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363. Deciphering Tulu-nadu place names

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017


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Thursday, July 27, 2017

387. Dr. B Vasantha Shetty and the Barakuru

Recently the Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy, Mangaluru, has published an important thesis on the history of Tulunadu compiled by (1984)  Late Dr. B. Vasantha Shetty (1950-1997) entitled “ Barakuru: A Metropolitan city of antiquity-its history and culture.”

Dr. B. Vasantha Shetty
Dr. B. Vasantha Shetty was the Vice Principal and the Head of the Department of History and Archeology at St Marys Syrian College, Brahmavara, Udupi at the time of compiling and submitting the thesis (1984) under the guidance of Prof. Dr A.Y. Narasimha Murthy, Prof & Head, Department of Postgraduate studies and research in Ancient History and Archeology, University of Mysore at Mysore. It is sad to note that the promising historian Dr. Vasantha Shetty expired (1997) in his young age. With his rather premature death, the field of Tulu studies has lost an important researcher.

Vasantha Shetty reports that the earliest documented form of name as found in the inscription (dated ca  11th Century CE) located in the Hosala Durga /Mahalakshmi temple for the town was Barakanuru. In support of this conclusion he cites two epigraphs located in areas outside the district,  dated 1122 and 1135 CE relating to the period of Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana, which also refer  to this place as  Barakanuru. Arab historian Rashi-ud-Din in his compiled work (1310) referred to this port as Fakanur, which appears to be a corrupt form of Barakanuru.  Near Barakuru there is deep pit in the river known as Barakana-gundi (or Barakana-baligundi).

Bāraha kanyāpura
The application of the name Bāraha kanyāpura  for the place appears around 1155 CE as found in an inscription of the period during the reign of Alupa King Kavi Alupendra. The Sanskritized place name Bāraha kanyāpura apparently has been associated with the legends of Bhutala Pandya. The legendary Bhutala Pandya is said to have married 12 Jaina maidens; the incident appear to have modified the name of the city to Bāraha kanyāpura.
 The data presented by Vasantha Shetty in the book leads us to infer that the legend of Bhutala Pandya was created by certain Alupa Kings with the help of royal poets of the period. However, the legends apparently do not have the support of corroborative historical evidences. Though some of the royal records and Alupa inscriptions of ca 1254-1261 CE,  period express the place name  as Bāraha kanyāpura, the foreign historians descriptions (like Fakanur or Bacanur) as well as the coins minted during the period appear to have continued to mention the place as  Barakanura gadhyana. Similarly,  contemporaries of Alupas like  the Ballala rulers who occupied Barakuru did not accepted the use of  the name of Baraha Kanyapura suggesting that the legends of Bhutala Pandya were not appealing to other rulers of the period.

In spite of entry of Baraha Kanyapura in contemporary official Alupa records, many common people as well as other rulers stuck to the old name of Barakanur. An inscription of Virapandyadeva-Alupendradeva dated 1257 mentioned the town “Bakur” probably due to engravers confusion or mistake. Later inscriptions of the same ruler mentions the name of the capital as Baraha-Kanyapura. However, Hoysala ruler Ballala III who married Chikkayi Tayi of Alupa lineage and  shared authority over the Alupa capital issued inscriptions in 1334 CE  carried the place name as Barakuru. Inscriptions issued by Chikkayi Tayi  in 1334 CE also carried the name of Barakuru. Other Alupa rulers like Kulashekaradeva continued the name of Baraha Kanyapura in his inscriptions of 1339 and 1345 CE.
Further the capital was acquired by Vijayanagara rulers who also preferentially adopted the name of Barakuru only. Similarly further rulers like Nayakas of Keladi also continued with the name of Barakuru, derived from the old name of Barakanuru.
  Alupas in Barakuru
Vasantha Shetty reports that the first record of Alupa ruling in Barakuru dates back to 1139 CE (Saka 1062), in the inscription attributed to Kavi Alupendra and found at Panchalingeshwara  temple, Kotekeri, Barakuru.  The said inscription mentions Tolahas of Suralu. Also mentioned in the record is the Gadyana, the Alupa coin in vogue in that period.    The  Barakuru became the capital city of Alupas with effect from the year 1155 CE during the reign of  King Kavi  Alupendra, who ruled from the  palace of Bāraha-kanyāpura, as recorded in another inscription in the area. Kavi Alupendras queen was known as Pandya-Mahādevi.

