T S Venkannayya (Part 6)

A Humorous Episode

Once, Venkannayya had fallen ill. It was a disease that troubled him on and off – something stomach-related. When I heard the news, I wrote the following quatrain on a postcard and sent it to his college address in Mysore:

vaṃkāyòkkaṭè kaḍupulò
saṃkaṭamunu galugujeyunayyā nūnan
iṃkanu virupanu jeritè
vèṃkaṇṇā! grudda cinugi brovakagalade

[There’s a suffering in my tummy
the oil has caused grief therein
if more antidote (for the ache) is mixed with it
my anus will tear apart, O Vèṃkaṇṇā!]

The day this card reached Mysore, he hadn’t come to college, perhaps because of his illness. However, out of habit, the postman threw that card in the professors’ room and went away. It appears that the professors and lecturers chanced upon this card.

A few days later, when I met Venkannayya, it seemed to me that he was angry. I went and spoke to him. With knit eyebrows, he said, “What’s this – you make me a laughing stock! Instead of writing that poem on a postcard, what would you have lost if you had put it in an envelope?” Then we just burst into laughter.

Venkannayya and I had many light-hearted fights and engaged in humorous repartee. Once the topic of discussion was the Kannaḍa Rāṣṭra-gītā [Kannada State Anthem]. We parodied the ‘Rakṣisu karṇāṭaka-devī’ composed by the revered poet Śāntakavi –

bhakṣisu karṇāṭakadevī—nī
bhakṣisu karṇāṭakadevī

muggulu rāgiya muddègaḻannu
kaggallaṃtha bhakkariyannu

aggada sòppina palyagaḻannu
siggilladè ninagarpisutihèvu

On another occasion, I parodied the song ‘Mall-ammā mallammā…’ composed by a friend of mine –

vèṃkaṇṇā vèṃkaṇṇā
baṃkèya mūgina vèṃkaṇṇā

Venkannayya was a huge addict of snuff. Pat came the reply,

guṃḍaṇṇā guṃḍaṇṇā
____ huṇṇina guṃḍaṇṇā

(At that point in time, I was suffering from piles.)

On yet another occasion, I had composed a poem. It was about the (annoying) habit of excessive akṣara-citra-kavitā[1] in Telugu poetry – Niroṣṭhamulu[2], Nirdantyamulu[3], Sarva-laghu[4], etc. We set out to mock this. I told him to compose a verse on snuff, omitting the anunāsikās[5]. This was Venkannayya’s response:

dègaḍiyu balavāgiddarè
hògèyèlè dhūḍaddu
būgigerisu gèḻèya

If one were to add up all the moments that we spent in this manner, laughing and enjoying ourselves, it would add up to years!

Balancing the Internal and the External

The ephemeral nature of worldly life and the glory of the higher Self – both of these were deep-rooted feelings in Venkannayya’s consciousness. These two fundamental emotions would always flow in Venkannayya’s conversations and conduct. He had happiness and contentment in life. He was enthusiastic in enjoying the pleasures of life. But that joy and enthusiasm were always within limits. The constant remembrance of life’s impermanence kept his joy and enthusiasm in check.

When Venkannayya was perhaps residing in the Dharwad province, he came under the strong influence of Agaḍi Śeṣācala Sādhu. He would often speak about Śeṣācala Sādhu, who was not an ascetic but a householder. He was a person who endured worldly difficulties just like commoners. He would play the game of Ganjifa cards. He partook of snuff. He enjoyed good food and hospitality. In this manner, he was immersed in worldly life. Even so, his inner being was constantly meditating upon the Supreme. Even while engaging in the affairs of the outer world, his mind was always turned inwards. Venkannayya looked upon this harmony and reconciliation between the internal and the external worlds as a trait of a mahāyogi and thus developed reverence towards the Sādhu. I get the feeling that this influence shaped Venkannayya’s life.

Venkannayya performed rituals and adhered to tradition, but within limits. He had far more dedication to rituals and customs than I did. And Krishna Shastri was even more dedicated than Venkannayya in these matters. Krishna Shastri had included devatārcanā and pārāyaṇa as part of his daily worship. Venkannayya would undertake the pārāyaṇa of Śrīmad-rāmāyaṇa after the completion of his sandhyā-vandanā. He would recite at least one or two cantos of the Rāmāyaṇa and would insist on bodily purity during that time.[6] In the early days, I committed the sin of mocking him. Once I gave him a piece of garment to use as a ritual seat.

He asked, “What’s this seat for? And for whom?”

I replied, “This seat is conducive to take you to the higher realms!” (making light of his practice of observing ritual purity of the body).

Discussions and explanations about my statement ensued. After observing for a long time that he sincerely followed this practice, I began developing respect and devotion towards it. Then I admitted my mistake. Venkannayya looked at me with a smile. I assumed that his glance carried with it a pardon.

The Bhagavad-gītā was another work that was part of Venkannayya’s daily pārāyaṇa. Both he and Krishna Shastri knew the Gītā verbatim. They were so well-versed with every verse of the text that they could quote from it at will and start reciting the poem from any point.

Whenever he was free, Venkannayya would take up a verse of the Gītā for an exchange of ideas with me, while walking, or eating, or during some other activity. He was subtle and gentle while putting forth an opposing view. His approach was similar even while offering solace. He would carefully weigh the opinions of both sides. This habit of carefully weighing the opposing views was his unique intellectual trait.

To be continued.

This is the sixth part of an eight-part English translation of Chapters 23 and 24 of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 3 – Sahityopasakaru. Thanks to Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh for his help with some of the translations.



[1] Complicated poetic jugglery at the level of letters.

[2] Without the ‘labials’ – pa, pha, ba, bha, and ma.

[3] Without the ‘dentals’ – ta, tha, da, dha, na.

[4] Using only light syllables.

[5] The ‘nasals’ – ṅa, ña, ṇa, na, ma.

[6] The traditional belief was that one must perform all rituals and sacred activities soon after taking a bath and before engaging in any secular activities.



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.



Hari is a writer, translator, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, education pedagogy design, literature, and films. He has (co-)written and (co-)edited many books, mostly related to Indian culture and philosophy.


Srishan Thirumalai is an Electronics Engineer who holds a senior position in the IT industry. He is passionate about Indian classical music and literature.

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

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...


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


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


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


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


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...


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...


“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...