Saturday, May 15, 2021

Dr. Ravindra Mundkur, a tribute

A Tribute

Dr. Ravindra Mundkur

14 March 1954 - 9 May 2021


Dr. Ravindra Mundkur, was born to Sri Budhananda Kundar (Udupi) and Smt. Lakshmi Bangera. on 14th March 1954, in ‘Mundkur’ village, of Karkala taluk, of the erstwhile South Kanara District, now ‘Udupi’. He was the eldest son among four children, other siblings being, Rajenda, Shakunthala and Raghavendra.  

He had his primary schooling at ‘Holy Angels Primary School’ Hampankatta, and  high school at Milagris High School Mangalore, PUC was in ‘Sharada Vilas PU College’, Mysore, thereafter, BSc in Yuvaraja’s College and MSc and PhD in Manasa Gangotri, University of Mysore. He had a distinguished academic career, having been a topper all through and secured first rank in MSc (Geology) and was a gold medalist.

His illustrious professional career began with his appointment as Assistant  Geologist with Department of Mines and Geology. He served in Mangalore, Bangalore and Hospet., He retired as Deputy Director, Mines and Geology, Mangalore. On superannuation he settled down in Mangalore.

His life time achievements include publication of more than 50 publications. He was considered as an authority in Ground water subject. The ‘Geomorphology of Karnataka’ map he had created, has become the standard map and has entered the text books. 

He had written many books. He edited the manuscript written by our father and published it, titled ‘TULU Pathero, a philology of Tulu Language’. He was very active in dissemination of knowledge. He has authored a Blog Spot “Tulu Research and studies”. It has more than 430 articles of academic interest about Tulu and Tulunadu. The Blog Spot ‘Geo-Karnataka’ is devoted to geomorphology and hydrology of Karnataka. “Mukta Manasu” is a Kannada blog on random subjects.

He has more than 10,000 edits to google map (Local guide: Level-8), which was his passion to add, rectify and vet the names of the places, street and so on. He was active in Quora and was educating the information seekers about geology and Tulu language. He has contributed many articles to Wikipedia (English, Kannada and Tulu). He has also edited wiki books. He played active role in KAGA (Karnataka Assistant Geologists Association) as Secretary/President.

He loved to travel a lot. While in service he had travelled nooks and corners of India in general, Karnataka in particular to gain in-depth knowledge of the geo morphological features. He accompanied his son during overseas assignments to Japan, Switzerland, Germany, France, Malaysia, Dubai, Singapore and other countries with an eternal desire to learn more about the geological aspects. Apart from travelling, his hobbies included, photography, painting, sketching and calligraphy. He was the banyan tree of the family. the key-link in holding the entire family and relatives together.  

He was married to late Ms. Bharathi Naik, who served as Principal of Women’s Polytechnic College, Mangalore. Their son Mr. R. Vijnandeep, is a software Engineer with an MNC. 

He was a simple, humble, generous and friendly human being full of love, compassion   and wisdom and had the respect of all those who came in contact with him. In his untimely death, the family has lost an adorable member, guide, mentor, academician. He will continue to live, gratefully remembered, by all those with whom he shared his morsel of food, gave love, emotional and financial support to those who needed it, created better lives with support for education and potable water facility.

     It was Covid-19 pandemic time when he breathed his last. Amidst the lock down and social distancing norms, many family members stood together extending emotional support to his young son. We are grateful to everybody. This tribute is never complete without mentioning about Mr. Mithun Kanchan. Even after knowing fully very well about the Covid risk, Mr. Mithun Kanchan stayed with Vijnandeep, gave moral support, nourished him well and sailed Vijnan through difficult times safely.  We are very grateful to Mr. Mithun Kanchan and his mother Ms. Mohini Kanchan.

During these testing times, please join us in offering our respects to him with a silent thought, a quiet prayer, for a very special person.




Monday, February 1, 2021

434. Kankanāḍi: A missing link in early history

 The ancient village of Kankanāḍi is now an integral part of the Mangaluru city. The innocuous sounding ancient place in its name has preserved obscure data relating to the early history of the region. The Kankanāḍi possibly holds a missing key to the obscure early history of the Ganga dynasty before ca. 350 CE. The Gangas’ ruled parts of southern Karnataka during the period ca. 350 CE to 1000 CE, but before ca 350 CE their whereabouts were not known.

Most of our historians have concentrated only on Alupas who ruled parts of Tulunadu between ca.400 CE and ca.1400 CE.  Data on the earlier periods, and also specifically from ca 400 BCE   to ca 400 CE are quite nebulous. Even though concrete inscriptions are lacking, the ancient place names supported by references in Tamil Sangam suggest that the region was also home to Shatavāhana (Kanna), Nanda, Ganga (Kanka) and other rulers particularly before ca. 400CE

Here is an attempt to reconstruct the initial presence of Ganga rulers and journey through the West Coast, during the beginning centuries of the Common Era, based on the prevalent ancient place names,  partly supported by indirect references in Sangam literature.

