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374. Banga and Bangera Bari

The Bangera ‘bari ‘( ‘gotra’) is one of the common lineage systems prevalent in Tulunadu  and found in most of the Tulu communities. We sh...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

338. Tulu calendar begins with Pagu month

Even though now in routine most us follow the Western or Gregorian calendar that consist of twelve months commencing with January and ending with December, Tulu people traditionally had have a specific calendar which consist of twelve months in the serial order such as Paggu, Besha, Kārtel, Āti, Sona, Nirnāla, Bontyel, Jārde, Perārde,Puyintel, Māyi and Suggi. It is interesting to note that the first Tulu month Paggu literally corresponds with the last month Phalguna in the General Indian Calendar. What is the significance of Paggu and why it was chosen as the first month would make an interesting revelation.
Nowadays these twelve months are equated with twelve months of the Standardized Indian calendar, in the order of Chaitra, Vaishaka, Jeshta, Ashada, Shravana, Bhadrapada, Ashvina, Kartika, Agrahayana, Pausha, Magha and Phalguna.

Orbit of Moon around Earth
The moon orbits around the Earth in a period of 27.32 days each or roughly one month. The   practice of dividing the calendar year into twelve months (the   sexagesimal  system), was essentially based on the lunar cycles that lasted about 28 days each, is as old as   our human civilization. The concept of lunar calendar, with each month beginning   on a new moon day is said to have been conceived during the ancient Sumerian civilization. Subsequently the concept spread to various loci of civilizations.

Orbit of Earth around Sun
The Earth rotates around its own axis in a day and besides it also orbits around the Earth in an elliptical orbit path in 365.24 days or one year.However, generally it appears that Sun is moving around the Earth as people earlier erroneously believed. The axis of Earths rotation is tilted 23.5° to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. The tilted axis of the Earth causes different seasons as Earth proximity to Sun varies along the elliptical path, with a part of the Earth exposed to Sun and the opposite part being hidden from the Sun. During the obit of Earth around the Sun along an elliptical plane, it looks as if Sun is passing through various constellations during the course of a year. Our ancestors have identified 12 such constellations (groups of stars) that appear to share 1/12 part each of the elliptical plane. These 30° parts correspond with the twelve Zodiac constellations such as Aries (Mesha), Taurus (Vrishabha), Gemini (Mithuna), Cancer ( Karkataka), Leo (Simha), Virgo (Kanya), Libra (Tula), Scorpio (Vrischika), Sagittarius (Dhanu), Capricorn (Makara), Aquarius (Kumbha) and Pisces (Mina).

Two days in year are characterized by equal duration of day and nights. These are called vernal (spring) and autumnal (fall) equinoxes. Traditionally, the astrologers considered the day of Vernal or Spring equinox as the beginning of a new year which corresponded to Sun (apparently) transiting through the constellation Aries or the Mesha.
It has been discovered that the date of equinoxes (or the point of equinox) shifts anticlockwise by 30° every 2150 years.Thus about 6000 years ago Sun was transiting in Aquarius; about 4000 years ago (ie ca. 2000 BC) Sun was passing through Aries (Mesha) and 2000 years ago ie, during initial period of the Common Era, the Sun was “passing through” the zodiac constellation of Pisces (Mina).

Annual Calendars

During the history, there was also alternate convention of dividing years into ten months. For example, in the old Roman calendar the year was divided into ten months and the calendar started from March as also indicated by names of months like September (septa means 7th month), October (Octo, for 8th   month) November (novem, for 9th   month) and December (Decem, for 10th month) months.
Julius Caesar introduced his calendar (Julian calendar) in 45 B.C.E. wherein each year commenced on January 1st. The present Western calendar known as Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII (1502 - 1585).

