Biographical sketch of Lanka Krishna Murti By Dr. L.Adinarayana
Lanka Krishna Murti was a Rishi in his thoughts and deeds and a Kavi in his expression. Apart from his literary works, he was a propagator of Dharma. He was of the firm view that Dharma is the most essential humanistic concern that requires to be pursued vigorously keeping clear of considerations of religion, language, culture or region.
In the changed context of the world, with the closeness of one group to the other, one country to the other, and one religion to the other, he realised that a new agenda was needed to propagate Dharma.
With a catholicity of outlook, he committed himself to address the contemporary issues like human dignity, equality and sustainability in a broader frame of reference. According to him Dharma is not something that is accepted and followed blindly, but it is rational and even scientific.
He was a poet, an artist, a profoundly stimulating speaker, a person who was disarmingly simple yet deeply affectionate, and one whose conduct synthesised precept and practice to make him a sage-like person.Lanka Krishna Murthi was born on 9th September 1925 in Penugonda, Anantapur District, Andhra Pradesh.
He inherited the traditional Dharmic value system. After formal initiation to rudiments of language, grammer and ethics, he studied Sanskrit and Telugu under the well known scholar Bukkapatnam Anniahcharyulu. He studied both language and literature or perhaps language through literature.
In addition to writing poems in Sanskrit, he undertook a very challenging task of translating a Telugu Kavya into Sanskrit. He started rendering Thikkana’s Uttara Ramayana into Sanskrit.
The Inclusive Ambience
The inclusive culture into which Krishna Murti was born has flourished on the basis of Sanathana Dharma. Dharma operates at two levels: one at the personal level in the way a person shapes his/her individuality in conformity with certain principles like truth, integrity and devotion; the other at the inter-personal level, developing the necessary inclusiveness to promote and maintain unity, harmony and peace.
The Definitive Family Framework
Lanka is the name of the family. Lanka literally means an island in the Godavari Delta region in the present state of Andhara Pradesh. That region also refers to another identity, namely Velanadu. Our ancestors came to the present day Lepakshi and settled down there.
The Dharmic Parampara
Three things stand out from this search for identity:
- We firmly believe the Revelations in the Vedas,
- We believe in the Theory of Karma, and
- Our utmost aim or objective is to achieve abhyudaya, all round progress and fulfillment in this life, and strive for Liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.
The Guiding Lights
Krishna Murti has inherited and enriched both the traditions established by the ancient rishis and kavis.
He grew under the guiding lights of his grandfather Venkappa Shastry and his father Venkataramappa. His efforts at propagating dharma were quite successful. The institution of the Sanathana Dharma Samrakshana Samsthe and the founding of Dharma Prabha bear ample testimony to this.
The Grand Parents
Venkappa Sastry, grandfather of Krishnamuti, was well versed in Shastras and Puranas. His grandmother Akkamma was the kind of woman who believed in the concept of pativrata dharma and played her role as a dutiful wife and affectionate mother to all her children
Venkataramappa, Krishnamurti’s father, was also well-versed in sastras and puranas. His mother, Durga Lakshamma, was the embodiment of patience and endurance which were required to run a large joint family.
Thyaga and Karuna
Nestling in this familial nest, drawing sustenance from the traditions established in it, the three brothers charted out their own growth patterns. Thyaga and karuna, the spirit of sacrifice and compassion, are the values that hold together not only families but also the entire human family, vasudhaiva kutumbakam. Krishna Murti, in particular, devoted all his life to inculcate those two cardinal principles in human conduct through his works, speeches and actions.
Lanka Krishna Murti, and his brothers L.Srinivas Rao and L.Adinayana would go to the famous Lepakshi temple during summer holidays. Krishna Murti later composed his best poem Thyaga Shilpamu, based on the story of Virupanna, who was responsible for building that temple.
