Saturday, August 16, 2008

Editor of two famous Telugu dailies

founder Editor of Andhra Jyothi 1959

Editor of Andhra Prabha 1940-1958

Monday, August 11, 2008


Thought the feet of Gautama, the Buddha, never touched the soil of Andhra, it was in this youngest State of the Republic of India that Budhist art and sculpture, especially the latter, had its finest flowering. The Andhras embraced Buddhism long before that era of Asoka and as Prof. K.R.Subramaniam has stated in his excellence monograph, Buddhist Remains in Andhra, “it cannot be doubted that Andhra Buddhism was pre-Asokan.”
Being a highly emotional people, the Andras are known even to-day for their quick and strong reactions. If they love they love ardently, and when they hate they hate violently. Taken as a whole they are kind, affectionate, hospitable and though sometimes prone to be irritatingly capricious, they have a genius for friendship, and are instinctively attracted by any progressive idea or ideology. Given this temperament, it can be taken for granted that they must have welcomed the gospel of Buddhism with its broad humanity, its emphasis on compassion, its message of universal love and brotherhood, its total rejection of all superstitions and its direct appeal to all that is sublime in human nature.
Anyone with imagination could certainly penetrate the thick fog of the intervening centuries and see the tall, slim, rather fair and wide-eyed Andhras in their million flocking to Buddhist shrines with their offerings of fresh and fragrant flowers; one may even here every hill and dale in the ever-green valleys of the Krishna, the Godavari and the Vamsadhara resounding to the incantation of Buddham Saranam Gacchami (which means “I take refuge in the Buddha, in the Gospel and in the Order”), That this is no idle speculation of mine is attested by scores of the remains of the Buddhist sites that are scattered throughout the length and breadth of the Andhra State from Salihundam in the north to Chinna Ganjam in the south, and from Gooty in the west to Ghantasala in the east. These ancient sites, in the words of Mr.A.H.Longhurst” are of far more real archaeological value than many of the great Hindu monuments of the South.” We owe their rescue from centuries of oblivion to the pioneering efforts of a brilliant band of officials, both civilian and military, and archaeologists, the most prominent of whom are Mackenzie, Elliot, Burgess, Sewell, Rea, Longhurst and Ramachandran.
I cannot claim to have seen all the sites of Buddhist remains in Andhra. I have, however, had the good fortune of visiting Amaravati, Nagarjunakonda, Jaggayyapeta, Ghantasala and Bhattiprolu. Of these, the first two are well-known. They are both in Guntur District on the banks of the Krishna, the blue Danube of India, and the second biggest river of the Deccan. Though Amaravati is today a rather dusty village and not the seat of a great university that it was for some centuries, and though Nagarjunakonda is now practically a deserted valley and not the centre of another famous university as in ancient times, even casual visitor would not fail to sense in them some of the limpidness and sparkle of the Krishna river together wit the calm and peace and beatitude associated with Buddhism. Being a layman, I cannot, of course, speak wit authority, but as one who in his wanderings over India has covered almost all the major centers of ancient and mediaeval Indian art, I may venture my opinion for what it is worth that even after centuries of neglect and vandalism, the sculptures still to be seen both at Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda are second to none for their lyrical beauty, their divine grace and their depth of feeling.
Amaravati, as most of you are no doubt aware of, has an important place in the history of not only Andhra but Indian and world Buddhism. Situated within half-a-mile of the Satavahana capital, Dhanyakataka, it was the home of a special school of Mahayana philosophy. It was, however, more popular on account of the magnificent stupa that rose there majestically to a height of about 100 feet, and had at its base a diameter of about one hundred and sixty-two feet. (Comparative figures for diameter are; Bhattiprolu, one hundred and forty-eight feet; Ghantasla, one hundred and twenty-two feet and the main stupa at Nagarjunakonda, one hundred and six feet.) “The original chaitya of Amaravathi”, according to Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, “dates from 200 B.C. and some reliefs are of the first or second century B.C. The casing slabs and the great railing and also the few Buddha figures date from the latter part of the second century A.D., or at any rate not later than A.D. 250.” Of this railing, which was the supreme glory of the Amaravati stupa, Mr. James Fergusson says that “although the rail at Bharhut is the most interesting and important in India in an historical sense, it is far from equal to that at Amaravati, either in elaboration or in artistic merit.” “Indeed in these respects.” Continues the same authority who, along with Mr.E.B.Havell and Dr. A.K.Coomaraswami, was largely responsible for bringing to the notice of the outside world the beauty and the glory of Indian art and architecture, “the Amaravati rail is probably the most remarkable monument in India. In the first place, it is more than twice the dimensions of the rail at Bharhut, the great rail being 195 feet in diameter the inner 165 ft. or almost twice the dimensions of that at Bharhut; between these two was the procession-path, which in the earlier examples was on the tope itself. Externally, the total height of the great rail was about 14ft., internally it was two feet less, while the inner rail was solid and only six feet in height.” I need not go into the other architectural details of this great Amaravati stupa-a plaster model of which re-constructed according to a plan suggested by Mr. Percy Brown can be seen in the Madras Museum – but I should perhaps mention that it is estimated that “the railing alone provided a superficial area of nearly 17,000 square feet covered with delicate reliefs.”

Most of these reliefs are now unfortunately lost. Even by the time of Col. Colin Mackenzie who saw the great Amaravati stupa at the end of the 18th Century many of the sculptured marbles ad been destroyed. They had been dug up and burnt into lime by a local chieftain who in 1797 shifted is head-quarters to Amaravati, the very dust of which was rich with history and hallowed by tradition, and made a feeble attempt to find a new city about the Amareswara temple. And even those marbles that escaped this vandalism are now widely scattered. A large majority of them have been removed to the London, Paris, Calcutta and Madras museums; just a few only are left on the original site. More than a hundred of them – 125 to be exact- are now in the British Museum. Named after Sir Walter Elliot, who was mainly responsible for sending them to London, they are known as the “Elliot Marbles.” Rivaling even the Elgin marbles and the Assyrian reliefs in their grace and elegance, their power and poignancy, the Amaravati sculpture greeted me in the entrance hall of that great treasure house of world art in an uncommonly quite street in London. Across the Channel in Paris, I have again found in the Musee Guimet three, may be four, reliefs from Amaravati, while I recently counted fourteen of them in the Indian Museum at Calcutta. I need not, I suppose, add that the Madras Government Museum has more than three hundred and fifty of these art treasures from Amaravati, including, of course, quite a few fragments. While regretting this wide dispersal of the invaluable creations of the Andhra sculptors, I must admit that everywhere I found them well housed, and properly cared for except at the place of their origin. Two years ago when I was at Amaravati for the second time, I found the few marbles still left there dumped in an ugly shed, though even the smallest fragment deserves nothing short of a palace for its ineffable beauty and infinite grace.
As Dr. Coomaraswamy says, the sculpture of Amaravati which is mostly in relief and only rarely in the round, “is very vigorous and full of movement, sometimes passionately devotional, sometimes humorous, always voluptuous and decorative.” He also thinks that all of its is “a masterpiece of pure design charming in every detail”. Indeed, the art of Amaravati is a glorious product of the Andhra genius. Mr.Fergusson’s expert opinion is that the sculptures of Amaravati mark “the culmination of Indian art.” Even while disputing this estimate, Mr. Havell admits that the Amaravathi marbles present “delightful studies of animal life, combined with extremely beautiful conventionalized ornament.” He also acknowledges that at Amaravati “the most varied and difficult movements of the human figure are drawn and modeled with great freedom and skill.
Great freedom in expression and unfailing skill in making every line and curve and contour of a sculpture speak eloquently – these, indeed, are the two distinctive characteristics of the art of Amaravati. And what is equally important, it is essentially indigenous; it arose out of the inner urges of a people; it was the response to a challenge, and a pouring forth of the heart for finding fulfillment. The Gandhara or Graeco – Roman influence on Indian sculpture, if it was really strong at any earlier period, was negligible by the time it reached the banks of the Krishna in the early years of the Christian era. “The Amaravati sculptures”, Sir John Marshall has rightly stated, “indeed appear to be a as truly Indian in style as those of Bharhut and Ellora. They follow as a natural sequence on Mauryan art when that art was finding expression in more conventionalized forms. They have inherited certain motifs and types which filtered in from the north – west (i.e. Gangadhara), but these elements have been completely absorbed and assimilated without materially influencing the indigenous character of these sculptures.”

Though I am not one of those who feel ashamed to acknowledge that we have borrowed and assimilated something from others, it is asserted by competent authorities that outside influences are yet more negligible in the case of the Buddha image at Amaravati. According to Mr. Douglas Barrett (I am quoting from his recent publication, Sculptures from Amaravati in the British Museum.) “few, if any, of the Amaravati images of the middle and late phases are identical with those of Mathura….. There is, as it were greater naturalness about the Amaravati image. It is less of an ikon that the image of the north. Indeed, if the short curly hair, ushnisha, and halo are added to the figures of monks, which are frequently represented in the middle phase, the result is an Amaravati Buddha. The monks have shaven heads and both shoulders covered with the robe, which is naturalistically rendered.” “The Buddha image at Amaravati”, continues Mr. Barrett, “was carved not to express the abstract thought of the philosopher or theologian, but to satisfy the personal adoration or bhakti of the common laity and the simple monk, a need displayed by the other contemporary religions of India.” I may add that even if the Andhra sculptor derived much more than the idea of making an image of the Buddha from Madhura, he succeeded abundantly in infusing his creation with the spirit of the Andhras whose approach of life and reactions to their environment are essentially emotional.
The emotional impact of the Amaravati sculptures could really be profound. If I may strike a personal note, the sculpture of the four worshipping women, which is preserved in the Madras Museum, stirs me to the depths of my soul. With what simplicity and directness does this masterpiece show the utter abandon and the total surrender of these devotees bowing before the feet of the Lord !
Another Amaravati sculpture – also in the Madras Museum – always fascinates me with its dramatic effect. It represents the taming of the fierce elephant, Nalagiri, by the Master. How eloquently does it portray the transformation wrought in the wild beast by the commanding presence and the pervasive influence of the Prince of Compassion. Let loose into the crowded streets of Rajagriha by the palace mahouts, who were secretly bribed by Devadatta, the jealous cousin of the Buddha, it rushes forth to attack the Lord. In its mad progress through the fleeing crowds, it tramples under its cruel feet every one that fails to clear out of its path. Killing and maiming, Nalagiri proceeds on and on. A few more steps; a few more seconds – and it would be within reach of the Sakyamuni. Helplessly some people scream; desperately one of the disciples of the Lord tries to ward off the attack. Devadatta’s evil plan seems to be assured of complete success. But – lo and behold ! – even as Nalagiri approaches the Master it begins to soften and to relent, to hesitate and to falter, until finally it becomes meek as a lamb and salutes the Lord, whose august presence is represented by a pillar of fire. At this unexpected turn – this magical transformation – what should have been the feelings of Devadatta ? Through unrepresented in the sculpture, we can visualize him lurking behind some vantage point, with his face resitering in, quick succession feelings of expectancy, elation, doubt, disappointment, incredulity coupled with important range.
Before I pass on to other centers of Buddhist art in Andhra, may I crave your permission to say a few more words about the marbles of Amaravati? It is generally believed that the Amaravati sculptures were “originally covered with a thin coat of fine plaster and painted.” If it were so, we may safely presume that they once rivaled in the beauty and delicacy the paintings of Ajanta and Bagh. Even without these fine colurs, “it is only in the paintings of Ajanta and Bagh”, as Dr. James Burgess remarks. “that we find anything comparable to the rich variety and excellence of art displayed in these (Amaravati) sculptures.” In fact, Mr. Havell believes that the bas-reliefs of Amaravati (forming the decoration of the railing and the marble casing of the stupa itself) should properly be studied in connection with the fresco-paintings of Ajanta. I may be pardoned if I hazard the guess that the painters of Ajanta were no other than the sculptors of Amaravati working in a different medium.

