Wednesday, July 31, 2013


It is with a tinge of sadness some of us read the news in Kannada daily Udayavani, a couple of days back, about the collapse of the ancient Badettu House and saw the photographs of a bewildered couple (Cheeya and Rema) standing among the ruins with a fore lorn look. I was informed about it by Radhu who is at Paniyur after reading the news item. Later I contacted Vedavyas who confirmed about the same as reliable news. A larger question that begs for an answer is whether this even signifies the end of the word Badettu once for all as the present owners of the property are reported to have indicated that they do not want to do any thing to restore the building into a habitable living place.

History may not pardon those who had the responsibility cast on them to protect the place in spite of knowing pretty well that this heritage building was in danger of falling apart for want of urgent repairs. Though there are well to do members in the umbrella family of Badettu Narnappaya, every body was helpless because none had the right to touch the building because of legal consequences. Only owners have the right to do any thing with the approval of the local authorities unless necessary power of attorney is given to a particular person on whom they have confidence. Now that the hallowed Badettil is no more, have we not lost our identity once for all and does any one have the right to use the name Badettu family any more? Probably no!

I am reminded of a similar case in Padubidri, that of Kande family to which my late mother belonged. After neglecting the dilapidated building, situated hardly a few meters away from Badettil, all its male descendants except one are not living at present. For a donkey number of years it was lying vacant, with no one in that family even visiting the place. One fine day it collapsed and now what remains is a mound of debris. This family lost all the land during nineteen sixties to the tillers under the Karnataka Land Reforms Act and even the compensation due was lying with the government for decades as no claimants came forward for the same! It was only recently that the last surviving second generation member and a nephew bribed through the bureaucratic system to receive a small amount, symbolizing the end of Kande family! I always wondered what happened to all the traditions, Naga bhanas, deities and other paraphernalia there which are part and parcel of every Brahmin family in Dakshina Karnraka! To day almost all the male descendants of Kande family  are non-discript people with nothing to boast of!  Could it be due to the curse of the family Devaru and other celestial spirits present there during the glorious yester year? I do not know and shudder even to think about it.

What will be the consequences of the collapse of Badettil? One vital difference between Kande House and Badettu house is that the former was never partitioned and all the descendants were the equal owners where as Badettil was gifted to Ananthrama Chikkappa as a part of the partitioning deal made by late Narnappaya.  Of course being experienced as they are in dealing with local customs and traditions, the inheritors of Ananthrama Chikkappa can be expected to do whatever is necessary to propitiate the diving spirits associated with that heritage place. In the past when the Naga bhana was to be renovated or the Bhootha Gudi had to be rebuilt many members of Badettu family as a whole did pitch in with their donations liberally. But now that there is no place like Badettil any more the identity of all members is likely to be lost for ever!

During my last few visits to Badettil, I was impressed by the dedication with which the occupants of Badettil were observing all the traditions including pooja in the Naga bhana, the Bhoothas and the house deity. Since the old portion of the building built with mud had collapsed, it might have affected the pooja room also. It is hoped that the deities are properly taken care of by shifting them to the 'Padsale" portion which was constructed relatively recently. It is God's blessings that no grievous injury has been caused though the place is no more habitable due to serious structural damage caused by incessant rains prevailing in that place for the last few days. One can understand the dilemma of Cheeya and Rema as they can neither leave the place nor live there. I am sure they will find a suitable living place nearby. Let us wish them good luck.

Is it not surprising that except for late Govinda Rao of BTH, Kochi no person choose to prefix "Bedettu"before his name and with the demise of Badettu Govinda Rao a couple of years ago that chapter is also closed. I suppose all that remains now is a restaurant in the name of Badettu in Kochi under BTH group as a proof of existence of Badettu family! With only Lakshmi Chikki being the only linkage we have now with Badettu family name, let us all worship her as our Goddess as long as we are blessed with. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Lot has been written about the glory and reputation of Brahmasthana, Badettu Narnappaya's pre-eminence there during his hay days and the importance of Thambila and Dakkebali for those born and brought up in the Padubidri village. While some believe that this venerable worshiping place is unique and unparalleled with the Vanadurga avatar here being very powerful, there are many who are not that much convinced about the place and its holiness. Only those who participate in Thambila and Dakkebali will get an idea about the sanctity of this worshiping place after witnessing the performance of Pathiris which at the least is a superhuman phenomenon. Otherwise how any one can explain the "running and jumping" of a person aged above eighty years under the trance when he performs as a Pathiri during Dakkebali?

Badettu family is indeed blessed by Brahmer Amma, as she is popularly known in the local area as seven hundred and odd members of this family scattered all over the world are living a good life with minimum hassles and no major mishaps. Of course we may have instances of unhappiness here and there but life is after all a blend of happiness and misery. If happiness is much more than misery we should consider ourselves blessed. Though Badettu family did not prosper in business ventures as one would expect, God has enabled many of the younger generation to get educated and becoming some body in life. Of course some may feel that it is all because of their brilliance, intelligence and hard work but fact still remains that without God's grace nothing is possible. Thank our Gods for our relatively hassle free lives. 

There has been one peculiar trait in our family about which I always felt puzzled and that is whether our "hiriyaru" really loved us? This is because most of us never had the luxury of hearing a single good word from our parents or showing affection openly and in stead they seemed to be always critical and frowning on us. Even good academic achievements are never publicly lauded. Compare this with present day kids. The parents are always crooning over them showering goodies whether they ask for them or not, spending sleepless nights to coach them during examination season, fighting with teachers and the schools management for giving special attention to their wards and many other things which would be blasphemy for out parents during our school days. Looking back we have to realize that it is not that they were not loving us but they were not knowing how to express their feelings plus some ego! According to Dr P Vedasvyasa Rao, the present "Pithamaha" of Badettu family even our venerable Ajja, Narnappaya had great concern for his grand children as illustrated by the following note he gave to me recently. Same is described in his words below.

"Along with Ajja, Seena, I once attended the night Thambila at Brahmasthana. The Thambila started at 10 pm and was over by midnight at at 12. We returned home and sat for dinner. Generally Seena, aged about 11 years at that time, was an addict of drinking water during food time and it was noticed that there was silence as no demand was being done for water. It seemed some one asked why Seena was silent and not asking for water without realizing that Seena was not there in the house! It was then realized that Seena did not return from Brahmasthana along with us and every one was shocked, becoming literally panicky, the most visibly shaken being Ajja himself. No body could make out why he did not return after the function was over along with us. All of us got immensely scared thinking about the consequences and were silent, almost reaching the breaking point. Ajja, immediately got up after finishing his food in one great gulp, asked me to accompany him with a lantern and literally ran to Brahmasthana . Great silence and a sense of panic only accompanied us as no one dared to talk out of fear of the worst that could have happened. When we reached the place there was complete darkness except for a couple of flickering wig lights that were lighted during Thambila function, almost on the point of extinguishing. Lo!, to our great solace and release of the suppressed grief, Seena was fast asleep  on the flat top of the rock on the northern side of the sandy quadrangle where Thambila was performed. Curiously he was not alone as a dog was also found to be giving company to him lying nearby! Once we approached the place the dog disappeared among the dark interiors of Brahmasthana, never seen there after by any one in the locality. Seena was woken up and Ajja was seen releasing a long sigh, a sign of relief to the stress and agony he was experiencing at that point of time. He was immensely joyful after returning home and shared the same with others. What can one make out of this episode? Every one felt that it was a miracle that Seena was saved and any thing could have happened if he was left there for some more time because of many nocturnal creatures inhabiting the wooded place. We believe that Devi Khadgeswari , our Brahmer Amma herself in the form of a dog was guarding Seena while he was in deep slumber. What ever it is this incident clearly indicates that Badettu Family is greatly blessed by Brahmasthana and if we believe and pray Her, She would always protect us" 

Since Vedavyas was an eye witness to the above episode there is no reason for us to doubt the veracity of the narration. This is not a folklore passed on from generation to generation but a real life happening witnessed by some of the members of the then Badettu family. Prompt action by Ajja, his presence of mind, love for his grandson and confidence in Brahmeru are evident from what Vedavyas has narrated and I am sure Seena and his family will remember this episode as an act of the Goddess. The present care taking of the Badettu house and maintaining all the traditions started by Ajja by Seena and his brothers are indeed a tribute to the sagacity and greatness of Badettu Narnappaya!   

