V P Madhava Rao (Part 2)

In Travancore

In this manner, V P Madhava Rao became the Dewan of Travancore long before Krishnamurti became the Dewan of Mysore.* There is no doubt that V P Madhava Rao had become popular in Travancore. In my consideration, three of his attributes are extremely necessary for an administrator –

  1. An attractive appearance and oratory (i.e., personality)
  2. Efficiency at work
  3. Excitement in the face of novel ventures

Madhava Rao had an impressive personality and physical appearance. Even in a crowd of a thousand people, any new entrant would point his finger at Madhava Rao and ask, “Who is that?” The brilliance on his face, his imposing height, his delicate glances, and orderliness in his dressing were the qualities that attracted everyone at their first sight of him. There is no doubt that such wealth of physical appearance is a great resource for anyone in public life.

Madhava Rao never sat idly; he was never lethargic. He never let out unenthusiastic sighs. He must either be conversing with someone or doing some work. He used to draw people’s minds towards himself purely by his trait of never escaping from work.

Establishment of Legislative Bodies

When Madhava Rao went to Travancore, he found that the kingdom had a long-standing system of legislation called the Legislative Council. He felt that it wasn’t sufficient and established another citizen’s assembly called the ‘Śrīmūlam Citizens’ Representative Assembly,’ which was similar to the one in Mysore. When he returned to Mysore from Travancore [1906], he established a legislative body (Legislative Council) similar to the one that was at Travancore alongside the Representative Assembly, which had been functional for about twenty-five years.


I have heard that people liked Madhava Rao’s administration at Travancore. During his tenure, he did something that brought delight to the whole of India. That was identifying and preserving the birthplace of Śrīmad-Ādi-Śaṅkarācārya for the Hindu people. The region of Kalady had been forgotten by the world as it had been captured by the Christians. Inspired by Jagadguru Saccidānanda Śivābhinava Nṛsiṃhabhāratī, V P Madhava Rao saved the place from being taken over by people of other religions. He had a devatālaya of Śrī Śāradā constructed in memory of Ācārya’s mother at the place where Ācārya’s father resided, and adjacent to it, he had a shrine of Śrīmad-ācārya built. That region on the banks of River Pūrṇa has become a place that facilitates tranquillity and is suitable for tapas.

Two Incidents

After returning from Travancore to Mysore as the Dewan, two important actions of V P Madhava Rao have remained in my memory –

  1. He rolled out a new gag law to silence the newspapers [Mysore Newspaper Regulation Act of 1908] through the Legislative Council established by him.
  2. He had the compound wall around the premises of Janopakārī Doddanna Shetty’s Sabhā Bhavana [congregation centre] demolished.

The second incident wreaked havoc in the hearts of the people. Doddanna Shetty was a person who had earned the people’s admiration. His nature and his conduct inspired reverence toward him. In thought, word, and deed, he was pious and devoted to the Supreme. He was an elder, a wise man, and was endowed with spotless conduct. People were furious that Madhava Rao crippled the great deeds of such a noble soul. What might have the reason been?

Advocate D Venkataramayya was Doddanna Shetty’s lawyer. He was a person of eminence who shared an intense bond with the people. He was prominent in the field of law. Mokshagundam Ramachandra Rao, Dewan Visvesvaraya’s younger brother, started his career and practiced law for a long time in Venkataramayya’s office. Further, Venkataramayya was extremely close to M Venkatakrishnayya. Venkatakrishnayya and Venkataramayya were the main leaders of the Mysore Party. And that is the reason V P Madhava Rao, who belonged to the Madras Party, was their opponent.

In addition to this, many emiment citizens including Venkataramayya, Venkatakrishnayya, Balakrishna Rao of Shivamogga, and Shankaranarayana Rao had bitterly criticised the Mysore Newspaper Regulation Act in the Representative Assembly. That acerbic criticism had perhaps irked V P Madhava Rao quite intensely.

There had been one more episode. Madhava Rao imposed a meharbāngiri on the citizenry that the the Representative Assembly could elect two representatives and send them to the Legislative Council. The very first opportunity that was available to utilize that meharbāngiri, the Representative Assembly elected the selfsame Venkataramayya and Venkatakrishnayya as its representatives. Madhava Rao rejected that election and ordered for another election to be conducted. This turned the heat of people’s mind into a blaze.

The above incidents display the caustic feelings that Madhava Rao had against Venkatakrishnayya and Venkataramayya. The blow inflicted on Venkataramayya’s client Doddanna Shetty was merely a consequence of the same caustic feelings.

Effects of Criticism

Several people expressed their displeasure quite blatantly. Newspapers published bitter criticisms. Numerous petitions reached the Mahārāja. One evening, at around seven or eight, the Mahārāja secretly came in his car and personally inspected the wall around the premises of Doddanna Shetty’s Sabhā Bhavana that had been demolished.

As a consequence of all these happenings, Madhava Rao had to be shown the door soon after his tenure came to an end.

This incident occurred during the period prior to that of the Responsible Government. This episode clearly shows that during those days the positions of even ministers were never free from threats.

Regulation to Silence Newspapers

After stepping down from his position as the Dewan, Madhava Rao joined public ceremonies all across India. Most importantly, he became a member of the Congress Party. The leaders of the Congress felt elated that someone of such great repute had joined them. Many people expected Madhava Rao to become the tallest statesman in the Congress leadership ranks. Madhava Rao made tens of political speeches from the Congress platform.

In one of those gatherings, someone asked him the origins, impact, and aftermath of the Mysore Newspaper Regulation that he had passed. Madhava Rao nonchalantly responded to the question, calling it a finished chapter. Did he independently approve of it and then have it passed as a law or did he have it passed simply to flatter the British, hoping that such a law would please the British Government? V P Madhava Rao never answered these questions convincingly anywhere. In sum, Madhava Rao neither got good opportunities nor achieved any great success in the Congress Party’s political arena.

*   *   *

Although V P Madhava Rao could not ascend to the highest echelons in politics, he is highly regarded amongst the common men in Mysore as someone who was generous and worked for people’s welfare. His endeavors at social welfare were trivial; nothing worth highlighting. As for the establishment of the Legislative Council, it doesn’t count as a feat important enough to be mentioned.

However, one must definitely agree that Madhava Rao was a large-hearted human being at a personal level. Let me illustrate this by citing a couple of incidents.

M Subbayya, the elder son of Mysore’s Venkatakrishnayya, fell ill due to typhoid while he was a student at a law college in Trivandrum. Madhava Rao, who was the Dewan of Travancore during that period, inquired and learnt about the situation. He made available the medical staff and other things necessary for Subbayya. He wrote a letter to Venkatakrishnayya, received him there, and showed him immense care and affection. This is an illustration of his affection towards Mysore.

To be continued...

This is the second of a four-part English translation of the sixth chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 4 – Mysurina Diwanaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.


* This statement appears to be erroneous; V P Madhava Rao served as the Dewan of Travancore from 1904 to 1906, while P N Krishnamurti served as the Dewan of Mysore from 1901 to 1906. Madhava Rao was the Inspector General of Police from 1892 to 1901 and Revenue Commissioner from 1902 to 1904, after which he moved to Travancore for a few years. He spent much of his professional life in the Mysore State.



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.



Karthik Muralidharan is an entrepreneur, educator, and a motivational speaker. An MBA in Human Resource Management, Karthik currently runs businesses in Leadership Education, Training, and Wealth Management. He is deeply interested in prosody, philosophy, and literature.

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