Hoysalas in Barakuru
One of the surprising historical data we find as evident in an undated inscription of Kotekeri, Barakur is regarding the joint rule of Vira Jagadevarasa (of Hoysala/Santara descent)  and Pattamāhadevi (and her son Pandya-Devarasa of  Alupa descent) in Barakuru.
During the reign of Alupa ruler Soyideva, Hoysala King Ballala III married Alupa princess Chikkayi Tāyi, and exercised  Hoysala authority over the Barakuru. An inscription dated 1336 CE at Mudukeri, Barakuru suggests that Chikkayi Tāyi, Senior queen of Vira Ballala Devarasa ruled over Barakuru at that time.

Vijayanagara rule
The Vijayanagara Kings based in Hampi deputed Governors to rule the Barakuru province. Inscriptions of the period  found at Barakuru, represent the reign of Vijayanagara Kings from Bukka I and there on wards.


Vasantha Shetty, B, Dr (2006). Barakuru: A Metropolitan city of antiquity its history and culture. (Thesis  submitted for doctoral degree in 1984).  Published by Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy, Tulu Bhavana, Urva Stores, Mangaluru-575006  p.xvi+ 296. (Price:  Rs.800.)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

386 . ‘Amba pāđuni’ – A catchword of action in Tulu

Folkways!  It denotes the ways of living, thinking and acting in a human group, built up without conscious design but serving as compelling guides of conduct.  So, it is descriptive of a unique characteristic of a social group.

Aamba/Ambe Paaduni
When I came across the term mentioned in the introductory para, I remembered the phrase ‘Amba/Ambe Pāđuni’(ಅಂಬ/ಅಂಬೆ ಪಾಡುನಿ) in Tulu.  Even a half century or so after its near extinction, the Ramponi and its high-spirited cry of action ‘Amba/Ambe’ in Ambe Pāđuni’ has been haunting my mind. It is more so because of the inscrutable sound of concord for moving and lowering the Ramponi  boat, called Pađavu' (ಪಡಾವು), to sea and pulling it up from sea.
A ‘kontala (ಕೊಂತಲ = small boat) is sent to the sea, manned by two or three skilled and experienced  persons, with keen eyes, to look out for shoals of fish, moving towards break-water area.  On discovering the shoals, the headman signals to men waiting on shore, gesturing the length and breadth of shoals and showing the direction for covering the nets.  Normally, it is a secret signal so as not to be understood by rival Ramponi’s kontala.  The call of ‘amba’ stirs the members resting in shades of groves on the shore. Commotion and enthusiasm ensue on the discovery.  Ethically, as an unwritten law of the community, rival ramponi is not allowed to snatch these shoals detected by the first one but sometimes small skirmishes arise due to misunderstanding.

History of Ramponi
The coastal fishing method of ‘Ramponi’ style was more powerful, vigorous and popular. It was giving livelihood to all, besides the community people. It was successful up to the last leg of 20th Century.  It is documented that this method of catching fish was introduced in the first decade of 20th Century in Goa by Ramponi, a Portuguese missionary and hence the name ‘Ramponi’ for this fishing method. It may be true that such type of catching shoals of fish was originated in Goa but we deduce that the random fishing (without waiting for shoals of fish) must have been there even earlier in western coastal belt. We see that small version, named ‘Kairamponi’, is still extant.
The introduction of mechanized boats for fishing proved a death-knell for traditional shoreline fishing.  This is mainly because of fall in shoals of fish coming shore-ward because of disturbance.
‘Ramponi Fund’ is an organization, created on unique co-operative principle (when no co-operative laws were in place then). It is for coastal fishing and managing its moneys for the benefit of its members, including Hamgamies (temporary workers without contributing to stock of the Fund).
We do not wish to burden the article with descriptive sketch as our purpose is to explain the meaning of ‘amba or ambe paaduni’.  How the system works can be visualized by reading the Book: ಮೊಗವೀರ ಸಮಾಜ – ಒಂದು ಅಧ್ಯಯನ (Mogaveera Community – A Study)’.  It is also available on Internet, both in Kannada and English.

The phrase is not known outside the world of fisherfolk and the people connected with them.  This vocabulary of Tulu language is now included in the Tulu Lexicon; thanks to the Compilers!  But we differ with the Lexicon as it generalized the meaning whereas it has a specific connotation.  Let us explore the distinctive description.