Of equal merit are the marbles of Nagarjunakonda or the Sri Parvata (as it was known formerly), in the protective shadow of which once nestled the magnificent city of Vijayapuri, the capital of the Ikshvakus. While the Ikshavakus flourished and held away over Vengi as the successors of the Satavahanas, this lovely valley of the Sri Parvata - it has green hills on three sides, the deep blue stream of the Krishna constituting the fourth – was a great seat of Mahayana Buddhism, second perhaps only to Amaravati. Though the ruling kings were mostly Hindus, their consorts patronized Buddhism. According to inscriptions found at Nagajunakonda. One such royal patroness – indeed the very first – was Chantisin, another was Adavi Chantisiri, whild the name of the third lady that has come down to us is Chula – Chanti-sirimika. Though not related to the Ikshvakus, Upasika Bodhisiri who, I presume, was a fabulously rich heiress that donned the yellow robe, vied with the ladies of the royal family in her magnificent gifts. There may be some doubt as to her nationally – on the strength of their identification of her birth – place Govagama with Gongamaka, which is mentioned as a Ceyloness port in the Mahavamsa, some research scholars believe that she hailed from Ceylon – but as to her numerous endowments to te Buddistic establishments, not only at Nagarjunakonda, but at other places too, there is no doubt whatsoever. To quote from Early History of the Andhra Country by Sri K. Gopalachari, Bodhisiri helped to build at Vijayapuri “two Chairtanya grahas (one on the Lesser Dhammagiri by the side of a vihara as the special property of the nuns of Ceylon), and another at Kulaha-vihara, a shrine for the Bodhi-tree (i.e., a railing around it) at the Sihala vihara, one cell at the Great Dhammagiri, a mandava pillar at the Mahaviara, a hall for religious practice at Devagiri, a tank, verandah, and mandava at Puvasela, a stone mandava at the eastern gate of the Mahachaitya at Kantakasela, three cells at Hirumthuva, seven cells at Papila, a stone mandava at Puphagiri, and a stone mandava at the … vihara” We need not pause here to wonder as to what could be the modern names of the various places that received such varied gifts from Bodhisiri; it is enough for our purpose to note that such was the deep devotion of this and other ladies to the message of the Buddha that they poured out unstintingly all their treasures to adorn Vijayapuri with innumerable stupas, chaityas and viharas.
Great must have been the splendour of this citadel of the Ikshvakus for it attracted from far and wide not only merchants with wares to sell, but students seeking knowledge, both religious and secular. Even before the time of the Ikshavakus, Vijayapuri must have gained wide reputation as a seat of learning for that great philosopher. Nagarjunacharya, the profounder of Madhyamika or the Middle Path, spent (according to Tibetan traditions) the closing years of his life on Sri Parvata. But lured by his history and traditions of Vijayapuri, I should not lose sight of my main theme, viz., Buddhist Art in Andhra.
Well, unlike those found at Amaravai, the marbles of Nagarjunakonda are not dispersed (except for the four or five that have somehow found their way into Musee Guimet) and in their fullness they proclaim to the world the glory and grandeur of the Buddhist art of Andhra. Perhaps I should not fail to mention here that the excavations at Nagarjunakonda are not yet complete and that there is every likelihood of more sculptures as well as inscriptions and remains of ancient buildings being found there. There further excavations are being carried out now on a large scale for the site – I regret to say – is going to be inundated under the major irrigation project of Nagarjuna Sagar, work on which is now proceeding apace. Though it is rather unfortunate that an ancient site of great religious, artistic, cultural and historical value should soon be submerged under a vast sheet of water as a result of te new project. I, for one, would not bewail the event as the great Nagarjuna Sagar is expected to irrigate millions of acres of land, thereby bringing plent and prosperity to vast areas which are now periodically subject a famine conditions. And I am sure the great Buddhist divine and philosopher. Nagarjuna, would, in the largeness of his heart, bless the project.
During Nagarjuna’s time and for some centuries after him, Vijayapuri was slaking the thirst for knowledge of thousands of students that were flocking there from “Kashmira, Gangadhara, Cheena, Chilata, Tosali, Aparanta, Venga, Varnasi, Yavana, Palura, Damila, Tambapanni”. From now on instead of standing as mere shadow of its past glory, it would serve as a great reservoir for watering thirsty lands, thereby bringing happiness into thousands of homes; homes that are now steeped in poverty and are devoid of all decencies of a civilized life. Nagarjuna peached the gospel of life, not of the graveyard. His mission was to bring light into the dark recesses of the mind and to abolish ignorance and suffering. He would, therefore, be the first to assert that grinding poverty – poverty that is not voluntary, but enforced – with all the degeneration it inevitable bring about, leaves no scope whatsoever for an intellectual life, not to speak of a life the spirit. He would, I feel, not only not regret the conversion of the dead valley into life-giving reservoir, but would welcome it as a noble venture worthy of his teachings and his traditions.

