Sheenanna (Part 2)

Sarcasm

I remember very little of that argument. Whenever I remember this behaviour of Sheenanna, I feel disappointed and worried. Why did he behave like that? The sarcasm that was never found in his father, mother, and brothers, where did he get it from? Some of the incidents in his life might have soured his mind .

I have earlier mentioned about his behaviour during the travel to Tirupati. Sheenanna was not a person without having a mistress. He had three or four of them.

Kashi yātre[1]

Once, an incident occurred. Sheenanna decided to go on Kashi yātre. His brothers did not approve of this trip. Sheenanna said “What else do I have in this world? At least this way, let me make my life fruitful.” and he left immediately. Sheenanna had memorized hundreds of mantras. He always wore vibhūti and rudrākṣi[2]. I first heard Nārāyaṇa-sūkta from his mouth. He had a very good voice. His pronunciation was also good. I thought that during maḍi period, even his mind was pure under its influence. But until what time did it typically last? Only from morning to afternoon.

Even after going to Kashi, this great divine soul did not for once, write a letter. One month passed. Two months passed.  Sheshagirayya was in despair and worried. Someone who saw him, told me that he was almost about to cry. Thus, when he was longing for his brother, one day he received a telegram, from Kashi - “I am bankrupt here. Send 300 rupees immediately - If you want me to come back.”

Pītāmbara[3]

Likewise, Sheshagiriayya sent him a telegraphic money order. Sheenanna came back and everyone were happy.

After a month of this happening, a Devadāsi[4] Venkaṭa-sāni wore a Kashi Pītāmbara and came to the temple for her turn to perform service to the God. How should a Kashi Pītāmbara appear in the hinterland like Mulbagal? Everyone there kept asking her. She secretly told:

“My Yajamāna[5] got it from Kashi.”

Venkataramana Bhat learnt this. Later, everyone came to know of Sheenanna’s Kashi yātre.

Prize

Sheenanna brought some books for me from Kashi. Among them, one was a book of Stotras (hymns) printed in Devanāgari script. Back then I was already introduced to the primary lessons in alphabets. From the book I read -

 “Gaṅgātaraṅga-kamanīya-jaṭākalāpaṁ

When my grandfather heard me practising this verse, he was filled with pride.

Another book given by him to me was Jagannātha Panḍita’s Gaṅgālahāri. This was quite difficult for me. I tried to read it. Sheenanna after teaching me a few lines, said, “You may read it after two to three years”. Further he gave me one more book, the Bhagavadgītā - in kannada manuscript. It was just palm-sized with old style paper. Since it was small and contained beautifully printed letters, I liked it a lot. I did not allow others to touch it. Ramanna asked his brother:

Ra: “What is it, Sheena, that you gave to the kid?”

Shee: “Bhagavadgītā

Ra: “That is something you don’t need! If something is beyond your understanding itself, what is its use to the kid?”

 Ramanna said “If you read Bhagavadgītā now itself, then by the time you actually need it, it might lose its relevance.”, and took back the book from me. Later I again asked him and got back the book.

Another thing that Sheenanna brought from Kashi was, a big Viṣṇu-pāda[6]. It was made of copper. We usually use it on the day of Śrāddha[7] to keep the Piṇḍa[8] on it and perform the pooja. It is the same Viṣṇu-pāda of Gaya. 

Affection

Sheenanna was very fond of me. Though he used to travel from one place to another, he used to come back home before Vijayadashami. Jumbū savāri[9] was a special attraction in our hometown. The processions used to begin from each of the ten temples and would eventually reach a place called Eḻḻu-baṇḍe, at the northeast part of the town. Eḻḻu-baṇḍe was a vast open land of rocks. Once upon a time, the sesame crops were abundantly grown in the neighboring farmlands. They used to clean the grown crops on those rocks. During the remaining seasons the whole place was mostly barren. On Vijayadashami day, after all the deities assembled there in the evening, Śamī-pūjā[10] took place. Then, the town’s revenue collector would cut the stem of banana plant with a sword. This act symbolized Rama’s and Arjuna’s victory over the evil. After this, the revenue collector would perform Lakṣmī-pūjā to his treasury in the taluk office. In those days, there were such provisions in the government.

Hordes of people would throng to these festive activities. This itself was the Jumbū savāri. Sheenanna had taken upon him the duty to take me to this carnival. He had a horse for this. A beautiful silk cloth, a golden laced cloth and a shawl was used to cover the back of the horse.

The horse was decorated with turmeric, kumkum and floral garlands. Sheenanna made me sit on this decorated horse, held the leash, held me in one hand and arrived at the carnival.

Like how Ramanna was fond of cows, Sheenanna was fond of horses. Apparently, he good at riding. His path was always filled with grandeur. But the destiny was very cruel to him. After leaving the clerical job under Pacchiyappa Mudaliar, he did not have a stable job. For his day to day expenses, he had the income from the ancestral property and the financial help from his elder brothers. With this money, he toured different places almost six months in a year. His eldest daughter was Ammannamma. Her husband was Nadavatti Venkataramanayya. He was a schoolmaster in Vadagur, a village in between Kolar and Mulbagal. Vadagur village was an economic hub, they used to weave “chakku” cloth from looms. It is well known as “Vadagur chakku”. It was used in making banians, shirts and coats. A high quality chakku cost around two and half āṇa[11] for a yard. I wore such clothing.

This is the second part of the four-part English translation of Fifth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 8) – Sankirna smriti samputa. Edited by G S Raghavendra.

Footnotes

[1] Yatre is pilgrimage. Most hindus for centuries follow a custom of travelling to Kashi, a holy city in Uttar Pradesh and take the blessings of Lord Shiva.

[2] Vibhuti is sacred ash worn on body to ward off evil. Rudrakshi is a seed from which a garland is made and worn.

[3] A silk cloth or saree.

[4] A dancer/courtesan associated with the temple.

[5] Master or husband.

[6] Metal casted to look like feet of Lord Vishnu

[7] Rituals performed on death anniversary of a deceased.

[8] A ball of rice to satiate the souls and spirits on their Śrāddha.

[9] A big procession including elephants, horses, people, chariots.

[10] Worshipping the Śamī tree.

[11] Worth 1/16th of a rupee.

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:

Varuni KS has a masters degree in Electrical Engineering and is currently based out of Chicago, IL. She is trained in South Indian classical (Carnatic) music and has an abiding interest in Kannada literature.

 

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