Amba paaduni = Rowers’ song (TL Vol.1, pg. 27)
Amba/Ambe/Ambo = Bellowing, lowing, a cry, noise, cry of a cow.  In children’s vocabulary, ‘amba’ means cow.
Amba also means:  Divine Mother like Goddess Bhavani or Mahalakshmi.
Ambe Kaar Paaduni (Tulu Lexicon, page 31) & Ambgaalikku, Ambalikku Ambegalisu (Kannada) = Child’s crawl on hands and knees.  Eg. ಆನೆ ಮರಿಯವೊಲಂಬೆಗಲಿಸಿ ನಡೆದ ಕೃಷ್ಣಮ್ (Aane mariyavolambegalasi nadeda  Krishnam = Krishna crawled (awkwardly) like a child-elephant).
English equivalent to ‘Amba Pāduni:
Yo-heave-ho = It is a chant shouted by sailors to maintain a steady rhythm when hauling something together.  So, it is a cry in rhythm formerly used by sailors while pulling or lifting together.

Clearly, rhythmic   songs of rowers and sailors are different from Amba-yali utterances in ‘Amba Pāduni’.  These are exhorting utterances for pushing, pulling, raising or lifting of such big boats loaded with nets for lowering it to sea.  It is a speech for action by a skilled leader, showing high spirits. To avoid striking of padāvu (resting on logs of wood called  ’ dade/tade) to sandy ground, he moves around up and down to goad members to start and stop as and when necessary. The boisterous sound is full oflife, vitality or high spirits.
The bending, lifting or raising and pushing, using human body is like a child’s awkward crawl, measuring up in unison to the catchword utterances. The 'Amba' call is met with 'Hi Josh, Hi Josh' by men concentrating their energy by backing the Padaavu on both sides to raise and push. When padaavu starts moving, the echoing sound ‘yaali yaali’ (ಯಾಲಿ, ಯಾಲಿ) continues. Visualize this unified action from the picture, put   elsewhere in this article.

Tulu & Kannada Catchword Chants
O aalambeyaali, Elambe yaali, Aile yaali, Chambon embar yaali, Javanere marji yaali, Bandor baare yaali, Jor javana yaali, Kiniyaan maareyaali,C hiniyaanmaarae yaali, Yaalsolama yaali, Yaalre salama yaali, Deen solama yaali, Kaabanre (Captain) baage yaali, etc.
Reflecting on these utterances, we can infer that they are like an echolalia, i.e. the imitation by a baby of the vocal sounds produced by others.  It is not worthwhile to divine any meanings to such expressions.  Nevertheless, we can deduce some story occurred in the past.  There were instances in coastal history of rubbing shoulders with strangers with fisherfolk by drawing inference from words like, Aile (Mackeral in Byari Bhase), Din, Dinre, or Dinar, Alla, Solom or Salaam (Arabs), Kiniyaan (Kenya), Chin (Cheena), kaabarne or captain (of foreign  ships of marine trade of yore), etc. Later, new ‘Amba’ chants were coined to make fun on idiosyncrasies of people in a village or neighbouring villages.  These are based on dress, appearances and peculiar habits.

Summing up
‘Amba’ is invoking per se the mother’s love.  Readers are best judges to decide whether this statement comports with facts. ‘Amba, amba, amba paadula (ಅಂಬ, ಅಂಬ, ಅಂಬ ಪಾಡುಲ) is just like a call of loving mother, putting food or other attractive things in front of her child.  When she moves her child sitting on lap or legs, she repeats the word: aane, aane (ಆನೆ, ಆನೆ = elephant), bale aane, aane.   Accustomed to this expression, child moves to and fro without the help of mother.   Fisherfolk considers rivers and seas as ‘Gangamāta’ (Mother Ganga) and naturally, some of them regionally have assumed Gangamatastha, Gangakula or Gangaputra as caste names. 
“Every day begins with an act of courage and hope, getting out of bed.”  This is an aphorism by the renowned US Aphorist Mason Cooley (b. 1927).  This aptly applies to these toilers of sea, who are not slugabeds.

1. ‘Folkways’: Dictionary.com (based on Random House Dictionary).   It is a term used by W.G. Sumner in his Book of the same Title (1907).
2.  Ambegaalikku: Kannada Champu Nudigannadi by Dr. P.V. Narayana
3.  Mason Cooley: Columbia World of Quotations.

