Tippu Series Part 8: Why the “HERO” term?

His hunger for expansion reflected on the great seal of Tipu found in Major Alex Dirom’s comprehensive account of the Third Mysore War published as early as 1793 in London, The translation reads: “I am the Messenger of the true faith. “I bring Unto you the Edicts of Truth. “From CONQUEST & the Protection of the Royal Hyder, comes my tide of SULTAN & the world under the Sun & Moon is subject to my Signet.”

Tippu wanted to replace Kannada with Persian language… our beautiful Kannada language is one of the oldest languages… recently joined the rank of the oldest living language in Guinness Book of Record. Said to be in use for more than 2500 years. “Siri Kannadam gelge” Jai Bhuvaneshwari mate (thank you for sharing your name with me). Tipu Sultan & his father Hyder were no real manninamagas (“sons of the soil”) as claimed by lawyer turned politician held position both in state & central governments in 1999. How a Persian became true sons of the soil.. only Karnataka politicians can come up with such cruel jokes!! Another one went further with proposal to name Bangalore International airport after Tippu. LoL… some politicians snore during session… Karnataka has managed to produce some real cari-creatures for politicians!!

Many consider him a hero based on the theory that he fought against the British. Their attitude seems to rest everything including barbarism as collateral damage!?! Was this contention true or was it a one way traffic… if he was against white-man why did he invite the French, another white-race? What is the different between French & British? Doesn’t that actually MAKE HIM THE BIGGEST TRAITOR OF INDIA? He risked his life to fight with English & defeat them so that he can fulfill his own dream of becoming Padshah!! {Padshah is a superlative royal title, composed of the Persian “pad” (master) & the widespread shah (king) roughly equivalent to the ancient Persian notion of “The Great” or “Great King”}.

The renowned historian & one of my relatives, Dr. Ichettira. M. Muthanna, says in his Tipu Sultan X-Rayed that Tipu was a traitor as he invited the French to invade India. The letter, dated April 21, 1797, written by Tipu & classified as No. 4 in the Persian File of Records, & quoted by Muthanna in his book, reads:

“Citizen Representatives:

Since I manifested my friendship in writing to you, my messengers have arrived with the following intelligence which will not be displeasing to you.

“The Nizam, an ally of the English, & the Chief of the Mughals, is very ill & his age leaves no prospect of his recovery. He has four children who are disputing the right of succession. One of them is much attached to me, (he) is the favourite of the chiefs of the people & is expected to succeed him.

“I inform these events in order to prove to you that it is now the moment for you to invade India. With little trouble we shall drive the British out of India. Rely on my friendship.

“Your ally (Sd) Tipu Sultan.”

At this juncture Before I proceed further I would like to ask an important question to my fellow countrymen… hope someone comes up with the right answer… was Tippu Sultan really an Indian to begin with? His originless Grandfather came hitch-hiking perhaps as a porter with some businessman before landing in Kolar. So that makes Tippu a Second Generation illegal-immigrant. Hence he was as much a foreigner as the British who were there before him. If Tippu is acceptable as a hero, then why did Britishers have to leave India? Other than the skin colour what else did the Barbarian, Tipu have in common with Indians? Hyder himself claimed descent from the Arabs. Tippu had strong Persian obsession. What a mangling of Indian history… OMG. This is what is called MAYA (illusion)….

Tippu Series Part 6: How did the Tiger became LAME?

In January, 1790 Tipu launched an attack against Travancore but due to certain unexpected turn of events he ended up with a humiliating defeat. Tipu & his army were camping on the banks of the Alwaye River before launching the attack on the Travancore defense lines (Nedunkotta Fort). The Travancore army was no match for the huge Mysore army & the monsoon season was 4 – 5 months away. Therefore, a temporary bund was constructed way up on the stream by a team headed by Mr. Kalikutty Nair under the guidance of Raja Kesavadas, the Prime Minister of Travancore. When the Mysore army launched its assault & Nedunkotta was penetrated, the temporary bund was breached in the midst of heavy fighting, causing an unexpected flood which drowned many Tipu’s soldiers & rendered the gunpowder wet & useless causing panic & confusion in the Mysore army. {Sadly even the valiant Kalikutty Nair was also drowned in the sudden surge of water & became a martyr}. The triumphant Nair forces of Travancore inflicted heavy casualties on the invading army. In the confusion Tipu Sultan fell down from the ramparts of the fort into the ditch below along with his palanquin. The fall made him permanently LAME.

It is recorded in Travancore history & also confirmed by the local folklore that as the wounded Tipu was lying unconscious in the battlefield he was rescued by a Nair soldier who quietly carried the unconscious Sultan to the Mysore military camp during the night & left quickly (p. 518). The brave Nair soldier could have easily killed the unconscious Tipu but unlike power hungry maniac Tipu, killing a wounded was against Nair’s ethical beliefs.

Later on, the Travancore forces recovered from the ditch, the sword, the palanquin, the dagger, the ring & many other personal effects of Tipu & presented them to the Dharma Raja. Some of Tipu’s personal weapons & ornaments were sent to the Nawab of Arcot on his request (Travancore History by P. Sankunny Menon, published by Kerala Bhasha Institute, Trivandrum, pp. 191-92).

According to Mr. Powney, who was the Resident Representative of the English Company in Travancore, Tipu’s attack was not only effectively stopped by the Travancore army, Tipu himself fell down from the rampart, was seriously wounded, & was rendered permanently lame during the counter-attack by the Travancore forces.

