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Personalities: Apastamba

The Next installment in our series on Dharmic Personalities from Andhra is the all-India figure known as Apastamba.

Background

Apastamba muni was a great Sutrakaara who compiled the Apastamba Kalpasutra. He was born in the lineage of Maharishi Bhrgu, and belonged to the Taittiriya Sakha of the Krishna Yajur Veda. His wife was the pativrata Aksasutraa and his son was Karki. [1]

He is said to have lived somewhere in the Godavari valley of Andhra. There is an interesting story behind the word ‘Apastamba’. Although the origin might be in reference to another Pauranic Apastamba, it is also attributed to the sutrakaara as well.

Tradition holds that Apastamba, along with Baudhayana muni, was one of the two early Dharmashastra writers from Andhra. This has been adumbrated by both traditional and foreign academic sources. Interestingly enough, per Apastamba himself, the tradition asserts that Rishis are not born in the Kali Age, though individuals may often display some of their characteristics. It demonstrates the importance of referring back to the Purvacharyas, as Apastamba does by example. It further cements his connection to the present age. The current academic paradigm dates him to 300 BCE, though he is likely much older.

Dharmasutras originated from Grihyasutras, which are the second class of text (the other being Srautasutras) that stem from a category known as Kalpasutras (meaning thread on rituals, whether daily (nithya) or special (naimittika)). While Srauta deals with sacrificial rites, and Grihyasutras deal with domestic rites. Dharmasutras are more general and societal in nature.

Much has been written about the Dharmashastra and its auteurs by the Western Academe. Nevertheless, the best starting point to understanding a civilization is through the internal logic respected by its native scholars. In the case of the four main Dharmasutras (Vasishta, Gautama, Baudhayana, and Apastamba), such considerations matter particularly for chronology as it has become fashionable to say Apastamba preceded Maharishi Vasishta (the Saptarishi who featured in the Ramayana)—a notion that would send even traditional Dharmic schoolchildren into peals of laughter. In fact the order is reversed, with Sage Vasishta being the eldest and Apastamba the most recent and most preferred for the Kali Yuga (the present Age). This aligns with the finding that Baudhayana muni was the son of Maharishi Kanva (from the fourth paada of the Dvapara Yuga). This makes the correct Dharmasutra order: Vasishta, Gautama, Baudhayana, and Apastamba.

Thus, Apastamba’s Dharmasutra is in turn a portion of the expansive and eponymous Kalpasutra, which is additionally divided into the Srautasutra, Grihyasutra, and Sulbasutra.

The Sulbasutras are treatises on geometry as required for Vedic rites and requirements (such as the construction of fire-altars, etc.).  Apastamba himself belonged to the Krishna (Black) Yajurveda), and expounded upon the intricacies of these altars. The result is even though the focus was on Dharma and Yagna, quite a bit of Mathematics was compiled as well. But to understand the place of these, one must examine the Kalpasutra corpus as a whole.

Achievements

  • The Apastamba Kalpa sutra consists of 30 prasnas. The first 24 prasnas (books) focus on Srauta (Vedic Yagna)
  • The 25th is Apastambeeya-mantra-paata, which deals with definitions & ritual prayers (hautraka). It also has a key section that has important ramifications: Paribhashas (general rules of interpretation for the Kalpasutras)
  • The Apastamba Grihya-sutras are contained in the 26th and 27th books.
  • The 28th and 29th together make up the Apastamba Dharmasutra (which is sub-divided into 8 patalas and 23 parts. The 30th prasna is focused on Sulba Sutra.
  • He is also credited with the Apastamba-brahmana, Apastambopanisad, Apastamba-prayoga, Apastambaapara-sutra, and Apastamba-smriti
  • The Apastamba-smriti consists of 207 slokas

Apastamba is seen as one of the authorities who emphasised the notion of Yuga Dharma vs Sanatana Dharma.The theological explanation is that the people of those days had extraordinary [spiritual] power lacking in modern men….the dharma appropriate for ancient ages may be inappropriate for the current depraved age” [2].

What is notable about his Dharmasutra is the specification of the importance of accepted custom (samay-acarika). Rather than a one-size fits all implementation of Vedic Dharma, he wrote that the native customs of a community or region apply, so long as they don’t conflict with explicit Vedic injunctions.