Indian Calendar
The Indian astrological calendar with twelve months (like the ancient Sumerian calendar) evolved probably during the Vedic period ca 1700-1500 BC. In this calendar lunar months were to correspond with solar months. Thus the month of Chaitra corresponded with zodiac constellation of Mesha (Aries). During the Vedic period the Sun was apparently transiting through the constellation of Aries during the Vernal equinox.
The twelve Solar Months in Indian calendars:
Mesha, Vrishabha, Mithuna, Karka, Simha, Kanya, Tula, Vrushchika,Dhanu, Makara,Kumbha, and Meena.
The lunisolar calendar combines lunar and solar features and adopts lunar calendar such that it corresponds to solar calendar. The First day in Mesha (Meshadi) is considered as beginning of Chaitra.
Thus the Indian system of calendar appears to have been improvised by Vikramaditya who started the Vikram Shaka during early years of Common Era. Now the Indian calendars consist of tweleve lunar months such as:

1. Chaitra (30 / 31 Days) -Begins March 22 / 21
2. Vaisakha (31 Days) -Begins April 21
3. Jyaistha (31 Days) -Begins May 22
4. Asadha (31 Days) -Begins June 22
5. Shravana (31 Days) -Begins July 23
6. Bhadra (31 Days) -Begins August 23
7. Asvina (30 Days) -Begins September 23
8. Kartika (30 Days) -Begins October 23
9. Agrahayana (30 Days) -Begins November 22
10. Pausa (30 Days) -Begins December 22
11. Magha (30 Days) -Begins January 21
12. Phalguna (30 Days) -Begins February 20

In most parts of the India this calendar is being used probably since past two millennia. Tamils use Tamil equivalent names for the months like Chittirai, Vaikaci, Ani, Adi etc for the twelve months. Malayalees have adopted the equivalent zodiac /rashi month names  that begin with Chingam (Leo), Kanni (Virgo) Tulam (Libra) etc. Interestingly, the Bengal and Nepali calendars the year begins with the month of Baishakh (=Vaisakha) and ends with Chaitro (Chaitra). Gujarati calendar starts with the month Kārtika.

Paggu   month: Tulu.
The Tulu calendar year characteristically starts with Paggu month, unlike rest of the known calendars of India.The Tulu calendar also contains unusual month names such as Nirnal, Bontyel, Jārde, Perarde and Puyinthel. The names are unusual because apparently nobody knows the meanings or origin of these strange sounding words.

Tulu months (SW India)
Indian months

The Tulu Nighantu just nmentions names as name of Tulu months without explaining the source origin or meaning of thse words. In general it seems Tulu calendar has possibly borrowed these strange sounding words for names of the months from lingual substrata that prevailed in the land before the domination of Tulu language and culture.
Of these words, the name of the first month Paggu provides us some obscure clues regarding its origin and significance.

Paggu festival

Paggu (or Phagu or Phagun) is an annual festival celebrated by Austro-Asiatic Munda tribes in commemoration of victory of Rama and Laxmana over the villainous Ravana. Communities of Munda tribes of Chotanagpur-Jharkhand areas still celebrate the Phagu festival. Whether the epic Ramayana compiled by Valmiki, a hunter turned poet, was based on a realistic event that occurred during bronze era or a folk tale that was prevalent among ancient Indian tribes, the Munda tribes were definitely aware of the theme and enjoyed celebrating the festival of victory during a specific day in the year. In the Karavali region of south western India Mundala tribes presently constitute a small insignificant component in the society, the available evidences suggest that the Munda tribes were a dominant community with distinct cultural inclinations that prevailed before the arrival, ascent and domination of Tulu speaking people.
Even though precise information not available on the calendar system among the ancient Munda people, it is evident that the Tulu people borrowed the name of the festive month of Paggu from the Munda people.
Similarly, it is also possible that the inscrutable words like Nirnal, Bontyel, Jārde, Perarde and Puyintel were borrowed from one of the substrata languages that prevailed in the terrain.

1. In the Tulu calendar the first month is known as “Paggu” (which is also known as Phagu, Paghun, Pankuni,   Phalguna in other lingual areas.). The Tulu people have the word Paggu preserved unknowingly in their language, even though now they have forgotten the meaning and heritage of the word.

Paggu is the name of a popular festival of the Munda tribes, who ceremoniously celebrate the victory of Lord Rama and Laxmana over the demonic Ravana. Munda tribes living in other parts of India (like Chotanagapur, Jharkhand area) still celebrate the Paggu festival. The Holi festival celebrated all over India appears to be a modified form of the ancient Paggu festival. The tradition of celebration of the Paggu festival, suggests that the original Story of Ramayana was familiar to tribes of India like the Mundas since historic days.

