Raja’s tomb— does not that make one curious? It definitely intrigued me. A Hindu king and buried ? And that’s not the only interesting fact, feature about this place of tourist attraction at Medikeri town of Coorg, Karnataka.
We visited Raja’s tomb in October 2014. It was a balmy afternoon with clear blue sky and cool breeze, As I got down from the taxi in front of high gate of iron bars,  these kids trying to ride the elephants sculpted on platforms on either side of the gate made me smile. Their innocent laughter and mirth gave a perk to my holiday mood.

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Inside the gate stood three structures in a straight line, distanced from one another by the green lawns in between. These structures are raised on square platforms, skirted by parapet. I was facing the back of the buildings. I started walking towards right side on the narrow, meandering gravel path running through the grassy patches. Bushes of various colored flowers in between the soothing green brightened the scene. After covering some distance I reached a small iron gate which was locked from inside. On the concrete square were two rectangular platforms . An idol of Nandi sat on each of these. On the side walls of platforms on black stone, I could see that something was engraved but from that distance it was not possible to read it. At that moment I could not know what these platforms denote. Why the statues of two Nandi were carved there? Rustling leaves  tried to whisper some tales of bygone era but alas that could not satisfy my curiosity rather ignited it a bit more.

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moving forward on the circuitous path I reached the front of the tomb buildings.
Here in front of the middle tomb is a plaque that imparts certain information about the buildings, the tombs and other structures.
The central structure houses the tombs of Kondva king Dodaveerrajendra and his wife. Door of this structure was open when we visited. Inside was a Shivling and Nandi. Isn’t it fascinating— a temple within the tomb building.On the roof of the building is a dome in center flanked by minarets on the four corners. Well, these are the usual features of most of the sepulchral structures of Mughal time but what contributes to the uniqueness of these tombs are the Nandis sitting besides every minaret. what a fascinating amalgamation of two different cultures. The walls of tomb buildings are lined by windows and the side panels of these windows have carvings of various images of mythological and folk relevance and importance, each telling it’s own tale. Every time I visit a historical monument with such images carved, I feel curious to know what it represent, what it depicts.

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A view of the back of Raja’s tomb.

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An overview of a part of Medikeri town from a small hilly portion inside the campus.

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Tomb of the royal priest.

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Inside view of Raja’s tomb. The hanging lamp, the Shivalinga and other idols can be seen.

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This one was interesting…..two bodies one face. Was the sculptor trying to engrave something symbolic…separate body, soul in unison or just because he had limited space on stone slab and that was the solution found for symmetry. Who can reach the nooks of a creative mind?

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This certainly is Ganesha and in the center …is it depiction of Om…. and the figure in right ? Is it Ma Laxmi?_MG_0323

Figures engraved on upper side of the window on the wall of tomb building. What or whom can these be representing? The figure on the left, the one with bow does that represent Rama or a Kodwa warrior and that on right—- is it some Rishi, praying but then why is he sitting on a boar. Is it representation of some folk tale or a mythological. So many thoughts race through minds. What you have to say about it?

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 These two figures stood on the gate of the central sepulchral structure. Dwarpals they could be representing . But the Trident  annd Damru in the hands of one figure suggests that it could be Shiva’s representation. Quite logical too it appears as Lingayats are great worshipper of Shiva but do they subscribed to this avatara of Shiva or adhered to Linga form only. More over foot above snake ? We are used to snake on Shiva’s neck. The symbols, signs and manifestations of the art and sculpture schools of that era had their own expressions, own language. We, as common tourist can interpret the same as per our own thoughts.
To the right of this tomb is the tomb of Lingarajendra built by his son Cheekaveerrajendra in A.D.1820. to the left is the tomb of royal priest Rudrappa built in  A.D. 1834. The two platforms with Nandis on them are tombs of two royal officials Biddanda bopu and his son Biddanda somaiah. Boddanda Bopu died fighting Tipu Sultan.

These kings of Paleri / Haleri dynasty ruled over Kodagu for about 200 years.[ 1580-1834]. From Haider Ali to Tipu Sultan these kings fought with the powers of Mysore to retain their individual and free identity. Kodwa people of Kodagu were brave, full of valor and were very loyal to their kings. After every defeat they rose with fresh strength .
Throughout the history of Coorg, no ruler has held direct sway over the region. Coorg has always been under the influence of local chieftains. The culture of Coorg has never been assimilated with the neighbors and has always maintained their unique identity.

Kodwa kings worshiped Shiva yet they were buried unlike all other followers of Hindu Dharma , whose body is burnt after death, this fact led me to search for an answer. Well, I came to know that these kings were Lingayats i.e. followers of Veershaiva faith.  Followers of this faith  wear a  symbol of Linga encased in a pendant around their necks. The faith preaches that Shiva is within every body and urges to worship the God within. Followers of this faith have their own unique customs, rites and traditions. During pregnancy of a woman on a certain month a  Guru gives the would be mother the pendant encasing Linga, tied to a thread ,which is to be worn by the child on the day of the birth itself and throughout his/her life that pendant with ishtlinga is on the body. May be the presence of Shivling and nandi inside king’s tomb has something to do with this belief. Alive or dead God is with us, within us.

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer

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