Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya-Congress Historian

P. Rajeswara Rao

Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya – Congress Historian

Intellectuals are not generally pragmatic and practical men are not usually intellectuals. Intellectual eminence and pragmatic approach co-exist only among few. Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya was a typical representative of this rare species. He was born on November 24, 1880, in a lower middle class family of hereditary Karnams (Village Officers) at Gundugolanu of West Godavari District. He lost his father at the early age of two and was educated by his paternal uncle at Eluru in the Christian Mission High School, where he stood first in all the examinations and bagged many a prize and scholarship, His versatility and resourcefulness became legendary.

Being impressed with his brilliance, G. Venkataratnam, a leading lawyer of Kakinada, gave his daughter in marriage to him, which paved his way for higher education. At the Noble College in Machilipatnam, he studied at the feet of R. Venkataratnam Naidu, an ideal teacher with moral fervour and a leading social reformer, who later became the Vice-Chancellor of Madras University. Later, he graduated from the Christian College at Madras, which produced stalwarts in every walk of life. Afterwards, he joined the Medical College and became a full-fledged doctor. He had no glamour for Government service which was readily available.

He set up practice at Machilipatnam, headquarters of the Krishna district, and soon came to the top in the medical profession. His diagnosis was quick and correct and he was averse to overdrug the patients as many are inclined to do. He even castigated his colleagues in the profession as agents to pharmaceutical firms. He took to public life as a duck takes to water. In the wake of partition of Bengal and the Vandemataram movement, he established Andhra Jateeya Kalasala in 1910 collaborating with Kopalle Hanumantha Rao, which flourished for over three decades. Now it has to become a Degree College. At one time there was a move to install him as Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University.

He was an adept in settling complicated litigation to the satisfaction of all. Incidentally, he mastered the intricacies of law. His services were in great demand and he was amply paid for. Alladi Krishnaswamy, a leading lawyer of Madras, once said: “If Pattabhi took to the legal profession, he could have occupied a place of primacy.” In later life, as Governor of Madhya Pradesh, he freed the munificent donations of Hari Singh Gour to Sagar University and D. Lakshminarayana to Nagpur University by devising a satisfactory compromise. He was a constructive genius and founded Andhra Bank, Bharata Lakshmi Bank, Andhra Insurance Company and Hindustan Ideal Insurance Company. He dominated the co-operative movement. All India Spinners’ Association claimed his careful attention. He employed Harijan servants in his household long before Gandhiji came on the scene. He did not send his children to Government schools.

He established his reputation as a great journalist. He conducted “Janmabhumi”, an English weekly, so very ably that it culminated in an offer to him of the editorship of the then prestigious daily “Bombay Chronicle”, which he declined with the cryptic remark that Machilipatnam was his Mecca and “Janmabhumi” his “London Times.” Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha, who never missed to read a single issue, used to say that the place of “Janmabhumi” was by the side of “Young India” of Mahatma Gandhi, “The Indian Social Reformer” of K. Natarajan and “Servant of India” of Poona, which were highly respected for their views. At the dawn of freedom, he sponsored “Janmabhumi” Telugu daily from Vijayawada and “Indian Republic” English daily from Madras. He evinced parental care in “Krishna Patrika” (Telugu weekly) and ‘Triveni’ (a cultural monthly) in English which is still alive and kicking as a quarterly.

He secured a place in history as a protagonist of linguistic States. At the outset, he succeeded in carving a separate Provincial Congress Committee for Andhras in 1918. He demonstrated that linguism was not a concession to tribal instinct but expression of subnationalism. He argued that if people were to be educated and involved in administration, mother-tongue should be the medium of instruction and administration as well. He held that one well-versed in his mother-tongue could easily master any other language quickly. Ultimately, Andhra was the first State to be carved out in 1953 on linguistic basis and rest followed suit. In the fitness of things Andhra University conferred on him honorary Doctorate in Literature. His political thought and practice became subject of a doctoral dissertation in politics.

It was as a Gandhian he came to the fore. He regarded Mahatma Gandhi as an integrated man (Purna Purusha). On Khaddar and Ahimsa, his dissertations were masterly. Whenever his policies were attacked in All India Congress Committee, Gandhiji instantly turned to Pattabhi to reply. This doctor from Machilipatnam used to stand up with characteristic agility and verve to pour forth lava of his burning eloquence on the scoffers and the sceptics. Opening fire in defence of Gandhiji was his pastime for over three decades, irrespective of consequences. While flaying his opponents, who often included Annie Besant and Motilal Nehru, he sometimes scorched his wings. He was fluent in speech, adroit in debate and ready in repartee. But he never regretted sundered ties or lost opportunities. He chose to remain eminent and not prominent. He never courted and coveted publicity.

