- Rai Bahadur Arcot Srinivasacharya
- Rai Bahadur Arcot Srinivasacharya – 2
Sometime around 1910, my article in English about Diwan Rangacharlu’s governance was published in Indian Review, a Madras-based monthly. With that, I not only received the remuneration that I was in need of, but also got introduced to a few great men. Two of the best outcomes of the article were: the letter of appreciation written by Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, who at that time was the Chief Engineer of Mysore and the head of a branch of the Economic Conference; the other was the words of admiration by Arcot Srinivasacharya (alternatively ‘Srinivasacharlu’).
Arcot Srinivasacharya had not only read my article in the magazine but had also seen an enlarged version of the same, which had been brought out in the form of a book. Back then, he was a resident of Srirangam. As usual, he had come to Bangalore to spend the summer. One day when he was speaking to Puttanna Chetty, he mentioned about my article and asked him, “Who is the author of this article? Do you know him?” Puttanna Chetty informed me about this and one evening he took me to Srinivasacharya’s residence. His bungalow was situated on the section of the street that started at Lalbagh and passed through Kalasipalya and met Fifth Street, Chamarajpet.
The area behind the house belonged to M Subbaiah, the son of M Rudrappa. Both Rudrappa and Subbaiah had a lot of affection and regard for Srinivasacharya. The father and son had requested Srinivasacharya to stay at this house near Lalbagh every time he visited Bangalore. As per their desire Srinivasacharya always stayed there.
There was a small field in front of the house. Srinivasacharya had a small compound constructed around it and added a small quadrangle along with a tap. This provided water for the people in the neighbourhood. Above the tap, the name of Srinivasacharya’s wife – ‘Rukminiamma’ – was embossed. I’ve not been able to check if that name still exists in that spot; it is a gesture that shows the love he had for his wife. Today, there is a new breed of patriots who have taken birth in our country. They keep exhibiting their modern patriotism in municipalities and other prominent places. One of the ways in which they exhibit patriotism is by erasing the past, removing older names, and replacing them with newer ones, trying to purge memories and to rewrite history. This seems to be some kind of display of pride in the country. In such an atmosphere, it would not be surprising if the name on the memorial has been erased.
Having once brought up Rudrappa’s name, it is important to describe his greatness. He was a famous vendor of fruits and flowers during the era of Chamarajendra Wadiyar. Whenever the king visited Lalbagh, he would stop by Rudrappa’s garden-workplace, which was bang opposite Lalbagh, accept his token of respect and leave after exchanging pleasantries with him. Many Europeans lived in Bangalore in those days and there were many Indians who were amazed by their lifestyle and imitated it. A number of them were Rudrappa’s regular customers; Rudrappa had a flourishing business.
What I wish to narrate, however, is something more valuable, at least in my view, than his flourishing business. It is about the books published by Rudrappa and Sons. Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, a stalwart of Kannada literature, had translated great works such as the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata into Kannada. Prominent among those are Śrī-cāmarājokti-vilāsa and Śrī-kṛṣṇarāja-vāṇivilāsa – prose renditions of the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata in Kannada. Chamarajendra Wadiyar had given the responsibility of publishing these two works to Rudrappa. Accordingly, he founded a printing press named after the family deity of the Wadiyars – Śrī Cāmuṇḍeśvarī Mudrākṣara Śāle. The Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata were published in seven and eighteen volumes respectively. I was one among the many who benefitted greatly by reading those versions of Vacana-bhārata (Mahābhārata in prose). My great uncle had read out to me all the eighteen parvas of the Kṛṣṇarāja Bhārata. If there is anything worthwhile in me at this point, I owe it all to the study of that version of the Mahābhārata. Rudrappa was the person who facilitated the publication of such a work – one that could refine an entire life. If those books had not been published, I would not have been able to read the Mahābhārata at a young age. I will be grateful all my life to Rudrappa for this tremendous work and pay my respects to him again and again. In my opinion, till today, there has been no work in Kannada literature which matches Śrī-kṛṣṇarāja-vāṇivilāsa Bhārata in terms of the lucidity of its prose, its profundity, and accessibility. It is a cause of distress to me that such a great work has not been reprinted. I had put forward a proposal for republishing the work at several Kannaḍa Sāhitya Sammeḻanas (Kannada literary conferences); I beseeched people in power to take it up and suggested the same to rich people. Whoever gets it published again will be doing a great service to our people and to the Kannada language.