Let me not, however, pursue this point further; all that I need to say is that the present sculptures at Nagarjunakonda and any that may be found as a result of the current excavations, will be treasured somewhere as a great national heritage. According to a recent report, an expert committee appointed by the Government of India seems to prefer the location of the Nagarjunakonda sculptures and other finds at the top of the Sri Parvata itself, for that reputed hill would continue to hold its head aloft in spite of its base as well as its flanks being totally submerged in the great lake that would be formed once the Nagarjuna Sagar project is completed. This appears to me to be a good idea, and I hope that it will be implemented. If, however,any practical difficuilties are encountered in putting it through and an alternative site is chosen, even then that new place would, I am confident, become another Nagarjunakonda. For the gospel so brilliantly interpreted and so vigorously taught by the great Nagarjuna is writ large on every frieze.
How deeply did one of the Nagarjunakonda sculptures move me during my last visit! It depicts the great wave of sorrow that swept through the royal court of Kapilavastu when the news of the sallying forth- the Mahabhiniskramana – of Prince Siddhartha in search of the Dharma is brought back by Channa, the dutiful charioteer. King Suddhodana’s head is bent down in grief and he is almost frozen on his seat. Prince Yasodhara is falling down unconscious as if struck by lightning. Channa, who is kneeling at the feet of the king, is a picture of sorrow. The faces of the royal attendants are masterly studies in sadness.
And the most suggestive, poignant touch of all, the eyes of that noble steed, Kantaka, who had overnight carried the Lord on his back ut of Kapilavastu, are glistening with tears. For a moment I was wondering wheather the very stone on which this scene was depicted was not itself melting into tears ! Such indeed is the marvel of the art of Nagarjunakonda !! It is rich without being elaborate, moving without being sentimental, meaningful without being didactic. Even a broken piece from Nagarjunakonda is evocative as I realized when I noticed a small fragment representing the fingers of a hand. The moment I saw it I felt sure that it must have been a fragment of a statue of the Buddha, for who can mistake the luster and loveliness-the power and elegance of-the fingers that set the Wheel of Dharma in motion.
I have dwelt on Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda at some length because they undoubtedly represent the two highest peaks of Buddhist art in Andhra. Though of lesser importance, the finds at Goli, Jaggayyapeta, Bhattiprolu, Ghantasala, Guntupalli, Garikipadu, Salihundam, Ramatirtham and many other sites of Buddhist remains in Andhra are remarkable in their own way. The stupas at some of these places are said to be earlier than those at Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda. Either as a result of vandalism or pilfering by the agents of foreign governments, not many sculptures from these monuments are available for study. Still the few marbles left after centuries of depredation and destruction clearly bear the stamp of that genius that was to find its spring-tide at Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda.
Even broken pieces of the freizes of the much neglected stupa at Jaggayyapeta, which I visited recently for the first time, are things of beauty. Fourteen sculptures recovered from Jaggayyapeta – all of them either broken or mere fragments, the only exception being a standing Buddha – are in the Madras Museum. This standing Buddha is exceptional, not merely because it was found undamaged, but also because it differs both in age and style from the rest of finds. It has an inscription on its lotus base in characters of the sixth century – the gist of the inscription being that the image was made under instructions from Jayaprabhacharya. A disciple of Nagarjunacharya – it is concluded that it belongs to a much later age than the rest of the sculptures which are akin to those of the first face of the Amaravati stupa, and hence are dated as early as 200 B.C.
The most interesting as well as important of the Jaggayyapeta marbles is a slab representing a Chakravarti. The seven jewels which surround him – the queen, the prince, the minister, the elephant, the horse, the wheel, and the gems – proclaim him to the world as a king of kings. Noteworthy features of this sculpture are not only the square coins that are showered on the emperor from the sky and the jewels worn by the human figures, but also the elongated structure of those figures which constitute a marked departure from the stunted representations of the Gandhara School. It is this elegant attenuation of the figures the subsequently led to the “towering and graceful forms” in the sculptures of the middle phase of Andhra sculpture at Amaravati. Another interesting find in Jaggayyapeta is the “punyasala,” a beautiful sculpture showing a two-storied shrine.
My visit Bhattiprolu, a village in the Republic Taluk of the Guntur District, was in my teens; hence my memories of the stupa there are extremely vague. But I gather from the report of Mr.Alexander Rea on his excavations of Buddhist mounds in the Krishna District that even by 1820 the stupa at Bhattiprolu was denuded of most of its bricks and all of its marbles. “The bricks being of large size and good quality” says his report, “were used for road-making, and the marbles variously utilized in the construction of a sluice in the Krishna canal”. There is however, some doubt as to whether the marbles had any carvings on them. Mr. Robert Sewell, who visited the place the earlier than Mr. Rea was of the opinion that they had carvings. In a report which he made out to the Madras Government in 1878, Mr. Sewell said : “That they really were carved marble sculptures is tolerably conclusively proved by the fact that in the walls and floor of this very Vellatur sluice marbles have been extensively used. Some sculptured stones bear carving assimilating in type to those at Amaravati though they do not appear to have been so beautifully executed.” I have no hesitation in agreeing with this opinion. The greenish white limestone quarried in Palnad in Gutur District and widely used in adorning the stupa in Andhra has no intrinsic beauty. It has no gloss, no variegated hues; it is dull, drab, cold. Now-a-days it is used as raw material by our cement industry. Only the masterly hadn of the Andhra sculpturs gave this flimsy limestone a life and a message; a life of unsurpassed beauty and a message of love for all sentient beings. This intrinsic lack of any beauty in the lime stone of Palnad makes me believe that It could not have been used in the stupa at Bhattiprolu, or for the matter of that, at any other place. Without some sculpture or other on it-be it a lotus, a dharma chakra, a naga with an out-stretched hood, a bodhi tree or the Sri Padas. Well, whatever sculptural wealth the Bhattiprolu stupa had, which by the way was constructed of solid brickwork unlike those at Ghantasala and Nagarjunakonda, is now totally lost.
An identical fate seems to have over taken the Buddhistic stupa at Gudivada, a taluk centre in the Krishna District. “About 1840 a mound of brick-work was demolished here to obtain material for repairing the high road between Bezwada and Bandar.” Referring to this vandalism, Mr.Rea says: “It is to be regretted that all these works have suffered at the hands of those who required material for the construction of roads and other such works. Though among the oldest existing monuments of an ancient civilization, their great antiquity was no protection to them from the despoiling hands … Such being the case we can only unearth and endeavour to piece together such remains that escaped the notice of the despoilers. We have been able to gather from these – in many cases seemingly shapeless mounds – that the architectural works of the Buddhists have never been excelled by any of later date existing in India. Unlike the later architecture of the Dravidians, their buildings not only contained masterpiece of detail, but the buildings were themselves perfect examples of architectural composition.”
For quoting here Mr.Rea at some length my only excuse is tht his report published in 1894 with a pretty long title, South Indian Buddhist Antiquities, Including the Stupas of Bhattiprolu, Gudivada and Ghantasala and Other Ancient Sites in the Krishna District, Madras Presidency; With Notes on Dome Construction, Andhra Numismatics and Marble Sculpture, has now become extremely scarce, though I have been lucky in obtaining a copy of it only the other day from Poona. While it is hard to resist the temptation to quote more passages from this rare report. I would merely add that all that Mr.Rea could recover from Bhattiprolu were two caskets with sacred Buddhistic relics and from Gudivada a large and valuable hoard of ancient coins, some of which date back to the Satavahana Empire. A very interesting coin from the same hoard “bore the figure of a Roman or Greek galley, with a rather crescent shaped hull, two masts and a large oar-shaped rudder”. Mr. Rea certainly deserves our grateful thanks for these valuable finds, but it must be mentioned that it was rather unfortunate, that he narrowly missed unearthing the marbles of Ghantasala; how this happened we shall see presently.
Though it is a debatable point whether Bhattiprolu and Gudivada could lay claim to any sculptural wealth, there is no such doubt regarding Ghantasala, a village sixteen miles west of Masulipatnam. When I visited the place a few years back I found there some uprights of the rail of the local stupa with finely – chiseled dharma chakras. The original name of Ghantasala is said to be Kantakasaila; in fact, Ptolemy refers to it as “Contocossyla” It is surmised that the place was named after Kantaka the renowned horse of Buddhist lore. The frieze from Ghantasala depicting Kantaka is preserved in the Madras Museum. The rest of the marbles of Ghantasala are now in far-off Paris in Musee Guimet. One of these which fascinated me during my visit to Paris in 1954 is a masterly depiction of three storied building with adorer; another is an exquisite sculpture vividly portraying the happiness of Suddhodana, when he heard the news of the birth of his son, Siddhartha.
According to Mr. Douglas Barrett, Assistant Keeper in the Department of Oriental Antiquities in the British Museum, “the most important slab” from Ghantasala is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. “It is carved on both faces. The palimpsest shows an elaborate stupa similar to those on the late drum slabs at Amaravathi. On the other face is the scene of the Buddha at the Niranjana river, there is a fragmentary pilaster up the left-hand edge.” Could the importance of this relief be that it is carved on both faces? I do not know. But I am convinced that the Mahachaitnya at Ghantasala was one of the most important in Andhra. The art of Ghantasala vied with that of Amaravati at its best. A slightly damaged head of the Buddha, a sculpture in the round, found in Ghantasala, is in my opinion definitely superior in certain respects to those which I have seen in Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda. It has more repose and profundity, and just a suggestion of a smile reminding one of the crescent moon that faintly glimmers in the sky and makes the young night all the more mysterious and bewitching.

It is, indeed, a great pity that most of the sculptures of Ghantasala are lost to our country for ever. Mr. Alexander Rea, who carried on excavations in the village somewhere around 1980, confined his attention to the main stupa, which in its dilapidated condition is locally known as Lanja Dibba, i.e., the harlot’s mound. It is really amazing, and not a little saddening, Chinna Ganjam, Pedda Ganjam and quite a few other places the remnants of the sacred shrines of Buddhism came to be given such filthy name as Lanja Dibba and Bogamdani Dibba. The only exception to this which I know of is the stupa at Amaravati. Its local name is Dipala Dinne, i.e., the mound of lamps. But even this reference to lamps may not after all be a very complimentary one, for practically at all places where there is a Buddhistic mound there is a local tradition that prostitute had her residence on it and used a lamp for signaling. May be the bad name often given to the Buddhistic mounds is an index of the fanatiscism with which Buddhism was perhaps suppressed by later day Hindu Zealots, or may be it denotes the low levels to which Buddhism had probably sunk in its last day when it assumed the forms of Vajrayana and Sahajayana, forms in which it hardly differed from unbridled tantrism. Of these two reasons I, for one, give greater credence to the former. But let me not drift from the main theme; I mean the excavations of Mr. Rea at Ghantasala. Obvisouly attracted by the large size of the main mound, he confined his operations to that only. Though it showed up the foundations of a large stupa as also a relic casket, it had no sculptured marbles. The sculptures of Ghantasala were, in fact, elsewhere in a mound called the Kota Dibba. i.e., the mound of the fort. Mr. Rea did make a note of this, as also of a third one in the village which is locally known as Polimera Dibba. His report runs thus : “On the south, just over the village boundaries is a low mound on the bank of a tank. It measures about seventy feet across, and is roughly circular in plan. The foundations of brick walls appear at places, and brick debris lie all over it. It may possibly be the remains of a stupa.” Here Mr. Rea was on the brink of a great discovery. Had he made it, it would have been his supreme achievement as an archaeologist. But he narrowly missed it. Subsequently in the twenties of the present century, a peasant, while cultivating his fields bordering on this very mound, Kota Dibba, uncovered as many as thirty sculptures each rivaling the other in its masterly portrayal f scenes from the life of the historical Buddha or from the Jataka stories. These wonderful marbles, according to a reliable account given to me by some leaders of the Village, wre dumped under a tree and left there uncared for until someone from Pondiherry appeared on the scene and furtively bought up the whole lot for an insignificant sum of less than Rs.5000/-. Thus did we lose for good the art treasures of Ghantasala, which today occupy a place of pride in the Musee Guimet.
As I have not visited the rest of the Buddhist sites in Andhra I cannot speak about them from personal knowledge. But I should, perhaps, mention here in passing that fresh excavations are now taking place at Salihundam, situated on the south bank of the Vamsadhara in the Srikakulam District, and it is reported that some very important finds have come to light. Buried in known and unknown mounds yet to be dug up, there are, I am sure, invaluable treasures of the period when the saffron robe was adding its rich and resplendent colour to the Andhra scene. I am not a Buddhist either by birth or by persuasion, but I am proud of Buddhist art in Andhra, as it is inherently Indian without confining itself to the religion that inspired it or to the region where it found expression. It is a rich heritage of which India, nay the world, could be proud. It does, indeed, transcend all boundaries of nationality and time. Created mostly on the banks of the Krishna at the dawn of the Christian era, it attracts and influences us even today, as it did most of Asia two thousand years ago. With Amaravati as its main base, it shed its light far and wide. It crossed the seas to inspire the sculptures of South East Asia as re-affirmed by the latest book of Dr. Reginald le May, The Culture of South-East Asia. The influence of Amaravati, according to this writer, “was felt architecturally in Ceylon and in Lower Central Siam, and possibly reached as far as Sumatra in the south. “Disagreeing with the traditional view that Buddhism reached Java and Borneo from Gujarat and the mouths of the Indus, he draws pointed attention to the fact that “the earliest images of the Buddha found at Sempaga in the Celebes, in the south of the province of Jember (Eastern Java) and on the hill of Seguntang at Palembang in Sumatra are all in the Amaravati style of Eastern India.” Another recent book. The Art and Architecture of India by Mr. Benjamin Rowland, also speaks of this wide-spread influence of Amaravati. Says Mr. Rowland : Owing to its commercial and religious affiliations, the influence of the Andhra Empire was enormously wide-spread : not only was the style of Amaravati extended to Ceylon, but Buddhist images in the Andhra style of the second and third centuries A.D. have been found as far away as Dongduong in Champa (modern Indo-China) and at Sempaga in the Celebes.” Could it be a mere accident that the region of Dong-duong lso bears the name of Amaravati ? Indeed, the age of Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda is the golden age of Indian art and its luster would remain imperishable as long as even a broken piece of their wonderful friezes is left to beckon us to a just society that is free from caste and cruelty, and to a new world that is above hate and strife.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Brief Life Sketch

V R Narla ( Narla Venkateswararao) was an outstanding journalist in Telugu. He edited Andhra Prabha, Telugu daily from Chennai from 1940 to 1956. He founded andedited andhra Jyothi Telugu daily from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh from 1958 to 1980.
He was trend setter in Telugu journalism.He introduced new features, brought out several talented personalities into limelight through dailies. Some of them were: Sanjiv Dev, G.V.Krishna rao.He also set new example through his editorials by reviewing great writings. He exposed persons in high places like Tanguturi Prakasam, Sanjiv Reddi, Jawaharlal Nehru.
He constantly criticised the reactionary writers like Viswanatha Satyanarayana for their caste mindedness and degradations through hierarchy.During emergency imposed by Prime Minsiter Indira Gandhi, he protested by not writing any editorials and left the country to USA where he toured to see national partks, museusms.

