Friday, March 9, 2018

402. Word cognates of cow, a wealth symbol

World languages seem related to some extent. It is to be seen or understood by virtue of words in them. Vindication of this statement surfaces suddenly in the course of our knowledge-gathering.  We have had touched this aspect in some of our articles elsewhere in this Blog, say on place name stems  ‘Al or Ala’, ‘kuppe’, etc.   
Here is one more example.

“Word of the Day” in of 5th March has sprung a surprise to me.  The word is ‘peculate’.  It means: (1) to steal or take dishonestly (money, especially public funds or properties entrusted to one’s care), (2) embezzle.  Other synonyms are: misappropriate, forge, loot, defalcate, misuse and so on. 
The word ‘peculate’ is derived from ‘peculatus’, which is, in turn, is derived from ‘peculatium’.  It means ‘wealth in cattle’.  The root noun is ‘pecu’.  It is pronounced as ‘peku’ (‘c’ is pronounced as ‘k’), meaning cattle and large cattle, domestic animals.  The word entered English in 18th Century, sometime in 1740-50. 

Pecu versus Pashu
A thought has crept into my mind that this word has connection to Indian languages.
From this ‘pecu’, we get words, like:
Pecus: Mindless group of people, cattle, sheep, rabble, mob
Pecuarius =  Sheep, Cattle
Pecunia = movable property, riches, wealth, money. 
Pecuniary = relating to money, monetary
Peculiar = particular, strange, abnormal, atypical, private (property)

‘Pecu’ Cognates in world languages
Latin ‘Pecu’ comes all but unchanged from Proto-Indo-European ‘Pek’, ‘peku’, having the meaning of wealth, livestock, and movable property.  It cognates with:
Sanskrit:  Pashu (पशु) (Meaning Dhan = Wealth)
Lithuanian:  Pekus
Proto-Germanic:  Fehu or fehe
Germanic: Vieh (In German  ’V’ has the sound of ‘F’ (Valve is pronounced as Falfe – as understood from German technicians who came for start-up of Plant of the company where I was working some time in 1969-70 and from some initial learning of German in late 1970s but not kept up).
Low German: Veeh
Dutch:  Vee
Old Norse and Danish:  Fae
Swedish: Faa
Armenian:  ‘wunl’ (Asa) = fleece, wool
Old English:  Feoh (meaning cattle, goods, money)
English:  Fee 
[Source:, Collins English Dictionary, Pecu – Wiktinary, quoting from sources, like Charles T. Lewis &  Charles Short   (1879) – A Latin Dictionary, Oxford, Claredon Press & Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York, Harper & Brothers,  pecu from Gaffiot, Felix (1934)]

Prakrit: Pasu  and Basu from Vasu = Treasure of wealth
Kannada:  Pashu, Pasu (Old Kannada), Hasu (new Kannada), Dana (Compare dana (cow) with dhana (cash, wealth)
Tulu:  Pasu (ಪಸು), Petta (ಪೆತ್ತ – ‘Pe’as in ‘Pen’, ‘tta’ in Sanskrit ‘vitta’ (वित्ता = Finance, Money). Cow or Petta is normally used for female cow.  ‘’Pasu’ also means a docile and calm person or a great or respected person.
Tamil: Perram
Telugu:  ?
Malayalam:  ?
Assamese:  Pohu

Cow as symbol of wealth
Cow has been a symbol of wealth and holiness, even before the Vedic age.  Cowherds became kings because of their cow-wealth.  One who fought and won battle for ownership of cows was called a ‘Dhananjaya’. 
There were groups of traders, known as ‘Phanis’.  They were mentioned as enemies of Devas in Sanskrit scriptures (say Rig-Veda) as they were stealing cows of Brahmins. 
Donation of cow with calves is considered as a donation of the highest order.  Kings used to donate cows to hermitages of rishis. 
In the Epic Mahabharata, we have the story of ‘gograhana yuddha’ (गोग्राहण युद्धा).  By the ruse of ‘gograhana’, Kauravas wanted to find out the place of hiding of Pandavas during the last one year of their living in incognito as one of the conditions of punishment for losing the Game of Dice with Kauravas.  On the last day of their secret stay in the Kingdom of Virata, Arjuna, remaining incognito in the guise of Brihannala (a eunuch who taught art of dancing to Uttara Kumari), fought the Kauravas and won the battle for Uttara Kumar, son of Virata.    This highlights significance of a cattle wealth in a kingdom. 
Story of Madhavi in Udyoga Parva of Mahabharata also highlights the significance of domesticated horses as ‘property’. She was the beautiful daughter of Yayati, King of Lunar clan, from Urvashi, an Apsara (Celestial woman).  Madhavi was blessed by a sage that she would always remain virgin and sacred even after giving birth to powerful sons.  How she was traded by Galava, the disciple of Sage Vishwamitra, a King turned ascetic in search of ‘Brahmajnana’, is a strange story (morality of which is to be judged from the customs of those days).  Hence Vishwamitra is called a ‘Mahabrahmana’.  On insistence of Galava, Vishwamitra ordered him to give 800 snow-white horses, each one having one black-coloured ear, as Guru Dakshina (Fee given to Guru at the end of studies). Galava approached (on the advice of Garuda) King Yayati, who did not have horses, fitting the description. So, King offered his daughter with divine power of regaining virginity after bearing sons only, to be pledged for collecting horses from other kings.  Galava got 200 horses from Ayodhya King Haryaswa of Ikshuvaaku Dynasty, who was not having a son.  Madhavi advised Galava to offer her to the King for 200 horses and take her back after she bore a son (Vasuprada or Vasumanas) for the King.  This way, Galava took further 200 horses each from Devodasa, King of Kashi, who got a son named Pratadana) and King Ushinara of Bhojanagari.  Living with him for a year she gave birth to a son, who was named Shibi.  Shibi was a generous King and was famous for his steadfastness in upholding truth and justice.  Unable to procure remaining 200 horses of special kind, he returned to Vishwamitra and begged him to take Madhavi in lieu of the remaining horses.  From Madhavi, Vishwamitra got a powerful son Ashtaka.  When Madhavi was free after fulfilling the wish of her father of helping Galava, she chose to remain an ascetic, living in    woods like a deer.

