Monday, May 9, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 15

Another event which has stood the test of time in my memory is the visit to a place called ‘Benne Gudde’ (Hillock made of butter) on the shores of the sacred river Tunga, not far from our village. The place got its name because of the pure white sand on the river bed. The occasion was the ‘Upanayanam’of Chandru & Chandru, two boys from our neighborhood (one from Kelaginamane and the other from Naduvinamane). This trip was in reality a picnic party as far as we young boys were concerned. We really enjoyed every bit of the journey in the deep forest and the ceremony in the temple on the river shore.

We started early in the morning from our village after finishing our breakfast. We had to first mount a hill on the outskirts of our village called Kithlekatte Gudda. On reaching the top of the hill we could see our village on this side as a beautiful picture full of natural beauty. On the other side we saw a valley full of deep forest with a rivulet flowing down and joining the Tunga at the far end. There was a narrow footpath (kaludari) through the forest on the narrow banks of this rivulet. We started climbing down the hill on this side through this narrow footpath. We could hear the sound of forest animals and saw the monkeys jumping from one tree to other. One or two snakes crossed our way, but we were accustomed to seeing them and were little bothered. The sound of the stream of water flowing down the hill was music to our ears. We could collect a good number of forest fruits without even climbing the trees as they were bending down on the slope of the hill.

We were at the temple well before the ‘Muhurtham’ for the ‘Upanayanam’. The priest of the temple was in fact the Purohit of our family (and the entire village), Sri Shankar Bhat. He was responsible for conducting all the religious ceremonies in our homes. He had to visit all the village houses on Ganesh Chathurthi day every year for conducting the Ganapathi Vrutha. He was also required to visit our homes on the Yugadi day (Hindu New year day) with the new Vontikoppal Panchangam.He would read out the forecast for the New Year as per the Panchangam.He would then religiously hand it over to the Yajaman of the house. Shankar Bhat had grown old by that time. He vacated the place shortly afterwards and moved to Jog in Shimoga district to stay with his daughter as he had no sons.  We never saw him again.

The function was held in a grand manner in the temple. Elders from our village assisted the cooks to prepare the grand meals. We all went to the river bed to see the vast strands of beautiful white sands. These sands have given the name to this place which it richly deserves even to this day. The river water here is so pure and sweet. In fact there is no exaggeration in the saying ‘Ganga snanam, Tunga panam’ (Ganga for the bath and Tunga for the drink)! We returned to our village in the evening. As usual the return journey was not as pleasant as we were all tired and exhausted.

I would like to record here the famous ‘Rangamahal Murder’ case which created a sensation in the entire State of Mysore at that time. It happened in the year 1956 when I was eight years old. In fact I even remember the date on which the murder took place in Gandhinagar, Bangalore. It was on the midnight of June 5th.

Belur Srinivasa Iyengar was a famous criminal advocate in Bangalore in those days. He had a palatial bungalow in Gandhinagar called Rangamahal in Bangalore. I am told that the house stood at the place where the present Syndicate bank Gandhinagar branch office is situated. On the fateful night the entire family was wiped out by a murderous gang. But Rangamani, one of the daughters of the advocate, was mysteriously left out. She was the pet daughter of the advocate and in fact the bungalow had been named after her.

The news spread like wild fire in the entire state and even a distant village like ours got it fast. Actually there was only a single house in our village which had a radio and another house used to get a newspaper on the next day only. We all kept ourselves fully aware of the developments in the case by closely hearing our elders’ discussions. The police did a very fine job in the investigations. The police dog squad was also put into good use. They were successful in arresting the three criminals who committed this heinous act. They were Govinda Reddy, Krishna Reddy and Muniswami. The case went on for a long time and we kept well in touch. Ultimately all the three were awarded capital punishment. They were sent to gallows at the Central Jail in Bangalore itself. We were all thrilled to read and hear how the three criminals faced their death penalty. In a recent article in Times of India it was mentioned that it was the last time death penalty was enforced in a Bangalore jail.

A good number of detective novels were written and even a film was made in Kannada basing on this murder case. A lavani (typical poem written in a popular format) was also written which became so popular that even now I can recite it in its entirety. Mysteriously the real persons who were behind the scene and who planned and executed the murder through the three hired killers were never identified and punished. The motive appeared to be professional jealousy.

If I remember correctly, hardly one year afterwards, a similar sensational murder took place. This time it happened nearer to our home. This was in a village called Handigodu very near to our Sringeri Town. A full family was wiped out in this village by some unknown enemy gang. Here again one of the sons of the family was mysteriously saved as he was studying in Sringeri high school. The case became very famous as ‘Handigodu Murder Case’. Top police officials were camping in Sringeri for a long time for investigation of this case. We kept ourselves fully informed of all the developments. Ultimately the police could crack the case successfully. One Shivappa Nayak was found to be the main culprit behind this heinous murder. The case went on for a long time in the court. If I remember correctly there was no capital punishment in this case.  

---To be continued---

1 comment:

Narain said...

This is very nostalgic! I have heard my mother saying myriad number of times, "Ganga Snanam - Tunga Panam! Our village had a girl called Tunga in every alternate house. How I long to see the Benne Gudda! Shall we visit it once even when our legs are strong enough?