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363. Deciphering Tulu-nadu place names

The readers would observe that many of the Tulu Place names may not convey, on the face of it, any specific meaning or apparent meanings...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

64. Puraal and Polali

Ancient river course of Gurpur river shown in brown short-dash lines.Present river course in blue shade. Purple double line shows main roads.

Polali is a well-known temple town on the banks of the River Phalguni (also known as River Gurupur). There is a historical temple dedicated to Rajarajeswari, one of the seven forms of Godess Shakti (or one of the Nava Durgis).
1.The place is known as ‘Puraal’ in Tulu.The word Pural means ‘flute’ according to the ‘Tulu Nighantu’.I feel that this word ‘puraal’ is originally from Mugera language ( a member of Early Munda group, since it is also used in some pad-danas connected with Mugera kolas and folk dances.
2. There is also another meaning for the word ‘puraal’, not included in the said Dictionary. It means ‘stale’ or ‘putrid’. (For example: ‘Meen puraal moori barpunDu’ means that the fish smells stale.).
3. But the geomorphology of the area suggests an altogether different view.The puraal town is located on the river bank, where the said river takes a swift and abrupt turn.The Tulu ‘pural’ or ‘purel’ means to change sides.
I believe the original Tulu name of the place ‘Pural’ came on account of the river geometry of Phalguni which takes an abrupt turn.
4.However, the word ‘Polali’ is a Kannada word which means ‘town’.Obviously the Kannada word ‘Polalu’ or the ‘Polali’ must have been introduced by Kannada rulers (Dwarasamudra Ballals or Vijayanagar Kings) in this area.The Kannada rulers must have mis-translated the original name of ‘Pural ‘as pura+al, considering that ‘pura’ in Sanskrit means a town.
The old Kannada word 'Polalu'('Holalu' in modern Kannada) is equivalent of Tulu 'Purelu'.These words puraal and Polalu signify the historical change in the course of River Gurupur.

Friday, December 28, 2007


North of the Mangalore city near the New Mangalore Port is a place called Baikampadi, now occupied by an industrial estate sponsored by the Government. The area is flanked by marshy area of Tokur lying between Baikampadi and Jokatte.Geologically, the area was a paleo-fluvial channel which subsequently diverted by natural processes.
This place is called Baikampadi: a bit odd sounding word.What is the meaning of the word Baikampadi?
Local Tulu people rather funnily describe that Baikampadi stands for ‘Bai+ kanth+padi’, which means ‘bring and put the hay’!
An Old Kannada word
The ‘Baikam’ appears to be an Old Kannada word, meaning ‘beggar’. It is found in ‘Oddaradhane’, an old Kannada classic text of 10th century AD. The’Padi’ is an common Tulu word meaning shrubby land.Therefore Baikampadi possibly means the camping ground reserved for beggars, vagabounds or recluses.
The word appears to have been coined during the reign of Kannada rulers during the Ballal or Vijayanagar period between 10th and 13th centuries AD.

Monday, December 24, 2007

62.Characterization of Spirits of Tulunadu .1

Tulunadu has a tradition of Spirit worship possibly dating back to 700-800 BC coinciding with the immigration of the Early Tulu tribes who introduced the initial cults of Bermer (also pronounced as ‘Birmer’ or ‘Bermeru’) and Panjurli. The subsequent history has seen introduction of a host of Spirits. Tulu communities since early days believed in the personal powers of their community heroes and believed that they continue to roam around after sudden martyred deaths. They believed that worshipping their spirit forms would absolve them of their frailties and ensure protection against adversities like crop failure, famine, diseases etc.
Following the traditions of Tulu oral literature, oral anecdotes pertaining to some of the spirits prevalent among Tulu elder people were gathered and presented here.
The Jarandaya- Bobbariya historical encounter reflects the conflict of egos that plague our society even today.
I wish that our compatriots shall consciously overcome these frailties like clash of egos that lead to meaningless revenges and live a life of mutual understanding, friendship and universal brotherhood.
‘Jarandaya’ was the ninth son of a Jain King of Barkur. He used to travel along the west coast from Barkur to Nileswar dispensing justice and solving disputes among the general public. He had an assistant (‘banta’) called ‘Koteda Babbu’ also referred to as ‘Kotdabbu’.
Koteda Babbu
Koteda Babbu (means Babbu of the Fort; ‘koTe’=fort) was a talented professional, a fort-building expert, from the Mundala community, who is said to have migrated to Barkur, from the upland Kannada area. He was a sorcerer, expert in witchcraft, water divining and native medicine.
During his sojourns from Barkur to Nileswar, the Jain Prince Jarandaya, used to take Koteda Babbu along with him, as his personal assistant. After sometime, Koteda Babbu voluntarily stopped accompanying Jarandaya as there was some difference of opinion between them.
Bobbariya was a tall and well-built Muslim trader, who was influential among the fishing community of coastal Kapu area. Bobbariya was born of an alliance between a Muslim father(Sulikall Murave) and a converted Bunt woman(Patima).Born in Goa and grown up in Kochi according to Pad-danas He was engaged in fish trading and was popular in the region among the local Mogaveera community. He was usually associated with a band of dedicated youth probably drawn from the fishing community.
Bobbariya owned a provisions store near the fishing village and was having flourishing business. Gradually, he employed special carpenters from the upland area and commissioned a large boat (‘padavu’) for carrying out sea trade. He had band of sailors consisting of local fishermen and Muslims. Soon he prospered and became a leading figure in the area, on account of flourishing trade through his padvau.
Conflict of egos
Somehow, Bobbariya did not like the interference of Jarandaya, an outsider from Barkur, trespassing into his domain to solve minor local skirmishes. During one of his journeys, Jarandaya was humiliated by Bobbariya, in the Kapu area, especially when his assistant Koteda Babbu was absent. He blocked the path of Jarandaya with the help of his henchmen and asked him to kneel down and pass between his astride legs.
Jaranadya could not stomach the insult and later he consulted his advisor cum assistant Koteda Babbu, on the modus operandi of avenging the insult. Koteda Babbu thought for a while and designed a plan involving another character called Neecha Taniya.
Neecha Taniya
The revenge plan contrived by Koteda Babbu involved using pork and beef to intimidate or flabbergast Bobbariya and his team. ‘Neecha Taniya’, as the name describes (‘neecha’=lower; ‘taniya’=Saturn), was from a lower community who generally do not have inhibitions towards beef or pork.
The Revenge
Neecha Taniya went ahead with the Jarandaya revenge project. He threw cut leg of a pig at Bobbariya who was totally dumb-founded. During this moment of utter confusion, Neecha swished a sword, slashed at Bobbariya and severed one of his legs. Bobbariya, with one of his legs amputed, bled to death.
Tulu Spirits
In Tulunadu, the spirit of Jarandaya is worshipped even today along with his assistant( banta daiva ) Koteda Babbu. Similarly, Bobbariya is worshipped with Neecha Taniya.Mogaveera pattanas invariably have an Bobbariya gunda amidst the colony. Tulu fishermen believe that the spirit of Bobbariya shall protect them in the rough sea and help them get a good catch of fishes.
Neechag balsuni’
Many Tulu families traditionally keep aside some food at the beginning of the dinner on all auspicious days, devoted and earmarked to Neecha. They call the custom of serving food to Neecha as ‘Neechag balsuni’.
The popularity of Koteda Babbu was not tolerated by his rivals. Some of the upper caste rival soothsayers planed to bump him of. They invited him to inspect a problematic open well at Kanchinadka, near Padubidri. Koteda Babbu descended into the well to verify the problem. By then they covered the opening of the well with stone slabs, with the intention of burying him alive. Somehow, Koteda Babbu realized that he was trapped inside the well and began shouting for help.

Tanni Managa
A local lady of Mugera community, while was passing by, heard the wails from the closed well. She came near the well and slided the slabs covered over the well. She found a person trapped inside the well and felt pity.
Koteda Babbu, trapped inside the well, asked the lady to help him out of the well. But the lady had no appliances to pull him out. Babbu suggested that she lower her sari so that he can hold it and come up. She hesitated, because the poor lady was wearing only a sari, with no other clothes underneath, as was the general custom with poor class women then. But she agreed to save him when Babbu promised that he would not look up at her nakedness.
While ascending up the wall inside the well, Babbu turned his head up to verify how much distance remained to be covered. But the lady was upset. When Koteda Babbu realized that he offended her sensibilities, he slashed his forehead several times with his sword as penance against the error he committed unknowingly.

(Acknowledgement: The oral anecdote data is gathered by Shri K Dinesh Mulki).

Sunday, December 23, 2007

61.Native tubers

Ancient tubers
Our ancients ca. 2800-2500 BC were growing assorted tubers according to the archeo-botanical findings discussed in earlier posts.Many of the ancient tubers are on the way to extinction.
The image above shows some of the tubers currently available in an urban market at Mudabidri.1.Sambrani 2.Tevu kande 3.Tuppe kireng('butter tuber') 4.Roma kireng ('Hairy tuber') and 5. Kireng (sweet potato).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

60. The Original Rama

In a previous post on the legend of Rama, inference was that Ramayana was composed and built around a folk-lore on a tribal hero, specifically a Bhil archer. The hero of the epic, the Rama as well as the compiler of the epic, Valmiki both hailed from the ancient Bhil archer community.
It is generally believed that the name ‘Rama’ is a Sanskrit word. However, the available clues show that the name ‘Rama’or ‘Ram’ also may have been borrowed from the ancient/pre-Sanskrit folklores.
A research paper by Malini Srivastava (2007) on Munda culture and customs describes some interesting Munda customs and festivals. Munda tribes celebrate an annual festival called ‘Karam’. The origin of the ‘Karam’ festival is explained as a simple story that is quite interesting.
There were two brothers known as ‘Karam’ and ‘Dharam’. Dharam did not work whereas Karam worked hard in the agricultural fields, got good crops and became rich. Munda tribes celebrate the victory of Karam over Dharam in the form of a festival called ‘Karam’!