This explains Apastamba’s divergence from Vasishta, Gautama, and Baudhayana on matters specifically on sexual morality, ranging from polygamy to niyoga. He explicitly favors monogamy, “forbidding the taking of a second wife if the first is able to participate in ritual activities and bear children” and prohibits niyoga (levirate) in the Kali Age.

He also asserted the role of women as upholders of dharma. He therefore specifies the importance of children learning much lore and custom from Women. Apastamba also protected the rights of women by forbidding their abandonment by husbands. He also specified that a wife may use the family wealth on her own while her husband was away (unremarkable for our time perhaps, but certainly far ahead of what is thought of as the traditional view).

He is also considered the originator of the principle distinguishing between “explicit vedic texts” (pratyaksa sruti) and “inferred vedic texts” (anumita sruti). This provided the epistemological basis for custom among righteous people stemming from the Vedas as well. There were also commentaries written on his work, by the scholar Haradatta, and of course, Kumarila Bhatta and Adi Sankaracharya.

In tandem with his work on Dharma are his ancillary achievements in Mathematics and Engineering.

Mathematics

  • Construction of the Square
  • The Theorem of the Square on the Diagonal (restatement of Baudhayana Theorem)
  • A precise value of the Square Root of 2.

Apastamba’s contribution to Maths is well known. Correspondingly, although the motivating drive for his Sulba Sutra was to provide guidance for construction of fire altars, there were a number of Mathematical, Astronomical, and even Engineering externalities as well.

His key accomplishments have been quickly summarised above, though are best discussed in a Series of articles on Sulba.

Legacy

[4,255]

Akrodho-aharsho-arosho-alobho-amoho-adambho-adrohah satyavachanam-anatyaasho-apaishunam-anasooyaa samvibhaagas-tyaaga aarjavam maardavam shamo dhamah sarva-bhoothair-avirodho yoga aaryam-aanrshamsam thushtir ithi sarva-ashramaanam samaya-padhaani thaany anuthishtan-vidhinaa sarvagaami bhavathi || 1.23.6

Refraining from anger, excitement, rage, greed, perplexity, hypocrisy, and malice; speaking the truth; refraining from overeating, calumny, and envy; sharing, liberality, rectitude, gentleness, tranquillity, self-control, amity with all creatures, Yoga, Aarya-like conduct, benevolence, and contentment—there is agreement that these apply to all orders of life. By practicing them according to the rules, a man attains the Supreme Being.” [2, 61]

From religion and rite to mathematics and astronomy to most important of all, Dharma itself, Apastamba’s all-India legacy is undeniable.

Ill-informed or ill-intentioned critics have often scoffed that the Dharmasutras (including Apastamba’s) are “boring texts for Brahmins and their rituals“. But this is unfair. While it is true that a voluminous portion of them is dedicated to the difficult rituals and injunctions that characterised a Vaidika Brahmana’s life, the are many passages directed towards the benefit of not only the other three varnas (Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Sudra) but also society in general as well. This denotes the importance of people not only avoiding tunnel-vision about their own lifestyle and seeking to impose it or hold it above others, but to recognise the need for balance and respect for the individual work of all members of society.

Dharma is undoubtedly the most central and ubiquitous concept in the whole of Indian civilization.” [2]

Some colonial (and neo-colonial) scholars have either downplayed the existence of formal law in Ancient India or have said that Dharma replaced law. But neither is correct. Ancient India stressed the importance of both formal Law (Vyavahara) & Dharma (Righteousness), the problem is such “scholars” have understood the purpose of neither, as well as the necessary connection between the two. There is a famous Chinese proverb that “Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one.” Thus, law exists as a baseline for society that holds baser men, women, and criminals (of all classes) accountable; where as Dharma inspires and holds the upright man (of all castes) accountable.

Law is the common minimum or floor for society while Dharma (in its highest form) is the ceiling we must aspire toward.

