Bards and Anecdotes: With love, Kaveri

Name: It Happened Along the Kaveri: a journey through time

Genre: History/Travelogue

Author: Padma Seshadri and Padma Malini Sundararaghavan

Pages: 450

Publisher: Niyogi Books

By Janani Rajeswari. S

This eminent river from South India is in the news very often. But who knew that river Kaveri actually was witness to innumerable historical events and places while flowing through the respective lands? It is indeed a herculean task by the authors Padma Seshadri and Padma Malini Sundararaghvan to put together a rather exhaustive account of the same. So, the author duo presents stories that the river is sole witness to.

Kaveri is presented as a mystic and elusive damsel. Her birth is shrouded in mystery as there are different versions to it. However, she seems to link the Trimurthi Gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. She believed to be the mind-daughter of Brahma entrusted to King of Vidarbha, Kavera. She wishes to be a holy river thus blessed by Lord Vishnu to purify the land of Srirangam where he would be present. According to Skanda Puranam, Lord Shiva presented Kaveri to Sage Agastya (as a consort). According to the Koduvas, the elusive Kaveri escaped Sage Agastya and took refuge at one of their villagers. An enraged Sage Agastya cursed the villagers with a ‘Four-fold’ curse. This was later neutralised by Kaveri, thus becoming a goddess herself. There’s more to it as it is interesting to know that there is ‘Ashtakam’(eight stanzas) and ‘Ashtotharam’ (108 names) dedicated to Kaveri, just like any other goddess.

The authors recount how the river has seen episodes of historical, spiritual, religious confluence and even conquests. The book is divided into four regions wherein Kaveri has been ever-present: 1. Kodugu 2. Mysuru 3. Kongu Desam and 4. Cholamandalam.

While talking about the Kongu region and the Cholamandalam, the authors mainly highlight the temples in and around the Kaveri and its tributaries. For instance, Cave temple dedicated to Lord Nrisimha (Namakkal) is best known for its perfect waste management in Asia, the three-in-one temple dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in Srirangam, the renowned Ranganathar temple and also the Uraiyur Vishnu temple that Lord Ranganathar secretly visits once a year much to the displeasure of his wife, Ranganayaki!

Kaveri was actually the line connecting the dots of various faiths such as Islam, Christianity and even Jainism. For instance, there is a Jain temple built in South Indian architectural style in Namakkal dedicated to 7th Tirthankara Chandra Prabha. In Viralimalai Muruga shrine, it is said that the deity requested the King to offer Churchill cigars to cure him of chronic stomach ache. The Muslim flag was hoisted on the Tiruchi fort in 1736 by Chand Sahib from Arcot. Tiruchi is famous for the Christianity faith through a Catholic church.

When it was about the Kodugu and the Mysuru regions, the authors present different facets. The account is lined up with various folktales and also becomes a treasure for those globetrotting. For example, did you know that Lord Rama and Sita visited a place called Chunchunkatte, an hour away from Mysuru, during exile? Sita bathed in the stream using turmeric and is still believed to have yellow traces, according to the priest of a temple dedicated to Rama there. Interestingly, the idol of Sita is placed to the right of Lord Rama, which is quite unique. In addition, there are mentions of various famous people hailing from the places, tourist spots such as Falls, wildlife resorts, fishing resorts and you name it. They spice up the narration by including little grey boxes with interesting facts from time to time.

Overall, the book is loaded with information. I believe that authors have taken extra pains to make it an interesting read instead of sounding like sheafs fallen out of a History book. Kudos to the duo for the extensive research, unique compilation and a voila, a great book.

Janani Rajeswari is a freelance journalist who feels writing is a way of staying happy and positive. She teaches foreign languages. She also loves music, pets, books, movies, art and craft and learning new languages.

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