Dr P. Gururaja Bhatt, An educationist, historian, ‘Father of South Kanara Archaeology’..

-P.Archibald Furtado

An educationist, historian, ‘Father of South Kanara Archaeology’,

Dr P. Gururaja Bhatt.

It is said, Historians neglected and in a way resident Barkurians unaware of the rich heritage of Barkur. Especially after the fall of Vijaya Nagara Empire and more so thereafter during Keladi Kings, the place lost its prominence….  Once the capital of Alupa Kings with a royal fort with a palace near Shimhasana Gudde,  the seat of political power in Coastal Karnataka or Governorate of Vijaya Nagara rulers with a more larger and planned fort and palace near today’s NJC,  a prosperous commercial sea port, an all seasons natural harbour, then  the gate way to the West, especially Africa and Arabian Gulf countries, once housing  more than 365 temples, Jain Basadi’s, oldest Manik Dinar Mosque and  centuries old Church…..with all these distinct features, was known to be a holy place and a religious nerve centre, culturally rich and most importantly a planned town of yester years, a typical example of great Indian ethos, as  people from different background, faith and customs, living in harmony……..perhaps didn’t get the recognition and the status it naturally or rightfully deserved……!?

One can write in volumes about the each and every word we mentioned about rich forgotten past. However it’s not the intention of these couple of pages. As we were crying, complaining and regretting, while looking at the historical remains, dilapidated temples, basadis, forts, a ‘messiah’ was born in distant Paduru near Karkala by name ‘Gururaja’ on 15th June, 1924. Hailing from an orthodox Brahmin family, he studied in native School and started his illustrious a career in teaching, at the age of just 18 in 1942, from Attur Primary School, once he passed SSLC, from Board High School, Karkala.

Days must be difficult and after a break of 7 years, while serving in the Jain High School, Moodubidre, he went to Madras and got enrolled for BA studies with History and Economics as special optional and obtained his BA degree in the year 1952 followed by BT in 1953 from Madras University. His thirst for knowledge was so deep, hence enrolled for MA studies from Banaras Hindu University to fetch MA in History in the year 1956. He deservedly employed by MGM College, Udupi, in the year 1956 in the Department of History and Economics – to serve here for 11 great years – 1956 – 1967.

About this time, in 1966 - 67, Mons Denis Jerome DSouza, then parish priest and Vicar forane of Milagres Church was planning, rather dreaming of starting a First grade College and searching for a right person to lead it as ‘Founder Principal’. It must be a divine providence, by this time, a young scholar in Gururaj Bhatt at his youthful  43, was writing insightful writings in leading but very few periodicals of the time, both in Kannada and English, especially on the ‘history and culture of South Kanara’.  Though he didn’t had his Ph. D qualification in hand, Milagrean authorities rightly noticed a thorough gentleman, picked an able administrator and teacher, a perfect scholar in Gururaj and appointed him as Principal in the just born ‘Milagres College’, in semi rural Kallianpur on  11th June, in the year 1967.

It was a great start both for College and its Principal – in the very next year, in 1968, the prestigious University of Mysore, conferred Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) for his exhaustive research work, titled – ‘A Political and Cultural History of Tulu Nadu from earliest time till 1600’.

In the following years Dr. Gururaj Bhatt, concentrated in shaping the College from scratch with the great support of Mgmt, staff and sacrifices from Milagrians, had in place the required infra structure facilities, like College building, play ground etc. His major contribution was to have a state of the art modern Library with great and rare volumes of books. It is said though it was a Degree College; its Library was good enough to be a University – especially Languages, History and Commerce streams. Milagres provided the right exposure and opportunity to its Principal to implement his scholastic plans, discipline and inculcate desire for further studies in arts, as many of his students later served as Lecturers, Principals  in various Colleges. Infant College got widely recognised both academic and extra-curricular fields, made its presence felt in sports and games, in the then University of Mysore, constantly registering ranks for its students…..!!