Is such word-comparison at random a truth or a myth? Or is it a mere coincidence?     We feel that such likeness or image is an essential truth, masked by time and distance.
Harmony between man and Nature with animals is the corner-stone of ecological balance.   Nature is evergreen, as the story of Madhavi symbolises.  Madhavi means Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and spouse of Lord Vishnu and ever-beautiful like a creeper with fragrant flower having honey. Cattle wealth is replaced by artificial goods now.  Man’s unbridled greed has spoiled the atmosphere and water sources, threatening all types of lives of this world.

Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune

Thursday, March 8, 2018

401. Inscription stones of Bengalore

Inscription stones of  Bengalore is an enthusiastic  project group  dedicated to the preservation of historical inscriptions located in and around Bengaluru. Shri Uday Kiumar and Vinay Kumar on behalf of the group presented interesting information on the importance of preserving, studying and understanding the inscriptions of Bengaluru recently (4-3-2018) at the Centre for Internet & Society at Domlur, Bengaluru. (You can find the facebook page on #InscriptionStonesOfBangalore.)

Inscriptions are ancient memorials that provide windows into the bygone history of the land. Many of the inscriptions directly or indirectly throw invaluable light on the status of land, language, customs and circumstances of the period of erection of these stones.
In those days, the death in war or by sacrifice was glorified with the promised expectations of glamorous benefits in the life after death.
An enticing Sanskrit couplet explains thus:

Jitena labhyate laxmiamritenapi surangana
Kshana vidhvansini kaaye kaa chintaa maranerane.

(Victory in war begets opulence; or else,   if martyred you get divine beauties. Why do you worry,   in the battle field to discard your body,   which anyway is destroyable within a moment.)

Martyr stone inscriptions
The historical inscriptions preserved in Karnataka region are mostly served as
(1) Martyr stones (Veeragallu, hero-stone) erected during the past history are usually written and erected in honor of legendary heroes laid their life in the service of public or the State.
(2) Mastikallu (stones honoring immolation of women of the martyred heroes along with (sahagamana) or after the death (anugamana) of her husband.
Or other types of martyrs such as
 (3) Ooralivu (died during defending the village)
(4) Gadi-kalaga ((died during defending the border of the State)
(5) Go-grahana/ Turugol ((died during defending the cattle)
(6) Pendirdadeurchu/Penbuyyal ((died during defending the women)
(7) Bete (died during hunting)
(8) Keelgunte (self burial)
(9) Siditale (sacrifice by blasting the head)
(10) Nisidi (self sacrifice in a holy place or occasion-especially in Jain monks) etc. (source: Karnataka itihasa academy .org).

Mysore Archeological Department
Benjamin Lewis Rice, the early British Director of Mysore Archeological Department studied, compiled facsimiles of hundreds of stone and copper plate inscriptions distributed all over the region of old Mysore State and published them in the form of volumes of  Epigraphiya Carnatica during 1898. The work was continued by other officers of the department. Rice (1898) reported some 1023 inscriptions from Bengaluru Taluk of which  merely  some 30 have survived and traceable now.
Begur inscription 890 Ce, Bengaluru

Begur inscription
One of these inscriptions found at Begur (South-eastern part of the modern Bengaluru city, near Electronic city) and dated at the end of ninth century (890 CE) is interesting as it contains probably the oldest documented   reference to the city of Bengaluru.
The inscription reads:
“Srimat Nagatarana manevagati pervona shetti Bengalura kaalegadol Nagatarana magmaam buttana pati sattam.”

 The inscription was discovered by R. Narasimhachar, an officer in charge of  Mysore Archeological Research, in the year 1915.

A printed post card containing the photograph and description of the  celebrated Begur  inscription, with chalk markings for enhancing the chiseled letters, was provided by the  Uday-Vinay  presentation team of #InscriptionStonesOfBangalore. One interesting point is that the photograph of the 890 CE Begur inscription shows the place name of Bengaluru  as Banguluru.

Surprisingly the ancient inscriptions of Bengaluru can be found in Tamil and Telugu apart from Kannada, which indicates that the region was multilingual even during the past.  About six kilometers from Begur, in the Someshwara temple located at Madivala the outer wall of the temple contains an inscription written in Tamil and Grantha scripts dated at 1247 CE. The Tamil inscription contains reference to Vengaluru which is clearly the Tamil pronunciation of Bengaluru.

