Ondu coffee, ondu masala dosa… this used to be the common refrain one could hear as they entered any of the umpteen Kamat or Taj Mahal chain of restaurants in the city. The orders were noted down by waiters who hailed from Karnataka and reeled out to the cooks inside the kitchen. But, with changing times, the scenes and sights inside these restaurants changed too as locals are being employed now.
Still, the flavours haven’t changed – whether it is the taste of the Mysore bajji or the aroma of coffee that emanates from these kitchens. In a land of biryani where a majority of people preferred non-vegetarian food, the arrival of Kannadigas from different districts of Karnataka, which were part of the Hyderabad state then ruled by the Nizams, made a slow but steady impact.
Be it festivals, culture and traditions, or scriptures – there was a lot in common between the people of Karnataka and erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, mostly because of the cultural influences on each other in the border districts. But, the mutual influence is not new – it dates back to the times of the Chalukyas and, later, the Vijayanagara kings.
Historically speaking, Telangana has Kannadigas who hailed from regions on the Hyderabad-Karnataka border that were ruled by the Nizams and mostly belonged to the five districts – Bidar, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal and Gulbarga – which were then part of the Hyderabad State. Kannadigas from Bellary of the then Madras State (which is now in Karnataka) also moved to Hyderabad in the early 19th century in search of jobs and to establish their businesses.
As the medium of instruction was Urdu, all those who migrated from Karnataka were fluent in the language. It was an era when Hindus were also able to read and write in Urdu quite proficiently. Probably, this earned them a job in the Nizam’s court. A lot of Kannadigas who reside in Hyderabad today happen to be their descendants.
Apart from learning Urdu, “to keep our culture, language, and traditions intact, our ancestors thought that we should have a Kannada school in Hyderabad so their children could read and write their mother tongue as well. In 1920, when the Kannadigas thought of setting up a school in Hyderabad, the Nizam was not so keen but, and my grandfather Krishnacharya Joshi was in a prominent position, the Nizam did not oppose. However, he didn’t extend any financial help to the school’s development. It was a few prominent Kannadigas like B G Chimalgi the founder of Nrupatunga school and G Ramchar established the school along with many more Kannadigas, who came together and started this Nrupatunga Kannada School in the city in the year 1928,the students who studied here are spread around the world and Late Sri Udupachar who served as Principal of the school is till date remembered by the students. Later in the year 1938, my grandfather also felt that girl education is very essential and he started a school for them named as Sharada Karnataka Kanya Shala and donated a land in Sultan Bazaar, and when a society was formed and the educational intuitions merge was happening my grandfather came up with a condition that no fees would be collected from the girl child. And till date we are following that” shares Vitthal Joshi, president and correspondent, Karnataka Shikshana Samithi (Nrupatunga Educational Institutions – Estd 1928).
Besides education field, culturally too the Kannadigas grew stronger also started the Karnataka Sahitya Mandira. In Hyderabad, the influence of the Kannadigas could be felt in a slow yet steady manner in the educational and cultural spheres, with both these organisations becoming an inspiration to the community.
In 1950, when the Mysore Maharaja came to Hyderabad, he was surprised to see that Kannadigas in the city are quite active and asked them to start the Dasara festival which was traditionally celebrated in Mysore as naada habba (State festival). Since then, the Kannadigas in the city have been celebrating the festival with the same fervour.
Hyderabad is such a beautiful place that anybody who visits once falls in love with the city, and Hyderabadi Kannadigas are not an exception. Irrespective of different castes, creed and professions people from this community made Hyderabad home.
The population of Kannadigas in Telangana is close to 2 million. In Hyderabad, it is around one million. There are many different sanghas formed according to their region and caste. In Hyderabad, there are Havyakta, Goud Saravast Samaja, Taulava Samaja, Rastriya Basavadala, Veerashiva Vidya Varthaka Sangha, Bunts Sangha, etc. A total of 17 organisations have been formed by people who came from different parts of Karnataka, and the beauty lies in the fact that Kannadigas are a united lot – the sanghas came together to form Bhagya Nagara Kannadigara Okkuta (Bhagyanagar Confederation of Kannadigas).
It is said that Kannada men are good cooks, and are very good in service-linked businesses or departments. When it comes to food, the Udupi hotels from Karnataka are famous the world over and Hyderabad couldn’t resist the temptation when the aromas of the Kannada kitchens beckoned.
Chandrashekar Rao Belpu, MD of Taj Mahal Abids, and its branches and president of Bhagaya Nagara Kannadigara Okkuta, says, “My uncle Babu Rao, along with his friend Anand Rao, and my father Sundar Rao, came to Hyderabad and started a hotel business. The first to be started in 1942 was Amba Bhavan at Mahankali Street. And, in the year 1948, the present Secunderabad Taj Mahal, which is currently under renovation, was started and the third one was the Abids Taj Mahal branch, started in 1950.”
