Curating Keladi's heritage

REPOSITORY OF MANUSCRIPTS

Curating  Keladi's  heritage

 Ashok Kumar T visits the Keladi Museum and Historical Research Bureau, and comes away impressed with the museum’s collection of rare palm-leaf manuscripts and artefacts   that date back to the reign of Keladi Nayakas.

He has invested his heart and soul to accomplish the mission of collecting historical manuscripts and educating people about the importance conserving heritage.

He has travelled to every nook and cranny of Shimoga’s villages to do so. We are referring to Keladi Gunda Jois, who has played a key role in setting up a museum at Keladi. Recently, Vijayanagar Sri Krishnadevaraya University conferred an honorary doctorate on Joshi in recognition of his work. Today, the museum is lauded as a place worth a visit .

It was in 1962 that Gunda Jois established Keladi Museum and Historical Research Bureau in Sagar taluk of Shimoga district. Over a period of time, a board of trustees consisting of eminent scholars was formed to look into the affairs of the museum. However, they were faced with the challenge of raising funds to get the wheels turning.

Finally, in 1985, the team succeeded in receiving grants and donations from National Museum of Delhi, National Archives and the Government of Karnataka. In 2005-06, the museum was handed over to Kuvempu University of Shimoga and received the status of affiliation to the university. In May 2005, the Keladi Manuscript Research Centre was linked with the National Mission for Manuscripts Network and since then, it has documented more than 50,000 manuscripts under the guidance of Gunda Jois, the project co-ordinator.

Rare artefacts

This rural museum, located close to the premises of the well-known Rameshwara temple, is a storehouse of historical accounts of Keladi. T he museum has a large collection of rare objects which includes swords, combs, coins, brass idols and soldiers’ attires. More than 3,000 palm-leaf manuscripts, paper manuscripts, 15,000 entries and historical records, copper inscriptions, stone sculptures and paintings, and several interesting antiques of the Keladi period are displayed in the museum. 
  
Among the art objects, the betel-nut crackers, locks and keys, weights, utensils with artistic carvings, coins of Portuguese, Haider Ali and Tipu regimes deserve special mention. A collection of rare letters written by the then Mysore maharajas, their dewans and luminaries such as Sir M Visvesvaraya, marriage invitations, utensils and other interesting artefacts of the Mysore period take us back in time.

The recovered idols and stone sculptures of Hoysala and Chalukya period between 16th and late 18th century are exhibited in the ground floor. Hero stones, sati stones, nisidi stones, statues of Jaina tirthankaras, Kalabhairava and Chennakeshava are also on display.

Some of the works of art that stand out for their creativity and artistic excellence are S K Lingannayya’s ‘Bhagavadgeetha’, ‘The Guardian Angel of the British Empire’, which depicts the queen standing in the middle of the sea, with the sun shining behind her, ‘Sri Rama Pattabhisheka’, ‘Lalita Tripura Sundari’ and ‘Vayustuti’. We were told that natural pigments extracted from the fruits and flowers have been used in some of the paintings, but surprisingly, the colours still look vivid.

The scene on the first floor of the museum is totally different. We found the staff very busy working on the palm leaves and paper inscriptions, digitising and indexing them with accession numbers, etc. The palm inscriptions are being cleaned and smeared with citronella oil.

One of the staff members said, “Scientifically, citronella oil gives flexibility to the palm leaves, repels insects and has strong antifungal properties.” He showed us a set of scripts wrapped in red cloth and added, “Traditionally, the scripts are covered in red silk cloth. It is also believed that red colour repels insects and silk prevents the growth of silver fish and bugs.”

Treasure of knowledge

This library has a rich collection of manuscripts in Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu, Modi and Tigalari script relating to history, literature, astrology, astronomy, art, dharmasastra, medicine, mathematics, veterinary science, etc.

Multiple folded kadathas — the records and filing system of erstwhile kings and their courts for a complete year written using soft stone balapa on cloth seasoned with tamarind paste and charcoal — reveal stories frame by frame when unfolded.

The curator of the museum and a historian, Venkatesh Jois, son of Gunda Jois, said, “The museum holds a large amount of historical information on the Keladi Nayakas’ dynasty, established by Chaudappa Gauda in 1499. Among the Nayakas, Shivappa Nayak was one of the prominent rulers of Keladi who brought reforms in the land taxation system. Chennamma, a famed ruler, governed Keladi for about 25 years.

During her reign, she had to face the anger of the Aurangazeb for maintaining an amiable relationship with the Marathas.

However, she valiantly defeated the Moghul ruler. Chennamma’s life itself is a source of inspiration to all who love freedom, courage and nobility.” He also added that there is lot more to unearth about Keladi dynasty as Nayakas ruled Shimoga and coastal regions of Karnataka, Goa and north Kerala for 260 long years.

The establishment of a research centre and publication wing by this less known rural museum is a milestone in the mission of knowledge dissemination. The publication section, so far, has over 12 books to its credit. The descriptive catalogue of palm-leaf manuscripts, ‘Parvathi Parinaya’, ‘Sivatatva Rathnakara’ are a few to name, among them.

The museum functions from 10 am to 5 pm except Sundays and other government holidays. In the recent past, the library section has started attracting a large number of research scholars and archaeology lovers who are interested in exploring history and artifacts belonging to Keladi Nayakas’ reign.

The ‘Keladi Utsav,’ organised by Sagar taluk Itihasa Vedike, in association with historians, journalists, Department of Kannada and Culture and the district administration, will go a long way in keeping the heritage of the region intact.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry