Karkala Memorial for Heroes

The Koti Chennayya Theme Park in Karkala takes its name from the legendary twin heroes who are said to have lived in the late 16th – early 17th century. Their tale of virtue, valour and sacrifice is venerated to this day by people in the region, writes Giridhar Khasnis.

One of the important pilgrimage centres of Karnataka, Karkala boasts of the gigantic 42-ft statue of Bahubali (believed to have been built nearly six centuries ago), besides several ancient Jain basadis like the Chaturmukha Basadi (with its hundred plus stone pillars) and Hindu temples.

The picturesque town surrounded by lush hills was in the news when the Koti Chennayya Theme Park (KCTP) was inaugurated on its outskirts recently. Ever since, KCTP has been attracting a steady stream of visitors from not only nearby villages but even from Mangalore (about 30 km) , Moodbidiri (20 km), and other places.

The theme park takes its name from the legendary twin heroes who are said to have lived in the late 16th – early 17th century. Their tale of virtue, valour and sacrifice is venerated to this day particularly by the Tulu-speaking Bilva community in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts

Built with a budget of about Rs 200 lakh, the park was in the making for about two years and was formally thrown open to the public on January 28. The sprawling complex set amidst scenic surroundings primarily comprises three buildings which house an administrative block, a museum and a ‘garadi’ (gymnasium) respectively. Among other attractions are large outdoor stone statues of Koti and Chennayya set on a high landing.

While the administrative block has an impressive hall (dotted with colourful wooden statues of local folk characters) and space for a future library, it is the museum which comes out as the central piece of KCTP.

Thirty-six large panels of paintings on the walls depicting the adventurous life of Koti and Chennayya provide a dramatic ambience to the well-lit museum. The frame-within-frame method allows for a vast and evocative visual narrative to the paintings which have been executed by a team of local artists under the guidance of well-known miniaturist, Vijay Hagargundgi, an exponent of Surapura style.

The museum also houses some eye-catching works of antiquity. Collected meticulously from different places, these objects include wooden and metallic figurines, household utensils, and stoneware, which have been tastefully displayed on the bright red flooring.

The ‘garadi’ also has impressive interiors and life-size statues of Koti and Chennayya. All the buildings have been designed in the typical Dakshina Kannada style with wooden/stone pillars, decorated/carved doors and windows, and tiled roofs. Vast open spaces in the complex add their own charm to the complex.

The physical infrastructure of KCTP is more or less complete, but an effective governing body or administrative set-up to plan suitable activities and to convert the complex into a vibrant cultural space is yet to be put in place. Its potential to double up as a research centre as well as a place to organise short-term art camps, seminars, and workshops on folk-related themes has also to be realised.

More than anything, the theme park which covers about six acres of land, seems to urgently need personnel not only to take care of proper upkeep but also to nurture it with creative inputs. Coordinated effort by Kannada and Culture Department as well as Tourism Department is essential in this regard.

Otherwise, the threat of KCTP becoming one more government project mired with bureaucratic inertia cannot be ruled out.