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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Of Gods and men : The story of Igguthappa

Song of the Seven

Hills seem to naturally inspire worship hence some of them have shrines. The chief temple of Igguthappa is at Padi, near the small town of Kakkabe. The Igguthappa Betta of this area is called the dwelling of Igguthappa. This is the centre of Puttari, the annual harvest festival of Kodagu, since Igguthappa is especially remembered during that time of the year. He has the rights over the new crop.

The story of the Yevva Makka Debuva (seven children gods) is a folk story which every Kodava has heard as a child. Legend has it that Igguthappa and his siblings came to earth for the good of the people. There are slight variations to the legend of Igguthappa and his six siblings. But the most common one will be narrated here. 

Seven demigods, six brothers and one sister, emerged from a large conch shell on a distant land across seven seas of the celestial milky ocean of Hindu folklore. They arrived as children upon the Northern Malabar coast. They came to be revered by the people despite being mere children because they had a divine aura about them.

1. The seven children gods cross the seven seas upon a conch shell (own sketch)

At first they came to the meadow and village of Madayi in the Malayala region (Kerala) where they lived for a while. Then they moved to the vicinity of the town of Tali Parambu. They halted in the nearby village of Kanjirath (Kanarat). This village on level ground had priests, drummers, flowers, banana trees and cattle. Pleased with the place the eldest brother, a reincarnation of Lord Vaidyanath, settled down there and became known as Kanjirathappa.

Kanjirathappa sent his younger siblings further inland. But the second brother, a local manifestation of Sri Krishna, settled only a little distance away, at Thiruchambara, a village which he deemed suitable, and hence came to be known as Thiruchambaratappa. The third brother, a reincarnation of Lord Rajarajeshwara, came to live in Bendre Kolur, another appropriate village, and became known as Bendru Kolurappa or Marajendra (King) Kolurappa. Even today these three temples, in and around Tali Parambu town, are known as brother temples in Kerala.

2. Kanjirathappa sends his siblings towards Kodagu (own sketch)

In Kodagu
After the elder three siblings settled down in the Malabar itself the remaining four siblings moved on towards Kodagu. The four siblings were armed with bows and arrows and carried an earthen pot.

The Brahmagiri hill jungles of the Western Ghats that border Kodagu on the south and the west pose as a natural barrier between Karnataka and Kerala. They are home to several species of flora and fauna.

The four deities crossed the Western ghats en route into Kodagu. They passed Yermakutte poley (rivulet), Thondangund mott (hillock), Kannadi parambu (meadow), Irthkad poley, Manat parambu and other such landmarks towards Payyavur from where they moved on further ahead. They stopped and faced Baithur (today known as the villages of Vayathur and Ulikkal in Kerala and near Iritty town in Kannur district) to pay obeisance to Lord Baithurappa. Baithurappa was the guardian deity of Kodagu, known to protect the region at its southwestern entrance. The Baithurappa temple is called as Vayathur Kaliyar Mahadeva temple and is in Ulikkal in the present-day. The gods then crossed Udumbe poley, Eltha Kundu mott, Adake theri bakka (gateway) and entered Padi Thora (mountain pass).

They had entered Nalnaad in Kodagu. Nalnaad, called Nalknad in Kannada, comprises of the four naad (counties) of Padi, Noorambada, Nelji and Perur and is in Western Kodagu. When they reached the edge of the Brahmagiri hill range of the Western Ghats they had a panoramic view of the land before them. Lead by Igguthappa the eldest among them, they arrived near a hill called Malma Betta. Near this hill was the Ambala poley stream. In the shadow and at the foot of this hill was the prominent village of Kakkabe.

The four gods decided to have an archery contest among themselves. Igguthappa's arrow fell far but his sister's arrow went furthest. The brothers grew jealous and decided to teach her a lesson later on. However for now they were hungry.

Thangamma (sister), please cook food for us” the brothers requested their younger sister.

But the sister fell into a quandary. “How can I cook food without a fire or rice?” she asked.

Then Igguthappa, who was also the god of harvest and rains, replied, “I will provide you with rice, but on the one condition that you must cook it without fire”

“I will do so” agreed the sister who later added, “Only if all of you eat it without salt”. The brothers conceded to this. Igguthappa brought an earthen pot of rice before her.

