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Durable Link to this BlogSunday, September 15, 2013

Remembering Rose Aylmer

My friend Dr. Shrivatsa Desai, is son of late. Dr. P.B. Desai distinguished historian and my Guru as well. Dr. Shrivatsa is an leading ophthalmologist settled in Doncastor UK. He has flair for writing in Kannada and is good at limericks. The other day he called and e-mailed Kannada translation of a short lyric of Walter Savage Lander, which was a tribute to his Sweet Heart of a short duration, Rose Aylmer by name, who died at the tender age of twenty.

Rose Whitworth Aylmer! The name suddenly took me back to my Calcutta days (1977-1980). I was transferred there while working for All India Radio, and had gone to Old Park Street cemetery which is full of memorial stones which narrate stories of unsung heroes. There were graves of scholars, administrators, sailors, warriors, judges, teenagers, young kids and housewives, who contributed their mite in building British Empire. They were instrumental in building a lasting Indo-British Culture. Most of them died due to cholera, smallpox and other tropical ailments for which there was no cure or medicine in those days.

The most impressive monument at that place was and perhaps still is, that of Sir William Jones (1746-1794) who came to India as judge of the high-court and was the first among Orientalists, who introduced India's rich literary heritage to the West. A few yards across Jones's towering monument, lay Rose Aylmer whose marble tomb had pretty decoration of dainty roses. The lines on her grave read, "To the Memory of the Honourable Rose Whitworth Aylmer Who departed this life March 2nd 1800 aged 20 years" On that tomb also were lines of literary importance, a rare elegy by an English Poet of fame, Walter Savage Landor (1775-1880?) by name. It was dedicated to the young lass whom he had befriended for a short while and who disappeared suddenly but who nevertheless kindled his poetic genius in no small measure.

 The lines read-
 Ah! What avails the sceptered race?  
 Ah! What the form divine, 
 What every virtue, every grace,
 Rose Aylmer, all were thine 
 Rose Aylmer whom these waterful eyes
 May weep, but never see
 A night of memories and sighs
 I consecrate to thee

In just eight lines, Landor is able to depict Rose's royal heritage, her beauty, virtue and grace which all went in vain. The poet in utter despair dedicates a night of memories and signs with tearful eyes to her memory. Dr. Shrivatsa, who had lost his beloved wife recently fell for the last four lines, adding only 's' for "night" in translation and could relate to the poet's sentiments better. His rendering of Landor's lines into Kannada sound natural and equally touching. He has only replaced lotus (padma) the Indian National Flower for Rose, falling in line with B.M.Sri the doyen among modern Kannada poets who had introduced some world famous English lyrics in Kannada in 1920's. Landor's Tribute was one of them.


Daughter of an English baron, Rose Aylmer lost her father early and was living with her mother and sister in a town in South Wales, when Walter Landor met her. Fresh from college, he was only twenty one and Rose was sweet seventeen. The budding poet was drawn by her grace and vivaciousness. They must have met and exchanged letters, which are not forthcoming.

Soon after, Rose Aylmer proceeded to India with her relatives, to visit her aunt, wife of Sir Henry Russel, judge of the supreme court of Calcutta. Rose suddenly died of an attack of cholera and had to be interned in Calcutta only. The news must have reached Landor quite late, as the distance and journey time were very long. But his outpourings have become immortal, drawing attention of writers and poets like Wardsworth and Yates. . . Charles Lamb exclaimed.

"It is for Rose Aylmer, which has a charm. I cannot explain. . . . I lived upon it for weeks"

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

Durable Link to this BlogWednesday, May 15, 2013

Karki Ramachandra Shastri Suri

(Karki Ramachandra Shastri Suri(1914-2009)

Some years ago, I had a rare opportunity to meet a great Sanskrit Scholar, who was spending his ripe old age at Kavalakki a small but culturally active village near Honavar, Kamat's town. I was quite keen to meet him. He was not only a highly respected scholar, trained in Gurukula or traditional educational center of higher learning but also a grand nephew of Karki Venkataramana Shastri Suri (1852-1892).

