Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mylara - a unique deity

Mylaralingeshwara with Gangamali
(Picture of a picture given to us)


This is a reproduction of an article in Star of Mysore (Published in July 2009) by Prof. A. V. Narasimha Murthy, Former Head, Department of Ancient History & Archaeology, University of Mysore

Mylara, Mylari, Mylarappa, Mylari Rao etc., are some of the popular names in Karnataka and parts of Maharashtra even today.

In my college days, there used to be an excellent English professor Mylari Rao at Maharaja's College, Mysore, whose thousands of students are spread not only all over Karnataka but even abroad. In recent years, Mylari Hotel has become famous for tasty and crispy dosas. That is a different matter.

With the development of Puranas, the scope and content of Hinduism was widened so as to include many new deities. Such deities are not known to vedas and upanishads. As and when needs arose locally, the Puranas created such deities which in course of time became quite popular. This democratization of religion was a strong character of Hindu religion.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan has said that Hindu religion is a not water-tight compartment but a vibrant religion moving with times with dharma as its main content. This has elevated persons like Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhwacharya, Basavanna and others to the level of divinities to be worshipped in temples.

Now let us consider Mylaralinga, Mylaradeva, Mallari, Mallari Bhairava etc. In Maharashtra area, he is also called Khandoba. The Puranas explain the birth of Mylara as follows:

There was a hill called Manichoola and saints used to live there happily performing Yajnas and Yagas. A demon by name Myla also called Malla invaded the mountain and tormented the saints, their family, cows and their belongings. The saints went to Indra and requested him to kill this demon. But Indra asked them to go to Siva which they did.

Siva took the form of Bhairava and killed the demon Myla or Malla and became famous as Mylari or Mallari and then onwards came to be worshipped in the form of Mylaralinga. Khande means a sword and as Siva killed demon Myla with this sword, he also came to be called Khanderaya which became Khandoba in Maharashtra area. Khanderaya is also used as a personal name in Karnataka.

There is a folk tale connecting Aurangazeb with Khandoba. When Aurangazeb invaded Jejuri, people fought valiantly chanting the name of Khandoba and Aurangazeb was pleased by the bravery of these people and referred to him as Ajamatkhan.

A stone record refers to him as God Mallu Khan. In the border areas of Karnataka and Maharashtra where this cult is more popular, even the Muslims used to worship him for his valour and bravery and hence the deity is associated with such Muslim names. These are all later developments. It is very difficult to fix the antiquity of this deity from our literary records. One of the Shankara Vijaya works which was composed in the fourteenth century has a reference to this cult. The devotees of Mallari, who were living in Ujjain had dog as their symbol and were behaving like dogs. Shankaracharya taught them the real significance of Siva and asked them not to follow the magico-religious practices. This is supported by another Kannada work Samaya Parikshe in which it is clearly stated that this deity is of recent origin, and one Minister Chattappa was responsible for extending patronage to this deity by building temples for him.

This also points to about tenth century AD. Even the great Sringeri saint Vidyaranya refers to Mylara as a tantric deity. Some of the Veerasaiva works also refer to Mylara. Stone records of eleventh century refer to this God. From all these historical records it becomes clear that this deity was in a dormant state in the early period and gradually became prominent after shedding off the tantric associations. Many families adopted him as their family deity and began to use Mylara as a proper name.

Mylara had two wives of which Malachi became famous. Some scholars take this name as a corrupt form of Mahalakshmi while others explain it as a Goddess of Mountain or Forest and hence equate her with Parvati, the consort of Siva. In course of time, Malachi was sanskritised as Madalasa and Malathi and Mylara became Malathesha. Malachi generally has two or four hands with sword, trisula, damaru and a cup in her hands.

In course of time, Goravas became the descendants of Mylara in Karnataka and Vyaghra in Maharashtra. The Goravas of Karnataka have a special dress which includes woolen long coat, a skin bag, necklace of cowrie (Kavade) and a hairy headgear. Even now they can be seen in villages. In Maharashtra they use the tiger skin to adorn themselves.