A view of  Netravati  River,  near Kankanadi, Mangaluru.


The Kankanāḍi (ಕಂಕನಾಡಿ) now a well developed urban area, is located to the eastern part of Hampanakatta, the throbbing center of Mangaluru. The present Kankanāḍi is the gateway that welcomes you to this pleasant city if you are entering Mangaluru from east. Kankanāḍi is located near Alupe (Alape) another ancient town, the original headquarters of the Alupa rulers of Tulunadu.

The geomorphological data, especially the traces of river valleys that traverse the region suggest that a river was flowing in the Kankanāḍi area. The river Netrāvati in the early centuries of the Common Era was flowing along a course close to the ancient towns of Tuḷunāḍu such as Alupe, Maroli and Kankanāḍi before joining the Arabian Sea near Pandeshwara in the West coast of Kuḍla, later known as Mangaluru. The geological data such as the presence of weathered quartz pebble rich shallow tidal sediments in the region, further suggest that the area was submerged under shallow sea conditions during the past and that subsequently, the sea has retreated back.

Historical reconstruction of Kudla (Mangaluru) ca 100 -300 CE. (click to enlarge)

Etymologically, the place name Kankanāḍi is quite interesting, being made up of two word components namely, kanka + nāḍi. The kanka were an ancient Austro-Asiatic Munda tribe reported to have been cited in the Mahābhārata epic. The kanka were a quite widely distributed tribe in India as seen in many place/village names distributed in different parts of India.

The other term   nāḍi (ನಾಡಿ) is appears to be a characteristic period variant of the word nāḍu (ನಾಡು), a group of villages unified and covered under a single royal administration.

Sangam data on Tuḷu nāḍu

Aganānuru, a Tamil Sangam text dated to have been composed around 2nd century CE, contains references to Tuḷunāḍu of that period. It describes the Tuḷu language of the period as Tulunaṭṭa Tamil (The Tamil of Tuḷunāḍu), revealing that Tuḷu language at that period was quite similar to early Tamil.

The Sangam recounts eulogies of three generations of “Nanna” kings that ruled possibly parts of Tuḷunāḍu. In ancient Tuḷunāḍu we have heard anecdotes of Nanda rulers from our native elderly people, but no information whatsoever on ‘Nanna’ rulers. It follows that since the Tamil language since antiquity has been endowed with limited consonants, the surname ‘Nanda’ must have been recorded as Nanna in the ancient Sangam poems.

The coastal land has been described as Koṇ-kānam, which apparently throws light on the origin of the word Konkana for a part of the West coast. The Kom were an ancient tribe as indicated by names of at least two ancient settlements preserved within Mangaluru (Konchāḍi, ಕೊಂಚಾಡಿ) and near Mangaluru (Kompadavu, ಕೊಂಪದವು).

According to Sangam Agananuru (44-7-11), when Pālayan Chola attacked on Kaṭṭūr, then capital of Punnāḍu, the latter was defended by an allied army of Nanda, Yerai, Kangan Katti  and Punar (“Punarurai”) soldiers. Apparently, the invading Chola died after killing most of his enemies. It follows that the Kanka Vishaya was coexisting along with Nanda, Punar and other contemporary domains. The exact location of the Kanka Vishaya cited in the Sangam literature is not clear. It could be the Kankanāḍi.

Western Ganga rulers

Rulers of Ganga dynasty administered parts of southern Karnataka (region known as Konga nāḍu   in Tamil Sangam, but also known as Gangavāḍi later in history) from ca 350 CE to ca 1000 CE and were described as “Western Gangas” to distinguish them from the “Eastern Gangas” who ruled from Odisha after ca. 1300 CE.

The Gangas rather abruptly made their presence felt   in Kannada region after ca.350 CE beginning at Kolar (Kuvalaya in history) and subsequently shifted to Talakāḍu, on the banks of river Kāveri, ca 390 CE and continued to rule up to ca.1000 CE, until Rājarāja Chola subjugated and accessed Gangavādi   in a war.

However, the early history of Gangas before 350 CE is rather hazy and shrouded in mystery.

Kongāni Varman Madhava

The first Western Ganga ruler in uplands of Karnataka was Kongāni Varman also known as Mādhava (ca.350-390CE) who ruled from the capital of Kuvalaya located at Kolar. His characteristic name Kongāni connotes his heritage of his former domicile, Kon-kānam. It is possible that he (or his ancestors) hailed from the Kankanāḍi in the Konkanam.