Venkataramana Shastri was a pioneer in reviving Kannada language, a social reformer and wrote the first modern Kannada travelogue as also a play in Kannada, "Iggappa Hegde Vivaha Prahasana". A trained Sanskritist, he qualified and self trained himself as a lawyer in English and worked for revival of Kannada. He was associated with other luminaries of Bombay (Modern Mumbai) by founding a press and bringing out books and journals in Kannada.

Hence I was excited to meet the famous scholar, and a descendant of the illustrious Karki family of Shastri-Suri's. The title Shastri denotes the qualification of the one who acquires mastery in Shastras or treatises on ancient lore including science.

Suri is the highest title bestowed by the king or assembly of pundits on a person who is master of many branches of Sanskrit learning. It is a rare privilege to have two titles and Karki family owned the double title for generations, mastering traditional learning. Karki, a suburban area of Honnavar nowadays boasts of a Railway station for the entire taluka and a hub of business activities. In olden times it was also a famous centre of ancient learning. A Gurukula was established more than two hundred years ago, by Venkataramana Shastri Suri's ancestors. A center of traditional learning in Vedic lore, Shastras, Kavyas (literature), Astrology, Mathematics in addition to a Purohits (priests) training of conducting all rituals at temples and householder's life. The Gurukula attracted students from all over the region of Karnataka and Maharashtra.

© K.L.Kamat
Scholar Ramachandra Shastri Suri
Scholar Ramachandra Shastri Suri
Village of Karki, Uttara Kannada

I was introduced to Vidwan Ramachandra Shastri Suri who at the ripe age of 93 looked like a personification of ancient learning. Fair complexioned, bright eyed, prominently displaying bhasma (sacred ashes) and tilak, he had sage-like appearance. Bent with age, his tall figure, claimed majestic look. A little short of hearing, he could grasp my queries quickly and replied promptly. He seemed happy to talk about his education, learning and teaching for more than 70 years!

In the family Gurukula there used to be 70 students. Tuition was free as also dormitories. The students had to arrange for their food "varanna" [feeding on weekly basis] system was in vogue wherein, each house-holder of the locality fed a student once a week by turn. Some students lived by begging grains and managed self–cooking. This charity (begging!) was never looked down upon. Known as "madhukari" (literal meaning involving honey!) it helped the poorest to acquire knowledge. Madhukari in ancient times was recommended to princes as well because it taught humility, equality and forbearance.

I asked about his student time in Gurukul. "The study period for specialization lasted for each branch a minimum period of seven years and extended for Nyaya (Law; Smrit) and Vedanta. For priesthood it took from five to seven years as well.

There were students from far off places like Pune, Satara and Bagalkot. He himself went to Sanskrita Mahavidyalaya at Dharwad for specialization of (Vedanta) under Virupaksha Shastri an authority on the subject at the time. During his Dharwad days, he too lived by madhukari, which consisted of millet bread and vegetables. By birth he was used to rice only. He had taste of the jail life also when he was arrested along with two of his friends who were freedom fighters. He was released later as no incriminating evidence came forth.

He took-up teaching in Karki Gurukul when students numbered to about 200 in 1930's.

Later he went to Mysore and taught in a Sanskrit pathashala of the palace of Maharaja of Mysore to his last, he was referred to as 'Mysore Sahstri'. He received four Gold Medals and a Kadaga (Thick gold bracelet) at the hands of the Maharaja which he distributed among his four sons, later.

He taught Vedanta to present pontiffs of Ramachandrapura and Sonde Mathas who are today sound scholars, orators and conformed educationists and environmentalists.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

Durable Link to this BlogSunday, May 12, 2013

Cloud Messenger – Meghdut

Lyric poetry took shape in India since the dawn of civilization as is evident from Vedic hymns and poems. Different metres took shape over centuries and classical Sanskrit literature provides fine examples of lyrics. Kalidasa, the greatest Indian poet excelled in lyrical poetry and even his plays have that lyrical quality.

