A fort builder who is part of the Bhuta pantheon

A fort builder who is part of the Bhuta pantheon

Submitted by alvin on Thu, 2016-07-28 10:12 Tulunadu’s bhuta tradition goes back to almost 3rd-4th AD, coinciding with the arrival of early Tulu tribes who introduced the initial cults of Bermer. Subsequent history saw the introduction of bhuta or daiva worship. More than a thousand bhutas/daivas are worshipped in Tulunadu. Koteda Babbu is one among them. The word ‘kote’ means fort and since Babbu was an expert fort builder, he was known as ‘Koteda Babbu’. He is also called as ‘Kodida Babbu’ as he was born in the house of Kodi Kondala. It was a time when Kodange Bannara king was ruling Kachchuru Beedu, though some say that Kodange Bannara was ruling Kodi Kondala Guttu. One morning, when he came to supervise his farm, Kodange Bannara heard a baby girl crying lying on her mother’s dead body. Though the little girl belonged to Mundala community, Kodange Bannara carried the baby back to his house and handed it to his wife, Sirikonde Ullalthi, to look after it. The couple were also happy as they had no children. They named her Malathi - later she became famous as Kachhura Maldi - and raised her as their own daughter.                                                                                                      When Malathi turned nine, Sirikonde Ullalthi invited women from Mundala community to perform her coming of age ceremony, which involved rituals such as making her to sit on a heap of coconuts besides pouring holy water (Kalasha water) on her as per the ritual. Later, Sirikonde Ullalthi along with Malathi went to take bath in a stream. According to folklore, Sirikonde drank a handful of water as the water was considered sacred. In one of the myths, while Sirikonde Ullalthi was drying her hair, a drop of water from her head fell into Malathi's stomach, causing her to become pregnant. But people gossiped that Kodange Bannara was responsible for the pregnancy. Alarmed, Kodange Bannara asked Malathi the truth about her pregnancy. Malathi assured her father that she hadn’t ruined his faith; that “even the sky hadn’t been able to catch a glimpse of her stomach”. But rumours soon reached the ears of Katpady king, who was very jealous of Kodange Bannara's name and fame. So the king arrived with his followers and ordered Malathi to prove her innocence. To prove her supernatural pregnancy and virginity, Malathi took a dip in boiling oil for eight day and nights. After that, she held a red hot iron ball in her hands but remained unaffected. After passing through all these tests, Malathi demanded that people give Kodange Bannara a white horse and a white umbrella – the signs of royalty. As time passed, Malathi gave a birth to a baby boy and died. Sirikonde Ullalthi named him “Baale Babbu Baraga”. Blessed with supernatural powers, the boy amazed everyone with his feats. When he was 7 years old, Babbu met the prince of Banga kingdom who challenged him to beat him in a variety of contests. On being defeated by Babbu, the prince of Banga planned to kill him but failed. As Babbu’s fame spread, neighbouring kings, too, became jealous. One day, the king of Vitla asked Babbu to inspect a well. Babbu agreed to it, but Kodange Bannara and Sirikonde Ullalthi were unhappy as they knew of neighbouring kings’ plot to kill Babbu. Eventually Babbu arrived to inspect the well. When Babbu got down the well with a help of a ladder, the king’s men pulled the ladder up and covered the opening with stone slabs. Another myth blames Katpady king was deceiving Babbu. Having realised that he was trapped, Babbu started shouting for help. Several myths say that daivas such as Kodamanithaya, Lekkesiri, Jumadi and Jarandaya tried to save Babbu but were not able to break open the stone slab. Even Koti Chennayya tried his hand and failed. Finally, a woman Tanni Maaniga, sister of Mudda and Kalala, famous daivas, heard Babbu’s wails and approached the well. It is said that Tanni Maaniga took her special sword named as  "Gejje Katthi" and cut the stone into seven pieces. Next, she threw her sari down and asked Babbu to not look up while climbing up the wall of the well. But Babbu ended up doing just that, which incensed Tanni Maaniga. When Babbu climbed back up, he thanked Tanni Maaniga and asked her to state his punishment. Tanni Maaniga said that they would henceforth be brother and sister but Babbu could atone for his wrong by slashing his forehead seven times and provide her with seven drops of blood from those wounds. Babbu agrees to her demand. From then Babbu and Tanni Maaniga became daivas. The Kodi Kondala house still remains a prime place of residence for Babbu, followed by Kunju Poojary’s house where Babbu was treated very well on his travels. Though Kodange Bannara and Sirikonde Ullalthi did not have a child, they raised Babbu as their own. So someone might have killed Babbu for wealth or he may have been killed by kings who were upset with his supernatural powers. Tragedy and divinity are speciality of Tulu Culture. So Babbu got divine power and was worshipped as Koteda Babbu Swami. Photo Credit: Ranjit Shetty and Abhi Salian Jokatte