M.Govinda Pai:A Kannada Scholar-Poet ,an Indian Image of Universal Religion

Posted on ಜನವರಿ 19, 2012. Filed under: Kannada Literature, Religion | ಟ್ಯಾಗ್ ಗಳು:, , , , , , , , , , , , |

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.


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2 Responses to “M.Govinda Pai:A Kannada Scholar-Poet ,an Indian Image of Universal Religion”

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Dear Sir, I am writing a paper on Gowrish Kaikini, and your blog helped me to understand Kaikini better,
Thanks and regards

ಪುರುಷೋತ್ತಮ್,ಥ್ಯಾಂಕ್ಸ್.ಗೋವಿಂದ ಪೈ,ಗೌರೀಶ ಕೈಕಿಣಿ ಅವರೆಲ್ಲ ಬದುಕಿದ ,ಬರೆದ ಗಟ್ಟಿತನ ನೆನೆದುಕೊಂಡರೆ ಈಗಲೂ ಅದ್ಭುತಕತೆ ಓದಿದ ಹಾಗೆ ಆಗುತ್ತದೆ.

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