These siblings were on private family land. They were chided severely by Ummavva of that family for taking leaves off their banana plants. These banana leaves were to be used to eat meals upon. Igguthappa cursed the family property to henceforth not yield any plantain.

Nambimada Muthanna was the Pattedar (elder) of Ummavva's family. Muthanna came to hear of the siblings camping upon his property and hence rushed to the place. When he came to know that they were divine people he paid them salutations. Igguthappa thereafter called Muthanna as Parada (searched), as he had searched for them. Muthanna was to eventually become the ancestor of the Pardanda family.

They came to a meadow in Naaladi. The sister saw a cow, which belonged to the farmer Muthanna, grazing nearby. She milked the animal and poured the milk into the pot of rice. Meanwhile, the brothers fell asleep under the boughs of a tree. The goddess took the pot and buried it under the hot sands upon the bank of the Ambala stream. When the rice got cooked she took it out and called the brothers for lunch. The four ate till they were full.

The fifth brother Palurappa, who detested the food, took some of the remaining rice and playfully flung it into the air. As it fell to the ground he spoke “Look how the hail stones fall from the sky”. Thangamma got angry when she saw how the food was being wasted. She took up the cooking ladle and hit him heavily on the back. “Look how the thunder strikes in the monsoons” she said. All the siblings laughed together.

Hence even today when the people of Kodagu look up to the skies during a hail storm, they point at the hail stones and the thunderbolts. “See how the god has strewn food! See how his sister beats him!” they exclaim. The face of Palurappa's idol in his temple is turned left to show the impact of that noisy blow.


Later, the four deities chewed upon betel leisurely. They spat out the betel unto their palms and compared whose chewed betel was reddest. Afterwards, the brothers flung the betel behind their necks.

But the sister who liked to imitate her brothers presumed that they had put the chewed betel back into their mouths. So she did what she thought was likewise. The brothers who noticed this said it was very unmannerly to do so. They protested, they called it a disgusting act. It was commonly told that such an action, eating what was spat out, would make one lose their caste. They consulted with their three elder brothers who decreed that the sister would have to be separated from them. She wept bitterly upon hearing this and so Igguthappa pitied her. He decided that she was to live near where he lived so that he could look after her.

Igguthappa then threw down an arrow from atop the hill. It struck a mango tree in the hamlet of Ponnangala in Yavakapadi village. Then he told his sister to go and settle down there. The sister took the form of a crane and flew down to the spot. Thereafter she became known as Ponnangalatamme.

3. Ponnangalatamme follows Igguthappa's arrow (own sketch)

When the mountain top of Igguthappa Betta is covered with clouds the natives say that Igguthappa is gloomy and misty-eyed, thinking about his sister's separation. However the sister's casting out of the community actually had a greater purpose to be served. This way she was able to become a goddess of the poor.

Muthanna had a temple built for Igguthappa near Malma betta (also called Igguthappa betta) to settle down in. This became the Padi Igguthappa temple. From Malme Betta Igguthappa first went to Ammangeri village near Nelji. Then he went to Nelji and Perur. Hence two other ancient Igguthappa temples came to be built near Padi, one at Nelji and the other at Peroor, by the local clans there. Nelji is said to be the place where rice was first grown and hence was initially named Nelachi or 'rice grew'.

The elder among the remaining two gods was an avatar of Lord Mahalingeshwara. He settled down in the village of Palur along the river Kaveri and came to be known as Palurappa. Pemmayya, the last of the brothers, went south to the Brahmagiri hills dressed as a yogi. He met Chieftain Appa Kongi
Balu and crossed the Brahmagiri hill range. Pemmayya cured the Chief's wife of an unknown ailment by bringing a wild buffalo cow, a tigress and a she-bear, milking them in the palace and offering the mixture as medicine. He was thereafter allowed to settle down in Thirunelli, presently in Wayanad district, and his temple became known as the Janardhana temple, named after the deity whose avatar he was.