2. In Tulunadu, vestiges of ancient Munda culture have been preserved in the form of place names, fossil words and cults. Possibly the Paggu festival attributed to Munda tribes was being celebrated in Tulunadu in ancient days during the Paggu month, even though such a festival is rather unknown at present in Tulunadu.

3. The term Paggu, (Paghu or Paghun) has eventually become Phalgun in Sanskrit literature and has been adopted as the twelfth month in the general Indian calendar.

4. The first month Chaitra was designated based on position of intersection of Earth- Sun axis towards constellation Aries on the day of Vernal equinox about 4000 years ago.  

5. However, about 2000 years ago during the initial period of Common Era, at the time of the Vernal equinox, the notional intersection of Sun- Earth alignment corresponded with the Zodiac constellation of Pisces. This period corresponds with the lunar month of Phalguna.

6.  Who introduced the Tulu Calendar in Tulunadu? During the early period of Common Era (ca. 2-6 Centuries CE), Alupa kings ruled over Tulunadu. However, the status of astronomic studies during Alupa period of reign is not known as basically Alupas were engaged in trade.
On the other hand, the Kadamba kings Like Mayura Sharma / Varma were deeply interested in education, literature and probably astronomy. Mayura went to Kanchi to acquire higher education; even though he was denied entry there, it shows his keen interest in education distinctly. After establishing a new Kingdom at Banvasi (Uttara Kannada) he extended his suzerainty over Karavali /Tulunadu as well. He is also credited with bringing Brahmins from Ahichatra to manage and maintain Temples in Tulunadu and Malnad (Banvasi). It is possible that Kadamba Mayura Varma ca 4-5 Century CE, consulted experts in astrology and revised the calendar for the Karavali and Malnad region   over which he ruled.
The Kadamba Kings are considered by some people as of Munda origin. Kadamba Kings are known to have adopted the Kadamba tree as their royal insignia. Traditionally, the Kadamba (Kaim) tree is of religious significance to Munda tribes. Besides, the Paggu was an important holy festival traditionally for the people of Munda origin.
Thus, the words of unknown meanings in the Tulu Calendar such as Paggu, Bontyel, Jarde, Perarde, Puyintel etc could have been the heritage Munda terms designated  for different seasons and those prevailed during the reign of  the Kadamba Kings  .

7. Thus, it appears that the Kadamba Kings revised and updated the then prevalent calendar to correspond the corrected alignment of the zodiac constellation of Pisces with Sun on Vernal equinox as was visible during their period. The solar month of Pisces corresponded with the lunar month of Paggu or Phalguna. Hence, the Kadamba subjects including the Tulu people appears to have adopted the Paggu month as beginning of the year during the regime of Kadamba Kings.

8. It seems with passage of time the original significance of the initial Tulu month Paggu was forgotten and eventually has been equated inadvertently with the first month in General Indian calendar, namely the Chaitra.

Thus, the term Paggu in the traditional Tulu calendar has interesting hidden strings of history preserved for the benefit of  retrospection by the posterity.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

337. Neecha, Rāka, Asura: Despised tribal Opponents

Metamorphism   in the meaning purported by some of the heritage words by attribution of negative characters by their cultural opponents during the evolutionary course of time makes an interesting study in the context of sociological evolution of our terrain.
We get an impression that in the course of  tribal immigrations in our land, every new tribe that occupied the land considered itself superior and treated the preexisting one as subordinate and back ward.
We shall discuss in this post some of the tribal names like Neecha, Rāka (Rakshasa), Asura, Mansa etc and how their essential connotations drastically changed with advent and ascent of fresh waves of immigration followed by socio-cultural domination    in the land.

In many of the Tulu households, during special festive dinner occasions, it is customary before the commencement of dinner to earmark and serve and set aside a representative portion of the food reverently for a number of ancestral Spirits. One of these ancestral Spirits is called Neecha. The exact identity, origin and antiquity of the Spirit Neecha is rather obscure.
Some opine that a person named Neecha was the attendant of the Spirit popularly known as Babbu or Babbuswamy. This Neecha, the attendant, could not have been the object of utmost respect reserved for Neecha in Tulu households (and to whom first portion of the premium food is dedicated). In general, it can be inferred that the Neecha was the name of a prominent and virtuous tribal person who was quite reverent to Tulu people traditionally since ages.
However, the interesting twist in the story is that the personal name Neecha has lost its original meaning (whatsoever, we are ignorant of the original meaning of the word) and acquired a meaning of inferiority with passage of time. The term neeche in Prakrit, Marati and Hindi acquired the meaning of lower or inferior. Similarly, in Sanskrit neecha refers to a person of inferior demeanor. Even though the original meaning of the word neecha in the tribal language is not known now, it could not have been something like inferior because nobody would like to affix such negative names to their children. However, the term later in the history was employed to refer to persons of shady or unfaithful character reflecting the attitude of superiority of the so called cultured invaders towards the native tribes in those days.

