Aluru Venkata Rao – The Man Who Conceived The Idea Of Karnataka
In pre-independence India, Kannada speaking people lacked a sense of identity and pride in their rich heritage and culture. Aluru Venkata Rao resurrected the pride of Kannada speaking people through his writings and political activism.
“History is the seed for the present and the future is its fruit. Those who seek to reap the fruits should understand the importance of history. If we view history from this angle, we will understand its utility in building a nation. While people of different parts of the country are rediscovering their history, the people of Karnataka have been sleeping like Kumbhakarana. Therefore, I have written this book to highlight the greatness of Karnataka wake up those young men who are yet to wake up”Aluru Venkata Rao in his book “Karnataka Gatavabhaiva” (The Lost Glory Of Karnataka)
On 1 November 1956, a man went to Hampi’s Virupaksha Temple and performed puja to goddess Bhuvaneshwari. The man’s dream of seeing a united Karnataka was finally realised in his own lifetime. This act earned him the name, ‘Karnatakada Kulapurohita’ or the ‘high priest of Karnataka’.
The ‘high priest’ being talked about here is Aluru Venkata Rao, a writer, historian, translator and political activist. Rao was born to Bhim Rao and Bhagirathibai on 12 July 1880 in Bijapur. Rao’s father worked in the revenue department and wished to see his son as a lawyer. Venkata Rao studied BA and LLB at Fergusson College, Pune. He brushed shoulders with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar during his stay in Pune. Venkata Rao translated Tilak’s ‘Gita Rahasya’ to Kannada.
After completing his studies in 1905, he began his career as a pleader in Dharwad. However, the job failed to cater to his interests for long. He quit his job as a pleader in 1906. Before he became the editor of a monthly magazine, Vagbhushana, Venkata Rao was a regular contributor to the publications Chandrodhaya, Karnataka Patra, Rajahamsa, Karnataka Vritta. Later in 1922, he started the monthly magazine Jaya Karnataka to spread his ideas.
Venkata Rao’s desire to see a united Karnataka took birth during his visit to Vijayanagara as a young man. The erstwhile kingdom which was reduced to ruins by a confederation of Islamic rulers in the Deccan impacted Venkata Rao quite deeply. Thus, the Kannada identity that lay latent in the mind of Venkata Rao was awakened and the man vowed to work for a united Karnataka.
The idea of a Kannada speaking-province was first expressed by Venkata Rao in 1903 when he was speaking at the Vidya Vardhaka Sangha. He made a case for integrating all Kannada regions of the Madras Province, north Karnataka and Mysore kingdom. Venkata Rao’s work Karnataka Gatavaibhava (The Lost Glory Of Karnataka) based on a decade of travel and research was published in 1912. This book served as a guiding light and ideological inspiration to the project of bringing Kannada-speaking people under a single administration.
The movement to build Karnataka into a united state coincided with the national movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, which took off in the early 1920s. Venkata Rao called for a Provincial Congress Committee meeting during the Home Rule Movement. This idea saw the light of the day and aided in convincing national leaders of the Congress about the regional aspirations in India.
In addition to political activism, Venkata Rao also focussed on securing recognition for Kannada literature. In 1915, he met M Visvesvaraya along with several intellectual figures and founded the Kannada Sahitya Parishad (earlier known as Karnataka Sahitya Parishad).
The movement to secure the state of Karnataka was later taken over by the ‘Akhila Karnataka Ekikarana Parishat’ in post-Independence India till the movement culminated in the state of Karnataka. This movement was built on the firm foundations laid by Venkata Rao.
Once India was welded into a united nation, several sub-national identities screamed for recognition. The call for considering language as a criterion to create federal units gathered voice. The demand was resisted by the national leadership due to the bitter memories of Partition. They feared that the linguistic identity would lead to further disintegration of the nation. As experience has suggested, the recognition of regional languages has only united the country. The linguistic and regional identities comfortably sit alongside the national identity.
The movement to unite Karnataka got a fillip after the linguistic state of Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1953. Later, the findings of the Fazal Ali Commission in 1953 removed much of the opposition to the formation of linguistic states. Finally, the dream of uniting Kannada-speaking regions under a single province was realised in 1956.
Venkata Rao provided the intellectual leadership and aided the political movement to realise the dream of a united Kannada speaking state. His contribution to the resurrection of Kannada pride through his political activism, historical research and journalism spread the idea of ‘Karnataka’ among young men and women of the state. The personality and writings of Aluru Venkata Rao will continue to inspire and motivate lovers of the Kannada language and its rich history. The idea of Karnataka stands on the foundations built by Venkata Rao and the responsibility to keep it alive rests on the present generation of Kannada lovers.
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