A Prince Among Scholars

Continued from “The Patron of Arts and Letters”

Every Hindu coms across this sloka which ends with lokaa samasthaa ssukhino bhavantu. His Holiness Jagadguru Kanchi Kaamakothi Peetadhipati, the traditional custodian of Hindu Dharma in a discourse, once cited the above sloka and explained it. In this state craft (raajaneeti) this is established at the beginning and at the end a payer is sent up for the happiness of the entire universe. The deity enshrined in the temple and invisible from the outside is important – the icons seen at the threshold and on the prakaras are elementary. We have to see both; what is important and what is only elementary. Without the elementary the important cannot be protected. Without the compound and the outer structures, the shrine stands exposed. For the protection of Dharma (Religious Values) statecraft is necessary. If Kings, rulers entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the people, keep to the path of Dharma, sorrow can find no place in this world. When happiness is arranged in the land, the acquisition of sastras begins following the saying: dharmo rakshati rakshitah. For this every man in this world should endeavour to see that proper rule is established.

Philosophically speaking, a religious mind and pious outlook on life are gifts from the divine grace. Religion is a matter of upbringing first and conviction later. Ananda Gajapathi's grand father. Narayan Gajapati took his two years old son Vijaya Rama Gajapathi to Banaras. Under the guidance of the Raj Purohit, Dwaraka Rama Deekshitulu, Narayana Gajapati, himself a very religious minded man, saw to it that his son would get the best of initiation into the religious practices and observances. As his son grew up he arranged for his exposure to the religious and cultural values of Hindu Heritage. The prime reason why these Maharajahs particularly Vijaya Rama Raju and his son Ananda Gajapati took to launching projects for promotion of learning and propagation of knowledge was their exposure to religion in the holiest of the holy shrine of religious exponents and theologians, the hub of oriental religious intercourse, Banaras.

Maharajah Vijaya Rama Gajapati, being a devout Hindu imbued the highest of Hindu religious values and it could be one of the reasons for his preference to stay in Banaras end keep himself away from the mundane affairs as long as he could. The environment at Banaras which he loved a great deal left on his mind a deep impress of Dharma, the holy duty, enjoined on man. A Prince that he was and one that had a great measure of divine grace, he had a greater and much more weightier and holier Dharma. Exposed to holy discourses and holy discourses and holy men, tutored by the best among scholars who specialised in the various branches of disciplined learning, having had the closest understanding of the rich Hindu wisdom and knowledge as revealed from the Vedas and the scriptures, Vijaya Rama Gajapati knew what mattered most. The estate and its administration he postponed taking up till he decided the time was ripe. Learning the ancient lore and strengthening his inner psyche were for his matters that came uppermost in importance. When once he knew what his responsibility was in the light of Jnana he had acquired, the call of Dharma was not to be ignored.

The holiest of religious values are the best of human values too. Hinduism is not merely a religion confined to books and theologians dissociated and isolated from life. It is a way of living a way of life, a way of finding harmony between the inner and the external, between the Saguna and Nirguna. The call of duty is the call of Dharma; the call of Dharma is a divine call and answering the call is obeying the almighty. Maharajah Vijaya Rama Gajapati exposed his son to the excellence of training in religious practices. His deep faith in religion swayed his judgement to bring up his son along the lines laid down by tradition. A deeply religious sensibility had been imbibed by the illustrious son Ananda Gajapati from his father. He knew what his great father had in his mind. He also knew what his father strove to do to preserve the Hindu texture of society in his capacity as the first member of Viceroy’s Council. If the British had respect for Hindu religion and if they had not interfered with it, a large part of the credit should go to these Maharajahs who knew Hindu Dharma and cherished the continuation of Hindu Law.