© K.L.Kamat
Megha-Doot, the Cloud Messenger
Megha-Doot, the Cloud Messenger
Detail from an Indian Postage Stamp

Cloud Messenger or Meghdut consists of 115 stanzas composed in the Mandakrantha metre, of four lines of seventeen syllables. The theme of Meghaduta is the message of a love-lorn Yaksha which he wants to send to his wife living far away.

Once a Yaksha, attending on Kubera, the god of wealth, was found neglecting his duties and incurred the wrath of his master. As punishment, he was banished to the sloping mountain of Ramagiri in present Madhya Pradesh. This Yaksha led a lonely and emaciated life. The rainy season approached and with it, dark moving clouds.

The sight of clouds made the Yaksha sadder still, missing his wife all the more. He thinks of sending a message, through a cloud, moving northwards towards Himalayas, where his wife lived. He addresses a huge dark cloud.

The first half of Meghdut, consists of the description of the regions the cloud has to traverse. He advises the cloud messenger to rest on the peaks of Mount Amrakuta, after quenching the forest-fire through his showers. River Narmada, mount Vindhyas, town of Vidisha and the stream of Vetravati as also the city of Ujjayini are mentioned. This appears to be the most familiar region of the poet.

Then the cloud is directed to Avanti, sacred place of Kurukshetra, of the Ganga and the mountain from which she descended. Further north appear the snow fields, till the Mount Kailas, where the beautiful place Alaka exists of where the Yaksha's beloved lives.

© K.L.Kamat
Yaksha of Kalidasa`s Meghadut Speaking to Clouds
Yaksha of Kalidasa's Meghadut Speaking to Clouds

In the second half, of the Kavya (lyric), the scenes of Alaka are described, as also Yaksha's own residence. His wife's beauty, her surroundings, mental and physical conditions are described. The Yaksha imagines her emaciated body, sleepless nights and viewing through the window, the endless sky. When finally she is able to catch the huge dark cloud, it should deliver her the message that her husband is still alive and ever longing to see her.

The Yaksha always saw her hidden in the different aspects of nature, which are vividly described.

In creepers I discern thy from, in eyes of startled fawns thy glances,
In the moon, thy lovely face, in peacock's plumes thy shining tresses;
The sportive frown upon thy brow, in flowing water's tiny ripples;
But never in one place combined can I, alas! Behold thy likness.

The Yaksha advises (through the cloud) his beloved, to be courageous. One day, the sorrow will end and they would surely be re-united.

Then he begs the cloud to return back, after successfully delivering his message, with reassuring news. Finally the exiled lover bids the messenger farewell, with the hope that he may never, for a moment, be separated from his spouse the lightening!

Poet Ambikatanayadatta (D.R. Bendre) has translated Meghaduta in Kannada. Some feel that it is as lyrical and emotion filled, as the original immortal love lyric.

See Also:
• Kamat's Clouds

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

Durable Link to this BlogTuesday, November 20, 2012

Prashanat Hegde, The budding Poet

I met Prashnat Hegde a brilliant teenager, during one of Kamat Foundation's periodical ventures in Honnavar of creating environmental awareness, love of travel, and bird and insect watch, among school and junior college students. One such programme was in Areangadi. Janata Vidyalaya founded by Dinkar Desai, was a great boon to village youngsters, residing round about. It is on the ideal spot, on the cross road to five villages.

In Areangadi Junior College, Kamat's books on birds and insect life, as also his popular American travelogue were included for discussion. Prashant Hegde who discussed the travelogue, "Nanoo Amerikege Hogidde" surprised all of us by his eloquence, mature judgment and original interpretation that how a well-written travelogue could inspire a village youth like him. He composed verses there and then, as a tribute to Krishnanand Kamat at the end of his 15minute speech. "I am given only 15minutes. I would have loved to speak for fifteen hours, to pour out all my feelings aroused by this book!" He declared to thunderous claps and sat down.

