Kulletira is one of the well known and illustrious Kodava Okka (clan) in Kodagu, a tiny district nestling in the western ghats. Members of the clan have fanned into various areas serving with distinction, making a mark for themselves, enhancing the reputation of the Kodavas. The clan has a warrior-background to boast of.
Kulletira Manicha and Ponnanna brothers were acclaimed in the art of war. Born to Kulletira Kalacha, a self-styled “Nayaka” (chieftain) , both brothers were the most feared fighters in the service of the former Lingayat Rajahs of Kodagu. Their grandfather Ipanna too was a Nayaka administering several villages during his reign. Records state that Manicha was born in 1759 while Ponnanna was born in 1762.
Realising the heroics of Ponnanna, the then Rajah of Kodagu Doddaviraraja enlisted him in his army in the year 1780. Under constant threat of capture from the Mysore ruler Tipu, the Rajah had taken shelter in the Ajjamada Kodava family in Kurchi village during 1788 and later at the Ketolira Kodava family in Yavakapadi village.
Ponnanna displays great war skills and leads a team of Kodavas loyal to the Kodagu ruler to foil several attempts by the soldiers of Tipu to capture the Rajah of Kodagu. Ponnanna captures Nagappayya, who connives with Tipu to inform the whereabouts of the Kodagu Rajah and hands him over to the Kodagu ruler. It was while under the care of Ketolira family, Doddavirarajendra started the construction of Nalknad Palace in the year 1791 and completing the constructions in 1795. During this time, Ponnanna marries Mayavva, a girl from the Areyada family.
Later, under instructions from the Rajah, Ponnanna, launches a fierce attack on Tipu’s soldiers who were camping at Bychanahalli near the Kushalnagar Fort and drove them back to Mysore. Ponnanna spearheads the capture of Tipu’s Qilledar (guardian of the fort) of Kushalnagar Fort at Bettadapura and beheads him, handing over the severed head to the Rajah. Many soldiers of Tipu, while fleeing, fell into Cauvery river and perished. Pleased at Ponnanna’s valour the Rajah gets a stone engraved in Ponnanna’s name–Kullati Ponnanna Kallu– to commemorate the victory at Bychanahalli. Manicha and Ponnanna also play a lead role in the annexation of the Bhagamandala and Madikeri Fort from Tipu, in association with other Kodava fighters, Pattacheruvanda Boluka and Appaneravanda Achaiah. Ponnanna is also said to have played a crucial role in rescuing Vira Raja, son of Linga Raja, later Rajahs of Kodagu, from the captivity of Tipu in Srirangapatna in the year 1788.
Legend has it that after being unable to contain or defeat the Kodava fighters, Tipu invited thousands of them to Devatiparambu, near Bhagamandala, and got them massacred in 1785. However, sensing trouble on that particular day, both Manicha and Ponnanna refrain from visiting Devatiparambu. But, Tipu’s marauding soldiers burn down the residences of Kulletira family near Napoklu, also destroying many temples in and around.
Sometime later, Doddaviraraja finds an ally in the British and while camping in the night a tent near Periyapatna, Ponnanna sustains grievous injuries following wild elephant attack. He never really recovers from the injury succumbing to it a couple of years later. Ponnanna still remains a great source of inspiration to the Kodava youth.
In the last days of Ponnanna, the Raja was kind enough to construct a house for him after seeing him reside at a small hut following destruction of the Kuletira house by Tipu’s soldiers. Today, Kulletira family has nine parts (bhagas) and is into the ninth generation.
The Ain Mane (ancestral house) was rebuilt in the year 1787 and the renovations done in 1924 and again in 2005 have lent it a genuine look of the ancestral house. The “Kaimada” (a niche considered as abode or memorial for ancestors) is being maintained in good shape but, unlike traditions among Kodavas, the “meedhi” (oblations to ancestors) are purely vegetarian food that is placed outside the Kaimada during annual rituals.
The Kulletira family are proud “Oor Takka”, playing a lead role in the villlage. The nearby Bhagavathi temple’s “Takka” from the past 20 years is Kullletira S. Madappa. Mr. Madappa is also the “Pattedar” (eldest member) of the family.