I distinctly remember that day in the year 1954, when I was studying in my first Standard. My father had requested our school teacher Srikanta Jois to come over to our house for matching the horoscope of my eldest sister with another horoscope he had just received. Mr. Jois was well versed in this art as he had studied Sanskrit and Vedas at the Sringeri Mutt Sanskrit Pathashala. He visited us in the afternoon. As a boy I was curious to watch this horoscope matching exercise.
Mr. Jois collected both the horoscopes from my father. He took out his spectacles from the pocket of his trademark Gandhi shirt. He went through both the documents and made some arithmetical calculations. His face which looked serious initially started brightening up slowly. Finally there was a broad smile on his face. He announced to the joy of my parents that the horoscopes matched perfectly! So that was it. It was time for my eldest sister to depart from our home.
The marriage of my eldest sister Gowramma with Mahabalaiah of Hokkalike was held shortly thereafter at the Shri GopalaKrishna Temple in Agumbe, the Chirapunji of South India. (The town was made world famous later by Shankar Nag as Malgudi in his TV serial Malgudi Days). Quite for some days, we found it difficult to accept that our beloved elder sister was no more a part of our home. We missed her too much. But we were equally happy to have her back on some occasions. While my father or eldest brother would go to her place to bring her, my brother-in-law would personally visit us to take her back after some time.
The marriage Gowrakka was one event in our family which opened new vistas for us, especially for we children. Up to that time our vision of life was restricted to one particular mode and we had very little exposure to the way life that was going on in other places. This sister opened a new window for us and from there on we entered into a new world altogether. I would even place this as a major turning point in our family life.
Gowrakka has always taken the role of a second mother for all of us. Three of us have in fact stayed in her house for more than two years to complete a part of our education. She had a soothing effect on all of us by her balanced opinions and advices and cool approach in solving the major issues. She was later joined by our second sister Rukminiakka as our second brother-in-law also belonged to the same place. A part of our life was also spent in her house. Together they always extended moral support to our family whenever we found ourselves in dire straits. We had a good number of such occasions and we always ran to them to find solace. There is a saying in Kannada ‘ballavane balla, bellada saviya’which means, ‘he who has eaten the jaggery, only knows how sweet it is!’. Likewise, ‘you can only experience the depth of love the sisters have for their brothers, it is better not explained.’
Initially when she was first married our eldest sister used to come back to our house frequently. We used to just wait for her arrival anxiously. We all would gather around her in the evening to hear about her life in her new home! She had a joint family and would narrate a lot of her experiences which were quite interesting to all of us. She had fitted herself into her joint family like a fish into water. She had learnt to cook some special delicacies which were unheard of in our place. One such item was jaggery from the seeds of jackfruit! The days would run fast and we used to get upset when the time of her departure came. The first time when she was going back she took my second elder brother with her. He came back after two months with lot of things to tell all of us.
Next it was my turn to accompany her. I had long waited for this D-day. It was for the first time I was going out of our village for staying in a different place. To say that I was excited would be an understatement!
As usual our brother-in-law came to take back the sister. We three of us started from our home in the early morning. We were supposed to travel the entire journey by foot only as proper bus route was not available. In the first leg of our journey we passed through our areca garden and reached the base of a small hill. After climbing the hill and stepping down on the other side we found a pucca road. Half a mile on this road took us to a hillock covered with forest. We had to climb down deep through this forest when we arrived at a place called Bhuvana Kote.
Here we saw the house of ‘Basri brothers’. Theirs was a big family with huge land holdings. One of the brothers was then the General Manager of Karnataka bank at Mangalore. Their father was very close to my father and he was no more. The brothers had grown up in front of my father and he knew them all well. Many of our villagers had taken their sons to Mangalore to seek the help of the ‘General Manager’ for finding a job for them. But he had maintained a ‘clean slate’ by not helping anybody even if they fully deserved! My father had also taken my elder brother to him on completion of his B.Com.degree. But he could not spoil his ‘clean image’! But later I came to know that he had to employ one of his close family members in his bank for some unknown reasons by spoiling his ‘clean image’. Believe it or not! The job offered was that of a peon! That was the maximum he could do as a General Manager!
Next we had to pass through a paddy field to reach the border of another forest. A footpath through this forest took us to a main road. Moving on this road, we passed through two places called Hallimane and Kondibylu. Here we heard the sound of the fast flowing river called Sitha. We crossed the river with some difficulty and reached a place called Narve on the main road. On the way we could see the confluence of the rivers Sitha and Tunga at a place called Ardikoppa. This is a beautiful place with a small temple. A super hit Kannada film ‘Yeradu Kanasu’ (two dreams) was shot in this place a few years later. The place became so famous that the priest of the temple came to be recognized as ‘Yeradu Kanasu Bhatru’!
At Narve we were lucky to find a lorry which was going to Hariharapura on the route to our destination. The driver was known to my brother-in–law and happy to take us with him. It took hardly 20 minutes for us to reach Hariharapura on the banks of River Tunga. Hariharapura is a small village and agraharam located at a distance of 19 KMs from Sringeri. It is the home of Sri Adisankaracharya Sharada Lakshmi Narasimha Peetam and Sri Math with a history of over 1,000 years.
Legend has it that Sri Adishankara prayed to Goddess Sharada to follow him and grace the place, where he would assume her power to be eternally radiant. Shankara’s intention was to take the Goddess to Sringeri for installation. Mother Sharada granted the request on one condition. She would follow him but he should not look behind during the course of the journey. If he did, she would stay in that particular place forever. The Acharya agreed and started walking down from Kashmir to the South, all the while listening to the tinkle of the Mother's anklets. When he entered Hariharapura he did not hear the sound and made the mistake of turning back to see the Mother standing there. Sankara offered his prayers and to mark the holy spot consecrated the Sri Chakra and placed the Mother's image on it. Even today, one can see a rare statue of Sharadamba in standing posture. Later, seeing the disappointment of Shankara for not being able to take her to Sringeri, she agreed to be present in Sringeri on all the nine days of Navarathri, as a special case.
Here we had to cross the Tunga River. Further on our way we came to a place called Bommalapura. This place is known for the famous temple of ‘Thripuranthaki Amma’ on the banks of Tunga. Every year during ‘Chaitra masam’the ‘Rathotsavam of the Goddess would be held in a grand manner. Another two KMs of journey from here took us to Hokkalike the home of my sister.
--- (To be continued) ----