V.R.Narla participated in freedom movement of India during late 1920s,and was arrested, jailed for one year. His book Neti Russia was banned by the British government in India.
Narla collected thousands of books from his early days and read extensively. At the time of his death in 1985 there were 24 thousand books in English and Telugu. The collection was kept in B R Ambedkar Open University, Hyderabad for public use and research. These books cover wide range of history, art, architecute, culture, criticism, poetry, religion, humanism, anthropology.Majority of the books are in Telugu.
Narla toured extensively in the continents,Russia, China, Australia, Egypt, USA, Europe and collected rare art pieces on Buddha. Narla arranged the collections into several categories and kept in his residence. He named his rooms as Buddha room, Siva room, Krishna room where he arranged books and art on those personalities.
Narla was member of Rajya Sabha ( 1958-1970). During those days he participated in delegations along with Dr Radhakrishnan and toured.
Narla wrote in English and Telugu, both poetry and prose. His plays are published by Sahitya Academi, Delhi and translated into several Indian languages. His play Seetha Josyam created much controversy in literary world. Similarly his criticism on Gurajada as edited by Avasarala Surya rao upset communists.Narla published research works on Vemana, Kandukuri veeresalingam.
Narla evolved from Journalism into Humanism and published several critical research works during his last days. They include The Truth about the Gita, an essay on upanishads and puranas, Man and his world; Gods goblins and men.
Narla kept his diaries with details. Some of them are kept in State archives, Hyderabad. India.


V.R.Narla dedicated his books to Devulapalli Krishna Sastri, V.M.Tarkunde, M.N.Roy, Prem nath Bazaz, N.Innaiah etc.
Narla has big family with eight children. All of them are doctors and except the eldest daughter Ms Sarada, all are settled in USA.
Dr Meenakshi is in Phoenix, USA. Dr Mohan das is in New York and he is an outstanding researcher in cell biology. Dr Durga Das is cardiologist in Detroit, USA. Dr Lakshman Das is in Richmond, Virginia. Dr Uma, Dr Chandra and Dr Rama are all in New York State , practicing doctors.
Narla participated in cultural, reformative and rationalist movements.He was advisor to the government of Andhra Pradesh on cultural affairs during 1982-85 when N T Rama rao was chief minister.
Narla encouraged intercaste marriages and three of his children followed his advice through intercaste weddings.
His wife Sulochana faithfully kept his library intact and helped him during crisis periods. The library was donated to B R Ambedkar Open University in Hyderabad, India. It is available for public to do research.
In the beginning of his journalist career Narla was associated with few periodicles like Congress, Jothi, Prajamitra and contributed articles to Bharati, Krishna Patrika.
Narla`s writings are published in 12 volumes( 4 in English).
He was honored Andhra, Nagarjuna, Sri Venkateswara Universities for his outstanding contributions in Journalism and humanist thought.

Seetha Josyam, Telugu play of Narla

SEETHAI JOSIYAM: by Narla Venkateswara Rao, Sahitya Akademi, Rabindra Bhavan, 35, Ferozeshah Road, New Delhi-110001. Rs. 30.

THOUGH THE person in charge of publication at the Sahitya Akademi has goofed up the sub-title as "the Telugu novel that won the Sahitya Akademi prize", the book under review is actually a drama. The translator has chosen only parts of Narla's foreword that speaks of the questions that troubled him when reading Valmiki and the answers he had sought to make up on the basis of the original epic itself, which is a pity.
Of course, the drama was written in those days when many Indians still followed the Western version of an Aryan subjugation of what was termed as the Dravidian South. Naturally, Narla was engaged in battling the faith of the learned as well as the common people in the efficacy and supremacy of the Vedas that were supposed to have been written by Aryans. Those were the days when the Dravidian movement was at the apex of its fighting spirit.
Narla has chosen Sita as his mouthpiece. She is hardly 17 but speaks caustically throughout the drama and is, of course, the very anti-thesis of the princess in the epic. We do see Sita's sharp (but brief) words in the Ayodhya and Yuddha Kandas, and these few words of Valmiki may have given Narla the clue to create his Sita.
Her pert verbal clashes with Lakshmana, her insulting words to Brahmins and her scathing remarks on spiritual powers exemplify the well-worn maxim that nothing fails like excess. Epic heroines like Sita lend themselves to transformatory creations, but if someone goes totally against their basic character, the result becomes an aesthetic and moral failure.
All the same, Narla's Sita remains an unforgettable entrant to Telugu literature. She exemplifies the helplessness of feminist criticism in a largely patriarchal world.
We carry for long Sita's prophecy ringing in our ears: "For the sake of your dynastic pride, in some future time you might leave me helpless and alone in the deep forest." That is what happened in the Ramayana and that is what has been happening all these millennia.
Narla V R conducted reading sessions in Madras, Vijayawada and Hyderabad as pre publication survey. Several literary critics attended those meetins .Some of them are Palagummi Padmaraju, B S R Krishna, Puranam Subrahmanya Sarma,Nanduri Rama mohan Rao, Kappagantula Satyanarayana.
Seetha Josyam was translated into several languages in India.

It is really very reprehensible that a person like me who for nearly half century fought for the cause of freedom of opinion and expression should now be called an enemy of this very cause. Though I have repeatedly clarified that I have absolutely no opposition to adverse criticism of my literary works, in the context of withdrawal of my earlier consent to receive the award for my Telugu play “Seetha Josyam”, those who have been hurling abuses at me have conveniently overlooked this fact. I hope, I would forgiven if I place all material before the public so as to enable them to judge the correctness or otherwise of my stand.
Subsequent to the selection of my play for the Telugu award of 1981, a sub editor of the very academy, wrote a criticism of four pages wherein myself and my play have been denigrated, and what was worse, the official periodical of the Academy in May-June issue published this criticism. “One who is living under the façade of twentieth century Indian Culture”, “one who is under the illusion of living under attacks,” “one who takes a view first, and then looks for reasons,” “one who wants to establish the image of revolt” “a much protesting woman” “an immature college debator” “a fanatic” are some of the epithets hurled at directly or impliedly at me in this analysis, which is described as critical but not harsh.
When I questioned the propriety of this act, the editor of the periodical conceded it was a tarnishing act. He even went a step further and said that there was unrestrained zeal in upholding freedom of opinion. The Academi Secretary, of his own accord clarified further: To exhibit bad taste while criticizing a work selected for Academi’s Award. Certainly brings down the prestige of the Academi, and when such a criticism appears in the periodical of the Academi, it adds insult to injury, he said.
After examining the statements of these two responsible office-bearers, I decided to close all further correspondence on this issue. So I laid down two conditions namely that they must make amends by publishing of all correspondence on this subject in the periodical should forthwith be stopped. I wish to empasise that the second condition is confined only to the official periodical of the Acadmi. Since both the editor and the secretary have wholeheartedly conceded that publishing of a criticism denigrating my play after the announcement of academy’s award to my play was first of all a mistake, I think, this condition was appropriate. The demand that there should be no repetition was appropriate. The demand that there should be no repetition of what has been admitted to be a mistake does not come into conflict with either freedom of opinion or freedom of expression.
Since the Secretary of the Academi assured me “decisively” (to put it in his own words) That both these conditions would be fully implemented, I thought the issue had been resolved satisfactorily; but soon I realized that it was wrong to have felt so. A well engineered smear campaign was started in newspapers undoubtedly by a small group of the Academi. A prominent English daily hurled a question at me though its additional editorial: “Can an author become a censor also?” It was surprising that the same writer had a little earlier mentioned that “He (Narla) says that he would not have objected to it (that criticism) it if had appeared elsewhere. “When he was aware of my stand that I am ready to be subjected to criticism anywhere outside the periodical of the Academy, where is the question of the author himself playing the role of a censor also?
Of late this issue engaging the attention of the President of the Academi, and he has written a confidential letter to its Secretary. In his letter, he had alternative to accepting that a
“great impropriety” has taken place. To put it in his own words, “A great impropriety has occurred on account of publication of a condemnatory criticism of the book in the periodical of the Academi at a time when the Academi has honoured the book with its award and this has resulted in injustice to its author, but …….”. However, this “but” strongly gives scope to the continuation of the already occurred “great impropriety”, by keeping the pages of the periodical open to the debate on the issue. The President has tried to draw justification for his views from the poor old Voltaire’s grave. I do know as much as the Academi President knows, that Voltaire did say, “I do not agree with what you say, but I shall fight till the end, for your right to say it.” However, Voltaire certainly did not intend to fight till the end for any one’s right to repeat “great impropriety.”
Without going into further details, I only wish to state this much. From beginning to end this has been a sorry episode. I wonder whether the Academi desired to honour me or condemn me. I was actively associated with the Academi when Jawaharlal Nehru, Radhakrishnan and Suniti Kumar Chaterjee was subjected to calumny by the Academi through its own periodical at any time. I am sure that all self respecting authors will agree with me that in view of the manner in which the Academi has dealt with me. I had no alternative but to refuse the award.