Benda kālur: a recent interpretation
So far it was in vogue that the place name Bengaluru was derived from the phrase “benda-kaalu-ooru “( literally: the village of boiled beans).  However, the discovery of the Begur and Madivala inscriptions refutes this hypothesis of the village of boiled beans, since the place was known as Bangaluru as early as 890 CE and Bengaluru or Vengaluru even during 1247 CE.
 Thus the interpretation of the village of boiled beans appears an imaginary hypothesis  of relatively recent origin and  does not have support in the ancient inscriptions.

The Begur inscription of 890 CE has documented the name of the city as Banguluru  or Bangaluru which has far reaching historical  implications than apparent.
First of all. it shares  analogous name with Bengal (or the Bangal) since Bengaluru (or Bangaluru )r represents Bengal + uru. (or Bangal+uru ), suggesting socio-cultural ties between the two regions in the antiquity.

Banga tribes
Beng+al (or Bang+al) is a ethnonym, evidently named after the now forgotten ancient Banga tribes. Masked signatures of the ancient Banga tribes can be found in not only in Bengal and Bengaluru but also widely in the West Coast of India (Tulunadu) as well in South east Asian countries.
In the Tulu regions of West Coast of Karnataka, minor kings and chieftains of Banga dynasty, followers of Jain traditions, ruled for years. Bangera (plural form of Banga in Tulu language) were a widespread tribe in ancient Tulunadu as we find them assimilated into various Tulu castes and communities but still retain their surname as Bangera.

Ancient migration of Banga tribes to Southeast Asian countries (or vice versa) has been preserved in their place names such as Bangkok.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

400. Buddhism in Tulunadu – Marpadi and Marpalli villages

Ancient village names in some cases may provide valuable hints on the incidents and events that took place in the past, especially where inscriptions are scanty.  I some of the older posts in this blog, we have shown prevalence of strange diverse tribal signatures or even words derived from exotic lands from which the tribes immigrated.

Buddhism in Tulunadu  
Buddhism originated in India a few centuries before Christ and spread all over India and neighboring countries during the early centuries of Common   Era. Evidences of  spread of Buddhism during  historical past can be inferred in Karavali/Tulunadu also. Kadri in Mangaluru was said to be known as “Kadarika Vihara” where Vihara meant a Buddhist monastery. Similarly one of the old names of Mangaluru, Mayikala suggests a “kala” (a plot, quadrangle or shrine) dedicated to mother Māyi. The Māyi was the mother of   Siddartha, the Buddha. The worship of Buddha’s mother was prevalent in ancient India.

In this post, we shall look into an unusual set of place names that hint at the influence of a celebrated Buddhist monk who visited parts of India during eleventh century CE.
Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097)

Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097)
The Buddhist monk   in this case is Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097). The Tibetan monk is credited with transmission of many of the Buddhist tenets from India to Tibet (and maybe vice versa). It is recorded that he visited  a number of places in India several times in connection with spreading Buddhism. Marpa Lotsawa  was a great teacher of Tibetan Kagyu school of Buddhism known for the translation of several teachings of  Vajrayana school of Buddhism. Jetsun Milarepa (1052-1135) was his famous disciple.

Marpa˜  villages
The village near Mudbidri is known as Mārpadi. Similarly, near Udupi we have a Mārpalli. Both these villages (Marpa+aDi and Marpa+palli) are named after the celebrated teacher Marpa. The name Marpa is of Tibetan origin. Even now there are Tibetans having Marpa as a part of their names.
The term “marpa” does not exist or have any straight   meanings in Tulu or Kannada. Some may argue hazily that marpa is a  Kannada word, assuming that it is  mār+pa, which may give  obscure meaning such as: sale-able. However, it should be noted that this is not a place exclusive either to Tulunadu or Kannada regions.

Marpa  villages in India
There are some 39 villages in India known either as Marpa or carrying the prefix  of  Marpa  or Marapa (as in Marpalli). These villages are distributed in Andhra Pradesh (Marpalle, Marapalle, Marpaka,  Marpadaga), Bihar (Marpa, Marapa), Chattisgarh (Marpa), Jharkhand (Marpa), Madhya Pradesh (Marpani), Maharashtra (Marpalli), Meghalaya (Marpara, Marapara), and Mizoram (Marpara).

Since these different areas have different languages other than Dravidian, suggestion that mar-pa was a word of Dravidian origin is untenable. In all the villages names cited (source: Census of India, 2011) the name used as prefix is Marpa or Marapa. It seems that Marpa Lotsawa was a celebrated monk wherever he went in India and the places he stayed for some period, were named after him.
Besides, it seems the name Marpa was familiar in Tulunadu since the visit of Marpa Lotsawa. Even now you can find people named as Mārappa in villages of Tulunadu.

It is agreed that there are numerous possibilities when words in place names are taken up for analysis. Each word has numerous dimensions and meanings, since there is amalgamation of several diverse individual cultures over the prolonged historical lineage.

 In this post, I have analysed the village names Marpalli and Marpadi as Marp+(p)alli and Marpa+aDi  respectively, considering that different regions in India have had shared history as well as village names(as reported in several of our older posts).

