Retracing the poet's footprints

literary heritage

Retracing the poet's footprints

Bhumika Rajan visits the ancestral home of poet laureate Kuvempu at Kuppalli, a tiny village in Shimoga district, and can’t help but think about the dramatis personae in the master’s works, including Subbamma Heggadathi and Nayigutti.

A pleasant misty morning and cold wind force sleep out of our systems as Teerthahalli (near Shimoga district) approaches. Kuppalli, the home of Rashtrakavi Kuvempu, is barely 15 minutes from this village. As the bus enters this remote hamlet, we can’t find a soul on the street.

There are not many houses here. The ancestral home of poet laureate Kuppalli Venkatappa Puttappa, better known as Kuvempu, is now a museum; another house is occupied by a relative of the poet.

A recently constructed guesthouse and a small canteen which serves food to those who visit Kuppalli are all that can be found here. And then there is the forest, deep and dark that surrounds the village. Characters from the poets works such as Hoovayya, Nayigutti and Subbamma Heggadathi all come rushing into one’s mind. So do the wild animals he talks about in his novels.

My friend asked the watchman of the guesthouse if there were any chances of spotting a tiger even now, as he guided us into the guesthouse. Soon we realised that it was just us, three young women, who were staying there. It sounded exciting till we realised that were in the midst of a forest.

That thought sent a chill down our spines. Then there was the fact that there was no network coverage on any of our phones. If you are lucky enough, on top of Kavishaila, there might be some vague connectivity. But, when one is at Kuppalli, far away from the madding crowd, no network coverage could actually be a boon.

Kavimane

The home where Kuvempu spent his younger days is now a museum. There are household items and agricultural tools that were used in olden days, copies of books written by the poet, photos of his family and friends, awards, certificates and various other memorabilia. The bathing place and the long ritual of bathing which he describes so vividly in the ‘Ajjayana Abhyanjana’ episode of ‘Malenadina Chitragalu’ is in the backyard of the house.

Next to the main portion of this building is another structure where everything related to a traditional agrarian society, right from Malnad Gorabu (a protective cover used during the rainy season) to a bullock cart are housed. Lines from his poems have been engraved on granite slabs that are placed almost everywhere in the vicinity of the house. There is also a bookstore inside the house where both Kuvempu and his son Poornachandra Tejaswi’s works are sold.   

Kavishaila

A little later, we headed towards Kavishaila, a hill adjacent to the poet’s home. There are two paths to reach Kavishaila. You can either opt for a vehicle and take the motorable road or choose the forest path and climb the hill if you care to take in the beauty that surrounds the region. It is a little tiring but worth it.

It is said that the poet would run up to this spot and sit there, looking at the sunset, sunrise and lose himself in the lap of nature. If the spot is so beautiful now with its abundant greenery and looks like a painting, then one wonders how it might have looked to the poet’s eyes years ago, when he was a young lad. Atop the hill is a huge rock which bears the signatures of Kuvempu, BM Shrikantiah, TS Venkannaiah and Poornachandra Tejaswi.

It has been preserved with utmost care. It is a treat to sit here and watch the sunset. The stone pillars erected here bear a resemblance to England’s Stonehenge. Kuvempu’s grave lies right at the entrance of Kavishaila while close to the guesthouse is Poornachandra Tejaswi’s grave.

The most appropriate time to climb the hill is either during the sunrise or the sunset. But if you are a little scared of the wild and think you might hear the wild cat’s roar, then don’t step out after sunset. In fact, when we decided to return, it was quite late. Yet we chose to walk down the same path we came by. Halfway down, there was a mild roar and a slight rustle. Not losing a second, we ran with all our might down the hill into the canteen, gasping for breath. In all probability, from what we were told, it was a tiger! 

Close to Kuppalli is a place called Huliguddu. Huliguddu is not exactly a tourist spot but a huge rock behind which it seems tigers can be spotted sometimes at night. Kuppalli, which lies in the lap of the Western Ghats, provides the tired city dweller a break from the monotony of urban life.

The serene, calm atmosphere can rejuvenate the senses. However, it is sad that commercial activity has slowly begun to disturb Kuppalli’s picturesque beauty.

And yet, it seems, all of Malnad beckons. No wonder then that Kuvempu’s poem ‘Malenadige Baa’ (‘Come to Malnad’) has these famous lines ‘Malenadammana Madilinalli/ Karmugilanodalinalli/ Manemadiruvenu sidilinali’, describing the beauty of the region and imploring one to take comfort in its womb.

How to reach: There is a direct bus which plies to Kuppalli from Bangalore. Also, several buses ply from Bangalore to Shimoga and Teerthahalli.

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