4. Pemmayya before the palace with the tigress, the she bear and the wild buffalo cow (own sketch)

Later events

The descendants of Muthanna, the Pardanda family, called the Padil Parada (the Parada of Padi), became the Deva Thakka, or hereditary managers of the Padi Igguthappa temple. The Pardanda were also one of eight Sime Thakkas, or regional chieftains, of Kodagu. The Baddanjettira family are Deva Thakka at Nelji Igguthappa. The Machchuda and the Mekmaniyanda families are Deva Thakka at the Peroor Igguthappa.

The present-day priests of the Padi Igguthappa temple belong to the Hebbar Brahmin community. A number of families of astrologers, ritual performers and farmhands such as the Ammangeri Kaniya, the Ballatnad Maleya, the Kundu male Kudiya, the Payyanur Banna, the Chirammangala Panika, the Kandimakki Paley, the Kuttanjetira Poleya and the Aranoot Kapla, each of them connected to their respective villages, are also associated with the temple.

In the precincts of Padi Igguthappa are the shrines of Aiyappa, Povvadiamma (also called Bhagwathy), Vishnu murthy and Baynadappa. Baynadappa, or Baynad Balwan, was a legendary man who came from Wayanad (also called Bayanad) to guard the Igguthappa shrine.

5. The image of Igguthappa (own sketch)

Tombs of Kings (Gaddige)

This was published on Tuesday, January 10th, 2017 in the Spectrum, Deccan Herald.

Original Draft:
Fort walls of Madikeri

Between the years 1583 and 1834, the Haleri Rajas ruled the erstwhile principality of Kodagu. They built the town of Madikeri and made it their capital. The chief monuments that they built in Madikeri are the palace, the Raja's Seat and the Gaddige. The Madikeri palace is located within a fortress. The Raja Seat is a sort of a gazebo which overlooks a picturesque valley. Gaddige, the royal cemetery, is located in the northernmost portion of the Mahadevapet area in Madikeri town. This stately graveyard has three royal sepulchres built in the Indo-Saracenic style, with domes and turrets.

Madikeri Fort Walls

During the early years of their reign, the Haleri Rajas had to contend with their predecessors, the local chieftains who were called the Kodagu Nayakas. Vira Raja, the first Raja, came to Kodagu disguised as a wandering monk. He established himself as a teacher and took the local people into confidence. He made Haleri, the village where he settled down, as the first capital of his dynasty. Finally, one day, he threw aside his guise and declared himself king.

Kaliatanda Ponnappa, the Tantric magician of Naalnaad, and Karnayya Bavu, the chieftain of Bhagamandala, were Vira Raja's contemporaries. While Ponnappa acknowledged the Raja's sovereignty, Karnayya raised a stealth army to attack Vira Raja. Karnayya's men surrounded and shot dead Ponnappa whom they had come to fear. But later the Raja managed to get Karnayya executed in order to be able to establish absolute control.

Madikeri Palace

While North Kodagu was under the Haleri Raja, South Kodagu was still under the Nayakas of Kodagu. Kattera Chittiappa Nayaka of Anjigheri naad, Machangada Nayaka of Hattu gattu naad, Mukkatira Nayaka of Mathur and others ruled in South Kodagu.

It was Vira Raja's grandson Muddu Raja (r. 1633-1687) who first built Madikeri in 1681 and made it his capital. He fostered Utha Nayaka of Beppunaad who would later marry his daughter Neelammaji. Meanwhile, Achchu Nayaka, son of Chittiappa Nayaka, grew mighty and came to dominate Kiggatnaad (Southern Kodagu).

Madikeri Palace

Muddu Raja's eldest son Dodda (Elder) Virappa succeeded him as Raja. But Virappa's own brother-in-law Utha Nayaka rebelled against him. Also, Achchu Nayaka of Kiggatnaad and Kolhlha Kongi Nayaka of Kadiyatnaad were independent and powerful. Dodda Virappa, however, was able to consolidate his own power. His Dalavoy (General) Pardanda Ponnappa succeeded in vanquishing the last of the Kodagu Nayakas.