Karam and Dharam
The origin of the ancient ‘Karam’ festival shows some new insight into the nature of Early Munda words. As it is obvious from the story, ‘Karam’ means action or work, whereas ‘Dharam’ stands for philosophy. The ancient Munda anecdote reinstates the evergreen wisdom that work is worship.
These same words Karam and Dharam have subsequently been taken into Sanskrit and, may be, all present Indian languages. Now, both the words have detailed shades of meaning far more complex than the original simple connotations.

Karam in Munda language also represented a tree called ‘Karam’ or ‘Kaim’. Later this tree was known as Kadamba tree. The Kadamaba tree must have been quite auspicious since early historical days. The royal clan founded by Mayura Sharma at Banavasi (5th century AD) designated themselves as Kadamba dynasty.
Karam is the festival of victory of the farmer (agriculturist), celebrated on the eleventh moon day of the month ‘bhado’(September). A twig of ‘Karam’ (Kadamba) tree is brought and worshipped in the courtyard of the house. Later on the day, young shoots (‘ears’) of grain are distributed among friends and relatives.
This festive custom has been adopted by Tulu people in ‘Posatt’ (‘new crop’ festivity) or the ‘Koral parba’. The impact of the ‘koral parba’ on the regional populace is so deep that it is also celebrated by local Christians, converted from Hinduism. ‘Onam’ (Kerala) and ‘Huttari ‘(Kodagu) are regional variants of this festival.

The byproduct of the story is that if ‘Karam’ and ‘Dharam’ are antique words from Munda/Bhil languages, then the word Ram also was derived from the same source.
The existence of ancient Munda personal names like Karam and Dharam suggests that there may have been personal name like Ram or Rama.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

59. The less evolved ancient tribes

Some of the Early tribes resisted development and remained in forest phase or hunter-gatherer phase for a prolong time, leading to gaping socio-cultural differences between the evolved and the poorly evolved. These less evolved tribes constitute the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes of present generation.
The District Gazetteer of South Kanara (1973) enlists the following scheduled castes and tribes in Dakshina Kannada (formerly South Canara).
The scheduled castes: (1) AdiAndhra, (2) AdiDravida, (3) AdiKarnataka, (4) Ajila, (5) Arunthathiyar, (6) Baira, (7) Bakuda, (8) Bandi, (9) Bellara/i (10) Chakkaliyan, (11) Chalavadi, (12). Chamar (Muchi), (13) Chandala, (14) Cheruman, (15) Devendra, (16) Kulathan , (17) Godagali, (18) Godda, (19) Gosangi , (20) Holeya , (21) Jaggali, (22) Jambuvulu, (23) Kadaiyan, (24) Kalldi, (25) Karimpalan, (26 ) Koosa, (27) Kuduban, (28) Kuruvan, (29) Madrai, (30) Madiga, (31) Maila, (32)Mala, (33) Mavilan (34) Moger, (35) Mundala, (36) Nalke, (37) Nayadi, (38) Pagadi, (39) Pallan, (40) Pamabada, (41) Panchama, (42) Pannaiandi, (43) Paraiyan, (44) Puthinai Vannan, (45) Rancyar, (46) Samagar, (47) Sambai (48) Sapayi (49) Seman (50) Thoti (51) Tiruvalluvar, (52) Valluven , ( 53) Bathada, (54) Hasti , (55) Paravan.
The following are the scheduled tribes enlisted:
(1)Adiyan, (2) Aranadan (3) Irular (4) Kadar (5) Kammara (6) Kattunayakan (7) Konda kapu (8 ) Konda reddis (9) Koraga (10) Kota (11) Kudiya/ Malekudiya (12 ) Kurichchan (13 ) Kuruman (14) Mahamalasar (15) Malasar (16) Maleya kandi (17 ) Maranthi (18) Mudugar (19) Palliyan (20) Paniyan (21) Pulavan (22) Shologa (23) Toda .
Similar list of tribes exist in the neighbouring Kerala also.( Madhava Menon et al (2002) People of India : Kerala : Volume XXVII.Anthropological Survey of India)

Notes on Early Tribes/languages
1. The ‘Koosa’ tribe may be ‘Kosar’ tribes of Karavali described in the Tamil Sangam literature.

2. The Karavali ‘Bakuda’ and 'Bathuda' tribes may be equivalent/variants of ‘Bathudi’ tribe of Chotanagpur.

3. The ‘Bellari’ language, originally might have been a variant of the Munda language, but apparently changed with time by induction of Tulu words and was later considered as a variant of Tulu rather than Munda.(Refer Manjunath’s post on Bellari). There are several places in Karavali and Karnataka mainland having names such as ‘Bellara’ or ‘Bellari’.

4. Several tribal/sub-language names have remained as place names. These ancient cultural vestiges include Bellara/Bellari, Parenki, Gadaba (Kadaba), Kharawar, etc.

5. Many place names with unknown or unexplainable meanings in the current languages in Karavali and other parts of Karnataka/southern India may have been inherited from the Early Munda substratum language and culture that existed earlier.

The native Early Munda languages prevalent in southern India before ca.800-600BC, appear to have merged with the Early Dravidian and Early Tulu languages. The vestiges of these native languages in southern India are on the way to gradual extinction due to overprinting impact of cultural changes.

58. Evolution of Early communities

Archeological researches have unearthed evidences for the primitive agricultural communities in the river valleys of south India. Similar agricultural-cattle breeding communities existed in Karavali also, though detailed data are not available. However, the sporadic evidences of relics such as megalithic burial structures (‘Sasindiri’ at Pandavara kallu, near Madyanthar, Belthangadi taluk) suggest that ancient Munda tribal settlements existed in the Karavali.
The Karavali being a zone of intense rainfall and sea-level fluctuations, many of the delicate archeological evidences might have been washed away or obliterated due to the impact of the natural hazards. Further, systematic searches may yield invaluable new archeological data.

Early Munda Groups
The early agricultural-pastoral communities that pervaded before the arrival of early Tulu/ Dravidian immigrants into southern India evolved into elaborate subgroups and communities in India. The word ‘Munda’ means headman of a village. Presently in the Chotanagapur area, several Munda tribes and languages have survived.
Some of the Munda languages that exist presently in India (in parts of Chotanagapur (Jharkhand), Chattisgarh, Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh) and Bangladesh are:

Agariya, Bijori, Korku, Mavasi, Mundari, Bhumji, Asuri, Koda, Ho, Birhor, Santali, Mahali, Turi, Kharia, Juang, Gata, Bondo, Bodo Gadaba, Parengi, Sora, Koraput, Korba, Bidaho, Kurmali,Nagesia, Sounta (Toori),Majhi, Majhwar etc. Some of these tribes are called Asur, Baiga, Banjara, Bathudi, Bedia, Birhor, Bhumij, Karmali, Kharwar, Lohra etc. Many of these tribes and their dialects are on the verge of extinction. Similarly there are Bhil tribes have survived in the western and central parts of India.

Early Munda tribes in Karavali
Anthropological socio-cultural evolution proceeded from primitive phase to hunter-gatherer stage to pastoral (cattle-breeding) and agricultural stages. This evolution, however, was not an en masse progressive transformation; it progressed in batches and there could be phases of reversals. It may be visualized that a part of hunters adopted themselves to farming and agriculture, while many others remained in the hunter/gatherer or still primitive stages.

Primitive hunters devised tools stone axes to begin with and further developed bows and arrows. The specialists who were able to use the bow and arrows (the archers) were called ‘bhils’ (bhil=bow) in central and northern India; similar tribes in Karavali were called ‘billavas. The mark in the timeline was ca.5000-4000 BC.
The core story of the original Ramayana was built around the legend of a bhil/billava (archer) called Ram or Rama. It was popular for ages among the early cultures in the form of folk-lore or pad-dana. Later, ca. 500 BC, the folk-lore story was retold by another bhil called ‘Valia’ (the sage Valmiki) in the form an elaborate epic, with ample elements of fantasy thrown in to increase the mass appeal of the story.

Mogera Fisherfolk
The Karavali, with mighty Arabian Sea and many of rivers, hosts enormous fishery wealth. A section of hunter-gatherer tribes evolved the art of marine and inland fishing. They lived collectively in fishing community villages that were later called ‘pattana’(=towns). They had group leaders called ‘gurikara’ or ‘gurkara’. The custom of having community leaders who take judgments and decisions on behalf of the group is a common feature of surviving Munda tribes even today.

The native farmer is called ‘Okkelme’ and the group was called ‘Okkelakulu’in Tulu language. ‘Bhumij’ is a farming tribe among Mundas. In ‘Tuluvala Baliyendra’ (the Tulu version of Baliyendra folklore) the legendary Bali is referred to as ‘bhumiputra’. Note analogy between the words ‘bhumij’ and ‘bhumiputra’. The time of initiation of agriculture in Karnataka according to archeological data is ca.3000-2800 BC.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

57. A word that travelled : Ayana

The word ‘Ayana’ is used in several contexts in many Indian words, such as Ram-ayana, Nar-ayana, Satya-nara-ayana, Uttar-ayana, Dakshin-ayana, S-ayana, Nir-ayana etc.
Besides in Indian languages it is also found in several African –Mediterranean languages. A perusal of the meaning of the word ‘ayana’ in different languages helps tounderstand its antiquity and the range of meanings it conveys. A site www.sarbadhikari.com/ayan/ayanmng.htm lists some of the many shades of the meanings the word ayana carries in diverse languages across the world.

