Go on a literary pilgrimage

scenic muse

We started our tour, nay, literary pilgrimage at Hirekodige in Koppa taluk, Chikkamagaluru. Hirekodige is where poet and writer Kuvempu’s mother hailed from. A small memorial here, perched atop a hillock, was devoid of visitors at 10 am, and a bust of Kuvempu greeted us. As we walked down to a nearby hexagonal building, we learned that the memorial dedicated to him stands on what was once a compost pit. Kuvempu’s maternal grandfather’s house was passed on to other buyers, who had used the land for composting — a fact that amused Kuvempu.

And the trust Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Pratishtana, instituted subsequently developed the place, and now the memorial has a photo gallery and a rock garden of sorts.

The trust, based in Kuppalli (also called Kuppali) has also built a memorial for Poornachandra Tejaswi, Kuvempu’s son and a writer himself. 

Excerpts from Kuvempu’s writings on granite adorn the building’s walls. In one such excerpt, Kuvempu recalls the journey from Hirekodige to Kuppalli — a distance of five miles then — which he would undertake seated on a ‘man-servant’’s shoulders!

The beauty and danger of the rugged landscape enthralled the young boy and sowed the seeds of a lifelong love for nature. Also on display are photos of Kuvempu at various stages of life starting with one taken of him in 1909 as a five-year-old, with his father and a dog.

From Hirekodige, we went to Kavimane in Kuppalli, in Shivamogga district, where Kuvempu spent his formative years. It has now been converted into a museum. An open yard with a massive tree leads up to the main house. This typical Malnad Totti Mane is a three-storeyed structure with solid wooden pillars, reapers and wooden stairs.

The ground floor has many items including the mantapa, where the poet got married, and his wedding invitation. Kitchen ware of the early 20th-century are exhibited, too.

The first floor has the writer’s personal belongings: a pair of Bata chappals, an Oswal sweater, a lock of his iconic white curly hair, and his many awards.

Lyrical reverence

Displayed on the second floor are his complete literary works. The pièce de résistance here is Kuvempu’s handwritten dedication of his magnum opus — Sri Ramayana Darshanam — to his mentor and teacher T S Venkannaiah.

From Kavimane, we set off to Kavishyla, which can be reached both through a trail and by road.

Kavishyla is beautiful and suffused with a poetic aura. It has abundant greenery and overlooks distant mountains.

The poet’s samadhi, the boulder on which he sat and discussed literature with his friends and teachers, the all-pervading silence — there is much to take in here.

B M Shree, T S Venkannaiah, Kuvempu and Tejaswi have carved their names on a boulder here — an incongruously childlike act by great litterateurs.

A majestic recreation of the English Stonehenge is what Kavishyla is now most associated with. A quintessential English icon in a memorial for a quintessential Kannada icon?

Nancy Wisser, who blogs at Clonehenge, offers an explanation, “We don’t know what the connection is that inspired someone to erect a Stonehenge in this man’s (Kuvempu’s) honour, but maybe it was just that, the mystery and beauty and sense of something truly great that Stonehenge represents to so many people is the same feeling that the writings of this poet and thinker inspire in people.”

It was time for us to visit the maverick writer Poornachandra Tejaswi’s memorial.

The weather was pleasant and the rugged feel of the place and the smell of fresh earth felt like something the farmer/environmentalist would feel at home with.

The place, again, has stone pillars in the centre and the writer’s quotes, and excerpts from his books are on the black granite all-round.

One for everyone?

Sitting on the bench there and reading Poornachandra Tejaswi’s writing makes you wish for similar memorials to be built for other Kannada writers as well.

While the task of erecting the memorial at Kavishyla and converting the ancestral Kavimane into a museum was taken up in 2001, Poornachandra Tejaswi’s memorial was dedicated to the nation in 2010.


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