Pie. On entering the shop, if you placed one anna on the desk, you would get pocket full of James biscuits. If you walked into the bookstore munching the biscuits, you would see books that were handy and neatly stacked together, each costing two to three annas. In the pretext of examining the books, one could sit there and read the whole book. Once in a while, every two or three days, one would purchase a book by paying two annas.
Like this I had a collection of poems of great poets like Tennyson, Longfellow, and others etc., which I held on for a long time. During that time, a book series called Universal Library published by the Castle Company was available for two-and-a-half annas. Similarly I bought some of the dramas of Shakespeare and read them.
GTA Press has started three major book series in Kannada – one on science, one on modern literature, and the third one on children’s literature.
In the science series, I recollect the following ones – Mining and Mineralogy by B Dasappa, Zoology by P Raghavendra Rao, Magic Lantern by M Srinivasa Rao, Psychology by Dr. P Venkoba Rao, Teaching Method by M. Hiriyanna. All these writing gave the essence of science in simple and lively Kannada by using suitable words in translation.
In the modern literature series, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Pratāparudra (Macbeth), Rāmavarma-Līlāvatī (Romeo and Juliet), and Śūrasena Caritrè (Othello) were the most prominent.
In the third series, of children’s literature, the contribution of the GTA Press is appreciated until this day. W T Stead had published a series called Books for the Bairns in England. GTA Press had published several of those books by translating them in to Kannada with his permission. Among them I have read Adventures of Robinson Crusoe [by Daniel Defoe], Gulliver’s Travels [by Jonathan Swift], Nirbhāgya Murāda [possibly a novel written by Bapu Subbaraya], Aesop’s Fables, and others. It was written in good Kannada with drawings in every page and was printed well. They were so attractive that if one picked it up in his hand, he would immediately open the book and read it completely.
Downfall of the GTA Institution
For almost fifteen years, the GTA Press performed well. What it accomplished in those years was the need of the hour and it did its tasks well. The cultured people appreciated the work of the press. Despite that, it declined; this is an instructive episode. The endeavour saw light of day at one point due to the realisation of modern scholars about their responsibility towards the society; all their efforts went in vain due to the lack of able leadership.
L Jayaraya was like the vital breath of this institution. He was enthusiastic, honest, and a visionary. Though lean and frail in appearance, he had all the qualities to accomplish the tasks at hand such as vigour, sensitivity, courteousness, and fortitude. He did not live to see old age. His death turned out to be the misfortune of the GTA institution.
In course of time, other members of the institution also distanced themselves from it. People like Ananda Rao, who translated Hamlet and C Subba Rao, who translated Othello also passed away. P Raghavendra Rao became the Private Secretary to the Mahārāja of Mysore; then he was appointed as an Excise Commissioner and later he also became a Council Member. B Dasappa joined the Department of Education. In some way or the other, the rest of them also left. Nobody of the calibre of Jayaraya came after him. The institution built with so much of enthusiasm collapsed.
There is a lesson for us to learn. Associations and organisations are born in huge numbers today. Each street has an association. This is a good thing. The birth and development of organisations reflect the presence of many enthusiastic and energetic persons among us. However the question is, how long and strongly do they continue the enthusiasm shown in the beginning? How long can they tolerate and face the struggle, loss of time, and reasons for disappointment?
Concern about livelihood is natural. On securing a job, we make all efforts to continue in it; all our energy and time is spent on getting promotions, increments, and pleasing seniors. Where is the time and enthusiasm for serving the institution? Like this in few years the organisation develops cracks and becomes wobbly.
There is another way to look at this. Is it necessary for an organisation to be permanent? Let it live as many days as it can. Let us benefit as much as possible from the organization during its lifetime. Even if it is active for a few years, it is beneficial to that extent.
This argument is also acceptable. One should be happy with it because a sign of devotion to public welfare even in a small measure is better than not having it at all.
However some large-scale activities are required to take place in society. Such mega-projects and activities of national and social importance may not be accomplished by a short-lived organisation. Large-scale projects require long term, continuous efforts as well as huge amounts of money. Such mobilisation of a large number of people and a huge amount of money and materials can be done only by big organisations. It must have the power of longevity, the sattva to be sustainable. This is the most important challenge facing large organisations today. How to identify competent and committed volunteers? How to bring about a consensus in them? It is not useful if the volunteers are enthusiastic but incompetent. It is not enough if they are competent but dishonest. Finding a combination of competence and integrity is not a common phenomenon. Shrewd people will have shrewd eyes as well. They cannot stay in one place constantly. If a competent and capable person endowed with devotion and persistence volunteers to work for an institution, then it is indeed an auspicious period for that institution.
This is an English translation of the first chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 3 – Sahityopasakaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.
 This is the older system of currency that existed in India. 12 pies (kāsu in Kannada) made 1 anna (āṇè in Kannada); 16 annas made a rupee. In other words, a rupee was divided into 16 annas or 192 pies.
 Stead, an enterprising journalist began a series for children that retold well-known stories and legends in simple language accompanied by beautiful illustrations.