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Friday, 14 December 2012

The Voice of a Poet: Part II

Sri Moola Kanniye

On October 1st 1917, Nadikerianda Chinnappa wrote the Kodava thakk song Sri Moola Kanniye ('Primal Goddess'). He called this the Swadesha Priya Keerthana (literally 'Hymn of the love for self-rule') and the 'National Anthem'. This song is dedicated to the Goddess Kaveri, the patron of Kodagu and the Kodavas. One must note that this belonged to the pre-Independence age when the British Raj prevailed over the Indians who however wished to become sovereign.

This song was included in the 'Introduction' of the original version of the Pattole Palame that was released in 1924. However in the second and the third editions, that came out in 1975 and 1995, the poem was omitted. But in the fourth (2002) and fifth (2006) editions these omissions were noticed by the grandchildren of Chinnappa, who had been abroad those many years, and hence subsequently included. Chinnappa's family members and relatives sing this song as their daily prayer.

Renaissance Man

Although he was best-known for his compilation work, the Pattole Palame, he wrote originally in three languages: Kodava thakk, Kannada and English. Chinnappa was also a well-known Kodava thakk poet, his most famous poem being Sri Moola Kanniye ('The Primal Goddess'), which is popularly called the Kodava anthem. He also wrote a well-known poem in Kannada and it was titled Somagiri Devaru ('the God of Somagiri'). So he was not only a compiler and a translator but a poet and a singer as well.

He used to play different sports regularly at the Victoria Club in Virajpet. A very good bowler in the game of cricket, he was a member of the All Coorg XI cricket team. Beside being part of the Coorg XI cricket team and playing field hockey, he also played billiards and tennis at the Victoria Club. Many of the Europeans who frequented the Club would mutter under their breathe upon losing to him. One day Chinnappa lost his patience during a game of billiards and he broke the stick. This was seen as a very daring thing for a petty officer under the majesty's service to do before the European officers. (Ramachandrachar 11:1994)

He was also involved in establishing the Coorg Central Bank and the Coorg Education Fund. As a philanthropist he sponsored the education of many poor and orphaned children in Kodagu. Infact at any point of time during Chinnappa's employment in the police department there would be around 8-10 students sheltered in his Madikeri and Virajpet residences. Chinnappa funded the college education of Boverianda Muthanna from the neighbouring village, who had studied in Bangalore central college and gone on to Guindy college of engineering in Madras province. Later Chinnappa got his daughter Gangamma married to Muthanna. (Ramachandrachar 10:1994)

The Voice of the Poet

Between 1913 and 1920 Grierson, an Englishman, began the first Linguistic Survey of India. He wanted knowledgeable representatives of various Indian languages to translate a biblical parable into their language and to either sing a song or to narrate a story from their language. Needless to say Nadikerianda Chinnappa, who was well-versed in both English and Kodava thakk (besides Kannada), was chosen as the representative of the Kodava language.(Biddappa:20 1996) In 1922, after narrating the Kodava thakk rendering of the biblical parable 'Prodigal son', he sang his own composition, the poem titled The Coorg national anthem: Swadesi priya kirtane ('Patriot's hymn'). These gramophone recordings became part of the Linguistic Survey of India collection. (Ramachandrachar 7:1994)

A copy of these recordings were kept in the British Library's 'Sound Archives' in the Madras Museum. This was digitised recently and is with the University of Chicago. Kodava thakk is called Kodaga and it is wrongly identified as being a language of the erstwhile Madras province. The archives don't credit Chinnappa, they simply state that the narrator is unknown. His son, Subbayya, heard and recognised his voice upon hearing it in the Madras museum in the early 1970s.
Links to the audio files (of Chinnappa ajja's narration in Kodava thakk) digitised by the University of chicago:
1. Parable of the Prodigal son
2. Sri Moola Kanniye


Chinnappa had four sons and two daughters but among them his first three sons passed away, the surviving children were two daughters (Gangamma and Muththamma) and one son (Subbayya). He also had two step children, a boy and a girl (Aiyanna and Bojamma), the children of Nanjavva and his late elder brother Subbayya. Besides these five surviving children he also adopted his widowed sister Chinnavva's daughter Akkamma.

He got his only surviving son, who was a B.Ed. trained high school teacher, engaged to Neravanda Nanjappa's daughter Ponnamma, who was also high school teacher. But before the marriage was to happen he died of cancer, aged 56, in 1931, on 12th September, only a few months after his retirement from the police service.


The Pattole Palame was written using the Kannada script originally. Nadikerianda Chinnappa had begun translating the work into English in 1925 but he died in 1931, before he could complete it. This work is considered the main literature of the Kodava language. This book is also referred by the Kodava Hindus who seek to clarify ancient traditions. The 119th birth anniversary of Chinnappa was celebrated in 1994 jointly by the Karnataka Janapada (folk) association and the Yakshagana Academy.

Mittu Subbayya, his son, also wrote a lot, including poetry and drama. His son and daughter-in-law were both teachers, Mittu Subbayya was an Education Officer. Their daughter Nanjamma and Chinnappa's daughter Boverianda Gangamma's son, also called Chinnappa, cross-cousins, got married. Boverianda Chinnappa, an engineer with a degree from an Illinois university, and Nanjamma, a statistician who was a visiting fellow at Cambridge University in 1974, pursued their professions at Chennai, Kolkata and Canada. In the 1970s, Boverianda Chinnappa, Nanjamma's mother and Nanjamma began to copy out the Pattole Palome in longhand over almost three years.

While they were searching for copies of the original edition of the Pattole Palame, a ninety-year old farmer and self-taught folk artist, Bacharaniyanda Annaiah, responded to their advertisement. During his youth unable to afford the book he had copied out the entire text word by word under a kerosene lamp. This hardcover book he gifted to the Chinnappas. Nanjamma's parents assisted in translating and interpreting the text. In the second edition of ‘Pattole Palame” (or ‘Silken Lore’), published by the University of Mysore in 1975, the editor describes it as one of the earliest extensive collections of folklore from any Indian community.

After retirement the Chinnappas settled down in Bangalore in 1995 and began to realise his cherished dream. Finally in 2003, they completed the work and it has been published by Rupa & Co., New Delhi. That same year it was released in Madikeri (Mercara). This book has become the chief text for the Coorgs. Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa have chalked out at least ten Kodagu-based projects for the future, including a directory of the Aine mane or ancestral homes, a lexicon of the Kodava language and a biography of the late Bacharaniyanda Annaiah, a self-taught folk artist. Presently they have been working on the ainemane project, this can be seen on the Ainmanes website. N. Ponnappa, the famous cartoonist, is Nadikerianda Chinnappa's grandson - the son of Subbayya and brother of Boverianda Nanjamma.


  • Biddappa, Major Puggera P. Nadikerianda Chinnappa (in Kodava thakk), Bangalore, 1996.
  • Chinnappa, N. Pattole Palame (in Kannada) 2006 [1924].
  • Nanjamma and Chinnappa, N. Pattole Palame (in English) 2006
  • Ramachandrachar, D. B. Nadikerianda Chinnappa (in Kannada), Bangalore, 1994.

Further Reading

See the Wikipedia article originally written by the author of this blog.


I would thank Nadikerianda Chinnappa's grandchildren Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa for sharing this information with me.

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