Raja Purohit Dwaraka Bhamidipati Venkata Subrahmanya Ssastry wrote in his preface to Vijayanagara Vijaya Yatra :

‘Ananda Gajapati Maharaja has become a household word in the Andhra country. His culture and refinement, his mercy and benevolence, his piety and devotion, his majesty and sublimity, have made him dear to the heart of every Andhra even of this generation. Among the innumerable historical events that filled his reign with glory, most of which my revered father, as the then high priest of the Vizianagaram Court was fortunate enough to chronicle, the one that is presented here to the pious Hindu world is of the greatest importance as it relates to the meeting together of the greatest spiritual and secular Samsthanams in the Presidency during the last century. The visit of the present head of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetha of Kanchipura with party to Vizianagaram in the last autumn from Benaras passing all the way by slow moving vehicles and on foot in accordance with the Holy traditions of the Peetham made me inquisitive about the former visit of the same Jagadguru Peetha in the year 1885 which I had vaguely heard from my elders. A perusal of the archives of my father's library brought into light the most detailed account of the event in the reign of His Highness Maharaja Ananda Gajapati Raj G,C.I.E. From the time of the Srimukha Proclamation of the then impending visit upto the farewell to Bobbili. Being unable to control my joy at this discovery, I submitted the same to the Diwager Maharani Saheba, who true to her House, at once undertook to publish the same together with an account of the recent visit and present the same to all Bhaktas.’

The Chief Priest of Maharaja Ananda Gajapati chronicled in his diary the visit of the spiritual lord in the year 1885. These entries reveal the worshipful attitude of the Maharajah to the Jagadguru as also the Jagadguru's respect for the secular power. On 3rd of July, 1885 a Srimukha was sent to the Maharajah along with prasad. On the 23rd the Pandits of the mutth paid a darshan to the Maharajah who had seen to it that every effort was made to honour and worship the Jagadguru in the way laid down by tradition. On the 26th of July the Maharajah paid worship to the Jagadguru. On the 23rd of September to the entire Royal family took part in the worship offered in the manner prescribed by the Hindu tradition. These show the Maharajah's intimate knowledge of religious propriety and his devotion to Holymen.

Maharajah Ananda Gajapati was a scholar among princes and a Prince among scholars. Scarcely was there any religious scripture which he had left unread. He studied the Sasthras with care and learnt them under able guidance. Being a secular monarch, he showed great concern for social progress and found ways of finding remedies for various evils that the populace suffered from in society. The Maharajah respected all religions since for him the goal of all faiths was just the same.

It is interesting to note here the entry of the High Priest in his diary dated 23rd October, 1885. The Jagadguru sent to the Maharajah a Srimukham on the subject of the prohibition of Kanya Sulka through Matham Visweswara Sastry. According to the Maharajah's wish Sri Kharidehal Narasinga Rao Pantulu Garu preserved the Sri Mukham.

A deeply religious minded and devout man that he was, the Maharajah did not think secular outlook the less important. He found a religious kind of satisfaction in making efforts to promote the welfare of the people mainly in areas of propagating education, traditional as well as English, social reform and patronage to literature and the fine arts. He showed a genuine reverence for all religions and religious denominations. The Theosophical Society founded by Blavatsky and Col. H.S. Olcott was one of the many supported by the Maharajah.

In the Inaugural address of the centenary Celebrations of Vasistha Lodge, delivered on 11-2-84, Dr.P.V.G.Raju, Rajah Saheb of Vizianagaram said. “It is a privilege to say a few words in Vasistha Lodge of the Theosophical Society at Vizianagaram today. If one accepts and believes in esoteric vasanas (past life tendencies) as a concentrate reality, then this meeting is no accident, but is taking place because of occult reality. I am the last living Zamindar of Vizianagaram claiming descent from Maharajah Poosapati Ananda Gajapati Raju who received Col. Olcott, a leading theosophist on 7-1-1884 who founded this Lodge on 10-1-1994”.