It’s dharma that provides the guidelines for proper and productive living and for social organization and interaction. It includes social institutions such as marriage, adoption, inheritance, social contracts, judicial procedure, and punishment of crimes, as well as private activities, such as toilet, bathing, brushing the teeth, food and eating, sexual conduct, and etiquette“. [2]

“It is difficult to gain mastery of dharma by means of scriptures alone, but by acting according to the markers one can master it“. (A.2.29.13-14) [2]

Apastamba is also notable for writing that after learning Vedic knowledge, those initiated in the Vedas can then understand final knowledge possessed by women and Sudras. The meaning here is that once Vedic knowledge is mastered, the value and divinity of everyday knowledge possessed by uninitiates is then understood as well. Although the rights to Vedic ritual and ritual recitation belong to Brahmanas, the dvija (initiate classes) include Kshatriyas and Vaisyas as well. What those murkhapanditas seeking to impute “beef in vedas” meanings into Dharmasutra as well forget, is that manuscripts are manipulated. In fact, while one phrase is read as prohibiting initiation to sudras, the same sloka prohibits initiation to criminals of any caste. Further, some have argued that the correct interpretation of the sloka (due to a contested word change) actually means that meritorious Sudras with good guna may be initiated as well. While this is not to assert what is Apastamba’s position one way or another, it does demonstrate the distinguishment (viveka) between right and wrong required to even interpret these texts.

Finally, for those concerned about casteism, here is what Apastamba wrote, and incidentally, it would be something echoed by Annamacharya thousands of years later:

Atmanan-pasyan-sarva-bhootaani na mohyacchinthayankavih |

Aatmaanam chaiva sarvatra yah pashyetsa vai brahmaa naakaprushte viraajathi || 1.23.1

Seeing all beings in himself, a wise man thinks about it and is not perplexed.

A Brahmin who sees himself in all beings, likewise, shines forth in the vault of heaven. [2, 61]

References:

  1. Garg, Ganga Ram. Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World. Vol 2. New Delhi: Concept Publ. 1992. p.552
  2. Olivelle, Patrick. Dharmasutras: The Law Codes of Apastambha, Gautama, Baudayana, and Vasistha. Motilal Banarsidass. 2000
  3. Buhler, Georg. The Sacred Laws.  Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1897
  4. Sen, S.N. & A.K. Bag. The Sulba Sutras. New Delhi. Indian National Science Academy. 1983. p.234
  5. http://www.thehindu.com/br/2005/03/22/stories/2005032200241700.htm

Personalities: Baudhayana

The great Dharmic personages of Andhra are often given minimal coverage. Perhaps the first of these momentous mahanubhaavas is Baudhayana.

Continuing our Series on Andhra Personalities, is the earliest in our Set on Dharmic Personalities. He is none other than the famed author of the eponymous Dharmasutra.

Background

Backgrounds and aspects of regional origin are often controversial within India. The same degree of westphalian politics linking region-language-state-caste simply was not there in previous eras. Though regional politics certainly did exist, they generally took place upon substratum of Dharma & common Sanskritic Indic culture.

While love for language is very important, love for Dharma must be even greater. This is because language detached from Dharmic culture can then play host to any alien culture. Rather than the spirit of who we really are being reflected, what makes Andhra truly Andhra will be lost. It would result in an asuric spirit merely speaking the language of the Andhras rather than that of the descendant of Chandra Deva. What in fact made him Andhra Nripathi was establishing the Dharma of the devas in the desa named after him.

That is the importance of Baudhayana Muni. While different regions naturally wish to associate themselves with the prestige of various Rishis, it is also critical that history hew to the truth. It is only after careful evidence could be adduced that we now assert that Baudhayana was himself an Andhra Brahmin. We have it on the authority of an astika adhyatmika one  himself (Pandit Kota Venkatachalam)

As such, Baudhayana Muni, the author of the famous Kalpasutra corpus is himself the son of the author of what is likely the first Andha Grammar: Kanva Andhra Vyakaranamu.

This may come as a disappointment to Nannaya Bhatta bandhuvulu, but rather than Andhra Sabda Chinthaamani being the first grammar, there were preceding ones as well.

What’s more, whether one can claim him as an Andhra or not, the father of Baudhayana, Maharishi Kanva, himself features significantly in our Puranas and Kavyas.

Ancient Hindu History Part I, p.154

Not much else is known about the great muni Baudhayana. But his contribution lives on in the texts from which we know him best: the Kalpasutras.