Tippu Series Part 4: The marauding Tiger

Roderick Mackenzie (1793) commented on Tipu’s march to Trinomaly & his mayhem there in 1790: Here neither respect, for the grandeur & antiquity of their temples, nor veneration for the sacred rites of a religion whose origin no time records, proved any protection for the persons or property, even of the first Brahmins. Their pagodas, breached with sacrilegious cannon, were forcibly entered, their altars defiled, their valuables seized, their dwellings reduced to ashes, & the devastation was rendered still more horrible by the scattered remains of men, women & children, mangled beneath a murderous sword. (Vol. 1, p. 203).

On his raid of Napoklu near Madikeri, Tipu destroyed the temples in the the surrounding villages of Betu & Kolakeri. He set fire to the house of the Biddatanda family. Forty members of this family were captured as prisoners & transported to Ganjam. After a few years, two members of this family escaped from Ganjam & returned to their hometown. One of them was a warrior named Appanna. However, the people of his hometown decided that he had now become a Mapila (Muslim), & excommunicated him. Appanna built a hut near the town-lake & spent the rest of his life there. This lake was in existence till recently, & was known as the Appannajja kere (Lake). Like the siege of Nargund letter (quoted earlier), he left nothing in the path of destruction. Remnants of the savagery that Tipu inflicted upon the hapless Kodavas are visible even today. His actions could dwarf every event from Afghanistan to Middle East combined. (Sandeep Balakrishna- Tipu Sultan The Tyrant of Mysore page 105).

Even today, we find the descendant of these Kodavas who were forcibly converted during Tipu’s time. these Kodava mapilas till recently used to celebrate Coorg festivals, built houses (called ain-mane) like the non-Muslim Kodavas, bore the same arms, the same kind of jewelry, & carried similar surnames. We have surnames like Alira, Cheeranda, Chimma Cheera (this surname is shared by non-Muslim Kodavas), Duddiyanda, Kaddadiyanda & Kolumanda in Virajpet. In Davanageri village, we have Muslim family names like Puliyanda & in the regions surrounding Virajpet, we have Muslim family names like Kuvalera, Italtanda, Mitaltanda, Kuppodanda, Kappanjeera. Similarly in the Madikeri taluk, we have Kalera, Chekkera, Charmakaranda, Maniyanda, Balasojikaranda & Mandeyanda.  Intriguingly, in the Hoddur village in Madikeri taluk, there is a Muslim family with the surname of Harishchandra… (Sandeep Balakrishna, Tipu Sultan the Tyrant of Mysore page 108).

Being Kodava – “No Thank you”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going against the theme of this blog by saying “no thanks” to being a Kodava. That’t not what this is about. Often I get asked where I’m from and more often than not people haven’t heard about Coorg. I also sometimes explain to people how and why the culture is so different from those that surround us.  There’s a lot of hype about our origins, including that we’re somehow connected with the Greeks of Alexander’s time. “Being Kodava” is my take on what it is to be a Kodava, and some of the things we should be proud of.

Someone once asked me how do you say thank you in your language. I told them in my language, we do not have words for “Thank you, Please, or Sorry”. We have never been taught it, and as far as I know, these words don’t exist. Did they once exist but were got rid of once the brits took  over our educational system? We’ll never know. But what I was told was the reason for this paucity of “Golden words” is because for kodava’s,  it’s our duties as family, community and friends to help each other out at all times, to always be there for anything, without having to ask please if you want something, say thank you when you have been helped, or say sorry if you have hurt.

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This is quite deep if you think about it. Western education is steeped in the use of golden and kind words almost mechanically, sometimes without really meaning it. Making helping others a duty is really unique in our culture, and it really has to do  with the unique clan setups we have in Coorg: Clans typically helped each other with everything from planting crops, defending them against wild animals, celebrations, festivals, weddings, wars, etc. Every traditional wedding begins with the close family members getting together to cook for the entire wedding. It is our duty to help.

See there is more to being Kodava than coffee, Greeks and our weddings!

A Summer morning in Kuwait, one of THE HOTTEST countries!! Part 2

There was a lady plucking the henna (mehandi) leaves… its leaves are supposed to cool the head in summer besides being strengthening the hair roots.. there are many bushes in the park & when it blooms spreading the pleasant fragrance nice to be near it. As I was thinking what she is going to do I caught hold the sight of this young boy perhaps around 8 years of age sitting & crying. He looked like from a decent family sitting on the low parapet wall facing the 5th ring road in bright sun shine. It was only 6:10 am but it was bright.. I thought he must be lost & as a mother I could not resist myself & walked upto him & asked him if he is lost? He was a handsome little Arab kid neatly dressed in a white short & white & blue striped T-shirt. Shaking his head still tears rolling he pointed his finger to tell me he knows his house. I asked him if he needed anything.. he just shook his head.. when I finished the round about 10 minutes, I did not see the boy in its original place & I felt happy thinking he must have gone home… then I saw him moved to another part of the wall where there was shade from trees.. so he was clever enough to understand things… I did not want to ask him again but tried to take a picture from far without getting into his privacy. Even though I was not close when I clicked the mobile he turned immediately… so he was alert too… on the way home was wondering what must have made that young boy from a decent family to be in that spot so early in the morning… I was thinking of my own son in that age… somewhere somehow this stranger boy had touched my heart. My neighbor a doctor by profession forever punishes his eldest son (he has 3 kids – 2 boys & a girl) sometimes I hear him screaming late in the night & even 5 am…. the boy crying… there were occasion I felt like going & punishing the doctor myself. I myself was (is) a strict mother but when I punish my elder two children always smile at me or run around the coffee table me chasing them!! Is it because I am their mother & not father? do children punishment from parents differently? I still can’t understand..

