By Shrividya Somanna*
The story of Parvangada family dates back to the 18th century when Kodagu district, a mountainous region was surrounded by thick forests. The only source of livelihood was the cultivation of paddy, hunting and fishing. The Kodavas who hailed from Besgoor called themselves the Parvangada okka kaara.
Besgoor is a small village, about 20 km from the nearest town of Ponnampet and is surrounded by rivers and streams. During the early days, having no bridges across rivers, the place was isolated during monsoon. People had to thrive with whatever they had and children could not afford to go to schools. This was one of the reasons why the Parvangada family set up a school. It was under the leadership of Thimmaiah, son of Parvangada Pemmaiah of the fourth generation in the family tree.
The nearest school was in Ponnampet which was inaccessible during monsoons. So, the family decided to arrange for teachers from outside. Their food and accommodation were taken care of. The children of the relatives were housed in the Parvangada Ainmane and a community kitchen was built for the students for provision of food. During monsoons, the students were accommodated in the school itself as they could not go home. In 1942, the grandchildren of Parvangada Pemmaiah demonstrated their large-heartedness and their vision resulted in the construction of a new spacious school which has benefitted the local community.
Thimmaiah’s son Kushalappa led the freedom struggle and was titled, “The Tiger of Coorg”. Under his leadership, the Tricolour flag was first hoisted in high school ground, Ponnampet, instead of the Union Jack despite warnings from the British government. Along with his followers, he publicly burnt all the imported clothes and encouraged use of Khadi. In recognition of his bravery, a monument has been built and named ‘Kushalapura’. Kushalappa died in 1928 at Madras while he was returning from the Calcutta Congress session.
It is on record that the members of Parvangada family served under the Lingayath rulers in different capacities and in recognition of their service, they were awarded muzzle-loading guns.
The Parvangada family members got a lot of land or forests converted to estates and fields (umbali bhumi). No taxes were levied on this land. On one occasion, they received a sword or Odikathi (in picture) on which the symbol of “Li” in Kannada was inscribed in gold. They even received Vaidooriya (a gem equivalent to that of a costliest diamond)-stoned gold medals and chains. This chain was often given to the husband by his wife during marriage in the early days.
From Parvangada Bheemaiah being the first Coorg to practise law to Parvangada Ponnappa and Nirmala being international athletes, this family history has only been inspirational and motivating to the coming generations.
Excerpts as narrated by Parvangada Rohini Bheemaiah and Parvangada Bose Pemmaiah.
*Shrividya Somanna (in picture), is a freelance writer and an athlete.