His gotra is naturally Kanva, and he belongs to the Pradhama Sakha of Andhra Brahmins who follow Shukla Yajur Veda. However, the Kalpasutras themselves are classified under the Taittiriya Sakha of the Krishna Yajur Veda. Though the Western Historical paradigm dates him back to 800 BCE, Baudhayana is likely much older. While there are those who assert that he was merely born into the lineage of Kanva (who dates back to the Dvapara Yuga), when considering our Sastras as a whole, his being the actual son of Kanva actually makes sense.

The Kalpasutra corpus left behind by the son of Kanva maharshi remains influential to this day. While he is better known today for the Baudhayana theorem, this scholar and Acharya’s real impact is in the realm of Dharma. To understand why it is an accomplishment, one must take a closer look.

Achievements

Without a doubt, Baudhayana muni is notable for his comprehensive work on Dharma. His eponymous Dharmasutra is part of a larger corpus. It is attached to the Grhyasutra and ultimately the Kalpasutra of the same name. [3, 3]

Kalpasutras are expositions on ritual. They consist of Srautasutra (focused on yagna, i.e. sacrifice) as well as Grhyasutra (domestic rituals). Dharmasutras are part of Grhyasutras, and therefore we see how extensive his imprint is.

  • Compiled the Baudhayana Kalpasutra (consisting of Srauta, Grhya, Sulba, & Dharma)
  • 279 verses in his Dharmasutra [3,7]. He is known as a sutrakaara & vrttikaara.
  • Credited with Baudhayana Vrtti, a commentary on the Brahma Sutra, which is part of the prasthana trayi (Brahma Sutra, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita). Only part of the Vrtti remains.
  • Baudhayana Theorem. This is considered an earlier statement of the Pythagorean theorem.

Recently, Baudhayana has been noted for his contributions to mathematics. Though this is undeniable, it is best to understand his significance through the eyes of the tradition itself.

The Kalpasutra is divided into books called prasnas (questions) . The first 29 books pertain to the Srautasutra, book 30 deals with the Sulba Sutra (referring to Vedic Geometry}, with the next four books on Grhyasutra, and the final four on Dharmasutra. This makes a total of 38 books in the Baudhayana Kalpasutra. [3, 191]

In our difficult era of degraded behaviour, declining values, and divorce, Baudhayana muni gave us laconic wisdom that remains profound in its effect. It is food for thought for all those wondering why their bollywood romance isn’t working out or why their kids are such maligning malcontents:

Yathaa yuktho vivaahasthathha yuktha prajaa bhavatheethi vignayathe || 1.21.1

The excellence of the marriage, it is stated, determines the excellence of the children that issue from it. [3, 237]

If the values of society are to be rebuilt, it is on the foundation of such principles brought forth by Baudhayana of Andhra.

Legacy

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That the life and legacy of Baudhayana muni is not only foundational but even defining to not only Andhras but all of Bharatavarsha is beyond a doubt. To this day, his dharmasutra determines the practice of Dharma in many households of the North.

In Andhra itself his Dharmasutra, has been replaced by another statesman, who will be discussed next. Nevertheless, his impact remains of tremendous import not only in the orthodox realm of ritual, yagna, and dharma, but also in mathematics (Ganita).

 

[4]
For those concerned most about caste and casteism, it is quite clear Baudhayana muni stated clearly that there were rigorous standards for whom could be considered a Brahmin. Alas, in the present time, people have forgotten that privilege came with duty—even a burdensome & difficult duty. And above all, it came with a responsibility to speak & preserve the truth.

It should be a matter of pride that such noble principles were expounded by our forebears, who themselves embody how connected Andhra is with the rest of ancient Bharatavarsha. It should be a matter of pride for Andhras that 2 of the 4 sutrakaaraas of the 4 primary Dharmasutras hail from our lands. Nevertheless, as these great rishis themselves would write, arrogance and boastfulness is not a sign of culture.

So why try to phrase what the venerable Baudhayana muni himself wrote so many thousands of years ago. Regardless, of caste or class, this is what should define Telugu Culture today:

upadistho dharmah prathivedam | Thasyaanu vyaakhyasyaamah | smaartho dvitheeyah |trteeyah shisthaagamah | shisthaah khalu vigathamatsaraa nirahankaaraah kumbeedhaanyaa alolupaa dambha-darpa-lobha-moha-krodha-vivarjithaah || 1.1.1-6

“The law is taught in each Veda, in accordance with which we will explain it. What is given in the tradition is the second, and the conventions of cultured people are third.

