ಮಲೆಮಾದೇಶ್ವರ ಕಾವ್ಯ (Male Madeshvara Kavya) also known as Madappana Kathe

1.      male mAdEshvara kAvya

2.      The epic of the Madeshvara of the hills

3.      Not known. Recited for centuries by generations of professional singers belonging to a particular community. They are called ‘dEvara guDDa’s. They are also known as ‘kamsALe gAyakaru’ (kamsALe<<< kAmsya tALa=Cymbals of bronze) It’s an oral epic.

4.      Not known. More than four centuries old.

5.      Male Madeshvara Hills in Chamarajanagara district is the nucleus of the story. It is at a distance of about 80 kilometers from Kollegala. Mythology mentions about 77 hills connected with this range.

6.      Oral Tradition. Recited in annual fares and religious rituals. The singers are nomadic.

7.      None. This tradition is supported by people who are loyal to Madeshvara.

8.      Not known

9.      Poetry. Folk literature.

10. A combination of poetry, prose and dramatic narration. Poetry is composed in ‘amshagaNa Candassu’.

11. Oral. Printed versions were created based on the recitations of different singers such as Hebbani Madaiah.

12. First Printed Version. 1975.

13. P.K.Rajashekhara. Recited by??

14. ???

15. Male Madeshvara, Edited by K. Kesahvanprasad, (Recited by Hebbani Madaiah), 1997, Kannada University , Hampi) 2. ‘Male Madeshvara’, (English Translation) Translated by C.N.Ramachandran, 2001, Sahitya Academy , New Delhi .

16. ‘Male Madeshvara’ and ‘Manteswamy Kavya’ are the most renowned Oral Epics of Kannada. These epics have flourished for centuries even though they were marginalized by the main stream literature. ‘Male Madeshvara’ is a mythological-historical account of Madeshvara a tribal hero who is worshipped even to this day. His temple is situated in the Male Madeshvara Hills in Chamarajanagara district. The epic is an episodic cycle consisting of seven episodes usually referred to as ‘sAlu’ or ‘kavalu’. “The Madeswara epic consists of seven cycles, or episodes, depicting the life of a religious saint, or hero, called Madeswara. Each episode centers on one or more miracles performed by Madeswara. In each case, the miracle serves to demonstrate Madeswara’s religious power in the face of those who challenge or doubt it. As such, the Madeswara epic bears many resemblances to both oral tradition and literary puranic accounts of the exploits of deities. Indeed, Madeswara is regarded by his followers as an incarnation, or amsha, of Shiva.”(PeterJ..Clauss). The episodes are ‘tALugate’, ‘ShravanakumAra, ‘JunjEgouDa’, ‘sankamma’, ‘bEvina kALi’, ‘dEvamma’ and ‘saragUru mAdappa’. ‘tAlugathe’ narrates the dramatic appearance of Madeshvara as a Jangama and his confrontation with the seers of Suttur. He is asked to accomplish certain tasks to establish his powers and he proceeds to achieve them by his miraculous abilities. Seen from a historical point of view these episodes document the confrontations of the protagonist with established castes and communities. It is a process of acquiring domination and control. Madeshvara wins over his adversaries with his divine powers. They belong to Jainism, Kuruba community and those who are loyal to Biligiri Ranga. This hints at a process of expansion of a cult. ‘sankammana sAlu’ is particularly impressive because of the sufferings and perseverance of the female protagonist Sankamma. ‘Male Madeshvara Kavya’ is undoubtedly a literary work of art and it will survive even when divested from its religious associations. The description of nature as well human nature, creation of situations with dramatic power and a competent use of rural dialect to great effect are the strong points of this epic. It documents the plights and protests of the under privileged communities in their own language. The singers are familiar with the general outlines of the story and they have a number of formulaic patterns at their command. They are capable of creating the text that suits the context. Consequently each performance becomes a new creation. The listeners too are familiar with the general out line and they are emotionally connected to the performance. The epic acquires a different status when committed to writing even though some unique features are lost. A systematic study of this epic has begun recently.

18.   References: 1. ‘Painted Words’: An Anthology of Tribal Literature, by G.N.Devy, 2002, Penguin Books.

19.   Links: 1. Indian Folk Epics ( An article by Peter J.Clauss)

20.   Translations: 1. ‘Male Madeshvara’, (English Translation) Translated by C.N.Ramachandran and L.N.Bhat, (Sung by Hebbani Madaiah and his Troupe), 2001, Sahitya Academy , New Delhi ,



21. A brief account of the episodes as given by Peter J. Clauss:

“1. Talugathe (the first episode)

Madeswara appeared for the first time in a place called Bhi"manakali as a Shaivite saint (jangama). He went to the house of a pious couple where he performed a miracle and they became his devotees. He then proceeded to Suttur, a Virashaiva math. The guru of the math refused to acknowledge Madeswara's powers until he proved himself by undertaking a certain task. Madeswara again proved himself by performing a miracle. Then, after visiting other maths and at each performing a miracle he retired to a valley in the mountain country to the East and practiced tapas (meditation).

2. Killing a Demon

There was a terrible demon called Shrava??na in Bankapura, a place in the mountainous country. The demon had such tremendous power he was able to capture many gods and kept them as servants at this palace. When Madeswara went to test the demon's powers he saw the gods serving in their various capacities. Shrava??na ordered Madeswara to make special sandals for him. Madeswara agreed, but while making the sandals, concealed explosives in them. When the demon put them on he was killed and the gods were released from his service.

3. Junje Gowda

Madeswara then visited the house of Junje Gowda, a wealthy landlord of the Kuruba (shepherd) caste and a devotee of the god Beredevara. There he performed miracles to convince Junje Gowda of his power and in the end won Junje Gowda to his following. Junje Gowda is said to be responsible for all the temples built in the mountainous region of eastern Karnataka called the Madeswara Hills.

4. Sankamma

Sankamma was a beautiful woman and a devotee of Madeswara. She was married to a cruel man called Nele Gowda. One day Nele Gowda left her tied up in the forest while he went in search of food for himself. Madeswara encountered Sankamma, untied her and blessed her that she might have many children, on the condition that they should be given over to him as devotees when they were born. Nele Gowda returned home after several days and Madeswara punished him for his cruelty. Nele Gowda, too, became a devotee and gave his children to Madeswara.

5. Bevinakali

Originally Bevinakali was a devotee of Madeswara and by the grace of Madeswara became very rich. Afterward, Madeswara wanted to test her gratitude. He appeared before her at harvest time and asked for a small portion of grain, but Bevinakali refused. Her harvest and all of her wealth were magically destroyed by Madeswara as a punishment.

6. Devamma

Devamma was an evil woman who would invite Shaivite saints (jangama) to her house and feed them poisoned food. When Madeswara came to her house he was given poisoned sweets. He, in turn, gave them to Devamma's son, who ate them and died. Thus Madeswara taught her a lesson. He later brought the son back to life and both became his devotees.

7. Saragur Madappa

Ramavve, the mother of Saragur Madappa, at first refused to allow her son to become a devotee of Madeswara. She was a follower of Biligiri Rajaiah. Madeswara performed several miracles but failed to convince her of his powers. Finally, when her son was killed by the bite of a poisonous snake and Madeswara brought him back to life. Both she and her son became devotees. Madappa was selected to be in charge of preparing Madeswara's oil bath.”



Home / Literature