Answer to the last Quiz  

Sethuram was the son of Kollam Vasudeva, Jayaram was the son of Kande Krishnanna, brother-in-law of Vasudeva and Raghuram was the son of the sister of Badettu Narnappaya. Two cousins and an uncle!  

Quiz for the current issue

How many members are in the Badettu family with names starting with the alphabet "A"? Name them.      


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


The story of Badettu family will not be complete without focusing on one of the mildest personalities borne into this family, the late Ananthrama . He was the twin brother of Kollam Padmanabha and it was amazing that these brothers showed a temperament and disposition remarkably similar to each other. He was famously called "Ginda" though I do not know why he was being referred to by the above common name. For a while I thought Ginda might be referring to his plumb and short physique but this could not be the reason because his twin brother was also equally plumb. Now I realize that he was called Ginda because he always drank tea from a "Gindi" a large utensil as he wanted large quantity of tea whenever he wished to have tea! May be I am wrong! 

Many of us do not know who is elder of the two but it is believed that Ananthrama was delivered of half an hour before Padmanabha and therefore former is the elder brother. One thing is sure, that is both were gentle human beings rarely seen in an angry mood. Interestingly Ananthrama was assigned to the Alleppey operations while Padmanabha got into Kollam business. Since his wife and family were based in Badettu House he used to shuttle between Alleppey and Padubidri. While at Alleppey he used to stay at the Hotel and his duty was linked to that of Subbraya and at any given time only one of the two would be in Alleppey. In contrast to the stern disposition of Subbraya, Ananthrama had a mild manner, never shouting at any one and even children used to like him for his somber manners. With Subbraya he was the co-owner of a property at Chananakkavu in Alleppey which was sold of when they left the town once for all after settling their business share. 

Interestingly Ananthrama married Janaki, his aunt's daughter in the Kinnitu family whose house was located near the Badettu House. This is one of the two alliances Badettu family had with families of Badettu Narnappya's sister and Badettu Radhakka's brother's family. It may be recalled that Saraswathi, wife of Gopalakrishna, the last son of Narnappaya was the daughter of the brother of Radhakka, Venkata Bhaya. Orignal family of Janaki had such illustrious connections with people like Mukkanna who was a legendary hotelier in Madras. Though both Subbraya family and Ananthrama family were staying at Badettu House for quite some time, former shifted to Karkata House at Admar later which was the ancestral home of late Paddakkaya. It was more or less understood that Ananthrama would inherit the house eventually and it was a tribute to the wisdom of Narnappaya that no inheritance problem ever cropped up after his time with all other sons cooperating in keeping the house as a heritage center for the entire family. Thanks are due to Ananthrama and his sons that they treated all their relations with kindness and good hospitality whenever they visited the place. Even to day Badettu House, though not structurally or aesthetically sound, still evokes respect and admiration for the great pioneers, Narnappaya and Radhakka.   

How remarkable it is that Anthrama's eldest son Srinvasa, popularly called Seena was able to achieve an exalted position as Professor of Chemistry in Manipal after obtaining his Master's degree from Banarese Hindu University through sheer hard work and determination. Anathrama was the father of 3 sons and 4 daughters but it was unforunate that one of his daughters, Sushhela passed away at relatively young age due serious illness.  Recently it was reported that the second daughter Mandakini also passed away about a few days ago at Pavancha. Other two surviving daughters are well settled with their families in Padubidri and Belappu near Kaup. Seena, after retiring from KMC Manipal is settled down in Chennai with his son Satish who is a senior executive in the Hyubdai Car company. His second son Ranga is presently in Kochi working as a senior executive in BTH hotel of late Govinda Chikkappaya. The third son Cheeya who worked in the Alleppey Sri Krishna Bhavan for a number of years got back to Padubidri and with his noble wife Rema is managing the property on behalf of his brothers and sisters. 

Interestingly all the fourth generation off springs in the Ananthrama house hold are settled down in life in a reasonably good way. What is amazing is that Sriram, son of Cheeya achieved the incredible in getting an engineering degree recently under trying conditions that prevailed in Badettu House during the last few years. It is a matter of pride for all of us that he is well placed professionally working for an MNC at Bangalore. He along with Satish, son of Seena are the two engineers in Ananthrama family. Seen'a daughter is also an engineer working in Mumbai as a faculty member in one of the engineering colleges there. 

Many may be wondering as to how Seena, the eldest in this family is able to fulfill all the responsibilities inherited by him in looking after the Naga Bhana, Bhootha Gudi, commitments to Padubidri temple and other related customary practices passed on from Narnappaya. He does visit Padubidri regularly to carry out all the duties cast on him including conducting poojas and other functions which were part and parcel of Badettu family traditions. Even to day the three brothers serve panaka to hundreds of devotees during the annual Chariot Festival in Padubidri Mahalingeshwara temple in the month of March, a practice started by Narnappaya decades ago! They have also made arrangements for conducting regular pooja inside the house as well as at the Bhana daily without fail whenever all of them are out of town.  It is hoped that Seena and his brothers will be able to restore Badettu House to its old glory and every member of Badettu family will have opportunity to visit, stay and experience the thrill of being close to the souls of all their ancestors regularly. 

Answer to the last Quiz

The only surviving second generation member in Badettu family is KollamLakshmi Chikki who is approaching 90 now and enjoying good health for her age. She is now in Udupi visiting Kicha for about three months and I had the previlege of speaking to her just yesterday. Let us all pray that she outlives all her contemporaries and cross the hundred year mark without much hiccup.

Quiz for the present Blog

What is the connection between the three Rams-Sethuram, Jayaram and Raghuram? What is their relationship?            

Flash News

I feel terribly depressed to recall the sad demise of Mandakini, second daughter of Anantrama Chikkappa, recently, a few days ago at Pavancha, near Padubidri. It was a terrible shock as I met her on April 28 2013 when she came to participate in the obsequies function of lete Paddakkaya at Raghavendra Muth in Uchila. She was looking perfectly normal and healthy and cheerfully invited me to visit her home at Pavancha. Very sad indeed. Let us pray for her soul to rest in peace.

Monday, May 6, 2013


The oldest of the bahu ranis of Badettu Narnappaya who was a beacon to all of us so far, Paddakkaya passed away on April 17 2013 at 4.40 pm at her Admar residence peacefully without suffering too much though she was aged 96 years. It is a tragedy of great dimension and she belied all our hopes of completing the much coveted century as fate had willed otherwise. This is the second disappointment for many of us after the earlier demise of Narnappaya himself who missed the century mark by a few months. To some extent Narnappaya's death was brought upon by his stubborn insistence to come to Padubidri from Alleppey where he enjoyed a healthy life. This is not to blame those who looked after him at Badettil after his return to Padubidri but to lament about the situation brought about by his return to a place where medical access was rather limited and time consuming. But the wishes of senior people especially during their old age cannot be denied and no one can blame any body for this fateful event.

Paddakkaya's situation was also same as she was weak, especially during the last 5-6 years with some pain on her knees making her mobility some what restricted. Similarly her stubborn reluctance to move to Alleppey where living conditions are some what better and medical facilities are reasonable might be one of the reasons for her health deteriorating fast ending up with her demise eventually. Here again no one can be blamed for this situation because being a very senior elderly person it is difficult not to succumb to her wishes and force her to do what she did not want to do. All said and done, it cannot be denied that she enjoyed her life at Admar with her son Raghupathy and daughter - in- law Madhavi providing her succor and relief during her stay there. Besides she had all her daughters, living nearby visiting her frequently while her two sons from Alleppey frequented the Karkate Mane at Admar as often as possible. What more a mother wants but to see her children and grandchildren as often as possible! 