Tracing the Kanka/ Ganga rulers in West Coast

We can trace the journey of Kanka clan along the West Coast from Kankāvli in Maharashtra coast down to Gangavali on the bank of River Gangāvali in Uttara Kannada followed by Gangolli on the coast on the bank of River Varāhi near Kundapur, ending up at Kankanadi in Mangaluru.

The ancient Kanka (ಕಂಕ) tribes in Tulunadu were also referred to as Konga (ಕೊಂಗ) due to the common transliteration (ka>ko) and pronunciation (ka=ga) changes in the ancient languages of the time. It is interesting to note that in Tulu language both stages of the above cited transliteration, a>o do exist, as can be seen in the examples: pātera and pātero.

In fact there are several villages bearing the name of Kanka (>Ganga) along the West Coast of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Kankavli in Maharashtra is followed by Gangavali near Gokarna and Gangolli, near Kundapur in coastal Karnataka. Further south in Mangaluru there is this interesting village known as Kankanāḍi. The Kanka >Ganga name conversion/modification in place names like Gangavali and Gangolli, could have taken place after 400CE, following developments in the native languages following adoption and introduction of Sanskrit by the rulers.

Thus we can trace the journey of Kanka tribes from north to south along the West coast that ends up at Kankanāḍi. Before Kankanāḍi, along this route there is another interesting village in this group located in northern part of Mangaluru, known as: Pachanāḍi. Also there is an ancient place known as Nagori, by the side of Kankanāḍi. I specifically prefer to include Pachanāḍi and Nagori in the list because it appears that most of the early Ganga settlements characteristically ended with the vowel i, such as: Kankāvali, Gangāvali, Gangolli, Pachanāḍi, Nagori, Kankanāḍi and also Gangavādi.  

The suffixes of Munda/Prakrit origin such as –vali and -oli /-olli as well as -nāḍi and –vādi, evince the influence of northern languages on the native languages of Tulu and Kannada. In the place name Nagori, we find suffix –ori instead of usual -ūru. Such a specific word feature could have been inherited and assigned by the Munda tribes immigrant to the West coast from the north.

Early historical period: ca. 50 to 350 CE:

Alupa rulers are well known in Tulu history. Historians have traced their lineages since about 400 CE onwards. However, the history of Tulunadu before 400 CE is rather hazy because lack of datable historical sources like inscriptions. The early Tamil Sangam literature throws some light on the geopolitical scenario of south India during the early period.

Ganga, Alupa and Karumbas

It appears that the Kanka (= Konga) rulers renamed themselves as ‘Ganga’ (ie., kanka > ganga), following widespread influence of Sanskrit in the region during ca. 300 to 600 CE that led to further evolution of alphabets (especially consonants) in the native languages like Tulu and Kannada.

What were the relationship between the Kanka/Ganga and the Alupas during the early historical period, say 100 to 300 CE? Kankanadi and Alupe were the adjoining towns therefore we can expect the Ganga and Alupa to be neighbors.

Kadamba apparently were not popular as rulers at that time. Tamil Sangam poems describes pirates of Karumba tribe, who worshipped Kadamba tree as their protective tree (kāval mara), used to attack ships carrying goods to Chera kings of Kerala. Karambār village in northern Mangaluru, near Airport appears to be the home of the Karumba tribes. Tamil Sangam poems describe that a Chera king fought with and vanquished the Karumba pirates established in a island, with a Kadamba tree as their protective/worshipping tree, in the Arabian Sea. The island cited Sangam text is not clear. It could be

The Karumba tribes later ca.350 CE migrated to Banavāsi designated themselves as Kadamba and established the Kadamba dynasty. Incidentally, the word Karumb appears to be the equivalent word for Kadamba tree in Munda languages. The Alupas were in friendly terms with Karumb/Kadamba since the days of seafaring. The ties of friendship were further strengthened as youths of the Alupa family went to Banavāsi to assist and serve the Kadamba rulers in their administration and warfare activities.

It can be surmised that around the same time ca.350 CE the Ganga chieftains migrated from Kankanāḍi to Kannada uplands and settled at Kolar (Kuvalaya) initially and further established themselves on the banks of Kāveri at Talakadu.


Tulunada Itihasa- (2 nd Century  CE). “Tulunaattu  Varalaaru” (Original in Tamil) by Mayile Sheeni Venkatasami. Translated by: Dr. Shri Krishna Bhat Artikaje. Tulu Sahitya Academy, Mangaluru., 2015, xx+88 p

- Dr. Ravindra  Mundkur

Saturday, November 28, 2020

433. Tulu surname: the Banjan Bari

 Tulu people have inherited surnames known as “bari” from their genetic antecedents. Bari is a unusual heritage word in Tulu acquired from older languages and cultures prevailed in their land. The word “bari” is unusual in the sense that in current Tulu it typically means a side, whereas the original meaning of the word, now lost, means the house or the original house from which the ancestors of the person in discussion came from. The word ‘bari’ (=house), originally from Munda languages (and probably also prevalent in Prakrit languages) still exists in some of the ancient languages derived from Munda/Prakrit languages such as Bengali.

