Home Columns Anantha Narayan Land of legends

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    Dravid and Kumble are not the only legends associated with Karnataka. Every city in the state is a tale wrapped in a yarn inside an anecdote take Udupi, to know how imaginative things can get. Udupi is said to have been derived from the Sanskrit words Udu and Pa, which mean ‘lord of the stars’. This is an allusion to a mythical story that involves the moon and his 27 wives. Apparently, Daksha, the father of the 27 nakshatras, was cut up with the moon for some reason and he cursed his son-in-law that his light would dim with time. When it did, the petrified moon and his cohort of wives prayed to Lord Shiva to prevent him from turning into a dimwit. Shiva predictably answered his prayers and restored his glorious shimmer. Hence, the name Udupi, as a nod to Lord Shiva.
    Bidar, the hill-top city in North East Karnataka, has an equally mythical origin. They say Bidar is named after Vidura, the wise uncle of the Pandavas and Kauravas, probably because he was rumoured to have settled down here.
    Mangalore is named after a Malabar princess Premaladevi who had renounced her kingdom after becoming a disciple of Swami Matsyendranath. Apparently, the saint rechristened her as Mangaladevi. She died of illness in an area that eventually became Managaldevi temple. The temple lent its name to Mangalore.
    Chikkamagaloru has a little tale associated with its origin. They say the town was given as a dowry to the youngest daughter of Rukmangada, the chief of Sakharayapattana. To commemorate the gifting, ‘younger daughter town’ was translated into Kannada as ‘Chikkamagal uru’.
    Mysuru has the most popular funnecdote. And it’s linked to the buffalo-monster Mahishasur. Mahishasur had all the boons from the gods and was virtually unchallengeable. Being conceited, he decided to take on the divine powers. Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva reincarnated themselves as Durga or Chamundeswari and slayed the demon. The Chamundi hills, East of Mysore, is a tribute to the goddess. While the city itself is called the abode of Mahisha.
    Adding to the list of colourful etymologies is Kolar. It’s derived from Kolahalapura (Kannada for ‘violent city’). Kolahalapura was the battleground for some famous wars between the Chalukyas and the Cholas. To think that a warzone has transmogrified into a veritable gold mine is truly legendary stuff.
    Have more Karnataka tales
    to share? Toss them across to
    anantha@albertdali.com.

    -Anantha Narayan

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