She was cremated near the house itself and this is a small luxury we living in towns and cities cannot hope for after our death. What a comfortable feeling for all those living as well visiting the Karkade Mane will have when they can feel her presence there reminding all of them about the indomitable spirit and fighting qualities she embodied during her life time. It was on March 22 this year I had the unique privilege of seeing her personally with Radhu during my visit to Udupi for the Brahmarathothsava and Chandika Homa. It never occurred to me that she would be no more in less than a month! Also I talked to her on the Ugadi day on April 14, just 3 days before her demise for seeking her blessings. Though she was some what incoherent at that time but still cheerful enough after walking to the hall from her room crossing a high threshold door. It is indeed a personal loss to me because I have lost an icon whom I could always depend on for advice when I needed about Badettu family.

One of the remarkable things about the obsequies functions organized by her children is the meticulous way they were planned for 4 days beginning April 26 with Dharmodhaka and ending on April 29 with Vaikunta Samaradhane at the Uchila Raghavendra Swamy Muth. No efforts were spared by her children to make these functions as religious as possible and it is a tribute to their sagacity and perseverance that they stayed in the Muth for almost a week under conditions that cannot be considered satisfactory for urban folks like us! It is to be noted that Vedavyas and Vittal are in their seventies while others were late fifties and sixties! While about 50 close relatives participated during the first two days, more than 200 people, all well known to Padakkaya during her long innings on earth, took the trouble of coming to Uchila from different parts of the country. I, along with Govinda, Mohana and Kicha were fortunate enough to attend all the four days' functions. Padakkaya would must have been a happy soul to see 25 cousins belonging to 3rd generation who were present for seeking her blessings during one or the other day of the obsequies. Remarkably almost 90% of her own family branch spread over third, fourth and fifth generations were there to pray for her soul. 

What struck me as unique was that in no single function in the past, 25 cousins gathered at a place like this and in a way she was instrumental in making this happen between 26 and 29 April. It was in June 2005 that another iconic daughter in law of Narnappaya, Kaveri passed away in Alleppey. The 3rd generation members who participated include Bangaru (Vasudeva lineage), Vedavyas, Vittal, Raghupathy, Chummi, Sunitha, Radha (Subraya lineage), Vishala, Sunanda, Harihara, Jagadisha, Nataraja, Radhu, Giridhar, Vicha and Nandini (Venkatraya lineage), Seena, Ranga, Cheeya and Mandakini (Anantrama lineage), Govinda, Mohana and Kicha (Padmanabha lineage), Chetha and Appukutta (Gopalakrishna lineage). I am sure others also would have attended but for some personal inconveniences.   

My visit to Udupi also took me to Chummi's house at Bailoor where Mr Sripathi Rao, her husband is recuperating from some ailment. To my knowledge he is one of the most honest, brightest and brilliant son-in-laws in Badettu family who retired as IT commissioner in Bangalore a few years ago. A person of high integrity, in spite of the fact that this department is ridden with corruption he was standing tall         
as one of the gems in that department being a friend of honest tax payers and a threat to others who indulge in tax suppression and evasion. It was interesting to see him in high spirits watching the traditional "Atta" performance on the TV with rapt attention following every move of the actors. May God bless him with long long life.

Answer to the last Quiz

Atulya is a PUC student, daughter of Sarada (daughter of Gopalakrishna of Kollam and wife of Mr Sahadevan at Kollam) is an accomplished dancer with national credentials. She gained early recognition from her peers in this art and every Badettuan should be proud of her, being the only practicing dancer. Badettu Narnappaya would have been happy to see one of his fourth generation descendants making a mark in an unchartered field like dancing. 

Quiz for the current issue

Who is the only surviving second generation member of Badettu family? 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Childhood follies and pranks can be very amusing when one recollects the same after decades of aging. It is rightly said that living with children, especially aged between  1 and 5 years can be quite exciting provided one is willing to be alert 24 hours a day to protect them from grievous injuries. The thrills and pains of rearing kids are fully comprehended by people when they grow enough to become grand parents. Some of the information I am sharing here in this Blog piece pertains to my own stupid childhood which I can recall with nostalgia.

I was supposed to be a non-serious kid during my early childhood with practically no interest in learning. My father, to me at that time was a "tyrant" though it took almost 5 decades for me to fully appreciate his noble intentions. Serious schooling was indeed a heart breaking effort and any excuse was good enough to skulk the classes. Realizing that I would not become some body in life about which parents could be proud of, father invariably threatened me with stopping the schooling and taking me to the hotel for grinding batter for idli, vada and dosa! It was in this context the idea of tuition was thought about and I had to be restrained every day in the evening for "coaching" by the tutor. Though there were good text books which I was supposed to read, lazy as I am it never occurred to me that reading is necessary at all. Every day the tutor would give a small home work and one day he asked me to read some thing about Indian history. Next day he asked me a question which I thought very simple viz who rules the world? Without battling an eye lid I answered that our Moopathi ( the servant maid) who comes every morning and sweeps the front of the house is the one who rules the world! Probably I got mixed up between ruling and sweeping prompting me to shoot the answer. Though it provoked laughter at that time, my coaching sessions became more and more rigorous as a result of the stupid answer.

Being a kid of boundless energy playing when not sleeping was the main avocation. During the early childhood during one of my tree climbing activities I fell down inflicting a deep wound on my forehead which after healing created a permanent scar. What is interesting was not getting wounded but my subsequent action in stuffing the deep wound with sand to hide from the parents and getting into the bed without telling any one. It was only later that they discovered that I had a wound with oozing blood for which necessary medical treatment was given. In one way it was a lucky incident because for almost 70 years my permanent identification mark has been this scar!

Growing in a house surrounded by schools of all colors and hues probably would inculcate among the children some interest in studying. Alas that was the last thing in my mind. Playing games like Vattu Kali, Andi Kali, Kuttiyum Koum, Chati Kutu with friends was the top priority. The big compound of S D V school in front of our home at Alleppey was a great place for playing all sorts of games with a fulfledged foot ball ground. Though there was a gate which invariably was locked most of the time our usual route is climbing over the wall and jumbing down about 5 feet to gather near the trees for spending the time in exciting local games. One of my friends used to help me in Andi Kali which uses raw unshelled cashewnuts as the main playing material and every one playing this game required a master Cashewnut ( known locally as Vakkan) of big size with which the scoring has to be done. After throwing the nuts into a small hole on the ground some 5 ft away, the player has to take aim at the particular one shown by his opponent and if it is hit all the nuts can be taken by the winner. The Master nut is some time prepared specially by replacing the kernel inside with lead to make it heavy and for hitting the nut precisely. My friend must have supplied me at least about about two dozen such master nuts for which I had to shell out heavily! Some times this game is played with tamarind fruit seed also. Vattu kali is played using glass marbles which are used to hit the opponents marble using deft fingers!

One of the amusing incidents I still remember was the visit of Pangal Seshagiri Rao to Alleppey to see my sister Vishala as a prospective bride. The old house at Thondankulangara could be accessed during rainy season only through a small channel overflowing with water and the bridegroom's party coming all the way from Madras had to wade through about 2 ft deep water before arriving at the house. After entering the house Dr Seshagiri Rao leaned on one of the wooden pillars in the main hall and it was a terrible sight to see the pillar getting loosened from its fittings ending up in his hands! It was a miracle, in spite of such a welcome, he was bowled over by the "girl" agreeing to marry her. Rest is history! This marriage gave me an opportunity to visit Madras where the wedding was organized. Being totally ignorant of Kannada language, speaking as well as writing, going to the house of Pangal Sreenivasa Rao (father of Dr Seshagiri Rao) was a nightmare but eventually picked up little bit of conversational Kannada. Is it not surprising that to day Tulu appears to be the language even Kannada speaking people want to talk and providentially picking up Tulu from us has helped our Bhava to settle comfortably in Paniyur and the Kannada I picked up from his family during my many visits helped me to settle down in Mysore! The well maintained Fiat car of our Bhava was some thing we all yearned to get in as he was the first one among our relations to own a car! To day those who do not own a car in Badettu family are very few! Pangal Vadiraja Rao, a renowned physician, Pangal Krishna Rao, a reputed veterinary surgeon, late Pangal Govinda Rao, a senior bank official and their spouses are extra ordinary people, with impeccable credentials. My frequent visits to Kombattu Vittal Rao, another remarkable personality who married my second sister Sunanda can be the subject matter of another story for another time!