Thus, there are matrilineal and patrilineal “bari” tags for each individual, denoting the ancient genetic lineage from which original house the persons originated.

Anyway, the baris’ have been overtaken by the castes and communities later in the history and consequently, now we find the people from same bari tags existing in different Tulu castes and communities. One of these interesting Tulu bari names is Banjan.

Sometime back, one of our reader friends requested details on the Banjan bari name.  I have made an attempt to gather the available information in this post.


Most of the Tulu bari surnames end with suffix –an which denotes person. For example Salian (=Sāli+an) means one from the Sali  (= spider ; the weaver) bari. Thus, the banjan can be analysed as: banja +an. In Tulunadu we find many places associated with word banja or simplified to baja, such as: Bajape, Bajal, Bajatturu etc. The words banja (> baja) as found in Tulu place names essentially means dry or probably signifies the people immigrated from dry lands of the north such as Rajasthan.

Based on the analysis of words, the nearest migrant tribe, homonymous and analogous to the etymology of  Banjan now in several parts of India, appears to be that of Banjaras.


The Banjaras are a nomadic tribe travelling from place to place. Some consider that the nomadic gypsies are related to the Banjaras. The gypsies were considered to have originally migrated from regions like: Nubia, Turkey and Egypt from which they acquired their generic name. (Egypt. > Gypsy). The Banjaras were also known as travelling merchants, since they were selling commodities like salt. On the other hand they are also considered to be related to Lamanis, another wandering nomadic tribe now spread in different parts of India. It is said that the tribal name Lamani (or Lambani) came from transporting and selling ‘ lavana’ or the salt.

The Lambani and Banjara are probably related tribes.  There is a legend that they served as soldiers of Rana Pratap Singh, who never surrendered to Mogals (Akbar) and escaped to forest to avoid capture.  Rathod,  a common surname in Gujarat and Rajasthan  is also found among the Banjaras.

The term ‘banjara’ is said to have been derived from ‘vanijar’ or the merchant. The term Vanijar is said to have been adopted from Sauraseni Prakrit. A related trader community “banajiga” also stands for the merchant.

An alternate explanation for the derivation of the term banjara is: ban + jā + ra; wherein, the ban+ja appears to be ban/van = forest and ja =born.


In current day scenario there may not be any tangible connections between the Banjans of Tulunadu (or their equivalents in other parts of India) and the Banjaras. However, there is a possibility that in remote historical past days, about two or three millennia ago, that certain ancient tribes resident in the dry lands of the north migrated to southern parts of India, including the West coast, and were known as the Banjans. After all, the element of migration was a dominant feature among the ancient tribes.

 One of our readers wants to know the equivalent of Banjan surname in Kundapur area. I request that anyone having the knowledge on this aspect may kindly share the information for the benefit of people genuinely interested in their heritage.


Friday, October 16, 2020

432. Etymology of the Tulu surname (bari) - Kānchan


Nepali temple design-architecture (an example)

Temple/spirit shrine design in Tulunadu (example for comparison)

What is the etymology- meaning and origin - of the Tulu surname “Kānchan” (ಕಾಂಚನ್/ കാംചന്) ?

At the outset, you may be tempted to retort that Kānchan means gold as in Sanskrit. But if you delve deep into the intricacies of heritage and history of the land, surprisingly you may stumble upon certain strange connotations.

Note that in the Tulu surnames (or bari), it is specifically Kānchan. The Sanskrit homonym is usually pronounced as kānchana and is a word with several other meanings apart from gold such as wealth, luster or various trees like sampige/champak tree, atti/arti   tree, nāgakesari tree, dattoora plant, etc. (You may find details in “Sanskrit-Kannada Nighantu” compiled by G.N.Chakravarti, 2009 edition)

Secondly, a common feature of Tulu bari names is that most of them end in suffix –an, such as Kanchan, Banjan, Anchan, Mendon, Shriyan, Kukkiyan, etc. The Dravidian suffix –an represents a male person (equivalent of “āN”- ಆಣ್). This suffix was also common in Early Kannada and in Tamil. In view of this the Tulu bari Kānchan can be analysed as- Kanch(a)+an. Then, what is the source of the word Kāncha in bari name Kanchan? Where it came from? And,  when?

Ancient Tribes and migration

 In olden days of history most of the tribal groups had their own individual languages and when  the tribes migrated into another territory, it was a common practice to designate the tribe by the common word used for the male member (or tribal leader) in their tribal language. Therefore in most tribal groups the name of the tribe represents the equivalent word for man in their original language. (For example: Koraga, Munda,  etc the tribal name means man or male person in their original language.)

