Some years ago, while watching the award-winning “Kanooru Heggadathi”, two things lingered — the lush greenery that painted the screen, and the Kannada poet Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa (Kuvempu) on whose novel it was based. And, I made a mental note to visit the poet’s rain-drenched hometown some day, and see the places that inspired him to break into such evocative prose and poetry.
I finally get a chance to make it to Kuppalli in Karnataka years later on a typically rainy day. And, fall in love with the place, awash in myriad hues of green.
Our first stop is the house of the poet, which has stood tall for two centuries and a half. Kuvempu Prathisthana, a Trust founded to keep the Kannada poet-laureate’s memory alive, has painstakingly renovated it to ensure visitors take back a slice of Malnad, and christened it Kavimane (poet’s home). It was opened to the public in 2001.
And, how you do! The home lovingly recreates a typical Malnad home, complete with furniture, kitchen utensils, and the things used by the poet and his family. Some of the displays bring a smile on your face — the wedding invitation of Kuvempu, the ‘mantapa’ in which Kuvempu’s wedding was performed — and others, a tinge of sadness — a wall clock behind the bust of Kuvempu stands still, showing the time of his death at the age of 90.
The Trust went through a lot to collect old vessels, things used for the puja, playthings such a chennemane ( pallankuzhi), lovely areca nut sheath caps and kadani (an iron cylinder from which gunpowder used to be burst to alert people in case of death, etc.).
The kitchen is a treasure trove of utensils, some of which can still be seen in Malnad homes.
The saragolu used to make kadabus (a predecessor of the modern idli maker), the othu shavigemane (used to make stringhoppers), the bagamerige on which cooked rice was drained of gruel, wooden trays, storage containers, pickle jars and huge ladles…
There’s so much to take in, and in a size you don’t see in kitchens these days — a gentle reminder that Kuvempu’s house was originally inhabited by eight families. Near the kitchen is the room for new mothers, where they were nourished.
Among the interesting displays of Kuvempu’s personal effects that the pleasant guide Vishwanath points out are the first editions of his books, a lock of his snow-white springy hair, his hand-written Ramayana Darshanam, (including mentions of para breaks, and a correction carried out on 12/10/1939), and his Bata slipper size 8, priced at Rs. 56.95!
There is a section devoted to photographs and paintings, where people can see the poet laureate as a loving granddad, and as a regular guy getting a shave.
The tiny loft where he used to write throws up spectacular views of the Sahyadri range. And, on display are the chair and table he bought with his first salary at the Ramakrishna Ashram.
A little walk from Kavimane is the hillock where Kuvempu is said to have headed every evening, and let his verses flow. A Stonehenge-like monument has been raised here by architect K.T. Shivaprasad. Stand atop the dull-black rock where he once stood, and all you can see for miles around are acres and acres of greenery. There’s not a soul around, but for the occasional cry of a peacock, and bird call from afar.
Kuvempu went there on May 16, 1936, and carved his name for posterity. And, that’s where he lies in rest now, surrounded by 3,500 hectares of protected forest, called Kuvempu Abhayaranya.
Thirthahalli is 60 km from Shimoga, and Kuppali 15.5 km from there. Kavimane is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, and the entry fee is Rs. 5. The KSRTC runs a bus from Bengaluru every night at 10.30 p.m.. A canteen takes care of your food, and dormitory accommodation is provided at the centenary building. Call 08265-230166 for details.
The home lovingly recreates a typical Malnad home, complete with furniture, kitchen utensils, and things used by the poet and his family