On a literary trail

On a literary trail

Those who want to spend their weekends in a serene place with some nostalgic moments and cultural insights won't find a better place than Kuppali, the native place of Rashtrakavi Kuvempu, around 20 km from Thirthahalli town in Shivamogga district. Kavi Mane, the poet's ancestral house-turned-museum not only showcases the lifestyle of typical Malnad dwellers, but also throws light on the eventful childhood of the great author.  

The poem titled 'Nanna Mane' (My Home), penned by Kuvempu, is engraved on stone in the premises of the house. The areca plantation around the house and the lawn in the front enhance the beauty of the location. The picturesque Sahyadri mountains and the chirps of birds are sure to remain in the visitors' memory for a long time.

Though Kuvempu spent most part of his life in Mysuru, his experiences from Malnad region and the fond memories of his growing up years in Kuppali had greatly influenced his life and works. In fact, his emotional attachment with the Malnad region is clear in his  literary creations.  

Visual treat

The sculptures of Kanooru Subbamma, the protagonist of the novel Kanooru Heggadithi, and Nayi Gutti with his dog Huliya, characters from  the novel Malegalalli Madumagalu, have been installed at the entrance of the art gallery. The sculptures are designed by artist H N Krishnamurthy. These sculptures help people visualise the characters portrayed in his novels. The paintings that depict scenes from his novels, including Gutti and Thimmi enjoying sunrise, and Aitha and Peenchalu enjoying rustic dance in nature, provide a glimpse of Kuvempu's narratives.

Above all, Kavishyla, a rock monument made of megalithic rocks and dedicated to Kuvempu, is on top of a hillock. It is said that the place was a constant source of inspiration to Kuvempu and he penned many poems sitting here. In order to attract tourists and literary enthusiasts, the Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Pratishtana based in Kuppali has developed the place aesthetically and maintained it meticulously.  

Manappa, who is in charge of Kavishyla, said that the place where the poet has been laid to rest is the most visited place at Kuppali due to its ambience and the breathtaking view it offers of the dense Sahyadri mountain range. "While around 500 people visit the place every day, during holidays, the number reaches 2,000," he said.

Upholding his values

J K Ramesh, a former member of Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Pratishtana, said that the Pratishtana has played a crucial role in  transforming the poet's memorial into a cultural centre by organising various programmes including seminars, theatre workshops, film appreciation camps, painting and cartoon workshops, etc. These events are held at Kuvempu Centenary Bhavan  throughout the year in collaboration with various associations. The social  messages and values of life propagated by the author have been executed here. Mantra Mangalya, a distinct wedding ceremony advocated by Kuvempu, is the best example for it. Under this model, no religious rituals are performed when the couple enter into wedlock. The bride and the bridegroom are made to read  Kannada shlokas (hymns) written by Kuvempu that include the messages of fundamental freedom and the significance of the institution of marriage.

Explaining the features of Mantra Mangalya, Ramesh said this model disallows dowry and recognises marriages across castes and religions. Horoscopes have no place here. The wedding expenses are kept minimal. The guest list is restricted to close relatives and friends. Around 10 such marriages take place here in a year.

G Prashanth Nayak, Kannada professor at Kuvempu University, said, "Kuvempu was progressive in his thoughts. He made a street sweeper the protagonist in his play Jalagaara and thus gave recognition to working class people." Above all, his Vishwamanava Sandesha (Message of Universal Man), where he says, "Every child, at birth, is the universal man. But, as it grows, we turn it into a 'petty man'. It should be the function of education to turn it again into the original 'universal man'", transformed Kuvempu into a  Rashtrakavi, writer of the nation. "Kuvempu was the first writer who depicted the beauty of Malnad region extensively in his works and thus introduced it to people across the State," he said.

Hampi Kannada University has set up a study centre in Kuppali. One can also see the memorial built in memory of Poornachandra Tejaswi, noted writer, thinker and son of Kuvempu, here. We can also find a display of Tejaswi's wildlife photos in the art gallery.

There is a steady flow of tourists, students and literary enthusiasts from across the State and even from neighbouring states to the place. Those who travel to Sringeri, Horanadu and Chikkamagaluru take a brief halt at Kuppali as it is situated on the way to these tourist destinations. People from various parts of the country visit the place after reading about Kuvempu and Kuppali. Hampa Nagarajaiah has written a book on Kuvempu in English titled Kuvempu-
Vignettes of man and mission. This  book has been translated into 12 languages. A documentary on Kuvempu is also screened in the home theatre for interested visitors. Accommodation facilities are also available for those coming from far-off places.  

Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Pratishtana was formed in 1992. Hampa Nagarajaiah, president of the Pratishtana, visited Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of renowned playwright William Shakespeare, to know how the childhood home of the writer was developed. "The office-bearers of the trust visited Santiniketan in West Bengal, which had been developed on Rabindranath Tagore's principles of humanism, internationalism and a sustainable environment. We also visited the houses of prominent writers across the State. The objective was to transform Kuppali into a cultural centre, that attracts even those who haven't read Kuvempu," said Kadidal Prakash, assistant secretary, Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Pratishtana.  

Well-known  poet Chennaveera Kanavi said, "The place exudes positive vibes. I believe that this is the real strength of literature. The museum  will be beneficial for students and literary lovers to know and understand the poet. There is a need to develop native places of all major writers on the lines of Kuppali."

Ranadheera, a research scholar, feels that Kuppali is like a window to Kuvempu's literary works. A visit to the place will help students, particularly literature students, improve their knowledge about the writer and understand the base for his works.

The Pratishtana instituted the National Literary Award in the name of Kuvempu in 2013.  It  has also been entrusted with the responsibility of developing the poet's birthplace in Hirekodige village of Koppa taluk, Chikkamagaluru district.  

The trust also publishes and sells all the works of Kuvempu. Besides, the trust runs a mobile van service to make his books available across the State. Kuppali has set a model as to how a source of literary inspiration can be developed into a vibrant cultural space as well as a preferred tourist destination.

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