The Vasistha Lodge, Theosophical Society Branch was established in Vizianagaram when Maharajah Ananda Gajapati was the Ruler. The Vice President of the Society at Vizianagaram, Sri Kandregula Surya Narayana Murty mentioned in his annual report. “It was at the instance of the Masters who guided the destinies of the Theosophical Society he contacted the then Maharajah Ananda Gajapathiraj a patron of learning, of fine arts and every good cause and who himself lived a pious Hindu spiritual life. Col. Olcott stayed for 4 days. He noted in his diary that he was received with utmost courtesy for which he as known to the whole European community at Madras and Calcutta, that he talked earnestly and fluently about religious and philosophical questions and that he had earned from the European community the title of “Prince Charming” During his visit Col. Olcott delivered two lectures on religious subjects in the “Daba gardens” and organised on 10-1-1884 a branch of the Thesophical Society at Vizianagaram which on the suggestion of the Maharajah was called “Vasishta Theosophical Lodge”, after the gotra, name of the Pushavati ruling family of Vizianagaram – Col. Oloctt visited Vizianagaram a second time in 1887 and stopped here for 3 days 9-8-1887 to 11-8-87 and was Maharajah's guest. Col. Olcott wrote in his diary that the Maharajah engaged him in a long discussion on religious matters and kept on talking to him from 3 p.m. To 8 p.m. On 9-8-1887, wished him every success for the Theosophical Society and promised him he would look after the welfare of the Society. On the two occasions he subscribed liberally to the funds of the Theosophical Society and even in 1834 he sent considerable order for Theosophical Literature”.

The patronage which the Maharajah extended the Muslims among the many he encouraged speaks of his truly religious outlook which transcended the limitations of adherence to a single faith. This is borne out by the fact that Munshi Mohammed Pachamia received the same patronage with the title: Taranath Tarka Vachaspati.

The Historiographer

The mighty prince was a remarkable historiographer. Veracity, objectivity and enthusiasm for justice are the hallmarks of a worthy historian and we find all these qualities in abundance in the composition Vizianagaram Treaty. Vizianagaram Treaty of November 15th, 1758 and the end fifteen years war between the English and the French for the sovereignty of India from 1744 to 1759 A.D. With a sketch account of some of the noteworthy facts connected with the Vizianagaram family” was the work of a historiographer. The prince composed and got it printed by Vest & Co., Mount Road, Madras, in 1984. The Preface is included as an appendix at the end.

Vizianagaram Treaty was in the form of a letter to Francis D.A.O. Wolfe-Murray Esquire:

As desired, I beg to forward the accompanying true copy of the Treaty extracted from several reliable historical works wherein it is quoted, together with an account of the circumstances that led to it, which account and Treaty I hope will be found deseving space in Aitchson's Treaties and supporting my reasons given further on, for the application I made to the Foreign Secretary, the Hon'ble Mr.W.J.Cunningham, C.S.I., regarding the insertion of this treaty in Aitchison's work, persuaded partly by Sri Charles Aitchison's communication to my revered father and partly on account of the fact of his work containing other compacts analogous in form as will be seen from the Appendix. I to the present one and I trust that the following account and excerpts will be found ample and accurate.

The original Treaty between Ananda Gajapati Raj the fourth ancestor of the present writer), and Col.Forde is not with me and I think, I had mentioned this fact to the Foreign Secretary, the Hon'ble Mr.W.J. Cunningham, C.S.I Nevertheless that is treaty is well grounded on sound historical basis, is an undeniable fact, as it is warranted by numerous historical illustrations cited below:

Maharajah Ananda Gajapati quoted extensively from various historical sources the chief of which was The History of the Rise and Progress of the Bengal Army. Before giving further historical evidence he mentioned the reasons and rationale for the inclusion of the Treaty in Aitchison's work :

I remember that Sir Charles Aitchison in his answer to my revered father's letter wrote to the effect that hsi treaty would be included in the next edition. Although the letter is missing, A.J.Underwood Esq., who as private secretary to my revered father distinctly remembers and confirms the fact. However, this is not the only reason that led me to mention the circumstance to the Foreign Secretary before the ensuing third edition of Aitchison's Treaties was out, when I was last in Calcutta. My main reason for broaching the subjecto to him was that Aitchison's Treaties does contain numerous compacts, because. I suppose they are history, although descendents of many of the contracting parties exist now only in name. Again many of the treaties in Aitchison's work in the form of entry being similar in resemblance to the Treaty in question without seal and signature (vide Appendix 1) the inclusion of the treaty. I thought, would rather add to, than detract from the harmony of the work.