On the other hand, for example, mār in Tulu also means a paddy field (Bākimār, Mālemār etc).
If you analyze these two Tulu place names (Marpalli and Marpadi)  from Tulu/ Dravida language context :
Marpalli  (1.paddy field +village; or 2. A mosque in a paddy field)
Marpadi (mār=paddy field+ pādi =mini forest).
The odd connotations in the above analysis such as a village or wooded area within a paddy field do not appear logical to me.
There are other meanings for the word Māra such as (1) cupid and (2) Vishnu. The names of people having names like Marappa could have this line  of origin also from the names of cupid or Vishnu.

It is interesting to note that the spread of these Marpa places is along a specific travel  path in eastern and southern India. The overall distribution of the Marpa villages outline a contiguous  travel track from Tibet-(Nepal)- Bihar- Jharkhand-Chattisgarh- that further split into two tracts of:
 (1) Andhra-Maharashtra-Karnataka-Tulunad and
(2) (Bengal) - Assam-Meghalaya- Mizoram.
It appears that there were two lines of journeys of Marpa Lotsawa and his followers in 11th century CE from Jharkhand- Chattisgarh one towards South (and Southwest) and another towards Northeast.

If you have any positive evidences  in favor of  or against my arguments please comment here in a healthy spirit.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

399. Devadigas and Sapaligas

Tulu Nadu is cosmopolitan, in that all profession-based classes or castes live in harmony, dependent on each other without prejudice.  It embraced all people coming to this land of Nature Worship and Spirit Worship.  To be precise, people of this land worship trees, animals, birds, snakes and manes and spirits.  This Tuluva Cosmos is a world of highly structured and ordered system of a whole. Their way of living, beliefs and customs and ideas are identical.  Low and High feelings come as an attitude in all societies of the world.  Such feelings can be contained by a spirit of universal brotherhood.  In the present-day world, we live in at many places, playing a significant role in development of economic, cultural and social conditions.

Many tribes have trodden this land in the past, as we can deduce from a variety of surviving ethnonyms encountered, of whom we know a little.  Their signatures are also found in odd words, customs, personal names, apart from   place-names.
 We try to trace the importance of distinct   groups who made this land their home land and contributed to the overall culture of Tulu Nadu.  In that direction, this article is an attempt to know about Devadigas and others. Traditionally, they are the Spirit players and drummers in the ancient Hindu temples.  Besides, they have also pursued cultivation of land. Edgar Thurston has included them in his book:  Castes & Tribes of Southern India.

Devadiga Community
‘Devadiga’ is an ethnic name for a group of people of Tulu Nadu (Districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Northern Malabar (i.e. Kasaragod, which was a part of South Kanara up to recent history – State reorganization of 1956). Regionally,   Devadigas are known by different names.  We have come across the following names:

Muyile, Moyili or Moyli, S(h)erigar,  Sani, Sevagara, Servegara, Shereyar, Ambalavasi, Bogunvale (?), Devadasi, Devadigar, Dewale, Devadig, Ganikula, Kavalnath, Konkan Valegar,etc.  They are all Hindus, speaking Tulu, Kannada and Malayalam.  
In some government classifications, the Sappaliga or Sapaliga   are included in this list of Devadigas, though the Sapaligas   profess separate identity and lineage.

Devadiga is split as Deva+Adiga or Aadiga.  Deva means Deity and Divine Spirits of a temple.  Adiga or Aadiga means: a player or servant (in temple).  One of the important work assigned to Devadiga (Moilees) in the temples is playing the role of official temple Spirit (holding a sword accompanied by shivering and dancing) dancing in front of the chief deity of the temple, while the deity is in the process of making divine rounds (known as bali or bali barpini) around the temple precincts.  They are also doing variety of additional jobs, such as cleaning, lighting arrays of earthen oil-lamps, and beating the kettle-drum (Nagāri), Barrel Drum (Chende) or double drums (Mourri ?) and sometimes also playing musical instruments in the temple.

Devadigas of Kasargod region consider that they were originally Tamilians.   When a Tamil Pandya Raja invaded Tulu Nadu, they were one among the retinue who came with him. The   Pandya Raja conquered regions up to Nandavara and built many temples.  Before going back, he appointed his chieftains as administrators and left behind Devadigas to serve in those temples as musicians and do other   cleansing jobs.
At Kumble, Pandya Raja appointed Jayasimha as his representative.   They assimilated into Tulu culture and adopted Tulu, Kannada and Malayalam languages, one of them being their mother tongue.  So, they are polyglot, i.e. multi-lingual. (Source: YouTube: Shree Paadangara Bhagavathi Prasanna, Arikkad, Kumble).

The other story is that Kadamba King Mayur Sharma (later he assumed Varma, a Kshatriya name) encouraged construction of Hindu temples in Banavasi. Similar practices came up in Tulunadu. The Stanika Brahmins, Devadigas and Sapaligas were ordained by the rulers to work in temples to assist the temple preist  Brahmins in maintaining  the day to day business of the temple.
Shri Vadiraja Tirtha (C. 1480-C.1600), who lived for 120 years was a great Dvaita Philosopher, poet and mystic.  He was a polymath.  There is a belief in currency that he ordained Carpenters, Goldsmiths, and Devadigas to be treated as Brahmins during their period of stay in temple for doing temple duties by performing a sanctifying ritual.