In the eighteenth century, upon invading Kodagu the Mysore Sultans imprisoned its princes. However, in 1789 Dodda Vira Rajendra, the crown prince, and his family escaped confinement. He became allies with the British and built the town of Virarajendranapette, now known as Virajpet. He also built the Naalnaad palace in 1794. He then married Mahadevammaji in a grand ceremony in 1795. When the Rani died in 1807, Vira Rajendra got her buried in Gaddige and founded Mahadevapet in her memory. He completed his memoirs, called Rajendra Name, that same year. After his death in 1809, he was buried beside his deceased queen. The first mausoleum of Gaddige was built over their tombs by the king's younger brother Linga Rajendra that same year.

Linga Rajendra (r. 1811-1820) built the Omkareshwara temple of Madikeri and rebuilt the palace at Madikeri. He also compiled the Hukum Name, a record of laws and surveys in Kodagu, during his reign as the Raja. When he died at the age of forty-five, his queen Palanganda Devaki consumed diamond powder and passed away. They were buried next to each other. Another similar large mausoleum in Gaddige was built over their graves by Chikka (Younger) Vira Rajendra (r. 1820-1834) in 1821. This Vira Rajendra was Linga Rajendra's only son and successor and Devaki's step-son.
Madikeri Fort
Madikeri Fort Library

The third similar, but smaller, tomb is that of Rajguru Rudrappa, the chief preceptor of the kings. Rudrappa's tomb was built by Diwan Cheppudira Ponnappa in 1834 after the British exiled Chikka Vira Rajendra, the last Raja of Kodagu.

Madikeri Fort Library

Tombs of Generals (keywords : Biddanda Sarva Karyakara)

In peace the warriors rest (Spectrum, Deccan Herald)

Original Draft :

Tombs of Biddanda Bopu and Somayya

In the northern part of the Mahadevapet quarter of Madikeri town is located Gaddige. Gaddige, the royal graveyard, is a set of three regal mausoleums built in the Indo-Saracenic style and enclosed within a compound. Upon each of these rectangular structures is a large dome and four turrets. Two kings of Kodagu and their chief queens lay buried in the two larger identical structures. A third smaller one has the remains of the chief preceptor of the kings.

The Generals

Tombs of Biddanda Bopu and Somayya
Beside these three tombs, a little distance away and within the same enclosure, are the tombs of the father-son duo Biddanda Bopu (1769-1807) and Biddanda Somayya (1800-1879). These two personalities had served Kodagu and its Rajas as the Sarva-Karyakaras, or army generals. While Bopu was the general under Dodda Vira Rajendra (r.1789-1809), Somayya was the general under Chikka Vira Rajendra (r.1820-1834). Each of these two tombs have the statue of a Nandi bull upon it.  
Tombs of Biddanda Bopu and Somayya
Under the Kodagu Rajas, Jamma ryots ('farmers by inheritance') held their farmlands by military tenure. The word Jamma came from the Sanskrit word for birth Janma. Every able bodied male Jamma ryot were to compulsorily serve in the Raja's army. Known as Chaudigaras, they worked for fifteen days at a time. Around ten to hundred soldiers served under an army chieftain called the Jamedar and a number of Jamedars served under an army officer called a Karyakara. The Karyakaras worked under a Sarva Karyakara, or the general. The Karyakaras and the Sarva Karyakara wore a Kombu Toppi, a gold zari bordered red turban with a Kombu (horned emblem) in front.
Tombs of Biddanda Bopu and Somayya
A Kannada inscription stated that Biddanda Bopu of Bavali village entered the Raja's service on palace duties on the 5th day of the new moon of the month of Magha in the Keelaka year (1788). He worked for 19 years until the year Prabhava, bravely risking his life while fighting wars against Tipu Sultan of Mysore and hunting elephants, tigers and other wild animals, to ultimately become the Sarva Karyakara. He passed away on a Sunday, the 7th day of the Full Moon in the month of Margashira and in the year Prabhava, which is the Kaliyuga year 4909 (1807).