Thereafter the Maharajah adduced incontrovertible evidence to establish the authenticity of the Treaty. Ananda Gajapati's love of learning was prodigious even as his admiration for the glory of his forbears. Patronising art and literature is one thing and striving for excellence as a savant is quite another. There have been princes who have been dilettantes but here is one who took up a laudable project not as a literary or historiographical exercise but as a challenge to vindicate truth and justice, recounting a vision of the glorious past where his ancestors paved the way for the firm establishment of the British power in this country. In the situation that obtained in those days that was patriotism and a real love of the motherland. Vizianagaram Treaty is the brilliant work of a painstaking researcher. Though it had been in his power to appoint someone competent to do the work and assign him the task, the prince wanted to write it himself, though it meant setting aside other significant literary projects he wanted to undertake. The work stands testimony to the prince's high sense of commitment and extraordinary capacity to work hard on challenging task of a scholarly calling. Three reasons must have prompted him to compose the treaty himself:

  (i) Loyalty to truth
 (ii) Loyalty to the honour and fame of his family, the Royal House of Poosapatis of Vizianagaram
(iii) Loyalty to the Crown

With a keen and abundant sense of responsibility, equipped with vast scholarship and deep erudition the way he marshalled facts and adduced evidence from historical works to prove and substantiate his point are indeed remarkable. His scholarship could rise to meet the challenges an historiographer would have to meet to be clear, analytical and unbiased. Every statement he made, he knew, must be duly proved by weighty pieces of evidence. The range of the sources from which he quotes to give support to his argument is wide and his scholarship extensive. British scholars and historians, writers of manuals and Gazetteers, poets in Telugu Sanskrit and Persian; and several other supplementary pieces of evidence are quoted. The records of the government are quoted time and again with a view to correcting some errors, false conclusions and illogical prejudices. For example:

This statement (from Orme): “Mr. Moracin not having troops enough to reduce the united forces of the Rajah and Jaffer Ally, made overtures to Vizeramarauze, offering to farm out to him the countries of Rajahmundrum and Chicacole at a lower rate than they had ever been valued at. Such a temptation was perhaps never resisted by any prince of Indostan) seems to be absurd on the very face of it. The question being: whether Vijayaram Raj or Mr. Moracin was the greater one. That the consent to give on the part of the Rajah, even a portion of it, does credit to the sense of duty and Rajah's honesty rather than to lucrative temptations, is self-evident. Bussy obtained right to Northern Circars through Hyderabad, to which Vizianagaram was nominally subject. It was the good sense and honesty of Viziarama Raj powerful as he was at that time, that prompted him to agree to pay that nominal tribute to Bussy as the agent of Hyderabad, but not his fear or the power of the French. So the insinuation in the above phrase of Moracin, farming out the revenues, seems to be a vain-glorious statement and wilful exaggeration of self-importance, prompted pride, rather than an honest declaration of the existing facts probably on the French especially when we view these transactions in the light cast upon them by other histories cited above, written by contemporaries who were themselves also famous prime ministers of the court of Nizam.

Ananda Gajapati wanted to explain to the Foreign Secretary the historical fact that the Gajapatis were noble and glorious. His account of the origin and extent of the power of the Rajahs of Vizianagaram in the Kalinga Country: the history of the title of Gajapati” (quoted elsewhere in the present monograph) are brilliant illustrations of the admiration in which ananda Gajapati had held his forbears. The work stands mighty testimony to the writer 's objectivity and zeal for truth. He quotes not less than forty scholars, historians, poets and documenters some of the most important of which are: Orme, Broome, Cambridge, Carmichael, Greig, Taylor and Adams: Poosapati Vijayarama Raju and Meer Alum: Megasthenese and Huen Tsang.

With all the quotations the narrative does not flag in holding interest and swaying reason. The historical account receives the main attention and truth the major focus. The Summary of the History of the Vizianagaram Family (Given in this work as an Appendix) shows the Prince's objectivity if the other two earlier points prove his zeal for doing the right thing for the right reason upholding the truth.

The treaty, which as has been pointed out earlier is in the form of a letter, has a fitting peroration.

In conclusion, I beg to repeat that the insertion, in Aitchison’s Treaties of this Treaty, with the summary of the Vizianagaram family given below, can in no way detract from the work, but on the contrary may be conducive to the enhancement of its harmony, and certainly to the glory of the family of the Rajahs of Vizianagaram specially as mentioned on the second page, many of the treaties in Aitchison's work, in the form of the entry, being similar to the treaty in question as indirect quotations without seal and signature of the contracting parties.”

Continued to "The Great Personality"


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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