Now, cultured people are those who are free from envy and pride, possess just a jarful of grain, and are free from covetousness, hypocrisy, arrogance, greed, folly, and anger.” [3, 197]

References:

  1. Kota,Venkatachalam Paakayaji (Pandit).Ancient Hindu History Part I.Vijayawada:AVG.
  2. Chitkara, M.G.Kashmir Shaivism: Under Siege. New Delhi: APH Publishing. 2002
  3. Olivelle, Patrick. Dharmasutras. Delhi: MLBD.2013
  4. Buehler, Georg. The Sacred Laws of the Âryas. Delhi: MLBD. 2007

Tatikona — A Short Trek from Tirupati

The following Post was composed by Spandana . You can follow her on Twitter.


Photo Credit: Spandana

Tirumala Tirupati is a place that doesn’t need any introduction. It’s Kaliyuga Vaikuntam for devotees, one of the richest temples in the world, and the temple which draws huge crowds everyday. Apart from all these, Tirumala Seshachalam forest range has many unknown treasures, like Bio diversity, which are yet to be discovered. As a history lover, it’s always surprising to know the kind of historical treasure this place is…

Tirumala and Tirupati are very prominent places from the pre historic age itself. Many rock art shelters and pre historic dolmens in Seshachalam forest range are standing evidences for this. And it is a well known fact how Lord Venkateswara Temple made this place even more prominent in ancient and medieval periods for many dynasties. Every dynasty has left their own mark in this place, which is evident through many grand temples and forts around its vicinity.

Photo Credit: Spandana

Tirupati and Tirumala collectively are known as temple city, all temples function with all its grandeur. But how many are aware that there are so many wonderful ancient temples that were abandoned and left for ruins .Though neglected from centuries, these ancient marvels are still standing with all their past glory, waiting for some visitor to tell its story.One such place is Tatikona. Today I will tell you the story of this place, and how it fell from glory to gloomy.

Tatikona was once a grand temple complex with many temples, a pushkarini, and a mud fort on the hill (which is not present now). This place might be very, very important from the ancient days. It would have witnessed the ancient man and many powerful endangered animal species. It would have witnessed kings and their grandeur. It would have witnessed dedicated sculptors working and brave soldiers protecting. It would have witnessed grand temples with nithya puja & many devotees daily, for regular utsavams etc

Photo Credit: Spandana

But now this place is crumbled into ruins, completely camouflaged in the jungle, hard to find and harder to reach, and fully surrounded by thorny plants. Once ravaged by invaders, whatever has survived, it is reduced to wreck by present day hooligans (who dug all over for treasure) and conveniently forgotten by residents and authorities.

Photo Credit: Spandana

Tatikona at present

I seriously wish I could see this place 50 years back, it would have been in much better shape. With present remains we can infer there are 3 temples: 2 temples are big and the other is a small shrine. The two big temples are dedicated to Shiva. We can confirm by sculptures on the pillars, the sculpture of Nandi, sculpture of Kannappa, and Shiva linga. As for the small shrine, we can’t confirm the deity (probably for Ganesh or Karthikeya).

Photo Credit: Spandana

The beautiful Pushkarini (Temple tank) which now looks like lake, but as per locals it was very much in shape till very recent years. It is said there was a mud-fort on the hill for Vijayanagara Emperors (though it disappeared without a trace), and another interesting feature we can find a pre historic Megalith dolmen here. There is a small Shiva shrine on the hill, and as per locals  deep in the woods, another 2 temples. They are dedicated to lord Narasimha and local deity Yellamma, and are in better condition (we couldn’t visit due to the time crunch). One more unique feature of Tatikona is the style of building temple. The Shiva temple built by cutting the rock boulder, and the rock boulder is still visible around the gopuram. The only other temples of this type can be found in Hampi (Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple).

