Friday, October 12, 2007

45. Origin of the word ' Bant '

Like ‘Tulu’, the word 'Bant', is also derived from the African roots. The word ‘bant’ is also found in other southern Indian Dravidian languages like Kannada and Telugu. Presently, the word bunt refers to a particular community in Tulunadu. However, earlier in the history the word 'bant', (also written as bunt) meant and was a profession. It was a profession of trusted soldiers or body guards to the kings and chieftains. The ancient Tulu heroes Koti and Chennaya from baidyer/ billava caste were professional bants (=body guards) for Ballala chieftains according to Pad-danas. Similarly Hanumantha (or Hanuman) was called Rama’s banta in the sense of (a) trusted and (b) powerful personal assistant. The usage of the word in Ramayana also denotes the antiquity of the meaning of the word.
My earlier postings on Bantu>Bunt word derivation, apparently conveyed an erroneous impression that our 'Bunts' are directly derived from the African group of 'Bantu's. My earlier discussions were focused on the origin of the word and not the Tulu community of the same name. To avoid confusions let me use the spelling ‘bant’ to refer to the basic word and ‘bunt’ when referring to the community.
The origin of the word 'bant' is quite ancient (4000-2000 BC), having primary roots in several African and Mediterranean languages (like Sumerian and Akkadian etc), that have influenced in the evolution of Dravidian languages including Tulu. The Pad-dana style of our characteristic Tulu folk oral- literature itself has deeper roots in the analogous ‘oratures’ (=oral+ literature) popular in the African heritage.
The name “Bantu” in Africa refers to an ethnic group of 400 tribes and their languages. Swahili is one of the popular Bantu languages. Dr. Wilhem H. I. Bleek (1827-1875) is credited with naming these tribes as Bantu group in the year 1862. Thus the naming of the Bantu group may be relatively recent, but the original root word of ‘bant’ is quite ancient. The present African word ‘Bantu’ (ba+ ntu) now means 'people' in Bantu languages. And the same word ‘bant’ (= persons) acquired by proto-Tulu and related proto-Dravidian tribes that migrated ultimately to the southern India, has been evolved to represent ‘reliable, strong person’.

Tulu Bants in Kannada-Telugu armies
Tulu people used the word 'bant' or 'bante' initially for a professional body guard, usually trained in the ‘garodi’(=ancient gymnasium of Tulunadu) of martial arts. The word has similar meaning in Kannada and Telugu also.
The Tulu chieftains, Alupas had socio-political and matrimonial alliance with Kannada kings since the period of Kadambas. And the Tulu ‘bants’ served in the army of Kadamba and Chalukya Kannada kings as soldiers and bodyguards, between the period of 5th and 10th centuries.
In Telugu Mudiraju / Tamil Mutharaya communities, of Andhra and Tamilnadu, bants form a subcaste. Mudiraju people were fishermen, cultivators, special soldiers, warriors and ruling class at different times in the history. It is reported that Vellala (<.Ballala) bants migrated from Tulunad Karavali to Andhra in the historical period. This was because a part of Andhra was governed by Kannada Chalukya kings during the 7th to 8th centuries AD. During their reign, Chalukya kings introduced script for Telugu language based on the then existing medieval Kannada script. (As a consequence, the Telugu script bears resemblance to Kannada script even today)
Bunt as community name
Since a large number of Tulu farmers, (Okkaliga/ Nadava/Nair) were professional bants during the Tulu and Dravidian history, the word was subsequently adopted as a community name. The Tulu bunts has become a composite community group now, apparently evolved from several streams of people, during the history of Tulunad like Okkaligas (farmers), Alupas (> Alva), Nairs, Nadavas, and converts from Jainism.


  1. Just like Munda-s, Ethiopian ancestry of Dravidians does not have any genetic support. That is if you talk about Proto-Tuluva-s around 6000BP. Yes, 60-70 thousand years back our ancestors migrated from that region but that is true for all the communities outside Africa.

    Again, if at all we find any ancestry it should be among ruling classes. Munda Y-chromosome O2a and Ethiopian major Y-chromosome E3b is hardly observed among Dravidians.

    However, Munda is one of the surnames of Bunt-s. Therefore, Munda and Ethiopian ruling families merging with dominant caste in this region can't be ruled out as long as we have linguistic support for that.

  2. I am right now not sure of the date of migration out of Ethiopia. I guess it is around 2000BC,the proclaimed 'bad environment' period that drove many early tribes out.
    What I am convinced is that proto-Tulu tribes had some 'identity' and 'name-tag' right at that time,before migration from Ethiopia.That is to say either (a) proto-Dravidians already had split into proto-Tulu and proto-Tamil sects before migration and/or (b)similar friendly sects adhered together as proto-Dravidians.
    Further, I feel those who came to Tulunad were not just the ruling families.Ruling was never a systematic thing in Tulunad, mostly it was chietainship (Palegar style or 'Guthu' style of landlordship). Munda have been assimilated into Tulu (and possibly other Dravidians also)in number of ways. Munda among Bunts may be only a tip of the iceberg.I have gathered some Munda words in Tulu,shall present later.
    By the by, please cite some of the genome studies in Mundas and Ethiopians for my references.

  3. Visit
    for the proof of Scythian origin of Mudaliars, Bunts and Nairs.

  4. There are evidences of multi lingualism in ancient India, also Ramayana of Valmiki saya that Hanuman spoke with Sita in a language other than Sanskrit so that Ravana would not understand.
    What language it must have been??
    apart from this, I want to know is whether the 'Vanara' tribe spoke Tulu or Kannada or even Telugu as their mother tongue?
    Thanks in advance.

  5. There are evidences on existence of several ancient tribes in India. Most of these tribes had independent languages of their own.Some of these have become extinct or partly absorbed by later dominant languages.
    If we accept that Ramayana was a very ancient tribal story probably of Austro-Asiatic culture in India, then it seems the languages in use in that period may have been older than the present set of Dravidian languages.
    We shall discuss some of these ancient/ extinct/absorbed languages like 'Paishachi' in forthcoming posts.


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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