In our childhood days nothing was more interesting to us than the stories of hidden treasures. The stories from the Arabian Nights were most appealing to us because of only one single reason - the discovery of hidden treasures. Whether it was Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves or The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, all of them involved the discovery of hidden treasures at some stage or the other. Another salient feature of these stories was the fact that the discoveries were made by persons who were under-privileged and honest or adventurers like Sinbad. This fitted us well as we thought we were also under-privileged and would definitely go on adventure one day or the other! So much for the optimism of our childhood days!
We used to hear a number of other stories also about the hidden treasures. We enjoyed all of them invariably. But we were missing one particular story very badly. Our father used to frequently refer to Devarayyana Gantu (the treasure of Devaraiah) for things which remained untraceable. He used to often say things were as elusive as Devarayyana Gantu! We used to really wonder about both Devaraiah and his Gantu. That remained a puzzle to us. But our father never revealed the mystery in spite of our overenthusiastic queries to him. He kept his cards close to his chest!
Another interesting thing about Devaraiah was the peculiarity of the name itself. I remember one occasion when our father told us that he was going away to see Kulur Devaru. We presumed that he was visiting a temple at Kulur. When he returned in the evening we were expecting him to bring some prasadam of the Devaru (God)! But we were disappointed to see him empty handed! Our father laughed at us and told us that Devaru was in fact the name of a person! We could not really understand the reasons for naming a person as God!
There was a specific reason for our father to desist from telling stories to us in spite of owning a large repository of stories. He was a vagabond in his younger days. He had lost his father when he was quite young. He had come up in his life in a very hard way. His experiences in the early part of his life were indeed worth telling. But he had a problem. Whenever he started telling a story, he would divert from the main story within no time. So much so that he would not even remember from where he started! In fact he used to repeatedly attempt telling the story of a gentleman called Ganapathi Kalaiah. But interestingly, he could never tell us the end of this story during his entire lifetime!
But our father was also as vulnerable to his kids as any other father could be! One day we found him in some excellent mood and raised this topic of hidden treasure. And Lo! He started narrating the story of this mysterious man called Devaraiah and his Gantu!
Devaraiah was the only son of his parents who lived in a house called Naduvinamane in our neighbourhood. The parents were childless for quite a long time. Ultimately they visited the Chandramouleswara Temple at Sringeri and prayed to the God fervently. They also met the then Swamiji at the Mutt and received his blessings.
The God Chandramouleswara was very kind indeed. The couple was blessed with a son after some time. The family visited Sringeri again before holding the naming ceremony of the child. They sought the blessings of the Swamiji for the child. Simultaneously they also requested him to suggest a name for the child. This was quite an unusual request. However, the Swamiji kindly advised them to name the child after some God.
As a matter of custom and practice, the Swamijis of Sringeri used to speak in a low audible voice. In this case, the Swamiji had told the parents in Kannada –”yavudadru Devara hesaru idi “(“give the name of some God”). But the parents had missed hearing the word – yavudadru (some). They only heard – “Devara hesaru idi “(“give the name of God”). They left the Mutt fully convinced that the Swamiji had asked them to name the child as Devaru (God)! They faithfully named the child as Devaru! That was the origin of this peculiar name called Devaru in our community! The name automatically became Devaraiah (in keeping with the traditions of the community again) as the child grew up as a young man.
Soon it became a fashion to name the child as Devaru! Perhaps the news that the name was suggested by the Sringeri Swamiji made it more authentic! But the Swamiji was quite unaware of this development. Anyhow, the tradition continued. The Kulur Devaru was one such instance. There were some extended versions also! They were like - Puttadevaru, Krishnadevaru, etc. But soon this tradition also went out of fashion! But then that is another story!
Our father had successfully completed telling the first part of the story. We were quite amused to hear the origin and the significance of the name of Devaraiah. But we were more curious to hear the part second of the story – about the Gantu (treasure)! But Lo! Our father suddenly diverted from the story as was his practice so far! We tried to get him back on line. But we failed miserably!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
10th April 2011