Even after facing so much destruction,this beautiful treasure can teach so many lessons. Beautiful temple walls, intricate carvings on the pillars and beautiful megaliths, all located in a very serene location, which in short reminds us of Hampi. Doesn’t this place deserves renovation, clean up, a sign board,and inclusion in tourist brochure of Tirupati?

Photo Credit: Spandana

Tirupati doesn’t need any theme parks. If  that money is spent on places like Tatikona they can be turned into beautiful learning centers, spiritual centers, and wonderful weekend spots…Eagerly waiting for that day.

       HERITAGE IS OUR PRIDE
#Heritageisourpride

              Jai Hind

Photo Credit: Spandana

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Temples, Antiquity, & Heritage

The following Post was composed by Spandana . You can follow her on Twitter.


Temples have been quite important parts of our lives from ancient times. Temples have always been the centre of many vibrant activities. They might be social or cultural or spiritual or sometimes even political.  In simple words we can say every temple has been a proto type of society (of that particular place, how it was and how it is).

I want to elaborate a point, which everyone may not understand or maybe don’t accept:  modernisation of our ancient temples in the name of renovations. Yes, in our state there are many ancient temples with a great past. The good news is these temples are very much functional and the chain of devotion is passing to succeeding generations without break. But are many of these ancient temples looking that ancient?? No they are completely looking ultra-new. But along with being worshiping places, aren’t these temples our standing examples of our past and our heritage?? Isn’t this our responsibility to maintain their art, architecture, unique construction, and grandeur in the way they were?? But instead of preserving we are damaging these architectural marvels in the name of renovation. The picture below, is the temple which is supposed to be one of the ancient temples in our state. New look of the ancient temple

Srikakula Andhra Mahavishnu Temple

 Photo Credit: highwayonlyway.com

I am not blaming the thought of renovating ancient temples, but am only saying that renovation should be done in the way that temple reflects its grand past with the help of new techniques, instead of completely demolishing and rebuilding. Here is an ideal example of renovation:

Photo Credit: Spandana

Chola period temple (Mulasthaneswara temple) in Gajulamandyam village, was renovated in a beautiful manner—anyone can get the inspiration. All these renovations were done by locals. They took extra effort to maintain the temple’s antiquity. They cleared all paint from the temple walls just to make the old carvings and architecture visible, which was a costly process. Locals taking pride of their past, and conserving their identity is a commendable act.

Photo Credit: Spandana

In the first picture u can see the temple before renovation, in the second picture after renovation (all the paint was removed.

Not all ancient temples are under Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Many are with state endowment department. Though it is the endowment department’s job to conserve these old temples, they hardly understand or care about the antiquity or sanctity of the particular temple. Here I am taking another example of the beautiful temple in Kadapa district in Meenapuram Village:

Rajarajeswari Temple

Photo Credit: Spandana

This ancient temple is very much under the umbrella of endowment department, but this temple is conveniently neglected, due to its low income from Hundi. This temple has a beautiful stepwell in the front and ancient Kalyana mandapa made out by carving a rock. This intricately carved centuries old Kalyana mandapa completely collapsed recently. Not even a sign board or direction board is present to know about the temple. If one wants to reach this place, it’s only with help of locals.

Photo Credit: Spandana

It’s not the story of Meenapuram alone. There are many ancient temples under endowment department facing similar situation. We have examples of 500 year old SriKalahasthi gopuram and Bhavanarayana swamy temple raja gopuram collapsed, due to lack of timely care. This topic is just unending. I can write pages about this.

Photo Credit: Spandana

In brief: as a heritage lover, as a devotee, I wish our temples function well along with maintaining their antiquity and our heritage. I sincerely hope the endowment department takes some responsibility with such temples. As people, who respect our past and understand our heritage, it is our responsibility to educate people in our little circle.

        HERITAGE IS OUR PRIDE
#Heritageisourpride #Heritagemustbepreserved

              Jai Hind


Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Personalities: K. Viswanath

K_viswanath_legend

In honour of the recent announcement for the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, our Post today is on its 2016 recipient.

While it is true that we Telugus often feel short-shrifted on the national award front, it’s also important to recognise when the central committees actually get it right. Continuing our ongoing Series on Andhra Personalities is that stalwart of Telugu Cinema, Sri K.Viswanath.

