Junjappa (ಜುಂಜಪ್ಪà)  is a cultural hero belonging to the community of cowherds dwelling in forests. (kaaDu gollaru) They claim for themselves a unique identity as different from regular cowherds (uuru gollaru) in their beliefs and practices. ‘Junjappana kaavya’ or ‘kaaDugollara mahaakavya’ is an important folk epic in Kannada.

The story of Junjappa is essentially similar to that of Krishna even though most of the details are regional. Even Junjappa is constantly troubled by his maternal uncles (a la Kamsa) who try to kill him by poisoned sweets in order to anexe his cattle wealth. Junjappa dies after consuming this food. However there is a resurrection after seven days and he kills his uncles with arrows of flame.

Even though specific historical evidence is lacking there is room to believe that Junjappa lived either in Rayakalavera Halli (Shira Talluk, Tumakur District) or Hagalavadi (Gubbi Talluk, Tumakur District) Tradtional singers of Junjappa epic trace his ancestry to Pujari Kandappa of Karadi Golla tribe. He had two brothers and a sister in Maranna, Mailanna and Marakka. Junjappa temple at Hagalavadi and Junjappana Hatti (Abode) which is near by are important land marks.

Junjappa epic gives a mythological perspective to historical events and encapsulates the entire historical evolution of the cowherd community. Junjappa is an incarnation of Veerabhadra. He was born, unlike others through the back of Chinnamma belonging to Kambara Golla community. Gradually, he becomes a saviour of his community by his valorous deeds. He formulates their culture in an organized manner and consequently he is deified after his death. The epic gives a graphic account of his wanderings in the forest regions of South Karnataka such as Shivagange, Baba Budan Giri, Madagada Gudda, Mari kanive etc. He destroys his adversaries at these places with the help of his brothers.

Devotees of Junjappa travel from village to village carrying a bamboo pole called ‘Junjapana GaNe’. This pole is covered by multi coloured clothes and decorated by pea-cock feathers and a cobra head. They collect alms from people belonging to their clan as well as members of other communities. Junjappa is well known for his skill in playing a wind instrument called ‘GaNe’. This big flute (PiLLAngoovi) provides the back ground score while reciting the epic.

There is an aura of magic and mystery around the personality of Junjappa. The epic takes the reader back to the times when witchcraft and magic were legion. However Junjappa is always anti-evil and uses his occult powers to protect his community. He is also worshipped for his control over snakes and scorpions.


References: 1. ‘kaDugollaru mattu avara SampradaaayagaLu’- Dr T.N.Shankaranarayana

    2. ‘junjappana kaavya’ Ed. by Dr Kalegowda Nagavara and Agrahara Krishnamurthy

    3. ‘golla KaDaga’ by Meerasabihalli Shivanna.



Links: 1. The epic of Junjappa

text and performance

By Śaṅkaranārāyaṇa, Ṭi. Naṃ.


Published in 1994, Regional Resources Centre for Folk Performing Arts, M.G.M. College (Udupi, Karnataka, India)

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