It was a pleasant surprise, to received a collection of Chutukus (limrics) and Gutukus ('gulp') a newly coined word for short verse, by Prashant Hegde, a couple of months ago, named 'Paramapada' (highest word or verse. Pada stands for both in Kannada). In the introduction he states that Kamat's book brought out hidden poetic talent in him, some of which are on Kamats . These are reproduced below.

If a young and creative mind in a remote village in Honnavar Taluk is inspired by our Foundation's efforts and Kamat's writing, there could not have been a better tribute.

Incidentally village of Kadtoka, is just nearby from which, the earliest chutuku writer and famoust poet late V.G. Bhat (1923-91) hailed. The Janata Vidyalaya of Areangadi where Kamat Foundation's programme was arranged was founded by Dinakar Desai who excelled in Chutuku form of poetry and was a great educationist. Prashant hails from nearest Vandoor village. Desai chose sites for his schools where cross roads from four to five villages met. Prashant Hegde may one day bloom as a good poet on the directly winding path where two great chutuku writers of Karnataka once tread.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

Durable Link to this BlogSaturday, September 29, 2012

Kamat Literary Award Winner Announced!

D.G. Mallikarjuna is Winner of Kamat Award

Writer-Photographer D.G. Mallikarjuna has been chosen for this year's Kamat Literary Award for his pioneering work "Click".

The Krishnanand Kamat Award carries Rs. 25,000 cash award,  a plaque and other honors. The award will be given in a special function in Bengaluru on November 18th.


Kamat Award Winner -- D.G. Mallikarjuna

"There cannot be a more deserving work of 2011 or a candidate for Kamat Memorial Award", Dr. M. Byregowda, the publisher of "Click" said, congratulating the young author, who already an accomplished photographer.

"In the process of recognizing Sri Mallikarjun, we honor my father, who had a similar, learning approach to life and creative interests"  -- Krishanand Kamat's son Vikas Kamat said. " It is like awarding ourseleves!"

Congratulations to D.G. Mallikarjuna and hope his experience and maturity will enrich the Kannada Language and Culture in the coming years!

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

Durable Link to this BlogSaturday, September 15, 2012

My Days in All India Radio IV

Early days in Akashvani Mysore

In the coming days with more and more of origination of programmes, the contact with intellectuals in Mysore increased, and everybody forgot about the protest march, soon. There was warm and close relation which I still cherish.

As luck would have it, the engineer who always objected to origination of programmes was transferred to a station in Maharashtra and the engineer who came in his place was a great sport and enthusiast. He loved music and always supportive of origination, inspite of the fact the programme and engineering sections suffered equally due to raw and untrained incumbents of AIR and LPT (Low Power Transmitter) Television.

Two noteworthy programmes of those days are to be mentioned here, which establish that dedicated men and not machines determine the effective working of a Radio Station. The first World Kannada Conference was organized at Mysore (1985). The small radio station had to cover the programmes of the great peagent for three days, from morning till late in the night. The work of coverage of programmes was distributed among all staff members, irrespective of their cadres. The programmes usually handled by the officers, were covered by the music artists, composers and a script writer, even by a driver! This was unprecedented, but everybody gave their best, for the cause of Kannada.

Great writers like Kuvempu, Shivarama Karanth, Prof. V.K. Gokak, Dr. R.S. Mugali and scores of others were present in Mysore and Rajiv Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India inaugurated the august three day cultural meet. (Pictures of Folk artists)

© All India Radio
Golden Jubilee Celebration of Akashavani Mysore
Golden Jubilee Celebration of Akashavani Mysore
(from L to R) Jyotsna Kamat, Kuvempu, A.N. Moorthy Rao, Kamala Gopalaswamy (wife of Prof. Gopalaswamy, and founder of Mysore Akashavani), March 1986

The year 1986 was highly memorable. It was golden jubilee year of the Mysore Akashvani, Fortunately for me, Kuvempu who had almost become a recluse, agreed to inaugurate it. It was all the more important because the first ever broadcast from AIR or Akashvani Mysore, in 1935-36 was by Kuvempu himself! He remembered how Prof. M.V. Gopalaswamy the founding father of broadcasting in Karnataka, approached him for live broadcast of a welcome poetic address. 50 years later the Poet was happy to listen to his famous song "O Nanna Chetana" performed by 40 youngster in chorus, after inaugurating. An orchestra programme by all veterans led by Late Dr. Doreswamy Iyengar was arranged. A Kailasam play was staged again by the old stage artists.