At no time in his life, he stretched his hand for a favour or compromised his position for preference and walked with his head erect, taking things as they happened. It was said that he was the only member of the Congress Working Committee who refused to take a signed cheque book from Seth Jamnalal Bajaj, who was Treasurer of the Congress for long. When S. Srinivasa Ivengar requested him to contest for the Central Assembly as a Swarajist, he declined. He rejected the offer of Rajaji to join in Madras Cabinet in 1937. It was he who suggested to Gandhiji violation of Salt Law in 1930. Again he persuaded Gandhiji to write to the Viceroy in 1931 for talks to resolve the deadlock, which culminated in the conclusion of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. He insisted that Gandhiji alone should represent the Congress at the Second Round Table Conference. He deplored that we learnt to be disobedient without being civil. He stoutly opposed substitution of words “legitimate and peaceful” to “truthful and non-violent” in the Congress creed. By remaining neutral during Second World War, he argued that India stood on a par with the Irish Republic. Gandhiji paid him the highest tribute by confessing that while he was the “Bania Sutrakar” (giver of precepts) Dr. Pattabhi was the “Brahmin Bhashyakar” (commentator.) When he was defeated by Subash Bose in his contest for presidentship of Tripuri Session of the Congress, Gandhiji admitted that the defeat of Pattabhi was his defeat. But Pattabhi remarked that figures represented the fact and congratulated Subash Chandra Bose.

He was a moving secretariat and could do everything from keeping minutes to checking accounts, or from drafting memoranda to handling men. He was interested in every subject and could hold his own against experts. He was quick from walking to talking or from plying Charkha to writing books. When Natarajan and Santanam wanted a number of books for reference and time of one year, Pattabhi could write 1600 pages of “History of the Congress” in two months during hot summer sitting at Machilipatnam, tapping his brain. He displayed phenomenal memory for facts and persons and covered the career of this paramount and preeminent national organisation with meticulous care, period by period and personality by personality. The work is scholarly without being scholastic, readable without being superficial and documented without being dry-as-dust. It is replete with scintillating brilliance, expository thoroughness and compendious presentation of the panorama of our national evolution in its totality. When the Congress Working Committee asked him about his terms for publication of this monumental work, he retorted that it was his humble gift to Mother India. What was more, he purchased four copies for himself. It was later translated into a number of Indian and foreign languages. He reminds us of Count Leo Tolstoy who renounced copyright over his works.

He Authored a score of books in English on varied subjects like “World Constitutions”, “Gandhism and Socialism”, “Indian Nationalism”, “British Empire Limited”, “Linguistic Provinces”, “I too have spun”, “Why vote Congress”, “Khaddar”, “National Education”, “Hindu Home Rediscovered”, “Feathers lad Stones”, etc. He was prolific without ceasing to be profound. On every subject, he had something original to say. There was something olympian about him and he had a truly Hellenic mind. When some admirers wanted to celebrate his “Shashtiabdapoorti” he declined. He was self-willed worshipping at no shrine, playing to no gallery and hitching his wagon to no one’s star. What counted with him was conviction and not convenience. He deprecated public life from degenerating into whole-time profession and advised public workers to pursue some vocation for livelihood.

He was a man of quick decision and quicker action. He was noted for dogged tenacity, grim determination and firm conviction in pursuit of his objects. There was no leeway between decision and implementation. He surprised the audience at the Bombay Session of the Congress in 1934 by supporting a resolution in eloquent and faultless Hindustani. After completing the Biblical age of three score and ten, mastered Sanskrit and delivered Convocation address at the Nagpur University in chaste Sanskrit. His speeches in any language were marked by classic purity of language and stately diction with purple patches and brilliant flashes. When Rajendra Prasad as President wanted to know the composition of ‘Akshohini’ at Governors’ Conference Pattabhi at once recited a few verses from ‘Gurubala Prabodhika’ to elucidate the concept.

Ultimately, he occupied his due place in the Congress presidential gallery by presiding over the Jaipur Session of the Congress in 1948. It was the first session to be held in a princely Stare and it was a tribute to the cause of the people of the States since 1936. When requested to continue for another term, he declined the honour with the pertinent observation that in Free India the position of the Congress President vis-a-vis the Prime Minister was like that of Prince of Wales who had only duty without decision, service without responsibility and pomp without power. He had a sharp intellect and as sharp a tongue when he spoke under provocation. He had the hauteur of a hidalgo. But he was well-informed, weighty and vigorous.

He was fast in his friendships and personal loyalties. He was frank in his dealings and far-sighted in his calculations. While being generous to his kith and kin, he never tolerated wastefulness. He had abiding faith in the beneficent role of joint families. He cherished values that withstood the test of time. He did not mind when those benefited by him were ungrateful or spoke ill of him. He used to say that gratitude was the trait of the dog and not of man. If a human being is grateful, it is a matter for surprise. He passed away peacefully at Hyderabad on December 17, 1959, at the ripe old age of seventy-nine, leaving two sons, since his wife, daughter and eldest son pre-deceased him.

One has to float through time and history to recapture an era that has become a fantasy today. With the passage of time, mountains may look like molehills and makers of history are over-shadowed by present day stalwarts dressed in robes of authority. The names that once reverberated have become faint echoes. Yet, their distant steps echo through the corridors of time. Their tones linger in our ears long after they departed from the scene. To ignore their role amounts to political immaturity and cultural barbarism.

A nation that forgets past heroes suffers from impoverishment of inspiration. They built the nation brick by brick and gave direction and strength. Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya’s place in the galaxy of our nation-builders is as assured as it is high, reminding us of a Roman Patrician in the hall of fame. It is meet and proper to recall his life and work on the eve of his birth centenary.

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: