October 21, 2011

From bus conductor to Sanskrit scholar

Mathoor Krishnamurti: From bus conductor to Sanskrit scholar

TNN | Oct 7, 2011, 05.36AM IST
Mathoor Krishnamurti saw life at various levels and surprised everyone with his multi-faceted talents.

BANGALORE: From bus conductor to hotel worker, to a clerk in a mill, then to become a Vedic and Sanskrit scholar, Mathoor Krishnamurti saw life at various levels and surprised everyone with his multi-faceted talents. 

Krishnamurti once said whatever he achieved was perhaps the outcome of his poverty. "He was by no means a rich man. He did odd jobs and worked in positions people would not imagine. And one day, he became a great Vedic scholar," says H N Suresh of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 

Mathoor Krishnamurti, a renowned Sanskrit scholar and director of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, died in a private hospital on Thursday morning. He was synonymous with Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's cultural and spiritual activities. He was not only instrumental in setting up its London branch but also steered the institute for over two decades. 

Born in Mathoor village of Shimoga district on August 8, 1928, Krishnamurti did his elementary schooling there. He had to support his family and went to Shimoga seeking a job. He is believed to have eaten in a different house every week (' vaaranna' , as the practice is called) and looking for a job desperately. After passing SSLC examination in 1947, he was unable to pursue college studies. An influential person recommended Krishnamurti to a city bus conductor's job with a monthly salary of about Rs 200 in Bangalore. He worked on the Basavanagudi-Shivajinagar route in the city. Within three months, Krishnamurti was promoted as a traffic inspector . However, under family pressure to give up the job, Krishnamurti worked at Raja Mills as a clerk. 

Krishnamurti also opened Malleswaram Tutorials to ensure kids don't fail after SSLC. After working for two years, it was shut as it could not be sustained financially. 

After a brief stint with a Kannada daily newspaper and All India Radio, Bangalore, he took over as registrar of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Bangalore in 1969. He moved to London in 1972 and tirelessly to promote Indian culture and spiritual values. By the time Mathoor left London in 1995, the centre had acquired a spacious building and was acknowledged as having done marvellous work. 

Sudha Murty, chairperson, Infosys Foundation, wept inconsolably on Thursday. "It's a big loss for me. He was an elderly friend. I was associated with him for over 18 years. I worked with him on a project to introduce the 'Gamakas' (epic Kannada poetry sung in unique Carnatic ragas and then explained ) to villagers across Karnataka ," she told TOI. 

As Mallepuram G Venkatesh, vicechancellor , Karnataka Sanskrit University, recalls: "He was known for his simplicity. Through his deeprooted knowledge about Indian culture and ethos and through the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, he globalised the Upanishads and Indian culture by synthesising the popular and the classical. He was in favour of continuing with traditions which were still relevant while leaving those that were outdated." 

On his return, Mathoor continued to be involved with cultural activites of the Bangalore centre. He was also part of a state endeavour to popularise the works of Mahatma Gandhi. 

The cremation will take place on Friday at Mathoor village. 


Krishnamurti was engaged in long conversation with his friend H N Suresh the day before his death. Suresh recalls: "He was readying for a programme and asked me whether invitations had been posted to the governor's office. We had said everything was OK and programme was on. We chatted for a long time and he was perfectly all right. 

"Some time around 2.30am on Thursday morning, he seems to have had some breathing problems. He was so alert he called the hospital and informed his relative and friend and took the ambulance to the hospital all by himself. Doctors tried to revive him for three hours but could not. It appears his respiratory system gave way. Three days ago, he was taking some antibiotics, but the breating problem turned serious only this morning."

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