Cats and sparrows in kuwait garden summer hot trash workers

The Park looked peaceful & safe. Last few years the Park has been the favourite joint for bunch of malicious youngsters from 3-4 different nationalities who snatched chains, mobiles & anything valuable. Thanks to the effort of the cops, eventually they were all arrested… not sure deported or rotting in the jail. How stupid of those young men who lost the privilege of living in Kuwait for temporary sensual gratification. They not only rocked their life but also their family… everything happens around us has a lesson to teach.. Once this park also hosted the one & only homeless Kuwaiti (but luckily it was self imposed – why I have no idea most likely he had mental issues as I had seen him passing vulgar/livid remarks on women passerby!) He used to wear clean clothes, had carpet with pillows to sit, cartons of mineral water, fan & visitors too… hum so much for homelessness!! Heard police had evacuated him & wonder where he is now?

There were couple of dog walkers around the park wall but unlike in USA they simply don’t clean up after the mess created by their dogs. May be they think they can create the top soil or manure for the trees from the biodegradable byproduct… just kidding.

It was time for me walk back home before the sun starts smiling at me… when I passed in front of an old Arabic school, scores of very large gunny bags were on the pavement for a second I thought wow such a large polypropylene (PP) cement bags… but when I neared the bags, it was cane sugar packed in Dubai… what a place to store… perhaps it was there for repacking… wondered if the heat will react with the gunny-bags & turn the  to cause some disease but one thing was certain that the sugar was insect free!

I saw one of the watchman was wiping the cars with cloth… giving the final touch. I wondered how long the hose was spilling water wasting the resources of the Mother Nature & contributing to pollution. I wish I could tie up those people who waste & not give them water for a day so that they will realize the value of fresh water. One interesting factor I like to mention which I am not sure practiced elsewhere is that when we rent a house, the watchman has a condition (UWL – Unwritten Watchman Law) that at least one car (usually everyone has more than one – secondhand cars as well as fuel are cheap compared to rest of the world) should be washed by the watchman, usually they do a lousy job. The standard rate is KD5/= (roughly the rate is 1 dinar = 3.3 dollars) per car. So 10 kd per flat along with the rent, 5 car wash & 5 for garbage clearance. The best joke is that the watchmen does not really clean the car… in 90% of the cases they will hire a free lance cleaner generally a Bangladesh to do the job & share the total cost.

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Cats and sparrows in kuwait garden summer hot trash workers kids playing football soccer

Finally I was home sweet home a place which makes me feel like a queen… when I walked in with sweat dripping all over, the cool air of central air conditioners & the sight of my indoor plants were more than welcoming but when I went to have bath I realized that my feeling of nice morning was almost a mirage… as the tap water was pretty warm… while having bath another surprising factor brought a smile to my lips… Sun.. Sun everywhere Sun but people still take Sunshine Vitamin “D” tablets!!

For those years I stay behind in summer, I am always compensated in a different way… also it brings the nostalgic memories of my childhood.. I love fruits, growing up in the wilderness of Kodagu I enjoyed my summer plucking & indulging in wild fruits which is of course a luxury now with growing population, plantation, felling of trees & extinction of species. In general Kuwait is paradise for fruit lovers & come summer the varieties of fruits available even in the small fruit shop is mind blowing. To top it the prices are so very reasonable compared to most of the countries I have visited & even to India!! Guess it’s because there is no tax & the low fuel price. God bless my beloved Kuwait & its people, a country with which I have developed a deep attachment with beautiful memories. Kuwait is a well balanced country with the blend of old & new… with myriad of nationalities working.

Its 10 am & decided to pick up some water melon from the fruit shop across the street.. I was wrong about the temperature… oh boy its already 40 degrees seemed like its hot enough to cook an egg on the bonnet of the car!! Walking back I thought of the Iraqi occupation days… Thursday August 2nd 1990, then we lived in another location called Shaab opposite to Arabian Sea. There were rumours that the Iraqi soldiers cooked their food just by burying the vessel on the sands… I couldn’t see from my balcony & not sure if it was true but surely it looked like my brain would get cooked if I stand for a while in the sun.

Why do we blink… a fascinating & beautiful story from Hindu Mythology

Have you ever wondered why we blink our eyes… like the beating of the heart.. it goes from birth to death.. unabated… something we take for granted as our birth right & yet we would never wish to lose it?

What would the world be like if we cannot see… the colours around us – the flowers, plants, birds, butterflies, fruits, etc., etc. Eyes are one of the most important organs gifted to us by our Creator. That’s why when the danger approaches the first thing we do is try to protect our eyes. Along with that, we are also blessed with a natural protection mechanism. Everyone blinks their eyes, unless they are paralyzed or suffer from some kind of disorder, till they bid final good bye to this worldly life. This process repeats itself without our knowledge unless we are sleeping. Blinking is the mechanism that protects the eye from external debris & spreads tears over the cornea. With every blink the eyelid spreads moisture over the cornea. There is a beautiful story about the blinking of the eyes (in every 0.2112 seconds) mentioned in Vishnupurana. A story of Love, Duty, Devotion & Commitment which seems to have almost slipped from the modern humanly diet!!

Ancient King Nimi was the son of Mithila King Ikshwaku & the grandson of Manu*, born in Janakpur (now part of Nepal). Nimi was a pronounced king with all the noble virtues & faultless ruling. Living in a utopia like kingdom, the subjects of his Videha Kingdom (aka Mithila) adored him. Keeping the welfare of his subjects and the peace & prosperity of the kingdom, Nimi wanted to perform a particularly powerful Yagna to evoke the blessings of the Gods. Preparation began & in the meantime he needed an exceptional powerful sage as the Presiding Priest for it. So after discussing with the Raja Guru & his Council, he came to the conclusion that Sage Vasishta would be the Presiding Priest.

So King Nimi himself went to Sage Vasishtha & bowed before him & with all the humility said: “Great Sage, I am performing a Yagna for the welfare of the Nation & the subjects. Kindly preside over it.”

Sage Vasishtha frowned & asked, “When are you going to start the Yagna?”

