Smiles at Rani Abbakka Tulunadu Museum at Bantwal

September 2, 2021

Being a Mangalurean living away from Mangaluru most of my life, I had little idea about the rich traditions, culture and folk history of our region called Tulunadu.

So it was with curiosity and interest that we went searching for the Tulu museum at Bantwal which is also a Study Centre.

Thinking it was closed due to the weekend curfew, we almost left the place, yet we were extremely lucky to interact with the genius behind this project Dr Thukaram Poojary. Since 1993 he has passionately travelled across the Tulunadu region to collect over 4000 exhibits like, folklore material artefacts, tools, utensils, books, manuscripts, instruments etc. Moreover, he has undertaken countless research projects using these material objects and oral traditions to reconstruct the rich folk history of this Tulunadu region.

The centre continues to document the significance of the daily lifestyle of the indigenous people of coastal Karnataka and attempts to bring alive the rich cultural history and heritage of the Tulunadu region, which otherwise is in danger of being forgotten by the next set of modern generations!

And they have fittingly named the museum after the almost forgotten 17th century brave Chouta dynasty Queen of Ullal - Rani Abbakka II, whose status as the first women freedom fighter against the Portuguese rulers has still not been depicted fairly in most history textbooks.

Italian traveler Pietro of that era was asked by the Shah of Iran to come to India specially to meet this heroic woman, who had repeatedly fought against the Portuguese Rulers of Mangaluru. Pietro has described her personality and exploits in detail, which was used to portray the life of Rani Abbakka through vivid depictions on canvas at the painting gallery on the first floor. Her promise to fight for freedom to her mother, her tumultuous marriage, her continuous civil development works, her oversees trade relations, her simple coronation ritual, her persistent Guerilla like warfare battle wins against the mighty Portuguese army, all reflect her daring spirit that was very rare among women rulers of that era. Rani Abbakka strived for the freedom of not just her Ullal region, but also for the whole Karavalli region, yet she is not as well-known as Rani Laxmibai who fought for the freedom of Jhansi, more than a century later.

Poojary's family have single handedly worked to spread awareness and understanding of the intangible beauty of oral traditions, myths, folklore combined with the study of the various tangible objects displayed in the museum like arts, crafts, furniture, jewellery, books, spirit worship masks, instruments, tools, vessels, toddy tapping items, pickle jars, pooja items etc

Every object has a great story to tell about the past and the simple lifestyle of the locals which this museum attempts to reconstruct today and to show their importance and connection to future generations. Tulunadu region used to be a dense jungle land inhabited with snakes and tigers and simple hard working local communities like Koragas, Billavas, Mogaveeras, or Bunts.

Eg, We saw different types of rice vermicelli making instruments which were an influence from Arab traders. We saw a tiger chasing instrument that makes a loud shrill noise to keep the tigers away from the cattle. Since this region was ruled by Jain dynasties, nonviolence was practiced by most of the subjects, and hunting was mostly for food and not as a sport..

We saw the different kinds of earthen ware steam pots, evolve from having a hole at the bottom to the recent one with a detachable plate inside. We saw different kinds of combs including one made from a used coconut stick broom which is a reflection of the exploited conditions and the state of poverty that most of the people lived in, at that era!

We saw artefacts from the ruins of a nearby Megalithic period archeological discovery site at Badagakajekar, which still has not been given the historical importance and protection due to it.

We admired the vast creativity of the local so called uneducated people of those times, who produced brilliant varieties of items for use in the kitchen, house, fields or festivals to fulfill their changing needs.

Of particular interest was a child's cradle made up of nine types of wood or a skill testing instrument to check if a simple thread could be released from it or not.

We saw a water clock item used to measure time in those days, and got a fresh insight about a certain old colloquial term called 'galiges'. We understood the stories behind the popular Kannada proverbs that we had heard as a child.

We admired the replica of a cozy thatched home with its simple farming implements, the stored rice bundles, the Cock enclosure etc. The replica of the grand 'Guthu' community home was a treat to the senses along with a story that in the heavy rainy season fishes could swim upstream to great heights and would sometimes be found on the bed itself!

The Tulu culture depicting book library and numismatic collections were recent additions to the museum.

Instead of just wandering among the exhibits and taking photographs, we got a priceless knowledge tour of the museum along with the greatly admirable enthusiasm of Dr Poojary. Even a whole day would not be enough to listen to his amazing stories behind every exhibit that he has so painstakingly collected and researched over his lifetime.