Narla Collection of Books

Narla library in B R Ambedkar Open University

Sri Narla Venkateswara Rao, popularly known as “Narla” was born on 1st December, 1908 into a Telugu family of Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh, India. His initial education was through Hindi Medium though he later took his B.A. Degree from Andhra University. Journalism, not very popular or remunerative in those days, had been the first love of Narla who started his career with Swarajya on a paltry salary of rupees twenty five per month in 1935. Prior to joining Swarajya he had contributed to Bharathi, Samadarsini, Prajamitra as a freelance journalist in Telugu. His publications Swadesh Samsthanamulu and Neti Russia had brought him recognition and fame. After a few stints with Samadarsini and Prajamitra, he joined as News Editor of Andhra Prabha on 1st August, 1938. Thereafter he became the Editor and continued in that capacity till 1959. Under his editorship, Prabha’s circulation grew to a phenomenal 57,000. He wielded his pen against the mighty and moulded public opinion according to his world view. Whether it was Prakasam or Viswanatha or Rajagopalachari or Ranga or the communists, he spared none. Under his stewardship Andhra Jyothi shifted the business of journalism from a fight against the establishment to a pursuit of development symbolizing post independent, resurgent India. During the same period he published several short-plays, collections of poems, Kottagadda, Kaaka Sapatakam, narlavarimata, Jagannatakam, and monographs on Vereesalingam and Vemana for Central Sahitya Akademi. Narla became a Rajya Sabha member in 1958 and again in 1965. He made his presence felt in Parliament by his eloquence and constructive ideas. He extensively toured foreign countries and several parts of India in his capacity as a Member of Parliament and Press Council of India. Since his contributions to literature, journalism and politics are manifold, it is difficult to fit his monumental genius into any one frame. He was a man of many achievements, but of them all, Narla brought journalism from the elite to the masses, from the smoke-filled drawing rooms to the grassroots, from classicism to colloquialism. Narla did to journalism what Sri Sri did to poetry, he brought it down to earth from cloudy heights. His death in 1985 left a void in the field of Andhra Journalism.
In fond memory of late Narla, his wife late Mrs.Narla Sulochana and her family members donated his entire life collection of over 18,000 books to Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Open University Library, Hyderabad, India in 1995 together with an amount of rupees one lakh for organizing an endowment lecture on his birthday every year. In 2002, the family members have generously donated another five lakhs rupees for maintaining the library. The university contributed a matching grant of rupees four lakhs and the total amount of ten lakhs is made into fixed deposit. The income from this deposit is utilized to organize the endowment lecture and for maintenance of library.
The university has been organizing the lecture meeting every year on 1st December. The topics were:
In 1996 – Smt. V.S. Ramadevi, Former Governor, Karnataka State on “Reservation for Women in Legislation”

In 1997 – Sri. G.S. Bhargava, noted journalist on “Corruption in Public Life”.

In 1998 – Dr.N.Jayaprakash Narayana, Lok Satta Convener on “ Political Parties and Democracy”

In 1999 - Sri. Potturi Venkateswara Rao, Former Chairman, A.P., Press Academy on
“Language Standards in Telugu Journals”

In 2000 – Sri. T.H. Choudary, Former advisor to Govt. of A.P. on “Frightful Problems in India – Favoured Solutions”

In 2001 – Sri C. Raghavachary, noted journalist on “Narla – Path Finder in Telugu Journalism”

In 2002 – Sri. A.B.K Prasad, Senior Journalist on “Foreign Investment in Print Media”

In 2003 – Sri I.Venkata Rao, Former Chairman, A.P.Press Academy on “Telugu News Papers” – Development and priorities”

In 2004 - Sri.V.Hanumantha Rao, Renowned Journalist on “Parliamentary Democracy and people”

In 2005 - Sri.K.Ramachandra Murthy,Editor,Andhra Jyothi on “Newspapers – Society”

In 2006 - Sri.M.V.R.Sastry, Editor,Andhra Bhoomi on '' Telugu Newspapers – Credibility”

In 2007 - Sri M.Rajendra, Former Editor, India Today(Telugu) on “ Journalism – Narla's Perspective”

The subject-wise collection of books in Narla Library are as follows:

000 Computer science, information & general works - 486 books
100 Philosophy & psychology - 849
200 Religion - 1404
300 Social sciences - 540
400 Language - 256
500 Science - 298
600 Technology - 220
700 Arts & recreation - 722
800 Literature - 5929
900 History & geography - 7296

Database of Narla collection is created and is accessible through Local Area Network. Shortly, the above collection may also be accessible through the internet. These books are available to general public for reference on all working days between 10.30 A.M. to 1.30 P.M.
Dr.Sujata, director , Library of the University.

Telugu Version of the truth about Gita

e-book on Narla’s work launched
HYDERABAD: The Telugu translation of ‘The truth about Gita’, written in English by noted journalist late V.R. Narla was launched by Andhra Jyothi editor K. Ramchandra Murthy in the form of an e-book here on Wednesday. It could be accessed on "" N. Innaiah, chairman, Center for Inquiry translated it.

The Truth about the Gita

A more apt title would have been "The Myth of the Gita". For all that is traditionally said about it is open to serious doubt. Was a great war was really fought on the plain now hollowed as Kurukshetra? In case it was fought, did every principality in the India of the day, and some even beyond India, join one side or the other? What was the date of the war? Was there a Krishna, Vasudeva who elected to be charioteer of Arjuna? Did Arjuna, said to be singlehanded victor of many battles, lose his nerve when he saw the mighty army of Duryodhana arrayed against the smaller one of his own? Granting that he was, in fact shaken by he thought of having to kill his kith and kin to gain a kingdom, could a pot talk by Krishna prepare his mind for the terrible carnage which followed? And did the two vast armies, poised for the battle, stand still while the question and answer session
between Arjuna and Krishna went on for the better part of a day? Another important question that faces is thus: In case the Bhagvad Gita, the song, Celestial, was actually sung by Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, how did it come down to
us? The full text of the Gita, says the Mahabharata was reported at the end of the day by Sanjaya to the old and blind Dhritarashtra sitting miles away in his palace near Hastinapura. Not only did Sanjaya report every word that dropped from the blessed lips of Krishna, but he also described the setting of the divine discourse without missing the slightest gesture by the head or hand or the very Thought lifting of an eye-brow. Unseen by anyone, unhurt by any weapon, he moved freely from one side of the battle front to the other. Day and night made no difference to him. He knew no fatigue and worked round the clock. He read the innermost thoughts of
everyone as though he had an open book before him. Naturally this leads us to another
question. how did Sanjaya manage to do what sounds incredible? How could he put the inventions of the present scientific and technological age, the radio, television, and video to shame? The traditionalists will, of course, retort that even to pose uch question is silly. They will tell you that the sages of that bygone age were only a notch below the gods and they had the poser to grant any boon, and Vyasa was a supreme lord of boons. And so, when Dhritarashtra, the congenitally blind Kuru king keenly waiting to follow fortunes of the war , prayed that Sanjaya his crony, be given the boon seeing and hearing and knowing everything. Vyasa gave it readily.
Obviously, these miraculous powers were given only for the duration of the war. For we do not know of Sanjaya having used them afterwards. Furthermore there was a point when these powers let him down. On the last day of the war, Satyaki spotted him and
might have put him to the sword but for the timely intervention of Vyasa. Brushing aside the traditionalists who put pious gloss over ugly facts, it should be bluntly stated here that Dhritarashtra, thus favoured by Vyasa was Vyasa's illegitimate son. Can a holy man like Vyasa be guilty of lechery? Yes, he was. And he was himself the
natural son of Satyavati, the offspring of her pre-marital sex with Parasara a great sage. And in his turn, the greater sage, Vyasa, was the father of four illegitimate sons in all. Frankly, the age of the Mahabharata was the Permissive Age par excellence. In that age drinking and dicing were customary. Cattle-lifting and the abduction of prospective brides were widely prevalent. Fratricide and genocide were not uncommon. To ensure royal succession and to avoid sure passage to hell, the birth of a son even outside wedlock was actively promoted. Indeed, it was at the
insistance of Satyavati, the queenmother, that Vyasa impregnated her two royal daughter-in-law, Ambika and Ambalika. For their dissolute husband died prematurely without leaving a son to continue the Bharat dynasty. So wide spread was the permissiveness of the age that sexual looseness, bordering on depravity, was not at all confined to the Bharat dynasty. It was very much present in all dynasties as well. To traditionalists all this may be another proof of the miraculous power of sacrifices, but to a modern man with a liberated mind this can only be skullduggery that was being widely practiced by the so called sages. It is quite likely that the illegitimate children of an illegitimate sage were palmed off on a willing Drupada as
gifts from heaven. It looks as though it was also the age of illegitimacy. For, we find, apart from royal princess, the two leading teachers of archery of the age (both of them from the priest caste) were also illegitimate; reference here is Thought to Drona and Kripa. Of course, their questionable origins are hidden, as usual, behind smoke screen of sanctimony. Can any one who cares for naked truth deny that fornication in its grossest form was part of the more important of the Vedic sacrifices? There is ample justification for referring here at some length to what is
frankly putrid stuff. For our traditionalists extol the Mahabharata day in, and day out as the Fifth Veda. They tell us that it is the longest epic in world literature, indeed an encyclopedia of all knowledge, a verifiable treasure, house of history and polity, of sociology and philosophy, of religion and ethics, and of much else. They even tell us that what is not found in its pages is not worth knowing. To counter their balderdash, it needs to be said that the Mahabharata is also Vyasa's Thesaurus of Vice. Are our minds so conditioned by our puerile Puranas that we can be fooled by any fanatic nonsense? Is there something basically wrong with our national psyche? I am pretty sure that most of the contributors to Mahabharata fast during an eclipse and take a bath at its end, feeling joyous that by their piety they saved the sun or the moon from mortal danger. It is clear proof that they were born believers, grew up as believers and one day will die as believers. They are incapable of doubting, of questioning and of putting anything to the acid test of reason. In their view to doubt, any old belief is to be an infidel, to question it is to be guilty of sacrilege, to seek to put it to test of reason is to condemn oneself to a long term in hell. I know that these are strong words, perhaps harsh words, but they are, I submit, not uncalled for in view of the credulity, bordering on imbecility, which is much in evidence in every sphere of our national life today.
Without any apology for drifting too far from Kurukshetra and the chariot of Arjuna stationed on no man's land to serve for the time being as a pulpit for Krishna, let us now return to the sermon he delivered in the form of the Gita. When Sanjaya, the war correspondent of yore, was giving graphic oral report to Dhritarashtra that evening was anyone recording it on electronic tape for the use of posterity? No, but was not Vyasa there to work wonders? He had a prodigious brain unmatched even by the latest computer. With its help, he edited four Vedas, composed the Mahabharata, authored eighteen major Puranas, wrote Brahma Sutra and did a lot more. To him reproducing the text of the Gita which is after all a tiny fragment of the mighty and weighty Mahabharata was child's play. And he did that many years after the Kurukshetra War. Along with the rest of that epic, he taught the Gita to four of his disciples, besides his son. One of the four was Vaisampayana, and like his Guru, he also had a computer brain. When Janamejaya the grete grand-son of Arjuna, performed a great sacrifice to extirpate the Naga clan, Vaisampayana recited for the
edification of the great assembly at the sacrifice the whole of Mahabharata, including the Gita. On that occasion Souti Ugrasravas was present and he, in his turn, recited it from first to last for the benefit of Sounaka and a host of Thought other sages who performed a twelveyear sacrifice in the Naimisa Forest. It is not on record as to who took up the role of recital from Souti. However that may be, the point is that between the original teaching of the Gita by Krishna and its recital by
Souti at least a century must have elapsed. For after the Kurukshera War, Yudhishtira rules for thirty-six years; Parikshit, his successor, ruled for sixty
years. It is not known when exactly Janamejaya launced genocide of the Nagas as a measure of revenge for their assassination of his father Parikshit. Nor is known definitely how many years later Sounaka initiated his sacrifice at Naimisa Forest. But of one thing there can be no doubt. The time-lag between Krishna's teachingof the Gita and its recital by Souti cannot be taken as less than a century. Not one but several centuries must have elapsed from the time Souti to the time of the final
reduction of the Gita in writing. If we have to give credence to traditionalists,
that gap is to be reckoned not in centuries but in millennia. Over such a wide gap in time did the text of the Gita as taught by Krishna retain is original size or shape or the scope of its message? It can, of course, be argued by the traditionalists that the Vedas were reduced to writing after a much longer gap than the Gita and yet even nuances of its pronunciation retain their original purity. But the Gita is no Veda and even now its scriptural authority is not universally accepted. In fact, none seems to have taken the Gita very seriously before Adi Sankaracharya who lived in A.D. eighth century, and wrote a commentary on it as a part of campaign to destroy Buddhism. Not to speak of others, neither the Arya
Samajists nor Brahmo Samajists attach much value to the Gita. And so, any analogy sought to be drawn between the purity of the text of he Vedas and of the Gita can hardly be relevant. The improbable setting in which the Gita is said to have been taught and the dubious way in which it is supposed to have been handed down to us are
good enough reasons to convince a rational mind that it is a myth. Having first read the Gita when I was a fresher at college and having given very many years to the study of innumerable commentaries on it, I am convinced that all that is said about the Gita, including its authorship, its time and place of composition, its transmission from generation to generation, its importance as compendium of a unified and profound system of philosophy with relevance for all people and all times, in a word, everything that is sedulously propagated about it is a myth.
V R Narla
(From Introduction to Book
The Truth about the Gita,
published in 1988)