Sappaliga  or Sapaliga
Sappaliga means one who makes musical sound in a temple through Vadya (musical instrument) and Vadana (playing the musical instument). Now they are known as Sapaliga or Saphalya. Sapaligas, adept in playing musical instruments, used to serve in the temple along with Devadigas in temples, but there are no marital alliances between these two communities. Both have independent community associations and affiliations.
Traditionally there has been matrimonial alliances between the members of  Sapaliga and Marakala (now Mogaveera) communities  especially in and around the Udupi region. Besides, Sapaligas and Marakalas share similar bari lineages. The  local oral legends  also suggest that the initial members of Sapaliga were drawn from the Marakala fisher community during the ancient history and were trained in the art of playing musical instruments to serve as pipers and musicians in the temples.

In Mangalore and Bantwal areas, the Sapaliga  have adopted coconut oil extraction as a profession and have considered themselves as Ganigas. The gāna is the device used for the extraction of oil.  There are matrimonial alliances between Sapaligas and Ganigas in Mangalore-Bantwal area   and they have designated their association as “Sapaligara yāne Gānigara Sangha’.
 However there are generally no direct traditional matrimonial alliances between Mogaveeras and Ganigas in Mangalore area.

Beliefs & Customs
They follow same Hindu rituals, as other communities of Tulu Nadu, during birth, puberty of a girl (first menstruation), marriage, death.  They are also followers of animism, i.e. the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena and the universe itself possess souls.  So, they also believe in Spiritual beings or agencies. At some temples, they are mediums for spirit-possession (Pātris).

Nāgaradhane  (serpent  worship) is common in all communities of Tulu Nadu.  Each Devadiga clan has its own ‘Moolāsthana’ where snakes are worshipped.  There is one ‘Moolasthana’ of Adyaranna at Gudde Angadi, Kavattar, (near Mulki ; Pin code 574 195.).
They follow matriarchal system as other Tuluva communities.  Marriage between girl and boy of same ‘bari’ is forbidden.  Traditionally, heritance ofproperty rights moves along female line though male is custodian.

Septs of Devadigas
They too have similar clan (bari) names, like Mogaveeras, Billavas, Kulalas, i.e. Kunder, Salian, Suvarna, Shriyan, Karkera, Maindan, Mendon, Bangera, Gujaran, Uppian, Kukkiyan and so on. Besides that, we have come across other baris, viz. Bundhan, Bageeyatan, Adayran (Adyaranna?), Shettiyan, Kayaran, Guliyechan, Vadeyaran, Pergadan, Karmaran, Puthian, Odrenna, Malayanna, Huttaryan, Chandiyan and Katkane.

Adayran Bari
The incidence of Adayran and other baris among the Devadigas is interesting from the genetic point of view. For example, Adi is an ancient tribal community and about 192 villages named after Adi such as Adia, Adyar, Adiyur, Adivala, Adve, Adigon, Adihal etc are found in Tulunadu as well as in other parts of India.
Similar deductions can be made about some of the less common baris prevalent among the Devadigas enlisted above. Thus admixture of common and less common baris among the Devadigas suggest infusion of several tribal streams during the initial stages of creation of communities from the tribes.

Kula Devata
Hindu temples follow Panchayatana (ಪಂಚಾಯತನ) system.  That means: Five temples, having one for main God and other four for other Gods.  Mostly, five Deities are: Vishnu, Shiva, Devi or Durga, Surya and Istha Devata, like Ganesh, Skanda, or any personal God of devotees.  Temples for Divine Spirits are now accommodated within the precincts of main temple.
Devadigas of Kasargod have Paadangara Bhagavathi as Kula Devata.  They officiate as priests to Divine Spirits, who are parivara Daivas attached to the Temple.  They act as impersonator of the Bhoota Kola/Nema,
Kula Devata of Devadigas of Barkur Hobli is Shree Ekanatheshwari at Barkur, known since Alupa rule.  The old temple with Parivara Daivas is under renovation since January 2017 and to be re-established and dedicated to the community and public on 15th February 2018 and related purification and Brahma Kalasotsava rituals and other ceremonies run up to 22nd February 2018.

Community Associations & Aspirations
Devadiga Sangha was established in 1948 at Dadasaheb Phalke Road, Dadar (East), Mumbai-400 014 for overall upliftment community people at native place and Mumbai.  As other Tuluva communities, this Sangha has also branched offat many areas in Mumbai and Vashi (New Mumbai).  There are many other organisations in Tulu Nadu also for the benefit of Devagidas.
At a symposium in the precincts of Ekanatheshwari Temple in April 2017, the Community elders decided to have a “Devadiga Global Foundation”.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath with  Ravi Mundkur.

