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Content Copyright © 2012-2016 by Kushal.Mucon. All rights reserved.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Voice of a Poet: Part I

-->by: Kushal Mucon (Mookonda Kushalappa)

Oral traditions had been associated with several ancient people; the Indo-Iranians, called 'Aryans', with the Vedas and the Tamils with the Sangam. These were initially oral but later they came to be written down in the literature of the region. Vyasa, the celebrated legendary poet compiled the hitherto oral classical Vedas and the Puranas into literary form. For this great contribution to Sanskrit literature he was known thereafter as Veda Vyasa. The Kodava poet Nadikerianda Chinnappa did something similar. He compiled the hymns and the chief ballads of the region of Kodagu into his magnum opus Pattole Palame.

Comparitively the medieval Palome associated with the Kodavas is more recent than these ancient classics. It mainly comprised of folk ballads and hymns sung on special occassions accompanied by dudis (small hand-held drums). The Palame is actually folk music, music that is transmitted orally, without known composers and as music of the peasants (in the present context the Kodava freeholders).

Kodava thakk (‘speech of the Kodavas’) developed a literature only in the early 20th century. There is nothing unusual about it, most languages of the world (including national languages like Finnish) have developed a literature very lately. Scholars like Hardas Appachcha Kavi and Nadikerianda Chinnappa wrote Kodava thakk in the Kannada script. Until then all literature in the district was in the Kannada and even in the Malayalam languages. The native astrologers, called the Kanniya, wrote natal charts of individuals in the Malayalam script. It is however unclear whether the language used to write in the Malayalam script was actually Kodava thakk or Malayalam.

The folk dances of Kodagu were performed as the Palame was sung sometimes. In southern parts of the Sub-continent, tradition has it that Mohini (a form of Vishnu) taught Bhasmasura (a demon who was killed when Mohini outwitted him) 18 different forms of dances, each of them in the imitation of an animal. For instance, in Sri Lanka the peacock dance (Mayura Wannama), the monkey dance (Hanuma Wannama) and the elephant dance (Gajaga Wannama) are a few of the forms of these 18 dances that are performed there. Likewise in Kodagu, the peacock dance (pili attu) and the deer dance (kombu attu) are the most well-known forms of these 18 dances. 

Sri Chinnappa 


The Nadikerianda family name originated from the words Nadi keri ('Central village') which incidentally is the name of a village in South Kodagu as well. The most notable legendary members of this clan were the brothers Nadikerianda Devayya and Kaaruvanna, the first was a folk ballad hero and a temple manager who was accursed by a powerful tantric and the second was his heroic brother who redeemed his spirit. They are considered to be the Kaarana or Kaarona (revered ancestors) of the clan. According to a family tree, drawn by Nadikerianda Chinnappa himself, the earliest ancestors of the clan were Nadikerianda Aiyanna and his wife Mayamma who lived around 1600 CE. This family tree was drawn up in 1918. (Ramachandrachar 4:1994)

Nadikerianda Chinnappa was born in 1875 in the village of Karada, Napoklu naad in Coorg (now Kodagu) to Kodava parents Nadikerianda Aiyanna (not to be mistaken for the early ancestor who had the same name) and Pattamada Ponnavva. They had eight children, four daughters and four sons; Chinnappa was the fifth eldest, he had two elder sisters, two elder brothers (Subbayya and Kaalappa), two younger sisters and one younger brother. His mother was an educated lady who knew horse-riding. (Ramachandrachar 5:1994)

Early Life

After matriculating in Mercara from the Central High School he did his F.A.(First Year Arts) from Mangalore. In college he was good at sports, especially in Hockey and Cricket, and in studies. He got married to his deceased brother Subbayya's widow, Nanjavva, in accordance to tradition, and worked as a teacher in Mercara Central High School.

In 1899 he joined the revenue department and became a Senebaayi (Shanbhog or Accountant). That year in September he wrote an English poem, 'My Position as Shanbog'. The following year he became a Revenue Inspector and in 1902 he joined the Coorg Regiment of the army as a JCO. Here he became the Subedar-Major. When the regiment was disbanded in 1904 he joined the Police Department, underwent training in Vellore and became a sub-Inspector in Kushalnagar. Thereafter he served in Napoklu, Srimangala and Virajpet for some five or six years each until he was made Prosecuting sub-Inspector and posted in Madikeri. Later he became a Prosecuting Inspector in Coorg.

He spent his leisure in travelling on horseback through the hills of Coorg. He got acquainted with several folk singers and thereafter he began to compile folk songs. By the year 1922 he had gathered enough material for his book, the Pattole Palame, and had completed it. The Palame was the general term for the Coorg folk songs. Beside this he also collected nearly 750 Kodava idioms and proverbs.

Pattole Palame

The Pattole Palame, a collection of Kodava folksongs and traditions compiled in the early 1900s by Nadikerianda Chinnappa, was first published in 1924. Some British officials who were interested in Indology(C. S. Sooter and C. Hilton Brown) had encouraged him and some prominent Kodavas (District Magistrate Rao Saheb (later Dewan Bahadur) Ketolira Changappa, Retd. Mysore Councillor Rao Bahadur Kodanda Maadayya and Retd. Assistant Commissioner Kodandera Kuttayya) reviewed his compilation (the Pattole Palome). C.S.Sooter, the then Commissioner of Coorg, got the British Government to publish it. Kullachanda Karumbayya was the proof examiner for the book.

The most important Kodava literature, it is said to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, collection of the folklore of a community in an Indian language. Family histories, rituals and other records were scripted on palm leaves by astrologers. These ancient, scripted leaves called Pattole (patt - silk, ole - like) are still preserved at Kodava Aine manes. Palame was the name for the hereditary oral tradition of folk songs and ballads among the Coorgs. Nearly two thirds of the book consists of folksongs that were handed down orally through generations. Many of these songs are sung even today during marriage and death ceremonies, during Kodava festivals relating to the seasons and during festivals in honour of local deities and heroes. Traditionally known as Balo Pat, these songs are sung by four men who beat dudis (small, handheld, hourglass-shaped Coorg drums) as they sing. The songs have haunting melodies and evoke memories of times long past. Kodava folk dances are performed to the beat of many of these songs. The fourth edition of the Pattole Palame was published in 2002 by the Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy.

Bhagvathanda Patt

In 1929, Chinnappa's translation of the Bhagwat Gita into Kodava thakk, called Bhagvathanda Patt ('God's song'), got published. This was written in the style of the Balopattu (Palame songs) and in a simple manner which could be understood by common people as well.


  1. Just happened to stumble upon this write up. Really nice. well written and thought provoking :)