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Articles by Dr. Jyotsna Kamat

Datta Master

Datta Master -- Story of an ideal teacher and a freedom fighter

Datta Mater was a strange personality with his strange ways of approach to the movement. He was the center of admiration to the youth community who formed the back bone of active workers.

On the outskirts of Kumta town in Chitrigi was a minor forest extended along either side of the road. Reverend Datta Master with a batch of active volunteers had pitched a huge pendal roofed by bamboos, rafters and thatched with interwoven palm leaves. In the midst of the forest lay an open space where all the volunteers assembled in a circle and sang the National anthem "Vande Mataram"  morning and late evening. Athletics and sports competitions in the outdoor and dramatics and variety entertainments in the Shanteri Kamakshi temple were inspiring. Recreation programmers had kept the youth community in a spirit of untiring zeal of enthusiasm for more and more work to undertake in whatever that was allotted to them. The whole youth community was under the spell of this dynamic personality of Datta Master. It was he who brought together the upper and lower class people together for the first time without lecturing to them. The psychological complexes of different classes were forgotten spontaneously without being told to do so. The moral training was also on similar lines. Some of his old and past middle aged Lieutenants are models of character like Nagappa Naik. Das Shanbhag Sanitary Inspector and Retd. Col. D.L. Kulkarni Avadhani Master enjoying radiant health and athletic bodies even today. 

Datta Master was a singer a dramatist, a playwright, player on tabla, harmonium, fiddle and other string instruments, a dancer, a kirtankar, a mystic and a great philosopher in thought and deed.- He was the unforgettable personality who shaped the young in their formative period, into men of integrity. The Kumta Vyayamashala stands today as his monument and his sweet reminiscences will not fade away till the last vestiges of memory remained in the minds of those who held him in high esteem as their ‘Guru'. 

The reader may ask as to why I have given such a long account of his life. The account of his simple living and high thinking and genius will run many more pages if I should do justice on that score. Let me be satisfied with this. Great but poor people are often forgotten but I have learnt greatest things in life from the poorest people. During his worst days it seems, he starved for days together and lived on porridge. He never begged or borrowed from anyone. When some big personalities visited his gymnastic school and presented him a few chips, instead of putting those coins in his pocket he would ask one of his students to fetch plantains worth the money given to him and distribute the fruits amongst the students. His enjoyment and rejoicing lay in that act. It was he who gave a place of confidence to the down-trodden of his time in the society. When his end came he was conscious to his last. About 50 devoted students had gathered round his deathbed when I led the Bhajana “Shree Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram” sung in his style which rent the air in and around his humble dwelling. His abode was a veritable ashram without being called so. The devotion heightened into a state of ecstasy and oblivion. The atmosphere around was charged with spiritual vibrations when the divine soul of Datta Master left his mortal remains without a groan or a sign of agony. Thus ends the chapter of our poor but a great soul of the time who served the nation and the community in his own way.

A national school for secondary education was mooted by the public on parallel lines as those of Government aided High Schools for the benefit of continuing the career of these who were expelled from the Government aided schools and also served as an alternative to the above mentioned schools except that it had no recognition from the Education Department. In Kumta such a national school came into existence in the building and premises of Shri Bhagwat's vakhar. One thing I may say here that every individual had one aim in mind and that was to achieve freedom. People belonging to different strata's in the society and people belonging to different vocations in life served the cause of freedom movement in their own way and capacity. If a buswala would see a congress worker walking on the road to reach his destination some miles ahead, the driver would stop and pick him up and leave him where he wanted to alight. Likewise, householders would feed the itinerant volunteers. Doctors would not only treat the sick volunteers free of charge but even keep them in their house and nurse them as they would do to their kith or kin.

Many lost their hearth and home particularly in Siddapur but they stood undeterred to any amount of ordeal misery and humiliation they had to undergo in their struggle for freedom. Lathi charges, arrests, sentences for rigorous imprisonments for years together and confinement to solitary and most unsanitary cells in jails was the order of the day. No-tax campaign, Salt Satyagraha were carried on peaceful lines of Ahimsa and Satya as dictated by Mahatma.

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