M.Govinda Pai:A Kannada Scholar-Poet ,an Indian Image of Universal Religion
M.GOVINDA PAI ( 23 March 1883-6 September 1963 ) was a scholar, poet ,researcher ,translator who had the knowledge of about 25 languages ,both classical and modern ,across the globe and was always learning and exploring new horizons in language,literature,religion,history and culture .Starting from his village and his sect of religion he transcended in space and time studying and writing on the so called ‘alien’ religions and cultures ,becoming a native in all of them.Different sects of Hinduism,Jainism ,Buddhism ,Christianity ,Islam were addressed by Govinda Pai ,as a domain of research or for creation of a literary work or for translation into his languages.
But what is astonishing is , the legendary figure Govinda Pai did all these wonders ,mostly sitting in his remote small town in Manjeshwara ,which is in the west coast of South India ,near the port town Mangalore. The initial ‘M’ attached to the name ‘Govinda Pai’ really refers to ‘Mangalore’ which was his father’s place. But Pai lived in ‘Manjeshwara ‘ ,which was his mother’s place for more than 50 years.So he was popularly addressed as ‘Manjeshwara Govinda Pai’. After having his primary and secondary education in Mangalore ,Pai went to Madras for his graduate studies,which he could not complete ,since he had to come back home because of his father’s illness.But Pai studied everything in his remaining life at home with books of knowledge cutting across the boundaries of language ,religion,region and academic disciplines.
Being born in a community called ‘Gowda Saraswata Brahman ‘ who speak ‘Konkani ‘as their mother tongue , the community has its jurisdiction traditionally in the west coast of South India ,the present Goa,Karnataka and Kerala, Govinda Pai started his writing of research focusing on his ancestors ,Saraswats. Pai chose to write in the language ,Kannada , which was the language of the state ,formerly known as Mysore, now Karnataka.Once he wrote that he had two mothers ,’Konkani’ ,who gave him birth ,but had not breast milk to feed him then ,and ‘Kannada’ , the mother who nourished him. But learning of various languages was a passion for Pai.Other than Konkani and Kannada ,he acquired the skill of languages in different levels like speaking ,reading and understanding , namely, Tulu,Tamil.Telugu,Sanskrit ,Hindi,,Marathi,Urdu,Pali,Prakrit,Bengali, English,Persian,Greek,Japanese ,Latin,German,French, Spanish,Hebrew ,Italian and such other languages.
All his books which were in his personal library are now preserved in a research institute in Udupi,Karnataka with the vision and mission of Prof.K.S.Haridasa Bhat : Rashtrakavi Govinda Pai Samshodhana Kendra ,M.G.M.College,Udupi. govindapairesearch.blogspot.com
Govinda Pai with his erudite scholarship ,read the books on various world religions and as a poet he composed narrative poems based on his reading and research.His two major epic lays are ,’Golgotha’ and ‘Vaishakhi’. ‘Golgotha ‘ is about the last days of Jesus Christ and ‘Vaishakhi’ is about the last days of Buddha. His literary work, ‘ShriKrishna Charita’ is a translation from Bengali to Kannada. He learnt Bengali for the purpose of this translation. Pai also translated 50 Rubaiyats of Omar Khayyam into Kannada language. Another major contribution of Govinda Pai to Kannada Language ,is his translation of Japanese Noh plays.It was a pleasant combination of Buddhisim and Japanese theater brought into Indian milieu .The research papers of Govinda Pai on Indian religions encompassed Jainism , Buddhism ,various sects of Hinduism such as Dhwaita ,Shaiva ,and also indigenous religions like Veerashaivism and Natha Cult. His approach was to find out new information ,not to criticize. Pai composed a poem comparing Jesus and Krishna. He gives many similarities between the icons of the two religions.He concludes in the poem saying that ” Days may be different ,but can the sun be different?” Thus he was a real Indian image of Universal religions .
Govinda Pai was a true Gandhian in principle and practice to the core.When Gandhi was assassinated ,Pai shed tears in a poem ,” Mahatma , you should have lived some more time , now India needs you very much.” In one of his poems , Pai criticized the bombing of America on Hiroshima in Japan.His poetic vision predicts ,” The time is waiting for the reaction to such a misdeed ,they will die with their own weapons, you see.”
Govinda Pai was the first ‘Rashtrakavi ‘ ( National Poet) of Kannada Language. This title was awarded in 1948 by the then Government of Madras State , to which ’South Kanara’ ,the district of Pai belonged to. But unfortunately , Manjeshwara , the hometown of Pai was carved out of Karnataka and added to Kerala state in 1956.He was very sad by this irrational partition and he identified with Karnataka in his writings till his last breath.