Bari (ಬರಿ / ബരി ) means house

  You might have noted that various Tulu communities (castes) have several common ‘bari’ names. In other words you may find similar bari names in different Tulu caste communities. This is because the original ‘bari’ groups were formed or founded in Tulunadu well before the formation of castes groups. In other words castes were formed later in the history and the members of several bari groups were split into different caste groups subsequently. And that is why popular songs among the Koraga tribes remind us   that the billava, bunt and mogaveera are the children of one family of sisters.

The common Tulu word bari is an interesting heritage word. In present Tulu bari in general means side or corner. Some people translate it into Kannada and use the modified word bali as found in Kundapura or Ankola. The word bali (ಬಳಿ /ಬಳ್ಳಿ) is used by Kannada speakers in the sense of a (plant) creeper or a lineage. (The Kannada word: ಬಳಿ normally means: nearby).

(Forgive me: Though these are discussed in detail in our older posts, a summary is provided here for the benefit of newbie readers.).

Well, the original meaning of this important heritage word:  “bari” is not a ‘side’ or ‘corner’ but ‘house’! During the early evolution of the Tulu, we have borrowed many words from Munda tribal people who coexisted and lived in Tulunadu. Please note that the ancient Munda/Prakrit word ‘bari’ (=house) has survived also in languages like Bengali. In other words the Tulu word bari is equivalent of “illam” (=house) tradition of Kerala.

Kāncha from Nepal

In Nepalese language, kāncha is a regular word for young man, along with word kānchi applied for young lady. It appears that early in the history a group of young people migrated south and arrived in Tulunadu and these were referred to as Kanchan which became the name of the group or tribe. Eventually these tribes have been assimilated with the native population and it has become one of the ‘bari’ names in Tulunadu.

  Conservatives who may hold a general notion of closed or in situ evolution of Tulu communities may frown upon, asking what the tangible evidences in support of this theory are.  In fact there are several lines of evidences for the exchange of people and ideas between two regions during the early periods of history.

One: It is reported that the Kadamba King Mayura Varma (ca 4th century CE) who ruled from Banavasi (now in Uttara Kannada district), brought priests (Brahmins) and attendants from Ahichatra, (a place in Northern India) to manage and serve in the newly installed temples in his domain/empire including coastal Tulunadu.

Two: There is a suggestion that Nairs of Tulunadu and Kerala were the migrated and settled members of the Neyer tribes of Nepal.

Three: Above all, there is a striking similarity between the architecture of Nepali temples and the Temples of ancient Tulunadu especially the traditional spirit shrines, suggesting that there was a regular exchange of people and ideas between these two regions.

Four: The founders of Nātha cult at Kadri, Mangaluru, Yogi Macchendra Nāth and his disciple Goraksha Nāth were originally from northern India, who had religious connections with Nepal.

Unity in diversity

The basic tenet of the concept India has been unity in diversity since ages. The assimilation of tribes from different regions even during the early historical periods only proves this point. History demands that we remember and implement this concept of unity strongly and efficiently forgetting minor differences amongst us, especially when some adversary with evil intentions attacks on India.

-  Ravindra  Mundkur

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

431. The case of extra vowels in Tulu language

The Tulu language has preserved a few extra vowels (or additional phonemes) which are not explicitly found or preserved now in many of the sister languages.

Are you aware of these extra vowels? Or do you use them in writing in Tulu? We shall make a review of these extra vowels in this post.

English alphabets basically have only five vowels namely: a, e, i, o and u.   However most of the Indian languages have detailed vowel structures based on refined phoneme structure of Sanskrit alphabets. Because of the limited number of 26 alphabets in English the non-English people have to specifically learn the pronunciation of different words to match the language as spoken by the natives of England or America, whereas in the case of Indian languages the pronunciation of words is mostly fixed, as there are generalized pronunciation guides, specifically earmarked for each phoneme and thankfully you need not learn pronunciation of each and every individual word.

Do you write in Tulu language? In case you are a regular Tulu writer chances are that you are adopting the existing Kannada script for writing in Tulu. The ancient Tulu script (which was evolved based on the   ancient Tigalāri script) even though actively promoted nowadays in Tulu circles is still in the initial stages in terms of popularity.

In case you are habituated in writing Tulu adopting the existing Kannada fonts you must have encountered problems in writing or reading certain words that have dual pronunciations though spellings are the same! The problem is due to the presence of extra vowels in Tulu - which are not found in modern Kannada alphabets.