The Artistic Sensibility
Krishna Murti’s father would read aloud Pothana’s Bhagavatamu and explain the meaning and significance of several episodes in it. This must have inspired him in his early literary works His father would prepare the idols of Ganesha and apply colours to them. This must have stirred artistic instincts in him. Many people do not know that Krishna Murti used to go to a gym regularly during his student days in Penukonda
Consolidating his literary inputs
After schooling in Penukonda, Krishna Murti went to Anantapur to pursue studies in the College. As a student in the Ceded Districts College, Krishna Murti distinguished himself as a bright student winning the affection and admiration of all his teachers. His creative energy began to sprout first in the form of small poems, and later flourished into full-fledged literary works. He took active part in literary discussions, ashtavadhanams and various programmes pertaining to Arts. By the time he completed his formal studies with the acquisition of B.Sc. degree in the First Class, his artistic and literary impulses strengthened his confidence further to launch his major creative flourishes.
Literature Pairs up with Music
Krishna Murti’s knowledge of music was entirely self-equipped. Though not a very good singer, his voice acquired the musical touch, with which he used to render slokas and padyas with effect. He had also a brief experience in acting when he played the role of a police officer in the play Abhijnana Shakuntalam by Kalidasa, when it was performed during a cultural festival.
Lalithamma, daughter of Sri Arudi Ramachandraiah, a well –known lawyer in Doddaballapur, was given in marriage to Krishna Murti on 16th April 1948. After passing degree in the First Class, he chose to do Law in Government Law College, Bangalore, which had been newly started. Krishna Murti took up part-time assignment as a teacher in a High School to supplement the money required to pay as fees in the College.
He passed the B.L. Examination in the Second Class in 1950 and on 4th August the same year, he enrolled himself as an Advocate in the then High Court of Mysore. He started practice as a junior to an experienced Advocate by name Sri Y. Adinarayana Rao, who was distantly related to him.
Principled and Upright
As an advocate, Krishna Murti observed high professional ethics. He was highly principled and upright in dealing with others. Simple and honest to the core, he brought a rare distinction to his profession.
His first full-length poetic composition, Sri Vilasamu was conceived in 1953 on a day when Varalakshmi Pooja was being performed. The poem is largely reflective. The speaker is a person who is leading his life strictly in conformity with the Vedic tradition. On a moonlit night, seated in a garden, he begins to muse. The poem is also an ode addressed to Sri Lakshmi. The fourth stanza refers to some kind of crisis in which the speaker is, while facing the problems that come up in the day-to-day running of the household. He seeks divine help in the form of courage to face the issues, patience, peace, morality and wisdom. He begins to realise the truth that earning money alone should not be the sole concern. The importance of money is restricted to meeting the demands of familial obligations. There are several other important concerns which need divine help. The present ills caused by poverty are due to the undue importance given to earning money. Covetousness or amassing massive wealth has resulted in economic disparity. Exploitation leads to poverty which upsets the social equilibrium or dharma. Wealth is not an end in itself but means to the promotion of social cohesion and peace. At the individual level, money has no use beyond the fulfilment of familial obligations. There are higher values to be realised in life. They should facilitate the attainment of the ultimate goal of Liberation. It is only through the observance of dharma that not only can poverty be removed but also better standards of life and higher values in society can be realised. So the word SRI needs to be understood to have wider connotations. This is the new interpretation which includes all forms of well-being, both material and spiritual. The whole universe is the manifestation of divine splendour. With this more inclusive meaning given to SRI, he worships the Goddess, performing the ritual mentally and seeks her blessing to promote a social set-up that is sustained by love, sympathy, mutual equality and equitableness. The poem is a sataka containing 108 stanzas. The style is characterised by directness, precision and economy; it has a transparency that forcefully conveys the message of dharma. This is his first direct expression of his vision of a better and inclusive life style.
Yedathore Subbaraya Sharma
Yedathore Subbaraya Sharma‘s book which dealt with the “the inner meaning of sandhyavandane” and the interpretation of the sandhya in terms of Chakras, Mudras and Mandalas, their positions and the realisation of the psychic powers enabled Krishna Murti to interpret the Gayatri mantra in a similar way. He got this serialised in the monthly journal Dharmaprabha..