Govinda Pai composed his narrative poem ‘Golgotha or the last days of Jesus Christ’ in the year 1931. He studied New Testament and Gospels of Mathew,Mark, Luke and John.He dedicated his work ‘Golgotha’ to the children of his elder brother.There he says ,” God is truth,truth is God.There is only one path for all chariots.This is the philosophy to be comprehended.Thus to love one God in all the religions ,dear children, I dedicate this poem to you.”
The English translation of the portions from the narrative poem ‘Golgotha’ is given below.
Translation from Kannada to English : K.Narasimha Murthy.
Source Book:’A String of Pearls’
Editors: H.S.Shivaprakash and K.S.Radhakrishna
Publisher: Karnataka Sahitya Academy,Bangalore , Karnataka ,India. 1990.
A Friday it was , a day of the full moon
In spring. Midday, but no sign of the sun,
The sky was overspread with a vast cloud
Like that end- of- the- world cloud Noah has witnessed.
The heat unbearable. No breeze, Only the earth
Gasping.Tree’s leaves unstirring . Breathless the birds.
Midnight-like but the people , not quietly
Staying home ,moved like a python ,crowding
Like swarms of grasshoppers ,beyond the gates
Of Jerusalem to the mount of Golgotha ,
Meaning the place of a skull. Three crosses on
The hill-top were set up. To the one in the middle was taken
Jesus and to the ones on the right and the left
Two thieves and their hands and feet were thereto nailed.
A tablet inscribed ” Jesus ,King of the Jews”
Was hung above Jesus’ head. And Jesus looking
Like a quail in a vulture’s clutches, like a slip of the moon
In the west, like a shaft in a bow drawn ,like the fruit
On death’s tree, of immortality and saying, “Pain
Is inherent in the body, no man can escape it,” endured
With cool fortitude the agonising crucifixion
As a mother, when the child looks up at her face, bears
Her travail or as a soldier in the vanguard, unmindful
Of his many wounds fights till he dies
A victor and uttered these words like a mother dying
Whose only thoughts are of the children she is leaving
Or a tree which offers its shade to its own hewers ,
“Forgive them,Father , for they Know not what they do.”
The crowds that heard jeered, ” If you are the Son of God,
Come down from the crucifix ” and the priests mocked ,saying .
” He who saved others can he not save himself?
The King of the Jews indeed ? We will believe it if he comes down.
He says he enjoys God’s trust. Let us see if God
Saves him ! Does he not claim to be the Son of God?”
By this time had darkness dense enveloped
Earth and sky , like the Son of God’s martyrdom’s play’s
Final curtain. A solar eclipse it seemed
Though it was a full moon day and there were no stars.
Was it the darkness of rain? Or rain of darkness ?
Or was it the black smoke from the sky’s volcano ?
Or was it the ninth plague of Egypt’s visitation ?
The Crowd trembled to see the day’s light extinguished
Even in the third part of the day .Then Jesus cried,
In King David’s importunate words ,
“Eli,Eli, lama Sabachthani ?”
( O God ,O God ,why have you deserted me ? )
And some in the crowd mocked again , ” He calls
On Elia, let us eee if Elia will rescue him.”
And then Jesus fixing his eyes on the sky
Cried in a voice like thunder , ” Father,
Into your hands I submit my soul,” and as a young deer
Leaps to its mother calling from the hill-top
Or as a lark darts towards fields of harvest
Or as lightning soars flashing in the horizon ,
Jesus’ soul sped to the sphere of unsetting suns
As he rendered his life to his Father , head bowed
And eyes closed , like one rendering to his master what he owed.
Earth trembled and like a death drum announcing to the world
The doleful event ,the hearts of those gathered
Thudded with terror. The Roman centurion
Or guard dismounted from the horse, removed
His helmet and cried, ” He is indeed the Son of God!”
Fixing his wondering eyes on that day time moon.
Slowly the cloud of darkness lifted
A light breeze blew. A cock peeped forth and crowed
As if at dawn. Bevies of birds streamed out of nests
Flocks of sheep returned half-starved home.
As the daytime night departed , the sun rose
In the west and as sun set ,viewing the other sun
On the central cross, his face turned to the west
And his form like a banner of righteousness
The crowd, like cranes in a mass taking wing,
Hurried homewards, till on Golgotha
No stir was there, no, not a sound.
A skull at the foot of the cross with a hollow nose
And mouth agape mocks the world. Spear in hand,
The sentinel keeps guard marching up and down
And watching anxiously for his relief.
Under a fig tree’s shade , not too far away,
Sits hidden, Mary Magdalene, the herald
Of the new awakening of David’s line,
Her eyes fixed on the central cross, like a peacock
Gazing at the rainbow on the very last cloud .
Then the moon rising from behind Golgotha ,
Raises over the undying dead one its white
Umbrella and like his fame’s milky stream
And like the purity of his precept and example
And like the immortal nature of his soul
Moonlight spreads and everywhere there is stillness
And everywhere peace ,peace everywhere.