Modern Tulu script

Modern printing in Tulu language was initiated by the Basel Mission at Mangaluru in the year 1842. The Basel Mission Press established at Mangaluru in the year 1834 was the deciding factor in adopting Kannada script for writing/printing in modern Tulu. The decision was made probably on the ground that the local people were familiar with the Kannada script and language. Brigel in his first Tulu grammar (1872) stated that in the case of Tulu: “For writing a modification of the Malayalam alphabet was in vogue till the Basel Mission Press employed Canarese characters in printing.”

 The first printed book was the Tulu translation of Gospel of St Mathew, employing the Kannada script. This was followed by Tulu translation of New Testament in the year 1847 and a new typographical edition of the same in the year 1859. In the year 1856 Rev. G. Kammarer compiled a compiled a collection of about 2000 Tulu words, but unfortunately he died in 1858 before it could be printed and published in a book format. In the year 1872 Rev J. Brigel compiled “A grammar of Tulu language” printed at the Basel Mission Press, Mangaluru. Rev A. Manner updated the collection of Tulu words undertaken by Rev. Makkerer and published the first Tulu English Dictionary in the year 1886 followed by another English Tulu Dictionary in the year 1888.

Brigel (1872) in his “A Grammar of the Tuu language” suggested that Kannada (known as “Canarese” then) can be considered as the modern Tulu alphabet. He reported 15 vowels for Tuu which consists of 14 standard vowels (6 short, 6 long and 2 diphthongal) common in Kannada and Tulu plus an indefinite vowel for which he showed English equivalent of (Fig 430-1). He gave example of “ ತ್ (t’) to show how it attaches to the consonants.

Fig 430.1 Indefinite vowels in Tulu. (1.) Basel Mission print style up to 1872. (2.) Adopted by Brigel (1872).

 [However, it should be noted that he has also used an alternate symbol especially in “remark” sections in the same book.(Fig 431-1)] though no explanations were given for the usage of the alternate symbol.  Probably, this was the symbol in vogue before]

Indefinite vowel : ಉ್

S.U. Paniyadi (Srinivasa Upadhyaya Paniyadi: 1897-1959) in his youth was highly inspired and impressed by the contribution of Basel Missionaries to the exposition of Tulu grammar and Tulu dictionary. He improvised the Tulu grammar pioneered the missionaries and brought out “Tulu Vyākarana” in Tulu language in the year 1932. He has also used Kannada alphabets for the Tulu script.

Paniyadi (1932) recognized the indefinite vowel proposed by Brigel assigned it a status as a milder form of    with the indefinite or pause   symbol attached to it ie., ಉ್ () . He suggested that there are only six basic vowels in Tulu, namely: ಅ (a), ಇ (i) ಉ್(), ಎ್(є), ಎ(e) ,ಒ (o). Further, Paniyadi emphasized that the Tuu alphabets in modern usage need more vowels especially to accommodate, express and write words borrowed from other languages. Thus, he concluded a set of 16 vowels for Tuu as follows:

ಅ, ಆ, ಇ, ಈ, ಉ್,ಊ್, ಉ, ಊ, ಎ್, ಏ್, ಎ,  ಏ, ಐ,ಒ, ಓ, ಔ

Fig. 430.2. Special e vowels introduced by Paniyadi (1932)

In my opinion, the greatest contribution of Paniyadi (1932) is the recognition of special allophone of vowel e existing in Tulu and assigning it a vowel symbol of: ಎ್. He also added a long form of the two vowels as: ಏ್ and ಊ್.

Significance of Tulu vowel: ಎ್

Why do we need this extra vowel ಎ್ in Tulu?  - We need this extra vowel, because in Tulu, there is a characteristic difference in the pronunciation of verbs in the first person and in third person singulars, though in both cases the words are spelt similarly. The   vowel ಎ್ is pronounced like a in words such as “apple” or “bat”, “badge” or “man”.

 For example: The verb:  ಪೋಪೆ in the following two cases, though written/spelt same, are required in routine usage to be pronounced with different accents so as to convey the exact intended meaning.

1. First person singular:     ಯಾನ್ ಪೋಪೆ . (Yaan poh-peyh.) [= I shall go.]

2. Third person singular:   ಆಯೆ ಪೋಪೆ .  ( Aaye po-pey.)  [= He shall go.]

[Note: ಪೋಪೆ 2 (popey ) is the usual standard style of pronunciation assigned/vogue in Kannada from we have borrowed the modern Tulu script. Since ಪೋಪೆ 1 (ಪೋಪೆ poh-peyh ) has an unusual special accent or allophone, it needs to be distinguished with a specified symbol or diacritic affixed to it.]

Even Rev. Brigel (1872, p.47, remarks) had noted that….“though the first person singular in all tenses is spelt like the 3rd person masculine, they are pronounced differently; the terminating  e in the former sounding nearly like ‘a’ in man, that in the latter like ‘e’ in men.”