He was also completing his second full-length poetical work, Dana Yagnamu. As the title suggests, the central concern is the emphasis laid on daana, charity or sacrifice, for the preservation of dharma. As social beings, we live a life of interdependence. Peace and harmony require that every person act in an unselfish manner. To preserve and maintain social cohesion, every person should cultivate noble thoughts of love and kindness and acquire true knowledge. Love and kindness for one another generate compassion. We perform charitable acts, some of them voluntarily and some others under compulsion. The world can be transformed into a peaceful hermitage by everyone voluntarily performing the sacrifice or daana, showing compassion to every form of life — human as well as nonhuman. To illustrate this valuable perception, Krishna Murti has narrated a story that is both a myth and a fable. It is the story of Saktuprasta drawn from the Mahabharata.
The Lighter Side
Krishna Murti had a fine sense of humour, which kept him relaxed. There is an unpublished article written by him called “Wit and Witticism of Telugu Literature.” It contains several humorous anecdotes described in various Telugu literary texts. As one of the interlocutors in the Ashtavadhanamu, he used to phrase very witty and tough lines for what is called samasya pooranamu. He has written a skit in Telugu called “Goddess of Litigation,” which brings home the truth that trivial actions some times, unintentionally, produce serious consequences and promote litigation. It is a divorce case. The husband is the complainant. The wife is accused of humiliating the husband when in the early days of his marriage, he went to his wife’s house and found her standing at the door laughing loudly – at him, he thought. There was a lot of misunderstanding, resulting in taking legal steps for divorce. The storm in the tea cup blows over when the cause of misunderstanding is revealed. The wife’s sister was reading a short story called “The New Aged Couple” written by the advocate-narrator. The wife was provoked to loud laughter because of the aged couple being described as ‘new,’ in the sense of ‘newly married’. It was just a coincidence that her husband came when she was bursting out with laughter. She did not mean to humiliate her husband.
Krishna Murti had a big break in 1959 when he was selected and appointed as a Deputy Registrar in the High Court of Mysore. He very much deserved this assignment and did full justice to the confidence reposed in him by his superiors. He was able to adjust himself to the change from advocate to administrator. He coped with the heavy work load relating to the administration of all the lower courts in the state, at a time when Reorganisation of States brought in several issues to be addressed by the administration. True to his nature, he returned the fees to those clients whose cases he could not pursue any more, however much they resisted. The heavy work schedule in the office did not deter him from pursuing his literary and creative interests. On the contrary, I found him in greater ease and greater confidence to pursue his literary work more vigorously.
It is perhaps not out place to recollect with gratitude the enormous interest brother showed in me, in my studies and in getting father to fix, arrange and celebrate my marriage with Rathna marriage on 12 June 1964. . The marriage was performed in the traditional style with a great deal of cordiality and gaiety. Brother arranged a grand marriage reception in Bangalore on our return from Mysore. There was vocal musical concert by the great late R.K.Srikanthan.`
The house brother was staying in in Seshadripuram was very small. Even then he allowed me to use a small room exclusively for my studies. There were many occasions when he used to ask me about certain trends in English literature, to get a comparative perspective. I still remember very vividly one particular night after dinner we sat together and examined in detail some of the symbols Kalidasa had used in his play Abhijnana Shakuntalam. The result was that I prepared a paper on that topic and got it published in the journal The Aryan Path.
In 1965, a Trust Board site was allotted to Krishna Murti in the Binnamangala Layout in which he built a house. The house-warming ceremony was an occasion of great celebration.
A New Shravan Kumar
Another aspect of my brother’s personality that I wish to lay particular emphasis on is the utmost love and concern he showed towards the aging parents. The filial love he showed towards them was marked by tenderness, indulgence and devotion, reminding me of the legendary Shravn Kumar. First it was father’s health that started deteriorating. In spite of the heavy work load he had in the office, brother never showed any trace of weariness in attending to father’s frequent calls, particularly during nights, until father breathed his last on 12th June 1971. The same concern brother extended towards mother, who, after suffering a lot of pain due to a paralytic stroke, breathed her last on 8th December, 1974. The pitryagnams for both the parents were being performed by all the three of us invariably in his house.
