Sound Solution For Tiger Menace

Farmers in Coastal Karnataka devised a tactic to keep tigers away from livestock. After all, they knew tigers, too, had a weakness

The sight of tall columns spewing smoke and fire amidst a cluster of industries belongs to the Mangalore Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) in Bajpe.

Except for stray palms and shrubs, nothing indicates the once-existing thickly-wooded forests or its famed inhabitants, the ferocious tigers.

The beasts are popularised in Paddana (Tulu folk literature) and other forms of oral history. 

In the story Jokatteya Patte Huli — from a Kannada textbook printed in the 60s, meant for Class 6 — hunters track down and kill a tiger that preys on the livestock of Jokatte village, in the foothills of Bajpe.

Historians point out that the shrines dedicated to Tulunadu's Pilichamundi and Rajan Daiva spirits indicate that tigers and wild boars destroyed produce and distressed farmers. That farmers were left to devise creative scare tactics to keep tigers away as their Jain kings upheld Ahimsa. (Only the Vitla and Kumble royal families were not from the Jain community.)

As proof, there exists a device (sadhana) known to have scared away many a tiger.

Called Huli Odisuva Sadhana, it takes the pride of place in the Abbakka Tulu Adhyayana Kendra Museum and Tulu Baduku Vastu Sangrahalaya, which belongs to historian and museologist Thukaram Poojary.

He has been reconstructing the life and times of Tuluvas for three decades now. And still, the two-part wooden instrument impresses him because of its simplicity and effectiveness.    

The set-up has a long handle and a wooden plank connected by a cogwheel at perpendicular. Upon swirling the handle, the cogwheel rotates, comes in contact with the wooden plank, and generates a loud rattling noise — koturrr. 

Poojary, drawing from folklore, says farmers were aware that tigers had immense muscular strength, but their courage wavered.

After all, farmers  had the practice of suspending two dry palm-fronds at the entrance of cowsheds, and the nightly winds caused the fronds to clash and produce an eerie noise that surely scared the beasts. Huli Odisuva Sadhana would surely work, then.

It's said the device was an utilitarian object in every farmer's house across Dakshina Kannada.

Elsewhere

The use of Huli Odisuva Sadhana has been reported in different parts of India and the world.

A leading Karnataka-based tiger expert and conservation zoologist, Dr K Ullas Karanth recollects seeing a different-looking object with the same purpose in Uttarakhand. He says its sound resembles a tiger call, but the device at Poojary's museum is known to make a leopard call.

The same instrument has been used to shoo away birds, according to a vice-chancellor of a university in Czechoslovakia, who has seen the demo of the object in the museum. 

Now, now...

With population boom comes industrialisation and deforestation.

With tigers in the endangered list of animals, the device has gone out of circulation and is no longer seen in the houses of farmers.

With such a disappearance, a bit of Tulunadu's historical essence is relegated to history, alas, says Poojary. 

Huli Maduve and Fakir Gowda

Conservation zoologist and an expert on tigers Dr K Ullas Karanth says Huli Maduve (marriage) was not a myth but a celebratory hunting ritual that prevailed in Kodagu when tiger-hunting was legal a few decades ago. 

Hunters became eligible for the title of Huli Maduve after they had shot at least 40 tigers. At the coronation, the hunter was decked-up in a Mysore peta and taken on a procession.

According to oral histories, one Fakir Gowda held 48 Huli Maduve titles. Pili Subba of Siddakatte, who died at 90, was perhaps the last of the hunters who held the title of Huli Maduve.

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