Barkur and Dr Gururaj Bhatt:

Dr. Gururaj Bhatt was a rare blend of an educationist and historian. The undersigned, being a teenager in those years recollect three very simple incidents.

This must be in the year 1969 somewhere in rainy August. A team of 6 – 7 people were seen near Bayiri Bettu and cleaning some stone tablets and statues. I was about 8 years old, but the scene fresh in my memory chip. Later we were told it was Prin. Gururaj Bhatt and his team from Milagres College, studying the just excavated historical epigraphs and related objects…….

This must be in January, 1972. Silver Jubilee of National High School in Barkur. It was Dr. Gururaj Bhatt, who was invited as Chief Guest to inaugurate the ‘Silver Jubilee Memorial open stage’. A young Principal at his 45, in his address mentioned – ‘Barkur is the citadel for his research work….. Both for his doctoral thesis mentioned above and good number archaeological findings……’ (And one can find innumerable references in his monumental masterpiece – ‘Studies in Tuluva History and Culture ‘published in 1975) On that day, now about 50 years ago he appealed the citizens and public – ‘Barkur deservedly need to have a College…. (Of course today Barkur do have a Govt College…. and I feel it happened very late i.e. 1998, rather we were less fortunate not to have this facility…..)

Third incident, I just can’t forget is in 1978. Again a rainy 27th August, I was in my II PU in NJC. A. Sriniivasa Udupa, lecturer in Economics was our class teacher. He just entered the class and sat on the chair. (Normally he never occupies the chair, except while distributing the answer papers) How long he was sitting like that I can’t remember….! A notice was circulated, but he never read it for us, instead he started with a heavy heart. ‘Today I lost my teacher….Dr. P. Gururaja Bhatt, one who credited with the making of many like me as teachers, no more…..” Yes as a mark of respect for one research historian, who introduced Barkur to the then world, its glorious past, shocked and with grief, observed a hartal and condoled his untimely, unfortunate departure from this world at his just 54…….!!

Though the above looks casual or normal things but in a simple way explains the personality of Dr Gururaj Bhatt – a passionate researcher, a supporter of higher education in rural locations, teacher for lifetime and a scholar believed in original and impartial research and documenting them in a way reaching to both mass and class at one go…..!

Dr Gururaj Bhatt paid visit to most of the historical monuments, temples, Bhandar Keri Mutt, forts etc in our Barkur and documented its historical significance. He photographed the pictures of various statues and made a scientific study to explain its origin, style and architectural significance. He regretted that, prior to 8th Century AD no authentic proof / inscriptions was traced to infer or conclude or define what actually happened in this place, other than legends which were not accepted by Dr. Bhatt as facts….! However, later part of the history covering almost 1200 years was recorded / written systematically with evidence found in Barkur and counter verified with contemporary records unearthed elsewhere in the Districts…..!!

A short note on: ‘Studies in Tuluva, History and Culture’:

Dr Gururaj Bhatt’s life rightly a symbol of earnest dedication, deep erudition, ceaseless efforts and gifted talents which are reflected in his monumental work Studies in Tuluva History and culture…..The book contains many new discoveries which are the result of original research…This is the first comprehensive and exhaustive survey of the history of Tulu Nadu…” D. Javare Gowda, former Vice Chancellor, University of Mysore.

Let me quote MN Deshpande, then Director General of Archaeological Survey of India in 1975 - “Dr Bhatt brought to light new material on the art, architecture and archaeology of the Coastal region about which very little was known to the specialist and the intelligent common reader, as he attempted to reconstruct the historical perspective of the region and shed significant light on the socio religious and economic and cultural life of Tuluva people…….”

The above two opinions by learned men who read the book will serve as better testimony to understand this voluminous, more than 1000 pages (452 pages of illustrations and equal number of pages in photographs, sketches etc) was a work that took 15 long years of studies and research, for Dr. Gururaj Bhatt and it will be a prized contribution and a most reliable reference book even this day for anyone who aspire for learning history or further research of Coastal Karnataka.