Temples for Mylara are found in many parts of Karnataka such as Devara - gudda (Dharwad), Kubatur (Shimoga), Anegondi (Raichur), Devi Hosur (Dharwad), Mylara (Bellary), Jejur (Poona), Naladurga (Osmanabad). Two stone records found in Banashankari temple (Devi Hosur) praise Malachidevi as having conferred the grace on the rulers of the area.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this deity is his non-sectarian character. The Brahmins, the non - brahmins of different sects and even Muslims are found to be his devotees. Thus this deity has an interesting development taking origin in the Puranas, becoming obscure in the early stages and getting prominence later by Aryanisation without losing his original significance. That is how this deity appears unique.


Some snippets:

This Gorava kindly honoured my request for his picture (above) recently.

Picture above was taken in our home backyard in 1970. As was the custom, Goravas were invited before any auspicious function in the family. On that occasion, it was my sacred thread ceremony. In this picture, they are not in their "full uniform".

Fully attired in their customary dresses, Goravas used to visit houses of followers of Mylara - somehow they would this find out - and would make the residents to worship them, which was a custom in olden times, but that was a time when commercialization was taking shape. So had developed this habit of forcing their way in and demanded the ladies in the house to offer milk to Lord Mylara, which they drank out of their own curious containers, do various rituals and demand money for that. If they refused, they would threaten that Lord Mylara will not be happy! So the poor women would yield. I have seen it once or twice in my younger days.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

K.M.Subba Rao

A young Subba Rao (from a large framed portrait)
The embossed zinc name plate. Those letters "LL" bring nostalgic memories - I used to point to them by uttering "bill- bill" instead of "el, el", when I was about 2 or 3 years young.

His visiting card, 1930s?
Holding the favourite hand and wearing a favourite terylene shirt!

Here are more pictures from the album.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Konanur Mylar Rao

This was pictured around 1930.


I try to record some information about Konanur Mylar Rao (Some of his earlier records show his name as "Malhar Rao" and "Malhari Rao") that is known to me either from available books, letters, correspondence, from anecdotes and memories of him told to me by people who had actually seen him.

He writes his name as Malhari Rao on a book. This was when he was 16.

Family Background:

Konanur is a small town near Ramanathapura in Hassan district. I am told that Konanur Krishna Rao's father was working in Tipu Sultan's kingdom and when harassment to women and caste/religion bias by Tipu was gaining ground, he decided to flee with his family to escape it. Krishna Rao had been in employment in Mysore Service under the second Councilor around mid-1800s. The family's deity, Mylaralingeshwara is at Mylara near Ranibennur. This Hindu Brahmin family belongs to the Babboor Kamme Smartha sect.

After Krishna Rao's death, his two sons Subba Rao and Mylar Rao toiled hard and took care of the family with plenty of children. Subba Rao the elder of the two was a Pleader and had been practising Law at Mysore's Rave Street near Gandhi Square (which his nephew the illustrious KM Subba Rao had taken over the mantle in 1925 and carried on with great distinction up to 1976).

Thumbnail sketch of Konanur Mylar Rao

[Based on testimonials collected by himself in 1888, correspondence, documents and from anecdotes described by people who have seen or heard about him]:

1868 - Born to Sri K.Krishna Rao and Smt.Lakshmidevamma on 18.9.1868 at Konanur

1885 - Completes B.A in Maharaja's College, Mysore. [He was drawing a scholarship from the Palace till he passed B.A]

1886-88 - Studies B.Law in Central College, Bangalore where he also played cricket and tennis.

1888 - Works for a few months as Assistant Master in Marimallappa's School,Mysore [as Arithmetic teacher]

1889-91 - Works as a teacher [Assistant Master] in The Hindu Theological High School, Madras. He resigned in 1891 to look for greener pastures in Law.

1893 - Enrolls himself to practise Law

1898 - 1926 Works in various capacities like Munsiff (at Chickmagalur), Asst. Commissioner (at …… ), Addl. Munsiff (at )Bangalore, Dy. Commissioner at Kadur and Mysore), etc.

He had accepted the offer of the post of Chairman, City Improvement Trust Board in 1924. The above is the letter offering the same.
He was the Chairman of the City Improvement Trust Board, 1924. [link may not work]
See this screen-shot image I had captured - now not available on the net.

1926 - Retires from service, aged 58.

1936 – Breathes last. It appears that he was having trouble with many of his teeth which were removed in quick succession. That was believed to be the cause of his death.