-Hosabettu  Vishwanath (Pune)

July 19, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

385. Kāpri-gudda and Kāpri-deva

The heritage land of Tulunadu has preserved many vestiges of ancient cults in the form of Spirit worships. However, during the course of passage of time it is likely that certain ancient Spirit aspects were forgotten from the mass heritage inadvertently.  Some of these inadvertent omissions are either, rather surprisingly, preserved in ancient place names or preserved in altered or evolved   divine  forms  in regions in the neighborhood.

Kapri gudda
Let us take example of the place name Kāpri guDDa in Mangaluru. It is a local place located to the east of Attavara, specifically behind (or East of) Casa Grande Apartment Complex or South of Falnir and Highland areas. In an earlier Post 273, I suggested that Kapri or Khapri was an ancient Spirit insect form which  can be traced to some of the ancient African cultures. It is probable that in the antiquity, ancient  migrating human tribes, who  traveled great distances on a prolonged  course of time, on foot, in search of better pastures, carried their belief systems also to the places of their new settlements in Coastal India.

In olden days we had people named after Kapri, Kaprianna, Kapira, Kampara etc. Now a days usage of such tribal proper names have  declined.

Kapri or Khapri deva
 Somehow it appears that there are no remains of physical evidence of worship of Spirit Kapri existing in Kaprigudda, Mangaluru, except for the preserved place name. However, in Karwar in Uttara Kannada district, we can find the absolute evidences for the worship of cult of Kapri or "Khapri-deva" in a shrine exclusively dedicated to him. Once in a year, some specific local communities engage in the worship of this God known as Khapri deva locally. The shrine dedicated to Khapri-deva has been renovated in the recent years as you can see in the pictures enclosed in this Post.

(Acknowledgement: Thanks to Shri Panduranga V. Nayak, Ankola, Uttara Kannada- for providing the photos of the shrine).


Monday, May 8, 2017

384. Menda or Mendan Bari - lineage

The Mendan (Mendon) is one of the bari   lineages or surnames commonly found in Tulu communities of the Tulunadu/West Coast. Though the “Mendon” bari lineage is mainly distributed among Mogaveer and Sapaliga communities, other sister communities have allied bari names, such as “Menda” in Bunts. Infact the word Menda+an (≥ Mendon) is equivalent of the word Menda, since suffix –an  is added in Old Tulu /Old Kannada to indicate a male person.
However, the Menda or Mendan surname/subcaste is not exclusive to Tulunadu. We find the Menda subcaste among Telugu speaking Velama Kshatriyas of Andha Pradesh/Telangana.

Menda villages in India
Once upon a time the Menda appear to have been distributed in many parts of the country as we can see in the distribution of some 27 village names that begin with Menda in different state such as Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharshtra, Meghalaya, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Uttara Khand. The Menda village names include Menda, Mendal Mendadi, Mendaki, Mendara, Mendaraka, Mendamal, Mendauli, Mendawali, Mendadi-konda, Mendan-kallur, Mendakwas, Mendarbahar, Menda-kheda, Mendangi,   Mendabeda  and  Mendapalle  etc.

Totem Menda
It appears the Menda was an ancient   tribal totem to begin with. The Menda in Pali/ Prakrit langauge means a ram.
In early cultures the ram appears to be a specially respected animal. As we find that the ram is the symbol of zodiac month of Aries or Mesha. Further the ram is considered an astral symbol of rulership.  Aries is the first sign of the Zodiac, which signifies the ram-like attributes of leadership, authority, and other forefather-type characteristics.
Menda (Pali) =ram (intact male sheep).  Menda/ Mendan:  Totem of ram
Rams are male bighorn sheep, animals that live in the mountains and often settle arguments with fights that include ramming their heads into others. Not to be confused with mountain goats, rams can be identified by their long, curved horns; long fur; and split hooves.
The sheep (Ovis aries) is a quadrupedal, ruminant mammal typically kept and reared as livestock. An adult male sheep is called a ram and an adult female sheep is a ewe. Rams are intact male sheep used to breed ewes. Rams are often bigger, more muscular and have larger horns than ewes.

Genetic significance
It is interesting that two versions of the bari lineage namely the Menda (among Bunts) and Mendan (among Mogaveers) exist in Tulunadu side by side. Since the ancient tribes were known to migrate from place to place in search of better pasture and living conditions, we can presume the two versions suggest two separate episodes of immigration into Tulunadu. There is a distinct possibility that the soldiers (kshatriya) from Tulunadu might have migrated to Telugu areas and settled or vice versa.

