After a few months (since our stay at the Vasanta Mahal), Vidvān Mysore Vasudevacharya’s vocal concert was organised at the reseidence of Dr. B.K Narayana Rao, who was known for his Eye-hospital. It was a gathering of about fifty to sixty of our friends. Srinivasa Sastri was the chief guest. After rendering a varṇa, Acharya sung about two to three kīrtanas. Once he had finished singing them and had just started with the next composition, I was gestured by a friend who was standing outside the house to come out. As I stood speaking to my friend outside the house, it appears that a certain conspiracy took place. S.G. Sastri had handed over the śloka that I had composed to Vasudevacharya and must have asked him to sing the same. The plan seems to have been conceived by three to four of my friends.
By the time I went back inside the house again, after having spent a couple of minutes outside, Acharya was singing “आ-पा-द…”. I was a little embarrassed. I looked at the Acharya. As he sung, the Acharya even enacted the meaning of the song – he pointed at his feet as he sung the first word, suggesting the incident where my footwear was torn around the thumb and motioned towards the head when the word “मौळि” occurred. He showed how the pair of scissors moved from the left hand to the right hand. He added gamakas (musical embellishments) in his rendition of the śloka. He also added svaras to the composition. The rendition was in the Kalyani rāga. He then explained:
Kalyāṇa indicates something auspicious. “kṣauraṃ tu bhadrākaraṇaṃ, maṇḍanaṃ vapanaṃ tathā” – getting a hair cut is a sacred activity. He elaborated by saying that as cutting the hair is considered auspicious, the barber is usually asked to ‘perform the maṅgaḻa” (“ಮಂಗಳ ಮಾಡು”, colloquially in Kannada). He explained so, had a hearty laugh and the audience laughed out loud too.
One must have seen Sastri then – he appeared like a personficiation of happiness. Srinivasa Sastri had great regard for Mysore Vasudevacharya’s singing. He always praised Acharya for his flawless utterance of Sanskrit words. The emotions enshrined in the raagas rendered y Vasudevacharya never failed to touch Sastri’s heart. On several occasions in the presence of Sastri, I had requested the Acharya to render rāgas such as Saveri as those were Sastri’s favourites. He was very pleased that the Acharya had sung a śloka composed by me.
Travel to Sringeri
In about 1944, Srinivasa Sastri visited Sringeri along with his wife. About four to five of us accompanied him on the trip. Among them, N.N. Iyengar – an Electrical Engineer and M.S. Ramachandra Rao of Civil Services were there too, if my memory serves me right. Sastri wished to see the forests, mountains, rivers and other aspects of natural beauty that could be found in the vicinity of Sringeri. His wife, on the other hand, wanted to see the Sringeri Jagadguru and seek his blessings for the longevity of her husband.
Sastri had great respect for the Jagadguru as it was a position of great scholarship.
Sastri had had the privilege of seeing Sri Srimadabhinava Nrsimha Bharati Svāmī when he visited Coimbatore. He was in Comibatore as per the advice of Gokhale back then. Gokhale had a long cherished dream of establishing a Hindu Vishvavidyalaya (University) back then. He had asked Srinivasa Sastri to consult the Jagadguru about the merits and demerits of establishing such a university. Sastri had spoken to the Jagadguru in this context and had discussed a few aspects.
An ‘ಆಶಡು' ('Unwarrented')
In Coimbatore, a European lady supposedly joined the Jagadguru’s camp. She is supposed to have requested Sastri the following:
“I have come here, attracted by the glory of the Jagadguru. I have heard that he is very knowledgeable and is a tapasvī. He can supposedly answer all questions pertaining to human life and its functioning. I would like to ask him a couple of questions but I can’t speak his language. He will not understand my language. Can you please be a bilingual mediator between the Jagadguru and me?”
Sastri: “Will do whatever I can”
Sastri communicated what the lady had in mind to the Jagadguru, who asked “What has the lady read in her native language so far? What works has she studied and contemplated over?”
Sastri asked the lady the same in a language she understood.
The lady said “I haven’t read much. I have heard that the Jagadguru gives lovely preaching in the form of stories. Would he not narrate a couple of stories for me?”
Sastri translated her request and communicated the same to the Guru. The Jagadguru laughed and said: “I only tell stories to clarify a philosophical point. It comes in the context of my philosophical discourse. What story can I narrate if there is no context for it. If the lady wants to listen to stories, aren’t there plenty in her language? If her desire is to listen to tales, there are other places she can visit”.
After narrating the incident to me, Sastri added:
“Sir, this kind of ‘ಆಶಡು’s often visit the Jagadguru. It causes unnecessary exertion to the Guru. What can we do? When he has occupied such an important position and has gained fame, this kind of unwarranted torture is inevitable”
Sastri had great reverence for the Jagadguru and his devotion was not fake. I have mentioned that a few of Satsri’s forefathers had been yatis, i.e., had taken to sanyāsa. Jagadguru Srimadabhinava Nrsimhabharati Svāmī’s scholarship, talent, simplicity and oratory skills had won Sastri’s heart. He had lost himself for the peace-loving nature of the Jagadguru and for the fact that He was easily accessible. Sastri often brought to his mind the greatness of the Svāmī.
To be continued...
This is the twenty-third part of the English translation of the Second essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 6) – Halavaru Saarvajanikaru.