Coming back to my school days, it was with great pride I took my slate after one of my examinations with the marks scored by me to father imagining that I did very well. I was shocked when I got a spanking in stead of appreciation! It turned out that my teacher wrote down my single digit marks, 5 out of 100 in bold, spreading the whole slate which I thought was very good! This trend continued till the SSLC though I never was retained in any class during my school days. My friends used to tease me saying that I got pass because I supplied the teachers with Vada from our hotel during examination time! It was only after the arrival of Seena, my cousin from Padubidri with whom I went to S D College for 4 years I got the competitive spirit in learning and I was not far behind him in studies there after. Probably my 63% marks in B.Sc as against 65% for Seena was indeed notable considering my previous track record. In a twist of fate, Seena ended up in Banarese Hindu University doing his M.Sc while I, after failing to get admission there, served as a demonstrator in S D College for one year. As luck would have it I got admission in Department of Chemical Technology, Mantunga, Bombay for B.Sc (Tech) in foods, eventually obtaining my Ph.D in the same subject. Seena probably should get some credit for what I am to day while late Jayaram Bhaya was my mentor while in Bombay.

My poori loving days are interesting indeed but cannot be described here for want of space. While I loved poori-masala, Vedavyas was a masala dosa worshipper and my father was a vada loving person their dedication to their chosen food items being almost fanatic! Hearing about my love for 'eacha mithai" (fly sweet, so called because of the flies swarming the container), my pretha fear, "cheating" the Jayalakshmi annachi, taking regularly changes from my father's shirt pocket or the hotel cash for meeting my daily "obligations", fight with mother for avoiding eating "Kanji", "Gulla Bajji", "Padippe Mudde", my near drowning in Mullakkal pond, my RSS DAYS etc are some thing on which I must write one day!

Answer to the last Quiz (B-1034)

Alleppey Venkatraya ( my father) might probably the only person belonging to second generation who traveled all over the country including Srinagar, Haridwar, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Varanasi, Budda Gaya, Konarak Temple, Kolkatta, Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Rameshwaram in 1986 accompanied by me to fulfill one of his wishes. At the age of 78 he showed better grittiness, courage and stamina than me, 32 years younger to him!

Quiz for the current issue of the Blog

Has any one heard of a name Athulya who is a fourth generation descendant of Badettu family who is a highly accomplished dancer with no one to rival her? Look for further info about her in the next issue.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Some youngsters to day seem to have very low opinion about the institution of marriage, considered sacred by out forefathers. Probably they may have their own logical reasons to view marriages as being organized during early days, which were formal, ritualistic and practicing caste rigidity, as impractical and unacceptable. It pains many old generation and old fashioned people like me to see the sacredness of marriage being progressively diluted due to many reasons, some stupid and others valid. Unfortunately our seers have not moved with time and are slow to respond to modern developments and highly interactive nature of society to day. It is no wonder that the new generation descendants are asking inconvenient questions to which we have no logical answers to provide!. Modern education has instilled a sense of self respect and empowerment to women which were denied to them for centuries. We respect and worship Goddess Durga but consider our own women folks as subservient to the interests of the dominant males! Wailing about shortage of brides does not carry us any where and this is the time for deep introspection for self correction and change our society into an equitable one with mutual accommodation and appreciation, irrespective of gender. The guiding principle in life should be that "bow before knowledge and prostrate before a person if he or she is more knowledgeable than you". I am reproducing below an incisive article which appeared recently which is very relevant to most nucleus families to day.  

"N Gopal Rao, headmaster of the Vivekananda High School in Sullia, Karnataka, has an interesting hobby. He loves scanning the matrimonial advertisements in newspapers. Sometime ago, he got intrigued by an ad in Vijaya Karnataka. It was inserted by a Bangalore-based Brahmin photographer looking for a bride. As the ad started reappearing regularly, Rao continued to keep a tab on it. It's been two years now, but the search is still on. Across Karnataka, lower middle-class Brahmins in traditional occupations like cooking and farming arefinding it difficult to get a bride. The prospective brides, who are mostly well-educated, prefer upwardly-mobile bridegrooms with modern education, urban lifestyle and high income. The boys have now started looking beyond the borders of Karnataka, sometimes as far as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir, in search of brides".

"M.G. Sathyanarayana, director of the Kashyap Seva Kendra, a Brahmin organisation, is spearheading the campaign of finding brides from north India. He hit upon the idea in 2007, after a visit to Rohtak, Haryana, where he had met several Kashmiri Pandits. The National Capital Region is home to more than 1,00,000 displaced Kashmiri Brahmins. Though he approached the Pandit leaders with the profiles of nearly 20 Kannada bridegrooms, Sathyanarayana was asked to wait till January 2013. But, in February 2012, hundreds of Pandits returned to Kashmir, after the government promised that their assets and properties would be returned. The government also offered them financial assistance for acquiring a house, free transit accommodation, a waiver of interest on loans and 15,000 jobs. But the government is yet to deliver on these promises. The fate of Sathyanarayana's bachelors now depends on whether these Pandits decide to return to Delhi or prefer to stay on in Kashmir". 

'Since the Pandits remain undecided, Sathyanarayana travelled to Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in September in search of prospective brides. He also placed matrimonial ads in three regional newspapers, but received only a handful of responses. He even sent a delegation to Assam to scout for eligible girls, who were orphaned by the riots. Though the inter-regional alliances can be hampered by language barriers and differences in culture and lifestyle, Sathyanarayana argues that the north Indian families are not averse to sending their daughters to Karnataka. The relatively high standards of living and the absence of dowry are big attractions. But since this is the first time that such a social experiment is being attempted, the Kashyap Seva Kendra is taking all precautions. They are collecting the birth and medical certificates and educational records of all the girls and boys. They will also be closely monitoring the couples for the first two years of their marriage".

"There are several reasons for the scarcity of the brides. The skewed sex ratio is the primary culprit. According to the 2011 census, there are only 968 girls for every 1,000 boys in Karnataka, and this ratio is even more skewed among the Brahmins. The socio-cultural and economic norms prevalent among the Karnataka Brahmins have accentuated the crisis. "The predominant feature of the Kannada Brahmins has been their migration from rural to urban areas and their ability to turn agrarian capital into non-agrarian capital and thereby establish their dominance over the knowledge economy, be it in education, bureaucracy or law," says Ramesh Bairy, professor of sociology at IIT Bombay. "The Brahmins took up new spaces that opened up in the economy. However, a section of them, like the Havyakas, whose primary investment was in plantation cropping, decided to stay back and not partake in the modernisation wave. Concomitant to this was the education of the girl child, with the establishment of good colleges, even in the interiors." 

"Notably, the scarcity of brides is more common among four sub-castes of the Karnataka Brahmins, who trace their origins to north India: Shivalli, Havyaka, Karhade and Chitpavan. The Havyakas, for example, claim that they were brought to Karnataka around the end of the 3rd century AD from Uttar Pradesh by the efforts of the Brahmin king Mayooravarma. "If a Brahmin couple has a son and a daughter, they will make the son a priest, and educate the daughter. Because of this, girls are better educated and they demand a bridegroom with equal education," says Jitendra Bhat, a journalist from Mangalore, who has been searching for a bride for quite sometime now. Venkataramacharya, a Brahmin who has been running a marriage bureau in Udupi for three decades, says he started noticing a paucity of brides from the mid-80s. The cooks and priests might earn up to Rs. 60,000 a month, but the girls consider it demeaning to be married to them. They are also unwilling to settle in villages or stay with joint families. "Earlier, the preference was for sons, but now, Brahmin families are praying for daughters," says Venkataramacharya. "If I could do it again, I would still become a cook. But I wish Brahmin families would educate their daughters about our culture and traditions so that they would not be ashamed to be married to us," said 38-year-old Gopal Bhat from Borkatte, who now rests his hopes with the Kashyap Seva Kendra, after 
ads and brokers failed to find him a bride". 