A Dramatized Version
1977 was a memorable year in Krishna Murti’s life as it enabled him to publish his most ambitious poetical work Thyaga Shilpamu. The springs of inspiration for the creation of that work had been formed quite early in his life when he visited the Lepakshi Temple along with us in our regular summer sojourns. It is the story of Virupanna who sacrificed everything, including his life, for building the Temple. The play of villainy and treachery drove him to that state when he plucked out his own eyes instead of allowing others to do that. He has left behind an artistic and sculptural marvel. The book has a scholarly commendatory introduction by the great scholar and musicologist Sri Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma. There is also a perceptive critique written by his beloved Chalam Bava. The book includes a prose rendition of the poem by Sri P. Chenchu Subbiah. Devella Satyanarayana, related to us on our mother’s side, adopting his poem, prepared a play for the stage which won, when it was performed, the First Prize given by the Sangeet Natak Akademi.
Kannada, His Mother’s Tongue
It is true that his mother tongue was Telugu. But he was not, on that score, alien to Kannada. Kannada was, in fact, his mother’s tongue. Krishna Murti has written an article “Dwaimatruka,” which states this fact, giving the analogy of Lord Ganapathi who had two mothers: Parvati and Ganga.
. After settling down in Banagalore way back in 1950, he started using Kannada for both spoken and written purposes. In course of time, he acquired fluency and felicity of expression. He took to creative writing in Kannada and composed several poems, articles, Radio Talks, and a novel and two unpublished plays. He was greatly encouraged by Sri K. Gopalakrishna Rao, to whom brother gratefully dedicated the novel, Kodeya Gopala. The very fact that this novel was accepted for publication in the Kannada daily, Kannada Prabha, and was serialized in it, is ample proof of his competence to use Kannada with ease and real flair. The novel is based on a popular legend that we used to hear about when we were in Penukonda. It is the story of an ordinary citizen, in the days of the great Vijayanagara Empire, who showed extraordinary devotion and dutifulness, when occasion required it. More remarkable is his utter simplicity and selflessness, like his creator!
Brother’s creativity was not confined to writing poetry only. His artistic sensibility expressed itself in other fine arts like music and painting. With a sound knowledge of Carnatic classical music, he helped the founding of an institute in Indiranagara to promote talent in music. In addition, he was a good painter. As a symbolist painter, he stimulated thinking among the viewers of his paintings.
It identifies and subscribes to the goals of life as the four purusharthas: dharma, artha, kama and moksha. One of the means to attain them is through the medium of arts. Through his writings, Krishna Murti has chosen and established the aesthetic route to attain Moksha. His writings also inculcate the value of dharma as the guiding principle for human character and conduct.
He felt the need to establish an organisation for the protection and propagation of Dharma. As an informed humanist, well-rooted in the essentials of Vedic culture, he made his life’s mission the propagation of sanathana dharma. So he founded the Sanatana Dharma Samrakshan Samsthe. He also founded, for this purpose, the Kannada monthly journal Dharma Prabha.
With a sound knowledge of Carnatic classical music, he helped the founding of an institute in Indiranagar to promote talent in music. In addition, he was a good painter. As a symbolist painter, he stimulated thinking among the viewers of his paintings.
Home Sweet Home
In his domestic life, he was an ideal grihastha. His actions were always guided by the principle of dharma. Both he and Lalithamma enjoyed the mutuality of love and affection, care and concern, and understanding and responsibility. As the saying goes, there is always a woman behind the making of a great man. While Krishna Murti used to busy himself in the pursuit of his literary interest, in addition to his official commitments, it was Lalithamma who looked after the domestic needs.
Subramanya, Radhakrishna and Nagalakshmi
Subramanya, the first son born in 1953, like his father studied law after doing his B.Sc. He was selected as Munsiff in Karnataka Judicial Service. He has distinguished himself as an upright, committed and able officer. He has since retired from service as a District Judge.
Radhakrishna, the second son born in 1958, is a graduate in Electrical Engineering. He has taken to teaching and has good name and recognition as a good teacher, popular with students.
Nagalakshmi, the only daughter born in 1961, is the favourite of the family.
