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M. H. Krishna - a biography

Mysore Hatti Krishna Iyengar (M. H. Krishna: 19 August, 1892 - 23 December, 1947) was born in Mysore to parents Ranga Iyengar and Lakshmamma. His father was a Sanskrit scholar and teacher to Nalwadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar during the Maharaja’s younger years. Ranga Iyengar was Chief of Treasury at the Palace. This was a position afforded to a person of high integrity. This person was required to reside in quarters close to the Palace – in accommodations referred to as “Hatti”; hence the inclusion of “Hatti” in the names of all family members! Ranga Iyengars’ ancestors were closely associated with the Mysore Royal family since generations. One such ancestor was Ramaswamy who was Dharma-adhikari in the court of Mummadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar. They were all natives of a region by name Kalale. Ranga Iyengar and Lakshmamma had five boys and M. H. Krishna was the second of these five children.


IWhen G. V. completed sixty years of age, Felicitation volume titled “Sahityajeevi” was published. Similarly, on his ninetieth year, “Shabdasagara” was brought forth. His centenary year was a momentous occasion and was marked by many events and felicitation volumes being brought forth in his honour. The centenary year welcome committee under the editorship of P. V. Narayan brought forth a centenary felicitation volume titled “Shatanamana”. Earlier in 2011, book titled “Vidvajeevita” had been brought forth in his honour. In what seemed more than a mere coincidence, exactly one hundred years after Rev. Kittel authored the first Kannada dictionary, in 1993-94, G. V. authored modern Kannada’s first work on Kannada Language Dictionary writing titled “Kannada Nighantu Shastra Parichaya” – an introduction to dictionary science in Kannada language.


A seminal work, it was incidentally brought forth at the behest of Dr S. Ramegowda’s (then Vice Chancellor of Karnatak University) suggestion during the Centenary Celebration of Prof S. S. Basavanala. This work was further expanded by Kannada Pustaka Pradikara in a book titled “Kannada Nighantu Parivara”. Prism Publishers brought forth a book with a collection of articles titled ‘Kannada Lexicography and other articles” in English.

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M. H. Krishna had his initial schooling at ‘Jayacharya Patashala’ followed by a brief tenure at the ‘Wesleyan Mission High School’ where he was a year junior to the doyen of Kannada literature – Masti Venkatesh Iyengar with whom he retained a close friendship for several years to come. Krishna then gained admission to Maharaja College, Mysore in 1911 to pursue his B. A. degree. Here, he was a classmate of noted Kannada writer Talakina Venkanayya and both studied under Denham. His early interest in Cultural Studies, Numismatics, Archaeology, Indian History, Economics and Political Science was evident by this time. By 1917, Krishna secured a M. A. qualification from Madras University.



M. H. Krishna worked as a teacher under the Mysore Government Education Department for some time soon after his B. A. He was appointed as Lecturer in the University of Mysore History Department by 1916. Completing his Master’s Degree from Madras University, he gained Membership in The Royal Asiatic Society, London in 1919. The then Vice Chancellor of University of Mysore Brajendranath Seal and Prof. Radha Kumud Mukherjee were impressed with M. H. Krishna’s academic diligence and hard work. They decided to depute M. H. Krishna to Department of Archaeology office at Bangalore, Numismatics division for two years between 1920 – 22, during which time he was tasked with cataloguing the vast coin collection in their archives. He could sadly never publish this vast and painstakingly compiled catalogue and would revisit the same for further improvements only in 1928 – 31. During his tenure here, he was well tutored in the administrative nuances of the department of archaeology by then director – R. Narasimhacharya and accomplished epigraphist of his time Chincholi Venkannacharya (Popularly remembered as “Akshara Brahma”). R. Narasimhacharya retired in 1922 and was succeeded by R. Shamasastry.  M. H. Krishna was sponsored for further studies in 1924 and he went to University College, London for higher  studies in archaeology. His guide for research studies during this period was the eminent British archaeologist Ernest Arthur Gardiner. Here he studied extensively ‘Epigraphy’, ‘Study of Sculptures’, ‘Architecture’, ‘Numismatics’ and ‘Excavation Science’. Apart from Gardiner, he was under the illustrious tutelage of L. D. Barnett, Sir Flinders Petrie, Eliot Smith, Seligman, W. G. Perry and Edvard Westermarck. M. H. Krishna accompanied Flinders Petrie on his Egyptian excavations. He made use of his time in Europe to visit and study collections of South Indian interest at ‘British Museum’, ‘Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, ‘Fitz William Collection, Cambridge’, ‘National Museum, Paris’ and ‘Kaiser Frederic Museum, Berlin’. He submitted his theses ‘Deccan Numismatics’ for publication to the Royal Institute at this time. M. H. Krishna was invited to deliver a series of public lectures on ‘Indian History and Archaeology’. He totally delivered about seven lectures in 1926.  


University of Mysore

M. H. Krishna came to Mysore in 1926. In addition to his position in the History Department at University of Mysore, he held an additional brief at the Department of Archaeology till 1944 where after the department was divulged away from the umbrella of the University. He assumed full time leadership at the Department of Archaeology from 1944 onwards.

G. Venkatasubbiah Portrait Painting of M H Krishna