Cultural remnants of the past

Despite the changes, these areas haven’t lost touch with traditions and culture. It is in the interiors of these places, in the lanes and by-lanes, that one can find the practices of the early days still in vogue.

Mysuru is known for its rich cultural heritage but often, the structures are emphasised upon devoid of their cultural significance. As cities expand and develop into commercial spaces their cultural identity takes a hit. This is true of Mysuru as well. For instance, the agraharas have lost their character. In place of the old tiled houses built by the erstwhile rulers, modern buildings of concrete and steel have come up. One or two such houses may be seen here and there as a relic of the past. These houses were gifted to Brahmin scholars by the rulers and today, only a few families live in these agraharas

However, keris in the interior parts of the old city have somewhat retained their cultural identity. Although modern buildings have come up in place of the small old houses that were owned by families belonging to various groups engaged in traditional jobs. Primarily, these groups were involved in selling limestone, whitewashing houses, setting mud tiles etc. These groups have changed occupations over time and moved away.  

Despite the changes, these areas haven’t lost touch with traditions and culture. It is in the interiors of these places, in the lanes and by-lanes, that one can find the practices of the early days still in vogue. One such place in central Mysuru is Sunnadakeri, a part of Krishnaraja Mohalla. 

As the name reveals, this area was famous for sunna (lime) used for whitewashing buildings. Families living in this keri used to sell limestones in baskets in front of their houses. People bought the limestones and availed their services to limewash the houses, prior to the advent of modern paint. Some senior residents take pride in the fact that they supplied lime to the palace when it was constructed in the early 1900s.

During my morning walks in the keri, I’ve come across the remnants of the past and its traditions. There are old wrestling houses (garadi mane), at least a dozen Rama mandiras, gaddis, shrines dedicated to local deities. Besides, small shops, huge banyan and neem trees and many processions during festive occasions, street plays are often organised here in praise of the local deities. 

Furthermore, the Kanchugarara street is dotted with many old structures of worship. A small shrine of Yallamma, a local deity, caught my attention here. Jayamma, who conducts worship of Yallamma, calls me in to show the objects of worship. “Seventy years ago, K R Yallappa Rao, my father, had a dream in which a goddess appeared and told him, ‘I am Yallamma. I am in this neem tree. You worship me. It will be good for you.’  Accordingly, my father brought the image of Yallamma, which was lying discarded on the opposite side, and built this temple, placing the image in front of this neem tree,” she says. Leading me through a narrow passage around the tree she shows the limbs of the goddess in the neem tree, including her spread-out saree and a section resembling a five-hooded serpent.

The prominent places of worship in Sunnadakeri are the two gaddiges of Siddappaji. At the end of the same road, there is a single cell shrine of Masthamma, and another of village deity Maramma. The twin deities worshipped by the people here for relief from diseases.
It is in these keris, where the cultural heritage of Mysuru is still alive, while the rest of the city is developing.

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