Sanskrit: The marching in; The path, The path of suns travel in the sky; The solstice; The shift in the path; Soaked in divine glory; The speed; The mirror; The name of Radha’s husband ‘Ayana Ghosa’,(Radha in the Krishna legend).
Tamil: The creator, the Brahma.
Tulu: The annual festival in ancient temples; the celebration;half year; a pronoun denoting 'belonging to him'.
African: The central part of the soul.
Nigeria: The drum beats; Spirit within the drum.
Somalia: The bright (feminine name).The lucky one.
Egypt: The division between two lands or worlds.
Persian: The clear one; Obvious; Notable.
Turkish: The obvious.
Hebrew: The Peace.
Arabic: God’s gift.
English (Bible): To arrive.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

56. Assimilation of Indo –Aryans

The Indo-Aryan invasion hypothesis needs to be mended and modified in the light of recent scientific data! The fact is that Indo-Aryan immigrants did not invaded India as proposed earlier. The number of Indo-Aryans who immigrated was quite few.
The Y-chromosomal genetic data compiled by Sanghamitra Sahoo et al (2006) suggested a minor influx, of people of the Indo-Aryan language family from regions north and west of India. The Vedas were composed a group (about a dozen in number) of sages. With time the Vedic sages apparently had marital relations with natives and were gradually absorbed and assimilated into the pre-existing lingo-cultural fabric of India.
S. Sharma et al. (2007) in their recent paper (“The Autochthonous Origin and a Tribal Link of Indian Brahmins: Evaluation Through Molecular Genetic Markers “- abstract-cited in Dienekes anthropological blog) reported as follows:
“..we screened 621 Y-chromosomes (of Brahmins, Dalits and Tribals) with fifty-five Y-chromosomal binary markers and Y-microsatellite markers and compiled a data set of 2809 Y-chromosomes (681 Brahmins, 2128 Tribals and Dalits) for conclusions. Overall, no consistent difference was observed in Y-haplogroups distribution between Brahmins, Dalits and Tribals, except for some differences confined to a given geographical region.
A peculiar observation of highest frequency (upto 72.22%) of Y-haplogroups R1a1* in Brahmins, hinted at its presence as a founder lineage for this caste group. The widespread distribution and high frequency across Eurasia and Central Asia of R1a1* as well as scanty representation of its ancestral (R*, R1* and R1a*) and derived lineages across the region has kept the origin of this haplogroup unresolved. The analyses of a pooled dataset of 530 Indians, 224 Pakistanis and 276 Central Asians and Eurasians, bearing R1a1* haplogroup resolved the controversy of origin of R1a1*.
The conclusion was drawn on the basis of: i) presence of this haplogroup in many of the tribal populations such as, Saharia (present study) and Chenchu tribe in high frequency, ii) the highest ever reported presence of R1a* (ancestral haplogroup of R1a1*) in Kashmiri Pandits (Brahmins) and Saharia tribe, and iii) associated averaged phylogenetic ages of R1a* (~18,478 years) and R1a1* (~13,768 years) in India. The study supported the autochthonous origin of R1a1 lineage and a tribal link to Indian Brahmins.”

The cited genetic study suggests that the native Indian tribes evolved in the land since 11 to 16 thousand years BC. The study also points to brahmin-ization of native tribes. And this could have happened ca.800-600BC, the magic period when Indo-Aryans and Early Dravidians entered the Indian mainland from the northwest. The Vedas were composed by a group of Indo-Aryan immigrants to NW Indian subcontinent ca 1900 to 800 BC. The Indo-Aryan immigrants were few in number as they immigrated into the Indian mainland and they gradually culturally assimilated with the natives. Select natives must have been absorbed into Vedic schools and were educated in Sanskrit.
The native tribes had evolved pockets of well developed religions and cultures. Some of them joined the Vedic tradition and contributed their talents in composing the great Puranas and Epics of India. Many examples exist in the legends in support of this theory. Valmiki who compiled and composed Ramayan was a bhil, a native archer. Sage Agasthya was a former washer-man (dhobi) from the fold of natives. Jabali was originally from the native tribes. Vedavyasa, the famed dark-skinned (‘Krishna’ Dwaipayana) and talented composer of Mahabharata was born to a woman of lower caste.
Therefore the Early Indian caste system (500-300 BC) was created out of the evolved fraction of native groups.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Nature-scape of Tulunadu 1

Gundya: foothills of Sahyadri
A charming nature-scape to break the monotony of textual posts.An image captured along the Subramanya-Gundya road.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

55. Identity of Neolithic south Indians

Who were the Neolithic tribes that inhabited south India in terms of ethnicity?
The archeological pre-history of human evolution is conventionally divided into (a) Paleolithic [=Old Stone Age] representing age characterized by use of primitive stone tools by the early human beings and (b) Neolithic [=New Stone Age] representing use of polished or refined stone tools like stone axes. In some areas an intermediate ‘Mesolithic’ [=Middle Stone Age] age has been recognized between the two.
Paleolithic usually refers to pre-LGM (Last Glacial Maxima, ca. 18,000-10,000 years ago) or prior to the Last major Ice Age on the Earth. Neolithic usually refers to post LGM evolution that heralded domestication of animals, farming, agriculture, and establishment of villages and also development of crafts such as pottery and weaving etc. Neolithic Age has been recognized at slightly different time periods at different places.
In the southern India, Paleolithic stone tools have been reported in association with volcanic deposits (formed out of the aerial spread of emanations from the massive Mt Toba volcanic eruption, in Sumatra, ca.74, 000 years before present) from the archeological excavations carried out in Jwalapuram (Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh) and other areas. These suggest the existence of early human tribes in southern India since that estimated age.
Similarly, archeological evidences for the existence of Neolithic civilization have been excavated in the formations dated ca. 2800 to 1200 BC from several sites spread in Krishna and Tungabhadra river basins of Gulbarga (Budhihal, Watagal), Bellary (Sanganakallu, Hiregudda, Tekkalakota) and Bijapur districts.
Archeological data on Karavali sites are not reported adequately so far either due to paucity of studies or due to destruction by natural elements such as heavy rainfall, changes in river channels and fluctuation of sea levels.
The archeological excavations studies by Paddaya, Korisettar and others in peninsular India (parts of Eastern Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh) followed up with archeo-botanical studies by Dorian Fuller and others indicate a pastoral (ash mound culture) and agricultural society that was growing millets, tubers and pulses like urd, green gram, horse gram with minor wheat and, barley. The occurrence of rice granules associated with younger formations suggests that rice was introduced later around ca.800 BC in the area.
The above data reveals that the early human beings settled in South India since Paleolithic Ages and evolved agricultural-farming inhabitations during the Neolithic Age. The inhabitants grew pulses (Tovar, green gram, horse gram and black gram), millets, tubers with minor wheat and barley. The ethnic identity of these early Indians corresponds with the Early Munda lingual-cultural substrata described in the earlier posts. Secondly, the rice was generally unknown to them until it was introduced by early Dravidian immigrants around 800 BC or later.
Basic lingual-ethnic fabric of India
In spite of the fact that the present generation of Indians are admixtures of several ethnic groups, the study of constituent ethnic groups may be of some interest to those who look for our early roots.
Basically, three major lingual-ethnic groups have been recognized in India: (1) Austro-Asiatic (or Munda) (2) Dravidian and (3) Indo-Aryan.
Of these, the Austro-Asiatic/Munda ethnic group that arrived and settled in India sometime during early Paleolithic apparently evolved into several lines of hunting-farming-artisan communities, as understood from the spread of extant and remnants of Munda group of languages and cultures.
Early views held that Indo-Aryans invaded the country that was dominated by Dravidian natives. Subsequently, Prof. Michael Witzel and others, based on the linguistic analyses of Vedas proposed that early Dravidians also migrated into India like Indo-Aryans. Similarity of Indo-Aryan Vedic stanzas with those of Iranian Zend-Avesta suggests mutual influence. Similarly the presence of Dravidian borrowed words in Vedic texts suggests that speakers of Dravidian languages co-existed with Indo-Aryan Vedic sages.
(In the meanwhile, some orthodox patriots have resented the Indo-Aryan invasion /migration theories and have introduced counter-proposals of out-of-India emigrations.)
Southworth Hypothesis
Prof.Franklin Southworth (2006) attributes the recent Neolithic archeo-botanical remains reported in Southern India to Dravidians. Southworth correlated the said archeological finds with proto-Dravidian words and proposed that Dravidian tribes and languages originated around Godavari basin. He suggests that “Since languages of all three subgroups (of Dravidian languages) are found in eastern central India, in the lower Godavari River basin, it would be most economical to assume that Proto-Dravidian was spoken somewhere in that region.” Dorian Fuller also followed Southworth proposal of Neolithic Dravidian culture.
Obviously, the present distribution of Dravidian languages and culture in southern India has influenced the thinking of Southworth and Fuller. Munda inhabitations are almost absent in present southern India. Munda tribes are presently distributed around Chotanagapur region. Thus, Southworth and Fuller have overlooked the Munda undercurrent that assimilated with the Dravidian culture in south India.
Southworth, however, notes that the list of faunal remains and depictions compares favorably with those listed for Late Proto-Dravidan words, though canids, felids, bears, and primates (along with several smaller animals such as the mongoose, squirrel, porcupine have not been reported in the archaeological findings. Similarly, while chickens found in 21.7% of archeological sites, (Korisettar et al., 2001) are missing from the inventory of proto-Dravidian words.
Early Munda vestiges
These discrepancies reflect that the south Indian Neolithic archeological finds represent the early Munda ethnic culture, rather than Dravidian as proposed by Southworth. Assimilated remnants of early Munda language and culture have been found in present Tulu and other Dravidian languages and culture in the form of vestiges of Munda words, customs and legends (like that of King Bali).
Later arrival of Dravidians (post 800 BC) into the region is also reflected by finding of the rice grain remains in archeological formations younger than ca.800 BC, suggesting that the immigrant Dravidians introduced the rice cultivation in southern India.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