In the same year 'Viswabharti' a programme for youth, involving students of 22 countries studying in Mysore university campus was arranged. Now it seems as dream scene. Students from four African countries, young Tibetan lamas and students from Palestine were also invited. The last group danced and sang so rigorously that two planks of the wooden stage of the magnificent auditorium of Jaganmohan Palace broke!

I got published two books during my tenure. One was on poems welcoming New year Yugadi by poets of Mysore and another on Gandhiji as visualized by thinkers and writers involving late Raja Rao, Prof. A.N. Murthy Rao, Prof. U.R. Ananthamurthy, and the Gandhian scholars.

I was transferred to commercial Broadcasting wing of AIR Mumbai at the end of my three-year tenure (1986) disturbing my already truncated family life. But I left with sweet memories of challenging but rewarding days in Akashvani Mysore.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

Durable Link to this BlogSunday, June 10, 2012

Tribute to H.V. Savitramma

Today's Prajavani Sunday Supplement has my article on H.V. Savitramma, who passed away last month. Here's a cached copy (Kannada Language Content)

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

Durable Link to this BlogMonday, April 30, 2012

Contemporary Agrarian scene in Kabir’s poetry

Contemporary agrarian scene in Kabir's poetry

It is known fact that India lacks in written historical documents. This is a big hindrance in reconstructing the authentic picture of the conditions prevailing in the contemporary region selected by a researcher. At times traditional sources of folk and traditional songs help but with popular work of saint-poet like Kabir, there are chances of interpolations. But some religious works compiles by holymen and recited regularly by the devotees, are reliable for dates and some aspect of socio-economic history. Professor Irfan Habib has quoted Kabir's verses preserved in Granth Saheb, in one of his articles on agrarian conditions prevailing in the sixteenth century C. E.

The verses are usually allegorical when saint-poets deal with God-man relation. One of the Kabir's poems refers to functioning of the revenue administration, recalling the revenue collector for the settlement of accounts. Of course it is allegorical, compared to death when a human recalled by the Creator, after the 'job' is over in the materialistic world.

© K.L.Kamat
Saint Kabir, 15th Century
Saint Kabir, 15th Century
Detail from Indian Postage Stamp

"The amal (amaldar's the revenue collector job) has ended: the time has some to seize the collection (jam).

(They say) 'what have you gained? what lost?' Come immediately, the Diwan summons you!

The divine farman (order) of the Court has come. Submit the petition (ardas), that the village (gav) had some arrears. Take the final instalment (nibera) this night.

Whatever are the expenses of our visit (kharch) they are yours to bear!

Say your morning-prayers in the saria (inn) on your way before day-break."

These verses forcefully bring out the temporary nature of the tenures of revenue-officials, which was a special feature of medieval times, says Profession Habib. Other part dealing with transitoriness of human life, needs no comment.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

Durable Link to this BlogSunday, April 08, 2012

Seshasastry is Sixty!

Kannada Geleyara Balaga, an association of Kannada friends recently honored Dr. Seshasastry on turning sixty, and I was invited to preside over the function.

It was such a joy, as Seshasastry has been a family friend for decades. He has been instrumental in building on what eventually became the gigantic Kamat Historical Archive. The friendship of Sesha and Kamat clicked because Sesha is a very likeable social person, had many contacts in academia and complimented my husband who was shy and preferred anonymity.

Detailed Report: Seshasastry is Sixty!