The retention of the Prakrit Pali name Menda probably also reflects the period of immigration of these tribes into Tulunadu. In Karnataka and Tulunadu it has been deduced that the Prakrit/Pali was the administraative language of the region in the early centuries of the Common Era   probably upto 300 or 400 CE.  The –an suffix in “Mendan”  is a chacteristic of the Old Tulu/Old Kannada/Dravidian languages prevailing during the early centuries of the Common Era. These inferences may be useful in deducing the period of immigrantion of the tribes which can be fine tuned further based on other corroborative evidences.

African  source of origin?
Geneological studies trace most of the tribes to an origin of   ancient African homeland. It is interesting to note that ethnic groups named as Mende can be found among Mande tribes of African countries like Sierra Leone and Southern Province. One of the reference sources suggest that the African meaning of the term Mende is a warrior. Incidentally, it has certain parallelism with the term Pali term Menda which represents a ram an animal of warrior attitude.


Friday, April 28, 2017

383. Bobrudeva in Bobruwada

The West Coast of India especially the Uttara Kannada district, shares several aspects of cultural history and evolution with Dakshina Kannada - Udupi ( literally, Tulunadu) though language differs in these region. The features of  worshipping ancient Spirit forms and other tribal deities has been a common phenomenon, though vestiges of ancient cults are gradually undergoing changes or evolution in the course of time.

In the post 381 we discussed about the character of   Babru- vāhana that has appeared in the epic Mahabharata.

In the suburb of Ankola town in Uttara Kannada district, we can find a village known as “Bobru-Wāda”. One of the interesting features of this village is a temple dedicated to “Bobru-deva”.  
Bobrudeva, idol at Bobruwada, Ankola.

Entrance to the temple of Bobrudeva, Bobruwada, Ankola

The temple houses a black   idol of Bobru-deva in sitting posture. The people around told that the new idol was installed about six years ago. The earlier image had a ferocious façade like those of rakshas characters; but the present idol has a pleasant face.

It appears that Bobru was a martyred hero, who was worshipped as a spirit after his lifetime. In the rural tribal people of the region, the Bobru, and Babri etc are known to be the common names, though nowadays the trends are changing in favor of modern style personal names.

In Tulunadu, Bobbarya is a well known Spirit deity. The origin of the name of the Spirit Bobbarya has been obscure and controversial. One gets a feeling whether the name Bobbarya  was derived from or related to the tribal name of Bobru or the Bobba.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

382. Gudi Padva

Gudi Padwa was celebrated in Maharashtra on 28th March 2017. It is being celebrated in Karnataka on 29th by those who are following Lunar Calendar (Chandramana Almanac, based on movements of Moon). Our Hearty Greetings on this auspicious day, which is celebrated in different names all over India.

Legendary stories from Puranas are attached to this hoisting of Welcome Flag, to usher in the New Year.  It is called as Brahma Dwaja, raised to  mark the creation of the Universe by Lord Brahma.
Gudi Padva (image courtesy  www.shumee.in)

History about Gudi Padva is clubbed with Karnata-Maratha-Telugu cultures. In Maharashtra, Gudi Padwa means first festival falling on the first day of first  Lunar month of Chaitra Shukla Pratipada according to Hindu Calendar. It is known as Ugadi (Chandramana) in Karnataka.
 Special food offerings are made while worshipping the Gudi.   Gudi = Flag is hoisted by Hindu Householders on this auspicious day. Gudi comprises: a new sari-like cloth with brocades in deep green or yellows colours, decorated with Neem and Mango leaves, garland of sugar crystal (Sakar Gathi) and (red) flowers. It is attached to a Bamboo Pole.  This pole top is covered by inverting a copper or steel Kalash as pinnacle. 

It is raised in commemoration of victory of Vikramaditya over Shakas (Scytians) when a New Era, styled Shalivahana Saka, was started.  There is controversy over the actual King Vikrama or Vikramaditya (Bhoja, Gupta or Chalukya dynasties) or Shalivahana of Satavahana dynasty of Pratisthanapura. 

Every year, mostly all newspapers bring out Special Souvenirs on this day.  Normally, nowadays people know the rituals but not the historical value. At such festival times, people think it is auspicious to buy gold and ornaments.  It has acquired commercial value as these Souvenirs depend on ads from Jewellers. 

-Hosabettu Vishwanath

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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