Aluru Venkata Rao
Aluru Venkata Rao (Kannada: ಆಲೂರು ವೆಂಕಟರಾವ್) (12 July 1880 - 25th Feb 1964) was a leader of the Karnataka Ekikarana movement, which was fighting for a separate state encompassing all Kannada speaking areas of Mysore, Bombay Presidency and Nizam's Hyderabad. The first strains of this movement had started as early as 1856 and the Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha had been established in 1890, the movement took a dramatic turn with the arrival of Aluru Venkata Rao. Notable was the publication of Aluru's magnum opus, Karnataka Gatha Vaibhava in 1912. Such was the impact of this work that he came to be known as the Kannada Kula Purohita or the 'High priest of the Kannada kula(family) '
Karnataka Gatha Vaibhava
Karnataka Gatha Vaibhava literally means The glory that was Karnataka. It was a book that recounted in great detail the glorious history that had beenh Karnataka's until the Marathas, Nizam and the British took over. People started rallying around the Ekikarana movement, which picked up momentum.
Aluru Venkata Rao was born in Bijapur in 1880 in a well-to-do Madhwa Brahmin family of landlords. His father Bhim Rao was a Shirastedar, an important accounts official at the Taluka level under British rule. Bhim Rao and Venkat Rao’s mother Bhagirathamma were of pious and charitable nature.
Alur Venkat Rao attended primary school in different small towns where his father was transferred and he passed Matriculation examination (school graduation) from Dharwar in 1897. Though Kannadiga, he had acquired good fluency in Marathi, Sanskrit and English by then. But his first love was Kannada. There were no good books, journals or periodicals in Kannada at that time. He attended Fergusson College in Pune and completed his B.A. and L.L.B. (law) degrees by 1905. His student years in Pune were memorable. The country was witnessing early nationalism in different forms and phases. Lokamanya Tilak was the prominent leader who shaped young minds, by arranging Shivaji Utsav and Ganapati Utsav and establishing national schools. Veer Savarkar and Senapati Bapat were Alur’s contemporaries in college. Partition of Bengal as envisaged by the Vice roy Lord Curzon had led to a nationwide agitation. It kindled latent nationalism among educated youngsters in several ways. Alur returned to Dharwad determined to serve the country, in the ways that suited him. He started as a pleader, one of the most coveted posts in those days which brought name and fame with minimum work according to him. But soon the call of mother Karnataka snatched him away from all material attractions.
Karanatakatva mission of his life A chance visit to Anegundi and vast ruins of Hampi provided Alur a clear vision about his future course of action. The greatness of Vijayanagara empire and glory of Kannada valour which spread beyond Maharashtra in earlier age, prompted him to awaken Kannada people of his region, who were still wallowing in the ‘hangover’ of Peshwai Maratha rule.
Whereas Bengalis could not tolerate one division of their motherland, how could Kannadigas afford to be so apathetic to their mother land being divided into five zones? This was the painful reflection of young Alur. He decided to write a book that could awaken his sleepy people. ‘Karnataka Gatavaibhava’ was the result. It is a masterpiece bringing out contribution of all Karnataka dynasties enriching Indian culture by conquests, constructing great temples and monuments, promoting trade and commerce, encouraging learning, promoting literature, etc. It took 13 years to collect material from inscriptions, coins, and old manuscripts to write this book, which made history.
His ‘Karnataka Gatavaibhava’ (Past glory of Karnataka) completes ninety years (1917), this year (2007).
Alur continued writing books, editing journals, establishing schools, founding research centres and libraries, touring and giving lectures. He met like-minded people scattered in all the five areas specified earlier. In between he was imprisoned and his license to practice as pleader was cancelled. This made Alur devote himself completely for unification of Karnataka.
Finally Alur Venkata Rao succeeded. Fifty years of his mission bore fruit. Kannada speaking land became one under the name of Mysore State (1956). It took another 18 years to have its rightful name of Karnataka (1974). It only shows how many hurdles Alur had to cross in olden days of British rule, when only change in rightful name took nearly two decades in Independent India!
Alur wrote twelve books and eight booklets. He encouraged N.S. Rajpurohit, D.R. Bendre, Shantakavi, Pandit Taranath, Hardekar Manjappa etc., all stalwarts in their fields, to write. He himself published their early books and distributed them.
He was an active member in all literary activities outside North Karnataka. He mobilized funds and popular support in founding Kannada Sahitya Parishat, the august literary body, in 1915. He was the vice president and the real force behind the Vijayanagara sixth-centenary celebrations in Hampi when all living great South Indian historians, researchers, archeologists and writers were brought on a single platform in 1936.
He was elected the President of the 16th all Karnataka literary meet, “Sahitya Sammelan," held in Mysore in 1930. He spent his last years of life writing books on Madhwa philosophy and Bhagavad Gita for commoners leading a sage’s life. He died in 1964.
Dharwad city is full of memorials, in founding of which Alur had a hand. Karnatak College and University, Shantesha library and Vidyavadhak Sangh. Itihasa Samsodhak Mandal, and Sadhankeri, which he himself named and lived in.
Alur’s Nanna Jeevana Smritigulu (”Memories of my life”) was serialized many years ago in “Jayakarnataka” monthly which he had started and later handed over to others. The late G.B. Joshi, doyen among Indian publishers, brought them in a book form in 1974 when Mysore state became Karnataka. It is a tribute and fulfillment to Alur’s efforts of half a century. The book contains many poignant memories of men and incidents of freedom struggle, and Alur’s unique role in making the struggle for Karnatakakatva, as a part of the National movement.