Monday, January 22, 2018

398. Trail of Potter’s Wheel in Tulu Nadu

A traditional profession is a religion in itself.  Followers of this profession have their own tenets with its inherent ethical propensity towards their job.  This principle is ensconced in one of the Vachanas of Saint Basavanna, who is a 12th Century Statesman, Philosopher and Kannada Poet.   Vachanas means: those words which are said and written rhythmically.‘ Kayakave kailasavaaya’ (ಕಾಯಕವೇ ಕೈಲಾಸವಯ್ಯಾ), is the Vachana referred.  This means: ‘Work is worship’.
Benjamin Franklin says, “Example is the school of mankind”.  We can deduce that such exemplary actions or creations led to the emergence of inter-dependent specific groups of professions, say tillers of sea and land, archers, oil-pressers, weavers, smiths, and many traditional artisans.  Potters are traditional artisans, whose existence is known from the figures and pot-shreds found in Sindhu excavations. 

Tuluva Potters
Pot-makers of Tulu Nadu are called as ‘Moolye, Odari, Kumbaara or kumbar, kusave (ku+sa+ve = one who works with mud and water) and Handa.   They are toilers in earth or soil (Mannu in Tulu & Kannada) and water.  As a dignified nomenclature, they are also known as Kulala (ku = earth + ala = water and/or man), tracing their origin to Kulalan, the son of Lord Brahma. Potter’s chakra or wheel of creation is proverbial.  So, they also call themselves as ‘Chakrashali’ (word coined on the line of Padmashali, the weaver’s class), i.e. one who possesses Chakra as ones implement (for his creative job). In Kannada, they are called as Kumbāra, Tamil Kusave, Telugu Kummara, Orissa Kumbaro, Sanskrit Kumbhakāra and Northern India Prajapati.  They are all Hindus, following either Vishnu or Shiva.
It is a belief that potters of Tulu Nadu are from Telugu and Kannada speaking areas (as also quoted   by H.A. Stuart).  Usually, Telugu potters are followers of Vishnu, excepting Lingayat potters, who bury their dead.
Tuluva potters’ mother tongue is Tulu.  They follow ‘Aliya Santana Kattu’, i.e. matrilineal system of inheritance.  They have the same Tulu culture and follow Bari System as Mogaveeras, Billavas, etc., say Bangera, Karkera, Kunder, Salian, Suvarna and so on (besides Moolya, a community-marker surname).

Significance of Moolya
Why in Tulu Nadu a pot-maker is called ‘Moolya’?  Normally, one is  ashamed of being called by caste-name (This applies to call castes).  First thing that occurs to one’s mind is that ‘Moolya’ stands for ‘valuable’.  It is an adjective and a noun, meaning ‘Value’. (The writer pities those parents who are now fond of naming their children by adjective word). The caste name ‘Moolya’ has a specific connotation.  We all belong to this Mother Earth, wherefrom  we all spring and merge but are not called as ‘Moolya’.   He is a man of the earth and always toils with it in an open space of a village or in colony of pottersin a corner (= Moole).  One who lives in a  ‘moole’ is came to be known as ‘moolye’.  This is in one sense.  In another sense, ‘moola’ means ‘original’.  As Lord Brahma creates many types of living beings, a potter too moulds and creates pots of different shapes for different uses.  So, he becomes the originator (Moolye). This is the reason why potters of Northern India call themselves as ‘Prajapati’ (Creator). He is an artist on his own right. He creates, sustains and destroys.Analogy of shristhi, sthiti and laya is hidden in ‘Moolya’. This is the ‘tripadi’ (a poem of three lines) of a human existence.  We remember here Kannada Poet and Saint Sarvajna, who composed many poems in Tripadi metre.  He is from a potter’s family.  Karnataka Government has erected a statue of him at Bengaluru.

Some members of the potter’s community call themselves Kulala Vaishnavas as against Tamil and Kannada Kusave/Kusavans and Kumbaaras, who worship Lord Shiva.  They claim their descent from Kulala(n), the son of Lord Brahma.  Kulala was fond of creating things and destroying them daily.   So, Brahma made him a potter, to be the progenitor of Pot-maker’s community.  
All the potters claim an impure Brahmanical descent.  Edgar Thurston records this collected story in his Book ‘Castes and Tribes of Southern India (Vol.4)’.  His   source was  H. A. Stuart:  Madras Census Report, 1891 & Manual of North Arcot District – Stuart, IV-8).  The concise story is given below:
 “A learned Brahmin, after long study, has discovered the day and hour in which he might beget a mighty offspring. After a long wait for the opportune time, he sets for the house of his selected bride but could not make it. Being obstructed by a flood, he stops at a potter’s house en route and marries the daughter of his host to seize the opportunity of ‘auspicious time’. He begets a celebrated son Shālivāhana. He develops a knack for pottery and makes  many earthen  figures of mounted warriors right from childhood and hides them in a place. When Vikramarka invaded Southern India, he ordered the people to supply him with pots for his army.  People appeals  to Shalivahana. Miraculously infusing life into his clay figures, he leads them to battle against the enemy and wins the battle.The country (Mysore) falls into his hands.  Eventually, he was left as its ruler and became the ancestor of the early Mysore  Rajas. “
(Source: H.A. Stuart:  Madras Census Report, 1891 & Manual of North Arcot District – Stuart, IV-8)

The efforts put in by a potter is typified in the following proverb in Tulu and Kannada ಕುಂಬಾರಗು/ ಕುಂಬಾರಗೆ ವರುಷ, ದೊಣ್ಣೆಗು/ದೊಣ್ಣೆಗೆ ನಿಮಿಷ” (Kumbaargu/Kumbarage varusha, donnegu/donnege nimisha). This means:  “What is made in a year by a potter is destroyed by a stick in a minute, meaning within no times”. This depicts the vulnerability of his products.  Quirk of fate may leave these simple folks destitute. That is why some families always live in a state of poverty by ignorance of availability of good raw material and market.