Milagres College – 1967 – 1976 – A decade (10 great infant years as a Centre) of Historical Research:

Milagres College campus was very dear to Dr Bhatt, as he used to spend days and nights over here. In other words the Institution and Principal complimentary to each other. One can notice the bulk of his research work both got exposed and published during this prime stage. He completed his Ph D while serving in this temple of learning. We have seen him parking his black ambassador in front of the Church, in a shed and walking towards the College, only after paying his prayerful humble respects to Mother Mary, even on a Sunday.

On November, 1976, at the age of 52, Dr Bhatt voluntarily retired as Principal with an offer from one of the University’s in Germany. The plan didn’t take off and Dr PG Bhatt naturally disappointed with it. However his research work was on and next 2 years pre occupied with it.  At times passionate researchers need support and encouragement and monetary support.               During those Years University Grant Commission and other organisations, partially compensated the huge cost involved in these manual, laborious, on the site research works. Unlike in European and American Universities, the financial assistance here was not enough to meet the expenses which Dr PG Bhatt borne from his personal sources.

Today almost 43 years gone by, we have not seen such a comprehensive studies no individual single handed has undertaken on the subjects Dr PG Bhatt touched. A man toured from Karvar to Kasargod, Kollur to Dharmastalla, practically visited every known and unknown temple, Garody even Church as a part of his research and arranged the findings with photographs so systematically in those days no technological assistance, as we are having today. Everything was manual, hand written first, then typed and printed. Every Volume of Milagres College, Magazine the entire academia’s, to an extent literary world eagerly looking for to see what is new from the pen of Dr PG Bhatt…. We have seen basic articles written by him, still relevant in present day context.

List of various Books written and published by Dr. P. Gururaja Bhatt:

1.       Tulu-nadu: (The Bhavyavani Publication, 1963) –Kannada

2.       Tulu-nadina Itihasadalli Sthanikaru (Published by the Sthanika Brahmana Sanga, Udupi, 1966 –In Kannada

3.       Ambalpadiya Ithihasa: (Published by the Janardana-Mahakali Temple, Ambalapadi, Udupi, 1967) –Kannada

4.       Antiquities of South Kanara: (Published by the Dr PG Bhatt himself, 1969)

5.       Mandartiya Samikshe: (Published by the executive officer of the durga-paramesvari Temple, Mandarti, 1971) – Kannada

6.       Itihasa: (Edited work, 1971) –Kannada

7.       Dakshina Kannadada Tuluvaru Tulwa Samskritiyu: (IBH Prakashana, Bangalore, 1972) –Kannada

8.       Udupiya Itihasa: (IBH Prakasana, Bangalore, 1972) –Kannada

9.       Barakuru: (IBH Prakasana, Bangalore, 1972) –Kannada

10.   Kadre Sri-Manjunatha Devalaya: (Published by the Manager, Sri Manjunatha Temple, Kadre, Mangalore, 1974) –Kannada

11.   Studies in Tuluva History and Culture (1975)


Few extracts and startling facts, findings / revelations about ancient Barkur:

Barkur was very dear to Dr Gururaja Bhatt and NHSS (Present NJC) was a must visit location during his study trip to the place. Many archaeological findings were stored in this High School. He suggested having a Museum over here. Later his student historian Dr Vasanta Shetty, (former Principal) established one in SMS College, Brahmmavar.

Dr. P. Gururaja Bhatt un earthed n number of epigraphs, made arrangements to read them, identified various statues and its age, style, made a systematic studies of various temple architecture, summary of various coins minted from Barkuru Gadyana and its age……..made appeals to concerned History and Archaeological Survey of India to make permanent arrangements to preserve historically significant sites in Barkur.

