The Telugu World Column No- 45
Dr.P.V.G. Raju, the Raja of Vizianagaram, one of the few benevolent rulers of the pre-Independence states. A Congress minister and a socialist despite his feudal background, he has been referred earlier as the only politician who did not know of the death of Jawaharlal Nehru for months and as founder of south India’s first music and dance college. As the lone equal to Mysore Maharaja K. R. Wodeyar, he deserves a full chapter in the history of the Telugu people.
Pusapati Vijayrama Gajapati Raju, popularly called ‘PVG’ was born in 1924 at the Phoolbagh palace of Vizianagaram . As the eldest son of Maharaja Alak Narayana Gajapathi and princess Vidyavati Devi of Keonthal State in Simla hills, he was the successor. (A committee chose brides for all Vizianagaram kings from Rajput royal families, mostly northern). He was “a prince among democratic socialists and democratic socialist among the princes”.
An Englishman, Bardswell, was his English tutor, before he joined St. Aloysius convent at Visakhapatnam, and later Bangalore’s Central College. Among his college classmates who were his lifelong friends were the great nuclear scientist Dr. Raja Ramanna, the former Pakistan foreign minister Aga Shashi and M.K Roy, who retired as an Admiral. In 1942 he joined the Presidency College, Madras, where he played many sports including tennis and cricket. He captained the Central College tennis team. ‘Vizzy’, his brother P. Vijay Ananda Gajapati Raju, was the first-ever Test captain (1936) to be president of the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI); it took decades for Sourav Ganguly to be the second.
Prince Turns Chauffeur
PVG joined Columbia University, New York in 1942. Later as a member of the Lok Sabha, he was on its consultative committee on atomic energy. Though a ruler himself, he pleaded for the abolition of princely states without any compensation as a socialist and a follower of Jayaprakash Narayan and Dr.Rammohan Lohia. When JP toured south India in 1945 PVG drove his car; a prince who chose to be a chauffeur! He was elected to the AP legislative assembly In 1952 and 1955 from the Vizianagaram constituency. In 1955, as a candidate of the Praja Socialist Party and in 957 as an independent to the Lok Sabha from Visakhapatnam. The same year he was elected to the AP Assembly in a by-election from the Bheemunipatnam on a Congress ticket. In 1962 and 1967 he was re-elected. In 1971 he was elected to the Lok Sabha as an independent from Vizag. In 1977, he represented LS as a Congress MP from Bobbili. So he was an MLA five times and MP four times from different seats and parties, showing that his personal popularity rather than party affiliation mattered to voters. On the eve of becoming 60 years old he retired from contest in 1984.
PVG was Andhra’s Minister of Health (1960-62) and Education (1962-64) in D. Sanjeevayya, N. Sanjeev Reddy and K.Bhahmananda Reddy cabinets. As Health Minister he got national recognition for the ancient system of Indian medicine by starting a degree course in Ayurveda. As Education Minister he gave grant-in-aid to private colleges and sought UGC pay scales for collegiate teachers. He participated in ‘Sramadan’ for digging an agricultural canal at Annamarajupeta near Srungavarapukota, courted arrest during a Satyagraha in Kurnool district and was jailed for 40 days for participating in the Karivena Inam Satyagraha. He was arrested in an agitation for rehabilitation of persons displaced at Nandikonda by the Nagarjunasagar project when Nehjru laid its foundation. He was arrested with Dr. Lohia and jailed for 45 days in Purnea in Bihar for leading a farmers’ no-tax campaign. He undertook ‘Padayatras’ of 30 miles a day to understand the problems of the people. Anyone in politics may do these, but not a maharaja. For him politics was a mission, not a profession.
In May 1964 he had a near-fatal accident; on its way to Bhakra-Nangal dam his car turned turtle. A Nangal bus rescued PVG, who was at Chandigarh for an education ministers’ conference. Admitted to the Post–Graduate Institute of Medical Science, Chandigarh, he was in coma for 79 days. He was flown to Hyderabad and was a minister without a portfolio. Thousands in Vizag and towns near it prayed for his recovery at temples, mosques and churches. In 1965 he went to England for physiotherapy for five months, and on the way back, to Germany. Covering AP Assembly later I found his speech affected.
German specialists said high blood flow to his brain led to his recovery. This was due to his highly spiritual life. He had observed 21 days of ‘maunavtrata’ (silence) in 1958, staying on remote Simhachalam Hills and living only on milk during that period. Disciple of physicist-turned-swami Dr. Jnanananda, he wrote introduction to Swamij`s ‘Glimpses’, foreword to his book ‘Elements of Nuclear Physics’ and preface to his ‘The Synthesis and Ultimate Objective of Empiricism, Rationalism and Transcendentalism’. He was a patron of the Andhra Historical Research Society, Rajahmundry and a trustee of Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry. Bulusu Venkata Ramanayya`s book ‘Gajapatirajula Telugu Vangmaya Protsahamu’ was dedicated to him. PVG was conferred a Doctor of Letters by the Andhra University, He was also it’s pro-chancellor for many years.
The Maharajah`s music college and the Sanskrit college, taken over when the princely states were abolished are in dire straits now. In 1957, he bought the Kurukonda palace and donated it, with 1000 acres of land, for a Central Sainik school. He founded the ‘Maharaja Alak Narayan Society of Arts and Science (MANSAS) in his father’s memory. Almost all his property, worth over Rs.50 cores has been donated to educational institutions as patronage of learning and literature has been an honored royal tradition. Unlike Indian politicians, he took to Vanaprasthashram and withdrew himself from politics at 60.