“Nambinakalegu imbu korpa, Satya gendadu korpa, Satyodu battinagale tigaled saadi korpa, Anyayodu battinagale suryodu saadi tojawa”
These electrifying words from an equally rousing legendary heroes of Dakshina Kannada – the twin bravehearts of Tulunadu – “Koti and Chennaya”. Born about 400 years ago (around 1594 A.D) Koti-Chennaya became the champions of the downtrodden & the underprivileged in their fight against injustice. They are immortal in the hearts & minds of Billawa’s through their acts of bravery and their fearless pursuit of justice and equality. The stories of their bravery are passed on from generations to generation & the unseparable twins are still worshipped throughout Tulunad. They are the undisputable earliest leading stars of the Billawa community.
The Story of Koti Chennaya
KING PERUMALA BALLALA
The story has been transmitted on from generations, mainly through word of mouth. As in such transmissions, invariably perceptions, interpretations, dates, places may differ slightly. However, the main body of the story remains & gets passed on to future generations.
The story dates back to the 17th & 18th century to a place named Padumale. King Perumala Ballala ruled the territory. The King desired to build a Lavish Palace – the unparalleled beauty of which would far outlive his lifetime. After a thorough search, he zeroed on Mallaya who was known for his intelligence & work.
Mallaya built a magnificent palace as desired by the King. Being immensely pleased with the work, the King – Perumala Ballala, conferred on him a name “Budyanta” which meant an Intelligent & brilliant man. The King made him a minister & slowly Budyanta took over complete charge of the Kingdom. The King slowly withdrew from the day-to-day affairs & delegated his power to Budyanta. The wise say “Power corrupts….. and Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely”. Budyanta got intoxicated with power & became a dreaded, arrogant & ruthless minister who oppressed the poor subjects of the land.
One day, towards noon, Perumala Ballala had a terrifying dream. The King sought explanation for his dream. Bira Balyaya, the famous soothsayer explained that if he does not perform rituals which were performed by his ancestors, it would not be good for the land. Perumala ballala, following the rituals of his ancestors went for hunting. While returning after a successful hunt, a thorn pierced his foot & nothing could stop the bleeding. On reaching the Palace the King’s wound swelled and the intense pain pushed him to near unconscious statement. No treatment or medicine could heal his wound or ease his pain.
The king then asked for Deyi Baideti to be called. Deyi Baideti, who specialized in ayurveda was a vaidya by family tradition. Since she was pregnant, the King arranged to bring her in a royal palanquin (dandige). Before proceeding further, it is important to know story of Deyi Baideti.
ABOUT DEYI BAIDETI
Pijinar an issue-less Brahmin, used to go to the seashore every day to offer prayers to God. One day to his surprise, a bright golden coloured egg-shaped object floated towards him. He carried the egg-shaped object home. The couple opened it to find a female baby with a glowing golden skin. Pijinar named her ‘Suvarna Kedage’.
Suvarna Kedage grew into a beautiful young girl. She attained puberty at an early age of seven. According to social customs prevailing then, if a girl attained puberty before her marriage, she was abandoned by the society. Under societal pressure, the teary eyed Pijina took Suvarna Kedage to Sankamale forest. He removed her gold ornaments and clothes while she was asleep and left her alone in the forest. Thus she was forced not to return home.
Sayana Baida, a vaidya (Doctor) by profession, was walking through the Sankamale forest in search of medicinal herbs. On hearing the wailing of Suvarna Kedage, Sayana Baida rushed to the terrified. His heart filled with pain and compassion for the poor girl. He accepted her as his sister and took her to his home.
He named Suvarna Kedage after his late sister Deyi. His sister Deyi was married to Kantana Baida and had a daughter named Kinnidaru. Suvarna Kedage now known as Deyi baideti soon became an expert in the preparation of ayurvedic medicines. She got married to Kantana Baida but they did not have marital relations as he looked at her in veneration.
Her prayers to Kemmalaje Nagabrahma yielded and she became pregnant by divine grace while taking a bath in a lake.
