Sunday, April 25, 2004

Pilgrim’s progress
Manisha Gangahar

Tulu Tales: A Soota Chronicle
by G. Kameshwar. Rupa. Pages 145. Rs. 250.

Tulu Tales: A Soota ChronicleTULU TALES is not only an appetiser for pilgrims but also for travellers who like to visit new places. This travelogue woven around the temples on the western coast is bound to interest even those who do not have religious inclinations. The book is a blend of fiction and facts. G. Kameshwar is a software engineer and belongs to the world of science, yet he could not escape the calling of fate that forced him into "a tunnel that spiraled as a space-time-name-form warp, where facts shimmered as fantastic formations seen in a kaleidoscope of fascinating fables, while fancies posed as physical forms that one could feel and touch". It was an "old moth eaten" picture of two sanyasis that became, for the writer, "a key that fitted many locks" and eventually kicked off the trip to the western coast.

The band of land between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, ranging from Nasik to Kanyakumari, is known as the Parashurama Kshetra. It is further subdivided into regions like Maratha, Konkana, Tuluva and Kerala. The coastal strip lying between Gokarna and the Payaswini (Perumpula) river of Kerala was known as Tuluva land or Tulu Nadu. Tuluva land has some very distinct features that provide it an exclusive flavour. For instance there is the practice of naga-mandala that dates back to an ancient tribal worship of the serpent god. Then there is the extraordinary dance ritual of yakshagana and the practice of passing on one’s inheritance passes to the maternal nephew instead of one’s own offspring.

The book offers rich details about temples and towns. The pilgrimage begins with the darshana of Durga Parameswari Kateel, and then going on to Udipi Sri Krishna, Gokarna Ganesha and more. Along with the descriptions of idols and the holy abodes, the book narrates the tales associated with names of the towns and the deities. Other fables speak of not just temples but also of tourist sites. The text is enlightening as well as entertaining.

The narrative is controlled and methodical. The pictures and portraits, though not very sharp, lend immediacy to the book. Soota, the narrator of tales in the book, is perhaps the voice of the author who is mesmerised by India, "where you scratch the earth—and you find stories".