In a society that is unleashed with western influences, we are very grateful to the passion of rare people like Poojary, who with his Tulunadu museum gives us a kaleidoscopic view of Tulunadu and has ensured that our foundation life of yesteryears would never be forgotten by next generations.

So where did you find smiles and make smiles today? Do visit this Rani Abbakka Tulunadu Museum at Bantwal and become a smilemaker please.




By Shobha Rao Smilemaker
Shobha Rao Smilemaker has a vision of living in a world where people use their ability to find and make smiles in any situation. She is a lawyer by qualification, a soft skills trainer by passion, a motivational speaker, a freelance journalist, a bestselling author, an avid traveler and founder of 'Smilemakers Trainings'. She can be contacted at
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Comment on this article

  • K. Ravindra Ballal, Kapu

    Mon, Sep 06 2021

    Great work by Dr. Poojari. More publicity needs to be given to the museum so that more number og people visit the place and get an insight in to the glorious past og Tulunadu. I had also watched a programme on Daijiworld news on the subject sometimes back which was very informatibe.

  • wilson samuel, dubai/mangalore

    Sun, Sep 05 2021

    smiles indeed shoba! so much of history in and around tulunadu . i wish to join you and girish on my next visit to mangalore to go and feel the true nerve and history of Dk well written n best wishes

  • Ramdas Pai, Bangalore

    Sun, Sep 05 2021

    A picture says a thousand words, but showing the place from Different angles and views, says it all! 🙏🏼

  • AjayKumar, Kurnool, AndhraPradesh

    Sat, Sep 04 2021

    Thank you for the facelift of tulunadu. Nice photographs of the museum. It’s historicity is also interesting.

  • mohan prabhu, mangalore/canada

    Fri, Sep 03 2021

    Hello Shobha Rao It gave me a good insight into the many different artefacts that you have described in this very interesting article, especially the heroic deeds of the first freedom fighter Rani Abbakka. Thank you for enlightening us with this piece of history which is almost forgotten and has never been a subject in Indian history texts that are used in Karnataka classrooms. Certainly it brought more than smiles and wish your smiles spread all around.

  • Athul Krishna, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 03 2021

    Beautifully presented by Shobha Gives one a colourful picture of tulunadu and its culture

  • Girish, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 03 2021

    A must visit place . It gives us a great perspective of the history and culture of Tulu Nadu. The work done by Dr Poojari is commendable. Shobha Rao has captured the essence of the museum wonderfully.

  • Prabhu .K., Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 03 2021

    Great article and information about Tulunadu. Rani Abbakka should be honoured at least in tulunadu by various ways. Kudos to Dr. Tukaram and Thank you to Smilemaker.

  • Sudhir Amin, Mangalore

    Thu, Sep 02 2021

    Great article Shobha. It's so unfortunate that the ancient traditions which are so unique to Tulunadu, are gradually fading due to the onslaught of external influences and technology. Kudos to the efforts of people like Dr Thukaram Poojari, who are ceaselessly and selflessly striving to keep alive memories of those traditions. Your article will surely go a long way in spreading and popularising the efforts of Dr Poojari and getting the recognition for Tulunadu, a unique land, truly the land blessed and better known as Parashurama shrishti

  • Ben D'Souza Prabhu, Mangalore, Bombay Bandra now in Canada

    Thu, Sep 02 2021

    A really Worthy Contribution from you our Smilemaker Shobha Rao for persons of your pleasant nature. I am not that far from it. I liked your efforts and careful Research Report of our dear place called " Tulunadu past " I really admire the many research oriented persons in Bantwal Area who were instrumental in this direction and bringing these usually un-known factors of our past heritage. Thank you very much indeed for your presentation to us all of this field ! Thank you once again !!

  • Dr. Raghavendra Holla, Mangalore

    Thu, Sep 02 2021

    Really good article about our Great Guru and inspiration person. He spent his life for Tulunadu. A big salute to Him and Shobha G for great work.

  • Abdulrehman Kunil, Mangalore

    Thu, Sep 02 2021

    Shobha Rao is part of our family since she married my Aloysian college classmate, Girish Rao. Shobha, your findings at the Tulunadu Museum gives many bygone era tools and practices. Definitely we will visit this museum when our children are around. Keep it up with more studies about Tulunadu with a SMILE. Take care and stay blessed.

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