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The Patron of Arts and Letters
by Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B. Bookmark and Share

Continued from “Noble Scion of a Noble House”

Though democracy has come to stay as the choicest form of Government, the earlier forms of aristocracy and enlightened benevolent monarchy had a considerable sway in shaping and sustaining our rich cultural heritage. Princes of the order of Maharajah Ananda Gajapati helped the literary and cultural growth of the people. During the days when we were ruled by the British, alien colonialist rulers, our literature and culture would have languished but for the energetic support and enthusiastic patronage of native princes whose nobility and munificence compel our admiration. Telugu culture was a very significant part of the vast Indian culture in the latter half of the 19th Century as it has been earlier and as it is now. Maharajah Ananda Gajapati made a stupendous contribution for the growth of our literature and thereby extended the horizons of learning and enlightenment.

Even a passing reference to the various literary projects he initiated and financed and the patronage he extended to individual scholars and poets would easily fill a volume and within the limited compass of this monograph full justice to the luminary can hardly be expected to be made. The following account is attempted by way of giving a bird's eye view.

Bhagavadkavi Mudumbai Narasimhacharya (1841-1927), ananda Gajapati's Guru, was a versatile genius who wrote scores of Sanskrit works. It was widely believed that this great preceptor saw the sage Vedavyasa in his dream. Himself a valuable discovery of Maharajah Vijayarama Gajapati whom he captivated by his poetic praise, Mudumbai nurtured the scholar in Ananda Gajapati and received his patronage. He worked on a variety of subjects and produced a variety of works. Patanjali's Yoga Sastra to Sringara Kritis. He was chief of the Asthana Diggajas and composed Satakas and Yakshaganas also. His Rangesa Satakam acquired great fame. Professor Nidadavolu Venkata Rao mentioned an incident which brings out the capacity of Mudumbai for repartee. One day it so happend that the assembled court had to wait for the arrival of Mudumbai. On his arrival Maharajah Ananda Gajapati welcomed him saying: “Let a green carpet be laid for the Kavi Vrishabha !” Pat came Mudumbai's retort: “We will never be in want as long as Kamadhenus of your like are around.” Maharajah Ananda Gajapati liked Mudumbai's Sringara Kritis in particular. According to Professor Nidadavolu he wrote about four types of Sringara : (i) Sankirna, (ii) Kamini Drishti (iii) Proudha and (iv) Pranaya kopa samana. These were composed at the instance of Maharajah Ananda Gajapati. On the frontispiece of the book it was mentioned that the book was printed by order of the Maharajah at Saraswati Nilayam Press at Madras in 1881.

Peri Kasinadha Sastri (1858-1918) was another great Asthana Vidwamsa who was also a lecturer in the Maharajah's Sanskrit College. He wrote Partibhashendusekhara Vyakhya Kadambini. Gangasthava Rajam, Godavari Lahari and a play, Yamini Purna Tilakam. His Panchalika Rakshanam was a play in seven acts. His Sanskrit works included Durga Saundarya Satakam, Sarva Mangala Vibhutwa Stapakamlu. He translated into Telugu Brahmasutra Bhasyam as Pratyusha Prabodha Mananamu. Among his Telugu works Gouthami Tarakam, Bhagavadgita saaramu and Parthasarathi Satakamu are the most important. His Poorva Sakuntalam, according to Professor Nidadavolu, is the most notable in Telugu Dramatic Literature.

Kolluri Kama Sastri (1840-1907) was another of the Maharajah's Asthana. He was a great Sanskrit scholar and a teacher to Mahamahopadhyaya Tata Subbaraya Sastri. He wrote in excellent Telugu prose a treatise on Dharma Sastra entitled Andhra Dharma Sindhura Saramu which the Maharajah got printed. The most renowned of this cholar was the translation of Kamalakara Bhatta's Sudra Kamalakaram. At the command of the Maharajah he translated this stupendous work. Initially it was the Maharajah who undertook to translate the work. But could not continue it for long for want of time. Kolluri mentioned in the introducion that as the Maharajah was busy translating Mill's book on Logic and was thus preoccupied he was asked to continue the project. The scholar expressed his wish that the book would live on for ever to fulfil the Maharajah's desire to make it useful to everyone.