There are many verbs in Tulu that have different accents for first and third person singulars such as: ಬರ್ಪೆ, ತಿನ್ಪೆ, ಮಳ್ಪೆ, ದೀಪೆ, ದೆಪ್ಪುವೆ, ದಿಂಜಾವೆ,ತೂಪೆ, ಸೈಪೆ, ಕೋಂಪೆ, ಬಲಿಪುವೆ, ತೋಜಾವೆ etc that need to be pronounced differently when used in first and third person singular case.

Besides, there are also numerous other words in Tulu that make use of the specific allophone of e such as :  ಅಪ್ಪೆ, ಅಮ್ಮೆ, ಆನೆ, ಆಸೆ,ಅಳೆ, ಇತ್ತೆ, , ಕತೆ, ಕತ್ತಲೆ, ಕರಂಡೆ, ಗಂಟೆ, ಬೇತೆ, ಬೇನೆ, ಮಾಲೆ, ಮೋಕೆ ….etc.

Therefore, in order to distinguish the two distinctly different accents or allophones of the vowel (ey) we need to introduce a special symbol to distinguish the two accents or allophones. Brigel recognized the necessity but probably could not implement it for want of a suitable symbol in the Kannada font at that time. Paniyadi employed a special symbol to distinguish the first person singular verbs, the symbol being made up of the combination of (“ey”) attachment symbol (ಿ) plus an indefinite symbol of Brigel (್) that existed in the Kannada alphabets.

Change of half vowel: ಉ್ to ಅ್

Prof. M. Mariappa Bhat and Dr Shankara Kedilaya (1967) while brought out a revised Tulu English dictionary discussed the existence of ụ (or the half u or diacritic) in Tulu and assigned it as vowel ಅ್. The vowel ಅ್ assigned by Bhat & Kedilaya (1967) is equivalent to the ಉ್ proposed by Paniaydi (1932). The preference for ಅ್ over ಉ್ is purely individualistic based on the geographic location of the individual speaker/writer. The Tulu language has wide regional variations in accents, and as such the accents and usages in the Puttur Tulu vary from those in Udupi Tulu. Some Tulu speakers/writers have felt that the exact place of the indefinite half vowel discussed above is somewhat in between ಅ್ and ಉ್. Thus, for all practical purposes, we can conclude that in Tulu ಅ್ = ಉ್.

The set of vowels for Tulu adopted by Mariappa Bhat and Shankar Kedilaya (1967)are as follows:

ಅ್ ಅ ಆ ಇ ಈ, ಉ ಊ, ಎ, ಎ ಏ ಒ ಓ, ಐ, ಔ

Note that here Bhat & Kedilaya showed the special as plain vowel without any diacritics or added symbols, and they preferred to add the accent on the second (’) which incidentally is the regular in Kannada alphabets.

Budhananda  Shivalli 

B. K. Shivalli  (1923-1982)  in his Tulu grammar “Tulu Pātero” (p.84 - manuscript composed in the years 1980-82; but the book published posthumously in 2005)  adopted the following set of 14 vowels for Tulu.

ಅ್, ಅ, ಆ, ಇ, ಈ, ಉ, ಊ, ಎ್, ಎ, ಏ, ಐ, ಒ ಓ, ಔ

Special Vowels in Tulu Lexicon

Tulu lexicon: volume I (1988), in section on methodology, (page 30-31), has adopted the centralized back vowel ಅ್(ụ) and ಅ್ (ụụ- as)and lower mid front vowels ಎ್(є) ಎ್(єє)  in the lexicon.  The lexicon emphasized that “..the Tulu sound which is different from the Kannada e should be given a separate symbol.”  The list of vowels adopted in the lexicon is as follows:

ಅ್, ಅ್, ಅ, ಆ, ಇ ಈ, ಉ, ಊ, ಋ, ಋ, ಎ್ ಎ್, ಎ ಏ, ಒ ಓ, ಐ, ಔ 

Tulu Lexicon, Volume One, p.31

“ The vowels do have a lower allophone in the word final position before pause but the lower mid front vowel noticed in Tulu is much lower than that and secondly these two vowels show contrast and hence should be treated as distinct entities. Since the system followed by us in conformity with the principles of modern linguistics and since the symbol given by us is already in vogue in the writings of the Tulu texts from the beginning of this century we did not feel it necessary to change the symbol.”

Fig. 430.3 List of Vowels in Tulu language as proposed by various authors.

Tulu Patero (2005)

While composing the manuscript of Tulu Pātero (2005) using   the Baraha Kannada software in my desktop I found it difficult to put to together the ಎ್ symbol.  I tried to solve the problem by selecting the degree superscript symbol (°) which was available in the Standard English fonts used for MS Word in my computer.  Similarly in case of problems in composing the indefinite symbols in the middle of words apostrophe (‘) symbol can be used.

