Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Big Foot Spirit

The non-stop chiming of Nagavalli’s anklets in my mind should have been a foreshadowing of what was to come, but the fantasy-loving fool that I am, I assumed it was my mind conjuring her up for my entertainment. So, I just let her dance away the 45 minutes’ drive, all the way from Gaddige Fort to Mandalpatti. 

My tour-guide-cum-homestay-host, Deepak, was playing the driver for me again (isn’t he a gracious host?), and even bought the tickets, for us and his teen nephew who had accompanied us, from a small make-shift ticket counter at the foot of the hills. We were to take a jeep with a driver and ascend the winding slopes of Mandalpatti. The jeep we were to hop into was, to put it politely, antique, and the road was, to put it understatedly, bumpy.

Only as the guards opened the gate to the hills and the jeep tried to speed up, did I notice that I could no longer hear anklets. But before I could so much as ponder over the dancer’s sudden disappearance, the jeep threw me up and down, left and right, all in a fast and non-stop sequence. My shoulder bumped into the front seat on the right side, my head bobbed onto the metal body of the jeep’s top, and my legs swept the floor of the jeep in apparently lifeless movements. Have you watched the movie The Exorcist? I pretty much felt a ghoul had entered my body and was throwing me around with vengeance!

Perhaps I was paying the price for pursing my lips at the boring tomb. Perhaps I was being challenged for turning my back on it and paying my attention to the carvings on the walls that protected it instead (not that the royal bones and dust under the concrete floor ‘tomb’ needed protecting). Perhaps I was being taught a lesson for planning to title my blog post ‘Big Foot and Big Bore’ in honour of the King’s mortal remains.

Well, it was surely exciting, albeit bruising to various parts of my body, and oh my… what a scenic view… even as the ghoul threw the jeep to the very edges of the unprotected hills, I couldn’t help but gape in awe of this partially cloudy, partially green, partially muddy vista. On reaching the top of the hills, the howling of the wind seemed to confirm my doubts that it was indeed a ghoul that threw me about. Anyway, without a doubt, I could see that Mandalpatti is every picnicker’s paradise, not counting the ghoul I carried there.

And just as I was planning on trekking a trail on the opposite hillock, the heavens gave way and the clouds grumbled in agreement. The skeletal face of Doddaveerarajendra, under
Raja’s Tomb, seemed to be smirking in my direction…

Monday, 15 September 2014

Big Foot and Big Bore

I had never visited any tomb or monument [courtesy: my parents who barely ever made trips], as a child. So when I finally took off as a solo traveller to Coorg, I decided I should go see one. An hour’s drive from the Coorg O Farm Homestay in Chembebeloor later, I landed my big feet at the Gaddige Fort (Raja’s Tomb) in Mahadevpet. 

I really hadn’t seen any other tombs to compare this nondescript place with. The old, yet, kind of pretty yellow buildings were rather common place, although I did note that they were built in the Indo-Saracenic or Hindu-Gothic style. Well, they certainly looked gothic, alright; I could almost hear Nagavalli’s haunting anklets to the male vocalist’s tha-jum-tha-jum beats, from the famed Ra Ra track of the Kannada film, Apthamithra.

Wondering where to start, I just walked on and found the main building (I figured that out because that was the only one with open doors; the others seemed locked away for good). Leaving my slippers outside, I walked up the few stairs and into the sanctum of ‘Raja’s Tomb’. 

A black granite stone tablet lay resting against the wall, next to an archway leading to the heart of the tomb that lay in darkness and abandon; it contained the history of the tomb – nothing of much interest though. It just said that the 19th century King Doddveerarajendra lay buried there, as bones and dust, along with his wife (unnamed; shows the lack of importance and respect placed on women, back then), and his son, Chikkaveerarajendra. The two other buildings, that were on either side of this one, held the mortal remains of the king’s royal priest, Rudrappa, and the royal official Biddanda Bopu, who had died fighting Tipu Sultan, and Biddanda’s son, Biddanda Somiah. 

The “tomb” was merely a concrete floor with an ornate lamp hanging over it from the ceiling. And that was it. That was the tomb. I realised that my mind playing the Ra ra, sarasaku ra ra track was more interesting than these “royal” remains. But when I got out of the building, I noticed a symbol etched at the top of the doorway. It was the Kannada letter for ‘v’. Apparently, this happened to be the King’s signature, something he had had inscribed on all the royal properties to mark his rule – an ancient logo, if you will. 

The carvings made on this building were more interesting than the King’s royal remains. These certainly weren’t as refined as the famous temple carvings we have known, but they were kind of fantasy-oriented. Whether or not they depicted some mythical story, I do not know, but they sure got the attention of 
the crazy fantasy fiction fan in me.

Of all the things I have seen and done (and I’m quite a boring person, really), this “royal” tomb, perhaps, deserves “the most boring” crown. As for the haunting danseuse, Nagavalli… she didn’t stop dancing in my mind that whole day…