MADIKERI’S CRYSTAL PALACE STILL STANDING TALL
By C.P. Belliappa
Subedhar Cheppudira Thimmaiah, who was quite an influential personality in Coorg during the late 19th and early 20th Century, built a landmark house those days in Madikeri. He had a room for each of his seven sons in this house he grandly named – Crystal Palace! This building is still standing and is occupied by some of the family members.
The portrait of Thimmaiah in Kupya-chele (in picture), sporting a handlebar moustache, epitomizes the quintessential Kodava. This picture is frequently featured in quite a few brochures and write-ups on Coorg.
I and a whole bunch of my cousins and second cousins are proud of this gentleman who is our great grandfather – Subedhar Cheppudira Thimmaiah.
Thimmaiah was born in around 1850s to Cheppudira Madaiah who was one of seven sons of Dewan Ponnappa. He grew up to be a handsome and strapping young man. Thimmaiah was one of the five sons of Madaiah. According to Rev. G. Richter in his book ‘Gazetteer of Coorg,’ Cheppudira Madaiah is mentioned as one of the largest landowners in southern part of Coorg during the latter part of 19th century.
Being the grandson of Dewan Ponnappa was indeed a privilege. All the twenty-two grandsons of the Dewan got the advantage of education, and later employment in the government as Assistant Commissioners, Subedhars, Parpathegars, Munsiffs etc. Thimmaiah’s cousin Cheppudira Subbaiah was the first Kodava to become an Assistant Commissioner during the British rule. Incidentally, Cheppudira Subbaiah was the maternal grandfather of General Kodendera S. Thimmaiah.
Cheppudira Thimmaiah wielded quite bit of clout as a Subedhar in the Revenue Department. He and his cousin Cheppudira Subbaiah were constantly in competition with each other. With the appointment of Subbaiah as the Assistant Commissioner, he scored a point over my great grandfather.
Subedhar Thimmaiah married Mukkatira (Kunjeri) Thangavva. Together they had ten sons and one daughter. Subedhar Thimmaiah gave the best of education to his sons. My grandfather – Muthanna was trained as a veterinary doctor at Chennai. Two of Subedhar Thimmaiah’s bright sons – Machaiah and Aiyanna were sent to England for their education. Machaiah became a Bar-at-Law, and on his return set up a flourishing legal practice in Bellary. However, Subedhar Thimmaiah was highly disappointed and infuriated when Machaiah married outside the community. Machiah was disowned by his father and was deprived of all the inheritance. (Barrister Machaiah’s granddaughter, Jayanti, married the well-known cricketer of yesteryears, the swashbuckling M.L. Jaisimha, from Hyderabad.) Unfortunately, Aiyanna a student in the Medical College at Brighton died in a swimming accident. One more son by name Belliappa died while in college.
Subedhar Thimmaiah’s daughter was the youngest of his brood. He was very fond of his only daughter and doted on her. However, tragedy struck one day while he was playing with the little girl by throwing her up in the air and catching her. Suddenly the child slipped from his hands, landed on the hard ground, and was critically injured. All efforts to save the child turned futile. Thimmaiah was devastated and heartbroken.
Subedhar Thimmaiah went about settling his remaining seven sons in various parts of Coorg. As and when one of his sons was ready to be married, he would purchase a property for him and make sure the young couple were well provided. When my grandfather – Cheppudira Muthanna – came of age, he purchased a property of about 200 acres in an auction for a then princely sum of Rs. 6010. I have the original deed of this purchase made in 1900. The property came with a large bungalow. My brother Col C.P. Muthanna lives in this refurbished house which is about 120 years old.
Subedhar Thimmaiah was actively involved in several public causes of the day. He built a school at Kakotparambu, which is functioning to this day. He donated land for the Government Hospital and for the Government School in Gonikoppal. He was one of the main promoters of Victoria Club in Virajpet. He planted an avenue of jackfruit trees along the Gonikoppal-Virajpet road and Virajpet-Madikeri road. Some of these trees that were there a few years ago have now fallen victim to road widening.
There is another interesting story about Subedhar Thimmaiah when he was fined four annas (25 paise!) by the British for an alleged violation of a rule. Thimmaiah vehemently defended himself. He spent more than one hundred rupees fighting this case, which was a substantial sum those days, to prove that he was not in the wrong.
In 1895, he was in a ten-member delegation headed by the then Assistant Commissioner Manepanda Belliappa who met the Viceroy, Lord Elgin II, at Mysore and presented a list of development work for Coorg. In this historic photograph of the delegation, all dressed in traditional Kupya-chele, Subedhar Thimmaiah is seated first from the left.
He was the Pattedar of the Cheppudira family in 1904. He was conferred the title Rao Bahadur by the British. Subedhar Cheppudira Thimmaiah passed away in 1907.