° ಅ ಆ, ಇ, ಈ, ಉ ಊ, ಎ° ಎ ಏ, ಒ ಓ, ಐ ಔ


Sediyapu Krishna Bhat

Apparently Sediyapu Krishna Bhat concurred with the view of Bhat and Kedilaya who allotted apostrophe symbol for the central e rather than the one proposed by Srinivasa Paniyadi (1932). Sediyapu, as a member of the Tulu Lexicon project in a letter addressed to the committee dated 1986 (vide his letters cited in Tulu Lexicon, 1988) held that the special accent symbol should be given to the other allophone of the vowel e rather than the one proposed at present.

Contrasting concepts

On review we can find two contrasting schools of thoughts on the adoption and implementation of the special e vowel existing in Tulu language. Paniyadi and followers are concerned with preserving the special vowel or phoneme in Tulu whereas the Sediyapu (and Bhat- Kedilaya) concept, while ignoring the special phoneme/vowel in Tulu, attempts   to streamline the existing phonemes that are common in the sister languages like Kannada. In a way, it is digression from the central theme of the issue. Our central concern should be providing a legitimate status for the special phoneme surviving in the heritage of the Tulu language. From the point of preserving the characteristic phoneme in Tulu we can continue with the vowel system adapted by the Tulu Lexicon project.

Nature of the special є vowel

In essence, we can understand this indefinite vowel symbol as a pause symbol, since it requires a brief pause while pronouncing it. The phoneme or the half vowel is characteristic of the Tulu language and heritage and we should preserve it for the posterity. It has been opined that similar some of the sister Dravidian languages had similar vowels. For example: Paniyadi (1932) mentions that some Tamil grammarians accept the cited indefinite symbol either as half u () or as half i (ಇ). But currently you will not see the usage of these special vowels in Tamil alphabet chart.

The special vowel:  ಎ್ (є) when combined with consonants carries a pronunciation which can be analysed as: pause-(eh+ye)-pause. In other words the ಎ್, begins after a pause and has a pronunciation transitional in between (eh) and ಯೆ (ye) and ends with a pause. For example: (a) ಯಾನ್ ಬತ್ತೆ°. Yaan batt’eh+ye’ : (=I came) (b). ಆಯೆ ಬತ್ತೆ : Aaye batt’eh (=he came). The equivalents of the same expressions in Kannada would be: (a) ನಾನು ಬಂದೆ(ನು): Naanu bande(nu) (=I came) and (b) ಅವನು ಬಂದ(ನು): Avanu banda(nu). (=He came). Note that in Kannada the verb affix   changes for the first (ಬಂದೆ )and third (ಬಂದ) person singulars.


Adopting the special symbol

Paniyadi used a combination of e and pause affixing symbols (Fig 430-2) way back in 1932 when printing was done by letter press method. The Tulu Lexicon project was able to design a custom made symbol for the special e vowel. But, modern Tulu writers adopting the Kannada script do not have proper facilities to display the special vowels in the Tulu texts. The printing technology has evolved since the days of Paniyadi. And with prevailing desk top publishing technology, the Tulu writers have depended on the existing Kannada script software, like Nudi, Baraha, Pada etc. In general, these are designed to compose in standard Kannada and as such lack essential facilities for expressing the special Tulu words precisely. The Tulu Wikipedia, for example, makes use of the existing Kannada software without appropriate modifications for Tulu and the contributors are unable to display the special vowels of Tulu language. Even the indefinite vowel symbol of Brigel, though exists in Kannada also, cannot properly be displayed in Tulu especially when it comes in the middle of a word, because of the glyph combination encoding used specifically to suit Kannada.

Fig. 430.4.Affixing symbols proposed by (1) Paniyadi
                                        (2) Tulu Patero (3,4,5) This blog.

Dedicated fonts for Tulu

Most of us are currently using the existing Kannada script as modern Tulu script for writing and printing at least since last 150 years as the Basel Mission Press printed the initial Tulu books employing the Kannada fonts. Most of us, except those Tuluva people born and brought up in other parts of India or the world, we are quite familiar with the Kannada language and script. Hence we can 

continue to use the same script adapted as modern Tulu script, since already a wealth of Tulu data and literature published in the modern Tulu script.

The need of the hour is to update the modern Tulu script (which we are using currently) to update suitably to include its special and characteristic linguistic features, such as the special vowels. Thus, there is an imminent need for designing dedicated Unicode fonts for Tulu incorporating the desirable symbols and diacritics.  

The symbol for the phoneme ಎ್ may be made more attractive in design like for example as shown in Fig. 430-4 in this post.

How does it look when you implement the special  vowel ಎ್ in Tulu writing ? Check the following figure for examples.  

430-5 . Two examples for using the special vowel in Tulu words "poomaale" and "lekhanamaale".

- Ravindra Mundkur

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 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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