54. The legend of Bali

Deepavali is a very popular festival in India and the significance is explained as a celebration symbolic of our innate aspiration to progress towards light from darkness, towards knowledge from ignorance and towards prosperity from poverty. It is also described as a festival of thanks-giving to the Mother Nature. Deepavali means array of lights.
In spite of this modern, positive-thinking style of explanations, the fact remains that the festival was originally conceived and celebrated by his subjects as an annual welcome- back ceremony for their beloved exiled King Bali. King Bali variously described as Baliyendra or Bali or Maha-Bali or Bali Chakravarthy (emperor).Remnants of what was originally a pan-Indian custom in ancient days of early civilization remains even today in Tulunadu and Kerala.
Vamana incarnation
The legend of King Bali and Vamana, the dwarf, has been absorbed into Purana-s, with Vamana considered as one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. (cf. Post 34: Ten incarnations).According to the viewpoint of Vishnu’s followers, Bali (a follower of Shiva cult) was pictured as a despicable Asura who deserved to be subjugated. This was in conformity with the Sura-Asura conflict of pro-Vishnu and pro-Shiva cultures in ancient India.
However, the other side of the story is more interesting and throws light on the theological-cultural conflicts during the early historical period.
Asura King Bali
What was the great sin done by this Asura Bali?
He was a philanthropist to the core, who willingly gave away free gifts to the needy people!
If we brush aside all humanly impossible fantasies woven into the said legend, the remaining core story is that King Bali, was fond of giving away gifts desired by the recipient! The standing offers was that Bali would give whatever is asked of him! One clever, dwarf beggar (Vamana) came and begged him to grant land enough to place his three steps.(Or maybe, he asked that he should be given wherever he places his steps ).King Bali agreed to provide him whatever the dwarf desired and the mischievous Vamana placed his foot on Bali’s head! Thus, Bali had no other choice than offer himself to the wishes of the dwarf, who sent him to exile to a place called Patala.
The word ‘bali-daan’ (means ‘sacrifice’, but literally ‘gift of Bali’) might have been coined from the self-sacrificing act of King Bali.
The concept of Patala in Purana-s, describe it as a nether world, a parallel world beneath the Earth. Since, there is no realistic/scientific basis for such a illusory world, we can presume that the ‘Patala’ fantasy represented a sinking island beneath the sea level. Early historical Greek reports like ‘Indika’ report a sinking island called ‘Patala’ near the Gulf of Cutch.
Deepavali in Tulunadu
In spite of depiction of Bali as a villain by the followers of Vishnu, the actual subjects of Bali fondly remembered and continued to respect their exiled King! They believed that their King would return and pay a visit to his subjects once in a year. They celebrated annual welcome their King festival in the form of Deepavali!
The chant of ‘Poli Poli Baliyendra’ in rural Tulunadu during the Deepavali night echoes the age-old custom of welcoming King Bali. Similar customs prevail in Kerala also.
Dr Zacharias Thundy in his ‘Kerala story’ reports similar legends on Bali from Kerala. Onam, in Kerala, is the celebration of the return of Maha Bali,(or 'Maveli') the legendary former and future king of the land. The King Bali according to the folklores, ruled over the Kerala during the Golden Age before castes existed, "when all men were equal, when no one was poor, when there was neither theft nor dread of thieves.
Mahabalipuram, Mavalli
It appears that in the early historical (pre-Sangam) period, the legend of Bali pervaded throughout the south India. In Tamilnadu, Mahabalipuram in the East coast is a town built in honour of King Bali.
Similarly,the town Mavelikkara in Kerala is named after the Maveli or the Mahabali.There are villages named Mavalli in Karnataka also.(One such 'Mavalli' is part of Bangalore city now)
Asura-Munda culture
Dr.Thundy reports that the Munda tribes of Chotanagapur area also have legends (somewhat different from those prevalent in Tulunadu and Kerala) built around their Asura King Bali. Asura is a group within Munda tribes. Bali is a common name among Munda tribes.
Munda substratum
All these data lead to the suggestion that King Bali was ruling Munda people in early historical days before. It was before the castes existed according to folklores. Caste system was systematically enforced ca.300 BC during the reign of Maurya dynasty. A large section of Early Munda people that inhabited all over southern India once upon a time were a civilized society that honored truth, democracy, philanthropy and other good values of life. Munda tribes were ruled by benevolent Kings like Bali. Possibly this led to the conceptual classification of civilization era into Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yuga-s (epochs).
Assimilation of cultural components
The immigrant Tulu, Malayali and Tamil and other (south) early Dravidian tribes that came and settled in various parts of southern India during the period 700 to 400 BC, peacefully coexisted, merged and assimilated with the early Munda culture. In the subsequent years Dravidian languages became powerful vehicles of mass communication. Consequently, the independant identity of early Munda culture in southern India was totally masked under the burden of evolving societies. Remnants of original Munda tribes in southern India are represented by some of the tribal groups living today.
Genetic studies
The genetic haplogroup studies apparently are in favor of such a theory of assimilation of immigrant tribes with the aborigines that settled and evolved in southern India during Paleolithic- Neolithic period. Manjunath is making concerted efforts to compile the available data on the genome studies done so far.

The current Tulu, Malayalam Tamil and other south Dravidian languages still carry an implicit undercurrent of Munda cultural elements and words in them. The persisting legend of King Bali in Tulunadu and Kerala is only an example of such assimilated undercurrent of Munda elements in our unified culture.

Friday, November 2, 2007

53. More on Munda influence on Tulu.

The substratum of Munda language and culture that prevailed in the Karavali region has been amalgamated with the overall Tulu culture during passage of some past 2500 or more years of recent history. Yet the present Tulu language and culture has still hidden vestiges of Munda words and culture that can be deciphered. I have compiled some of the Munda words and cultural characteristics from online sources.
The Munda words cited here below are adopted from Munda Kharia lexicon compiled by Patricia J.Donegan and David Stampe (2004) base on field studies in present day Chotanagapur region in North-Central India. Apart from the chance of missing many original ancient words in the cited dictionary, it should be remembered that Munda words also have evolved regional variations like Dravidian or other languages. Some of the actual original, ancient proto-Munda words of south India may have been more nearer to present Tulu and other Dravidian words. And there could be many more words missing in this list that were eventually absorbed by Tulu language.

Tulu words adopted from older Munda language
Ajja ( aja=grandfather), aeri (aer =ridge), ajao (ajo’D =dry up), appa(apa=father), anDu (anDu =testicle), arka(arkhi=liquor), baar(ba), bala (bha=come on), batti (bati=wick), bave (bav=brother-in-law), churi (churi=knife), aena (ena=what,for), anjov (anDia=male), kanile (karil=bamboo shoot), sapura (sakura=thin), saal(sa:l=year), muDi (muDhi=puffed rice), pura (pura=complete), punnime (puni=fullmoon), Samudra (Samudra=sea), purku (purkha=generation), satyo(sat=truth), suru (suru=begin), Taari (ta:R,taaRi=palm), ter(=temple car)<(ter=to prepare, apply)>tayar., theriya( =round, necklace like)( theriya =plate, round necklace), tiga (tiG=to weave (hive?),toppi (Topi=cap), tuj / duj (tuj(=arrow), umma (um=no), ulTa,(ulTa =topsy turvey, upside down), urdu (urid=black gram), tude (tuDa=to float, water)

Munda based Tulunad place names!
Tulunadu has several villages with odd sounding or unintelligible place names whose meanings cannot be ascertained in present Tulu language! Meanings of many of these puzzling names can be solved by tracing their Munda roots.
Sirwa (=red thread), Parkala (=mirror), Parengi (= a variant of Munda tribe/language, meaning unknown presently), Nagori (= a variant of Munda tribe/language, means Naga settlement), Ubar (=two) For two-rivers? Uphe (=three) > Uppinangadi?. Bold words above indicate Munda words.
Some village names of Tulunadu are similar to Telugu words and earlier were considered to have been derived from the latter. For example: Rayi and Manchakal. It has to be verified whether these words came from Telugu or from proto-Munda, that gave words to both Tulu and Telugu.

Munda inspired Tulu month names!
In traditional Tulu calendar, the year start with the month ‘paggu’, beginning someday in January or February. The word ‘paggu’, apparently, does not have any understandable meaning in the current Tulu. ‘Phagu’ is an annual Munda festival celebrated at the beginning of Munda New Year, during Jan-Feb every year! So, some of the unusual or seemingly odd sounding month-names in the Tulu calendar may have been borrowed from the precursor language of Munda!

Munda inspired Tulu festivals
Origin of some of the traditional Tulu (also Malayali and Kodava) festivals may have roots in the ancient Munda culture. The Munda ‘Karam’ festival may have influenced the ‘Koral parba’/’Posatt’, ‘Onam’ and ‘Huttari’ festivals! The Munda word ‘Karam’ also known as ‘kaim’ or ‘kaddam’ refers to Kadamba tree. The Munda Karam festival begins with bringing flowers from the Kadamba tree. (Mitragyne parvifolia).The festival has similarity with ‘Kural’(=‘posatt’) festival of Tulu people that starts with bringing home new ‘Kural’ (fresh ear of paddy grains).
The Kadamba tree was considered auspicious during the earlier historical days. The Kannada dynasty founded (5th Century AD) by Mayura Sharma/Varma was known as Kadamba dynasty. It is said there was a Kadamba tree in front of Mayura Sharma’s residence at Banvasi.

Direction names in Tulu and Kannada?
The roots of two direction indicators in Tulu, Kannada and other Dravidian languages are derived from Munda language. muDu and paDu. Mudu =east .< (mu=come out), paDu (=west) .<(puD=jump, sink?).
The data relating to the origin of other two directional words: ‘baDa’(=north) and ‘tenka’(=south) is not available at present.

Munda words in Kannada
Early Kannada and early Tulu languages during and before Kadamba period were very similar to each other except for local variations and local influence of proto Munda words in Tulu and Kannada areas.
Note that the following Kannada words are of Proto-Munda origin.
Ajja (aja), aeri(aer=ridge), anDu (anDu),Hege (ighay=how?) enu (ena=what?), banda (banDa=castrated), churi (churi), bava (bav), baa (bha=come), baDagi (baDhi=carpenter), appa (apa), bhaga(bhag=share), bati (bati=wick), dhoti (dhoti), iswi (iswi=year), joru (joar, johar=greet), kamba (=pillar), kumbar(=potter), kaRba (karba=plough handle), mudhaliar (mudha=village head), suru(suru=begin), suley(suley=hot), ter (ter=to prepare, apply)>tayar, toppi(Topi=cap), turtu (turte=quick), ele(ula=leaf),Ri,re (re,ri =form of address).

