T S Venkannayya (Part 7)

Satkāvya and Adhyātma

Among the readers, those who have seen a Nāgarakaṭṭe of the yesteryears might recognise the twin serpents sculpted in stone there. The sculpture depicts two serpents, intertwined like a braid, facing each other, and affectionately staring at each other. Similar to those two serpents, there were two abiding interests that occupied Venkannayya’s inner life. One was satkāvya [good literature] and the other was adhyātma [philosophical enquiry into the Self]. These two would always be face to face and influence each other.

Venkannayya would recite this poem at least once or twice a day –

arivèṃ rāgada puttidòṃdumarivèṃ

sthiramèṃduṃ sadasadvivekamanide
pāḻgèyvudèṃduṃ vasuṃ-

dharèyòḻkāṇadirpare paḻigidiṃ-
tīdāḍòḍaṃ bhaktiyiṃ

guruśuśrūṣèyòḻiṃtuṭe kaḻèyè
tāruṇyaṃ madānaṃdadaṃ

(Anantanarayana Shastri’s translation of a verse[1] from Nāgānanda)

[I know the origin of attachments
I know they are ephemeral like water bubbles
Who in the world doesn’t know
  it will destroy the wisdom
  that discerns reality (good) from illusion (bad)
And yet, it will bring me joy
  if I spend my youth
  devotedly serving my elders!]

Venkannayya, in his last days, became more and more introspective. When his final affliction became more pronounced, his right hand would move uncontrollably from the region of his heart almost like he was offering flowers to the almighty during daily worship.

If one were to describe the speciality of Venkannayya’s inner life in a single word, it would be – jīvannonati, the exaltation of life. And to achieve this, the only two ways that he knew were: the maturity of rasa in literature and compassion in worldly life. Aesthetic experience and the resulting joy must ripen life; exposure to the world should cleanse the impurities of selfishness and purify life. Maturity of the mind leading to Self-inquiry; the development of the essence of oneself by engaging with the world.

He was not one who negated entertainment in literature; [his expectation was that] it must be rich in emotions and nourished by rasa. However, those two should lead to self-purification. It is the same with worldly interaction. It should identify and underscore the weaknesses of life and help us remedy them. Thus, the twofold objective is life-enquiry and life-exaltation.

In all of Venkannayya’s endeavours, the pursuit of self-elevation was fundamental.

An ancient saying goes thus –

rāja-dvāre śmaśāne ca
yas-tiṣṭhati sa bāndhavaḥ

When difficult times befall a man, or when he’s being dragged to prison, or when he is engulfed by the sorrow of separation (from his beloved), one who stands by him, without ever letting go of his hand, is a true friend.

Venkannayya was such a friend to me. When the lamp of my house was doused[2], the one who stood by me was Venkannayya. For fifteen days before that, Venkannayya would always be at my side except for the hours he had to teach at the college. That night, the people who went to the crematorium on my behalf were: 1. Rama Shastri, my father’s friend and our purohita, 2. Bellave Venkatanaranappa, 3. Venkannayya, and 4. Angadi Krishnappa. None of my relatives were able to join. By the time these four people went to the crematorium, had all the rituals completed, and returned, it was past midnight.

Rama Shastri said, “From the day she was born and all through her childhood, I have lifted her in my arms, played with her, made her laugh, and derived joy. And then, as a purohita, it was I who officiated her wedding, and derived great joy. After that, when she became a mother, it was I who performed the jātakarma and other rituals, bringing me greater joy. Now, the same hands officiated her last rites, thus ending her story.” Saying so, he wept inconsolably.

One of those assembled there said, “This is not rare in the world; there are so many such instances.”

Venkatanaranappa was angry with destiny. With consternation he cried, “Why should it have happened so?” Not a word escaped from Venkannayya’s lips. He just sat still.

Four or five months passed. One evening, in the western face of the Hanumantaraya hillock, perched on a bench-shaped crevice, Venkannayya and I were watching the sunset. On several occasions, we had sat there and enjoyed reading a variety of kāvyas. That evening, I asked Venkannayya a question. “Should we turn our heart into a crematory and burn the roots of attachments and aversions? Or should we uproot all the remnants of the destroyed and the defiled, and plant new saplings there? Virakti, complete detachment or Sarasate, joyful participation – which is the right way?”

Venkannayya thought for a while and said, “Let’s come back to this topic another time.”

The days went by, and three or four months passed. Venkannayya had to suffer the same ordeal as me. Therefore I didn’t have the heart to bring up my earlier question again.

After a few weeks, Venkannayya posed the same question to me. By that time, I had arrived at a conclusion in my mind. I told Venkannayya, “Each one should find within himself—as applicable to him—the answer to this question. Each person’s deha-dharma [physiological nature] is unique. It’s the same with manodharma [state of mind], family circumstances, duties and responsibilities as well – they are all unique. In this matter, one cannot decide for another.”

Venkannayya would spend long stretches in complete silence. After he was transferred to Mysore, the opportunities for us to interact also reduced. Whenever we met, I felt the presence of a curtain between us. But this was my view. Even though he was affectionate with me like his old self, there seemed to be a degree of hesitation in his speech.

One day, I went to his house to address this; I brought up this topic. As usual, he offered me snacks and refreshments. After that, I begged of him, “You must not hesitate or have any reservations when it comes to me. Your nature is to be joyful. Be yourself. If you are so, I too will be happy.”

After this, I got the feeling that he was slowly returning to his earlier state of mind.


After that, fate did not grant him many days. He breathed his last on 24th February 1939. He had undergone great hardships in his life. It is only after he became a professor that he found job security and saw an improvement in his financial situation. By that time, his difficulties also had increased. In our country, if anyone from an ordinary middle-class background comes up in life, there will be ten others who will be ready to pull him down. Venkannayya had experienced such ways of the world. He had prepared himself mentally for such eventualities. The high principles embodied by Śeṣācala Sādhu were firmly rooted in his mind. The divine conduct of Sītā and Rāma as well as the words of the Bhagavad-gītā were enmeshed with his life. During his last days, he was lost in the thoughts of the Supreme, often forgetting everything else. I’m told that his hand was positioned like he was offering flowers during daily worship of the divine.

To be concluded.

This is the seventh part of an eight-part English translation of Chapters 23 and 24 of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 3 – Sahityopasakaru.


[1] rāgasyāspadam-ity-avaimi na hi me dhvaṃsīti na pratyayaḥ
kṛtyākṛtya-vicāraṇāsu vimukhaṃ ko vā na vetti kṣitau

evaṃ nindyam-apīdam-indriya-vaśaṃ prītyai bhaved-yauvanaṃ
bhaktyā yāti yadīttham-eva pitarau śuśrūṣamāṇasya me

(From Act I of the play)

[2] A reference to the death of the author’s wife.



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 more than fifteen books, mostly related to Indian culture and philosophy. He works in an advisory capacity with Abhinava Dance Company, Lakshminarayana Global Centre for Excellence, Pramiti, and Samvit Research Foundation.


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...