February 3, 2013
Pics: Annu Bejai, Photografia
History is a wise teacher. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Those who however are prepared to delve deep into the events and experiences of yesteryears will be enlightened, empowered and enthused to attempt even greater achievements, scale greater heights and dream brighter dreams. (Fr Francis Serrao SJ - Message by Rector - 'On Eagle’s Wings' - Madtha Prashant SJ )
Who can afford to forget Gerusoppa? In the 15-16 century it ruled the waves and was the epic centre of political activity of coastal Karnataka. It remained the largest Tuluva Kingdom for long and was the powerful feudatory of the Besnogora (Vijayanagara) empire.
Geroosooppa today has come to be called Nagar(Town) Bastikeri( Street with the Basadis). ‘Geru’(Cashew) is a very common fruit of Coastal Karnataka and ‘Soppu’ (Foliage) is found in plenty, do these term make the name of this omce great centre of human habitat. Records give us the beautiful Sanskrit name ‘Kshemapura’ (Town of well being).
Eminent Historian K V Ramesh in his Magnum opus ‘A History of South Kanara’ speaks of the importance of the Nagire chiefteins. In his view the Jaina Chiefteins of Nagire Rajya held sway over many principalities of both North Kanara and South Kanara. The chiefteins belonged to Saluva household and were powerful military leaders of Tuluva country this enabled them to play a prominent role in the politics of ‘Bijoynagara’. The household reached the helm of her glory when she was ruled by the great and genius quees ChennaBhaira Devi. Her rule saw both commercial and intellectual prosperity of the state. It was during her period(mid 16 Century) Portuguese were attracted to Honnavar. Initially she entered into a trading alliance with them. Having supplied the best quality pepper in huge quantity from the Honnavar port she earned the name of ‘Khalhu Mennasina Rani’ (Queen of Pepper)
Since the beginning of rule she had to manage her politics with three powerful forces, the Portuguese from the Coastal Side and the Vijayanagara and the Sultans of Bijapura from Northern side. Hers was a dynamic diplomacy. Negotiating peace, fighting battles and building up alliances she earned great charm. She held the Mirjan Fort and made it her power centre. Honnavar grew to be a renowned trade port as well as a military establishment under her leadership. Having realized the threat Portuguese were posing to the interest of her people she strategically allied with the Adil Shahis and the local chieftains of Kanara (Tolhars and Alupas). She along with the allies led a huge army to Goa. Though initially the Indian force was successful disciplined European armies took hold of the situation. This resulted not only in the decline and slow disappearance of the Household.
ChennaBhaira Devi ruled 50 years, Being the contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I, in many ways she was her counterpart. Known for her religious tolerance, cultural contributions she brought about prosperity to the state. Numerous Basadis and other religious constructions came up due to her encouragement.
Having come to Honnavar due to turn of events and having heard the narratives of her history and beauty I wanted to enjoy in the bosom of Gerusoppa. I along with four of my students (Rajesh Naik III BA, Vinayak Naik III B A, Bhasker Naik II BA, Yogish Naik II BA) and two of my friends (Anu and Vasant Adyanthaya) took two full days away from the busy schedules and enjoyed the life of the green and loving mother nature.
Take eastwards from Honnavar Town(Uttara Kannada dt-Karnataka). It is called Bangalore Road. Travelling about 30 kms you reach Gerusoppa circle, a circle surrounded with 10-15 petty shops. Search not for the ancient glory instead move further leftwards, get near the forest gate then again right as you enter you will cross the Gerusoppa Dam. Further into the dense jungle. You will now find small wooden boards directing you to Jwala Malini Basdi. A trek of 6 Kms in a katchcha mud road amidst the woods. You reach to the never to be forgotten township. Unfortunately you are welcomed by the broken statues, pulled down walls. Ekanatha Basadi, Neminatha Basadi can be identified only by the help of ASI warning boards. The only monument which has remained the test of time and human greed is the Chaturmukha Basadi. A unique quadrangular structure with four Tirthankaras.(Vrashaba, Ajita, Sambhava and Shanti Natha). Her beauty, even after 450 years, has remained marveling and calling.
Imagine a brisk trading centre hidden beneath the present slow and silent valley. Very many views may come forward and may even clash on the grounds of fall and near death of Gerusoppa. Is it due to the fall of trade, defeat in the hands of Portuguese, fall of Vijayanagara in the battle of Rakkasa Tangadi or failure of Jainism to assimilate in the life of local culture? Scholars capable of real and hard labor may one day come out with more light.
The Kanur Palace beyond the river was the power centre of this Kingdom. At Mutta, Kumta, Manki, Kaikini (Basti), Bhatkal and especially at Haduvalli there are many Basadis. Unfortunately most of them are, today, found in a very sorry situation. The Mirjan Fort near Kumta was once taken over by the Queen and it was later under the Sultans of Mysore. Much part of this fort has remained intact and is singing the glory of queen Bhairavi (ChennaBhaira Devi)
Apart from her Basadis and Palces, we were impressed with her rich lush greenery, her valleys, her water falls, streams and lakes. Dark woods and torrential rains. One interesting fact is about many wells that were shown to us. Those, they say numbering around 150, do not have any water, neither are they open and broad. They, looking like deep and very narrow diggings, according to the people there house the riches of the foregone rullers.
Two full days in the vicinity of once great empire, playing in her powerful holds filled great joy in us.
Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory-
Odious, when sweet voices sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the beloved’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.
- P B Shelley
Ere - Middle English word for Before;
Basadis - Jain place of Worship
ASI - Archeological Survey of India
Tirtankaras – Jain Fathers of Faith (there are 24 Tirthankaras)