Doddanna Shetty worked for the upliftment of poor children and it was hugely appreciated by the Maharaja of Mysore
The Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV knew the extent of Doddanna’s munificence in imparting free education to downtrodden children. He had high regard for him. When the construction of the building was over, Doddanna named it Sri Lakshminarasimha Swamy Dharma Pathasala and requested the King to inaugurate it. On March 10, 1906, in the presence of the elite and the general public of the city, he declared the lower secondary school open.
According to a report, the Maharaja had said: “I understand that the school which has been built and endowed on so liberal a scale by Sahukar Doddanna Setty is intended to provide general education. This kind of education which is now recognised in most advanced countries as the one most likely to produce useful and intelligent citizens. I congratulate the founder of the school.”
To provide education to economically poor children of his own community living in remote villages, Doddanna also started a hostel in 1906 and called it Sri Lakshminarasimha Swami Ashrama. He moved to the Ashrama so that he could take care of the children. For the kids it was an abode of compassion and love.
In addition to the hostel children, the students to the school were coming from organisations like Srinivasa Mandiram Anathalaya in Balepete, Buddhashrama in KR Road, and poor children of the families who lived in and around Fort area. Along with regular teaching, the pupils were also taught to develop various vocational skills. They were exposed to such experiences which were needed to build an all-round personality. He used to take them to Lalbagh, and after the stroll he would serve the food brought from Ashrama. The sole aim of Doddanna was to bring these children to the mainstream.
Recognising Doddanna’s invaluable service to the city of Bangalore, the Maharaja conferred the title Janopakari on him during Mysore Dussera Durbar on October 18, 1907. On January 3, 1908, the people of Bangalore felicitated Doddanna in Doddanna Hall itself for having been conferred with the rare title. Sir K P Puttanna Chetty presided over the function that was represented by all sections of the City. Doddanna in all humility thanked the people for their help in pursuing his ideal of serving the poor.
The extent of Sri Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s respect to Doddanna can be gauged in an incident which is also an important page in the history of the city. In 1909, Dewan VP Madhava Rao who was keen on shaping Bangalore into a city of aesthetics, noticed during his city rounds that a portion of the compound wall around SLN school building was protruding towards road. Though he knew well about Doddanna’s service to the city, he got the wall demolished on the grounds of principles. Doddanna was pained to see this and refused to stay in a place where Govt had no respect or regard for charitable works. Without informing anyone, he left to Kashi. Immediately, telegrams were sent to the King by prominent citizens of the city. Next day, the people of Bangalore were surprised to see the King at the site to get a first-hand information of the incident.
The Dewan however felt embarrassed by this totally unexpected development and thought the Maharaja has no trust in him. He immediately tendered his resignation and it was accepted. Later, the Maharaja also convinced Doddanna to come back and continue his service to the city. He also offered a vast stretch of space behind Kote Anajneyaswamy temple. A second building was built in 1915 to run vocational training institute.
In the subsequent decades it accommodated other SLN institutions and the administrative office of the trust. Even today the century old institution with an imposing and attractive traditional architectural style stands away from the noisy main road. On the entrance, the Royal emblem of Mysore has been inscribed which is a testimony for the gratitude that Doddanna had for the Maharaja of Mysore.
As age advanced, Doddanna amalgamated all his properties and made a trust to run the institutions. He wanted to start a high school. To fulfil this requirement the trust handed over the authority to Theosophical Society. In 1917, they started SLN National High School. But, for some reasons, the institution was shifted to Chamarajapete and then to Basavanagudi.
When his intention to have a high school in this premises was not fulfilled, Doddanna took back the authority given to Theosophical Society.
Doddanna felt the need to free himself and devote the rest of his life to spirituality. On April 17, 1920 he obtained the initiation from a Guru and came to be known as Sri Sri Sri Doddanna Swamy. After a year, on August 5, 1921 he reached the abode of God.
The entire city had gathered to pay their last tribute to their ‘Big Brother’. With the permission of the authorities his mortal remains was buried next to Ashrama and a memorial was built. Even today, located in the serene atmosphere with large number of flowering plants around, the bust of Sri Doddanna is the source of inspiration for everyone in SLN institution.
To be continued