A tribute to Havanur in ‘The Hindu’
Tirelessly till his last
B.A. VIVEKA RAI
|Shrinivasa Havanur was a researcher till the very end. At 80, he went all the way to Germany to bring some rare Kannada documents|
Photos: courtesy family album
DEDICATED SCHOLAR Shrinivas Havanur was among the first electronic savvy Kannada researchers; Havanur (top right ) at TIFR, Havanur (below) at a book release
Shrinivasa Havanur is an icon in the field of Kannada research. His journey of 82 years from Havanuru to Haveri, Dharwad, Sangli, Mumbai, Mangalore, back to Mangalore and finally Bangalore: is not merely a journey through geographical locations, he made each of these places as centres of Kannada research. Of course London and Basel in Switzerland were pilgrimage points of Kannada research. A self-made Havanur experimented and explored his life, learning and teaching together. School teacher, English tutor in college, Kannada assistant in All India Radio, Inspector in Sales Tax department, Assistant Librarian in Karnatak University Dharwad, Librarian in Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, professor and head of Department of Kannada in Mangalore, Mumbai Universities, Chairman of the Kannada text books cell, Pune, consultant in the archives of Karnataka Theological College Mangalore: the list goes on and on like his works and interests.
The experiments and experiences that Havanur amassed were encashed by him in his different fields of achievements. Havanur has many credits of pioneering ventures: he travelled to England and Basel in Switzerland to search and fetch rare archival books and manuscripts in Kannada. In his untiring archival work at Basel, he was a true missionary. “Mangalore Samachara”, the first Kannada news paper was brought to light by Havanur. As a Santa Claus, Havanur used to bring various gifts from abroad to the hungry researchers of Karnataka in the form of rare books and unearthed information. Source hunting was the passion of Havanur and it was the fortune of Karnataka to have the hidden treasures of Kannada excavated by him. His master piece “Hosagannada Arunodaya” (first edition 1975), his doctoral dissertation is a masterpiece for researchers in Karnataka. It is the real rainbow of modern Kannada literature and the source materials that he feeds in this volume are unprecedented. Havanur is the pioneer in writing biographies of Ferdinand Kittel, Hermann Moegling — missionary Kannada scholars from Germany.
The scientific ambience which Havanur acquired at TIFR Mumbai made him the first electronic savvy Kannada researcher. He was the first scholar to use computer application for Kannada research. By feeding the Kannada works of Muddanna, the unique poet of 19th Century, Havanur deciphered that Shiva was his favourite deity and not Rama who was the main character of his three minor epics. Havanur was a builder of institutions. It may be a library like TIFR or the Kannada Department of a University like that of Mangalore and Mumbai. He was a workaholic and he had the exceptional quality to make his colleagues work like him. I still remember the rare moment of his first meeting in Mangalore. Mangalore University just established in 1980, did not have any professor in the department of Kannada. One day the Vice-Chancellor Sheikh Ali asked me to suggest a name suitable for the post of professor. I consulted my teacher Dr. Ha.Ma. Nayak. He suggested Shrinivasa Havanur’s name and subsequently Havanur sent across his CV. Vice-chancellor wanted Havanur to meet him and it was in 1982 that I saw this short, bald man, stubborn like a military official, and extremely disciplined. Things fell in place and I had the opportunity to work with Prof. Havanur in the Department of Kannada, Mangalore University during 1982-84. He initiated collecting old Kannada journals and rare magazines around Dakshina Kannada like “Swadeshabhimani”, “Kanteerava”, “Navayuga”, “Rashtramata”, “Rashtrabandhu” and so on. He established a Kannada Information Centre comprising old papers, manuscripts, books, volumes pertaining to coastal Karnataka. He built a cultural museum in the department — a collection of artefacts pertaining to Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu.
Along with colleagues and students he visited a remote place like Kandrapady near Sullia and unearthed rare metallic pieces of a Jain temple. This foot soldier went from house to house in Dakshina Kannada convincing people to donate things of antique value. He moved to Mumbai. In Mumbai University, he concentrated on the dissemination of Kannada and also comparative study of Kannada and Marathi literatures.
Through translation of Marathi works into Kannada he built a bridge between the two languages. He continued this mission later at Pune, where he initiated Marathi-Kannada friendship building centre. He was loved and respected equally by Kannada and Marathi people. This researcher was a fiction writer too. His short stories, memoirs, narratives had the mixture of humour and experience, fact and fiction, irony and evidences. Haridasa literature was his favourite. Under his editorship a series on Haridasa literature was published. Nothing could deter the researcher in him, not even his age. In June 2009, he had called me to say he was visiting Germany and Basel. I was shocked.
Havanur had crossed 80, and had just been out of the hospital. But he was adamant and determined as he was always. In the death of the committed Havanur, Karnataka has lost a rare scholar, work-worshipper, and the man who unravelled many mysteries of Kannada language, literature and culture.
(The author is former vice-chancellor of Hampi University)