Ahalya Chari, the head of the Regional College of Education from 1967-70, passed away in Madras recently, at the age of 92. Here, Krishna Vattam, the longtime Mysore correspondent of Deccan Herald, pays tribute and recounts an incident involving “Miss Chari” and another former resident of Mysore, the late president of India, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
In my 40-year-long association with Deccan Herald as a reporter, I have had experiences of many incidents which have left a deep impress on my mind.
One such incident I am going to narrate is my visit to the Regional College of Education (RCE) and its affiliate Demonstration Multipurpose School (DMS) in the Manasagangothri campus in 1965—and the time I spent in the presence of two great teachers, one a Universal teacher, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and the other, an embodiment of Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s teachings, Miss Ahalya Chari.
It was at the invitation of Miss Chari that Dr Radhakrishnan, the philosopher-savant, had come to Mysore, to participate in a simple function to mark the planting of saplings on the campus.
It was 7 August 1965. It had rained all through the night before. But there was a bright sunshine in the morning. The rain drops that had collected on the tender leaves turned into various hues as the sunrays fell on them.
The entire surroundings seemed to be in communion with God.
It was least anticipated by the gathering that the occasion would pleasantly turn out as an event for presentation of a philosophical treatise and brilliant exposition of the profound truths of the Bhagavad Gita by Dr Radhakrishnan.
A group of girls—Vatsala, Ratnamala, Usha— accompanied by Miss Chari and teachers Anantharamaiah, S. Keshava Murthy and Mohanraj rendered in chorus an ancient prayer found on the inscriptions of the world-famous Belur temple.
The prayer, with its ennobling ideals, had an electrifying effect on the minds of those who had gathered.
“Yam Saivah Samupasate Siva iti Brahmeti Vedantinah
Bauddhah Buddha iti Pramanapatavah karteti Naiyyayikah
The meaning is “Whom the Saivas worship as Siva, the Vedantins as Brahmam, the Buddhists as Buddha, the Naiyaayikas who specialise in knowledge as the chief agent, the followers of the Jaina code as the Ever Free, the ritualists as the principle of law, may that Hari, the Lord of the Three Worlds, grant our prayers.”
No sooner the group had completed the rendering, Dr. Radhakrishnan asked the group to recite the two lines he recited in continuation of the original three lines.
The entire gathering, having the thrill of their lives, recited the two additional lines:
“Christ & Allah
“Kraistvah Kristuriti kriyapararatah Alleti Mahammadah Soyam Vo Vidadhatu Vanchitaphalam Trailokyanatho Harih.”
The meaning is: “Whom the Christians devoted to work as Christ and the Mohammedans as Allah.”
Dr. Radhakrishnan explained that had Udayanacharya, who composed these three lines, been writing in this age he would have added those two lines which he (Dr. Radhakrishnan) had composed.
While interpreting the 11th verse in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the book he published in the early 1940s, Dr Radhakrishnan had an occasion to comment on the wide catholicity of the Gita. In this context, he quoted Udayanacharya and added his own two lines to encompass the whole universe.
The Radhakrishnan-effect is still felt by all those who were fortunate to attend that sublime function. Though those Acharyas — Dr. Radhakrishnan and Miss Chari — are no more amidst us. I cherish that incident.
(A longer version of this piece originally appeared in Star of Mysore)
Newspaper scan: courtesy B.N. Balajee
Also by Krishna Vattam: Before the slumdogs, the Mahout Millionaire