Among the friends who received the Maharajah's favour and admiration K.N.G.Rajamani Chetty was the topmost. He was one of the men nearest to the Maharajah's heart and this fact was recorded by Gurajada himself. He was a polo player, a sportsman and also a poet who had the capacity to make Ananda Gajapati to make Ananda Gajapati laugh heartily. He had a flair for poetry and all his works were printed though, unfortunately, none of them seems to be extant now. His listed works were: Anubhava Rasika Satakam, Sri Vana Kuwari Mahima, three poems in one also depicting the history of the House of Vizianagaram and the Pativratya of Maharanee Vana Kumari Devi, Maharajah Ananda Gajapati's wife. He also wrote Krishnamurty Satakam and Ganikaamanivilasam.

Gurajada Srirama Murty (185741899) was one of the most accomplished of the scholars in Maharajah Ananda Gajapati's court. He wrote Kavi Jeevitamulu, an authentic biography of Telugu poets. He translated into Telugu Shakespeare's. The Merchant of Venice, and the Arabian Nights. Among his prose works Thimmana Mantri Charitra, Bendapudi Annayya Mantri Chaitra and Tenali Ramakrishan Kathalu were famous. He collaborated with Vogirala Jagannadha Kavi in producing Andhra Pada Parijatham. He edited two journals: Prabhandha Kalpavalli and Raja Yogi. He it was who printed for the first time in 1893 Prabhodha Chandrodayam composed by Nandi Mallaya and Ghantasingaya. He was proficient in Indian philosophy. He wrote Vedanta Saarasangrahamu. The most memorable of his works was his elegiac composition on the passing away of Ananda Gajapati which moves us and strikes us as a work of grief at the irreparable loss recounting the affection and patronage the poet received from the great patron of letters and the Maha Maneeshi, These are included in the appendices in an extract from the Asrutarpanamulu.

Nidadavolu Sundaram (1864-1931) was one of the scholars who adorned the court of Maharajah Ananda Gajapati. He was one of the several great writers who composed the Satyavrati Sataka completing the Samasya thrown by the Maharajah for completion by poets. He collaborated with Gurajada Srirama Murty and produced Kavi Kavyaprasamsa Chandrika. Sundaram took the preservation of ancient manuscripts as his life work under the patronage of the Maharajah. With his blessings he started for the first time in Telugunadu Andhra Grandha Bhandagaram in 1894. He was also a Sataka Karta and composer or devotional pieces like Hariharasambho Siva Satakam and Sarveswara Sahasram.

Maharajah Ananda Gajapati showed great enthusiasm for starting journals. Besides the Telugu Harp and the English Harp and the various journals started under his patronage and guidance, he encouraged Sri Kokkonda Venkata Ratnam Pantulu with a generous financial aid for bringing out Andhra Bhasha Sanjeevani.

Among the intellectual cultural luminaries patronised by Maharajah Ananda Gajapathi special mention must be made of Adibhatla Narayanadas. The Harikatha Pitamaha was a distinguished class by himself. He was a real intellectual giant who had great self-respect. He never liked going seeking favours and patronage as such. Though he was very much in Vizianagaram his temperament was such that he never really tried to seek the patronage of Maharajah Ananda Gajapati for whom in fact he had the highest admiration. The Maharajah of Mysore had honoured him in 1894 and the honours accorded to the great artiste were mentioned in the newspapers. On seeing this, Maharajah Ananda Gajapati had him included in the list of court scholars on the usual salary. There were men who did not like Adibhatla's achievement out of sheer envy and jealousy. However, Lingam Lakshmoji, the polyglot and scholar who trained the Maharajah in several foreign languages, had conceived a great affection for Adibhatla. It was through his good offices that Adibhatla received a call from the Maharajah. On seeing the great Maharajah, out of genuine admiration, Adibhatla spoke a verse extempore. Rasikaagrani that the Maharajah was, he immediately took to Adibhatla's excellence. He ignored the sly complaints and subtle insinuations against him. He went to the extent of defending Adibhatla when officious courtiers wanted to slight him even in his own presence. The Maharajah was so noble that he would not tolerate any one speaking harshly of another or make slighting references to the absent or the dead. The Maharajah had great appreciation for Adibhatla’ s achievements, chiefly his voice. The Maharajah, it is believed, said that neither the Fort nor the town would hold Adibhatla’ s voice. Another memorable tribute paid by the Maharajah to Adibhatla was this: While he (the Maharajah) had only one eye (Sahitya), Adibhatla had two (Sangeeta and Sahitya). The scholar who was nearest to Ananda Gajapathi's heart was Adibhatla. He enjoyed his company and they used to play Runmore for matchsticks. One day it so happened that the Maharajah was dealt three Aces. Adibhatla went on raising the stakes and the Maharajah at last warned him to be cautious. Adibhatla retorted: “Three Kings are held in this hand”. The keenly observant and thoughtful Maharajah said that Adibhatla would always win. It was always a matter of admiration for the Maharajah that Adibhatla should be so devout and yet so independent. Adibhatla was held in all the greater esteem for his spirit of independence and zealous self-respect. Adibhatla’ s sense of humour was delectable and the Maharajah liked this trait in the great man. One day in the company of the Maharajah, Adibhatla hummed a swara which the prince found very sweet. On being asked to hum the tune again. Adibhatla went to the window and bade the breeze to blow again. The Maharajah who never lacked in a fine sense of humour smiled.