DEYI TREATS KING – PERUMALA BALLALA
Deyi Baideti got the message from the king to treat her & proceeded to the palace. The suffering Perumala Balalla promised her that he would give anything she asked, if she could cure him. Deyi started her herbal treatment and slowly the King recovered to his good health. Knowing that her knowledge of medicine had been put to good use, Deyi asked for the King’s permission to leave and reminded him gently about his promise. The ungrateful King denied having made any such promise.
Deyi left the palace wondering about changed behaviour of the King. As she stepped out of the Palace, the Kings wound was torn apart. Immediately he sent his Queen to bring Deyi back. The Queen pleaded with Deyi to save her husband’s life. Softhearted Deyi returned to treat the King once again. The King felt ashamed at his ungrateful behaviour and requested to be forgiven. Soon the Kings wounds healed and the kingdom celebrated his rejuvenation.
BIRTH OF THE BRAVEHEARTS
A naming ceremony was arranged and the King named the twins as Koti and Chennaya. The children’s horoscopes predicted that the boys would bring name and fame to their land. The very next morning of the naming ceremony, Deyi’s soul departed for heavenly abode. Perumala Ballala was taken by grief at sudden demise of Deyi who came as a God in disguise to save his life. He arranged for a stately funeral.
The King asked Kantana Baida and Sayana Baida to leave Deyi’s children in the palace as it would be difficult for Kantana and Sayana to take care of the newborn twins. The two with a heavy heart acceded to the Kings request & went home. They looked forward to the day Koti-Chennaya would be big enough to be taken back home.
BOYHOOD OF KOTI-CHENNAYA
The twins became center of attraction and affection in the Palace. The King played with them and treated them like his own children. They sat on his lap, they shared food with him, they slept by his side. Their royal qualities impressed the King very much. The King’s growing affection towards the twins made shrewd Budhyanta jealous. He feared someday the boys would overshadow him and thus he would lose his importance. He succeeded in inciting the Queen against the boys and the queen started pestering the King to send the boys back.
Budhyanta’s plan worked and one day the King called for Sayana Baida and handed over the custody of the boys to him. Their father Kantana had an untimely death. King ordered Sayana to send them to Gymnasium and to make them learn archery. He promised Sayana to take care of all their needs; milk, food and clothing. They left the palace and were warmly welcomed by the baida community.
Koti and Chennaya loved playing. Once when they were aged around seven, they approached some children playing with a ball (or palle-a red dry fruit almost flat on both sides). They were Budhyantas children. Koti-Chennaya requested the boys to include them in the team, but Budyantas arrogant children refused to allow them because they were from different caste. Koti-Chennaya tried in vain to make them understand that caste-system had nothing to do with children’s play.
Finally Budhyantas children agreed to play on the condition that whoever wins would keep the ball. Koti-Chennaya won the game but the Budhyantas children refused to part with the ball. The Strongly built Koti-Chennaya beat them up. Budyantas children started crying loudly.
Just then, Budhyanta who was nearby in the fields,stepped in on hearing the loud cries of his children. Taking his children’s side Budhyanta scolded Koti-Chennaya for snatching the ball. After some exchange of words, Budhyanta forcibly took the ball away from Koti-Chennaya. Furious, at this act of Budhyanta, Koti-Chennaya took a vow to take back the ball when they grew up. This incident sowed the seeds of hatred for Budhyanta in the hearts of young Koti-Chennaya.
The handsome brothers joined Garadi for extensive training in body-building, archery and fencing. They soon become very popular for their bravery and skill in armed fights. Koti-Chennaya’s brotherly love for each other made them even stronger. The well-mannered, noble, fearless boys became talk of the town. Now quite grown-up, Koti-Chennaya had a burning desire to see King Perumala Ballala.
They visited the King with large number of followers in a procession complete with horses and musical band. The King received them with great love and affection. Koti-Chennaya presented a gift to the King. As Budhyanta was not offered a gift he became angry and left the Court in a huff. On the Kings advice, Koti-Chennaya visited Budhyantas place with a gift. Although his ego was satisfied in making Koti-Chennaya come to his place with a gift, Budhyanta made them wait for hours. He ignored their presence. Tired with long waiting and irritated by the lack of respect from Budyanta, Koti-Chennaya left the place with heavy heart. Their hatred for him became more intense.
