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Acharya with a humane heart

Diwakarla Ramamurthy. - Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

A murder-accused who was undergoing a 10-year jail term was about to be released. He was asked "What will you do on your release'' He replied without any hesitation, ''I will go to Nellore to take revenge on the person who was responsible for sending me to jail.'' "Do you want to come back to the jail instead of living happily with your family members back in your hometown? Please think about the trauma being experienced by your family members and never ever come back here again.''

He then went back to his native place not to return again. The man who brought about such a reform in the prisoner is Acharya Diwakarla Ramamurthy, who took moral classes for the inmates of the Central Prison for 30 years and succeeded in reforming as many prisoners, who had indulged in crime on the spur of the moment. He used to give discourses on the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Bhagavatam and taught morals to the prisoners between 1955 and 1985. Not only the prisoners but also the warders and prison officials would attend regularly his discourses and benefit from them. He was instrumental in the construction of temples at the Old Central Prison complex during the tenure of the former District Collector, S.N. Achanta.

Born in Yendagandi village of Bhimavaram taluq in West Godavari district, Ramamurthy did his Intermediate at the Andhra Christian College in Guntur. The noted writer, Viswanadha Satyanarayana, was his teacher. He came to Visakhapatnam in 1929 and did his B.A. (maths, physics) from Andhra University. He appeared for his M.A. (Sanskrit) from Nagpur University privately. He studied the Shastras at the Maharaja's Sanskrit College in Vizianagaram. He learnt astrology and used to offer his services free of cost to the poor and needy. An authority in Telugu and Sanskrit, he wrote poems in Telugu. He joined Mrs.A.V.N. College as a lecturer in 1939. He was very punctual and was admired by the college management and staff. As principal of the college for 12 years, he had introduced several reforms and was instrumental in starting the night college. Prof. Ramamurthy used to take classes for B.Com. students also. Whenever any teacher was absent for a particular subject, he never allowed them to while away their time and took the class irrespective of the subject. The students were generally obedient and respected him.

"Once I was telling them an incident from the Ramayana. The students were so engrossed and I was moved to tears thinking of the travails faced by Rama and Sita at the hands of the demon king, Ravana. Suddenly, a mischievous boy got up and asked `Why do you weep over Rama and Sita?' Before I could reply to him, his neighbour, who was listening to the story in rapt attention, got up and slapped him and said: 'If you are not interested in the class, why don't you go out'' recalls Prof. Ramamurthy.''

During the tenure of Mr. Achanta as the Collector in the 1970s, there was a severe drought in the district. Ramamurthy and another scholar, Peraraju, approached the Collector and suggested that a `Sahasra Ghatabhishekam' should be performed at Panchadarla village near Yelamanchili. The yaga was performed by 12 pundits in the presence of the Collector and, lo and behold, there was a downpour in a 10 km. radius. Crop worth Rs.10 lakhs was saved,'' recalls Ramamurthy. Subsequently, a yagam was also performed at Simhachalam and rains were experienced.

Ramamurthy used to visit the Shanti Ashram of Swami Omkar at Lawson's Bay. Swami Omkar and the legendary leader, Tenneti Viswanadham, were close friends. Ramamurthy used to act in the puranic dramas which were staged at the ashram in those days. "One night thieves broke into the ashram and stole two bags of rice. Swami Omkar invited the people of the neighbouring villages to the ashram and gave 2 kg. rice to each family, instead of trying to find out who the culprits were. Those who had committed the theft must have been ashamed to death.'' Currently the editor of the `Peace' magazine of the Shanti Ashram, Ramamurathy has so far penned about 10,000 poems in it. For the last few decades he has been participating in the enactment of the 'Panchanga Bhuvana Vijayam' at Sri Krishnashramam. In the unique programme held on Ugadi Day every year, nine scholars sit and discuss the planetary influence on the life of the people in the following year. He has translated the `Shanti Parvam' into English and it was published as a serial in the 'Deccan Chronicle'. With him as secretary and the late Tenneti as president, the Visakha Saraswata Vedika used to organise critical discussions by pundits on the Bharatam and the Bhagavatham. A good number of his students had become district collectors, engineers and doctors.

He retired as principal of Mrs. A.V.N. College in 1975. Ramamurthy has innumerable awards and prizes to his credit. He was felicitated with a golden anklet on the occasion of his 'sahasra chandra darshanam' in 1992. He cherishes most the Sivananda Eminent Citizen Award, given by the Sanathana Charitable Trust of Sadguru Sivananda Murty of Bheemunipatnam. At 91, Diwakarla Ramamurthy's ambition is to write a commentary on certain parts in the 'Bhagavatham'.


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