Debatable origin of few Sanskrit words?
Some of the words are currently commonly used in Sanskrit and we generally assume them to be original Sanskrit words. However, there is need to verify whether these could be the words borrowed into Sanskrit from earlier Munda roots. For example:
Puja (=sacrifice), balidaan (=sacrifice), dharama (=supreme spirit), sa:t (=truth, seven). The word ‘Puja’ has previously been suggested to of non-Sanskrit origin. ‘Balidaan’ is a special word. Bali is a common Munda name. It is also the name of a righteous legendary Munda king, who sacrificed all of his territories in favour of a dwarf (Vamana) only to ensure his promise of Gift. It may not be surprising if this word ‘balidaan’ (=gift of Bali) has originated from that legendary/historical event.
The Tulu word ‘parba’ is generally assumed to be derivative of Sanskrit word ‘parva’. Could the Munda parab (=festival) be the original word from which Tulu ‘parba’ and Sanskrit ‘parva’ were evolved?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

52. Munda aborigines of Karavali

When Early Tulu tribes migrating from Pirak region came and settled in Karavali (coastal tract) of present Karnataka around 750 -600 BC, they found the coastal tract was already inhabited by civilized people living in village type settlements with agricultural, farming and pastoral occupations. The whole of southern India, especially all hospitable river banks and estuaries were inhabited by proto-Munda tribes.

Proto-Munda (south)
Let us use the word ‘Proto-Munda (south)’ to denote these aborigines of southern India because the generally prevailing socio-anthropological impression is that there are no Munda (language/ culture) groups in southern India at present. But there are distinct and strong evidences for their presence in southern India and by the time Early Tulu and Dravidian tribes arrived on the south Indian scene ca.750-600.
The Munda tribes are currently distributed in parts of central and eastern India. This present limited distribution of Munda tribes may be only the relics of a bygone vast empire of Proto-Munda groups that were spread all over India during the Neolithic period. They evolved into several subgroups and sub languages of their own before the arrival of relatively later entrants. The civilized among the Proto-Munda tribes during the course of subsequent history, were eventually assimilated with later entrants into the region like Dravidians and Indo-Aryans.

Early Tulu and Proto-Munda encounter
Early Tulu tribes initially settled in favorable estuaries of rivers proximal to the sea. Probably the estuaries and river banks of Sharavathi (around Honnavar), Swarna-Seetha (around Hoode-Hangarakatta), Haladi (around Barkur-Kundapur), formed the initial settlements of Early Tulu tribes judging by the distribution of major ancient primary settlements (moolasthanas).Adequate archeological supporting data may not be available for want of detailed studies or because of destructions due to extensive rainfall, fluctuation in the sea levels, changes in the river courses and floods that characterize the region.
Proto-Munda tribes must have been a dominant cultural group in Tulunad when people with ‘Tulu’ tag arrived from the north. As the Early Tulu tribes encountered Proto-Munda tribes, the former noticed that the latter are relatively a shorter breed, a physiology characterized by broad foreheads, Munda were wearing different attires or dressing styles. Early Tulu people coined several words containing Munda affixes to denote items new or strange to them but common for the pre-existing Mundas! Obviously,these words are not from Munda language but coined by early Tulu people.
So Tulu language acquired a few new words like ‘mundu’1 (= a sheet of cloth traditionally wrapped around the hips) ‘mundas’(a sheet of cloth wrapped around the head), ‘mundu’2 (a measure about five feet, average size of a Munda man in those days),’mundu’3 (=knee),’munda’(=forehead) etc. (The Munda tribes apparently had prominent, high or wide foreheads and their knees were exposed, unlike the new comers from colder region who covered their entire body in the beginning).
Newcomers from the northwest were of tall breed. They called themselves ‘aaL’ (=literally means one person) One ‘aaL’ represented six feet of height.
Both these relative height measures of ‘mundu’ and ‘aaL’ co-exist even now in rural Tulu usage.
Tulu tribes slowly encroached into the Karavali inlands, where Munda tribes already had built settlements. For convenience of refernce, Tulu tribes named these Munda dominated settlements like Mundadi, Mundukur,Mundaje etc.

‘Munda’ related words in Tulu
Some of the Munda related words coined in Tulu language are cited below:
1. Names of Munda villages/settlements:
Mundukur, Mundagaru, Mundagodu, Mundadi, Mundodi, Mundaje, Mundur, Mundrupadi, Mundaka, Kallamundukur etc
2.Names of Munda plants:
‘Mundevu’ (Pandanus utilis), Mundu tevu, Munda kalli,
3. Names for Munda Attire:
‘Mundu’(waiste cloth, a standard part of rural attire even now in southwestern coastal India), ‘Mundas’ (=a native headgear, fashioned by rolling and tying a longer cloth around the head),
4. Names of Munda measure:
1.one ‘Mundu’=about five feet. (Average height of a short Munda man).
Possibly Munda men were of shorter stature than the newly arrived Tulu tribes.
2.one ‘AaL’= about six feet (An average height of a tall man).
5. Names of parts of the human Body:
‘mundu’= knee, ‘munda’ =forehead. (Kasha ) ‘mundana’ =shaving head.
(The word ‘munda’ in Kannada refers to the trunk or the body part below the head, as against runda=head .
6. Name of Tribe/language: Mundala.

Friday, October 26, 2007

51.Stage III: Migration from Pirak . 800-500BC

The Pirak civialization phase was reported to have culminated around 800 BC. Tulu language even today has the retained word “pirak” that means ‘ancient’ or ‘aspects connected to remote past’.This can be considered as the fossil memory of Tulu people of their residence at Pirak. In other languages like Kannada the word survived as ‘prak’(=ancient) and Prakrit can be considered as the language of the pirak (prak) area. Prakrit is also considered to be the unrefined form of Sanskrit. Tulu and other south Indian languages have ample Prakrit words in them. Mostly, these were borrowed and assimilated during their residence in Pirak area. At the same time, early Tulu and other early Dravidian language groups lent some words that were absorbed into prakrit and Sanskrit.
During the 800-500 BC period most of the resident groups left Pirak region and entered India proper (as is now) and settled in comfortable areas nearer to water sources like rivers and perennial springs. Possibly, the groups left in different batches, maybe each of some 5 to 10 individual families of able bodied members and found their ways through the new territory before settling in relatively comfortable zones. It is possible that early South Dravidian groups consisting of early Tulu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam tribes migrated in different batches during the period.At this stage these early Dravidian languages were similar to each other and were more like regional variations of a single language. Predictably they settled intermittently at several places on the way before reaching their ultimate destinations in select parts of Southern India. The identity of early Kannada and early Malayalam ancestors probably carried different name tags then, since the present identity names ‘Kannada’ and ‘Malayalam’ were coined chronologically later and in situ in the present habitat.

Theological evolution
During the period Upanishads and Puranas were being compiled. The Rigvedic Gods Mitra, Indra,Varuna, Agni and others took back seat in favour of ascendacy of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha independantly among three different tribal groups. Brahma atained the status of Almighty Creator. The concept was further extended to include the all-pervasive cosmic force of Brahman. Valmiki, a hunter turned into bard and sage compiled the epic of Ramayana, based on primitive legend of Rama, that originally dated back to the post-LGM period when the sea-levels receded and Srilanka was accesible from Indian mainland on foot.The epic that highlighted the supremacy of the Lord Brahma, was subsequently edited and interpolated by several later authors, with liberal addition of fantasies and exaggerations.During the period, the Mahabharata was also being compiled, as an expanded and blown up version of battle of ten kings described in the Rigveda.
Another group, possibly led by the cattle-herders (Yadavas), upgraded and expanded the ancient legend of Vishnu. Vishnu, worshipped by early pre-Vedic, dark-colored tribes, was a minor god of lesser grade than the lord of Sea, Varuna for the Vedic sages during the compilation of Rigveda. Ten different theologic legends of the region were compiled together under the ten incarnations of Vishnu.(More on Vishnu and ten incarnations, cf. post 34 ).
Similarly, another group advocated the supremacy of Lord Shiva, who was tribal superman who possibly advocated the cult of phallus worship. Thus the phallic worship gradually merged with the Shaiva cult.Several tantric and mystic cults evolved during the period.
Yet there were many who did not subscribed to any of these theological cults.These dissatisfactions led to the development of Jainism and Buddhism. In response these diversions the followers of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha joined hands together and formed the concept of Trimurthy.
Similarly the primitive cult of Yoni worship assimilated with parallel Mother Godess worship that eventually evolved into the cult of Shakti or the Durga later in the history.
The Panjurli (Boar or Varaha) cult apparently originated in N Africa and Central Asia. The boar (or swine or Sus scrofa) is native of central Europe, Mediterranean, Atlas mountains, N.Africa and Asia. In Celtic mythology boar was sacred to Godess Arduinna. In Persian (Iran) Sassnid Empire, the boar was respected as a brave and fierce animal; the title of ‘boraz ‘or ‘Goraz’ (=boar) was added to the personal names of the braves. In Belgium, boar is the mascot of one of the infantry divisions of the Belgian army. In Chinese horoscope, boar is one of the twelve months of the zodiac

Early Tulu migration
Tulu tribes carried the Panjurli and Bermer cults of spirit worship from Pirak to Tulunadu as described in earlier posts. The early Tulu tribes were not inspired or influenced by theological evolution of Brahma, Vishnu or Mahesha. They adhered to their cults of spirit and serpent (Naga) worships. Tulu tribes picked up words from the languages existing in the regions they travelled through. Throughout the route from Rajasthan border to Tulunadu, we find numerous settlements named after Naga: Nagur, Nagor, Nagori etc. Similarly along the same route we find relics of ‘Bermer’ (horse mounted deity )worship that were later converted to ‘Brahma’(the creator God) worship especially in north India(example: Pushkar, Rajasthan).

Early Tamil migration
The early Tamils carried the Shiva cult, along with the assimilated primitive phallus worship cult, with them when they migrated and eventually settled in the present Tamilnadu. The early Tamils were inspired by the style of compilation of Vedas and Upanishads were by group of Vedic sages. They adopted the concept and composed the Tamil Sangam literature in early Madhurai kingdom, established near Kanyakumari during ca.300BC .