Background

Born in 1930, Kasinathuni Viswanath hails from Peddapulivarru, in Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh. His parents were Subramanyam and Saraswathamma. His father was a manager in Vahini pictures at Vijayawada (where he would study). Viswanath would later graduate from Andhra Christian College, Guntur and then follow in the family footsteps in film.

What is often not known, is that long before he was a director and writer, he was a technician. In fact, he got his start in the Sound Department on the set of his first movie: Thodi Kodallu. Nevertheless, it was a humble start to what would go on to be a prolific career, as even a short glance at his filmography would show. With 36 films to his name as director (and around 50 in other roles), his movies represent real cultured cinema.

There are no vulgar, double entendre dialogues in his films, which are pleasant, steeped in the local ethos, and with music, dance and traditional art forms. [5]

In a poetic twist, he is said to have been noted for his talent by none other than Nageswara Rao gaaru, and the rest was history. K.Viswanath made his directorial debut in 1965’s Atma-Gouravam, featuring ANR. While he established himself in the 60s and 70s (especially with Siri Siri Muvva), it was in the subsequent decades that the screen-poet of Peddapulivarru made his maximum impact. Starting from 1980’s Sankarabharanam to 1983’s Sagara Sangamam to 1986’s Swati Muthyam to 1987’s Swayam Krushi, this was the decade in which he seemingly dominated.

In the 1990s, he would also make appearance as a mainstream actor, rounding out his cinematic abilities. Subha Sankalpam featured his acting debut, reputedly at the behest of none other than Kamal Haasan, who said the role needed a venerable person before whom he could bow.

Maximum cast in his movies were Jayaprada, Chiranjeevi, and Kamal Haasan. Other actors were Bhanupriya, Venkatesh, Radhika, Vijayasanthi, and Srikanth.

He was also fluent in Tamil and did a number of movies in that language, such as Salangai Oil and Sippikul Muthu. He also made a few Hindi movies such as Eeswar and Kaamchor, although they did not rise to the same level he achieved in Telugu.

At a time when Indic and especially Telugu language and culture is on the defensive, K.Viswanath represents the importance of steeping mass culture in classical culture. After an era plagued by back-bencher blockbusters and item-dance driven nuisance flicks, the cultural quagmire of modern India requires guiding lights to return it to the glory of Maya Bazaar and Missamma. Viswanath garu demonstrates one such deepam.

A presenter of classical and traditional art, music and dance, K Viswanath has been a guiding force in the Indian film industry. As a director he has made fifty films since 1965 known for their strong content, endearing narrative, honest handling and cultural authenticity. His films on a wide range of social and human issues had great appeal to the masses. [4]

We live in an age where stars are celebrated simply for being stars and people are famous for simply being famous. With such social afflictions, is it any wonder that kitsch has captured the market while art is ailing?

Indeed, even the names of his films had an artistic or even poetic quality to them. Whether it is Aapadbandhavudu or Sruthilayalu or Siri Siri Muvva or Swaraabhishekam, his mellifluous movie titles stand in stark contrast to the crass anglicised appellations that have since dominated the industry in descending decades.

Swarabhishekam

For the arts to revive and prosper, not only kalaanidhis but veritable kalaatapasvis and tapasvinis are required. The 2016 Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner is one such.

An ardent art lover, he made a series of films based on varied themes of art, music and dance. His films empathised with courage and frailty, aspirations and convictions, perseverance and distractions, social demands and individual struggle and at the core, believed in the goodness of the human spirit. [4]

Above all, in a vulgar age which fails to understand what real culture is, this cultural exemplar give us scenes rebuking the poseurs and providing the true meaning for samskruthi and natya.

In an industry that has come to be known for its stars dominating the movie marquees, he stood for stories weaving together the talent into an integral celluloid whole.

Achievements

From Siri Siri Muvva to Sirivennala, there is an endless list of quality contributions to Andhra and indeed Indic Cinema by Kasinathuni Viswanath. But if one film stands out, it is Sankarabharanam.

From the electrifying vocals of S.P. to the iconising of Saastriya Sangeeta to the story itself, Sankarabharanam was a modern masterpiece. Of course, who could forget the contributions of composer K.V. Mahadevan. Nevertheless, it was K.Viswanath who brought them all together in one musical magnum opus. Indeed, many even assert that the movie was responsible for increasing interest in Carnatic Music among a generation of South Indians.

