Saturday, March 31, 2007

10.Evolution of Culinary habits

Manjunath has made an important revelation on the evolution of food preferences and culinary habits of south Indians in general, since last five centuries. Based on his reference in Malayalam literature, he cited that the Portuguese imported several, now commonplace, agricultural crops to India that changed altogether or led to marked evolution of the culinary scenario. The list of crops imported by the Portuguese includes chilies, sweet potato and tapioca apart from the known vegetables and fruits like pineapple, guava, papaya, sapota, cashew, bread fruit, sunflower, maize, beans, tobacco ground nut, some gourds, ….etc.

I was surprised that the imported list included the humble sweet potato. In childhood days, when my granny used to tell me the story of Ramayana, that Rama and Laxmana ate tubers and roots in the forest, I conveniently imagined them eating sweet potatoes, which are, somehow, also edible in the raw form.

But sweet potato is native to South America, Manjunath assures me. Yes, sweet potato was introduced in India by the Portuguese but various other similar edible tubers were there in our land well before the arrival of the South American sweet potato. Words in south Indian languages are a revelation. In Tulu sweet potato is kireng (or kereng). Some Tulu variants may also have kileng. Tamil equivalent kilenk is also close to the Tulu word. The Tulu word kir (=lower, or under the soil)+ang(=part), distinctly refers to the below the ground buried growth of the tuber within the soil. The Tamil word apparently has also the similar derivation. Malayalam has also an analogous word kilannu.

The Tulu Nigantu lists a number of kireng (subterranean tuber) species like: tuppe kireng, mullu kireng, tooNa kireng, guddoLi kireng, koLLi kireng, pottel kireng, NaaTi kireng, apart from the usual kempu kireng (red sweet potato), bolpu kireng (white sweet potato) and the mara kireng (tapioca).

Apart from the numerous native species we have, the Tulu and Tamil words for the edible tuber kireng / keelank speaks of the antiquity of the tuber in India. First, the mutual influence of Tulu and Tamil words should take the time machine back to early period of the Christian era. The early Dravidian languages, proto-Tulu and proto-Tamil may have separated somewhere during 3rd century BC- 3rd century AD period. I deduce that this proto-Tamil -proto-Tulu co-existence and mutual influence was at the Pirak- Multan evolutionary stage (ca.1700 BC) that I discussed in some of the previous postings. After 4th century AD Tulu is closely associated (geographically and socio-politically) with early Kannada. Hence, after this period (4th century AD ) we can expect mutual influence of Kannada and Tulu, rather than Tamil and Tulu. Because after that period Tulu-Tamil contacts are limited to short term political warfare during ca.7th or 8th century AD, other than usual trade relations. Incidentally, Kannada has a different word genasu for the said tuber, totally unconnected with Tulu-Tamil words.

Second point of interest is that for most of the imported vegetables, tubers and fruits south Indians have retained their original names in the land origin like, pineapple, beans, cabbage, etc. But the term sweet potato was not inducted into local languages. It appears that the name kireng was also extended (ca five centuries ago) to the imported sweet potato which was similar in features to some of our native kirengs.

Shocking news is that chilies are in the said imported list. That means our Indian food was lacking in hot - khara- taste with we are familiar with now.

Again, another Tulu word uppaD (=pickle) has something to say. UppaD is now a popular food accessory, often the basic one in poor families. Basic summer food in many rural Tulu families, often also preferred by the rich, consists of boiled rice porridge (ganji) with uppaD. I used to wonder since childhood days why this uppaD which is characteristically rich in chilies, speaks only of uppu(=salt) +aD (=food preparation) .I was perplexed because in the word there is mention of chilies, the important ingredient in that dish.

With the revelation that chilies came only some five centuries ago, I have got the answer why pickle is named only uppaD! Our ancient uppaD did not have any ingredient of chilies. It was only the vegetable (raw mango, limbu, cucumber, raw jack fruit etc) with salt.

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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