Monday, October 22, 2007

50.The legend of Rama

The character of Rama is one of the most influential ever portrayed in the history of India. The basic Indian ethics of righteousness is modeled on the legend of Rama. He has influenced the lifestyle and temperaments of many Indians, including the Mahatma Gandhi. In the words of Swami Vivekananda: “Rama, the ancient idol of the heroic ages, the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband, and above all, the ideal king.”
The original legend of Rama appears to be an ancient folk-lore, dating back to some thousands of years and was passed on orally from generations. The original story may also have evolved with spicy additions, of fantasy, when passing down the ages.
The Ramayana, built on the mass legend of Rama, is the first epic of India.. Based on the analysis of linguistic style of the text, Ramayana is considered to have been compiled between 500 BC and 200 AD. A portion of Ramayana was added even during 4th 12th century AD. But the core story could be as old as 700 BC considering reference to the kingdom of Kosala. The epic of has undergone numerous modifications and interpolations during the course time. A large number of fantasies have been added to increase the mass appeal of the product. So Ramayana as it is available now was not written by Valmiki alone. Sages of Bhrgu clan who composed AtharvaVeda also contributed to the text of Ramayana. The chief composer Valmiki is considered a descendant of Bhrgu. Apart from the Valmiki Ramayana there are also other versions.
As S.S.N.Murthy (2003) has summarized Ramayana was compiled and written when the cult the Brahma was held in high esteem in the pious society. The numbers four, seven and ten symbolic of the Brahma cult have been profusely used in the Ramayana compiled during that period. Besides, a lot of symbolism has been included. Sita (the word means furrow) is an symbol of agriculture. Similarly astrology and geographic details have been profusely added. However, archeological excavations so far have not confirmed any of the historical aspects cited in Ramayana. According to various scholars the places mentioned in the epic are from northwestern Indian subcontinent and the surrounding areas. Many scholars including Murthy have suggested that Lanka mentioned in Ramayana literally means an island and need not be the Srilanka of today.
In southern India many locations are describes as part of Rama legend. The Srilanka is described as the Lanka of Ramayana with the land connection between India and Srilanka as the ‘Rama Sethu’ built by Vanaras.
Pushkar Bhatnagar has dated Ramayana based on the digital analysis of position of stars and planets described by Valmiki and the date of birth of Rama arrived at is 10th January 5011BC.The date of birth looks accurate but does not tallies with the dates inferred by linguistic analysis. Simply it put Rama in an age older than Indus Valley Civilization.
Ancient folklore of Rama.
Rama was a simple ideal son who willingly took trouble of living in a forest for years just to ensure his fathers oral agreement. The Rama, however, is not of an infallible superman: he made mistakes like ordinary mortals. He ordered for his wifes ritual testing (agnipariksha) to appease his subjects. He killed Vali (or Bali) in an unrighteous manner. Had the legend been a creative masterpiece without factual basis, Rama would have been totally infallible in righteous judgments.
There are several interesting backdrops in the legend of Rama that indicate a primitive environmental setting.
1.Rama (the word means 'pleasant') has been described as blue-skinned. Either this is pure eulogy for the dark skinned charming young man. Or maybe at some point in the early history, almost gray-blue appearing men existed during the course of post-glacial evolution. The dark skinned Rama can be visualized as a primitive Indian young man.
2.He used primitive bow and arrows like those used by hunters and nomadic tribes.
3.The legend curiously describes Vanara tribes, the primitive homonids that were existing before the evolution of homo sapiens(‘Nara’)! It is possible that in the early history species of homonids (‘Vanara’) co-existed with homo sapiens.
4.The cart was a rare vehicle in those primitive days. The chariot used by the kidnapper Ravana, spelled wonders to the beholders.

5.The land bridge between India and Srilanka has been described. The land bridge in fact is a natural structure formed on the earth when the super Gondwana continent broke into several smaller continents some 90 million years ago. Since then India and Srilanka are attached through this natural continental link. The land area between India and Srilanka was evidently exposed during major recession of sea levels during major global droughts like those between 135,000-75,000 years and during the last glacial maxima some 10.000 years ago facilitating to and fro migration of human beings.
The continental connection is a natural structure of the earth. The rocks found at the top of the ‘Ram’s bridge’ zone, at present under the shallow sea (about 1 to 30m deep), consists of coral reefs. Some people have suggested that the light weighted coral reefs were carried to the sea and dumped to form the bridge by the homonid army. Coral reefs are built by living corals, a kind of primitive life forms, and do not grow on land; they grow naturally under favorable shallow marine conditions. The sandy formations reported by some geological studies in the ‘Rama Sethu’ link area indicate that it was an exposed land bridge in the historical past.
One possibility is that where only a small part of the continental connection was under water, it could have been filled by sundry material as a temporary measure.

6.Recent excavations and archeo-botanical studies have proved existence of early primitive men some 75,000 years ago in southern India. And in the Post Glacial Neolithic age,due to decrease in sea levels, the natural land bridge exposed and was accessible for journey to and fro between India and Srilanka by foot.Archeo-botanical studies have confirmed the existence of extensive agricultural habitations in various river valleys of India.

In the light of these it appears to me that the legend of Rama is a very ancient folk lore (paD-dana) built on the original story of a dark, righteous,primitive, unassuming young man whose wife was abducted to Srilanka through the natural land bridge during the Early Neolithic age. And with the help of Vanara hominid friends he fought with the kidnapper and brought back his devoted wife.
Valmiki, a hunter himself, representing the lineage of ancient Neolithic aborigines of India, made employed this folklore as a back ground story to compose the famed Valmiki Ramayana.Valmiki and numerous other later anonymous writers and editors have added and contributed their bits to blow up the simple, original legend into a fantasy filled Ramayana as we find today.

Friday, October 19, 2007

49.Early Human settlements in South India

Recent archaeological excavations at Jwalapuram, in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, by Dr. Michael Petraglia (University of Cambridge, U.K) in association with Prof.Kori Settar (Karnataka University) and Dr.Venkatasubbaiah (Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh) showed evidences for settlement of anatomically modern humans in southern India before 74,000 years ago. The eruption of the Toba volcano in Sumatra some 74,000 years ago was a major volcanic event in the human history. The ash thrown up high into the atmosphere by the volcanic explosion reached India and deposited as layers of volcanic tephra found at Jwalapuram excavations. Apparently, the early inhabitants of south India survived the volcanic eruption without pronounced devastation as assumed by earlier studies. (see also, Post. 38).
Excavations at Jwalapuram have unearthed fine stone flakes used tools for various purposes by the primitive human settlers. The stone tool assemblages used by early men at Jwalapuram were similar to those produced in Africa at the same time. Similar stone implements have been unearthed in Malaprabha river valley, Hunsigi and Baichbal valleys.
Neolithic Bronze Age South India
Archeological studies by Dorian Fuller (England) in association with Ravi Korisettar and. Venkatasubbaiah and revealed existence of numerous sites of the Neolithic cultures (2800 BC-1200 BC) spread in the Krishna and Tungabhadra river valleys of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. These ancient villages and settlements on the southern peninsula are roughly contemporaneous with the Bronze Age settlements of the Indus valley in Northwest India and Pakistan. Two important categories of Neolithic sites have been recognized: habitation villages and cattle-herd settlements.
Agriculture was the mainstay in the permanent habitation sites. Villages were located margins of granite hills, possibly in the vicinity of springs or river. The studies showed evidences for the cultivation of small millet-grasses (like brown-top millet, Brachiaria ramosa, and bristley foxtail grass, Setaria verticillata) and pulses [like urd (black gram,Vigna mungo), green gram (mung bean, Vigna radiate), and horsegram, Macrotyloma uniflorum]. These crop species are native to Southern India and were probably domesticated in the region. In addition there is evidence for the use of tuber foods. During the later Neolithic (from ca. 1800 BC) a number of other crops including Wheat (Triticum sp..) and Barley (Hordeum vulgare) were introduced from the northwest (Indus-Pirak region) and Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus) and Pearl Millet (Pennisetum glaucum) of African Origin. Rice (Orizha sp.)is supposed to have been introduced at a later stage.
The 'ash mound' sites consist of large, heaped accumulations of burnt cattle dung, the largest about 8 meters in height and 40 meters in diameter. Archaeological evidence from a couple of the ash mounds indicates sites of ancient cattle penning where dung was allowed to accumulate and periodically burnt, perhaps in seasonal rituals. The ash mound sites were camps of groups linked to the agricultural production sites.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

48. Early Tulu: Stage II 2000-800 BC

The major evidence for existence and residence of Tulu tribes in the northwestern Indian subcontinent is the existence of a fossil or relict word namely ‘Pirak’ in the present Tulu language. Incidentally, Pirak is name of the area in Baluchistan where the phase of post-Indus civilization was developed between 1800 and 800 BC. Beside there are a number of other evidences like exchange of words with Vedic Indo Aryans, adoption of the Bermer worship
One of the artifacts obtained in Indus civilization resembles boar (see photograph above). In Indus valley civilization, whether this ‘boar’ like artifact could be taken as evidence for the existence of boar worship (Panjurli/Varaha) which was a hallmark of the Tulu tribes needs further verifications. If it is confirmed it may indicate the presence of Tulu tribes in the late phase of Indus Valley civilization.
The civilization in the north western Indian subcontinent is divided into three phases namely:
(a) Mehrgarh (7000-2600 BC),
(b) Indus Valley (2600-1800 BC) and
(c) Pirak(1800-800 BC)

Mehrgarh Civilization phase 7000-2600 BC
Mehrgarh township, located at the foot of the Baluchistan hills (now in Pakistan), is the earliest known farming settlement in South Asia, established circa 7000 B.C. Several villages developed in the hills of Baluchistan and further (ca.3500BC onwards) along the western edge of the Indus plain. The people cultivated wheat and barley and raised sheep, goats and cattle, all traditions that paved the way to civilization. Stone sickles are found that provide evidence of cultivation. Besides, painted pottery, ornaments and terracotta figurines representing both humans and animals have been found.
Settlements on the Indus plain laid the foundation for the Indus Civilization. Cattle yokes and sophisticated copper/bronze implements recovered during the archeological excavations suggest growth of agricultural society in the area and the seals indicate trade with neighbors in the region. Graphic motifs on the pottery such as men with headdresses of buffalo horns may be the beginning of religious beliefs that continued into the later Indus Civilization.