THE END OF EVIL BUDHYANTA
Koti-Chennaya’s fame spread to places for their bravery, nobility and kindness. Their straightforward words against injustice and oppression gained the hearts of the common people. Their giant physique and superb archery skills made people bow to them with respect. Padumale’s fame spread due to Koti-Chennaya. The King was quite proud of them. However Budhyanta turned green with jealousy.
Then came the day when the King decided to give a part of land to Koti-Chennaya for cultivation. Budhyanta was dismayed to learn that the land given was a part of his land. He could not imagine sharing the land with Koti-Chennaya. The dark clouds of hatred engulfed his mind.
Kambala is a traditional buffalo race in muddy waters just before the harvesting season. One day Budhyanta who on his way to an astrologer to get a date for Kambala, passed by Koti-Chennayas house. Koti asked him to get a date for him too and gave a coconut to be offered to the astrologer. Budhyanta agreed to his request but broke the coconut halfway down the road to the astrologers house. Some boys who saw him break the coconut and drink its water, told Koti-Chennaya about the incident.
When he returned Budhyanta gave Koti-Chennaya a date which fell on the new moon day or ‘amawasya”. Kambala was never held on amawasya day. Realizing Budhyantas ill intentions, Koti-Chennaya planned their Kambala on the same day as Budhyantas. They invited everyone to participate in their Kambala. Those having four buffaloes were requested to send two to them and the other two to Budhyanta. Those having two buffaloes were free to send the buffaloes to any of the two Kambalas. On the Kambala day Koti-Chennaya received good response from people but Budhyantas field had only his own buffaloes. To help him, Koti-Chennya sent four buffaloes to him. Budhyanta took this as an insult and beat up the buffaloes.
Few days later, the jealous Budhyanta drained the excess water from his field to Koti-Chennaya’s field destroying their crop. Koti went to Budhyanta and demanded an explanation for this act of cowardice. The arrogant Budhyanta justified himself by saying that he knew cultivation better that Koti-Chennya. He started to abuse Koti in a filthy language for his audacity to question him- a high class Minister.
Chennaya who was nearby became furious with anger at Budhyantas insulting words. He went after Budhyanta with a sword in his hand. Budhyanta ran for his life but Chennaya leapt like a leopard and pulled him down. Both the brothers attacked evil Budhyanta and killed him. Then recalling their challenge made to him during a match in their boyhood, they went to Budhyantas house and took the ball (palle) back.
The news of Budhyantas death spread like wildfire. Most sighed relief at the end of Budhyantas tyranny. Koti-Chennaya declared that they fought against injustice and were prepared to face the consequences. Righteous Koti-Chennaya gained more respect from the people oppressed by Budhyanta.
FAREWELL TO PADUMALE
In their next visit to the King Koti-Chennaya asked the King for the boon he had promised to their mother Deyi Baideti but the King refused to grant the boon. Enraged Koti-Chennaya announced that they would leave Padumale forever. No amount of pleading by the King Perumale Ballala could make the dignified brothers turn back. The long journey began.
They set out on foot for a journey, the destination of which was completely unknown. On the way they reached a river but the boatsman refused to come in the midnight. Trustingtheir Deity (kuladevata )they walked on water and crossed the river to the horror of the boatsman.
They were tired from long journey. They encountered an old brahmin man who enquired about their caste. Koti answered ‘We are Billawa by caste’ and Chennaya said ‘and brahmins by our deeds’. Chennaya refused to drink water from the pot offered by the brahmin and instead drank from his sword (suriya). The brahmin was taken aback by the unusual way of drinking water and realized that he was speaking to extraordinary mortals. The old man turned out to be a fortune-teller. He predicted Koti-Chennaya a tough time ahead and told them that their names will last forever.
KOTI CHENNAYA IN PANJA
As per uncle Sayana Baida’s advice Koti-Chennaya visited Paiya Baida’s house and met their elder sister Kinnidaru there. She was born to Kantanaa Baida and the first Deyi Baideti and married to Paiya Baida. Tears rolled down Kinnidaru’s eyes when Koti-Chennaya introduced themselves to her as her twin brothers. Her happiness knew no bounds. Koti-Chennaya stayed there for a few days.
