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Deep in the land of Kodavas

M P Nitin Kushalappa, Sept 29, 2015: 0:02 IST
serene A view of the Akkavva Sthana shrine. Photo by author
One morning, I came to a place, known as Kakot Parambu, near the town of Virajpet. Parambu, meaning a holy meadow in the Kodava language, is known for its scenic beauty.

The green landscape stretches over a hillock within a gateway and is visible from the road. Before it stands a school ground and a ceremony hall. At one side within the precincts is a small shrine dedicated to Chavundi (Chamundi), while on the other side is the Kakot Achchayya Temple.

Legend has it that Kakot Achchayya and his sister Kakot Akkavva walked to this place in the ancient times. Kakot Achchayya, also known as Kombu Meeshe (horn moustache) Achchayya, had a manservant called Kari Kotta to attend to them.

They settled down here and a Mahadeva Temple was built for them. Over the years, the Kakot Achchayya Temple came to be known as the Kala Bhairaveshwara Temple.

The Kala Bhairaveshwara Temple has a horse figure representing the kshetrapala, guardian of the region, overlooking it. Behind this temple is the shrine of the kodi beera (war hero). This smaller shrine is dedicated to an ancestor of the Mandetira family who had died a violent death. He is represented by a rock placed upon a platform. To the side of the main shrine is a large tree upon a platform called the Kariyappa Sthana.

Beyond that is the shrine of Akkavva, known as Akkavva Sthana, which has a well near it. Before the Akkavva shrine is a tree with the small figure of a crane under it. Beside this tree is a temple pond which also has a similar crane figurine by its steps.

The Mandetira family is the Deva Takka of the temple. Deva Takka family members are responsible for the management of the temple. According to their family tree, the earliest known Mandetira ancestor is one Bogayya. His son Achchunna was the brother-in-law of Utta Nayaka of Kadnur, a very powerful chieftain in the 1780s. Achchunna went to Tulunad (Dakshina Kannada) and sent an archak (priest) called Sankana from that land.

Sankana and his descendants, the Kukkemane family, thereafter served as the priests of the Kakot Temple. Achchunna never returned. A memorial was built for him there at Kodapada village in Dakshina Kannada. During times of strife and conflict, Achchunna’s son Medayya was beheaded by a king. A memorial, called the Kodi Bira Sthana, was built for him at the place behind the temple where his head fell. Medayya’s young son Subbayya was the last remaining member of his family.

His widowed mother, who was from the Iychettira family, raised him. Upon coming of age, Subbayya joined the Raja’s government and was given his family property. A painting, which shows him paying the Raja his respects, wascommissioned in 1805.

Subbayya remained in the government of the Kodagu Rajas for a long while, serving under Dodda Vira Rajendra, Devammaji, Linga Rajendra and Chikka Vira Rajendra. When the British took over the administration of Kodagu in 1834, the native officers were all retained. Unlike his father Medayya who had antagonised the ruling power of his times, Subbayya had remained loyal to the Rajas and later to the British, under whom he came to earn a medallion and pension for three generations. He later retired as parupatyagara, a senior government official.

Much of the family history has been documented by the clan members. The Mandetira, the Kukkemane, the Nellamakkada and a number of other families have helped renovate the temple over generations. Every year, ceremonial dances are held in the Kakot Parambu mand. In 2007, the Mandetira family organised the annual Kodava Hockey tournament.

The Ainmane, the ancestral home of the clan, has a wooden portico and entrance wall. A family tree of the Mandetiras is displayed by the entrance. The beautiful but small and old painting depicting the Kodagu Raja Dodda Vira Rajendra and Mandetira Subbayya is within a wooden frame placed on the wall behind the hanging prayer lamp. The kaimada, a private shrine built in remembrance of clan ancestors, and a sanctuary for el koot murthy (seven spirit-deities) are located nearby.

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