Avathi's many legends


B V Prakash visits Avathi and discovers that the non-descript village was once ruled by Ranabhaire Gowda, a forerunner of many chieftains including the legendary Kempegowda.

Avathi was ruled by feudatory chiefs of the Vijayanagar era. Ranabhaire Gowda (below) was one of them. (Bottom) ‘Hittina Bande’, a huge boulder. (Photos by the author)

As one drives along Bellary road from Bangalore, a few km beyond the town of Devanahalli, one passes by a nondescript village called Avathi. Not many take notice of the village as the highway leads to the flyover at this point. Even a cursory glance at the settlement may reveal a drab and dusty township with the backdrop of a hillock full of large boulders.

But if you are an explorer who delves deeper into the history of little known villages, there is something for you to know at this place.

Though I had often passed by this town, it was only during a recent journey that I could make some forays.  The first thing that impressed me and evoked further interest was the bust of an earlier ruler right on the busy road.

Ranabhaire Gowda’s territory

The description below said it was Ranabhaire Gowda, who ruled here during the middle of the 14th century.  My enquiries led to a well-informed local, Narayana Setty, who explained the history of the place and even offered to take me around the hill.

Avathi was a prominent territory during the Vijayanagar times ruled by the feudatory chiefs known as Nadaprabhus. The first of them, Ranabhaire Gowda, was the one who founded the principality at Avathi which had a legendary past.

Ranabhaire Gowda was the eldest of seven brothers who lived in a place called Elamanji Puttur near present-day Kancheevaram in Tamil Nadu. This region was then known as Morasu Nadu and the people here were called Morasu Vokkaligas.

Road to Avathi

Gowda had three sons and a daughter named Doddamma, who was extraordinarily beautiful. Attracted by her beauty,  the local chieftain in the area wanted to marry her. When his advances became vexing to the ruler, Ranabhaire Gowda decided to leave the place and escape his wrath. One night, he quietly left the place with his family in bullock carts lock, stock and barrel. Moving northward all through the night, the family reached Palar river by dawn.

They could not cross the turbulent river when Gowda’s daughter, Doddamma, a pious girl prayed for help and threw her gold earrings into the river. Her prayers were answered and the river receded miraculously enabling them to cross over. Having escaped from the chieftain, they settled peacefully in the boulder-strewn forest which was to evolve later as the town of Avathi.

One day while he was digging out his belongings, Ranabhaire Gowda stumbled upon a cauldron filled with gold. He also found a statue of Channakeshava. Later as ordained in his dream, he built the temple of Channakeshava.

With the windfall he gained, he built his own little empire and a fort on the hillock and lived prosperously. He also begot a son, Jayagowda, who later became the Yelahanka Nadaprabhu. It is said that when as a child he was in a cradle tied to a fig tree (atthi), a serpent (haavu) had spread its hood on him to protect him from the sun. Later, this place was referred to as ‘Havu-Atthi’ , which was shortened as Avathi.

Ranabhaire Gowda was the forerunner of many feudatory clans including the Kempegowda lineage, rulers of which formed their own principalities. Though no remnants of the fort remain, signs of the bygone era can still be seen in the form of broken pieces of iron tools and pot sherds strewn around the hill.

Another legacy of their presence is the tiny image of a woman carved on a rock  on the way to the top of the hill. This represents Veera Kempamma, a brave woman and sister of Ranabhaire Gowda.

At the summit stands a tall boulder. To the western part, some boulders with interesting shapes can be seen. ‘Hittina bande’ is a huge oval shaped rock sitting precariously on a very small base. Further down, the path leads to a spring and a shrine of Kanikalamma. Legend has it that whenever the monsoon fails, there is promise of rain if spinsters worship at the shrine.

Though Avathi has an interesting legend and potential as a tourist place it has not received due attention.

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