Koti-Channaya remembered their Mother’s wish which was made during their birth, to donate to the place of origin (moolasthana) of their ancestral deity (kuladaiva) Kemmalaje Nagabrahma. They expressed their desire to Paiya Baida who knew the place well. He gave them exact directions to reach the place located in a dense forest of Enmooru.
Koti-Chennayas were known for their heroic deeds, well-built body and war skills. People flocked to meet them when Koti-Chennaya arrived in Panja. These people now saw one more side of the brothers. Koti-Chennya’s humility and respect towards the elders, love for children, their friendly nature, poise and nobility won the hearts of the villagers. Their magnetic & powerful personality turned them into natural leaders. People loved them. Distressed people went to their shelter for help. Chandugidi became anxious about these developments. He feared that Koti-Chennaya’s fame would jeopardize his Ministership someday.
Meanwhile, the King Padumale Ballala was sad and broken since the day Koti-Chennaya had left Padumale. He missed the boys whom he had fed with his own hands. He wanted to bring them back at any cost. Out went his spies in search of the lions of Padumale. Some of those spies brought the good news of Koti-Chennayas whereabouts. Immediately the King sent a message to the Kemara Ballala, the King of Panja to hand over the brothers to Padumale. Cunning Chandugidi read the message as an order to arrest or kill the brothers. Although Kemara Ballala had a soft corner for Koti-Chennaya, Chandugidi succeeded in mis-leading Kemara Ballala and secured the King’s permission to handle the matter on his own.
Meanwhile, Koti-Chennaya wanted to meet the King Kemara Ballala. They expressed their desire to Paiya Baida. He took them to Chandugidi who promised to arrange a meeting with the King. He worked out a vicious plan to trap the brothers.
He called in men to build a palace-like structure overnight. It was specially designed to trap Koti-Chennaya. The structure was called Dindumale. Chandugidi took the brothers near Dindumale. He then asked Koti & Chennaya to go inside as the king wanted to speak to him in private. Unsuspecting Koti-Chennaya went inside and got trapped. Chandugidi laughed loudly from outside. Betrayed by Chandugidi and trapped in total darkness, Koti-Chennya prayed to Kemmalaje Nagabrahma. Using all their strength Koti-Chennaya managed to break the wall and escaped from Dindumale. Chandugidi trembled with anger and fear at the news of their escape.
KEMPU KEMMALAJE NAGABRAHMASTAHANA
Enmooru province was next to Panja. It was ruled by a just King – Deva Ballala. A forest named Tuppekallu located in the border was the matter of dispute between the two provinces. Although the forest belonged to Enmooru, Chandugidi had forcibly shifted the border-stone to cover the forest area.
After escaping from Dindumale Koti-Chennaya entered Tuppekallu forest and noticed the shifted border-stone. Realizing the foul play by Panja, Chennaya restored the stone to its original place. Before entering Enmooru the brothers wished to offer their prayers to Kemmalaje Nagabrahma using the directions given by Paiya Baida. By the time they reached the temple, the morning ritual (pooja) was over and the temple doors were shut. Koti-Chennya requested the priest to reopen the doors but the priest advised them to wait till next morning.
As they had to offer the offering without which they could not proceed further, Koti Chennaya sat opposite the closed door of the temple and prayed fervently. Miraculously the doors opened by themselves and the bells started swaying making loud Ghantanada. Tears filled the eyes of Koti-Chennaya’s eyes who thanked the deity for offering a darshan. The priest was shocked to see this phenomenon. Realizing the intensity of Koti-Chennaya’s prayer & devotion which made the deity to open the doors for Koti-Chennayya, he sought forgiveness from the famed brothers.
