Of images and oral narratives

Of images and oral narratives

The Koti-Chennaya Theme Park in Karkala is also a folk museum dedicated to two warriors of the bygone era, Koti and Chennaya. The park with its well-laid-out landscape and interesting artefacts transports the visitor five centuries back in time.

Legend has it that the twins Koti and Chennaya lived in the later part of the 16th century. They were born to Devi Baidethi of Billava community in Tulunadu. They lost their mother soon after birth, and spent their early years under the care of Perumala Ballala, a local ruler, who cared for them as a token of gratitude towards their mother for treating his grievous injury.

Stories of yore

The brothers grew up to be valiant heroes. But the kings’s coterie considered them a threat and succeeded in letting them go away. This antipathy continued wherever they sought shelter.

The common people held them in high esteem for their bravery and courage with which they stood up against social injustice. However, the duo met a tragic end due to a treacherous act in a combat near Yenmur in Sullia taluk. Though their history is made known through the paddanas, remnants of their existence are still found, authenticating the oral narrative.  

The brothers were raised to divinity, and to this day, Koti and Chennaya are being worshipped in shrines called garodis that dot the Tuluva landscape. 

In Karkala, away from the land where they were born and spent their days (Puttur and Sullia), an attempt has been made to document the heroic life of Koti and Chennaya. The theme park was inaugurated in 2012 and draws curious visitors from across the country.
Once the visitors step inside the compound through a traditional entrance, a vast garden unfolds before them. The tall compound walls draw attention, while murals on the inside walls on either side of the entrance portray Tuluva culture, and the lifestyle of olden days.  

The gigantic anebagilu (elephantine main entrance) opens into a chavadi (the drawing room of a traditional house). At the chavadi, the visitors are left to be awed by the tall colourful wooden statues designed on the lines of the sculptures of Mekekattu in Udupi district. The chavadi has a conference room on both sides.

Imposing statues of Koti and Chennaya greet the visitor from a distance in the courtyard. The 10-foot-high statues are erected on a two-foot-high pedestal. It is said that every nuance of the twin heroes’ disposition was taken into consideration while carving the statues.

Rich disposition

The museum in the theme park is constructed in the style of a garodi. It captures the lives of the brothers through its display. Paintings in Surpur style, portraying significant events in the life of Koti and Chennaya, are aesthetically placed on the walls. The 36 paintings signify the 36 years of their existence.  Explanatory notes are placed below each painting. Surendra, the curator, narrates the events in the typical paddana (folklore rendition) style. His passion lends further charm to the ambience.  

Apart from that, articles which were in use those days and antiquated in later years find a place in this museum. Wooden water lifter, wooden water container, wooden boxes, ploughs, noodle maker, different kinds of swords, cradles, metal artefacts, chennemane (a traditional board game) and many more metal and wooden items including those used in bhoota worship are on display.

These items indeed provide a glimpse of the life then. Some of the rare photos of the places Koti and Chennaya were said to have frequented too are kept in the museum. 

The theme park is well maintained and adds to the charm of the place. Nonetheless, it is underutilised, the vast outdoor expanse can be a serene platform for organising cultural programmes.  

The Department of Kannada and Culture manages the theme park. Located away from the hustle and bustle of the town, the six-acre park is an ideal place for culture enthusiasts.

The theme park is open from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm on all days.

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