The Telugu translation of V R Narla`s critical book in English entitled: Truth about the Gita

Opinions on V.R. Narla by Eminent People

D. Anjeneyelu

Narla is power to reckon with in Telugu journalism. During the decade and more after Independence, perhaps no single individual has played as a significant a role as he in the evolution of political ideas and the education of the Andhra masses. Even in the years before political freedom, there had been few others with such a marked influence on public opinion with the possible exception of the late Mutnuri Krishna Rao (of The Krishna Patrika). He has not been content merely to reflect public opinion, where it could be gauged without difficulty, but has striven to create it where it is lacking and shape it after is heart’s desire’ where it happens to be inchoate. He has attained popularity without playing to the gallery and achieved power and prestige that owe little to extraneous forces and adventitious factors. And all this –against heavy odds, and in none too propitious circumstances.
A journalist is sometimes described as a gentleman in a hurry and he gives the impression of being a half-brother to the politician. Narla has nothing in common wit the typical journalist of popular imagination the hustling gate-crasher, the flashy go-getter and the dashing dare-devil. Rather phlegmatic by temperament, e as no easy enthusiasms and does not believe in making quick friendships by the breezy, hail-fellow- well-met’ methods of ‘contact men’. Laconic in speech, he is not eager to hold forth on all things under te sun with the jaunty air of professional omniscience that comes natural to many who want to impress. He is willing to listen and learn, to wait and watch. Not for him the trappings of genius and the outer hahiliments of eminence. Greatness can be quiet and humble. No reader of the Andhra Prabha) which he has built up during the last two decades or so, ever since its very inception) can fail to realize that here is an editor who knows is own mind as well as the reader’s. Te editorial columns and the news columns bear touch of one with personality that cannot be hidden even in the mammoth set-up of chain newspapers. Narla has made of the daily newspapers from an indifferent sheet to be read, like part of an ancient book, at one’s leisure after the day’s work, to something essential and vital to be discussed and absorbed as an indispensable element in our daily life. If he had not actually started the practice of using simple, spoken Telugu in the leaders (the pioneer’s credit probably goes to Thapi Dharma Rao), he has definitely helped to establish the vogue beyond the realm of controversy. In the presentation of news, he has effectively adopted the modern technique and methods of the English news papers. The art of page make-up was virtually unknown to the Telugu newspapers, which were just trying to serve up the news anyhow, before Narla came on the scene and transformed the face of the newspapers with his double-column headings and ‘Intros’ and banner headlines, spicy box items and smart picture captions. (After doing the day’s leader, he still continues, everyday to look after the make-up of all the pages standing at the stone for two hours or more at a stretch). Bred in the best traditions of the British Press, he has succeeded in making his newspaper popular without being cheap, bright without being yellow, and effective without being sensational.
It has hardly an accident that Narla had made a mark in journalism, as he did, though he is favoured by luck. He has allied a sense of mission to a keen awareness of the hard realities of relentless profession that has also to sub serve the interests of big industry the while it strives to work for the cause of the masses. Born with no silver spoon in his mouth. Narla had none of the advantages, in early life, of patrimony or patronage. He did not have the average means even for going through the college and obtaining a degree. He did, no doubt, secure his degree, maintaining himself in college partly on his own earnings through part-time work in Krishna Patrika and regular contributions to the English and Telugu Press. The thirst for knowledge as always been there and urge for expression. Quite early in his college days, he did caught the itch for writing. And the patriotic fervor (or fever, as it is more appropriately termed, in one’s adolescence) gave an edge to his youthful exuberance and often landed him in trouble because of his terrorist associations. Narla felt the call to be journalist. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than to call himself “V. R. Narla, B.A., Journalist” in those days. But journalism was not yet a profession. It might have been a mission with some; but generally speaking, it was a refuge for rejects from other professions – briefless lawyers, unsuccessful politicians, those who have missed the first or second class necessary to be college lecturers, and the like. There could be no training facilities worth the name in a profession in such a state. But, Narla managed to make the best use of the resources available to him. It struck him to get hold of old English news papers used for packing in grocer’s shops and get from them enough material for political comments on world affairs in the local weekly. While still in Masulipatnam, he has had a good grounding in Indian politics and a fair grasp of international affairs, as was evident from his freelancing efforts.
It was in Madras that Narla’s regular career as a journalist began in the early thirties. He owes much, in his early attempts to enter journalism, to the kindness and help of the late S.G.Acharya (of Chitragupta and the Prajabadhu), whom he remembers with gratitude. He had varying spells of work on a number of English and Telugu newspapers in Madras including the Swarajya and gained all-round experience. It is curious to recall that Narla had, in those youthful years, a preference for writing in
English, being less at one in Telugu and was once actually on the point of leaving for Bangalore to work on an English weekly. The Andhra Prabha was started on August 15, 1938, and Khasa Subba Rao was the first editor, succeeded soon by the late Nyapati Narayanamurti. Narla joined, its stiff as news editor and attracted attention by dint of his devotion to duty, added to a natural flair for newspaper work. His succession to editorship in the early forties was a logical culmination of his strenuous training and purposeful endeavour. He did not take the editorship as another step in the ladder of promotion. It was the spirit of a trust that he took it up. And there has been no question of public interest, on which he has not brought to bear an original approach during the last seventeen or eighteen years of his tenure as editor. Nor has there been any occasion of anxiety to the nation in which he hesitated to take the plunge and rally the Andhra Public to play its proper role.
Narla spurns to easier course in suggestions solutions to the burning problems agitating the country in general and the Andhras in particular. He is not afraid to take an unpopular stand in the controversies of the hour, if he thinks it best in the larger interests of his people and everyone in the long run. On the separation of the Andhra State, for instance, he did not want the city to be a stumbling block in the way of attaining the State. His words, like C.R.’s formula on Pakistan, were, at that time, none too palatable to many in the heat of the moment, partly due to sentiment and association, but his solution, though it involved the abandonment of just rights, proved to be the more realistic, and the only practical one. He has an open mind and is ready for compromises that do not militate against first principles, whether it be on the location of the new capital, the merger of Andhra and Telengana or the sharing of river waters between Andhra and Madras. He fought against the Krishna Pennar project proposal tooth and nail until it was dropped and campaigned for the Narndikonda Project which now goes under the name of Nagarjunasagar. But he was not against the sharing of the surplus water of the Godavari with Madras State. The needs of the ryots of Kirshna and Guntur districts should come first in harnessing the water of the Krishna, he argued. He is always prepared to decide every question on its merit.
While he is not over-fond of indulging in controversies, he never fights shy of them when it is necessary to give the lead and take sides in the process. On the issue of the leadership of the Legislature Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh, his attitude was unequivocal and the vigorous leaders and effective cartoons of his paper, which were talked of every where in Ahdhra, were fully justified by later events. He has his finger on the pulse or his readers. On the issue of official language, he struck the golden mean between the out-and-out enthusiast for the indefinite continuance of English and the Hindi Extremists who would like to give short shrift to English. He is quite aware of the value of English as the window that opens out to the world at large and as the fountain-head of modern knowledge, as he had possibly read and purchased more English books than many editors of English newspapers. But this has, in no way, dimmed his love for the mother-tongue or deflected him from the objective of enriching Telugu idioms with the wealth of new ideas and thought patterns as well as modes of expression from English. Of course, he always takes care to see that the new found gains are not at the expense of the genius of the Telugu language and its basic traditions rooted in the life of the people. The service done by the Andhra Pradesh in collecting lakhs of rupees for rushing relief to those hit by the Godavari floods and the famine-stricken in Rayalaseema, by donations through the paper and through dramas by well-known film stars, is still fresh in people’s memory. The leaders of Narla in this connection, written with great feeling, rarely failed to strike a responsive chord in the readers’ hearts. They were like personal appeals to every man to do his bit and none stinted to contribute his mite. Though Andhra affairs are naturally the first concern of the editor of Telugu daily, Narla never stricts his study to questions of local, regional or even national importance. He has had a particular interest in foreign affairs and is monthly articles in the Andhra Jyothi were marked by clarity of analysis and simplicity of expression. Party politics cannot be ignored by any journalist but Narl’s accent is on principles rather than on personalities. He has refused to burn incense at idols, political or religious, secular or sacred. He is a worshipper at the shine of Democracy and has left no stone unturned in the uphill task of stabilizing the democratic forces in Andhra against the onslaught of totalitarian hordes masquerading as paragons of Constitutional virtue, but ever on the prowl under the cover of dark and itching to seize power by hook or by crook. For authoritative pronouncements on cabinet responsibility parliamentary government and other issues of democracy he has imbedded the board principles enunciated by Laski, Bryce and Dicey and would often refer to May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’. When necessary.
The newspaper might be the Bible of to-day and the wastepaper of the day after, but no editor who wants to educate his masters can always be absorbed entirely by passing phases and transient problems. He has to go a little deeper as Narla has often done in his exposition of the duties of the citizen awakened to freedom and his conception of Indian culture. He is for a judicious admixture of the old and the new. He peeps at old customs and traditions through the microscope of new values. Rejecting all that has outlived its utility, he wants the rest to befitted to the requirements of modern times. He is for the preservation and promotion of what is worth preserving in our culture but he does not agree that it could be done only by the renovation of temples and the compulsory study of Sanskrit in schools.
Narla has come up the hard way. He had met with many disappointments in his early life, but that has not warped his soul and distorted his outlook. He has had more than his share of hardship and suffering, but that has not soured his spirit. He has managed to keep cool head and an equable temper in the midst of the bustle and hurry of modern life and the noise and bustle of a daily newspaper. He has acquired the perspective that gives poise to his personality. He is a picture of power in repose and strength in reserve. He has done much already, but his golden age is not in the past.
- D. Anjaneyulu (From Half Way 1958)


