By John B Monteiro
"Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read." – Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English author.
"The old order changeth yielding place to new
And God fulfills himself in many ways
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."
- (Lord) Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), British Poet Laureate.
Alert readers will discern the progression of the idea of change. Today, the smart thing to say is: "Change is the only constant".
These thoughts hit me when I read about the proposed change of name of circle at Urva junction from Lady Hill Circle to Sri Narayana Guru. But first the facts as reported in the media.
Lady Hill Circle on MG Road will soon be renamed after philosopher and social reformer of Sri Narayana Guru. A resolution in this regard is expected to be part of the agenda at the council meeting of MMC on September 22. If everything goes by plan, the circle will be officially renamed during Dassara festival at Kudroli Gokarnanatha Temple which was consecrated by the Guru in 1912.
Because of the pandemic and my age (82 +) I am not in a position to go out and check if the Circle was officially so named or acquired the name by popular usage as is the case of Pumpwell Circle and Jyoti Circle. However, I have written about both the temple and Lady Hill School about 18 years ago and presented below (abridged) so that readers appreciate the historic background on the subject.
Ladyhill Nurtures Students
Ladyhill is located on the right side of the Lalbagh-Kottara Road, with its central base at the Urva junction traffic island. There is an apocryphal account that a British gentleman had a bungalow on the hill and it was named after his wife. It has to be noted that during the British raj, the white skinned male was Sir or Lord, irrespective of his being knighted or otherwise, and his wife was universally "Lady".
This story can be discarded if one takes into account Ladyhill Victoria Girls School, located bang opposite the Urva traffic island. According to the school calendar the name Ladyhill is associated with Mary, mother of Jesus, who is the patroness of the school.
The school traces its origin to 1870 when three French Apostolic Carmel nuns landed in Mangalore and started their teaching mission at St. Ann’s, near Rosario Church. The school shifted to Dongarkeri and named itself St. Ann’s Kanarese School in 1885. In 1887 the school renamed itself as Victoria Caste Girls’ School. Why "caste"? During the period girls from Saraswat / Goud Saraswat caste had no educational facilities. So, these communities requested access to the school and, thus, "caste" entered the school title. In 1892 English was introduced as medium of instruction. The school shed its "caste" in 1921 when it was relocated at Urva and assumed the title of Ladyhill Victoria Girls’ High School. The present high school building was opened in 1942. The Platinum Jubilee Memorial Block was added in 1993. P.U. classes in arts and science commenced in 1999, followed by science section in 2002. The school has a more modern building on the crown of the hill.
Kudroli Temple Thrives Unbound
These days the vast complex of Shree Gokarnanatha Kshetra at Kudroli is a beehive of activities. Once you alight at the entrance, you see a golden island, with marginal magenta reliefs. But for the sanctum sanctorums of the main and subsidiary temples, one gets the impression that it is a new temple complex being readied for a grand inauguration. That is the end result of a series of renovations, over a period of 15 years (written circa 2004), of the original temple inaugurated in 1912.
"The greatest vicissitude of things among men,
Is the vicissitude of sects and religions".
So said Francis Bacon, English writer (1561–1626) with the Western Christian world on his radar. We in India had a similar situation which was best manifested in the centuries-old caste system. Under this system, sanctioned by religious texts, some were more equal than others. This situation agitated the less equal and they started the struggle for equality before God. The Billavas of Tulu Nadu were in this class. In their struggle for emancipation they found inspiration, and later direction, from Shree Narayana Guru.
Born on August 20, 1854, at Jambalanthi, in Kerala, this religious and social reformer started his education in 1859, mastered Sanskrit, started tapasya and dhyana at Aradipura and established himself as a seer at Maruthamalai in 1887. In 1884, he had set up a Shiv Kshetra at Aradipura and in 1889 started Ishwara Temple at Vokkam and set about guiding and reforming people deviating from the straight religious and social path.
In Tulu Nadu Billavas and others so-called backward classes started questioning the rationale of their inequality before God as manifested in, for instance, the denial of temple entry. This was the time when in Bengal Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Brahma Samaj emphasised that caste was immaterial and devotion to God was pivotal. The leaders of the backward classes in Mangalore increasingly questioned the premises that kept them less equal. Noted businessman of Hoige Bazar, Sawkar Koragappa, accompanied by fellow leaders, went to Shree Narayana Guru in Kerala in 1908.
The seer, committed to the uplift of the downtrodden, agreed to come to Mangalore. He was shown places where a temple could be constructed. He agreed on Kudroli. The place then had notorious reputation as the den of Butha – Prethas. People living in the surrounding area had bad reputation. Yet, Shree Narayana Guru was determined to transform the place into a holy kshetra. Responding to the Guru’s wishes people in the area, including a Muslim family, surrendered their lands to make place for the temple complex.
After selecting the spot, Shree Narayana Guru returned to Kerala only to come back in 1909 with the detailed blueprints for the temple and camped in Mangalore for some time. When he expressed his desire to visit the Shri Manjunatha Temple at Kadri, the Billava leaders escorted him there. But, despite urging from the Guru, these leaders could not bring themselves to enter the temple courtyard. The Guru himself was respectfully welcomed and helped to do the rituals.
Shree Narayana Guru came to Mangalore again in 1912 and installed the images of the deities – besides the Shivlinga he had brought along. The other deities included Shri Ganapathy, Shri Subramanya, Shri Krishna, Shri Devi Annapurneshwari, Shri Ananda Bairava, Navagraha and Shri Shanishwara. The coming together of these deities is based on Shree Narayana Guru’s emphasis on one religion and one God for all.
Against the above background of these two institutions, one has to evaluate the proposed change of name of Lady Hill Circle. Now that Mangaluru is set to be modernized under the Smart City banner, MCC should consider a more worthy landmark to name after Shree Narayana Guru - instead of stale circle already named and imprinted in the minds of citizens - as in the case of Jyoti Circle, Pumpwell Circle and many other old landmarks of Mangaluru.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the above article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Daijiworld. Daijiworld does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.