It's all in the family

It's all in the family

The group picture was taken in 1955 on the occasion of the ‘gruhapravesham’ of the house constructed by my father in Basavanagudi.

 I remember my cousins Nagaraj, Rajanna, Shripad, Sethu Rao, Gopal Rao, Raghu and Gururaj (who are all deceased now) and Madhav Rao, Gopinath, Sundar Raj and Prasanna were present at the function.

 In the waning years of the 19th century, the central district of vintage Bengaluru, comprising present-day areas like Cottonpet, Balepet, Chickpet and Nagarathpet, was plagued by a virulent epidemic resulting in a huge loss of life and property.

 The government of the day, therefore, decided to decongest these areas in order to safeguard public health and, as a result, new extensions were formed – one in the southern part named ‘Basavanagudi’, after the Big Bull Temple in that area, and the other in the northern part named ‘Malleswaram’, after the Kadu Malleshwara Temple.
My great-grand father, Erapalli “Jail” Subba Rao was a doyen of those days. As he worked in the jail department, the epithet stuck with him permanently. He was a devout Brahmin of the Madhwa sect and was adept in composing ‘devaranamas’ (devotional songs).

He was fifth in ‘sishya parampara’ of Purandara Dasaru and composed these lyrics under the ‘ankita nama’ (nom de plume) Narahari Vittala.

Subba Rao lived with his family in Siddi Katte, an area abutting the present day Balepet. The area was close to Poorna Praasaada – the official residence of the Diwan of Mysuru.
   The Diwan, PN Krishna Murthy, was also a devout Brahmin and would conduct all-night ‘bhajans’ on every ‘ekadashi’ (the eleventh day of the lunar fortnight). He used to be a regular participant in these sessions and because of his prowess in composing and singing devotional songs, he became very close to the Diwan. When the new extension was formed, Subba Rao was allotted a large site in Basavanagudi on the west side of Kaaranji Anjaneya Temple (the road was named ‘West Anjaneya Temple Street). He built a house there, shifted his family and continued his spiritual avocations.
His son, Rama Rao, was one of the earliest graduates of those times and worked as an ‘amildar’ – a coveted government post of those times. He was diametrically opposite to his father in his precepts and practices. He was a rationalist and a member of the theosophy movement.

He was also a part of the co-operation movement and one of the founder members of the Basavanagudi Co-operative Society, a popular social initiative of those times.

Rama Rao had three sons and all of them were double graduates and occupied high positions in their respective fields. My father, Devaraj Rao, was his eldest son and although of scholarly and spiritual disposition, worked as a senior officer in the police department.

    The second son, Anant Rao, was a top officer in the Department of Public Health and was a great sports enthusiast. He was the father of Erapalli Prasanna, the legendary cricketer (seen in the picture). The third son was Krishnaswami, who was a top geologist of Bharat Gold Mines; he was also an excellent cricketer and played for the then Mysore State Eleven, along with the likes of B Frank, BK Garudachar, K Thimmappiah and others.
The Erapalli family is now into its sixth generation. Who knows, there may be another Subba Rao or another Prasanna in the years to come.

ED Narahari
(Retired geologist, GSI)

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