Dasaprakash has been one of the original flag bearers of the Udupi cuisine.
Udupi has always been a vibrant convergence of faith and taste, marked by its predominant Sattvic culture, its residents’ relatively simple way of life, and, of course, its delicious cuisine.
The movement was started by two people. K. Krishna Rao was one such person; in 1927, he opened the Sri Krishna Vilas Hotel, which was known for its Udupi food. Later, he established the legendary Woodland brand. K. Seetharama Rao, who established Dasaprakash in 1954, was the other. Both were prepared using the madi (ritualistic cleanliness) kitchen ethic and served by Brahmins on banana leaves, but each brand catered to a different market. It is stated that the sahibs lived in Woodland and the nouveau riche and aristocracy in Dasaprakash. The result was a delightful split in the Udupi cuisine that originated in the temples.
As a young man, Sri Govinda Rao frequented the Parthasarathy Temple at Triplicane, Madras, where he was a resident. Kateel, a temple town in Dakshina Kannada district, was his hometown, and he came from a poor family. But he could recite more than five thousand bhajans and hymns by memory.
In exchange for alms, which were afterwards prepared and divided, he would sing songs on the Mada streets around the shrine. He went all the way to Tirupati for this purpose. Eight Swamijis (priests) in Udupi were so impressed with his performances that they changed his name to Dasa from Rao. Govinda Dasa was his new name from then on.
Kuthethur Seetharama Rao
Govinda Dasa’s son, Kuthethur Seetharama Rao, then a youthful clerk at the Mangalore Collectorate (earning Rs 35 a month), paid a visit to Udupi in 1917. At this Krishna temple, two slips were offered to Lord Anjaneya. One meant continuing service, while the other meant going into business for oneself. A card was selected with the result known now.
After relocating to Mysuru, Seetharama Rao opened the Hotel Majestic and the Vidyarthi Bhavan in 1919. Diwan Sir M Visvesvaraya then gave him a government building opposite the train station, on the condition that it be returned to the government in time for the Dasara festivals. In 1928, the 30-room Modern Hindu Hotel opened. Dasaprakash is a name he came up with in memory of his beloved father to indicate that the light of his soul shines in all these institutions.
In the same year, the hotel in Ooty opened with its famous ‘Children’s Parties,’ and in the years 1934–1938, establishments like the Hari Nivas and the Modern Café sprung up in Madras. The enterprising individual also set up the city’s first Kalyana Mantapa, called Dharmaprakash, which had its flower shop, musical group, and catering kitchen.
Diwan Sir N Madhava Rao inaugurated the Dasaprakash Modern Café in Mysuru in 1942, and “the existing roads were then planned around it by Diwan Sir Mirza Ismail.”
The Mysuru, Chennai, and Bengaluru train stations each include a vegetarian light refreshment room, among other businesses. However, Seetharama Rao did not establish anything in Bengaluru out of reverence for his guide, KT Appanna, who owned the Modern Hindu Hotel next to Anand Rao Circle.
Dasaprakash, the hotel and restaurant he opened on Poonamallee High Road in 1954. There were rooms to stay in, and the restaurants served Udupi food in addition to ice cream and milkshakes; it was an art deco paradise.
Guests may also enjoy moonlight rooftop meals and musical and dance performances in a dazzling theatre. The likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Maharaja of Mysore, and J.K. Galbraith were in attendance.
Additionally, Seetharama Rao introduced an innovative product. The hitherto household staple of dosas was given a masala touch when potato palya was packed into them, resulting in the now-famous masala dose.
India’s hotel sector follows a Western model. We didn’t use concepts like the Panthasala or the Dharmasala until the British arrived. The modern Indian aesthetic that Shri Seetharama Rao brought to his hotels was his greatest contribution to the hospitality industry. An Indian would be content with Indian cuisine provided it met his standards for quality and cleanliness.
For Shri Seetharama Rao, a man’s mental capacity was directly proportional to the quality of his diet. Pure food means a pure mentality. Shri Seetharama Rao believed that his religious upbringing was the foundation of his otherwise modern and Indian upbringing, and so he supported cultural activities such as music, drama, Indian classical dance, religious films, and seminars on religious and cultural subjects as a means of mental relaxation. But it was entirely an Indian production, from start to finish. The life purpose of Shri Seetharama Rao was to promote India through her cooking and lifestyle.
However, the old structure was falling apart at home. The historic Dasaprakash building in Chennai was sold and eventually demolished due to disagreements within the family.
The extended family still runs Dasaprakash and its variants in various parts of India and the world now.