It is believed that in olden days GARADIs were known as place, which could be used as GYMNASIUM where people could stay and learn physical exercises, Martial Arts and undergo training to fight battles.
In many PARDHANAs (the songs composed through folklore singing) there are mentions about GARADIs describing how KOTI-CHENNAYYA brothers, KANTA BAARE – BOODA BAARE another pair of legendary brothers and other legendary fighters like Dalavayi Dugganna, Bolla Vaidya, Devu Poonja, Kantanna Atikari mastered the art to fight battles in these GARADIs.
However some people also believe that GARADIs came into existence only in the post KOTI-CHENNAYYA era.
Revered KOTI-CHENNAYYA, the bravehearts who fought against injustice and atrocities of JAMINDARS meted out to poor people were staying in these GARADIs. People in Karnataka particularly the BILLAWA community worship and adore these brothers who fought for the cause and rights of the downtrodden.
Due to this the GARADIs gained significance and the places that were earlier used as Gymnasiums became centers of worship. Gradually the activities of Gymnasium disappeared from GARADIs and people started visiting them to pay respect and worship KOTI-CHENNAYYA.
This may be the reason for some historians to believe that the GARADIs actually came into existence in the post KOTI-CHENNAYYA era. They say that large number of GARADIs were built after sad demise of KOTI-CHENNAYYA in the battle.
Today one can find the GARADIs from eastern KASARGOD (now in KERALA state) to northern KUNDAPURA (part of KARNATAKA state).
There are references of more than 64 GARADIs in history and PARDHANAs praising heroic deeds of KOTI-CHENNAYYA brothers. However it is also said that more than 207 GARADIs existed which were spread across the width of TULUNAD. Most of these GARADIs were public properties and some of these were belonging to individuals and families. There is also a mention of 2 GARADIs in Mumbai city in Maharashtra state, one at Madikeri in Karnataka state and another one at Payyanur –Kerala state.
Researchers also point out that “NANAMARA GARADI” in UDUPI and “VARAMBALLI GARADI” in BRAHMAVARA in South Canara District of Karnataka state are believed to be the oldest GARADIs which are more than a century old. They say in the middle of 17th Century after the famous battle of Enmaru, the GARADIs were transformed in to BRAHMA BAIDARKALA prayer centers as per the wishes of KOTI –CHENNAYYA brothers, the battle heroes.
The researchers have also found similarities in GARADIs of “ TULUNAD” (where TULU is a predominant language in practice) and “ KALARI TEMATTU” in Kerala state. The structures of the GARADIs are quite different as compared to BHOOTALAYAS. The GARADIs are structured with certain specifications and measurements.
The researchers have found similarities in prayers /poojas are performed in BRAHMA BAIDARKALA GARADIs and the manner in which prayers /poojas performed in temples of LORD SHIVA. Shri.Bannanje Babu Amin and Dr.Mohan Alva have co-authored a book in Kannada titled as “TULUNADINA GARADIGALU – Ondu Samskrutika Adhyayana”. The book elaborates in detail about the GARADIS and their cultural significance