There is this old joke saying that when Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon in 1969, he was greeted by a malayali teashop owner holding a cup of tea for him. Those  tea-stalls are an all-India phenomenon. Similarly, another universal phenomenon is that  of Udupi hotels. It is hard to find a town without a Udupi hotel, particularly so in south India. But why did the folks from Udupi became famed for their restaurants?  I can only contemplate. May be because Udupi is the town which Krishna calls his home! We all know how much Krishna loves food be it as fat-full as  butter or as fat-free as avalakki (Remember Sudaama?) Anyway, whatever be the reason, Udupi hotels have become very popular in several states outside of Karnataka, particularly so in states such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

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Udupi Krishna

Not only Udupi hotels have become very  commonplace in Tamil Nadu, but they have also caught on a new meaning. They are used as a synonym to  saying ‘vegetarian’. So if you see a board such as “Saravana Bhavan (udupi)”, it means it is a vegetarian restaurant, irrespective of whether the proprietor is from Andhra or Assam!

Outside India, hoteliers have marketed  this Udupi name quite effectively to their advantage. There are many a restuarants called  ‘Udupi -something’ or ‘Udupi-something-else’all the way from Washinton DC in the eastern coast to Seattle in the state of Washington on the west coast. I do not  know how many of these are run by folks from Udupi. But one thing is certain. All these places are Udupi, just  in name – not necessarily in taste. If you order a dOse, you will get a dOse which looks very authentic, but the reality literally seeps in as soon as you take a byte!

Oh, let me stop with this Udupi puraana, and think of Tirupati Timmappa! In here, there is a idli-dOse restaurant called ‘Tirupati Bheema’s’. We know Bheema for his abilities in the kitchen, but what in the world is Tirupati doing with Bheema and his kitchen?  Till I came across this composition of Purandara Dasa, I was not aware of the relation between Tirupati and the restaurant industry.

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Tirupati Venkateshwara

Here is that song – I have given it in dEvanAgari script:

धणिय नोडिदॆना वॆंकटन मनदणिये नोडिदॆना! ॥पल्लवि॥

धणिय नोडिदॆ शिखामणि तिरुमलना! ॥अनुपल्लवि॥

केसक्कि अन्न उंबुवना बड्डि
कासु बिडदे हॊन्न गळिसुवना!
दोसॆ अन्नव मारिसुवना तन्न
दासर म्याळदि कुणिदाडुतिहना! ॥1॥

बॆट्टदॊळगॆ इरुतिहन मन
मुट्टि भजिपरिगिष्टव सल्लिसुवना!
कॊट्ट वरव तप्पदवन
सृष्टिगधिक श्री पुरंदर विठलन! ॥2॥

Here is the meaning of the song:

pallavi: I saw him! Venkata,  the Lord of Tirumala, My master!

anupallavi:  I saw my Lord,  the jewel in the crown to my heart’s content!

charaNa 1:  (I saw him) who relishes ‘kEsakki’ (a variety of rice?) , who earns money with interest,  who gets dOse, and other food items sold, and who participates joyously with the dancing haridAsas

charaNa 2: ( I saw him) who resides in the hill, and him who gives whatever wished for to those who are his true believers, him who stays true to his word,  Purandara Vithala, who is the greatest  in this creation

Because this song mentions Tirumala on the hills as the home of Purandara Vithala, we can be very certain  that this was written about the deity at Tirupati. Don’t we all know the story of Srinivas Kalyana, that  tells us that Tirupati Timmappa is still earning money to repay the interest for the loan he took from Kubera for his wedding.

The key phrase here is ‘dOse annava mArisuvana’; the Lord of Tirumala is credited to having had places where eatables like dOse, and rice were sold.  This tells that there were restaurants in Tirupati  almost 500 years ago  ( Purandara’s time frame) where travelers could buy food.  Of course, we know about dharma shaales that provided food and water to the travelers free, but this reference is not to such establishments. These are actually places that made selling food a businesses.

It is not for nothing that it is said that literature is a mirror of the society. But shh….! Don’t tell anyone. Because, now places such as Udupi Hotels, and Bengalooru ayyangar bakeries exist at least namesake. Otherwise, they might start thinking of changing their name to Tirupati!

-neelanjana

image courtesy: Google images

(Translated from a  Kannada article I had written a while ago. You can read the original article here: ತಿರುಪತಿ ತಿಮ್ಮಪ್ಪನೂ ಉಡುಪಿಯ ಹೋಟೆಲೂ …

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