Maharajah Ananda Gajapati liked music as he liked nothing else and Adibhatla knew this. As a mark of his very high regard for the Maharajah, Adibatla composed several musical pieces singing his praise. Among these, notable is the Tana Varnam in Dhanyasi and a Swara jati in Simhendra Madhyamam both set to Adi Talam. These are found in Prabhu Prasamsa Sthabakam-Vijayanagara Prabhuvulu in Melubanti. Famous Vaggeyakara Subbaryaa Dikshitulu also composed a Raga Malika ending with Vasantha Raga on the Maharajah.

Gurajada Apparao, the author of the epoch-making play known for his service to the motherland by producing literature in the language of the poeple in the spoken form, was patronised by Maharajah Ananda Gajapati. He was appointed as lecturer in Maharajah's College on the Vijaya Dasami day of 1887. Gurajada wrote in his diary on 4th October 1889 that his appointment two years ago that day gave him such great peace that the Maharajah might not have been aware of. He wrote; “God bless the lord!”.

Many scholarly and epoch-making works of writers who broke new ground were dedicated to Maharajah Ananda Gajapati. The reason why the author chose the great personage was not merely that he patronised them or funded their publication but that they had considered him the most fitting for their works to be dedicated to. Here is a list of some of the books dedicated to the Maharajah: Gayaka Parijatham : Tachchuri Singaracharya Brothers. 1879 Proudha Vyakaranam : Bahujanapalli Sita Ramacharylulu, 1885 Gayaka Siddhanjanam :Pachchuri Singaracharya Brothers, 1890 Kavi Jeevithamulu : Gurajada Srirama Murty, 1893 Kanya Sulkam: Gurajada Appa Rao, 1897. It is not easy to list out the projects the Maharajah had financed for numerous writers. Maby recorded their gratitude and indebtedness in their works. Poets wrote satakas on him. Abhinava Pandita Raya Venkatacharya kavi wrote Ananda Gajapateendra Satakam. Mandapaka Parvateeswara Sastri sang the Maharajah's praise and recounted his meeting with the great prince in a kriti. Many of these are not available now.

Maharajah Ananda Gajapati encouraged every effort to bring out the best in every poet and every musician. The greatest and the most notable accomplishment in the Maharajah appears to be his ability to inspire loyalty and devotion not only to himself as the Maharajah but to the cause of scholarship and excellence, Gurajada recorded, in his Vyasa Chandrika. Fourth Volume (prescribed as a text for the First Year B.Sc., Course, Andhra University 1979-80), was his personal understanding of the Maharajah: “It was his habit to encourage man. He would exaggerate the achievement of a man with a view to enthusing him.”

Service to the Cause of Education

Maharajah Ananda Gajapati carried on the mission his revered father had undertaken to spread on the mission his revered father had undertaken to spread education. Father and son knew the value of education and realised that man's salvation lay in acquiring knowledge for which education afforded an opportunity. Maharajah Vijayarama Gajapati concentrated on the cultivation of the Vedas and Shastras and long before he founded an institution as such, his court and the company he kept had been a college and a research institution; the staff were the pandits who worked with zeal even without a fixed habitation and scheduled hours of work. Thus began, the cause of cultivating the Scriptures extended into an institution where Sanskrit was taught.