Surprised Nimi said, “as soon as possible Sir. We have already started gathering the essentials.”

Sage Vasishtha fell silent & perplexed & said “I am afraid I cannot come now. I have already committed to Devendra (Indra), the king of Devas, to preside on his yagna. In fact I am on my way & I cannot go back on my word.”

Now it was Nimi who went silent & kept looking at the Sage’s face with so many thoughts going through. He was wondering if he should wait for the great Sage to come back or not. Indra’s Yagna might take long time & it is a well known fact that it is always disturbed by the Danavas (demons – who also happened to be the step brothers of Devas). He thought, ‘the Yagna is not for me but for the welfare of the people…in this constantly changing world no one knows when things will change so I should not wait that long..’.

Sage Vasishta was also thinking… ‘the King has come all the way with humility, love & respect, & of course with a good cause, how sad would it be to send him back empty handed? The moment I am done with Indra’s Yagna, I will perform Nimi’s Yagna’.

Since both of them were highly evolved souls, they could not gauge what was going through other’s mind. Neither of them said anything & both went their ways….

Indra’s Yagna went on for quite some time & the minute it was over, Sage Vasishtha was happy because of the successful completion of the Yagna. Then immediately he remembered Nimi & bidding farewell to Indra he rushed back to Earth.

On reaching Nimi’s kingdom, Vasishta was in for a shock to see that the Yagna had already started with Sage Gautham as the Presiding Priest. Being Presiding Priest was a worthy & very revered job & sight of Gautham occupying what would have been his upset Vasishtha immensely. More over when he reached, King Nimi was sleeping & did not come to greet him too. It heightened his anger further. When in anger, one cannot think straight & Vasishta came to the conclusion that the King had deliberately insulted him by starting the Yagna without him. In the same fit of rage, Vasishtha cursed King Nimi: “You do not even have the courtesy to wait for the sage that you came to first. Such a man is not worthy of having a body. I curse** you, King Nimi that you will be without a body!!” As soon as the curse was uttered, Vasishtha realized his mistake but it was too late to undo it.

King Nimi woke up with a startle & when he heard the commotion around him realized that the things had changed from the time he went to bed. When he looked around he saw his own lifeless body & his family, the entire kingdom along with those present at the Yagna were crying. Wondering what was happening, he closed his eyes & meditated. With his divinity he was able to understand the situation & he was angry that Vasishtha was being so unreasonable. The thought of not completing the Yagna for his subjects & the opportunity robbed for no apparent reason accentuated the anger. Blinded by anger he cursed Vasishtha back saying: “I curse you that you would also be without a body!”

The king had not been a just ruler but also was very spirutal & had considerable spiritual prowess too. Hence his words also came true & Sage Vasishta’s spirit/soul**** left his body…..

Nimi roamed around in the form of a spirit & immersed himself in the Brahman. Now that he was not bound by his body or his responsibilities, he found the true joy of being one with the Brahman. The king became spiritually stronger as he meditated continuously.

In the mean time the citizens of King Nimis were very unhappy & they could not believe that the king who had looked after them like a father was no more. They could not phanthom the idea of continuing the yagna without their beloved King. So with help from the great priest present at the yagna, the family & the subjects manged to preserve the King’s body with oils & scents & continued the yagna with even more vigour.

Once the yagna was completed the Gods came in for their offering. At that time the people presented their plea before the Gods. They said,  “Our King was the greatest king in the world! He performed this yagna for our benefit! It was because of the yagna that his lifeless body lies there…. Please help us!*** “

“What do you want?” the Gods asked them.

“Let the King’s spirit be reunited with the body! We want our beloved King back! Without him we could never feel safe!”

Their intention & request was so genuine that pleased by the love of the people, the Gods agreed to their request.

Using their powers they summoned the King’s spirit & were about to put it back in the preserved body when the King yelled “Please… please… don’t do that!”

The Gods were surprised when the plea came from the King’s spirit.

“I am now free! I do not wish to have any more bondage! Please do not put me back in the body! I wish to continue to be free & become part of the Supreme Brahman!”

“Your people wish that you have to be with them! That is the reason we….”

Nimi looked at his people & memories of his subjects came to him, as if from another life. But he realized that these people genuinely loved & trusted him with their lives. He turned to the Gods & smiled at them. “If my subjects want me to be with them, I will! But not in the way they wish!”

The Gods looked surprised.

“I have lived like a spirit for too long & I cannot be attached to a body! However I wish to be a part of my people & their future generations to perpetuity! I wish to be in a spirit form with them always!”

The Gods granted this boon & even now Nimi is said to stay on in the eyelids of people. It is said that people open & close their eyelids because Nimi stays there. In fact the time it takes to open & close the eyelids is called “Nimisha” in Sanskrit.

However it was not good enough for the family & the citizens of Nimi. So they took the plea to the Sages to find a solution.

The Sages looked at the Kings body & decided that the body itself could be used for creating another King. Using the powers of the mind, they churned the body of the dead King & from it a glowing person emerged with complete spiritual awareness, well-versed in shastras & Vedas. The glowing man was named Kushadhwaja & was crowned as the King. Kushadhwaja was just as Nimi & he kept his people very happy & prosperous. However Kushadhwaja was not known by this name. Because he was born from a dead body, Kushadhwaja was known as Vaideha (son of the man without a body in Sanskrit) & because Kushadhwaja was born without an actual father or mother he was called Janaka (the man without a progenitor). Kushadhwaja was also born from the churning of the mind & hence was called Miti.

The King was/is better known by the name Vaideha Janaka from Mithila the father of Sita…. or Ramayana.

