Prof. S K Ramachandra Rao - Studies, Teaching and Friendly Nature

Studies and Teaching

Ramachandra Rao’s father taught him Sanskrit grammar and also works of poetry such as the Raghuvaṃśa of Kālidāsa. He learnt the recitation of the Vedas from Keshavashiva Ghanapāṭhī. Following this, he undertook a detailed study of Tarka-śāstra and Vedānta-śāstra under the tutelage of Yajna Vithalacharya and Palghat Narayana Shastri – both in the traditional style. Even before that he had learnt different āgamas under the guidance of Āgamika Krishna Dikshita. In the 1940s, as a student of Psychology at the Mahārāja’s College in Mysore, Ramachandra Rao managed to learn ardha-māgadhī and other prākṛts during his free time from Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sarma. He also received lessons in understanding the nuances of music from the stalwarts.

The above would suffice to throw some light on the thirst for knowledge that Ramachandra Rao had from his young age. Prof. M Hiriyanna and Lakshmipuram Srinivasacharya were in Mysore and he was closely associated with them. This helped him better his understanding of Vedānta too.

Ramachandra Rao, the beautiful flower, blossomed under the tutelage of these learned scholars. It did not blossom into a small flower like jasmine but grew into a gigantic one of the ‘Rafflesia’ variety. Later on, he also learnt the Tibetan language to understand the Buddhist tradition better.

As narrated above, he put in immense effort during his youth to gain knowledge. In the next fifty years, he made this knowledge available to the world through his lectures and writings.

The term ‘born teacher’ is in vogue to refer to some people. Ramachandra Rao was one such classical orator. His public lectures and lessons of śāstra, once started, flowed without any break. He never had to struggle to quote a line or a phrase from the śāstras he was speaking about – he hardly needed to have printed books for reference. Quotations from śāstras flowed easily from Ramachandra Rao’s tongue one after the other effortlessly, like a garland of flowers. He was so thorough in his understanding of the subject and had great mastery over the texts.

‘I should make available to the society in whatever proportion possible the concepts that I have learnt and understood’ – this thought was always active in him. His teachers too had expected the same from him. For him, teaching, lecturing and writing, thus, served a dual purpose – on one hand, it was the fulfilment of his ṛṣi-ṛṇa and on the other, it was the act of sharing knowledge with the society. He executed these tasks in a manner incomparable and derived great satisfaction from it. In this sense, it would not be wrong to call him a ‘ṛṣi’ of our times and that would only be a factual statement and not rhetorical exaggeration.

 

Friendly Nature

I will need to mention yet another thing at this point. Usually, people who are involved in deep study of texts and in teaching them do not tolerate any other kind of distraction. The world of śāstras occupies their internal landscape in its entirety. They are in the scholarly mood all the twenty-four hours and they would not like to come out of the zone. Ramachandra Rao, however, was an exception.  Even when he was deeply involved in the study of profound and complex texts, when invited to participate in a discussion forum or to a conference, he would never say – ‘I have no time for it'. One of the reasons for this was his inherent good nature and the other was the feeling – ‘It is my fundamental duty to help the society that I am a part of, to the extent possible.’ This thought was always active in his mind and had become a part of his subconscious self. The society needs to be grateful to him for his friendly outlook and for his involvement in societal activities.

On all such occasions, he provided the best possible guidance to his audience. All cultural platforms requested his presence and this was because of his multi-dimensional scholarship, sublime persona and his impeccable character. Ramachandra Rao’s presence at any gathering was an embellishment to the event. His presence added great charm and value to the occasion. Ramachandra Rao always spoke so as to leave a lasting impression in the memory of his audience. He spoke to suit the occasion and his style of presentation was highly attractive. This was the constant feature whenever he was invited to an inaugural ceremony, or to preside over an event or even when he had to present a research topic. It is not unusual for discussions in seminars and conferences to become chaotic. Under such circumstances, Ramachandra Rao would always intervene and bring the discussion on to the right track. In this way, he was an ombudsman who would help maintain the healthy progress of a seminar.

It was his inner clam that enabled him to do all this effortlessly.

 

The Worship of Knowledge

Sincere pursuit of knowledge is devoid of artificial bounds. Ramachandra Rao mastered Vedānta, Mīmāṃsā, and other darśanas, with the same dedication, he also studied Buddhism and other schools of philosophy. He dived deep into them as well.

In about 1955, Ramachandra Rao resided in a house in Gandhi Bazar (in Bangalore) opposite the Tin School. I usually visited him, accompanied by Dr. H N Murthy. On one such visit, Rao played the ‘Mettasutta’ – a traditional Buddhist composition on his veena.

Several stalwarts like DVG and V Si. had the greatest regard for his scholarship and teaching. He was loved by them all.

Ramachandra Rao is usually remembered for his expertise in Sanskrit and several śāstras. However, there was no field of knowledge that was not among the areas of his interest. It was with the same authority and ease with which he could speak on vedānta, that he could deliver lectures on the works of Shakespeare and Homer. He had the same amount of confidence and conviction in all areas he had touched.

It baffles us to even imagine how he made so much of space in his head for such variegated interests.

His memory and power of retention were wonderful as well. Even when he had to speak on a complex topic that required a lot of mental involvement, he did not keep any book or notes in front of him. He would, at best, have a small piece of paper in front of him with the topics that he had to touch upon listed in it. His ‘lecture notes’ was his memory.

I am at a loss for words when I try to explain the dedication to sharing of knowledge that Rao had. No one who went to him with a request to learn something returned empty-handed. Whenever he was posed with a request, Ramachandra Rao never voiced his constraints or other pressing commitments.

Once when V S Kaushik and I were speaking to Ramachandra Rao, for some reason our discussion turned towards Bhāgavata. We told Rao, “We have only been able to get a superficial overview of the Bhāgavata and have never managed to dive into its depths and explore all the nuances.” Without a second thought, he said, “So what! Wouldn’t it be good to go through it once afresh – what’s the difficulty there?” We knew the other pressures Rao was under and we were not sure if we could ask him for his time. However, he declared right away that we would be starting the study on the third day. The next question that he posed to us made us all the more dumbfounded. He asked us, “What time works for you?” There is no need to explain more than this. It went on accordingly. In the condensed course, we were only about ten to twelve people in the audience. Nevertheless, Rao taught us with the same kind of dedication as he would have in addressing hundreds of listeners.

 

To be continued...

The current article is an English adaptation of the Kannada original which has appeared in the Dīptaśṛṅgagalu, authored by Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy. Thanks to Sri Hari Ravikumar for his edits. Full form of the article is a part of 'A Tapestry of Pen Portraits' published by Prekshaa Pratishtana in December 2020.

Author(s)

About:

Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of stalwarts like D. V. Gundappa, Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma, V Sitaramaiah, and others. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and served as the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs for many years.

Translator(s)

About:

Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

Prekshaa Publications

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, Śatāvadhāni 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...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

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...

Bharatilochana

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...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“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...