M Subbaiah, the son of M Rudrappa, was my friend. He was generous by nature and could see greatness in others; he was a great man. For some reason, he seemed to lack the motivation to work and would stay relaxed, shunning all forms of work. Although I spoke to him about the republication of Mahābhārata, he somehow would not make up his mind.
Arcot Srinivasacharya Road
Let us go back to discussing about Arcot Srinivasacharya. One of the streets in Bangalore’s old town bears his name. The street lies between the old Taragupet Street and Gundopanth Road. Arcot Srinivasacharya is said to have lived in one of the houses on that street. In about 1907, when I first saw that house, it had been taken over by someone else and a Saṅgīta-samāja used to take place there. I have even attended some four or five music concerts in that house. The street got its name because Srinivasacharya had lived there in the past.
Srinivasacharya hailed from Arcot. He had migrated to Bangalore and had settled down as an advocate even before the times of Sir K Seshadri Iyer, perhaps during Divan Rangacharlu’s time. He was acclaimed for his skill in debating and for his sincerity. Having heard of his efficiency at work and his popularity among the masses, Seshadri Iyer appointed him as the chairman of Bangalore Municipal Council. That was the first time when a person who was not a government official was appointed to that post. The skill that Arcot Srinivasacharya displayed while in office can serve as a great model for today’s democracy.
Srinivasacharya’s daily routine was as follows. He would set out from his house at six in the morning. The place he was to visit had to be decided and communicated to the municipal officials by the previous evening itself. By the time the President reached the location along with an assistant, the municipal officials were expected to be ready with the various applications and petitions collected from the area, along with the relevant supporting documents. The applicants had to be informed about the President’s visit beforehand. He would personally examine every petition, interview the petitioner, take an appropriate decision right there and write it down on the document. Once he got back to this office in the afternoon, he took part in the deliberations and the decisions taken that morning were recorded in a book. He would also make sure to investigate how well his instructions were being carried out. In this manner, cases would get resolved rapidly and the people were contented.
When Srinivasacharya returned home after his morning’s tour of the villages, the municipal officials would tag along with him. Srinivasacharya would then point to his boots and say, “How was it today? There is a thick layer of dust collected on the boots. If the streets were to be cleaned well, would this have happened?” Or he would say, “It seems like the sweepers have taken great care to clean the roads that we visited today; there’s hardly any dust on the boots.” These words served as adequate warning to the municipal officials. They made sure that the streets that the President was going to visit were cleaned and sprinkled over with water before six in the morning. Since the President visited every part of the city at least once a week, every street in the city got tidied up at least once a week.
One of the prominent marks he left behind as the president, which survives even to this day is the municipal park known as the ‘Little Lalbagh.’ In November 1889, Prince Albert Victor, the son of Empress Victoria, visited Bangalore. The responsibility of decorating the city to welcome him was given to Srinivasacharya. In those days, the Dharmambudi Lake, which stood in front of the Central Railway Station used to be full of water. Even as the guest stepped out of the train and headed towards the city, he could take delight in the beautiful Teppotsava – the festival of lights. As he travelled in a carriage along the banks of the lake, a decorated teppa (a kind of raft) followed him on the waters. On the right side of the path, music and dance would be performed inside the municipal park. The prince must have felt tremendous joy and excitement – with so much celebration accompanied by singing, dancing, and musical instruments on either side of his carriage and a festive mood in the air; the people must have been thrilled too. It is only natural that the king and Sheshadri Iyer were impressed with it too.
This is an English translation of the sixteenth chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 1) – Sahiti Sajjana Sarvajanikaru. DVG wrote this series in the early 1950s.Translated from the original Kannada by Arjun Bharadwaj. Thanks to Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh for his review. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.
 D V Gundappa’s biography of Diwan Rangacharlu (1831–83) was arguably the first work in this genre in Kannada.
 Diwan Bahadur Sir K P Puttanna Chetty (1856–1938) was an administrator, bureaucrat, and philanthropist who served as the first president of the Bangalore municipality.
 Chamarajendra Wadiyar X (1863–1894) was the maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore between 1868 and 1894.
 Krishnaraja Wadiyar III (1794–1868) was the maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore between 1799 and 1868.
 Arcot is a town in Tamil Nadu close to the city of Vellore. It is situated in the north of Tamil Nadu, close to the Andhra Pradesh border.
 C V Rangacharlu was the Diwan of Mysore from 1881 to 1883. Sir K Seshadri Iyer (1845–1901) was the Diwan from 1883 to 1901.