"Some exasperated boys now seem to be amenable to the idea of seeking brides from other castes. Their only condition is that the girl should be a vegetarian. Says 37-year-old N.R. Anand, a Smartha Brahmin from Mysore, "For me, caste was never a priority while searching for a bride. But it is important for the older generation. Today, heads of mutts and priests themselves are advocating inter-caste marriage because of which there is a shift in the rigid principles of our fathers and grandfathers." Anand started searching for a bride seven years ago. He is now looking for an alliance from the Gowda community. He is encouraged by the fact that there was a precedent of inter-caste marriage in his family.  While some mutts have openly endorsed inter-caste marriages, others staunchly refuse to do so. "Brahmins have a unique culture and tradition which will be diluted by inter-caste marriages," says Shri Visvesha Theertha Swami of the Pejawar Mutt. Others like Shri Laxmivara Theertha Swami of the Shirur Mutt have adopted a milder stance: "The times are changing and we have to change with them. Maintaining purity of castes might not be feasible in the future." In his famous book The Annihilation of Caste, B.R. Ambedkar advocated inter-caste marriages for eradicating caste system from India. Today, the Karnataka Brahmins are following his advice. May be 'not by choice', but by the 'lack of it'."

Is it not an irony of history ( or mythology?) that Shivalli Brahmans who were supposed to have been brought from Ahichatra area ( now in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh) by the great Kadamba King Mayura Sharma, a Brahman himself, to purify his kingdom through brahminic rituals and worshiping practices, are now trying to reach out to the North for sustaining their Kula through marriage alliances? Whether the Ashtamuta Swamijis condescend or not there appears to be no going back on this new trend because of practical compulsions. A moot question that will remain unanswered is whether there will ever be a union of old traditions and new developments in the society which only can prevent conflict of minds which other wise can accentuate with each passing generation! Unless the Ashtamuts make a conscious effort for such a reconciliation and recalibration it is a question of time before Shivalli Brahmans become an extinct species in this planet!   

I am not sure as to how many parents in Badettu family umbrella are facing problems in finding peace and tranquility through marrying of their sons and daughters against the background of the above article. Many parents feel that their responsibility on earth is over once they make enormous sacrifice to educate and settle their sons and daughters comfortably in life and then recede to the background without being a drag on their off springs. But unlike our forefathers to day.s children have their own mind, aspirations and ideals which may be totally different from that of the parents. Best course to day is to work hard till children are well educated and self supporting before conceding them their right to do what they want. Providing advice, guidance and help can only be attempted, if they are sought. The old type perception that children are investment for future of the parents is no more valid under to day's environment and perpetuating such hopes would end up in disappointment, strained relations and frustration which can be easily avoided.

History has shown us one thing, that is the relatively stable family life most of our earlier generation people had and divorces were an unheard thing, probably due to many reasons but that is a fact. Whether one marries as per the established system of horoscope matching or by mutual family appreciation, enormous efforts have been made by the newly wedded couples to understand, adjust, forgive, forget, share the grief and happiness together and make the marriage a success. According to my limited understanding, family to family bonding is the true foundation stone for a successful marriage. I cannot imagine a life without my parents or my wife's parents to whom I invariably turned to when in distress and if I am playing the same role our parents did 5 decades ago, it is because of what I learned from them during my early periods of married life. Given an opportunity again I will do the same thing by actively seeking and listening to the elders about what they advice. 


Friday, March 8, 2013


Naming ceremony (namakarana) is an important phase of one's life and along with "seemantha" the soon-to-become mother undergoes in her husband's home form the twin events for a new family. Is it not interesting that practically every religion has the naming ceremony in one form or the other and it is often said that the "given" name becomes the standard identity for any person through out life. Naming also differentiates humans from animals though these days even domestic animals/pets are given a variety of names to which surprisingly they respond also. It is another matter that in many western countries the hospital where the child is delivered insists on an instant name for creating the necessary documents immediately after the new child is born. Legal necessity for registering new births with local bodies also calls for a name to be assigned to the child. Probably this could be one of the reasons why we see lot of new types and varieties of names are nowadays given to children, some of them difficult to even pronounce and remember.

According to the system we follow among Madhwa community, a new born child is given three names on the eleventh day or any other auspicious day decided by elders and each name given has a significance. One of the three names should be synonymous with the star when the child was born, second one synonymous with the Kuladevaru and the third one a common name by which the child is to be called through out his/her life. I doubt whether many of us remember our other two names given to us during the christening time. At least I am not aware of the same! Only recently this aspect aroused my curiosity when my last two grandchildren were to be named. Mitra and Kushi, Smita's children were christened as per Kodagu traditional practices and their names were later told to me as Mitra Poonacha Chimmanda and Kushi Kamini Chimmanda. Here the first name is the commonly called one while the second one may be as per the advice of the elders, the third being their family name. Look at to day's practices! There is no nakshathra, no kuladevaru attached to your name! 

Have you ever heard of a person by name Padubidri V Rao belonging to our family? He is none other than our present "Karanavar" of Badettu family Dr P Vedavyasa Rao! Similarly I was known to many as Venkatrao H Potty and my father must be wondering whether I was trying to usurp his name and glory! Take the case of Vittala and shockingly he is Narayanappa Vittala! Sreenivasa, son of Ananthrama chikkappa has no initial at all! BTH Govinda Rao is officially called Badettu Govinda Rao and he was so proud of Badettu family name that there is even a restaurant in Sarovar Hotel in Ernakulam by that name! Our life time name identity happens at a most critical juncture during our life time when some one escorts us, crying all over, to the much dreaded school which signifies that our "grachara" is about to start and spending happy times at home eating, playing and enjoying is about to be over! Once the admission process starts those who take us to the school invariably have no clue regarding who we are except that we are the children of such and such father and blurts out information which may or may not be accurate. 

I wonder how many among us have read the famous book by Maneka Gandhi providing hundreds of names with their meaning? I am sure many of us must have taken appealing names from her book while considering the naming of our children. A stark difference between our old system of naming and the present one is that most names given to us were those of Gods or Goddesses either singly or in combinations for which there is no shortage in Hindu religion. Other names like Kamala, Jalaja, Vanaja, Raja, Guru, Mallika, Champaka, Gulabi, Geetha, Maya, Vasanthi, Tulasi, Ganga, Yamuna, Kaveri, Sheila, Sundari etc, most of them associated with nature, are also given. Can it be that this system allows the parents to utter the names of God frequently every day without actually praying as per the custom, a painless process of earning punya!  

Have you ever thought about the "pet" names used by our family to call us? This is a very interesting area of inquisitive thinking. There are umpteen number of such names in Badettur family also. Nanu is the pet name of Narnappaya and he is better recognized by his contemporary fellow Padubidrians. Then we have names like Ginda, Gopa, Padda, Apri, Chachu, Bangaru, Nandi, Easha, Gidha, Vicha, Subba, Kicha, Seena, Cheeya, Chetha, Appukutta, Chachi and a few others commonly used. In my own family I use Gubi, Anji, Nichu, Bhavu, Palli, Appu and Ammu!  is it not terribly complicated to remember who is who? That is the essence of life! 

Among Christians, names are repeated over generations by affixing Roman numbers after the name. Also in vogue was affixing the word junior to the names of the ancestors. We also have a system of using same names by which our ancestors were known. Take for example the name Vasudeva the second generation patriarch in Badettu family. As far as we know the name of the father of Narnappaya was also Vasudeva. Similarly Venkatramana, the name of another second generation patriarch was a repetition of the name of Narnappaya's grand father! Coming to third generation, we have a Narayana in Kollam, last son of Vasudeva which is repetition of that of our great Ajja. Thinking about it those of us who regularly follow the sharda practice every year in memory of our mothers and fathers may not be realizing that this system provides us with a mechanism to remember all our ancestors at least once in an year. Is this not remarkable? It is another matter that many of us do not have correct information about all the relatives who passed away before us in whose name we have to do tharpana. Our family with over 700 members will find it increasingly difficult to name our ancestors if a conscious effort is not made collectively to perpetuate their names through accurate documentation. Who will come forward to do this, is a million dollar question! 