Tombs of Biddanda Bopu and Somayya

The Biddanda family

Biddanda Raghu Ganapathy took me to his ancestral home in Bavali and provided me with the genealogy recorded by his deceased father and other clan members. The Biddanda family originated in Kokeri village in Kodagu nearly three centuries ago. In this Kokeri house lived brothers Medappa and Poonacha.
Tombs of Biddanda Bopu and Somayya
Medappa was a member of the local Panchayat village council and he married Chaniyappanda Subbavva in 1768. They had a son Bopu who was born in 1769 on what was deemed an inauspicious day by the Panchayat members. It was decreed, solely based upon the date of birth, that the son's face was not to be seen by the father and that the mother was not to be allowed into the house. So hence the mother and the son lived with the maternal family in Podavada village.

The ubba, native bamboo stile, which forms the gate of the Biddanda house
Unfortunately some time later Medappa and Subbavva passed away. The orphaned boy was then brought by his uncle Poonacha to the Kokeri house. Poonacha married a lady from the Mookanda family, sole heiress to a farm in Bavali, and had two daughters. In 1788, at the age of 19, Bopu joined the Raja's army. He rose through the ranks to become a Karyakara.

The shrine of the Biddanda ancestors
Poonacha and his wife passed away and their two daughters were married into other families. In 1795 the Raja transferred Poonacha's property, which was called 'Mookanda Bane (pasture)', to Bopu and his paternal relatives for the military services they had rendered.

The graveyard of the Bavali Biddanda family
Bopu moved from Kokeri to Bavali where he built a Nalkett Mundmane – a traditional country house (mane) with four blocks (Nalkett) built around an open central courtyard (Mund). This became the Biddanda Ainmane, or ancestral home, in Bavali. In 1855 Rev. Hermann Moegling narrated events pertaining to Karyakara Biddanda Bopu, in his Coorg Memoirs.

Picture of Biddanda Bopanna, eldest son of Biddanda Somayya, and Biddanda Somayya, hung on either side of a picture of Goddess Kaveri, in the Biddanda family house
Officer Bopu

In 1799 the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War broke out between Tipu Sultan and the British. When the British laid siege upon Srirangapatna, the erstwhile capital of Mysore kingdom, Vira Rajendra sent his treasurer Karnika Subbayya and his officer Karyakara Bopu to invade and claim the Tulu region, which was then part of Mysore.
Inner stairway
Bopu led the Kodagu army and defeated Sadri Behari and Mir Mohammed who held the Kodial (Mangalore) district. Kodagu occupied Mangalore, Barkur, Bantwal, Bellare, Viragamba, Udiavara and other regions. Karnika Subbayya came to hold and govern Kodial at that time.

News came from Srirangapatna that Tipu Sultan was killed. Mysore was taken over by the British. The war ended and Kodagu was made to evacuate the Tulu region and return it to Mysore. Karyakara Bopu was later made the Sarva Karyakara of Kodagu.

Biddanda Somayya
Biddanda Somayya was born in the year Roudri (1800) to Bopu and his wife Mayavva. Bopu died in 1807 at the young age of 38 years. In commemoration of his remarkable army tenure, the Raja of Kodagu ordered that Bopu be entombed near Gaddige.

Biddanda porch
Officer Somayya

Somayya joined the Raja's army in 1821. Like his father he rose through the ranks to become the Sarva Karyakara. In 1834 Kodagu came into conflict with the British. Under Somayya, the Kodagu army was able to inflict initial damage upon the British army. But Chikka Vira Rajendra, the last Raja of Kodagu, chose to surrender to the British. He was then exiled and the British took over Kodagu.
Bavali Biddanda Graveyard
At that time the British decreed that all the native officers would be retained. But Sarva karyakara Somayya refused to be in the service of the new government. He said that he had served under the Raja of Kodagu all his life. Hence he didn't wish to serve the British, a new master, and thus he chose to retire early instead. After his retirement, Somayya lived in the Bavali Biddanda Ainmane and farmed his land.

A shrine to the Biddanda ancestors
However Somayya had one last wish. After his death, he wanted to be buried beside his father and before the Rajas of Kodagu. The British allowed this and refused to have anybody else, including any surviving relatives of the Rajas, to be buried in the Gaddige area. Somayya died in the Ainmane on a Saturday, early in the morning of 16th August 1879. His tomb was erected in Gaddige with the permission of the Chief Commissioner of Coorg. There is a separate graveyard for other members of the Biddanda family in Bavali as well.