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Mangalore: Once a Place of Pride, Kodialguttu Now under Siege...
By John Monteiro

October 4, 2006

Pics Dayanand Kukkaje and Praveen Tauro

Once upon a time, the Kodialguttu House, off MG Road in Mangalore, was lord of all the surrounding landscape, as far as the eye could reach. Presumably the vast Kodialbail derived its name from Kodialguttu.

The heritage Guttu House, about 250 years old, occupies the better part of a 2-acre plot along the road linking MG Road to its parallel road to the east, leading to Bijai. The Guttu House itself is a rambling structure with patchwork additions and deletions to the original complex. Lush green paddy fields once fronted the Guttu House.

The heritage Guttu house

Now the advancing concrete jungle, with high-rises encircling it, makes it a dwarfed relic of another age. That, and the loss of land and revenue from vast properties under the land reforms and declaration regimes, makes Kodialguttu seem under siege - both literally and figuratively.

For,  once earlier Kodialguttu owned all the land as the eye could see - and one could see very far in the pre-high-rise era -  surrounding the Guttu House, including the land on which SDM College, Canara College, Besant College and T M A.Pai Convention Centre have their foundations on now.

Besides, Kodialguttu had vast tracts of land at Arkula, Suratkal, Konchadi-Derebail, Kallamundkur and Kuttar. The Guttu had in its heyday about 40 family members under one roof, attended on by a retinue of cooks and servants. The annual 'geni' ( rent in rice ) then was said to be 5000 to 6000 'muras' or 'mudis'.

All that is past glory and memory now through a series of happenings – divisions under the Aliasantana marriage and inheritance system, land reforms and declarations by tenants.  Pramod Kumar Shetty, the head of a nuclear family at present residing in Guttu House, says: " We are landless landlords now".

A period photo (circa 1900) of Kodialguttu joint family, with Krishna Sulaya, then Yajamana of the Guttu, seated in the centre

The joint families of earlier generations had yajamanas ( heads ) bearing various other surnames ( Rai, Hegde and Sulaya ), thanks to Aliasantana. This is generally the state of landed Guttu Bunts or Nadavas in Tulunadu.

It is interesting to go back to 112 years in time and have a look at how John Sturrock perceived the Bunts in the first volume (1894) of Madras District Manual (Gazetteer) of South Canara. But, first let us trace the historic context of Kodialguttu.

In 11th century AD, Jain dynasty kings ruling Mysore region extended their rule to Tulunadu. They appointed a number of powerful local chieftains. They constructed temples within their geographic jurisdiction. In such temples, the first honour was conferred on the king and next on the chieftains – heads of Guttus. Till the age of Chalukyas, during the rule of Alupa kings in Tulunadu, the Shambu Kallu Bairave Temple of their capital, Udyavar, was the royal temple.

Later, during the time of Hoisala Ballals, Mangalore became their capital and Kadri Manjunatha Temple became the royal temple of the southern kingdom. This remained so during the Vijayanagara rule. To resolve disputes, the Mangalore Hobli was divided into three Guttus-- Kodialguthu, Guddeguttu and Badilaguthu.The Kadri Temple is associated with Kodialguttu.

John Sturrock notes that originally Bunts were a military class. There are four principal subsidiaries of the caste -  Masadika Bunts, who are the ordinary Bunts of Tulunadu, Nadava or Nad Bunts, who speak Kannada and are found in northern parts of old South Canara, Parivara Bunts who do not follow Aliyasantana system of inheritance and Jain Bunts - who are pure vegetarians.

Different views of the mansion

The Bunts’ old residences, like Guttu houses, have been well described by John Sturrock, district collector of South Canara in 1880's: " The more well-to-do classes usually occupy substantial houses on their estates, in many of which there is much fine woodwork, and in some cases the pillars in the porches, verandahs and the doorways, are elaborately carved". The Kodialguttu House, specially the central portion, accessed through the 'mogasale' (sit-out) and leading to the vast drawing room, conforms to Sturrock's description. Pramod Kumar Shetty’s family, which lives in this section of the Guttu complex, has conserved the woodwork, including elaborately carved pillars and built-in wall cupboards, in spick and span condition.

Another observation of Sturrock is interesting: " As it so often the case amongst high-spirited people of primitive modes of thought, party and factions feelings run high (among Bunts), and jealousy and disputes about landed property often lead to hasty acts of violence. Nowadays, however, the last class of disputes more frequently lead to protracted litigation in the courts. They are fond of outdoor sports, football and buffalo-racing being among their favourite amusements, but the most popular of all is cock-fighting. Every Bunt, who is not a Jain, takes an interest in cock-fighting and large assemblages of cocks are found at every fair and festival throughout South Canara."

Finally, an Italian traveller, named Pietro Della Valle, who visited Mangalore about 1623, has an interesting take on Bunts, as noted by Sturrock." For instance, he met the ‘Queen of Manel’ out walking to inspect a new channel which she had had dug, and thought she looked more like a ‘ dirty kitchen wench’ than a queen. However, she showed her quality by her speech."

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Comments on this article
Gladson Jathanna, Mangalore/GermanySaturday, May 29, 2010
Congratulating John Monteiro on his well concerned historical account, I express my thanks for the informative article. Its very interesting to trace our roots at the back of contemporary political stage. However, one has to be aware of the limitations of the sources that we use to substatiate our hypothesis. In this article the writings of J.Sturrock is taken at its face value. Sturrock or any colonial administrator's representation of India and her people, culture, religion and life has to be taken with a critical outlook. These representation such as 'high-spirited people,' or 'primitive mode of thought' (J.Sturrock, Madras District Manuals: South Canara, Vol I (Madras:The Govt.Press, 1894),p.54) clearly show that the 'knowledge' of the colonisers constituted not only the description of the subject, but a celebration and legitimisation of its control. Lets us not, in our passion of making sense of our past, forget to keep these sensitive aspects while referring the 'powerful' tools of subjugation which were used by the colonisers and today are used by the native power politics. We need to listen to the native voices who also has something to say in this whole process of rebuilding our past.
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