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

Durable Link to this BlogSunday, March 25, 2012

Lalithamba on Social Mobility

Love of social history has sustained my life through thick and thin over years. I attend history conferences and historical lectures and events whenever possible. Young, up and coming scholars provide me latest information about archaeological findings and their own approach to age-old happenings in Karnataka history.

Dr. N.R. Lalithamba, Associate Professor, Department of Kannada, Government First Grade College, Vijayanagar, Bangalore is one scholar who has tried to interpret eleventh and twelfth century old inscription of Arasikere region in Karnataka with regard to social, economical, political and religious mobility in modern context. It is all the more important that she has not forgotten the trends in present day India of globalization, privatization and liberalization.


Portrait of Historian N.R. Lalithamba

Lalithamba has succeeded in bringing home the fact that old local organizations and self run and community-run institutions were far more successful in solving local problems, regarding water management, taxation, promotion of education, health, endowments and administration of commercial and religious establishments. The royalty or the central government remained non-interfering, unless specifically approached. Her book in Kannada, Madhya Kaleena Karnatakada Saamajika Sanchalana (Social Mobility in Medieval Karnanataka) is a highly readable book. I came to know Ms. Lalithamba in 2005 in the annual session of Karnataka Itihasa Academy held at Sedam (Gulbarga District). I was thrilled to learn that she had found out a new copper inscription regarding a grant of Hoysala King Viranarasimha (1220_35 C.E) to a temple school to teach Kannada at primary level. I had used the same details of the stone inscription of the Murundi village published in Epigraphic Carnatica earlier. This inscription records a land grant of the previous King Ballal II (1173 to_1220.CE). The particular temple-school has a glorious tradition of teaching children Kannada language for 800 years from 1174 to 1974CE. The format of teaching might have changed over centuries but the basic need of free primary schooling was full-filled in the same temple-premises till the old building collapsed and made way for new building with new mode of teaching! Dr. Lalithamba draws attention that the ratio of 20 students: one teacher was just fair and good. There was provision for free meals and a cook was engaged for the purpose during the period of study.

The micro and macro study of inscriptions has provided immense material to ever searchful eyes of Lalithamba who has arranged the information methodically in eight chapters with four appendices, with pictures and maps. She has also included eleven unpublished inscriptions discovered by her during the field work. List of books running into tweleve pages shows the depth of her study. The index is also helpful to locate places, individuals etc mentioned in the book. Dr. Lalithamba is a versatile lady. She is a singer, dancer, choreographer and a very good teacher. A bad accident left her immobile for more than two years. Though she recovered miraculously, she cannot dance any more, a punishment to a creative artist who could give lively shape to the superbly carved dance postures of maidens in stone of craftsmen of Hoysala times and their matchless imagination. Married to and engineer, she is mother of a lovely daughter Kavana (or poem in Kannada) who has a very sweet and melodious voice, who sang the welcome-song, Kannada version of 'Lead O Kindly Light'.

I was invited to preside over this book -release function arranged jointly by the author and publisher Dr. M. Byregowda. Dr. Gowda is also an academician researcher and publisher of unique fame with number of distinguish books to his credit. Dr. Chidananda Murthy a veteran researcher, epigraphist, philologist and thinker released Lalitamba's work on social mobility stating that such books based on doctorate thesis must be like a foreword to years of forthcoming research writing to any serious writer. He hailed the book as a unique contribution. Dr. P.V. Krishna Murthy a well-known epigraphist and editor of [(Itihasa Darshna)] mouthpiece of [(Itihasa Academy)] over years, brought out highlights of the book. Lalithamba gratefully remembered the full-hearted support of her in-laws, husband, father and several others in her research venture. It was a real pleasure to meet the intimate gathering of like minded scholars, researchers and lovers of history.

The Book: Madhyakaleena Karnatakada Saamajika Sanchalana.
By N.R. Lalitamba.
Published by M. Byregowda
Muddushri Granthamale, (2011)
Bengaluru-560104.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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