 

*It is said that Manu was the Manasa-putra (son created from mind) of Lord Brahma {the creator – one of the Trimurthi & not to be mistaken with Brahman, aka Paramatman, the Supreme Reality} & he started the new Yuga. The Sanskrit word Manav (for man) comes from Manu as he the progenitor of mankind.

** We often read about Curse in mythology. Everything in the creation is predetermined by Brahman, as Brahman is both the cause & effect. For example when we are born our death is already registered! Only thing a channel such as heart attack, accident, drowning, etc… is required. Hence even the curse of evolved souls has a purpose to surve. Even Sri Krishna was cursed by Gandhari to be killed & his clan Yadukula wiped out like hers did. Otherwise they could not just walk out of earth without reason.

***This was the face of ultimate Sacrifice/Love – Subjects wanted the boon for their King & King did everything for his subjects.

**** Some call it Spirit & some call it Soul… you can choose what you want… after all India is a democratic country!!

Krishna Kamala or Passion of Christ… did I fall from heaven??  

While walking around Kukkanalli pond in Mysore, I saw these wild fruits hanging from the vine on a fence which looked like a small wild passion fruit but was hairy like ramubtan. I was very sure it’s the cousin of passion fruit as the flower & the leaves looked same but I was not sure if the fruit is edible & as usual my husband would not let me pluck it to avoid me eating it. Known as Kukkiballi in Kannada is also called clock flower, love-in-a-mist and stinking*.

I have seen & tasted passion fruit all my life & simply love the amazing taste &, flavour of the juice which is hard to find on shelves even though its presence is felt strongly in most the cocktail juices. It’s a popular fruit in Kodagu & every one, young & old alike loves it. The pulp is used in juices, wines, ice creams, cakes (my mouth is watering, honestly), etc. Some of my relatives make amazing concentrates. There are more than 400 species in passion flower family passifloraceae & the flower is usually white & purple or mauve. Depending upon the variety & climatic conditions, there are many types of passion fruits & comes in different sizes, shapes & colours like purple/maroon, green, yellow etc & the taste could be sweet to sour to somewhere in in-between. Usually the purple/maroon ones are sweeter!!

When we were young we also used to eat a wild variety just like the passion fruit but with slightly elongated fruit with supple outer cover & white flower (I think), which is hardly seen these days. It said to have possessed many medicinal properties.

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Those who have not seen or eaten a passion fruit, the globose fruit have a white sack (which resembles dressed goat tripe – the Turkish towel like stomach cover) inside the smooth, hard outer shell/cover. The sack is filled with numerous black seeds with a very thin coating of orangish-yellow, pulpy-juicy flesh. Even when the fruit is wrinkled outside with aging, the sack inside remains fresh for some time.

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Coming back to the flower, it also comes in exotic colours such as dark purple, red, fuchsia, etc. But they are mostly ornamental & do not seems to be bearing fruits. The flower stays for a day only but blooms practically every day & butterflies are attracted to these flowers. The wild, cultivated & the hybrid flower formation looks the same at the first glance. But if you look closely it differs from one another. It looks as if so many different parts from different flowers are put together to form an unusual master piece. Human globalization is happening now but this species seems to be far ahead of us. The flowers usually have pleasant smell (at least the ones which are known to me).

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The amazing thing is that the uniquely beautiful flower & the vine is linked to scriptures & believes in different religion. The name passion flower was given by the 15th century Spanish Christian missionaries who thought that the flower depicted the crucifixion (passion) of Christ (Crown of Thorns (corona), & other parts as the instrument – 3-nails, 5-wounds, sponge of Gall & vinegar, Pillar of scourging, sacrificing blood, Centurion’s spear (leaf), lashing (tendrils) & the fruit (as globe). Some people also link it to sexual passion, after all a man sees in the world what he/her carries in his/her heart….

In India it is called both as Krishna Kamala (particularly the large purple one) & Paanch Paandav (Mahabharata). The unique formation of the perennial flower is supposed to symbolize or represent: The waxy-white Petals (5) alternating with sepals (5) with their green hook (awn) at the tip for ten Avtars of Vishnu, five 5 filaments with anther in the center for five well-armed Pandavas, the single ovary (bulb in the center) for Pandava queen Draupadi & the three styles with stigma for the holy trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva. And the corona filaments are the Sudarshana-chakra of Lord Krishna. I was told that the filaments are hundred in number representing the Kauravas. I had to hire a pro-bono investigator to count the number… & luckily my husband’s niece who also has a degree in criminology fitted the bill & she reported back with a picture: I counted the filaments with a tweezers and there are exactly one hundred!!

To top it, the 3-lobed leaves which are alternately arranged along the stems & borne on stalks, shaped in trident (Lord Shiva’s weapon) form. Whatever one may perceive it as, one thing is certain that it is amazingly beautiful. Don’t believe me take a break & look in the neighborhood you might find one or go to a botanical garden!!

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I am sure besides being beautiful, there is something special about this flower as thousands of miles apart two different believers associated their belief in it!! After all the life spark/energy in me is the life spark/energy everywhere & everything comes from God almighty. If beauty lies in the eye of the beholder – Faith lies in the very being itself. When you are in love with God you can see God everywhere & in everything. This unusually beautiful flower looks out of this world… as if someone stole her from the heavenly garden & brought her to earth or perhaps she was so proud of herself & her significance, the weight of the pride brought her down to earth!!

The vine can be reproduced by seeds easily but it’s a very slow process. So commonly it is propagated by mature cuttings. This hardy long lasting vine loves sun but not scorching though & water, & unless groomed can grow uncontrollable yielding plenty of fruits under healthy conditions. So you have to provide a strong support. I vaguely remember seeing large bees & humming bird buzzing around. All the unopened buds from different species are light green in colour. The flower looks strong but it is delicate. The petals & sepals have the same finish & can be passed as petals. But if you look closely the sepals have green hook (awn) at the tip. It is said that each & every part of the flower has specific role which they play religiously!!

