The Political Philosophy of D V Gundappa: National Anthem of the Rishis

This article is part 2 of 12 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

One of the Kannada literary giants of the twentieth century, K V Puttappa (Kuvempu) once classified[1] literature as Sakaala (timely) and Trikala (timeless) literature. Given the innate nature of the medium, journalistic (news reports, opinion pieces, editorials, magazine essays) literature belongs to the former category. Yet, in the hands of masters, even this category of literature takes on a quality of timelessness. Instead of being buried under the proverbial sands of time, it becomes akin to fine and rare pearls which an intrepid diver unearths from the bottom of the ocean. DVG is one such master. In his characteristic self-effacing style, he supplies the contours[2] of how one might imbue this character of timelessness even in mundane, journalistic writing.

Being a news reporter was how I earned my livelihood. The material that falls into the hands of such a person will be relevant only for that specific point in time. But even when such transient questions arise for contemplation, they pull on to the stage changeless principles. It is only in the realm of such practical application that the substance and meaning of such principles become clear to our mind. Because of this, a newspaper article that’s relevant for say, a day or a week acquires a lasting value. A timeless tenet has an illustration in such writing.    

Accidental Journalist

Journalism was not a profession DVG consciously chose. He stood outside the doors of the press of Suryodaya Prakashika (Literally, “Rising Sun Publishing”) as a young and impoverished lad who had to eke out a livelihood. That was to be the harbinger of a six decade-long and distinguished and unparalleled career in journalism, to severely understate it. DVG’s career and contributions as a journalist will form a separate section later in this volume.

But journalism was merely a moor. In many ways, it opened up panoramic vistas and brought him into contact with almost every sphere of human activity in which he was participant, observer and commentator rolled into one. Politics and public life was one of the most significant among them. Indeed, when one surveys his entire literary corpus, it is hard to separate his journalistic writing from that of his political literature. There is a quality of Advaita (indivisibility) in the two, emanating from his deep anchors in classical Indian thought as we shall see.

The National Anthem of the Rishis

Perhaps a fitting place to locate the inspiration for and the driving force that animated DVG’s political and journalistic writing is the Ashwamedha Yaga portion of the Taittiriya Brahmana of the Yajur Veda. DVG terms this portion as the “national anthem of the Rishis” in the prelude to his classic, Rajyanga Tattvagalu (Principles of Statecraft).

This Vedic conception of Rashtra (loosely translated as “nation” or “country”) as something that by itself is an ongoing Ashwamedha Yaga (or Yagna)[3] is quite profound and evokes a textured tapestry of dynamism, energy, activity, and purpose. This is captured in the concluding verse that avers:

Let us be bestowed with auspiciousness, safety, security, and abundance. Through this Yagna, may the citizens be blessed with unity and peace.

In this manner, there is an indivisible relationship between Rashtra and Ashwamedha Yaga.

The significance of this national anthem can also be summarized as follows:

  • It is only when a Brahmana is endowed with Brahmavarcas[4] does he attain fulfilment. In other words, a Brahmana must reflect eternal values in spirit, thought, word, deed, and conduct than by the mere accident of birth.
  • A king or ruler should exude strength and exhibit power by the sheer force of personality[5] and must not rely on his position or office to derive power. The latter invariably leads to exploitation of office and abuse of power.
  • Experience in war gives a ruler the power of resolute decision-making and endows him with patriotism and instills a sense of value of a unified nation.
  • An ideal nation will invest in training and grooming its youth to become deserving of actively and fearlessly participating in public assemblies. If this national capacity is not developed, stagnation and consequent degeneration of public life will ensue.
  • Women are the ones who protect a Pura[6] or a city or town. The underlying import of this is that when a girl becomes a woman, Samskara (culture or refinement) prevails. Put another way, when a male and a female graduate functionally, they become man and woman, and the intermediate process is known as Samskara. When this is transferred to succeeding generations, the entire nation becomes strong, prosperous and attains a high degree of culture. The pre-Islamic history of India shows an India that largely upheld and lived according to these values.

This then is at the heart of DVG’s conception of an ideal, strong, happy and prosperous Indian state. His long poem titled Swatantra Bharata Stava (Hymn to an Independent Bharata) composed on the midnight of 14 August, 1947 invokes Bharata Mata (Mother India) not to give birth to sons and daughters who are not courageous, who are not warriors. The invocation directly harks back to the aforementioned national anthem of the Rishis:

Let a youthful warrior be born who drives his chariot and  returns victoriously from battle. ||7||

May he who performs this [Ashwamedha] Yajna be a warrior; may he beget a warrior-son. ||9||

In other words, DVG’s conception of a strong India was an admixture of Yoga and Kshema; Yoga in the sense of having an opportunity to obtain something and Kshema in the sense of retaining and sustaining it safely.

To be continued



[1] H.M. Nayak, Munnudi: Rajyashastra, Rajyanga—DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013) Pg xx.

[2] Quoted in H.M. Nayak, Munnudi: Rajyashastra, Rajyanga—DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013) Pg xx.

[3] It is difficult to render the precise import and connotation of Ashwamedha Yaga (or Yagna) because it is steeped in raw, unique cultural experience and civilizational memory. The literal meaning “horse sacrifice” is misleading. A near-accurate import is that it is a means to acquire political power, for building and sustaining a Rashtra by using the combined energy of a populace that shares the common goal of collectively achieving a robust, prosperous, and contented Rashtra.

[4] It is difficult to render an exact translation for this term. An agreeable translation is, “eminence in sacred knowledge of the Brahman.”

[5] The history of independent India is the best illustration of rulers deriving power bestowed by their office.

[6] Can be explained as puraMdhravyOshA Anaya = A woman (or wife) who works to protect



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.