Narayana Das His Personality

Vasanta Rao Venkata Rao, younger brother of Vasanta Rao Brahmaji Rao, and former principal of the Maharajah’s College, Vizianagaram, was a scholar in English, Sanskrit and Telugu. He did pioneering work in translating physical sciences into Telugu and authored of several scientific books in Telugu, including “Gali - Grahalu” which was an exposition of astronomy in Telugu verse.

Sri Adibhatla Narayana Das: His Personality

Vasanta Rao Venkata Rao

It is not easy to do justice in a short compass to a “”Master of many Trades”, Sri Adibatla Narayana Das garu, who is very popularly known as “Hari Katha Pithamaha”. He was a robust teacher that carried the institution with him quite literally. There is a Rama Mandiram opposite to the Maharajah’s College in our Vizianagram. The road in front of the mandiram was one of his class rooms. As a science student of the College I used to return home late in the evening after finishing 'practical' classes. On such days I was invariably observing the Pithamaha, followed by a few students, standing at the mandiram and giving lessons to them for a considerable time. The teacher and the taught were utterly oblivious to the environment. They were so absorbed in the process of ‘Give and Take’ that the inquisitive passers-by formed into small groups to enjoy the lessons. It was a rare sight that thrilled anybody.

Sri Narayana Das combined in himself the poet, the dancer, the Vaggeyakaraka, the musician, the litterateur, the linguist and the creative artist. And so he could give a direction to the theme of Harikatha and build it on a strong foundation. It is obvious that the Haridas should be well versed not only in Sahithyam and Sangeetham but also in Laya and Thala which play an important role in Natyam. Known as the “Laya Brahma” Sri Narayana Das was a nightmare to the accompanists especially the mardangika. With his multifaceted attainments Sri Narayana Das composed a good number of Harikadhas with songs set to music and performed them all over the south with great success. His magnificent and magnetic personality, his clear and stentorian voice coupled with supple and highly expressive movements of his body lent superb charm to his performances. His courage of conviction and dauntless independence ever kept him high in the estimate of even Zamindas and Rajahs. He was able to meet any situation with lightning speed.

His literary productions are varied. He was probably more interested in Achcha-Tenugu (Pure Telugu), Telugu uncontaminated with Sanskrit terms. He compiled a dictionary of Achacha-Telugu words, a part of which has been published by the ‘Sri Adibhatla Narayana Das Unpublished works Publication Committee’, which has been functioning from Vizianagram and which has brought out a number of his books. His translation of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamams is unique. His love for the mother tongue had given him immense strength to work hard for a number of years and gather information for the benefit of posterity.

Another abiding and lofty work of Sri Narayana Das is Nava Rasa Tharangini, a Telugu translation of various English pieces pertaining to the Nava Rasas. It reveals the efficient translator in him, a translator that is alive to the need for bringing out the essence of the original, its beauty and precision without in any way mutilating it in the least. The linguist in Sri Narayana Das is uncovered by his translation of Omar Khayyam. It contains the original Persian with an English translation and the pieces rendered into Sanskrit and Achcha-Telugu; a monumental work by giant thinker.

One of his posthumous publications which reveals his versatility and depth of learning is the two-volume book Jagajjyothi. From Ayurveda to Astronomy many a subject is covered in it. The treatment is scholarly, the approach original and the delineation picturesque.

One of the interesting items is the description of an experiment performed by the author over years. That brings out the scientist in Sri Narayana Das. Scientists carry on investigations for no personal benefit. It is neither fame nor pomp that goads them to action. The action is based on faith; a faith and belief in the simplicity and symmetry of Nature. The results may not yield any dividends and may not have any practical application. It does not bother them. Nature stands as a perennial challenge, challenging the wit and wisdom and ingenuity of man. The Scientist takes up the gauntlet and steadily investigates. His only aim is to unravel the mysteries of nature. So with Sri Narayana Das.

The earth is a huge magnet. It has its lines of force. They run from the South magnetic to the North magnetic pole. This is indicated by the position taken up by a freely suspended magnetic needle. Sri Narayana Das - as per his unpublished manuscripts - believed that a man by spinning on one of his legs gets electrified or magnetised as a result of which he comes to rest freely along the magnetic meridian. To test the validity of this idea he is reported to have been spinning in a closed room at nights blindfolded and observing the direction in which he came to rest. The experiment is termed Dig Darshani. More often, the report says, he found himself facing in North. Unaware of this experiment, I was trying in my younger days to find out if the magnetic lines of force have any bearing on our lives. Especially during a bath it has been my experience that unconsciously I face the South, be it in a new locality. So this experiment attracted me greatly; it was the scientist in him peeping.

Or, take the verse from Batasari which says: “Just as a scientist is elated when the principle he is investigating comes out of its own accord.…” (Verse 106). It is said that Archimedes who discovered the principle known after him, ran from his water tub in the streets of Syracuse quite unmindful of the fact that he was naked. He cried out “Eureka, Eureka”. The ecstasy aroused in such situations should be experienced; no vociferous description conveys the intensity. Sri Narayana Das should have had a similar experience not once, but on many an occasion.

Sri Naryana Das was not only a visionary but also a revolutionary. They are the characteristics of great intellects. In his Preface to Batasari he says: “The story embodied in this book is an allegory of human life which begins in sheer ignorance and ends in perfect knowledge. In writing this small poetical work my main object had been to present to the Telugu reading public and attempt at something original as to plot, coupled with vividness of natural descriptions and told in easy Telugu devoid of all the artificialities of the usual ornate style. This system, I venture to hope would be acceptable to cultured readers whose tastes have been mellowed by the ever-advancing modern literature of the West”. Compare this with what Mahakavi Sri Guruzada Apparao says in his Preface to Kanyasulkam:

“The Telugu literary dialect contains many obsolete grammatical forms, an inconveniently large mass of obsolete words and arbitrary verbal contractions and expansions, necessitated by a system of versification based on alliteration and quantity ……if it is intended to make the Telugu literary dialect a great civilizing medium, it must be divested of its superfluous obsolete and Sanskrit elements, and brought closer to the spoken dialect from which it must be thoroughly replenished”. Both the giants rebelled, each in his own way, only to cater to the needs of the common man and enrich his thought processes.

It is difficult to come across a man of the type of Sri Narayana Das. His music rings in the ears; his dance is always to be seen by the mental eye; his grand figure lingers in the mind and his writings live as far as mankind survives.

Reproduced from the "Harikathapitamaha Srimadajjada Adibhatla Narayana Dasa Satajayantutsava Sanchika" (1967), the souvenir published by the Samskruthi Samithi, Chirala to commemorate the great man's birth centenary.

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