The following is the opening paragraph of the Historical Sketch presented in the Souvenir of the Diamond Jubilee of Maharajah's Sanskrit College on 6th April, 1940.

The institution was founded by His Highness Maharajah Viziarama Gajapati raj, K.C.S.I. In 1860. The Maharajah spent many years of his early life at Banaras. The age old religious centre has always been a great centre of Sanskrit learning too. It is natural that soon after he assumed charge of the Samsthanam he should have thought of founding a Sanskrit College in the chief city of estate. It is said that, apart from their duties in the college, the Pandits had, in his time, to meet once in a fortnight, discuss questions relating to Dharma (duty) and give their opinion. As the Maharajah constituted them into a sort of Dharma Sabha, the opinion of the pandits of the college carried great weight with the public in matters connected with religion and morals. The college went on regularly and efficiently during the time of his son. His Highness Maharajah Sir Ananda Gajapati Raj, G.C.I.E., who was a poet among princes and a prince among poets. On account of his culture, the Maharajah was very fond of the Pandits and their company and so the Pandits cared more to wait on him rather than attend the College ; and as he was extremely generous by nature, he never cared to hurt their feelings by making any reference to their work in the College. To encourage the study of Sanskrit, however, the Maharajah used to have annual examinations held about the time of Sravana -paurnami and award prizes to those that distinguished themselves in them.

“ … a sort of languishing state” is an observation necessitated, probably, by the fact that Maharajah Ananda Gajapti turned his attention to areas which his father had not had the time to devote. He took up the cause of spreading English education which he had identified as the urgent need of the times. Dr. K. Bhaskara Ramamurty in his The Edifice and the Builders published in the Centenary Souvenir of Maharajah's College Magazine wrote:

“1879 was an eventful year. Maharajah Vijayaram a prince and a preceptor, died, and his son Maharajah Sir Anand Gajapati took over the reins. Maharajah Ananda soon gained renown as the “Abhinava Andhra Bhoja”. He ably guided the destinies of the two institutions, Maharajah's College for English and the Sanskrit College established in 1860 by his father. He was a prince, handsome in mien and enlightened in mind, a poet, a scholar, an athlete and a man of letters, a musician, a virtuoso. He held court not of sycophants and tax-collectors, but of poets, scholars and musicians. The Moti Mahal, now the College for Women was his Durbar Hall. What is now the Girls Hostel being then his residential palace.

Renowned Sanskrit scholars and litterateurs like the late Mahamahopadhyaya Tata Subbaraya Sastri and Sri Peri Kasinatha Sastri, noted grammarians like Vajjhala China Sitharama Sastri, Sri Gurajada Apparao, the father of modern Telugu poetry and drama, that classic exponent of poetry artists, Sri Adibhatla Narayana Das, and that angelic musician Sri Veena Venkata Rama Das were a few of the men of genius who graced the royal court. Vizianagaram in those days recalled to one's memory the Hampi Vijayanagar and came to be known as Vidyalanagaram. The scholar-prince and the Diggajas took keen interest in the College and in 1881 were started the B.A. Classes. Affiliation was first obtained from the Madras University for courses in Mathematics and Philosophy. Chemistry, Physics and languages were added subsequently.

In 1881 were born the District Boards, the ancestors of the present-day Zillaparishads. Elementary and secondary education fell within the purview of the District Boards, and they took over many of the schools run by the Vizianagaram Samstanam. Much money could be saved on this count and the Maharajah Anand diverted all that to higher education. To provide class-room accommodation to the Degree classes, the eastern wing of the present college buildings, containing two halls and sixteen rooms, was constructed, and it was opened in 1883 by Sir Grant Duff, the then Governor of Madras.

Maharajah Anand aspired to build a residential university and set apart a hundred acres of land on the outskirts of Vizianagaram, near “Matchakonda”. But the premature demise of Maharajah Anand, in 1897, was a grievous blow from which the Institution could not recover for long. The idea of a university receded into the background, perhaps never to be realised.

Maharajah Anand Gajapati had very high aspirations to make Vizianagaram the greatest centre of learning in this part of the country. He wanted to start a University here. Sri G.V. Subbarao, the veteran journalist who edited his Journal Souvenir. A Vijayanagara University.