It is not for nothing he has been nicknamed Kalaa Tapasvi.

 Renowned filmmaker and actor Kasinadhuni Viswanath, best known for his award-winning movies in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi, has won the Dadasaheb Phalke award for the year 2016 for his outstanding contribution to the film industry. [1]

To receive the Phalke Award is a laudable and sought out distinction for any filmmaker or artiste. To date, 6 Telugus have received it, with  B. Narasimha Reddi, B. Nagi Reddi Paidi Jairaj, L.V.Prasad, Akkineni Nageswara Rao in 1990 and D.Rama Naidu in 2009  being the previous awardees.

But despite working with mass stars like Megastar Chiranjeevi and Kamal Haasan, K.Viswanath garu is a screen legend in his own right. Celebrated and known North and South of the Vindhyas, this Andhra ratna already has a long list of awards and achievements.

  • Honorary Doctorate from Potti Sriramulu Telugu University
  • Ragupathy Venkaiah Award for Lifetime Contribution to Cinema from AP
  • Recognised with 20 Nandi Awards from the State of Andhra Pradesh
  • Received 5 National Awards and 10 Filmfare Awards
  • Won the National award for Swati Mutyam. This was India’s Official entry for the 1987 Oscars Foreign Films Category.
  • Awarded the Padma Sri in 1992 for contributions to cinema

Legacy

KViswaLegacy

Viswanath garu leaves behind an outstanding body of work that would be feted in any era. If ‘Simplicity truly is the Ultimate Sophistication‘, he embodied this in films.

The stories that Shri K Viswanath told through his films were seemingly simple. They provided an uncomplicated, direct and pleasant cinematic experience to the audience. At the same time, they lend themselves to a nuanced and layered interpretation leading many to watch them again and again and come back and discover a new hitherto unseen aspect or a have deeper understanding and realization. [4]

Movies like Saptapadi show precisely the type of introspection any society requires and the balance needed between duty and human dignity. He exemplifies the type of attitude spiritual and artistic elites require: rather than distant reservation and condescending mockery, an empathetic championing of the masses and an upliftment of their plight is what is needed.

Prathi cinema ki oka sandesam undedhi. There would be a social message in virtually all his films, proving the true potential of Indian Cinema. It is not in item dance or idiot fan followings or foreign flesh shows, but in movies that marry culture with sentiment in contemporary context. This is what represents not only state but national cinema as well.

Named for the Maharashtrian Director-Producer Dadasaheb Phalke—the famous filmmaker of what’s considered India’s first Movie (Raja Harishchandra)—this National Award is coveted across Bharat’s various cinematic industries.

The award is conferred by the Government of India for outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema. The award consists of a Swarn Kamal (Golden Lotus), a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh and a shawl. The award shall be conferred by the President of India at a function on May 3 at Vigyan Bhawan. [4]

While at 87 years old, the doyen of the pre-digital cinema era may have been made to wait all too long, it is, as they say, better late than never.

Telugu Cinema has come a long way since the cultural morass of the mid-2000s. Indeed, from Maya Bazaar (now in its 60th year) to Magadheera (and now Baahubali), it has had quite a trip ‘There and Back Again’. If there is filmmaker who embodies the triumph of Art over Kitsch and High Culture for the Masses, it is K.Viswanath garu.

From all of us at ACP, Congratulations, andi! It is a recognition long overdue.

References:

  1. http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/k-viswanath-wins-dadasaheb-phalke-award-for-2016/article18200164.ece
  2. http://movies.ndtv.com/regional/veteran-filmmaker-and-actor-kasinathuni-viswanath-conferred-dadasaheb-phalke-award-1685466
  3. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0899649/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
  4. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/kasinadhuni-vishwanath-dadasaheb-phalke-award/1/936966.html
  5. http://www.deccanchronicle.com/entertainment/tollywood/250417/legendary-kalathapasvi-viswanath-gets-dadasaheb-phalke-award-for-2016.html
  6. http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/true-artists-dont-need-fame/article7455680.ece
  7. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/phalke-award-for-viswanath/article18202634.ece