The Udayabhanu Kala Sangha located in Kempegowda Nagar (Basavangudi) is a volunteer-based literary, cultural and social organisation. Founded in 1965 by L Venkatappa and M Narasimha (who also serves as secretary), the 43-year-old organisation had its beginnings in a small reading room. Says Founder-Secretary M Narasimha, “The Sangha started in a small 10X10 rented space, as a public reading room that stocked works of renowned Kannada litterateurs.” Some of these writers like Dr U R Ananthamurthy and Professor Vinayaka Krishna Gokak went on to become future Jnanapeeth awardees and regular contributors to the Sangha’s innumerable publications.
Kala Vikasa is one such annual publication featuring emerging as well as established Kannada writers such as Dr A N Krishna Rao, L S Sheshagiri Rao and R S Murali. For its special focus on events such as the ‘International Women’s Year’ and ‘International Handicapped Year’ besides its analysis of current issues such as globalisation, Kala Vikasa has received extensive praise from much of the Kannada press.
The Sangha also produces special publications such as Bengaluru Darshana, a treasure trove of information on the city’s heritage and history with contributions from noted Bangaloreans like scientist Dr C N R Rao, Swatantothara Kannada Sahitya mathu Samskriti, a study of post-independence Kannada literature and culture, brought out by the Sangha is popular research guide for postgraduate literature students.
Apart from publications, the organisation also offers a library of over 10,000 titles, textbooks for students and a reading room filled with leading dailies and magazines in both Kannada and English. Located at the Udayabhanu premises, the library is open to the general public as well as students, for a nominal membership fee.
Facilitating Arogya and Akshara
Although fostering literature has been one of the main aims of the organisation, lately, the focus has shifted to education and healthcare. “The first letter of the Kannada alphabet stands for Akshara or ‘letters’ and the second for Aarogya or ‘health’,” says Narasimha. “Nothing is more important than education and health.” It is to this end that the Sangha organises regular general health check up camps for those without access to healthcare.
Doctors from hospitals like the Narayana Hrudayalaya and the Jain Eye Hospital have been contributing towards special camps such as heart or eye camps for the past decade. Although the camps are held at the Sangha premises right in the heart of Basavangudi, “people come even from rural areas like Hoskote and Kanakpura,” adds Narasimha.
Also in keeping with its mission of providing education to economically backward students, free classes are provided for those attempting the SSLC and Pre University examinations in both Kannada and English. “We bring in some of the best teachers (in the city) for poor students, who don’t have access to the type of education private schools can give,” he adds. The Sangha also provides financial assistance for ‘bright but poor’ students. With attendance from even rural areas like Devanahalli and Kanakapura, the Sangha’s free education programme benefits at least 1,000 students each year.
Events such as badminton tournaments and debate competitions have become a regular feature, which encourage youth to develop an all-round personality. The system is a cycle of sorts as the participants return to volunteer at the Sangha and contribute towards its activities.
The Sangha also has a strong presence in civic issues. It was with blueprints made by them, that the BBMP constructed the Udayabhanu Playground, helped develop a Corporation High School and an underground drainage system in Kempegowda Nagar. Unlike conventional cultural societies, only those keen on management and administration activities take up membership at the Kala Sangha. Those interested in cultural activities simply have to volunteer.
Despite its considerable contribution to Bangalore’s cultural space as well as felicitations – members have won the Rajyothsava Award and Kempegowda Award – the organisation has strangely remained invisible. While the local Kannada print media has taken notice of its activities, Narasimha laments the English media’s indifference to the Sangha. “Even when we invite the English newspapers or provide them with press releases they usually don’t bother writing about our activities,” he says.
Could this lack of interest be a reflection of the decreasing space for Kannada in the city? Narasimha doesn’t agree. “Kannada literature and culture is a part of Bangalore. It might appear hidden because of the increasing non-Kannadiga population but it is by no means dead.” As he pauses by the portraits of national poet Kuvempu and Jnanapeeth Awardees like Girish Karnad, he adds, “The media, especially English Media, should be more receptive to Kannada culture. Then, there won’t be desperate actions such as those of the Kannada Rakshana Vedike.”
However, any perceived apathy does not seem to have discouraged the organisation. Narasimha talks enthusiastically of future plans – a five-storied cultural complex complete with a library, auditorium and a folklore exhibition centre. And even though there is a strong emphasis on Kannada culture, the Sangha, Narasimha claims, is open to all.
Ramakrishna Math Layout
Opposite Gavipura Choultry
M Narasimha (Secretary)
“Anyone who wishes to learn about Kannada culture or is interested in volunteering with our social welfare activities is welcome,” he assures. “Our objective is to provide an enriching cultural experience for Bengaluru’s residents.” And the Sangha has been doing this, solely supported by funds raised from sale of books from its library and individual contributions. ⊕