Vasan (Left) & Khasa Subba Rao (Right)

I have known Sri Narla from the time his career as a journalist began. For a brief interlude he worked as a reporter on Sri Prakasam’s English daily Swarajya. He real chance came when he was appointed Editor of Andhra Prabha. This was nearly 17 years age. He bought to the editorship of Andhra Prabha from his reporting days a vivid consciousness of the importance of direct contact with people and of first-hand assimilation of the outstanding issues affecting their interests and welfare. He was no more desk editor. Realizing that faithful portrayal of contemporary events was the real work of a newspaper, he sought knowledge and information in direct investigation. It redeemed him professionally from the theoretical desk academics which mars so large a mass of our news paper work, investing it with unreality and artificially. He achieved genuineness by actual contact with the affairs of the workaday world. It was heightened by two of his distinctive attributes, intellectual and moral probity, and perseverance in the spirit of the workman throught all phases of responsibility. Narla is a devil for work because he had the good luck of stumbling on life’s great secret of realizing joy and happiness in hard work. He acquired pride of vocation through joy of work. It enabled him to cost away all tempting pressures as unthinkable defections from duty. Indian language-papers have been thrown into, experience of a somewhat unusual kind for which the old traditional idiom and phraseology were not always sufficient of adequate. In this dilemma many practicing journalists resorted to literal translations of English terms. The language they evolved became in consequence anemic and stilted. Narla broke away from this easy path of verbal equations and took great pains to discover for each new idea comprised in modern experience an effective descriptive term suitable to the genius of the language. The credit for having developed Telugu into an efficient instruments equal to all the emergencies of this atomic age under the spur of daily necessity in the performance of newspaper work, belongs to Narla, more perhaps than to any of his journalistic compeers. In the profession of journalism the reward are uncertain, the hazards are in plenty, the stain and the wear and tear of body and mind terrific, life is precarious, and nothing is safe and settled. Narla had his full share of the difficulties and nightmares of this grueling profession in his early days. He entered it without any influence to back him. By dint of hard work and sustained integrity of character, he has made himself the most powerful influence in the Telugu-speaking world.
Because of the delight he found in his vocation, Narla has been able to turn it into a stepping stone for universality of understanding. Unhappy persons cannot spread the joy of life among their fellowmen. Sorrow is perhaps Providence’s way of enriching one’s sympathies, but those who lapse into moroseness cannot go far along that way. The professional success which as come to Narla redeemed him from the engrossing jealousies of the defeated, and by his own introspection he has learned to reject the trivial purposes that loom so large in the vision of so many aspirants to literary fame. An active life lived in the centre of affairs of historical significance has enabled him to look the truth of things in the face, and a cheerful unspoilt spirit has served to endow his comprehension of reality with good nature, purposefulness and balance. These virtues make is plays and other literary work eminently worthwhile.
With unremitting toil and honesty of purpose Narla has won his way to the affections of people of all walks and stations in Andhra Pradesh. His life is an epitome of hard work well done, and in a way it reveals, for all to see, to what pinnacle of glory devotion to duty in the untrammeled path of journalism can take a man. In politics, unlike in journalism, the fallacies of the leaders bind the practitioner, and the scope for individuality of expression is limited. It remains to be seen to what extent any journalist, unless he is himself the top leader of a political organization, can conform to the steam-roller discipline of party politics without surrendering what is most precious in the function of the press. I hope therefore that in the days to come the lure of parliamentary politics will not divert Narla from a vocation of such high purpose where he is so much at home and has given such a good account of himself already.
- by Khasa Subba Rao (From Half way 1958)


- Kolavennu Ramakotiswara Rao

Narla is a ‘double first’, eminent as a journalist and as a litterateur. Journalism, in its higher levels, shades off into literature. A considerable portion of the literature in any modern language consists of poems, stories, essays and plays which had appeared originally in the leading periodicals or in the literary supplements to the dailies. Narla has helped the growth of Telugu literature through journalism and has himself emerged as a writer of the front rank.
Being a lover of life, the ‘many coloured dome’, and a keen observer of men and things, Narla displays in the writings a rare comprehension of the mental attitudes and the emotional reactions of people in every walk of life. His personal attitude is that of a modern intellectual convinced that progress consists in a perpetual forward movement and that old-time tradition is usually a deadweight making for stagnation. This outlook is reflected in every line of his writing.
Of his published works, Mataa Manthee and Pitcha Paattee and collections of occasional essays in which Narla resorts to the light, convensional manner for the expression of his views on matters which interest him. And is interests are varied. They range from the gathering of books to the smoking of cigarettes, from the study of the classics to a dissertation on beards. There is humour, vivacity and sarcasm in these essays, allied to a comprehension of the inwardness of a situation. And all through, there is a sunny smile of the inwardness of a situation. And all through, there is a sunny smile for the writer can laugh at himself as at others. In recalling incidents or relating anecdotes, Narla impresses us by his powerful memory. One passage, in particular where he describes a rainy evening on the Madras beach, rises to height of eloquence. The loneliness and the agony of an aspiring young man, fighting an apparently unending battle, are here conveyed to us, along, with the glory of comradeship with the ocean. A delightful picture of felicity and contentment is given in the sketch of the child who interrupts his father with “impossible” queries and the other child which crawls up to him to be fondled. The quiet Sunday morning intended for writing is ruined, but here is the joy of fulfillment.
Narlavaari Maata and Jagannatakam are volumes of verse which introduce Narla, the poet. Narla is an admirer of the medieval Telugu poet, Vemana, whose aphoristic verse has become part of the common speech of Andhra. Vemana was a philosopher who read the book of life, and with his penetrating vision pierced its inmost secrets. Like Vemana, Narla employs the medium of the simple four-line verse with a refrain at the end: “True is the word of Narla.” Everyday incidents which indicate the fret and the fever of life, and the wider movements in the economic and political sphere, form the subject matter of these words of wisdom. The first two lines sum up a situation, and the third is a reflection on it, rapier-like in its quality. Speaking of elections which play so important a part in our life he says, “If you elect a buffalo how will it till the land?” Or again, wit regard to Socialism and brotherhood he says, “How can these exist alongside of communal feelings, “for” can a calf subsist with a tiger?” But these verses are not all of equal quality and sometimes the politician over-shadows the artist :
“In a changing human society
The mean fellow who is not a Socialist
Is just a blot on humanity.”
About Communism he says:-
“Class-war is not the only road to Heaven
Nor is progress achieved only through bloodshed
And the great Marx is not the only Pathfinder.”
While the qualities of intellectual perception and pithy expression mark this volume, Jagannatakam (Drama of Life) reveals Narla as a poet gifted with emotion and imagination. The language takes on a real poetic quality and through is songs and poems, in diverse metres Narla wins a place among the important poets of the day. The odes to the “Ocean King” and to “The Spirit of Poesy” and the little piece “Mooka Bhasha” (Silent Eloquence) have moved me deeply, through their exquisite phrasing, their haunting melody and their rich emotion. In the “Cloud-Maiden” he strikes a new note:
“If the cloud-maiden melts and drops down to earth what matters! Had not the young Moon adorned her brow and had not the stars been like jasmine in her hair?”
The essays and poems are of high quality but it is Narla the play wright, who appeals to me most. Kotta Gadda – a collection of sixteen one-act plays – is his most distinctive contribution to recent Telugu literature. Here are combined sympathy and imagination, observation and apt expression. Narla’s sense of humour is here displayed to the best advantage. Through many years of travel study, Narla has gained intimacy with the modes of thought and the nuances of language of the common people in the villages, and of the sophisticated city-dwellers. He has the true play wright’s Prospero-like serenity of outlook, sharing men’s joys and sorrows without being submerged in them. In construction of plot, unfoldment of character and the finale these plays mark a new phase in the history of the Telugu play. Narla’s study of English and continental drama is extensive and he owes to that study some of the technique of his plays.
Katta Gudda, the title piece, mirrors the conflict between the points of view of the older and the younger generation. The father naturally loves the old soil and would prefer to struggle on in the dear surroundings of boyhood and youth. But the son wishes to face life in another village and to better the prospects of the family. The father who is adamant is finally overcome by is love for the grandson, from whom he cannot bear to be separated. So he too moves on to “new ground”. This is an intensely human situation and the play wright has brought out all its possibilities. ‘The Next Harvest’, ‘Unanimity of Opinion’, and ‘The Bridge’ are among the best in this collection. Narla’s contribution to Telugu literature is of great value. Sincerity, sanity and a refined taste are its dominant qualities. Behind them all is restrained emotion which expresses itself in love of Beauty. That Beauty is always around us; only, the eye must perceive it and the heart adore it !
- by K. Ramakotiswara Rao (From Half way 1958)