Here is what our good old principal, Sree Ramanjachary Garu, for instance, while moving a resolution on the Andhra University, at the third session of the Andhra Mahasabha at Visakapatnam in 1915 said:

“Principal K. Ramanujachary (Rao Bahadur) of Vizianagaram in proposing this resolution said that the idea of an Andhra University was not a new idea to him. And he revealed: ‘twenty years ago, the late illustrious Maharajah Sir Ananda Gajapati Raj expressed his opinion to me that there should be two more universities in the Presidency, one in the northern , one in the southern districts. He thought that Vizianagaram was the best place for the northern University. A site, measuring a mile in length and one thousand yards in breadth, was selected near the hills of Dasannapeta, and I was asked to examine the site. The Maharajah was ready to add to it, if necessary. Gentlemen, that was for the university he had in his mind for the Telugus. But he died all too soon for the country he was so anxious to serve.'' President V.V. Giri, who graced the occasion of the Centenary Celebrations, in his inaugural address said:

‘I am happy to be here today to inaugurate the Centenary Celebrations of the Maharajah's College, Vizianagaram. I have watched this institution grow from small beginnings. It owes its pre-eminence to the enlightenment and large-heartedness of the successive Rajas of Vizianagaram, especially Sri Vijayarama Gajapati and his illustrious successor, Sri Ananda Gajapati. They were great philanthropists and many public causes in Andhra Pradesh and India benefitted by their generosity. As a matter of fact, Anand Gajapati gave a princely donation to the Indian Student Association of Edinburgh to build a centre for themselves. I am grateful to my friend, Sri P.V.G. Raju for affording me an opportunity to be in your midst today and pay my tribute to these great personages.”

The extensive quotations from the great men cited above reveal the liberal mindedness of the Maharajah Ananda Gajapati and his specific contribution to the spread of English education. Here is yet another, tribute paid by Principal V. Linga Murty in his essay the Royal House of the Gajapatis of Vizianagaram.

‘Maharajah Ananda Gajapati Raj was the Bhoja of his day. A high-souled prince, full of sublime ideals, he maintained a philosophic attitude to life. The noble traditions of the line of Gajapatis may be said to have reached their culmination in him. Himself proficient in many of the arts, he was a great patron of arts and letters. A lover of music, he had in his court eminent Vainikas like Durvasula Suryanarayana Sastry, Guracharyula Venkataramanadas, and renowned violinists like Kaligotla Kamaraju. He encouraged theatricals, Dramas in English, Telugu and Sanskrit were staged in his own palace and he sat foremost among the audience. He was particularly fond of Sanskrit plays like Sakuntala, Vikramorvaseeya and Malavikagnimitra. At the same time, he encouraged dramatic compositions in Modern “Telugu”. It was under his patronage that Gurajada Apparao, the apostle of Telugu renaissance produced his Kanyasulkam which he dedicated to the Maharajah.

It is said the Maharajah was proficient in about twenty languages. He patronised eminent poets and scholars. His asthanam resounded with scholarly discourses in the Sastras in which the most learned men participated. He had in his court a band of renowned poets known as the Ashta Diggajas. Notable among them were Kolluru Kamasastri, Manda Lakshmi Kameswara Sastri who translated Kurma Puranam and Markandeya Puranam and Mudumbai Narasimhacharya Swamy who produced seventy works in Sanskrit. Adibhatla Narayana Das, the Harikatha Pithama, who kept large audiences spellbound by his marvellous performances also adorned the court of Ananda Gajapati. He was liberal in his gifts to scholars. His munificence is illustrated by his donation of a lakh of rupees for the reprinting of Max Muller's commentary on the Rig Veda when it was brought to his notice that the book was out of print. Well did Tirupati Venkata Kavulu who were among the many visitors of the Maharajah's court declare:

‘It was during the period of the Maharajah Ananda Gajapati Raj that the College whose centenary we are celebrating flowered into a first-grade college in 1881. Founded as a middle school in 1856 the institution grew into a High School in 1868, a second-grade college 1879 and a First Grade College in 1881. Under the munificent patronage of the succeeding Rajahs the college has grown in stature and today it is the brightest gem in the diadem of benefactions made by the royal house of the Gajapatis.

The greatness of Maharajah Ananda Gajapati consists in gearing up his administration to meet the requirements of education in a society fast moving towards new concepts and setting up before itself goals hitherto unknown in a bid to prosper and vie with the countries of the West.

Continued to “A Prince Among Scholars”

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06-May-2018
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