An Endearing Walk into Eternity – A travelogue on Kuvempu’s Kavishaila and Kavimane

“Far from the maddening crowd” seems to be the apt phrase to describe the serenity and sylvan beauty of Kuvempu’s kavimane and kavishaila in Kuppali. Located in the heart of Malnad in Karnataka (literally meaning “Rain Country”), Kuppali is the birthplace of the Bard of Kannada literature, Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa (shortly known as Kuvempu). Kuppali is 18 kms from Thirthahalli in the Shimoga district of Karnataka. Kavimane (literally meaning “The house of a poet”) is the house where the great Kannada poet and playwright Kuvempu spent his childhood days. Kuvempu (author of Sri Ramayana Darshanam – Kannada version of Ramayana, also received Jnanpith award for kannada and Padma Bhushan), arguably the greatest Kannada literary figure of modern times, is known for his poems, plays and novels that deeply reflect a love for nature and rural life. He is even touted as the Wordsworth of Kannada. People visiting his Kavimane can realize what really made him the one of the greatest nature poet of modern times. Malnad, a term used in Karnataka to describe the heavy rainfall receiving western sections, is a region of breath-taking beauty in itself. Kuppali, a small arcadian village tucked into this stunning swathe of land is covered by verdant woods and lush green rice fields. Kuppali becomes especially resplendent during the monsoon when the whole stretch of landscape is wrapped in a dewy aura.

Kavimane which was changed into a museum after Kuvempu’s death is one of the best standing examples of vernacular architecture. The architecture complements the weather (characterized by heavy rain during in the monsoons) very well and gives a glimpse into the life of people a hundred years ago in the Malnad. The architecture is commonly referred to as Thottimane (meaning “Tank house”) characterized by a central open space in the main hall. The house has three floors in a pyramid like tiered form. The house reeks of antiquity with various artifacts from yesteryears preserved well by the museum authorities. The house has a gamut of relics ranging from kitchen implements of those days to household items characteristic of Malnad. One can see the various wooden utensils like kadigolu (ladle) and the rare old-world furniture (like Totillu-“cradle” and bamboo chairs, huge silos, bullock cart and teak tables). The museum features a photo exhibit, a collection covering the lifespan of Kuvempu. The museum also features the memorabilia of Kuvempu like writing equipments, the Malnad Toupee and his manuscript of Sri Ramayana Darshanam. The reveling fact of how architecture affects our life and how life moulds architecture comes to the fore when we see the slit-ventilator (Hoge Atta) in the kitchen above the fire place. The smoke from the ventilator is used to dry firewood or Fibre as it takes long time to dry in such heavy rain regions. The wooden columns and the entablature are richly and intricately decorated. A well groomed front lawn and a picturesque background of tall trees and Western Ghats give Kavimane a rare magnificence seen elsewhere. The tranquility reverberating through out the house makes us feel bad for the concrete jungle that our cities have become. The antiquity of the place literally gives us the feeling of traveling into the rustic past.

Kavishaila is the monument built for Kuvempu on top of a small hill, just a stone’s throw from Kavimane. Kavishaila is built on the hillock where Kuvempu used to spend most of his time as a young boy. Kuvempu drew the inspiration for his Malnad poems from this place; he is known to have sauntered the nearby woods every single day he was in Kuppali. Kuvempu was laid to rest at this place and a granite rock tomb was built over his burial site. This granite tomb is now surrounded by several three-stone jack arches constructed in a way strikingly similar to the Stonehenge in England.

If the kavimane experience is akin to time travel, the Kavishaila experience is akin to walking in heaven. The stone paved pathway from Kavimane to Kavishaila is lined by rich verdure. The intermittently placed three-stone jack-arch welcomes us into the mystical place. Kuvempu along with his litterateur friends including the famous B. M. Srikantaiah and T S Venkannaiah used to sit amidst the woods and chat about literature. The trio also has etched their signatures on a rock in Kavishaila. It is near this rock one starts feeling Kuvempu’s timeless existence; his literature fills the sweet forest breeze. The Stonehenge like structure provides the eternally beautiful woods a mystical lure. The revelation rings in one’s mind: no wonder Kuvempu is one of the greatest nature poets. Stone pavements have been laid in many places around Kavishaila where Kuvempu has rambled in search of inspiration. This place will be of spiritual revelation to Kuvempu’s fans. To others, who hadn’t read any of his works, this place will be a breath-taking splendor strong enough to make them wonder how much of this beauty is infused into his poetry and urge them to pick up a Kuvempu tome and start reading.

Kuppali is 18km from Thirthahalli in Shimoga district. Shimoga is the nearest railway station. KSRTC has direct bus service from Bangalore to Kuppali. From Mangalore, Kuppali is 161km east in NH-13 highway. Good accommodation facilities are available in Thirthahalli. The best time to visit this place is during the monsoons, when the rain invigorates the greenery to its utmost exquisiteness.

Other Places to visit in Shimoga district:

The world famous jog falls, Agumbe – second highest rainfall receiving place in India after Cherrapunjee, Navilukallu (literally peacock rock – famous for its peacocks), Shringeri mutt and Temple.