- Thapi Dharma Rao (Tatagi)

It is title difficult for me to think of my friend and former colleague, Sri Narla, as a man who has completed fifty years of life. Whenever I think of him, I still him more or less as on the day he joined me as my news editor in Janavani, with his nose for news, his gift for apt head lines, his flair for page make-up, his readiness to learn from everything and everybody and his zest for life. As his chief for about a year, way back in 1936, I can speak at length about him as a journalist, but that aspect of his career perhaps needs no elaboration from me after his long, unbroken tenure of nearly seventeen years as an editor. I would, therefore, like to confine myself to Narla as a man of letters.
Though his literary output is not extensive, Narla has already secured for himself an hounoured place among the makers of modern Telugu literature.
His Narlavaari-Maata is pleasantly reminiscent of our beloved Vemana though with this difference: While Veman gave his sage verdicts on society and its problems as they existed in his day, Narla as portrayed in his own inimitable way the problems facing the present-day society and thus comes much nearer the hearts of the modern readers. There is yet another difference; Vemana oftentimes show a partisan spirit and puts a sting into his words; Narla, on the other hand, generally takes a philosophic view and speaks out his mind with the broad smile of an onlooker. With its mastery of idiom, its command and even flow of style and its sanity of observation, Narlavaari-Maata ranks high in literary merit and is sure to remain for long a cherished book of the Andhras.
In his collections of playlet, Kotta Gadda we see Narla with ever vigilant eyes and a heart keen on registering the life touches of the men and matters he encounters. Consequently, we have in the collection of one-act plays a true picture of the modern Andhra village with its joys and sorrows, its aims and aspirations, its struggles and triumphs. Narla’s versatility has herein evolved its own techniques and handled the various themes in masterly and progressive manner. No wonder, the playlets have capture the imagination of our young writers, some of whom are adopting them as their models. The two collections of Narla’s short essays display. At once his wide knowledge of Western literatures and his keen observation of our life and society. Herein he has supplied a long-felt want in our literature i.e., the essay on the lines of Lamb and Goldsmith.
Through his books Narla has given the lie direct to those who cry hoarse from the house-tops that Telugu journalism is proving a bad influence on the Telugu language. Though Narla is first and foremost a journalist, his books are no mean contribution to modern Telugu literature, a contribution for which the Andhras will ever remain grateful to him. It is hoped by me and by his numerous other friends and well-wishers that Narla continues his work in “fresh woods and pastures new” and further enriches our literature with his masterpieces.
- by Thapi Dharma Rao (From Half way 1958)


NARLA and I have trod apparently two different paths-I, the law and he, the journalism. Though appear to be different, they converge on the same ideal, viz., the up liftment of the society. They are the two potent and constructive instruments of the rule of law. Rule of law in democratic instruments of the rule of law. Rule of law in democratic countries has a rich content; it preserves freedom, controls autocratic power, and is a powerful instrument of socio-economic justice. Indeed, journalism has a larger share and responsibility in this regard. For, in a democracy, the ultimate sanction lies in public opinion and public opinion in its turn is shaped by constructive journalism. The appalling poverty of the country in all its different manifestations in mind, body, and spirit may to some extent be traced to public inertia. The main functions of the press, as I apprehend, are : (1) presentation of facts; (ii) fair criticism; (iii) reflecting public opinion; and (iv) educating and shaping public opinion.
Autocratic power considers press as its enemy number one, and it seeks to forge shackles on it directly through laws and indirectly through inducement by way of advertisements, subsidies, etc. Not and less insidious one is that of the business magnate, who control and finances the paper, for the paper for him is only a means to earn profit. The editor is expected to play his tune. To discharge the difficult and delicate function of and an editor in such adverse circumstances requires a man of high caliber and moral favour.
By equipment and experience NARLA has filled the role of an ideal editor. He is a voracious reader and there is no branch of relevant knowledge that is beyond his reach. He is equally well versed in English and Telugu literature, inn foreign and Indian philosophy, in history and political and social sciences. He has practical experience of Indian life and society, for he has passed from village to city, from poverty to prosperity, and from failure to success. He reached his ideal through hard work and dedication.
He has a style of his own in Telugu which is at the same time precise, original, and forceful. E coined scientific Telugu terminology to suit the dynamic needs of the society. He has freely drawn from the reservoir of erudition and experience and presented to the public all the causes he espoused in his own inimitable manner.
NARLA is a man of courage of conviction. Is moral courage is expressed in terms of objectivity. It is not concerned wit personalities but with the quality of their actions. For bad acts do not cease to be bad if done by “big” men. His paper effectively and at times even vehemently attacked corruption in its comprehensive sense in all its varied ramifications.
An editor may project his personality through his editorial or e may be polished or a finished conduit pipe of the manager’s ideas. NARLA’S conception of editor is of the first kind. His journalistic excellence in Telugu reached the highest water mark in his editorship of Andhra Prabha. Through the journal, NARLA played an important role in shaping public opinion in Andhra Pradesh. It was freely said that he had to resign the editorship of Andhra Prabha as he could not conform to the second type.
Thereafter, NARLA promoted Andhra Jyoti and is now running it in terms of his idealism. It does not live on governmental or proprietorial patronage. It expresses opinion objectively on men and matters; it seeks to educate public opinion on different aspects of human and state activity; it stoically bears the burden of integrity; it showed the way to others that there was no inherent conflict between success and integrity and that both could stand together.
NARLA is also literacy figure of high repute. I am not a scholar to evaluate his contribution to the Telugu literature. But I was accustomed to judge on expert evidence. Experts agree on his literary expertise. His sixteen one-act plays reveal his skill in characterization and dramatic construction; his collection of lyrics styled Jagannatakam are profound in thought, original in conception, and reflect conflicting emotions; Narlavari Mata, a book of aphorism, projects his condensed views on men and matters in the tradition of Vemana’s proverbs; his collection of essays, inspired by his deep knowledge of similar English literary forms, is his original contribution to the Telugu literature.
The Sahitya Akademi has rightly entrusted to NARLA the difficult and scholarly task of writing in English the biography of Veeresalingam. As expected, NARLA has brought out an admirable but concise biography of that “great social reformer and the father of modern Andhra.” I hope and trust that the best in him is still to come.
Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Indian Parliament, is best suited for NARLA’S temperament. His political, social, and literary background will certainly find expression and command respect in the cultivated debates of the Upper House. In the name of public good, freedom of press is now in peril. A more robust champion of the press cannot be found in and outside the council than NARLA. The necessary condition of the survival of free press is an united front of the press itself. NARLA will be its focal point.
NARLA is a gentleman and a loyal friend. The existence of men like NARLA in public life is a guarantee that all is not lost and there is still future for democracy in our country.
- by KOKA SUBBA RAO, Former Chief Justice of India


Justic A. Sambasiva Rao

If only NARLA could laugh a little more and smile a little more! How often I have wondered these days, whenever I have heard that he has not been keeping good health. Earnest and even serious as he is, he has paid little attention to rest and rejuvenation, amidst his treasures of art and in the company of is books. Frail in body, he as infinite capacity to re-charge and replenish his sources of energy and inspiration, from reading of books and appreciation of art, and also of course, from incessant smoking. Nobody, who knows him, can miss to notice his liking for smoking.
NARLA’S is a highly sensitive nature. His reactions are quick, sharp, and spontaneous. If good ideas and places and pieces of beauty evoke immediate appreciation and enjoyment in him. Injustice and insolence provoke him to the quick. Once his sensitive mind and heart are roused, his powerful pen goes into instantaneous action. Thus we have seen him, in many a journalistic battles, in the role of gallant knight, wielding his mighty pen as a devastating sword, defending the causes which he as considered righteous, and beating down into smithereens the ideas which he has adjudged unjust and reactionary. No doubt, he has created many a friend and foe alike, in the process. But I have never known him waver in his purpose or resolve on that account.
I first came into contact with NARLA writings his first books Neti Russia (Modern Russia) and Swadesa Samsthanalu (Native States). True they were not as mature and finished as is later writings. Nevertheless, they gripped the attention of my young mind, with their freshness and new outlook. Since then, I have followed NARLA’S career wit great interest. His advent into journalism and his editorship of Andhra Prabha took the Telugu journalist world by storm. He introduced a new force and a new dynamism into Telugu journalism. He brought to bear the entire force of his powerful personality into it. NARLA never knows and never tolerates doing things in halves. Whether constructing a sentence, or even a phrase, or an idiom, or projecting a new idea or theme, or building up a new venture like Andhra Jyoti, he has always been a perfectionst. His assistance is unceasingly on the most appropriate, the most effective, and on the perfect.
NARLA has a very modern and scientific mind. In all his endeavours as a journalist, as a writer, as a thinker, and as a public man, he places “modernism” in the very centre of things, as the very core of the issue, as the practical panacea for India’s and world’s problems and needs. He rebels against orthodox, superstition, and blind faith with all his being. He upholds the primacy of reason and scientific thought in all human endeavour. Inspired as he is eminent thinkers of the world and nearer at home, by Vemana, Veereslingam, and Raghupati Venkataratnam Naidu, NARLA has become a rationalist and humanist, to the very depths of his personality.
He is an ardent nationalist and patriot. His love for Telugu language, literature, and art is great. But these do not prevent him from respecting and appreciating other peoples, their cultures, their languages and arts. His innate humanism and rationalism have made him highly sensitive to beauty wherever he finds it, and receptive of good and original ideas wherever they come from. NARLA is, indeed, a universal person. NARLA, as a journalist and propounder of ideas, played a significant role during the pre-independence years, inspiring people wit patriotism and idealism. After Independence, he turned his attention to practical problems that are inherent in the reconstruction of the Indian society. He has diagnosed that, outstanding of all the problems and the most difficult of them all are ignorance, the superstition, the fear complex, the lack of self-confidence, and the disinclination to receive and imbibe modern ideas, and the disinclination to receive and imbibe modern ideas, which are tying down the Indian people to backwardness and penury. He has, therefore, taken up the challenge and now all his energies and activities are directed towards creating a new and modern outlook in he in the Indian people.
Indeed, NARLA’S role so far has been significant and purposeful. And the glory of his career, and the apex of his contribution to Indian life, is yet to come. And it will come. He is going to make a mighty contribution to the philosophical revolution and cultural renaissance of the Indian people in general and the Telugu people in particular.
- by Avula Sambasiva Rao
Chief Justice, Retd. Andhra Pradesh High Court, (From diamond Jubilee Souvenir 1968)