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h. v. nanjundaiah

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H. V. Nanjundaiah
Maharani's Girls High School
Participants of the first Kannada Sahitya Parishat (Bangalore, 1915)
University of Mysore logo

Hebbalalu Velpanuru Nanjundaiah was born on 13 October, 1860. His father was Subbaiah and mother was Annapurnamma. The couple had five children – two sons and three daughters and Nanjundaiah was the first of these two sons. Nanjundaiah studied at Wesleyan Mission High School (Hardwicke High School at present) and later at Madras Christian College. He secured a B. A. degree in 1880. After completing his B. A., he worked briefly as a Sub-Registrar at Kollegal and as a clerk at the Accountant General’s Office at Madras. He did his Bachelor’s Degree in Law (B. L.) in 1883. Two years later, in 1885, H. V. Nanjundaiah was appointed as Munsiff at Nanjanagud, Mysore. The same year, he completed his M. A. as well. Following this, he was appointed as Assistant Commissioner at Hassan, Shimoga and eventually at Mysore. In 1892, he returned to Law as a Sub-Judge at Bangalore Court. The next year, H. V. Nanjundaiah completed his Master’s in Law (M. L.) Degree. In recognition of his academic and legal credentials, the Madras University made him a Fellow of the University in 1895. He was appointed as Under Secretary to the Government of Mysore in 1895. From 1897 onwards, H. V. Nanjundaiah would hold many positions such as Deputy Commissioner of Shimoga, Chief Secretary to Mysore State, Chief Judge of Mysore State and Vice Chancellor of the University of Mysore.

H. V. Nanjundaiah was adept at Kannada, Telugu (his mother tongue), French and English. Among the people who inspired H. V. N. was Dr William Miller, who was an authority in Methodology and the Science of Teaching. Nanjundaiah married Annapurnamma, who hailed from Devanahalli in 1876. She sadly passed away during the delivery of their seventh child on 13th August, 1897. H. V. Nanjundaiah was just 37 years of age. He then married Krishnavenamma (daughter of Pampapathy Sastry of Hospet).  She was 14 years of age. She bore him three sons and three daughters.  

Sir Herbert Hope Risley, K.C.I.E, C.S.I was a British Ethnographer and member of the Indian Civil Service who conducted extensive studies on the tribes and castes of the Bengal Presidency. H. V. Nanjundaiah under Risley’s direction took up the laborious ethnographic survey of the Mysore state from 1904 – 05.

In 1904, H. V. Nanjundaiah was made President of the Maharani School Administrative Council. During this period he started a widow’s home. He presided over the Educational Chair in the conference held in 1911 by Sir M. Visweswaraiah on ‘Economic Progress’. He was invited to Madras to preside over the Humanities Chair in the ‘Indian Science Congress’ held in 1915. In 1917, Edwin Samuel Montagu came to India to spear head the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. Nanjundaiah sent a detailed ten page memorandum to Montagu listing out his well thought out points on how these reforms could actually be implemented in the Indian setting. Prominent among these suggestions were his emphasised need for increased involvement of Indians in the higher echelons of the administrative hierarchy and his emphatic objection to the lack of parity in pay between British and Indian Civil Servants. These suggestions were so well presented that they immediately caught the attention of Montagu and it is believed that many of these eventually did make their way into the subtler points of the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms.

The Commission to reform the Indian Education System was set up under the aegis of Lord Curzon. While the prevalent thought was that it was the elementary school system that needed reshaping, Lord Curzon instead chose to direct his Government’s energies towards shaping and eventually restructuring the University system across the country. Several new Universities took shape during these years like Dacca, Banaras, Aligarh Patna, Nagpur and Rangoon Universities.

About this time, the Princely State of Mysore had three main colleges. These were the Central College at Bangalore (1876), Maharaja College (1890) and Maharani College at Mysore. These were under the administrative aegis of the Madras University. The idea for the Mysore State to have its own University took shape in 1913 – 14. The initial steps in this direction were taken by the Maharaja HH Nalwadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar, his mother Kempa Nanjammani Vani Vilasa and Diwan Sir M. Visweswaraiah. H. V. Nanjundaiah, who was in charge of the Education Department, spearheaded the practical aspects of this dream into fruition.

University of Madras was perceived to be ‘distant and detached’ not only in terms of the obvious geographical separation, but also due to the linguistic differences and the prevalent economic challenges that had to be surmounted by poor families in sending their wards all the way to Madras for a University education.! These factors fostered in the minds of the rulers of Mysore an indispensable need for a University that was very much our own. Among the Princely States of Pre-Independent India, Mysore was the first to have its own University. H. V. Nanjundaiah played a key role right from the inception of the University. He procured all the syllabi and curricula from Universities across the country. He wrote extensively to National and International Academic experts for their valuable suggestions. He would rely heavily on the inputs of Miller in England.

Nanjundaiah drew up a long list of names of illustrious scholars and teachers from Universities and Colleges across the country, who could be invited to chair departments at the nascent University of Mysore. Nanjundaiah was made the Chairman of the Committee constituted to oversee the setting up of the University in April, 1916. This position came just in time to H. V. Nanjundaiah as he had recently retired from Government Service and had initially contemplated applying to various other Universities for teaching positions in his 56th year of life. By July of 1916, he was elevated to the post of Vice Chancellor of the new University.