Stages of pot-making
They are:
1)  Collecting suitable clay, i.e. sticky soil (jedi mannu/āve mannu or mudar (= soft) mannu in Tulu):
A  variety of mud is used in pot making. We find this soil deposited in water-logged low field (Patla Kanda in Tulu) due to flood and on stream (‘Tār’ in Tulu) and river beds.   It is said that such soil, digged at a depth of 6 ft. below stream or river, is very good. As reported, Uppinangadi and ManEl (now Malali near Puraal, aka Polali – 3 km away from Gurupura-Kaikamba in Mangaluru) areas are famous for availability of such soft earth and hence, the preponderance of potter-families there. Jedi Mannu (potters clay) mixed with parel mannu (= maralu mannu, i.e. fine sandy soil) is perfect soft soil (āve mannu) for pot-making.  Now, there is a demand for reverting the village name Malali to ManEl by locals to preserve its meanigfulness.

2)  Powdering lump of earth, sieving & burning:
Lump of ave mannu is to be beaten to powder. This powdered soil then is sieved to separate pebbles, stones and other coarse matters, before burning.

3) Soaking, thumping and softening mud:
To make the soil soft and pliable, it is to be soaked in water.  Soaked mud is thumped or pounded by legs.  This soil is to be kept for 2 to 3 days for seasoning.  This well-ground softened soil is called ‘are mannu’ in Tulu.
 There is a wise-saying in Tulu:ಅಳಪ್ಪೆರ ತೆರಿಯಂದಿನಾಯೆ ಆಚಾರಿ ಅತ್ತ್, ಮೇಲಿಪ್ಪೆರೆ ತೆರಿಯಂದಿನಾಯೆ ಓಡಾರಿ ಅತ್ತ್” (Alappere teriyandināye aachari att, melippere teriyandināye odari att).  This means: A carpenter must know how to take measurements. 
Likewise, a potter must be skilled in mixing clay well with water and knead it into a mass by thumping.  If they are not skilled in their respective jobs, then they are not fit to be called as ‘Aachari (carpenter) and ‘Odari’ (Potter).
‘Are mannu’ is very precious for a potter and he never let it go waste.  It is a matter of pride to him. This trait is epitomized in a Tulu wise-saying: “Odari ‘are’ budaaye, ‘aritarayi’ madyale budaaye”, which means, a potter is very much conscious not to waste the well beaten and softened soil (= are), just like a washer-man who never forgets to take rice and coconut (ari & tārayi) offered in a ceremony, which he officiates.   (Read the explanation given in our Post-395/25.12.2017: A matter of cleansing).

4)  Using potter’s wheel (Kulala Chakra):
In Tulu, potter’s wheel is called as ‘tigari/tagori and gaali. Monier Williams (Sanskrit) Dictionary describes potter’s apparatus as “a simple circular horizontal well-balanced fly-wheel, generally 2 or 3 feet in diameter, which can be made to rotate by slight impulse.   The potter loads it with clay lump and then, with a few easy sweeps and turns of his hands, he moulds his material into beautiful curves and symmetrical shapes and   leaves his products of skill to bake in the Sun.”  (Source:  Madras Pottery Journal, Indian Arts VII, 1897 as quoted in Castes & Tribes of Southern India).
His product varieties are:
·         kara (rice cooking vessel),
·         bisale (large-mouthed vessel for cooking vegetables, fish and other preparations, mande (big vessel used  for boiling bathing water, storing rice and grains, etc.),
·         neeradyara/Korai (a wide-mouthed used to clean rice and filter or decant liquids,
·         bavade (lid for vessels),
·         gaddavu (half spherical small eating vessel with circular leg),
·         toori/mutti (Sans: kalasha) (small vessels,
·         kooji/kooje (beaked water jug),
·         kundi (flower pot),
·         dose kavali (cake pan),
·         tibile (used for oil-wick-lighting at homes, temples and during Deepavali, Festival Lights, etc.

5) Potter’s kiln (Ave) and baking:
Potter marks-out a circular space, about 10 ft. dia., at any convenient open space.  Small pieces of wood and dried sticks are spread over this space to a depth of six inches and a layer of dried cow-dungs cakes are laid over the sticks.  He piles up all sunbaked vessels carefully over this platform of fuel to a height of 5 to 6 feet.  This whole heap is then covered with straw.  This straw is plastered with clay all over, leaving a few openings here and there.  These openings allow the smoke to escape.  Now the potter’s kiln is ready.  He then fires the fuel at the bottom.  He has to keep a watch that   fire does not die. Half-burnt vessels are useless. Baking process is complete during a few hours. Avedu deevandi kara, uppuda kadaludu odedu chooraavu (=non-baked vessel in a kiln breaks and dissolves in salty sea water).