Coming to the practice of using our fathers' name following our given name is truly an anachronism of history because according to me the mother also deserves a mention for the trauma of conceiving and giving birth. Probably I would have preferred to be known as Hariharan Kaveri Venktraya rather rather than Venkatrao Hariharan Potty! There is a Malayalam picture by the title Baba Kalyani in which Mohanlal says that he is proud of using the name of his mother Kalyani because of his appreciation of her sacrifice. Another tradition that defies logic is why after marriage the newly wedded bride has to change her name at all. Is it not ridiculous that some mother-in-laws even rename the newly brought bride forcing her to forget her own family given name by which she was identified before marriage for the rest of her life! Why can not she retain her original name? Probably I may be ostracized for my provoking thought by many conservatives but is it not logical? This argument is all the more relevance in to day's world where both husband and wife are earning members of the family sharing their happiness and grief on equal terms. From practical point of view also one set of names through out life make it easy for retaining the identification ans satisfying all legal requirements.

Other day some one asked me why any body should have a name at all? A truly significant question because more than the name what one needs is the AADHAR number or Election Commission Card or the Ration Card to be recognized by most of the government agencies which do not do business with unless you have the necessary photo identity! Even to day in the defense forces and police community one is known and called by number! Many people do not like the names given by their parents and change them through public announcements and legal proceedings. Don't we know that Yeddyurappa and Jayalalitha who mutilated their original names by changing the spelling slightly on the advice of their astrologers! In spite of all said and done, human beings will never change the existing naming practices come what may, simply because the name recognition is still a social necessity, though it has lost much of its relevance long ago!  

Answer to the last Quiz

The one and the only popularly known LN, aka L N Potty aka Lakshminrayanan Potty ( Vasudeva Doddappa's first son-in-law) is the person I had in mind. He must be in his mid eighties  now and it is quite some time since I ave seen him, an unpardonable lapse on my part. He was a popular teacher and many of our third generation members were taught by him in Kollam. Besides he is a muli talented person with fluency in many languages, an accomplished musician, a small time politician operating only in Kollam town area, an editor, poet and has many other accomplishments to his credit. Let us all wish him good health and a few more years of useful life.

Quiz for the current issue

Who among the second generation members of Badettu family had traveled from Kashmir to Kanyakumari?  


Monday, March 4, 2013


Venkatraya ( my father) was the third son of Badettu Narnappaya and he was indeed an enigmatic character whose mind no one, even his own wife, was able to read during his life time. He was supposed to have completed the intermediate course of olden days and worked for some time with a coir manufacturing English firm, called Darahsmail in Alleppey. During the later years of Narnappaya in Kerala, he was drawn into hotel business and assumed an important management role in running the grand old hotel Sri Krishna Bhavan along with two of his brothers Subbraya and Ananthrama. As described earlier he was some what dominant, probably being a permanent resident staying at Alleppey year round with relatively fluent in English and Malayalam so necessary to conduct business in Kerala at that time. He looked after the accounts, taxation matters, local purchases, labor management and public relations. His more than 65 years of life in Alleppey did make him some one with a tall stature and senior personality commanding respect from Madhwa community in the area, political classes and business leaders. Being a man of few words, many of his friends and well wishers admired him because of his "weakness" for helping all and sundry whether deserving or not.

Out of his 11 children, 6 were males and 5 were females ( one deceased early in life), all of them are comfortably settled in Alleppey, Mysore, Mangalore, Bangalore and Madras. It is a tribute to his vision that he made most of his children at least college graduates giving them opportunities to choose their life line without being influenced by him or the established hotel business. Being a strict patriarch, his children could never understand his mind and the reservoir of affection he had for each one of them during his life time. As a youngster and being the first son in the family, I could never understand his relationship with his wife (my mother) or with his brothers and during my stay in Alleppey from 1941 to 1961, I must have seen him talking to his father or brothers, not more than a couple of times! A man of few words with a soft mind and hard exteriors, he had a voracious appetite for work and probably he was the main pillar upon which the edifice of Alleppey Sri Krishna Bhavan was built and sustained.

How he came to marry Kaveri of Kande family is not clear though this family was once prosperous in Padubidri with a doctor, lawyer and an air force personnel being some of the members. One and the only female member in that family, Kaveri was brought to Badettu family as the third daughter in law by Narnappaya and it is another matter that almost all members of this once renowned family have disappeared into history unsung! Probably one may attribute this to past curses about which I know nothing. Two of my uncles served in Alleppey but did not prosper and to day their successor families are leading pedestrian lives in Madras, Alleppey and Ernakulam. Whether Venkatraya could have been more accommodating to uplift them is some thing I cannot judge at this point of time. But it could be too much to have expected during those days "escort like service" from early generation members like Venkatraya because they themselves were products of hard working and self established doyens. Of course, by to day's standards parents like Venkatraya would be an anachronism because of the extra ordinary care taken by modern day parents to play up to the whims and fancies of their kids, leaving nothing to chance! How many parents can get a sound sleep when examinations are announced for their kids? Practically none because they wish to escort their kids to achieve incredible success and not to be left behind in this crazy world where competition is the name of the game!   

According to the words of some observers he was a "schemy" person, apparently being unsympathetic to his brothers and manipulated to edge them out from business by paying small compensation during nineteen seventies for bringing in his own family members into the business. Of all the innuendos hurled at him, harshest was that he did not buy the hotel property till his brothers were with him though it was offered several times by the original owners but managed to acquire the property all of a sudden after he became the sole owner of the hotel. This conveniently obscures the fact the there was a gap of more than 10 years between the exit of his brothers from business for family reasons and acquisition of the property. As some one involved in efforts to buy the property I can swear by God that left to him self the property would never have been purchased but for the generous help of BTH Govinda Rao, Narayana Bhattar of Bhima & Brother and liberal loans from Nedungadi Bank! The property had to be bought because it was sold to some one in Dubai by its owner, taking advance and promising to vacate the tenants (us) in 6 months' time. It was because of the benevolence of BTH Govinda Rao who came to know about the proposed sale to the Dubai businessman and who pressurized Venkatraya to try to buy the same! It was provident, luck, God's grace and ancestors' blessing that he was able to acquire the property with great reluctance. Judgement about any machination on the part of Venkatraya will have to be left to history. As for his children like me there is neither rancor nor remorse about what transpired four decades ago.

The relatively uninterested stake Venkatraya had in amassing wealth is reflected by his poor judgement on property purchase as well as lack of motivation in looking after what he acquired during his life time. The Thondankulangara property which was a lease from the nearby temple was in the name of Venkatraya and Subbraya and the title came relatively late in his life. After Subbraya wanted to leave Alleppey once for all, he was paid compensation for his share though I do not know how much was paid. At least I know that both Subbraya and Ananthrama had no rancor or ill will against their brother on this score. With earnings from the hotel Subbraya and Ananthrama had also acquired a property in Pazhaveedu area in Alleppey which was sold to Padmanabha Bhattar of Bhima & Brother in haste before migrating back to Mangalore. Even the Thondankulangara property was not looked after properly till his wife took interest in fencing, fertilizing, coconut harvesting etc and to day if the neighbors had usurped almost 10% of the land through devious means, there is none to be blamed except Venkatraya! Blaming such a person for selfishness may be scandalous at the least!

One of the important attributes of Venkatraya and his wife Kaveri which is not well known to members of fourth and subsequent generations of members of Badettu family is their extra ordinary kindness to children other than their own! While during nineteen fifties the three Rams, Sethu, Jay and Raghu dominated the Alleppey household, it was the trio of Vedavyas, Vittal and Seena who provided the backbone to the house during sixties. In fact Vedavyasa and Vittala knew Venkatraya better than what they knew about their own parents! Similarly these two cousins knew what Venkatraya had up in his mind than his own children! Can any one believe Venkatraya writing his will with the help of Vittala in 1987 while every one else had no idea about it till after the death of the former?! If Vedavyasa, Vittala and Seena had become somebody in life, probably a small portion of the credit must be due to Venkatraya and Kaveri! This is not to belittle the extraordinarily endowed personality of these cousins and their achievements in life which were hard earned. Is it not a reflection of the love and affection of Vedavyasa and Vittala towards the Venkatraya family that both of them chose eventually to settle down in Alleppey itself and made their families, living happily there to day? 