H. V. Nanjundaiah, on more than one occasion had remarked that a nation’s true progress stems forth not from its economic prosperity or Industrial development, but more so from its prevalent culture of education and learning, for, this is what moulds minds as well as characters of her future leaders. In this spirit, the motto of the University was coined as “Na hi Jnanena Sadrusham” (roughly translated to English: Nothing is equal to Knowledge). The estimated cost of founding the University was fifteen lakhs. The college at Bangalore was dedicated mainly to the Sciences while the colleges at Mysore focussed exclusively on Humanities subjects.

Sir Harcourt Butler was entrusted with the initial inspection of the budding University. Butler was greatly impressed with the ground work done by H. V. Nanjundaiah. At the end of the week-long inspection, as part of the farewell planned for him, H. V. Nanjundaiah got none other than Veena Sheshanna to perform for a private audience. It was indeed a memorable adieu and Butler gave a favourable report for the new University of Mysore.

The University of Mysore which started in 1916 became autonomous in 1917. The Administrative Hierarchy was thus: Maharaja was the Chancellor, H. V. Nanjundaiah was the Vice Chancellor, An Oversight Committee of nine members (six of whom had to be from the Educational Field), the University Senate and the Board of Studies for academic matters.

Much needed to be decided upon at this stage. Entrance exams for students wishing to gain admission to the University, desired duration of various courses, list of subjects deemed optional, designs for the classrooms, integration of the evening colleges into the University, establishment of Libraries, allotment of student stipends, construction of hostels, sports infrastructure, swimming pools, staff quarters and museums were few of the pressing concerns that had to be dealt with on a priority basis. The first senate meeting was held at the end of 1916.

Some eminent names came to grace various departments in the Universities. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was invited from Madras University to teach Philosophy and he came over in March of 1918. Radha Kumud Mukherjee, K. T. Shah and A. R. Wadia were also invited to head departments. From within the state, personalities like B. M. Srikantaiah, R. Narasimhachar, N. S. Subba Rao, M. Hiriyanna, Sampath Kumaran, Venkatesachar and C. R. Narayan Rao were appointed to various departments. M. Denham was the first Registrar of the University. B. M. Srikantaiah would succeed Denham for this post. Anderson, Rollo, Macintosh and Metcalfe were some of the Europeans who were invited from Pachiyappa’s College to the University. The above list in itself, bears testament to the exhaustive groundwork done by Nanjundaiah in selecting some of the finest minds of his time to teach in the new University.

Two awards were instituted in Nanjundaiah’s name. For the highest scoring student in M. A. in University of Mysore, the ‘Raja Mantra Praveena H. V. Nanjundaiah Gold Medal’ was to be awarded. For the best outgoing student from Maharani College, the ‘Annapurnamma Gold Medal’ was instituted. H. V. Nanjundaiah was an examiner for various courses at Calcutta University. The Maharaja was invited to be the Chancellor of the Banaras University. Subsequently, the Maharaja was made an honorary member of the Royal Colonial Institute. On both these occasions, the Maharaja is believed to have sought special advice from Nanjundaiah before accepting these positions.

Among the writers he loved most were Francis Bacon, Thomas Carlyle and Tennyson. He authored many books in his time. “Lekhya Bodhana” (Guide to Writing), “Vyavahara Deepike” (1890) [Guide to Law and Administration] – dedicated to Sri Chama Rajendra Wodeyar, “Arthashastra” (1901) [Economics] – published in ‘Madras Religion & Moral Education’ Journal, “Anglo-Indian Empire” (1915) and “Vyavahara Dharmashastra” (1917) – dedicated to Nalwadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar are a few of them. H. V. Nanjundaiah was invited to the Delhi Durbar of 1911 which was held in commemoration of the coronation of George V held in London a few months back. In 1913, he was conferred the title of ‘Rajamantra Praveena’. In 1914, Viceroy Charles Hardinge bestowed on Nanjundaiah the Companion of the Indian Empire (C. I. E.). Though his mother tongue was Telugu, Nanjundaiah was an avid proponent of Kannada language & literature. He was among the pioneers of the Kannada Sahitya Parishath in 1915. Apart from Nanjundaiah, Karpura Sreenivasa Rao, Achyuta Rao and B. M. Srikantaiah were among its founding members.

Interestingly, while the present logo of the Sahitya Parishath designed by B. M. Srikantaiah was accepted rather unanimously, there was no such concurrence on the organization’s very name! ‘Karnataka Samsada’, ‘Karnataka Mahasabha’, ‘Karnataka Parishad’, ‘Kannada Koota’ and ‘Kannadigara Koota’ were just some of the names put forth as the probable choices.

Interestingly, on the day of inauguration of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat, H. V. Nanjundaiah was to deliver the inaugural address and he did so in English! This raised quite a few eyebrows. Bellave Venkatanaranappa who was also sitting on the dais remarked, rather loudly, that this English speech at the inauguration of a Kannada Sahitya Parishath was “Utter Nonsense”! Nanjundaiah who heard this remark, continued in English and finished his speech. The import of Nanjundaiah’s address was so comprehensive and well laid out that Venkatanaranappa had already forgotten his disagreement and was vigorously clapping in Nanjundaiah’s favour. It was then that Nanjundaiah made his way from the mic towards his seat and on his way, stopped by Venkatanaranappa and quipped comically “Mr Venkatanaranappa, pray tell me what language does the word “Nonsense” belong to..?” Venkatanaranappa was of course taken aback and said that the content of the speech was of course profound, but he felt that it would have been a lot more befitting had it been delivered in Kannada instead of English. Both were long-time friends and thus shared a hearty laugh.

While in office, H. V. Nanjundaiah passed away in May of 1920.

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