Rāka, Rāhu, Rākshas
In our scriptures the Rakshas are considered to be a tribe of cannibals, even though the exact identity and distribution of the tribe is not traceable at present.
In this context note that  Rāka  is an ancient name of tribal origin probably that meant dark or darkness. The original tribal name Rāka or Rāku probably represented the dark skin color of the person or tribe. For example, Honna and Rāka were two valiant brothers who are still being worshipped after their death in Ankola region in Uttara Kannada (like Koti-Chennaya of Tulunadu).
The modern proper name Rākesh, is based on the ancient tribal name of Rāka and has survived even today and it is said to represent the Moon or the God of darkness.
 It seems the name Rāhu was a variant of the name Rāka or Rāku. The name Rāhu has been designated for a planet in Indian Astrology and also it is apparent that the name Rāhul has been derived from the same source.
However, it can be seen that the tribe of Rakas or the Rakshas were visualized and considered as cruel, despicable and ugly demons in our scriptures and epics. Probably this sort of visualization arose from the cannibalistic character of these early primitive tribes.

Asura is the name of a tribal group among Austro-Asiatic Munda tribes. The scriptures have envisaged Asuras essentially as villainous militant groups that ever clashed with the divine Sura or Deva groups (white skinned immigrants?). King Bali, for example was an Asura King with noble virtues and his subjects loved him deeply for his exemplary humaniatrian qualities. On the contrary scriptures narrate conflicts between Asuras and Devas and describe how the King Bali was subjugated by Lord Vishnu in disguise in the incarnation of midget Vāmana.
However, note that in Tulunadu and many parts of Southern India people celebrate the festival of lights, Deepavali, in honor of the dethroned Asura King Bali who is said to return to the earth once in a year to meet his beloved subjects.

Monday, May 5, 2014

336. Kuthettur, Kuttār, Kutpādi: Ancient villages dedicated to Dogs.

Ancient villages names are wonderful fossils of our cultural heritage. This is especially significant in a region like Tulunadu that is deprived of any kind of documented early history   older than Alupa period. One of the strange evidence we gather suggests that the Tulu language and culture in Tulunadu grew over an older substrata consisting of Pakrit, Munda, Toda, Koraga etc.
The village in Mangalore Taluk located proximal to the Mangalore Refinary and Petrochemicals Limited, is called Kuthettur. Similar sounding village names with kuth as a prefix like Kuthar (a place near Konaje, Mangalore University) and Kuthpadi (or Kuthpady) is suburb of Udupi town. Similarly, Kuthyar is also a place South of shirva and Udupi. There is a Kuthlur Village is in Belthanagdi Taluk and  a Kuthkunja, in Sullia Taluk. You can also find village/hamlet  names like Kuthaje, Kuthila, Kudmar(Kuthmar), etc.
There is a village called Kuthali in Belgaum District. In Chamarajanagar District, there is Kuthanur and Kuthanapura. More such village names can be found in section below titled Kuth villages in India.

Now, what does the word kuth stands for?  The present Tulu language does not have a word like kuth or kuttu in its general vocabulary, even though it may usually mean a hurdle or problem in Kannada language.

Kuth , Kutta
Kuth, kuthe, kuthi = kutta (Prakrit/Hindi); dog, first domesticated animal, mans best friend; It is not just a Prakrit/Hindi or Marati word. Analogous word with same meaning can be found in the European Hunagarian/Magyar languages. In Hungarian language, kutya, means   a dog: and it also means bad; miserable etc possibly implying the general plight of dogs. The word Kuth is considerd to have been derived from the Sumerian language where it (kuth) also means a dog. Thus the word ‘kutha’ for dog is quite ancient word that has been adopted subsequently by several languages world wide during the course of evolution and migration of people.
Interestingly, village names with the prefix of ‘kuth’ – ancient villages dedicated to the mans’ best friend, the dog- can be found spread in different parts of   India.