Among the flowers I have seen only the wild one on the bank of the pond had bracts, which are supposed to trap insects but if as merely as defensive mechanism to protect its flowers (think it was white) & fruits or is it carnivorous (digest & gain nourishment from its catch) is not known. Leaves & stems of this particular variety is said to be poisonous. Wondering if I should eat & test it??

The whole vine has medicinal properties & is used in treating digestive problems including dyspepsia & diarrhea, an astringent & expectorant for nervous conditions & spasms. Tea from the flower is an antioxidant & used to calm the mind (depressant) as well as sleeping aid, used to contain diarrhea/dysentery, neuralgia, etc.

Origin of KODAVAS (Coorgs) – is it still a mystery??

The origin of Kodavas has been an anthropological puzzle… shrouded in mystery & yet to be decoded… why do they look different & standout in the crowd?? Why do they guard their custom so proudly & closely? And of course, why do Kodava women command great respect & have a large say in raising the family? Perhaps the mystery is hidden in their own day to day lives????

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Have you ever wondered why, unlike the rest of the Hindu communities, Kodavas have the unique custom of Bride’s Mother tying the ‘Pathaak’ (Kodava equivalent of Mangala-sutra) to the bride? It’s a known fact that in every Hindu marriage, the husband ties the ‘Mangala-sutra’ (aka thali) to the bride on the big day. However, according to Kodava custom it is tied by the bride’s mother on the night before the official wedding. There is a very interesting legend to go with… which perhaps might shed some light on the much debated origin of Kodavas as well.

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In the yore… at the period when the earth was visited by Gods & Goddesses, a lovely Devi-kanye (Apsara) fell in love with a man from the earth. The man, a prince** new to the area, was lost while hunting & was resting under a tree mesmerized by the beauty & serenity of the Kodava land. Leaning on the tree, surrounded by nature bathed in all her magnificence, the misty clouds, the mating call of the birds & animals echoed the silent valley below, the air filled with passion & the sight of beautiful maiden took him by surprise. The Prince also fell in love with the gorgeous Apsra instantaneously…. how could he not? Without realizing that she was not in his league he fell in love passionately. Love has no boundary & love is blind after all.

Forgetting his tiredness, his missing entourage, & kingdom, they spent some beautiful moments together. However, both the Devi-Kanye & the Prince were fully aware of the fact that Her father & family would oppose & forbid her from marrying him. They would stop her from leaving the heaven again & any effort from her to meet him would cost her status of the Devi-hood. The thought of separation would be unimaginable… he would rather die than separate from his love. She felt the same way too… she would not give up easily on her love. She made him promise to take care of himself & she promised that she would return to him one day. He was also aware that unlike the Apsara, he could not wait forever because for a mortal like him, death would be inevitable.

india coorg bride wedding pathak saree coorgi kodava

There was no choice but to part from each other & when it was time for her to leave she started crying. She treaded the path back home with heavy heart & tears in her eyes, looking pathetic. On the way she met her old acquaintance, the Naga-Deva & Devate (Snake God & Goddess). They chided her saying why the usual cheerful maiden had tears in her eye & said that crying definitely never suited her beautiful face. If there is any way they could help her to make her happy?

Upon hearing her story, they wanted to help her & the wise couple comes up with a solution to her problem. They said there is a way for her to marry him without him tying the managala sutra & be his wife but with one condition. As a human her husband cannot tie the Mangala-sutra to her but someone from her world can tie the knot on his behalf & she can retain her Devi-hood. But that someone has to be very unique because they should love & care for her more than anyone that ever existed in the three worlds does without expecting anything in return. They suggested that she ask her mother to tie the Mangala-sutra & sanctify her relationship with her prince charming. They also promised her that both of them would stand guard for her protecting from all the evils & perils in the human world.

Her kind hearted, sympathetic mother agreed to tie the Mangala-sutra & symbolize the marriage so that she could go & live with her lover. Her father & the rest of the family also agreed to let her go too. Hence she got married in heaven by her mother with family blessings & left to her husband’s house the following day. Even today Kodavas have two Muhurthas**** on same day. One is separate with each one’s family & the other one “Dampathi-Muhurtha” (dampathi means couple) with the presence of both the families, something perhaps is one of its kind!!

Both lived happily ever after till the prince died of natural causes, raising beautiful family of eleven sons. The eleven sons had hundred each of their own sons, expanding the families further. Years passed & seasons changed & so did her family; her husband died, children died & when her grandchildren started growing old, unbearable at the thought of losing them she returned to heaven*** with sad heart.

The descendants of Apsara & the prince still maintain the tradition to this day… Kodavati women get their Pattak tied by their mother a day before she gets married in the presence of all the elders of the clan & goes to her husband’s house the next day. Priest is absent in Kodava weddings. Each Kodavati is treated very special like the Devi-Kanye. To this day the Pattak holds a Snake Hood on top prominently as protection. Kokke-thati the traditional & compulsory second jewelry worn at the wedding also has a Snake Hood as tribute to Naga Deva & Devate.

So now you know from where the Kodavas originated…. Am I kidding?… is it a fairy tale?… NO Sir it’s the living fact… attend a Kodava wedding & see for yourself… Have a good day.

*The word Mangala-sutra (mangala meaning holy/auspicious & sutra meaning thread) is a sacred necklace that the groom ties around the bride’s neck on the day of the wedding in a ceremony called Mangalya dharana (wearing the auspicious), there by giving her the status of his wife & life mate. Thereafter, the wife wears the Mangala-sutra all her life or till the time the husband is alive as a sign of their marriage, mutual love, goodwill, understanding & faithful commitment to one other. She discontinues wearing it if she is widowed.