6) Polishing Techniques:
In some special vessels, potters make use of polish made from seeds of Gyrocarpus Jacquini for polishing.  “Another method employed for producing a polish is to rub the surface with the mucilaginous juice of tuthi (Abutilon Indicum) and then fire the vessel again” (ibidem). Such polished antique potteries are found in cromlech (= a megalithic chamber tomb, dolmen, passage grave).
Potters were skilled in making pyriform sepulchral urns.  In excavations, these are found in Tinnevelly, Madura, Malabar and elsewhere.  Dr. G.U. Pope shows that these urns are mentioned about the burial of heroes and kings as late as 18th Century AD.
Note: Common names of Gyrocarpus Jacquini:  Helicopter tree, Whirly Whirlytree burl, Stinkwood, Kannada: Kadu bende, Tamil: Chaivavatala, Tanakku, Kadavai, Telugu: Tanuku, Hindi: Zaitun. (Source: Wikipedia)

A big rattan basket is tied to wooden plank.  A potter stacks all his wares into this basket. Alternatively, he makes ‘kavadi’ of bamboo stick with nets fixed at both ends for keeping vessels and carries it on his shoulder. Traditionally, he used to take his earthen-wares on head load to weekly markets, which are held regularly in different villages. He also sold his wares by going house to house in villages.
Now-a-days caste cooperative societies are providing market-platforms for these products. These societies are based in a village, town, city and State-wide).

Mulyadige (ಮೂಲ್ಯಾದಿಗೆ)
It is customary that some members of the potter’s community are doing priestly work in Bhootasthana (Shrine of Divine Spirits) during annual celebrations (known as Nema or Kola).  Duties include:
(1) Bringing masks and other ornaments, etc. used in worship of deity,
(2) Acting as Torch-bearers and
(3) Purification and other rituals of the shrine. 
They are called as ‘Moolyada Pujari’ (Read our Post-314 on Billava Community).  Besides potters, this title is also given to people of other communities, say Mogaveeras, Billavas, Bunts, who are doing the duties as said above as a convention.  They are also called as ‘Mukkaldi’
Woes of Potters
Most of the potters, sticking to their ancestral livelihood, are struggling under acute poverty though there is demand for pottery, being consumer products.  Reasons and problems are many:
·         With modern education, youth are not interested in sparing their time for pot-making.  Earlier, all family members were a part of the pot-making ritual.
·         Scarcity of raw materials, i.e. suitable clay (as nearby natural water courses are disturbed or nearly vanished) and burning wood and straw.
·         Heavy cartage for transporting such materials from distant places.
·         Demand is dwindling because of modern cooking utensils (of alluminium or stainless steel).
·         Use of plastic vessels and decorative items
·         Pots are very brittle and needs care and suitable warehousing before finding markets.
·         Difficulties in getting quick returns in commensurate with efforts put in.
·         Besides traditional marketing, potter must take his earthen-wares to different and distant places, entailing prohibitive cost of transportation.
·         No Government subsidies and loan facilities as are offered to other traditional artisans.

Community Organisations           
Kulala Sangha is a charitable trust, founded in 1929 in Mumbai, for the upliftment of Kulalas.  The primary object of the Sangha is to promote education, spirit of fellowship and co-operation.  Their mouth-piece Journal is ‘Amulya’.  Their pet project of Kualala Bhavan – a Convention Centre - and Students Hostel is under construction at Jeppu, Near Mangaladevi Temple, Mangaluru.
There are many other organisations at village, town and taluk levels in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada and in other cities.  Some are styled as ‘Kulala  Sudharaka Sangha’.

Pot-making is a cottage industry for livelihood.   Educated youth are not interested in continuing the ancestral art of making pots.  As a stranger to this art, we do not know how far these organisations help propagating this art.  We have come across some ads in Internet by some pottery labs (e.g. one at Bandra locality of Mumbai), offering teaching the pot-making art.  We suggest the Kulala Sangha ear-marking a spot (instead of exhibition of visuals) for a workshop and sale centre in unused land at the new Convention Centre, if not envisaged.  This will create job opportunities to under-privileged potter families. This amounts to encouragement by a Sangha, besides arranging social events.

Food  prepared in earthen-wares are wholesome and tasty.  This quality is reinvented, and canteens, eateries and big hospitality industry have started cooking in earthen-wares. So, demand for earthen pots is increasing.   Water stored in earthen jugs and vessels (madike/madka) remains ice-cool and hence they are in much demand during summer.  The Sangha would do well by highlighting   the healthy features of earthen pots in visuals at exhibitions of pottery and on Convention Hall walls.

As an artist, potter is adept in giving shape of his choice to the mud.   Knowledge of his art is percolating down from his ancestors. His enthusiasm and confidence are manifest from the following Tulu saying:
ಯಾನ್ ಕಲ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯೆಲಾ ಉಂಡು, ನಾಲೂರ್ ಮಣ್ಣುಲಾ ಉಂಡುನ್ದ್ ಓಡಾರಿ ಪಣ್ತೆಗೆ (Yaan kaltina vidyelaa undu, naalur mannulaa undund odaari pantege). 

Potter says, “There is abundance of clay in the Nature everywhere (Naalur mannu) and I have mastered the knowledge and skill (Kaltina vidye).  I have no worry of future."  Mark the grit and sincerity expressed in this saying.  A potter would survive despite vicissitudes in his life.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune

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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