My first school teacher Srikanta Jois was related to the Belavinakodige family. He was the husband of Rukmini, the granddaughter of Yallappaiah. Jois was the younger brother of the Sanskrit scholar and Vidwan Shri Shankaranarayana Jois who taught students at the Sringeri Veda Pathashala. Jois was staying in the Belavinakodige house with his family so long as he was posted in our village. He was an expert in horoscope matching. He could also perform all the functions of a regular Purohith. Every morning he would leave for the school from the house along with all the school-going children of the family. Jois was my teacher up to 2nd standard. Thereafter he was transferred to a place called Bendehaklu.
The Ganapathi temple, the only temple in our village, was under the hereditary control of the Belavinakodige family. The family had earmarked five khandugas of paddy field for the archak of this temple. He was to deliver the prasadam to the family daily after the pooja. He would also deliver the prasadam to every house in the village on all the Chauthi days. This temple was at the far end of our village. There was an ancient Jain stone inscription near this temple. There were reasons to believe that Jainism thrived in this part of Malnad once upon a time. An archaeological team from the JCBM College, Sringeri, under the leadership of Mr. Sundar, the then Reader in history and an expert in Indology, had visited our village in the late sixties. The team conducted an excavation near the Ganapathi temple and had found definite proof of an ancient culture and settlement in our village. The news had appeared in the front pages of the Kannada newspapers at that time. But unfortunately there was no further follow up on the results of this expedition.
It can be safely presumed that the establishment of Shri Sharada Peetham and the Mutt at Sringeri by the venerable Adi Shankara in the eighth century AD must have triggered the revival of Sanathana Vaidika Dharma in this part of Malnad. Naturally over a period of time the practice of Jainism must have ceased to exist here. The establishment of our village temple near the Jain stone inscription gives some clues to arrive at this conclusion.
The Ganapathi temple itself must have had its own history. We used to see the remnants of a large wooden chariot near the temple in our childhood. We could also see several parts of this broken chariot at different houses of our village being kept as monuments. An abandoned Sweetwater well near the temple also told its own story. The temple must have seen its glorious days in the bygone era. There was a large banyan tree with an Aswattha Katte and a Basava in front of the temple. I distinctly remember the staging of three Yakshagana Prasangas (shows) by the well-known Mandarthi Mela of South Kanara in front of the temple in the early fifties. The shows were arranged by the families of Belavinakodige, Puradamane and Kelakodige.
Every year during the Deepavali festival season, there used to be Deepotsavam at the temple conducted by different families on different days. The practice was to prepare the panivara (banana rasayanam, kosumbari, sweet avalakki, panakam, etc) at the respective homes and carry it to the temple on bullock carts. While the elderly males would walk all the way, the ladies and children like us would travel on the bullock carts. I should mention here that the journey by the present day luxury cars is nothing when compared with the wonderful cart-journeys we undertook for the Deepotsavam in the nights of Karthika Maasam! The annual Upakarma was also being held at the temple. The old temple was renovated by Thimmappa Hebbar in the late sixties in memory of his elder brother Ganesh Hebbar.
The late fifties was a period of Renaissance in our Belavinakodige village. The Adult Education Society of the Government of Mysore took active interest in the development of our village. An official called Aradhya visited our village frequently and conducted audio-visual programmes. A night-school for the illiterate adults was also set up and it worked for some time. A public library was set up at the Belavinakodige house with the name Vidyathirtha Pustaka Bhandara. A number of books were donated by different families to the library. The families included Hurulihaklu (BSL Rao), Belavinakodige (Yallappaiah), Hosalli (Thimmappa) and our own Adekhandi (AVR Rao). The news appeared in the Prajavani newspaper and we were thrilled to see the names of the donors including our own elder brother! We had preserved this paper-cutting quite for some time. We used to visit Belavinakodige very frequently to collect the books from the library.
The name of Yallappaiah remains imprinted in our minds on account of one particular reason. It was because of Chandamama. We never saw the senior Yallappaiah mentioned in the first episode as he had died much before we were born. The Yallappaiah we saw was the first son of Thimmappaiah, the younger brother of Ganeshaiah. He was a young man by the time we saw him in our childhood. He was a regular subscriber of this wonderful children magazine of those days. All the issues used to carry his name on the top of the magazine as the subscriber. Many a time the magazine was collected by my elder brother from Koppa and we used to read the issue before it was delivered to the Belavinakodige house. Besides, we used to read all the old issues at the house whenever we attended some functions there.
I distinctly remember the dibbana for the marriage of Yallappaiah leaving the Belavinakodige house on bullock carts on its way to Hosanagar. Lakshmi, the daughter of Baisemane Madhava Rao, was the first daughter-in-law of the family we saw at the Belavinakodige house. Yallappaiah had been groomed to manage the affairs of the family. Once Venkappaiah branched out from the family to Bhuvanakote after the death of Ganeshaiah, the family management was taken over by Thimmappaiah and Yallappaiah, as his eldest son. Yallappaiah was the first person in our village to wear a terlin shirt! It was supposed to be a rich man’s dress material. He would go for a walk around the village with this fascinating blue shirt. He would also keep a one hundred rupee currency note in his shirt-pocket. It used to be quite visible to us on account of the transparent material. Oh! How stylish and privileged he looked in that get up! I should mention here that the one hundred rupee notes were hardly in circulation in those days. Only a few people like Yallappaiah had the privilege to carry them!
Our closeness with the family grew after the arrival of Shankar, the third son of Thimmappaiah, at the Belavinakodige house on completion of his education at Shimoga. He was a very close friend of my eldest brother AVR. He used to visit our house frequently with his elder brother Srinivasa Rao. The two used to move always together. They would engage in conversation with our brother covering all the events of those times. We used to hear their conversation with great interest. We had never moved out of our village in those days. Hence it was quite useful for us to hear their conversation, which gave us a valuable exposure to the outside world.
At some stage in the late sixties, Thimmappaiah and Yallappaiah moved to a place called Uttameshwara, about 2 kms away from our village, under a family partition. They had purchased a rice mill there, which they managed in addition to holding a part of arecanut garden near our house. Srinivasa Rao, the second son, also moved to Shimoga with his family, for business. The management at the Belavinakodige house came into the hands of Shankar. Shankar has been at the helm of affairs since then along with his younger brothers. We always took his guidance on several matters concerning our family. He has been a well wisher of our family all these days.
------- (To be continued)-------
A V Krishnamurthy
6th February 2011
The narrations are so delightful and fascinating....It is our good fortune that you are such a fantastic writer. Surely I would have missed something had I been unaware about the wonderful life in Malnad.....I also continue to feel astonished by your memory...The details you mention that happen so early in your childhood...( E.g.: Srikanta jois married to Rukmini, moving to another village etc) .....
Eagerly looking forward for the next episode.....
Wish you a beautiful day...