** Some say the Prince was none other than Chandravarma, youngest of the four sons of Kshatriya King Siddhartha, the Emperor of Matsya Desha of Chandravamsha (Lunar lineage). He was both pious as well as a great adventure seeker. His eleven sons married the princesses of Vidarbha.

***It is also said that the Deva-kanye was on earth due to a curse & when the period was over, she returned to heaven.

**** Muhurtha (equivalent to mangala) in Kodava custom is the auspicious moment on which stipulated time, the bride or groom is made to sit & seek blessing from the elders. You can read more about it in one of my future articles on Kodava marriage.

Based on the Legend which I heard when I was very young.

Our ephemeral memories on monuments

On June 6th 2014, the world witnessed the 70th celebrations commemorating the D-Day landing of allied forces on the shores of Normandy. An event commercially romanticized by the Hollywood & the media. Anything for publicity & cash in! The who & who of the big nations were present & news coverage went on & on. Old habits die hard…. Some avoided the hostile encounter so the host president got to eat many meals lunches/dinners in separate quarters. But I guess the French never complain about eating food!

Every time I hear of WWII three different persons comes to mind. First one is my late father who told me that India would never have got independence but for the Second WW, a tide which positively hastened the process for Indians. Otherwise the British would never let go a golden goose… & would still be sponging India of its riches. In a cruel twist, Indians owe thanks to Mr. Hitler, at least we are free from Gulamgiri! Born in free India I did not share much of his sentiments THEN but when I think of it NOW, it makes so much sense to me. Hitler certainly boosted the Cause of the Liberation by shaking the rock & creating financial crisis helping us free from the clutches of imperialism & a win against the racial inequality, & to help the sun to finally set in the British Empire. Something good comes out of everything that happens is true after all at least to few Asian & African countries!!

Second one is my late dear cousin whom I was very fond of, for a different reason. Celebrating the dead. She was the youngest among the seven siblings. Her mother lost 2 of her children when they were in their twenties. From then on the drama started. Every time there was any kind of function or festivities or any gathering, big or small, even at weddings, the mother would conjure her dead children. She would either cry nonstop or keep on praising the dead children. In the beginning it was ok but then it became an irritating affair. Every one misses the loved one & they have the right to be remembered but the ones living needs a life too. Any function among family was a doldrums & all the five remaining dreaded any celebrations, big or small. My cousin once told me I am afraid to die because I hate the thought of my mother crying & making my living siblings more miserable. It is not their mistake that they are alive!

Finally my cousin’s sister-in-law, whose husband suffers from PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), once a lovely young couple, now they are divorced as his depression & night mares led him to substance abuse, violence & abusive combined with paranoia. The gap between his life of defense & the civilian society had a big dent. He lost two of his best friends in the war & he felt guilty because he survived them. She tried her best to help him but his both biological as well as psychological changes were too much for her to handle. They had no children & she realized that she could not baby sit or wet nurse her husband all her life.

My cousin’s mother & her life is a drop in the ocean; imagine the fate of thousands of soldiers returning home after fighting a proxy war. In the grand scheme of warfare who really gains is a trillion dollar question? Colour red seems to be the universal colour these days. It is said that at least every one in five returning from war front suffers from PTSD. How many comes out from it is no one knows. People are always connected by slices of the event. And sadly either bad or sad experiences are securely stored than the happy ones in human psyche. Unfortunately when one individual suffers the effected is on the entire family. Moreover the mental wound just does not end there!!

There are so many monument built in so many countries & spent millions on celebration of commemoration. Sadly, more concentration on the cement & brick than on the flesh & blood still standing & walking. Ironically no one seems to learn any lesson from the past either & history keeps repeating itself. The concrete cannot teach & the warm blood does not have any face or mouth to speak. Perhaps the money could be utilized for the welfare of the survivors & their families. May be every country which prefers sending their soldiers should spend on establishing sizable acreage of land and resources as a cradle for recovery for PTSD soldiers. An open place with peace, tranquility, fresh air, beautiful flowers &, knowing & sharing that there are more people with the same problem combined with yoga & meditation could do wonders for them.

During the WW I, large number of Indian soldiers were forced to fight the war which was not their own. Almost 130,000 Indian either lost or wounded in that time. Compared to the world population of that time it’s a big number. British government built (designed & constructed by Lutyens) the 42-meter high India Gate (originally called the All India War Memorial) to remember bearing the names 90,000 who laid their life, located astride the Rajpath (formerly called Kingsway), on the eastern edge of the ceremonial axis of New Delhi. It’s all conveniently forgotten in the sand of time. Ironically this monument has become a place for relaxation area during summer & a picnic spot during winter & I wonder many of them even knew what monument stood for? I agree that protecting the boarders as well as the interest of the nation is everyone’s duty but Wars mostly happens because of some rabies infected rulers. Hope some vaccine will be invented to cure such disease in the future.

Indians had paid heavy prices for the part of code of conduct “athithi devobava” meaning guest is like god & has to be treated well along with some greedy rulers seeking expansion through outside help had made Indians the victims of outside oppression in the past. A lesson to be remembered… leant… contained!!

Note: PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares & flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, & feel detached or estranged, & these symptoms can be severe enough & last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life.

Coorg Warrior 1837

The following article is a contribution from my Son:

I’m a big history buff, and have spent hundreds of hours pouring over facts and figures from Cahokia to Dwaraka, Alexander to Xerces and Hannibal to Rommel. I’ve replayed alternative histories, imagined ancient battles, and often found myself dreaming about discovering new civilizations or lost Incan gold!

But what recently blew my mind was my own piece of investigative history during my trip to India last December (2012). With all the excitement of an old Tintin story, spanning two cities, learning something new about Coorg (Kodava) History, to finding lost gold (yes GOLD), all in a span of 36 hours! Here’s my story….