I have faint recollection about some of the friends of my father who included the Kodayannachi, Electricity Kini, Bhima's Padmanabha Bhattar and Narayana Bhatter, Aital of durga hotel, Narasimhanna of Narasimhampuram hotel, Soppanna household, Punchiri Avarachan , the Auditor L Rangamani, Vasu Pillai of a local small eatery, the Thadi Iyer who accompanied him regularly to Sabarimala every year and a few others. Invariably he would be spending his evenings with them sitting on a bench in the big gate area behind the main Cash Desk. I can never forget his twice weekly purchase trips in the early mornings on Wednesdays and Saturdays to Kallu Palam water front vegetable market to buy the needs of the hotel. I also cannot forget the communist stalwarts like late R Sugathan, T V Thomas, K R Gowri etc who had regards for Venktraya being a kind cash cow for them, giving money when they come and request. The former Chief Minister of Kerala V S Achuthanandan might not be remembering Venkatraya or his children like us though we can never forget when he was a peon in the first floor office of the communist party during nineteen fifties and sixties, shuttling between the cash desk where the lone phone in the entire area was located, ferrying messages to and fro!.

I wonder whether any of my contemporaries remember the veritable Ambalappuzha Sami who was the alter ego of Venkatraya. It was this kind soul who sacrificed a major part of his life for the welfare of Venkatraya family. He was housed in Thondankulangara property and was like the proverbial "Emeritus Manager" or a jack of all trades doing hundreds of odd jobs for which Venkatraya had no time being pre-occupied with hotel management. I can never forget him in my life because he was like a foster parent for most of us. In fact the "Potty" suffix became a part of my name because he was the one who took me to the school for admission and when the authorities there asked him about my cast he blurted out as "Potty" which put us on par with local priest community known by that name. It is another matter that this surname haunted me through out my life, especially during my more than two dozen international travels and working aboard for a number of years because every child is familiar with the word Potty, being the permanent fixture in the toilet! Interestingly where ever I had worked, there was only one Potty, that was me, giving a sort of instant recognition!

Venkatraya's awesome presence among hoteliers can be gauged by the fact that he was the President of Hoteliers Association for some time providing guidance and assistance through his knowledge of labor laws and other government regulations. It is a tribute to his stature as an elder statesman in Badettu family that his most ardent "fan" was BTH Govinda Rao who was his own cousin and did not fail to prostrate before him where ever and when ever they used to meet. It was his abiding faith in God, trust and faith in people around him and liberal bend of mind that benefited his descendants so abundantly.        

Answer to the Quiz in Blog 1030

Ranga, second son of Anantrama is at present a senior executive associated with BTH chain of hotels in Ernakulam. He joined them at an early age and was a confidant of late Govinda Rao. He has considerable experience in many aspects of hoteliering. 

Quiz for the current issue

One of the third generation son-in-laws in Badettu family is a versatile person with talents in poetry, writing, film production, politics, teaching, music and social service. He is a living legend well respected by the Society. Can you name him?


Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I, Radhu and Vani had the fortune to witness the Dakebali on Feb 16, 2013. In the last blog piece I provided some interesting details about the Thambila that usually precedes Dakebabli. Since attending both the programs same day is some what tedious, we chose to split the visit into two days. On 15th after attending the Dwajarohana function at Indrani in the morning, I, Radhu and Kicha decided to see the Thambila part about which the previous blog issue contained some information. We started at about 1 am from Radhu's house at Paniyur and reached Brahmasthana in 15-20 minutes. Here is an eye witness account of what transpired there after we reached the place. 

Appearance-wise the decoration on that day was not as fabulous as the one seen the previous day. The flowers were less, banana bunches and pingara were fewer in number but over all the place looked enchanting and stimulating to the eyes. When we entered the premises a few people were sleeping on the bare sand with some of them having brought some thing to sleep on. The two pathiris were also sleeping just in front of the sanctum sanctorium  after .their exhausting performance earlier for the Thambila. Obviously they were impervious to the environment with deep sleep. We were ushered into the special enclosure earmarked for Bhatrus and were seated near the circular platform( about 5 feet in diameter) decorated with colorful flowers and pingara. The pathiris after being possessed go around this platform led by the "Nagakanya", a colorfully dressed special person beating the Dol and dancing with some rhythm.

At about 2.30 am they were woken up by the volunteers and led to the Kornaya house with burning torches showing the way. After about 15 minutes they came back fresh having taken a dip in the pond there and prostrating before the God in the pooja room in there. They stood in absolute silence for a few minutes before the Brahmera gudi with in the Brahmasthana while exploding crackers heralded the starting of Dakkebali. It took almost 15 minutes for these pathiris to be "posessed" by Brahmeru and Naga Devru respectively. There after they started moving round and round  near the deity led by the Nagakanya who later led them towards the circular platform,where again they started going round and round continuously. The pathiris were carrying live wicks in both hands changing them frequently  while going behind the Nagakanyaka. It appears the role of Nagakanyaka is performed only by a person with some special personality attributes hailing from tribal community. The repeating running around the circular platform continues for about one to one and half hours, considered very arduous and tiring. But neither the pathiris nor the Nagakanya showed any strain, a unique ability attributed to the blessings of Brahmeru.

The atmosphere of sanctity of the function was further enhanced by continuous beating of drums and pipe like instruments by special bands located on both sides of the performing area. Except for the person performing the role of Nagakanyaka, all others within the enclosure were bhatrus and siting there at close quarters one gets an exhilarating experience, swaying to the crescendo of sounds involuntarily with a feeling of nearness to God. By this time the entire Brahmasthana was filled up by people coming from the surrounding areas to witness this unique performance. What struck us was the relative stamina of the two pathiris who were continuously running round  non-stop for almost 3 hours with no feeling of exhaustion! While the young Nagakanyaka's performance is understandable as he appeared to be a youngster aged not more than 30 years, that of the old pathiris aged 75 and 86 years were indeed  surprising, defying any rational explanation.

The last scene was some what intriguing when the Nagakanyaka holds both pathiris on both sides with his two cheeks touching those of the pathiris. This act was repeated four times at four sides of the circular platform. At some stage the chief sponsorer comes forward and put flower garlands on all the three. Senior Kornaya was there nearby throughout the function as he, representing the illustrious family is supposed to be the chief for this function, though he did not seem to have any specific, visible role. Mounds of pingara were brought inside and both the pathiris took the pingara, in a frenzy, rubbing all over the face and this actually is the main prasada of Dakkebali. The main cost for the sponsorer goes for pingara, flowers, tender coconuts, arecanut bunches and banana bunches besides payments to the dakke party and other drumming parties brought specially from outside. Though these functions can be performed during a period between Jan 15 and March 15, Dakkebali is not possible on Mondays, Amavasi and Ekadeshi days according to traditions. It is further constrained by the availability of Dakke party who take up similar responsibility in various Nagamandalas performed in different places of the region. This year it appears there were only 36 of them and the last one is scheduled for March 14, 2013.

According to puranas, Parashuram created the stretch of land from Kanyakumari to Gokarna by throwing his powerful axe (Mazhu) after gifting away the whole world and finding no place for himself to live! This land was raised from under the sea, where Nagas were supposed to have their kingdom. That is the reason why Nagas are revered in this area for ages with practically every household having a Nagabhana, protected by closures and restricted access. It seems Parashuram had ensured that humans and snakes live together in amity and cordiality and humans worship Nagas for expressing their gratefulness in sharing their land. The last act during Dakkebali when Nagakanya enacts a romantic scene with both pathiris on his either side is  supposed to be symbolic of "fertility"  amongst the population in "Parashurama srishti" region. Probably this may also be the reason for many families in this region performing Nagamandala when they find low fertility in their families with children not borne to their dear ones. Whatever may be the explanation, witnessing Dakkebali is indeed a unique experience one should not miss during one's lifetime, especially for those with lineage like that of Badettu family. 