His thorough research shed light on Alupa Kings, longest reigning dynasty in South India, who ruled from Barkur throne, for a record number of years. It was Dr PG Bhatt, who studied the Vijaya Nagara influence over Coastal Karnataka vis a vis Barakuru Rajya (Governorate).

Why Barkur always remain indebted to Dr. Bhatt, the man who reserved a place for Barkur in the historical map of India:

Today Barkur as well as its surrounding places are known to the intellectuals in History mainly because of systematic focus it received because of wonderful work done by our fore fathers. Religiously deep rooted and socially concerned and culturally interested taking interest to preserve many age old temples in our Barkur.

Dr. PG Bhatt strongly advocated for the maintenance of the large 12 water tanks in Barkur long ago. It is apt to note here that, much needed archaeological excavations at Vijaya Nagara fort (built by Harihara II) was proposed by Dr Bhatt, (along with many other locations like Udyavara, Basrur  Subramanya etc) and it was only Barkur where a little work has been conducted, but not preserved….!! The awareness he has created while teaching in MGM and Milagres and as a guest speaker in various platforms across the district paid fairly rich dividends. In Barkur, at least 1- 2 old temples are renovated and re furbished every year and we are startled to see a reference to its historical importance spoken or recorded almost a half a century back by Dr P.Gururaj Bhatt, in his research work.

Why ‘art streams of studies’ losing its importance, a review:

Today, most of the Colleges are thinking and planning to shut down BA studies in their respective colleges except some language based and subjects like Economics having little demand. In other words – streams comprising subjects like Sociology, History Political Science, Geography etc have no takers.  Even they exist, only average students opting for them just to fetch a degree as it is mandatory for promotions and increments.

Most of the Post graduate centres in these subjects are finding it difficult to carry on with the permission granted by the University. One of my friends gave an example of a peculiar centre wherein his friend is a professor, struggling to have 10 enrolments / students in an academic year…..! Not long ago in 60’s and 70’s a BA / MA graduate enjoyed great respect in the society and today all opting for Science and Computers…..Alas, it’s not a healthy sign. Is it sufficient to have only Commerce and Science graduates….? Thank God till Class X these subjects are still exist in the syllabus and taught……!!

Diminishing interest in History in today’s generation may be a result of many reasons…. and to an extent treating it as a less useful subject both by educators and learners…. and may be deciding authorities themselves not aware of their past….. Systematic and scientific study of History must be encouraged otherwise, the threat of treating fiction as facts, believing hearsay stories as real incidents will lead to misunderstanding and absence of which, the innocent people are easily carried away with emotions….!?

Dr P. Guru raj Bhatt was one such historian always recorded and accepted facts in his research work will be a model to all of us. A man carried on his research against many odds and inconveniences, for he was hunting and searching for facts. Once something discovered he revealed it plainly. And him, it was the duty of a researcher to make the truth known, even it was liked or not….In this path and process, he was criticised, even threatened by some orthodox section of society but he never gave up his mission…..We need that conviction and commitment….!

We are approaching to reach a milestone – ‘Birth Centenary of Dr. P Gururaja Bhatt in 2024’. Hope, the beneficiaries and admirers of their teacher, guide, research historians, with the co-operation of late Dr PG Bhatt’s family members etc will plan something better to preserve the 700 plus articles written by Dr Bhatt on various occasions, on subjects varying from, archaeology, Iconography, Numismatics, art and architecture, epigraphy, education, Culture etc, so that coming generation benefit…..His unfinished works may be taken up by modern day Historians and students…..Let the annual series of lectures to remember this great teacher and scholar be made better known in the society…..!!

With respectful remembrance of a great soul of Dr. P. Gururaj Bhatt and acknowledge and thanks to various sources while preparing this small essay.

On behalf of Team Barkur-online,

P. Archibald Furtado, 17th July, 2021, archibarkur@gmail.com, Mob: 98457 42750

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