ENMOORU DEVA BALLALA’S SHELTER
Koti Chennaya were received with great respect in Enmooru. King Deva Ballala offered them royal hospitality and a piece of land named ‘Aivattoklu’. They had a great challenge ahead to convert the barren land into productive land. With strong determination, Koti-Chennaya mobilised young people to work with them to convert the dry land into a green patch. They introduced new methods of cultivation. Looking at the developments many families shifted to newly developed land of Koti-Chennya. Koti-Chennaya paid great attention to irrigation projects all over Enmooru. They constructed new roads for transport. Their enthusiasm spread to the entire province and motivated the youth. Within a couple of years the agricultural produce in enmooru increased multifold.
HUNTING IN TUPPEKALLU FOREST
Wild animals used to enter the fields developed by Koti-Chennaya and destroyed the crops. This became more frequent in the coming days. To end this problem, Koti-Chennaya decided to hunt them down. Taking the permission of the King they entered the forest with some men. Chennaya shot a boar with an arrow. A badly hurt boar ran out of Enmooru border and died in the jungle which belonged to Panja. Chasing the animal Koti-Chennya reached the place with their men. The people of Panja claimed that the boar was theirs because it it was lying in their territory. Koti -Chennya argued that it belonged to them as they had killed it. A fight broke out and Koti-Chennaya attacked the Panjas and after defeating them took the dead boar to Enmooru.
Chandugidi turned red with anger on hearing the news. He declared that Panja would avenge the humiliation. He ordered for the boar to be returned and demanded an apology from Koti-Chennya. Kemara Ballala sent a letter to Deva Ballala demanding the custody of Koti-Chennya. He warned of dire consequences on failing to comply with his demands.
Peace loving Deva Ballala was worried about these developments but he could not imagine handing over Koti-Chennya to the enemy. Sensing his dilemma Koti-Chennaya assured him to take charge of the situation. Deva Ballala sent a strong reply to Kemara Ballala inviting a war. Kemara Ballala had never expected such a reply. Now he had no other option but to prepare for for war.
Both the sides started preparing for war. Scared of Koti-Chennaya, Kemara Ballala sought the help of Perumala Ballala who blindly agreed to join Panja in a war against Enmooru. The war started and a fierce battle left many soldiers dead from both sides. On the seventh day Chennaya and Chandugidi were facing each other with swords in their hands. After a long fight Chennaya killed Chandugidi. Enmooru rejoiced at the end of the evil person.
THE END OF KOTI-CHENNAYA
Next morning Koti looked serious. He told Chennaya about a bad dream he had the previous night in which he saw a soldier riding a buffalo going towards the North. The soldier had applied plenty of oil on his head and his body was covered with blood. Carrying a sword in his hand the soldier laughed weirdly. The dream was clearly an ill omen. On hearing about the dream Chennaya suggested that he would lead the army instead of Koti, but fearless Koti did not agree. He decided to lead the army himself.
After Chandugidi’s death Kemara Ballala decided to enter the battlefield. Koti faced Kemara Ballala in a fierce duel. Swords flashed and a timed attack from Koti dislodged Kemara Ballala’s sword from his hand. Kemara Ballala ran for his life. Koti followed him shouting that he does not kill those who surrender to him. Just then an arrow pierced Koti from behind.
Koti collapsed and turning around saw Padumale Ballala hiding behind a tree. Koti could not believe his eyes. Bleeding Koti questioned Padumale Ballala for this act of cowardice. How he could kill the boy he had fed and played with & how this barbaric act would bring him fame? The King told Koti that he did not wish to kill him but he did it under the influence of some evil force. Filled with remorse, he said he did not wish to return to Padumale after killing his beloved Koti. The Broken Padumala Ballala then pulled the sword to kill himself, but Koti stopped him by pulling the sword from the King with his trembling hand. Koti advised the King not to kill himself and to end the war. He requested him to extend his friendship to Enmooru.
When Chennaya saw his brother die he could not control himself. The pain and agony of losing his loving twin brother was too immense to bear. Chennaya smashed his head against a yellow rock (manjol paade). Koti-Chennaya gave up their life. The tragic death of Koti-Chennaya pained a million hearts. It is believed that Koti-Chennaya did not take re-birth and they still help and protect those who believe in them.
The Billawas strongly believe that Koti-chennaya protect them from all evils and they continue to worship the spirits of Koti-chennayas through various rituals.