At that time, the servers used to come from Karnataka, “but for the past 15-20 years, we are hiring the locals”, says Chandrashekar. The family today possesses 10 hotels in the city and Chandrasekhar owns five of them. Born in Hyderabad in 1960, he did his schooling in Hyderabad Public School (HPS) and after graduation he joined his father’s business. “Our founders took a bold step back then, as there were 75% non-vegetarians in Hyderabad, and they were not aware of the idli-dosa breakfasts which are popular now. Our upma was a favourite of many. His agenda was simple: high volume low margin, close to home food, less oil, less masala, a clean kitchen, value for money. We are following their motto till date. It’s more than 75 years now, the customers are still growing by the day,” explains Chandrashekar.
Religion and culture
As every family has its own set of beliefs, and some Kannadigas are the followers of Saint Madhvacharya, there are 47 Raghavendra Swami Mutts in Telangana – the oldest being in Hyderabad in Shah-Ali-Banda, the second oldest being the Lingampally Raghavendra Swami Mutt.
It is said that no person goes hungry once he enters the Raghavendra Swami Mutt. Every Madhva man surely applies the gopi chandana, which is specially brought from Dwaraka and the black kajal type of bindi, which is formed when the aarati is performed to the God. The Madhva women are seen wearing a vertical bindi and a nine-yard sari. The women here live in unity and work towards the progress of the community.
“Every Thrusday, all Raghavendra Swami Mutts see the bhajana mandali group members come in and sing the Dasaranama (songs of prominent composers). Apart from that, we organise summer camps and also contribute to the empowerment of women by distributing sewing machines, study materials for school children, financial help for marriages irrespective of the community, and also extend help during wars and natural calamities,” says Meera Joshi, president, Akhila Bharatha Madhva Mahila Mandala.
It is quite interesting that music is in the genes of most Kannadigas who seem to have a great sense of music. Vedavathi Prabhakar, wife of ex-DGP Roddam Prabhakar, is a famous light music singer who made her mark in Telugu light music scene in spite of being a Kannadiga. “I was born in Ram Nagara which is en route to Mysore. I came to Andhra Pradesh after my marriage in 1951.
In fact, it was my brother who taught me Telugu language and songs. Till date, I write all my songs in Kannada and sing in Telugu. Initially, we had a separate Kannada recording section in AIR and Doordarshan where we used to record songs and send them to Bangalore,” reminisces Vedavathi.
Beauty and bravery
The beautiful belles of film industry like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Shilpa Shetty, and Anushka Shetty belong to the Bunt community in Karnataka. It is said that Bunt men are known for bravery and women for their beauty. Though their main occupation was agriculture, historical evidence shows that many people belonging to this community were lieutenants to kings, and were warriors. This community mostly lives in the costal belt of Karnataka, known as Dakshina Kannada or Tulu Nadu, which comes under the present Mangalore and Udupi districts.
“Our founder president who established Bunts sangha in February 1982, S Chandrashekar Shetty, came to the city in the year 1949 and established a hotel business. He is highly respected in our community and well-known for his hospitality and charitable nature. Hotel Tourist in Kachiguda was started by him. It was a very popular hotel in those days,” says Yogish Shetty, president of Bunts Sangha, AP-Hyderabad, for the last three years.
The food and traditions of Dakshina Kannada differ from the other parts of Karnataka. “We have a lot of interesting and meaningful traditions. One of them is known as Bisu Parba, a Tulu Nadu traditional celebration of Vaishak or Kharif festival. And when it comes to delicacies, as we stay on the coastal belt that shares a border with Kerala, boiled rice and fish curry combination is very famous. Apart from this, we have mouthwatering food items of Tulu Nadu like Kori Rotti, Neer Dosa, Moode (a variant of Idli), and Kori Sukka (a chicken item),” adds Yogish.
It was first prepared in the kitchens of the Mysore Palace during the regime of Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV, by a palace cook named Kakasura Madappa. When asked its name, the cook having had nothing in mind, simply called it the ‘Mysore pak’ where Mysore stands for the city that he was working and pak means sweet in Sanskrit.
Yakshagana is one of the most popular folk theatre forms of Karnataka. It is noted for its music, colourful costumes, vigorous dance movements, subtle expressions and extempore dialogues. Yakshagana has two main variations, each of which has many variations: Moodalapaya (the eastern form which is popular in north Karnataka) and Paduvalapaya (western style also known as coastal Yakshagana). Of the two, the coastal Yakshagana is more popular for the great sophistication that it has achieved over the years by the efforts of artistes, thinkers and researchers. It is more exuberant and refined when compared to all the other styles.
Karnataka has a beauty in itself, as it has its own languages in it. Most of the Udupi –Mangalore Kannadigas speak Tulu, which was also the mother tongue of emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire, Sri Krishna Devaraya.
Famous surnames of Kannadigas staying in Hyderabad
Famous Karnataka food
Jolada rotti ( Jawar Roti)
Tumbu badnekaaya ( Stuffed brinjal)
Areas where the Kannadigas are centred in city