Legend of Babbalo


Babbalo was a powerful wizard who was often called upon by people in distress to ward them off evil spells, spirits and demons using his prowess and knowledge of ancient Vedic rituals. He would cross the Netravati River to get to other towns, which he reportedly did on a floating plantain leaf using magical powers.

The following link will take you to his individual page in our family tree. Please click here.

He would often deal with Spirits (or Daivas) worshipped by the Tuluvas too. One such spirit, called Mundathaiya (Also known as Shri Vaidyanatha), worshipped by Tuluvas as well as GSBs had an axe to grind with him, specifically because Babbalo was an ardent devotee of Shri Tirumala Venkatramana Swamy and had no allegiance to Mundathaiya. Babbalo had, in fact, on multiple occasions warned Mundaithaya of his arrogance. (There is a shrine for Mundathaiya at Bhoota Oni (Bhoota Lane) in Bantwal. It is also belongs to a section of Bantwal Baliga Family. Even today during the annual Kola the elder of that Baliga family has to be present there.)

Since some GSBs of the town worshipped and owed their allegiance to Mundathaiya, Mundathaiya soon started yearning for control over the town, neglecting the divine presence of Shri Venkatramana.

Mundathaiya started frequenting the vicinity of the temple during his Valasari (A ritual wherein the spirit possesses an elaborately costumed person and wanders along town) much to Babbalo’s dislike.

During one such procession, he confronted Mundathaiya and warned him against violating the sanctity of the temple. Mundathaiya ignored him and started towards the temple. Babbalo struck Mundathaiya on the foot with his bamboo staff (Nagarabettha), causing Mundathaiya to permanently limp thereafter. (To this day, Mundathaiya limps during the annual Kola dance. and has come to be known as ”Chotto Mundathaiya” (“Mundathaiya with a limp”).

As a fallout of this incident, the bhootas (Spirits) were constantly on the lookout for ways to outwit Babbalo and bring about his downfall, but were no match for his wizardry and prowess.

Babbalo cautioned his family against such spirits and advised his wife to be on her guard as the spirits could even take his form or imitate his voice to gain entry into their home and thus defile their sanctity.

During one such night, one Bhoota called upon Babbale’s wife. When Babbale’s wife did not respond to the Bhoota knocking at the door, the Bhoota tried calling out to her imitating Babbalo’s voice. His wife remained unmoved. Then, the Bhoota tried to convince her that he is indeed Babbalo by pretending that he had forgotten his Panchaang (Vedik Almanac) at home, and had returned to collect it for the night’s work. The Bhoota then asked her to pick it up for him from the ledge where Babbalo used to usually store his sacred texts, among other things.  Babbale’s wife checks to find that the Almanac was indeed at home, and assumes that it is indeed her husband at the door. In her hurry, she fails to realize that the Almanac she was looking at was of the previous year.

When she opens the door to hand the Almanac over to the Bhoota, disguised as Babbalo, the Bhoota drops it on the floor and asks her to pick it up for him. When she bends to pick it up, as is usual with evil spirits, the Bhoota strikes her on the back.

Around this time, Babbalo is on his way across the river, astride a plantain leaf. Since Babbalo’s wife dies, his powers fail as he enters an impure condition (‘Sootaka’). Babbalo loses control over his powers and drowns in the river. Although he dies, his spirit returns to protect the sanctity of the town against evil spirits.

Several years later, Babbalo faded away from the memory of the townsfolk.. Women wearing Crossandra or Fire Cracker flowers (“Abbale”) and red sarees, were found fainting for no obvious reason when walking in front of Ashwatha Tree near the Temple.

On further inquisition, priests realized that Babbalo used to frequent the Ashwatha tree in front of the temple, and he could be directing his rage at the townsfolk this way. They subsequently found a way around Babbale’s rage by restraining him to the Ashwatha tree by hitting a nail (khare ani). This also helped confine his rage to evil spirits instead of to the townsfolk.

Thus the Ashwatha and the Katte have been since come to be known as Babbale Katte. (The Ashwatha tree has fallen down during the last monsoon for a heavy rain. A new sapling has been planted in its place.)

Down the years, it has become a tradition for members of the Baliga family to offer coconuts at the Katte on auspicious occasions (Shubh Karya) such as Munji, Marriage etc. 

Babbalo has been known to show his displeasure whenever any Baliga Family member does not acknowledge his faith to him. If a cow yields milk, at home and if family has not made any offerings to Babbalo, the cow would produce blood instead of milk.  If offerings were not made after a Munji, the Vattu has known to turn mad within a few days.

Even now Bantwal Baliga Family members make offerings of coconut to the Babbale Katte whenever there is a Shubh Karya in the family, and you can consult the priest at the Kashi Math in front of the temple on the specifics of the ritual.