While sitting at the enchanted area near Brahmasthana during Dakebali, it is inescapable that one gets the feeling of being near the spirit of Badettu Narnappaya who dominated the function for more than three decades. It is certain that his spirit pervades the atmosphere there as Dakkebali was a function without which he found it difficult to reconcile during his life time. Even when he was in Alleppey after retiring from Brahmasthana activities due to frequent bickering amongst Padubidri people , at the time of Dakkebali he used to get into some sort of a trance without actually being any where near the scene of action! It was a quirk of fate that he, nearing the hundred year milestone in his life, stubbornly insisted  on returning to Padubidri and died soon thereafter within a few weeks. Another feeling we could get was that from being the proud sponsorer of second Dakkebali day celebrations during olden days, we have now become just a spectator in Dakebali with no stake in it. The cost of Dakkebali, now is put at any where from Rs 2 lakh to 10 lakh though there is no upper limit for spending on this function. Badettu family with so many illustrious members within their fold may not host a Dakkebali in any foreseeable future unless some enlightened one comes forward to take the lead in organizing the same with the necessary wherewithal. 

I asked a pertinent question to Mr Kornaya while visiting him during the current Dakkebali season as to why no one in Badettu family has been chosen by Brahmeru for playing the role of a pathiri; the answer was very interesting. It appears that our Ajja before retiring requested Brahmeru to spare his descendants from this role, probably believing that they might not measure up to the rigorous standards of piety expected for performing at Brahmasthana or because of the fast dispersal of his descendants into other parts of the country getting educated to become professionals. However it appears Brahmeru only gave him "virama". that is "rest"  for some time and probably some time in the distant future there could be the possibility of another Narnappaya emerging from amongst his descendants. One dreads what will happen to Dakkebali once the present pathiris disappear due to the march of time but people in Padubidri still refuse to learn from history to bury their hatchet and  forge the much needed unity to approach Brahmeru to oblige them with new pathiris!

What do you make out of the narration above? Is it some flight of fancy or blind belief in traditional practices with no meaning or there is some thing beyond what we perceive and understand? Whatever it is, there is no way escaping from the ground reality that people live on hopes and anchoring of this hope on faith, trust or beliefs give them the much needed peace and solace. Brahmasthana, Thambila and Dakkebali are examples of faith of humanity in some force, beyond what they possess and one may call it God or Goddess or by any name to focus and concentrate to strengthen them to achieve what they seek in their life.                      


Thursday, February 21, 2013


By now we are familiar with Brahmasthana and Dakkebali festival associated with this ancient shrine dedicated to Vanadurga called by many as "Bramheru". The 2013 Dakkebali festival which began on January 14  is still continuing and I am not sure how many of us made it to this festival this time which had influenced the Badettu family for decades. Association of our great Ajja with this shrine for a number of years is still being recalled and many old timers seemed to be missing his awesome presence and performance as the senior pathiri decades ago till he retired on his own due to the inability of Padubidrians to sink their differences and unite for the prosperity of the community that inhabit the village. It was a long time wish for me to revisit Brahmasthana and be a spectator of the event once again after a gap of 32 years. My last visit was in 1981 when my father organized a Dakkebali to thank the Godess for giving us an opportunity to buy the Alleppey hotel property. I do recollect way back in 1950s when I went with my parents to witness Dakebali when our Ajja was the senior pathiri. My wish to revisit was fulfilled when on Feb 15 and 16 I visited the shrine to watch the event in two sessions.

Along with Radhu(Paniyur) and Kicha (Chitpadi-Udipi) I reached Padubidri at 10 pm on Friday 15 Feb 2013 with lot of expectations and some anxiety regarding the crowd that might have already reached before us. Fortunately the crowd was somewhat thin and we were relieved to have ample space for sitting very close to the performing area. What struck us was the sight of a simple woods like area converted into a heavenly looking environment with flowers, banana bunches and arecanut bunches bedecking every single conceivable place including tress, poles, lighting poles. Absolutely there was no electricity used for the lighting, the day like light coming from hundreds of gas lights using 2 kg LPG cylinders and many natural wick based oil lamps. Main flowers used were white, mostly jasmine and its cousins, pingara (arecanut flower) and chrysanthumum (Semantike) hanging from every where. On a conservative estimate on the day we went there must have been about two tons of banana, one ton of jasmine and semantike besides hundreds of pingara. It was a sight we will never forget in our life.   

It appears unlike in the past when the function used to start at 9 pm, nowadays the rituals begin only after 11 pm. This is probably because there were only two pathiris as against 7-9 in the past. It is said that new pathiris are not being initiated by the Goddess because of Her dissatisfaction with Padubidrians who are still a divided lot! The belief here is that new pathiris will emerge only when the Padubidri brahmin community pray to gether pleading with Her for initiating new pathiris. No one knows when will this happen, if at all it happens. We took the occasion to go to the traditional house of Kornayas who were trustees of Brahmasthana from time immemorial. It is here that the Pathiris come straight from their houses, take a dip in the pond nearby, pray before the deity ( Vishnu) in their pooja room and proceed to the shrine for their performance. When we went there both the Kornaya brothers were there while their mother was lying down due to old age afflictions. It was most unfortunate that these two brothers from Kornaya family do not even speak to each other on account of differences during the last several years with the elder man taking over the responsibility of managing Brahmasthana. We paid our obeisance to the family deity with a dakshina and namaskara and discussed with the junior Kornaya a few aspects of the shrine and its present condition. It appeared remarkable that faith of local people on Brahmeru and her abode has not diminished a wee bit because of the unnecessary infighting among those responsible to uphold the sanctity and holiness of the place!

At about 11.15 pm the two pathiris, one Lakshminarayan aged 86 and one Narayan aged 75 walked in, were provided with a burning torch to go to the Kornaya house through the dark route, take bath, pray before God and return for the ritual. It was amazing that the two pathiris, left behind after the death of most of the old guards, were hardly able to walk without physical assistance under normal conditions but once inside the hallow precincts of the shrine walked briskly to the sanctum sanctorium with practically no discomfort. After standing before the deity in Brahmasthana for a few minutes they were possessed by the Goddess making them do amazing feats in a state of trance. Holding live burning wicks in their palms they go round and round closely guarded by able bodied youngsters to prevent any unanticipated mishaps. This was repeated several times by both pathiris, one representing Naga Devaru and the other Brahmeru. It appears such rituals are performed during Nagamandala as and when organized by Temples and private homes and is called Haluhirihittu seva. Here in Brahmasthana it is night time Thambila.

While the pathiri representing Naga Devaru did most of his obeisance action in front of the Naga idols near the sanctum sanctorium, the other one was performing mostly in front of the small rock deity, the main worshiping point in Brahmasthana. After about half an hour the Thambila ended and the pathiris started giving pingara to each and every devotee as the prasada from the God. It was amazing that these pathiris did not had even a small burn after holding the live wicks during the entire period while those observing the ritual could get burns if the oil drops from the wicks fall on them! Those who are not Bhatrus (brahmins) do not enter the area where pathiris performed the rituals but waited patiently to recive their prasada from the pathiris out side the premises. 

We left the place at 1 am after receiving our prasada as there was a gap of almost 2 hours between Thambila and Dakkebali which followed at around 2.30 am. We decided to come back next day at 2 am to witness Dakkebali proper. One impression we got was that there is a dilution in the fervor of of Battrus who perform the rituals probably due to the deep division within their ranks though scarcity of funds is never a problem with non-brahmin devotees donating in lakh for this once in two year festival. Foods are served (Kadubu and Bhagilu) in the hall nearby while some food stalls have popped up nearby. There is a distinct shift to commercialism and we were told that more than a billion rupees are invested during the season. It is a reflection on the economic status of the brahmins in this region that out of the 36 Dakkebali days this year, those sponsored by brahmins are hardly four in number!   

I will come back with more narration of my experience with Dakkebali 2013 soon.