2. There is an analogous word ‘kutha’ or ‘kutta’ in Tulu language (refer: Tulu Nighantu) which means steep or erect. Some readers may like to apply this connotation to place names with prefix of ‘kuth’   like Kuthethur, Kuthar, kuthaje, Kuthpadi etc.
However, if you study geography of these places you do not find any unusually steep mountains in these villages. On the contrary, many of the steep hills in Tuunadu sucha s Kodanjikal or other hillas have nat been named as Kuth- villages.
3. The prefix kuth in these place names could not be a Tulu word because such places (with prefix kuth) are found all over India, where the words of Tulu language are not known or understood.

Kuth~ Villages in India
Andhra Pradesh: Kuthempur, Kuthnepalle, Kuthampauttu.Kuthangi.
Assam: Kuthari, Kuthari Bagisha, Kuthori, Kuthepi, Kuthurijar.
Bihar: Kuthuriahat, Kuthwa,
Chattisgarh: Kuthar, Kuthur, Kuthrel, Kuthraud,
Himachal Pradesh: Kuthah, Kuthal, Kuthan, Kuthar, Kuthara, Kuther, Kuthera, Kuthari, Kuthwari, Kuthandal, Kuthehar,Kuthman, Kutharna, Kuth sarotriyan, Kuthog, Kuthanhad, Kutharli, Kuthaira ,Kuthiana,Kuthulag, Kutharbeet, Kuthakar,
Karnataka: Kuthar, Kuthali, Kuthethur, Kuthyar, Kuthpady, Kuthagodu, Kuthanhalli, Kuthlur, Kutharahalli, Kuthaganahalli, Kuthlur, Kuthandahalli, Kuthappanahlli, Kuthagatta, Kuthingere, Kutharabavi, Kuthagondanahlli, Kuthagale,
Kerala: Kuthannur, Kuthianthode.
Madhya Pradesh: Kuthonda, Kuthili, Kuthila, Kuthilagawan, Kuthuliya, Kuthali, Kuthar, Kuthia, Kuthuli,
Maharastra: Kuthegaon, Kuthare, , Kuthulipada, ,
Nagaland: Kuthur
Orissa: Kutharpali, Kuthulipada, Kuthulimunda, Kuthurla,
Punjab: Kutha keri,
Rajastan: Kuthania, Kuthara,
Tamilandu: Kuthumbakam, Kuthanur, Kuthampoondi,Kutham palyam,Kuthiluppai, Kuthathupatti, Kuthur,Kuthimeikipatti,Kuthapanjan,Kuthiramoli.

Uttar Pradesh: Kuthawati, Kuthia, Kuthaliya, Kuthilahar, Kuttara, Kuthounda, Kuthli,
Uttar Khand: Kuthar, Kuthnaur, Kuthha, Kuthur, Kuthalgaon, Kuthar, Kuthera,
West Bengal: Kuthibari, Kuthegerya, Kuthisakdal, Kuthipara etc.

Major linguistic alteration
Villages dedicated to dogs, the  mans’ best friend, are not uncommon in Tulunadu. Later Villages/hamlets   like Nayampalli, Nayabasadi, etc are known. However, the word kuth appears to be associated with ancient places named before the advent of Tulu language in these areas.
The words, like kuth used in these place names, are no longer continue to be used in Karavali/Tulunadu regions in the sense originally intended. This implies and reflects a major episode of linguistic and socio-cultural changes during the early history of Karavali/Tulunadu.

The presence of ancient village names with prefix kuth in coastal terrain of Karavali suggests that the Tulunadu was also under the influential spell of languages (like Prakrit and Munda) that pervaded India during the early history probably before the advent and propagation of Tulu in these parts.

In other words, in a major paradigm shift, in the Karavali, during a specific episode in the ancient history, the dominant language of communication was changed gradually from the older Prakrit/Munda base to the current Tulu/Dravida matrix, along with advent of new phase of immigrants.. The newly imposed language happened to borrow some of the words, beliefs, customs and cultural strings from the older substratum language and culture. In the process, many of the older words and customs were  forgotten and obliterated from the active sphere of life and communication of the people.

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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