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.
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
Copy? Right - but kindly remember to acknowledge!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.