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Coming home to Malnad::Kuvempu’s House ::Kuvempu Centenary Memorial

Posted by egovindia on April 22, 2007

Coming home to Malnad
Kuvempu’s house that has been converted into a museum as well as the Kuvempu Centenary Memorial Building are fitting tributes to one of the greatest cultural personalities of our times, writes Vidya Maria Joseph.

The tradition of preserving the ancestral houses of poets and such memorabilia does not prevail very strongly in Indian culture or at least in the Kannada cultural tradition. The reason being that the poets of the past have been more or less anonymous with very few facts known about their day to day lives. But, in the case of poet laureate Kuvempu, one of the greatest cultural personalities of our times, there seems to be every justification for preserving his ancestral house. The very soul of his writings is bound up with the ambience of his childhood and his intense memories embodied in the surroundings of Malnad. Especially the house at Kuppalli, now named Kavimane, is an integral part of his fiction. Therefore, the poet’s house at Kuppalli is at the same time a tribute to the great writer, an attempt to preserve the now vanishing culture of the Malnad and to create a memorial for the generations to come. Initially, when the proposal was mooted to renovate the poet’s ancestral house which was old and dilapidated, many had reacted strongly seeing this as an attempt to tamper with the uniqueness of the structure. However, the plan which did involve re-structuring was also careful enough to allow for the use of the existing material such as wooden pillars, beautifully carved in the traditional way etc. The Kuvempu Pratishtana, a trust which also had among other objectives that of creating the memorial, implemented the plan as well as that of adding sculptural edifices to Kavishaila — so dear to the poet.

When the plan was ultimately completed, everyone found it satisfactory because while renovating and strengthening the house, the ground plan was retained to the extent possible. This included the typical domestic architecture of the Malnad starting with a huge front yard and ending with the traditional bath. The house also includes the traditional inner quadrangle within the main structure as well as the ‘atta’ (loft). The house holds the typical Malnad kitchen with all its paraphernalia. All this has been retained in the renovated Kavimane. In Kuvempu’s novel Kanooru Heggadithi, the atta where the hero Hoovaiah reads, discusses and contemplates is the male world of the new generation while the kitchen and the backyard are the women’s world. The great novelist had given concrete and complex treatment of both these worlds. The visitor today, of course, has to re-create from his reading the busy and jostling world of the past for which this house must have been a shelter.

The Pratishtana has now made this house also a museum of sorts because it displays the domestic kitchen utensils as well as the agricultural and related equipments used in the last century. With the disappearance of the traditional kind of farming and the related activities of winnowing and beating the corn, most of these equipment have become obsolete. The visitor has the opportunity of seeing these in Kavimane as well as some of the interesting containers, jars etc made of earthenware and cane used in the early part of the last century.

It is a rewarding experience to study the domestic architecture which had specific functions to perform because the house was in a way an extension of the typical agrarian way of life of the Malnad. The house was not just a private retreat like its modern counterparts, but the centre of the family’s economic and cultural activities. It is sad but true that there is no way one can return to this lost world, but it is also essential for the new generations to visit it imaginatively with the help of the reconstructed Kavimane.

Kavishaila, which is one of the great creative symbols in Kuvempu’s life and works has been given a majestic shape with sculpture resembling the ancient Stone Henges of England, but made to blend with the geography of the place.

One can also experience the profundity of Kuvempu’s intellectual work by looking at the books, manuscripts etc in the Kavimane museum.

Hoguvenu Na, Hoguvenu Na,

Nanna Olumeya Goodige

Maleya Nadige, Maleya Beedige

Siriya Cheluvina Roodige


Alli Kanana Madye,

Bhadre Tumbi Harivalu Nunnage…

Hoguvenu Na, Hoguvenu Na

Nanna Olumeya Goodige

— Kuvempu (Pakshikashi)

Chief minister Kumaraswamy quoted the above lines while recently inaugurating the Kuvempu Centenary Building in Kuppalli and pointed out that finally Kuvempu did come to his favourite Malenadu – this time to stay. The Kuvempu Centenary Memorial Building which is once again constructed on the model of the Malnad houses. This building, constructed at a cost of Rs 55 lakh, includes Hemangana, an auditorium in memory of the poet’s wife Hema. The memorial building also houses well appointed dormitories for men and women, a dining and kitchen sections, a library building and the office of the Pratistana. Kannada University, Hampi has also established a research centre in the memorial building. Secretary of the Pratishtana Kadidal Prakash points out that the memorial building will be used for holding, art, culture and literary camps, seminars and symposia of the state and national levels.

Amidst all this, the proposal by the government to start a bio-diversity forest in Kuppalli has created a controversy. There are apprehensions that this would be in line with the concept of national parks which in turn requires evacuating the traditional human habitations. Environmentalists have already raised a voice against such destablisation which has caused havoc elsewhere in the Malnad region. However, secretary of the Pratishtana Kadidal Prakash says that this proposal Jaivika Aranya would include only a core zone where there is zero human habitation. The periphery would not change the habitat and the lives of the people. He also feels that as there is already an apprehension of sorts among the people, it is necessary to take the people into confidence before implementing the proposal.

His suggestion should be seriously considered since if the people are made evacuees, it would be a travesty of all that Kuvempu stood for. Though Kuvempu found the highest spiritual experience in the world of nature, he always saw it as a protective ambience to the human world. There is no artificial separation of the worlds of human beings and nature in Kuvempu’s writings and this should not be forgotten.



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