~ Mylar Rao had married Subbalakshmamma and had thirteen children.

Some Snippets:

~ He was keeping good health with no major diseases. He was keeping himself fit and it appears he had a strong body that resulted from his use of dumbbells and maces (pictured below) and used to walk regularly (his diaries mention about 'strolls' on many occasions).

~ He served as Secretary to Sir Mirza Ismail, the then Diwan of Mysore, for a short period after his retirement. Being a highly disciplined and straightforward man, it appears that he could not tolerate the way the Diwan worked and withdrew from service. (This was told by late KN Chandrashekara, grandson of K.Subba Rao).

~ My uncle tells me that he was a Private Secretary to the Yuvaraja sometime in the late 20s. I think this is the truer fact than the above (of being a Secretary to Mirza) going by the letters he exchanged with the Yuvaraja.

~ Mylar Rao who was upright in his actions and thoughts and never spared anybody if he did not like. In an incident involving Gorur Ramaswami Iyengar, the great Kannada litterateur, was speaking on stage on some occasion. Mylar Rao had stood up and differed his view, which took everyone by surprise and much to the displeasure of Iyengar who has gone on to mention this incident in one of his books (this was told by Mylar Rao’s daughter Nanjamma’s son late Sri S.Chandrasekhar).

~ Disciplined as he was, he had the regular habit of writing the dairy and keeping the family account of expenditure. Some pictures of them are shown below. Had a regular routine of what he did. He was renown for his strict discharge of duties in his service. It appears that he could not tolerate ineffeciency. People respected him at the same time because of his great intellect and kindness.

~ Builds a house named "Chandramouli" in Lakshmipuram in 1910-1911 taking help of Chief Engineer, Ashwathnarayana Rao, on a site bought for Rupees four hundred. This blogpost comes from the same venue. Below is 2008 picture.

~ When I met Mirle Subba Rao on October 18, 2009 in Bangalore (he was my father's classmate and a year younger to him at 86) he mentioned that Mylar Rao had a slow speech. He had seen him during his boyhood.

Have a look at this Vintage Photo Album for some old pictures
Mylar Rao is seen in some of them with illustrious people including the Mysore Maharaja.


Mylar Rao had the fine habit of writing diaries, keeping family expenses account and jotting down important sentences and quotes from newspapers [The Hindu] and other books he read. This he did in the empty pages of other diaries which in itself makes fascinating reading. Another unique part is that his immaculate handwriting remained constant over a spread of 30+ y ears. Such was the consistency. His use of English is amazing even at his young age and his command of the language remained top class. It reflects the quality of education that was imparted in schools and colleges in that era. The British rule has its contribution here!

Here are the little diaries and account books well preserved.

This is from 1929.
He was 31 when he wrote this one in 1899. He warns himself for his bad behaviour in court.

Another page from the same diary, he again points to his slowness in his actions.

This [above] is from 1900. Wonder where he was posted for his job then. He is displeased with himself as he did not consult others before hastily deciding to change his place of stay for a small reason. He repents his action.

Again 1900. The world made a lot of fuss about the turn of the millenium a hundred years later. Mylar Rao was witness when the century turn to the twentieth. He did not make a lot of fuss like what was done about the "Y2K" that our generation experienced! But the occasion was not missed. Read the last line in the diary page above - December 31, 1900.

The very next day, he writes the above page. In this 1901 diary, each page has a quotation written in red ink. Note the one in this: Begin the New Year with good resolutions, and keep them.

Pictured below are some selected pages from his account books:
Click on pictures to magnify and read some of the interesting items and words!

The above is from 1899. Reading the items would be fun. Pay (Salary) Rupees 185. The major share was for House and his elder brother K.Subba Rao who was a Pleader in Mysore. He supported him too as he was going through a lean period [as known from the correspondence they exchanged in those times]. Rupees 185 was not a very fat sum in those days but they had enough to be satisfied with to run a large family. We hear stories from that generation how much just ONE RUPEE could buy.

On the left page above, notice an item Pears Cyclopedia. The 1898 edition of it is still in our bookshelves. Now pages are brittle.

He was continuing the habit of keeping accounts for almost all through his life. This is from 1927.

The above is of 1910.
The handwriting never seemed to have altered even in 1934!