During my cousin’s wedding, I overheard someone talking about how Coorgs have stopped sporting the once famous “Coorg Wildlife Society”* stickers on their vehicles, and were now moving towards what’s called the “Coorg Warrior” sticker. Apparently the Coorg wildlife society sticker was so widely available that everyone and anyone were sticking it on their cars and bikes. Additionally, you no longer had to join the society to get the sticker, so this also led to a slight drop in its use by actual Kodavas.

My Dad was gifted one of the warrior stickers by a cousin of mine, and when I was in Mysore, I got a chance to take a look at it as I was cleaning out my Dad’s car. The sticker depicted a common poise of a Kodava Warrior, taken from an old French or British picture of an ancient Kodava warrior brandishing an Odi Kathi (Fighting sword) above his head, and a musket/flintlock on his other hand. I say ancient because of the particular way in which he wears his traditional attire: Coorgs today wear their traditional black woolen Kupiya, tailored to a modern fit, with a white and gold turban, a red and gold ornate silk sash (Chaele) that wraps tightly around their waists, and a ceremonial dagger, the Peche Kathi tucked into the sash. The kupiya is worn over either a modern shirt/pant/tie combination or over a kurtha pyjama.

However, if you look at the Warrior’s attire,  you’ll notice how it’s fitting to his martial needs. He wears a cloth around his head, his kupiya is free flowing, and not rigid like the woolen ones of today, and he wears nothing on this legs and feet. His Cheale appears to merely be a cloth wrapped around his waist. Even the peeche kathi appears to be purpose built as a weapon and less of a ceremonial blade.

The sticker also had the following words on the bottom, “Coorg Warrior 1839”. Now that year really got me hooked and my mom suggested I find out what the significance of that date is. That night, a bit of wordsmithing and googling later, this is what I found:

a)      There was no particular significance of the date 1839 in Coorg history pertaining to that medal. Let me know if you know otherwise**

b)      There was however, significance to 1837, when it is recorded in multiple publications and sites that a Coorg Medal was issued by the British Government to some Kodavas for their loyalty to the British during an uprising in Canara, Karnataka in April of 1837.

c)       The reverse of the medal is the Coorg coat of arms (sans the rifle that is in the coat of arms used today). This coat of arms contains the Odi and Peeche Kathi, and also included the “thodanga”, which is girdle used to hold the Odi Kathi at the back of the warriors waist. A laurel wreath surrounds all of them, and an English inscription surrounds the wreath “For distinguished conduct and loyalty to the British Government. Coorg, April 1837

d)      On the front of the medal, I found what I was looking for: The Coorg Warrior. The medal, unlike the sticker, afforded the opportunity to build depth the warrior, and so I could clearly make out the warriors face, well defined calf and pectoral muscles, his rifle, the free flowing Kupiya, the dagger in his Chale.

I was quite stumped: mainly because of my own (and I suspect most Coorgs) lack of knowledge in the origins of the Coorg warrior pose. Here I had found we were not only citing the date wrong, but more so, we were using a something that the British created as a symbol of our warrior history!

Now, I’m not going to get into the obvious arguments of our allegiances, what were we doing helping the British when we should have been fighting to keep them out, etc etc etc. India in 1839 did not exist as a country, and we were really 500 states (or countries even) that either paid tribute to or were ruled over by the British Crown. The concept of the entire region being a country is quite debatable, so let’s save that for another time or offline. For now, treat this as a story of what happened: pure facts.

Anyway, the next morning, off we went to Coorg for my final trip there before I had to come back to the US. That afternoon, I found myself sitting with my close uncle and aunt (I them Papa and Mama) and the conversation obviously drifted into this exciting story that I told them. How we were using a British sign of loyalty to depict our warrior backgrounds, etc. The whole time I told the story, I noticed a growing gleam in my Papa’s eyes, his lips and manner itching to butt into my story, until finally; he said “no you’re wrong; the medal was given by the Maharaja of Coorg, to certain people for their bravery. We have one of those medals, and I can show it to you!”He instructs his daughter to get the special medal from the safe, and I thought he was kidding. But lo and behold, she appears with this:

Front-lightroom British Coorg History india indian Knowlegde Martial medal Warrior Kodagu kodava wealth hindu  medal 1837 Back-lightroom British Coorg History india indian Knowlegde Martial medal Warrior Kodagu kodava wealth hindu medal 1837

Goosebumps, flashbacks, everything came pouring out as I took the medal in my hands. I just couldn’t believe I was holding a piece of history so close to my people, right in my hands, a mere 24 hours after I first began my search for an answer! After much observation and translating, we confirmed that it was indeed given by the British and not the Maharaja, and we spent the next hour or so refreshing our memories and getting our history right!

References

*Coorgs, traditionally bound by geography and family ties to Coorg, have spread out of their homeland over the last few decades, moving into Mysore, Bangalore and beyond. Fiercely connected to their identity, we would look for ways to identify ourselves when we were out driving around in these cities. Now, wearing a Kupiya and riding your motorcycle is not for everyone, but most of us would stick the Coorg Wildlife sticker our Motorcycles and Cars. I had one on my bike’s petrol tank, and most cars have it at the rear windshields or on the boot(trunk) of the car.

** It’s possible that strict British industrial age policy of making goods in the British homeland necessitated the medal being produced and shipped from the UK. This could mean that they were probably distributed in 1839 for the actions of 1837.  However, that’s my interpretation. The real person to know for sure is the one who printed the sticker for the first time:-D

Reference:

1880-British-Military-and-Naval-Medals-and-Decorations (pg 26, Coorg)

http://www.scribd.com/doc/100191148/1880-British-Military-and-Naval-Medals-and-Decorations