In a remote village named Chikkamandoor in south Kodagu, there exists a stone structure known as kaimada which means a commemorative mantap.

This is one of the oldest edifices in Kodagu which is still in its original state. Though a modest construction, it has an interesting story behind it.

It was built around 1700 by Acchu Nayaka in honour of his benefactor Nanjunda Urs, who was the ruler of neighbouring Periapatna.

Acchu Nayaka’s descendants continue to live in the same premises where Acchu and his father Chittiappa Nayaka lived more than 300 years ago. I visited this location, and the residents enthusiastically showed me the kaimada and the courtyard where Acchu and Kodava commander named Paradanda Ponnappa had their duel.

There are two stone carvings inside the kaimada. One of them is that of Nanjunda Urs. The pièce de rèsistance is an amazing relic from the past. One of the men took me to a spot nearby, and with a stick dug the earth a couple of inches. There was black material underneath. He scooped out a handful and held it. It was charred paddy. The gentleman explained that this was the remnants from the granary that was set ablaze when Chittiappa Nayaka was attacked three centuries ago!

Acchu Nayaka had a traumatic childhood. His father Chittiappa Nayaka was a powerful warlord in the region, but had many enemies. Chittiappa Nayaka and his family lived in a well-guarded mud fortress.

However, on one fateful day, he and his soldiers had let down their guard while celebrating nari-mangala (tiger-wedding) which was a special event when a man slays a marauding tiger in his domain. His people were grateful to Chittiappa Nayaka for having gotten rid of the beast which had terrorised them for many months.

In celebration, Chittiappa Nayaka and his close aides imbued large quantities of the local brew – bollekallu – and by nightfall they were in a stupor. Aware that Chittiappa Nayaka’s defence was compromised, his detractors surreptitiously attacked his fortress and set fire to the dwellings within the walls of the compound.

There were haystacks and granaries nearby. The fire soon engulfed the entire area. Though Chittiappa Nayaka and his men regrouped and fought gallantly, but their resistance was quelled, and the entire family perished in the inferno except for Chittiappa Nayaka’s new-born baby boy who was rescued by Ayyavva the maid.

Nanjunda Urs’ benevolence
Ayyavva carried the baby, and after travelling under great odds reached Periapatna. She found a job in a farm and brought up Chittiappa Nayaka’s son as her own. She affectionately called him ‘Acchu’.

Acchu grew to be a sturdy and good-looking lad by the time he was seven years old. He was noticed by Nanjunda Urs, the ruler of Periapatna, during Ugadi celebrations one year. When Ayyavva was asked about the boy, she rather unconvincingly answered that he was her son.

When Nanjunda Urs quizzed her further, Ayyavva lost her nerve and narrated the story of Acchu and his father Chittiappa Nayaka. Nanjunda Urs immediately had both Ayyavva and Acchu shifted to his palace where Acchu grew up with the children of the ruler. Acchu received education and training in martial arts along with the sons of Nanjunda Urs. He excelled in warfare and statecraft, and as an adult proved a valuable asset to Nanjunda Urs.

Acchu learnt from Ayyavva the horrendous atrocities committed on his family. He now sought revenge, and was determined to reclaim his father’s domain. Nanjunda Urs readily agreed to assist Acchu in this quest and offered the services of 500 of his soldiers. Acchu marched with this band of well-armed men and succeeded in taking possession of not only his father’s realm but also those of his detractors. Acchu Nayaka, as he was known, soon became a popular and powerful ruler in south Kodagu.

Enter the Haleri dynasty...
By then, in the northern parts of Kodagu, a minor faction of Lingayat rulers from Shimoga established their reign in Haleri – a small village known for milk production. They came to be known as the Haleri dynasty, which ultimately ruled Kodagu for more than two centuries.

Siribai Veerappa Raja was the fourth generation ruler from the Haleri dynasty and a contemporary of Acchu Nayaka. When Siribai Veerappa demanded Acchu Nayaka pay him tribute, it was flatly refused. The Haleri Raja was on a mission to extend his sovereignty all over Kodagu.

He despatched a strong army led by an able Kodava commander named Paradanda Ponnappa, to subdue Acchu Nayaka. Many attempts by Ponnappa to storm the bastion of Acchu Nayaka were repelled. Acchu Nayaka sent his emissaries to Ponnappa to join hands with him to drive the Lingayat rulers out of Kodagu; but Ponnappa was not prepared to betray Siribai Veerappa.

Unable to defeat Acchu Nayaka, Ponnappa and his men managed to sneak into the fortress of Acchu while he was away on one of his hunting expeditions. They took his family hostage.

On his return, Acchu was infuriated but could do very little. He then challenged Ponnappa for a one-to-one combat. Ponnappa accepted the challenge and the two warriors fought in the open court-yard. They were equally matched and the fight went on for several hours. Both were badly injured.

Finally, it was Ponnappa who emerged victorious. Ponnappa could have killed his rival, but spared his life. Ponnappa waited for two weeks for Acchu to recover from his injuries. He too had to nurse his wounds. Ponnappa then took Acchu Nayaka to Siribai Veerappa as a prisoner.

When the raja heard about the entire episode he was full of admiration for Acchu Nayaka. He treated him as an equal and extended all courtesies. However, Acchu Nayaka and his family were under house-arrest till Acchu’s demise.

Courtesy : Deccan Herald
Author:  C.P. Belliappa


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