Soon after his retirement, Krishna Murti performed the marriages of Subramanya with Shashikala and Nagalaksmi with Shashikala’s brother Venkatachalam, an Officer in the State Bank of Mysore. Shashikala by sheer self effort has enrolled herself as an Advocate. Karthik, Subramanya’s son and Abhijit, Nagalakshmi’s son offered to him a new role to play as a grandparent, which he not only enjoyed but also felt proud of. Radhakrishna’s marriage with Vijayalakshmi was celebrated in February 1990 and they added two cute grand-daughters, Chinmayi and Vismayi, to the happy family.
After retirement, Krishna Murti could have taken up legal practice again and earned more money. But he did not do so. That speaks volumes about his character. He was content with what he got by way of pension and decided to spend his time by serving society without expecting any monetary benefit from his work.
His heightened sense of social consciousness found expression in a variety of cultural initiatives.
Recognizing the value of Sanskrit language as the preserver and propagator of Indian culture, he conducted classes, free of cost, to teach Sanskrit and stimulate interest in using it to understand the great cultural heritage.
To promote health care, he helped to run a Homoeopathic clinic in his own residence to dispense medicines freely.
Recognising a sense of charity to be central to all humanistic concerns, he promoted the institution of an Endowment in the name and memory of the great humanist and philanthropist Sri Arudi Ramachandriah.
He evinced a lot of interest in promoting Asthavadhanams in Kannada language, in particular. He has organised several Ashtavadhanams and taken part in each as one of the interlocutors. He used to associate his cousin Sri Prakash, who has a melodious voice and flair for writing poetry, in several literary activities.
Among his Radio talks, those under the caption “chintana” remain very thought-provoking.
Dharma as a Science
In an article published in the Rishi Vidya, he has made a fervent plea for viewing and developing dharma as a science. In fact, he held a seminar on this theme and started a Study Circle for the same purpose.
In spite of his busy schedule, Krishna Murti tried his hand at painting.
He has drawn several paintings that are characterized by both symbolist and expressive styles.
The captions of some paintings are rich in suggestiveness.
- “Krishna and Kuchela.”
- “Hospitality, Sacrifice, Repentence, Renunciation – Steps to Total Liberation”
- “The Portrait of Saraswati.”
- “Father and Mother.”
- Smt and Sri. Srinivasa Rao
- Self Portrait with family
- Smt and Sri Venkatachalam
- Smt and Sri L.Subramanya
- Smt and SRI Subba Shastry
- “Journey of Life.”
- “Pencil Sketch of Anasuya and Hyma.”
- Natural beauty
A friend, philosopher and guide
As one grows older, they say, one grows wiser, but one certainly goes nostalgic and begins to reminisce, as I am doing now. So far I have tried to recollect those important occasions and circumstances, placing them against their background, and studying them in relation to the setting in which they occurred, which had the direct bearing on the growth of the personality of my brother, Lanka Krishna Murti. This is a humble tribute I pay to a person, who after my parents and my eldest brother Srinivasa Rao, educated me in a special sense. As a student of a foreign literature, I was getting exposed to Western thoughts, perception, and a new value system that developed from a materialistic as well as a highly individualistic life-style. I was caught between ‘two worlds.’ This sometimes led to conflict of interests and a crisis of identity. It was during such moments that his guidance helped me to achieve a sort of synthesis and correlation.
A Rishi and A Kavi
He had his convictions, yet he was open to free discussion. He possessed a scientific bent of mind. He was never superstition, never dogmatic, never vindictive. He was deeply religious but never sectarian; traditional, yet modern. In his scale of values, compassion was the highest principle of human action. It transcended all the boundaries of caste, creed, colour, and touched life at both the human and the non-human levels. Like a rishi he practiced a dharmic way of life and as a kavi he propagated dharma through his teachings, writing, talks, and discourses, all the while remaining a sthitaprajna.
It is one of the paradoxes of life that any experience, however painful, when transformed into art becomes enjoyable. It also helps us to develop a philosophic attitude, without which life would be unlivable, if every time we recollect past suffering, we re-experience with the same intensity. Nothing stays as it is. Change is the law of nature.
As one grows older, one begins to line up for the ‘letting go’. Life takes a full circle. It is perhaps unthinkable if what is begun does not end. What ultimately matters is not how long we have lived but how well.
Na karmana na prajaya dhanena thyagenaikena amrutatva manasuh.