Indus Valley Civilization phase 2600-1800 BC
More than 1,500 archeological sites have been discovered along the Indus (Sindhu) and Sarasvati (Ghaggar –Hakra) River valley/ catchment area by ca. 2600 BC, of which about ten known to be are well planned cities or towns. Among these, Harapa and Mohenjodaro (in Pakistan and Dholavira (Gujarat, India) are the famous sites. The towns, consisting of well planned streets and buildings, were divided into public/administrative and residential section. The use of baked bricks in architecture evolved before and during the Indus Civilization. The towns were linked with each others through rivers, which possibly served as water supply and transportation networks. The town had developed trade relationships with Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia.
Art works recovered during the archeological excavations such as human and animal terracotta figurines, gold ornaments, toys, decorative motifs painted on pottery and other objects made from copper/bronze, shell and semi-precious stones, carnelian beads with bleached white designs (etched with alkaline solution) indicate the affluent urban style of life enjoyed by the citizens of the Valley.
Buffalo horns and pipal trees were regarded as sacred. Depictions on some seals and tablets of men wearing horned headdresses decorated with pipal leaves may have represented religious as well as secular leaders. One of the published artifacts looks like the boar Varaha or the Panjurli, popular spirit in Tulu culture. Fish symbols abound in these areas that have been variously interpreted by scholars like Iravattam Mahadevan and Asko Purpola. Mahadevan suggested Indus to be a proto-Dravidian culture. Asko Purpola suggested that fish pictograms represented religious beliefs. Purpola’s suggestion appears meaningful since in later aprt of the history around 300 BC legend of fish worship was adopted as Matsyavatar, the first incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Traditions involving the worship of nature and possibly even the "Mother Goddess" were integrated into the traditions of the Indo-Aryan speakers in the form of a reverence for cows, pipal trees, rivers and water.
Most of the cities of the Indus Civilization were abandoned by circa 1800 B.C possibly due to shifting of rivers or famine. Possibly most of these settlements were relocated to the Pirak region.
Pirak civilization phase 1800 to 800 BC
The Pirak Culture evolved consequent upon the decline of the Indus Civilization. It was near the older Mehrgarh sites on the Kachi plain and characterized by geometric polychrome pottery. Here horses and camels were domesticated for the first time in South Asia, and the riding of horses is clearly attested. Sorghum and rice were added as summer crops to the existing winter crop assemblage of wheat and barley. This saw-toothed stone sickle was probably used to harvest cereals. Early Tulu and Early Dravidian tribes picked up the cultivation and consumption of rice in this region. Possibly, the custom of making boiled rice was also initiated in this region, as mentioned in some Greek accounts of the time ca 300 BC. Several other points regarding the Pirak phase of Tulu tribes has been described in previous posts.
Evidences such as urns containing cremated bones and ashes have been recovered, suggestive of development of new tradition burning of dead bodies evolved in the Cemetery H. Horses and camels were utilized for common domestic chores.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

47.Mundevu (Pandanus)

Mundevu bush is also known as ‘Common screw pine’ or botanically as Pandanus utilis. it is a common hedge or spiny bush consisting of long, ribbony leaves with serial spines on the margin of the leaves. These hedges naturally grow in Karavali Karnataka along river sides and beaches. It was also common along Tamilnadu coast since early Christian era. It has been mentioned in Sangam literature.
In Tulunadu, the ribbony leaves of Mundev shrub are cut and cleared of their spines and cut into ribbons. The leaves are tendered on low fire and knitted into tubular vessels called ‘moode’(=literally means ‘knitted’ vessel) that are used traditionally to steam cook ground paste of rice and urd .
Alternately, the leaves of jack tree are also used in quadruplets to knit and fashion out leafy vessels (‘gunda’ or ‘kotte’) for steam cooking the ground rice-urd paste.
Note that both Mundev (Pandanus) and Jack tree(Pela) are very ancient plants.Also note that the Tulu name for the shrub Mundevu includes reference to 'Munda' people.
These steam cooked dishes can be considered as precursors of later developed iddlis.(see, Post 23).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

46.Proto-Tulu Migration: Stage I

1. The proposal of the earliest stage of migration of proto- Tulu tribes is based on (a) the presence of Tulu words in African and Sumerian derived languages. The basic word ‘Tulu’ itself can be found in several place names and persons names. Similarly the Tulu words bant, oor (<.ur1=village), uri2 (<.ur2=to burn), ain (<.ai=five), sike(<.sige=sultriness), sima (samba=lion), puttu (putt=to birth) etc. are derived from ancient African/Mediterranean proto languages.
2. The timing suggested ca.2000 BC is approximate and is based on the mass migration of tribes out of Africa due to adverse environments like drought and desertification. There are actually many phases of African migrations beginning with the origin of evolved man around 165,000 years ago. Since the words Tulu, bant, oor, ain etc were well formed in African –Mediterranean region during the 4000-2000 BC period, the ca.2000 BC migration episode has been considered. The dates can be further refined with availability of new data.
3. The place of origin or initial dispersal was chosen as Ethiopia based on the presence of maximum number of place-name associations with the word Tulu. Even in those early days Tulu might have been a small ethnic group. Apparently even now there are ethnic groups called Tulu in Ethiopia.
4. For comparison of genome characteristics of Ethiopian and Tulu people extensive data may be required on either side, since both sides have undergone extensive human assimilations in the post-migration period. Right now, there may not be sufficient compilation of genetic data on this front, especially on the Tulunadu side. Besides, the present day Ethiopian have also changed considerably because several generations of migrations to and from Africa throughout the history. Apart from the declared complexities of genetic substructure of Ethiopian chromosomes, at least three major phases of back migrations from Asia into Ethiopia have been explained based on Y -chromosome genetic studies (Ornella Semino and others, 2002).Beside the present, Ethiopian (and Yemeni) maternal lineages are said to be composites of sub-Saharan and West Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups suggestive of extensive bidirectional gene flow on either sides of the Red Sea (Toomas Kivisild et al, 2004).
As pointed out by Kivisild et al (2003) in the Indian context, “It will take larger sample sizes, more populations, and increased molecular resolution to determine the likely modest impact of historic gene flows to India on its pre-existing large populations”

Friday, October 12, 2007

45. Origin of the word ' Bant '

Like ‘Tulu’, the word 'Bant', is also derived from the African roots. The word ‘bant’ is also found in other southern Indian Dravidian languages like Kannada and Telugu. Presently, the word bunt refers to a particular community in Tulunadu. However, earlier in the history the word 'bant', (also written as bunt) meant and was a profession. It was a profession of trusted soldiers or body guards to the kings and chieftains. The ancient Tulu heroes Koti and Chennaya from baidyer/ billava caste were professional bants (=body guards) for Ballala chieftains according to Pad-danas. Similarly Hanumantha (or Hanuman) was called Rama’s banta in the sense of (a) trusted and (b) powerful personal assistant. The usage of the word in Ramayana also denotes the antiquity of the meaning of the word.
My earlier postings on Bantu>Bunt word derivation, apparently conveyed an erroneous impression that our 'Bunts' are directly derived from the African group of 'Bantu's. My earlier discussions were focused on the origin of the word and not the Tulu community of the same name. To avoid confusions let me use the spelling ‘bant’ to refer to the basic word and ‘bunt’ when referring to the community.
The origin of the word 'bant' is quite ancient (4000-2000 BC), having primary roots in several African and Mediterranean languages (like Sumerian and Akkadian etc), that have influenced in the evolution of Dravidian languages including Tulu. The Pad-dana style of our characteristic Tulu folk oral- literature itself has deeper roots in the analogous ‘oratures’ (=oral+ literature) popular in the African heritage.
The name “Bantu” in Africa refers to an ethnic group of 400 tribes and their languages. Swahili is one of the popular Bantu languages. Dr. Wilhem H. I. Bleek (1827-1875) is credited with naming these tribes as Bantu group in the year 1862. Thus the naming of the Bantu group may be relatively recent, but the original root word of ‘bant’ is quite ancient. The present African word ‘Bantu’ (ba+ ntu) now means 'people' in Bantu languages. And the same word ‘bant’ (= persons) acquired by proto-Tulu and related proto-Dravidian tribes that migrated ultimately to the southern India, has been evolved to represent ‘reliable, strong person’.

Tulu Bants in Kannada-Telugu armies
Tulu people used the word 'bant' or 'bante' initially for a professional body guard, usually trained in the ‘garodi’(=ancient gymnasium of Tulunadu) of martial arts. The word has similar meaning in Kannada and Telugu also.
The Tulu chieftains, Alupas had socio-political and matrimonial alliance with Kannada kings since the period of Kadambas. And the Tulu ‘bants’ served in the army of Kadamba and Chalukya Kannada kings as soldiers and bodyguards, between the period of 5th and 10th centuries.
In Telugu Mudiraju / Tamil Mutharaya communities, of Andhra and Tamilnadu, bants form a subcaste. Mudiraju people were fishermen, cultivators, special soldiers, warriors and ruling class at different times in the history. It is reported that Vellala (<.Ballala) bants migrated from Tulunad Karavali to Andhra in the historical period. This was because a part of Andhra was governed by Kannada Chalukya kings during the 7th to 8th centuries AD. During their reign, Chalukya kings introduced script for Telugu language based on the then existing medieval Kannada script. (As a consequence, the Telugu script bears resemblance to Kannada script even today)
Bunt as community name
Since a large number of Tulu farmers, (Okkaliga/ Nadava/Nair) were professional bants during the Tulu and Dravidian history, the word was subsequently adopted as a community name. The Tulu bunts has become a composite community group now, apparently evolved from several streams of people, during the history of Tulunad like Okkaligas (farmers), Alupas (> Alva), Nairs, Nadavas, and converts from Jainism.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

44. The scale of human migration

Normally, our perceptions are based on the present environments and therefore we have difficulty in visualizing the scenarios from the past. Many people cannot digest the concept of migrations because they imagine whole massive population, in the scale they see now around, moving out from one place or region to the other.
One small event in the relatively recent history shall be useful to envisage the scale of migrations that occurred in the past history.
Nadava migration
About 500 years ago, five families of Nadavas from Kundapur taluk, left their original homeland due to differences with local people, travelled some 100 km distance northward crossing a number of coastal rivers to Ankola- Gokarna area of Uttara Kannada district and resettled there. Now, after passage of five centuries, the population of Nadava community in the Ankola- Gokarna region exceeds 10,000.
Five centuries have contributed significant changes to the language, culture and beliefs of the migrated Nadavas of present Uttara Kannada. Their language ‘Nadava Kannada’ now is slightly different from that of the present ‘Kundapur Kannada’. Their beliefs also have undergone minor changes: the cult of spirit worship has taken back seat and local influence of Lord Tirupati Venkataramana has taken over. The ‘moolasthana’ concept has almost vanished,but the ‘bari’ concept has become ‘balli’ concept.. The Bermer cult has been modified into an annual festival of Bommayya devaru.

