Narasimharajapura: A mini Kerala in Karnataka

Biju Pankaj

Photo: Mathrubhumi News

There is a common saying in Kerala, "In every corner of the world, there is a Malayali present." From unpopular nations to the USA or UK, or in the cities closer to home, such as Mumbai, Chennai or Bengaluru, we see generations of Malayali-speaking lineages residing.

However, there could be no place like Narasimharajapura, a town panchayat in Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka, with more than 10,000+ Malayali migrants living for almost a century. In the scenic beauty of rural Karnataka, we witness Malayali tea shops, friendly barbershops adorned with film stars from Kerala, and shops that remind us of the rural side of Angamaly and Kothamangalam.

Also known as NR Pura, Narasimharajapura has around 2,500 Malayali families, and around them, they built a society that reminisces village life in Kerala. In the past 90 years, the Malayalis packed their wealth and came here hoping for a bright future, fighting all odds to be part of a completely different culture. Over the years, they built several temples, churches, schools, and hospitals in the region, creating a unique history.

The beginning of the story of Malayali migration to this small taluk goes way back to 1930, when a deprived young man named Varghese from Angamaly ran away from a poverty-stricken home in Angamaly. He ended up in NR Pura, became a low-level worker with the forest department, and later became a mason. Due to his skills, he was asked to bring more workers from his native place to work with the department. Varghese saw the opportunity and convinced his relatives and friends in Angamaly and surrounding areas in Ernakulam to board a train to Karnataka.

In time, Varghese became a contractor, and many more Malayalis started to arrive in Chikkamagaluru in numbers. However, in the second phase of mass migration, a lot of people came here after leasing lands here. By the end of the 1960s, with the land reform act passed in Kerala, Malayalis saw opportunity to own acres of land here. Over years, different types of agriculture, including lemongrass, oil and rubber, grew on the land.

For Varghese, his migration to Chikkamagaluru will surely be the decision of his life. Today, his family is the most prosperous in the area. Siddeshwara Temple, built by him in NR Pura, now stands as a reminder of the rich history he scripted in the village. For the descendants of old Malayali migrants, Kerala remains a distant dream, a place they wish to visit but not to return to forever.

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