43. Evolution of Tulu Language

I propose a three stage evolution of Tulu language. Other Dravidian languages also share this global heritage.
Stage I: ca.4000-2000 BC - Proto Tulu
Proto Tulu originated in Ethiopia. It contained lot of words derived from Sumerian languages and African languages. Some of these words still survive in our language. Other Proto-Dravidian languages also were originated in the region.
Around 2000 BC severe desertification of northern Africa occurred with formation of Sahara desert. The adverse environmental conditions forced many human tribes to leave Africa and migrate to greener areas with basic amenities. Tulu and other Proto Dravidian tribes left Africa and migrated.
Stage II: ca.2000-500 BC - Early Tulu
Migrating Tulu tribes and proto-Dravidians settled in the Pirak region in Central Asia, now part of Pakistan. Pirak region had a native language: Early Prakrit. They interacted with Indo-Aryans that came from Eastern Iran. A group of Indo-Aryan sages were engaged in the oral composition of Vedas. Early Tulu and Dravidians tribes learnt rice cultivation in this area. Again unfavorable environmental conditions enticed these Tulu/Dravidian tribes to migrate into greener pastures of India.
Stage III: ca.500-300 BC - Tulu
Early Tulu and Dravidian tribes migrated into India. They traveled and settled for some time in different regions of northwestern India, interacted with local language groups and further migrated to West coast of India. Interaction of Dravidian tribes with Marathi tribes contributed exchange of words between Dravidian and Marathi. Marathi language is an evolved form of Early Prakrit.
Tulu tribes settled in Karavali region that is popularly known as Tulunadu. Early Kannada tribes settled in plains of Karnataka. (The names Kannada and Karnataka may have evolved later.) Early Malayalees traveled further south and settled in Malabar. Tamils moved further and settled in Early-Madhurai, somewhere in the southern coast of India. The Early-Madhurai was destroyed by the transgression of the Sea and Tamils resettled in inland townships designated again as Madhurai.
At that time Munda group of languages and culture prevailed all over southern India. Munda tribes were adept in agriculture.They were growing a variety of crops like wheat, barley, jowar, ragi, cow pea (kadale), black gram (urd), green gram (padengi), horse gram (kudu), togari etc. The incoming tribes interacted with Munda tribes leading to assimilation of Munda language and culture in Tulu and other Dravidian languages and culture. Dravidian groups introduced rice cultivation methods acquired from their earlier settlements.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

42. Origin of the word Tulu -II

The word ‘Tulu’ itself is of remote antiquity. Online search shall convince you that the word Tulu is more global in dimension than we can imagine.It appears that the word 'Tulu' originally meant 'water and water related aspects' in the language of its origin, but might have acquired additional meanings subsequently due to changes in environmental situations.
In the ancient Sumerian language“tu” morpheme represented ‘water spring or well’ or ‘water connected activities like bathing or washing’ and the morpheme “lu” was indicative of quantity or abundance, people etc. There was another Sumerian word “tulu” or “tule” that meant ‘soft or placid’. (Compare similarity of the latter meaning with our ‘tuluve’ jack fruit.).Tulu is found in the list of African personal names and the word means ‘spread out in different directions’, possibly implying migratory character of the Tulu tribes. Another vocally analogous African word ‘Zulu’ also means water.
I believe that the word ‘Tulu’ existed since Sumerian period of early civilization (ca. 6000-4000 BC) in north African-Mediterranean region, where from these original ancient Tulu tribes migrated. The ancient Sumerian and related languages form the basis for the evolution of many of the Afro-Asiatic languages of present day. The word 'Tulu' originally meant (1) water or activities connected with water (2) placid and soft.These ancient meanings still survive today in spite of the passage of several millenia in the time scale. These Sumerian meanings are analogous to those interpreted by Sediyapu Krishna Bhat and Manjeswar Govinda Pai in the context of present Tulu in Tulunad.
The Ethiopia can be described as cradle of human race, since the earliest human fossils (Homo sapiens) Omo I and Omo II dated back to 165,000 years were found in Ethiopia. As reconstructed by the genome studies complemented with archeology and paleontology, human migrations started out of Ethiopia and Africa in several phases.
Tulu place names
Tulu is the name of several Ethiopian towns and settlements. ‘Tulu’ is also a surname or part of the name among the Ethiopian people. For example, Derartu Tulu is an Ethiopian female athlete. There are at least four places (towns, settlements) called ‘Tulu’ in Ethiopia, at least one each in the other neighboring African countries like Kenya, Sudan, Nigeria and Zaire. In Ethiopia there are more than 12 places in the online maps with ‘Tulu’ as prefix, such as Tulu Bolo, Tulu Bora, Tulu Ferda, Tulu Guracha etc.
Tulu Migrations
On the basis of these data I suggest that the original Tulu tribes originated in Ethiopia in northern Africa and migrated out of Africa under adverse environmental conditions.Based on environmental geological data scientists have interpreted that around 2000 BC, wide spread desertification of northern Africa prompted many tribes to migrate out of Africa. Tulu place names in other African countries are suggestive of migration of early Tulu tribes in different directions. The present African meaning of ‘spread in different direction’ for the word ‘Tulu’ could have been the result of migrations.
The exact nature of the language of the primary Tulu tribes hailing from Ethiopia is difficult to conjecture now but we can presume some of the original words are still preserved as fossils in present Tulu language.
The Tulu language has grown or evolved independently of African languages during the last 6000 years in such a way that they have entirely separate identities and characteristics. A lot of things change as a result of divergent evolutionary trends. But some fossil root words may exist still!
Outside the African continent, Tulu place names can also be found in Pakistan (‘Thulu’), Afghanistan, Mynamar, China, Bolivia, Brazil, Papua New Guinea and Phillipines.
The Afghan Television channel, at present, is called ‘Tulu TV’, the word ‘Tulu’ in the present Afghan language means something like ‘the rising’ or ‘the dawn’. Note that Afghan meaning of ‘Tulu” is different from the African roots. Afghanistan is close to Pirak where many of the tribes settled during the period ca.2000 to 500 BC. The Pirak episode of Tulu tribes has been discussed in several earlier posts in this blog.
The Tulu tribes settled and lived in the Pirak area for some 1500 years, then again migrated (ca 500-300 BC) to their present homeland in Tulunad.

The original ‘Tulu’ may have been the name of the mother who migrated from Africa to Pirak along with her family. The original ‘Tulu’ family carried several root words along with them during the migration from their early homeland. A few such Tulu families or clans were active in the last millennium also around Kundapur, Honavar and Banavasi region.
And Krishnadevaraya who ruled Vijayanagar was product of one such family that called itself Tulu clan.

Blog Archive

Books for Reference

  • A Comparative Study of Tulu Dialects By Dr. Padmanabha Kekunnaya. Govinda Pai Reserach Centre, UDupi. 1994
  • Koti Chennaya: Janapadiya Adhyayana. By Dr. Vamana Nandavar. Hemanshu Prakashana ,Mangalore.2001.
  • Male kudiyaru. Dr B. A.Viveka Rai and D.Yadupathi Gowda, Mangalore University,1996.
  • Mogaveera Samskriti By Venkataraja Punimchattaya. Karnataka Sahitya Academy.1993.
  • Mugeraru:Jananga Janapada Adhyayana. By Dr Abhaya Kumar Kaukradi.Kannada & Culture Directorate,Bangalore & Karnataka Tulu Academy, Mangalore,1997.
  • Puttubalakeya Pad-danagalu. Ed: Dr B.A.Viveka Rai,Yadupati Gowda and Rajashri, Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Tulu Peeta. Mangalore University.2004
  • Se'erige. Ed:Dr K.Chinnapa Gowda.Madipu Prakashana,Mangalagangotri,2000.
  • Studies in Tuluva History and Culture.by Dr P Gururaja Bhat (1975).Milagres College,Kallinapur,Udupi.
  • Taulava Sanskriti by Dr.B.A.Viveka Rai, Sahyadri Prakashana,Mysore 1977
  • TuLu naaDu-nuDi By Dr.PalthaDi Ramakrishna Achar, Puttur.
  • TuLu NighanTu. (Editor in Chief: Dr U.P.Upadhyaya, Govinda Pai Research Centre,Udupi. Six volumes. 1988 to 1997
  • Tulu Patero-A Philology & Grammar of Tulu Language by Budhananda Shivalli.2004.Mandira Prakashana Mangalore. p.317. (The book is in Tulu Language using Kannada script)
  • TuLunadina ShasanagaLa Sanskritika Adhyayana. By Shaila T. Verma (2002) Jnanodaya Prakashana,Bangalore, p.304.(Kannada)
  • Tuluvala Baliyendre. Compiled by N.A.Sheenappa Hegde,Polali,Sri Devi Prakashana,Parkala,1929/1999

A Coastal estuary

A Coastal estuary
Holegadde near Honavar,Uttara Kannada dist, Karnataka

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