When Early Tulu tribes migrating from Pirak region came and settled in Karavali (coastal tract) of present Karnataka around 750 -600 BC, they found the coastal tract was already inhabited by civilized people living in village type settlements with agricultural, farming and pastoral occupations. The whole of southern India, especially all hospitable river banks and estuaries were inhabited by proto-Munda tribes.
Let us use the word ‘Proto-Munda (south)’ to denote these aborigines of southern India because the generally prevailing socio-anthropological impression is that there are no Munda (language/ culture) groups in southern India at present. But there are distinct and strong evidences for their presence in southern India and by the time Early Tulu and Dravidian tribes arrived on the south Indian scene ca.750-600.
The Munda tribes are currently distributed in parts of central and eastern India. This present limited distribution of Munda tribes may be only the relics of a bygone vast empire of Proto-Munda groups that were spread all over India during the Neolithic period. They evolved into several subgroups and sub languages of their own before the arrival of relatively later entrants. The civilized among the Proto-Munda tribes during the course of subsequent history, were eventually assimilated with later entrants into the region like Dravidians and Indo-Aryans.
Early Tulu and Proto-Munda encounter
Early Tulu tribes initially settled in favorable estuaries of rivers proximal to the sea. Probably the estuaries and river banks of Sharavathi (around Honnavar), Swarna-Seetha (around Hoode-Hangarakatta), Haladi (around Barkur-Kundapur), formed the initial settlements of Early Tulu tribes judging by the distribution of major ancient primary settlements (moolasthanas).Adequate archeological supporting data may not be available for want of detailed studies or because of destructions due to extensive rainfall, fluctuation in the sea levels, changes in the river courses and floods that characterize the region.
Proto-Munda tribes must have been a dominant cultural group in Tulunad when people with ‘Tulu’ tag arrived from the north. As the Early Tulu tribes encountered Proto-Munda tribes, the former noticed that the latter are relatively a shorter breed, a physiology characterized by broad foreheads, Munda were wearing different attires or dressing styles. Early Tulu people coined several words containing Munda affixes to denote items new or strange to them but common for the pre-existing Mundas! Obviously,these words are not from Munda language but coined by early Tulu people.
So Tulu language acquired a few new words like ‘mundu’1 (= a sheet of cloth traditionally wrapped around the hips) ‘mundas’(a sheet of cloth wrapped around the head), ‘mundu’2 (a measure about five feet, average size of a Munda man in those days),’mundu’3 (=knee),’munda’(=forehead) etc. (The Munda tribes apparently had prominent, high or wide foreheads and their knees were exposed, unlike the new comers from colder region who covered their entire body in the beginning).
Newcomers from the northwest were of tall breed. They called themselves ‘aaL’ (=literally means one person) One ‘aaL’ represented six feet of height.
Both these relative height measures of ‘mundu’ and ‘aaL’ co-exist even now in rural Tulu usage.
Tulu tribes slowly encroached into the Karavali inlands, where Munda tribes already had built settlements. For convenience of refernce, Tulu tribes named these Munda dominated settlements like Mundadi, Mundukur,Mundaje etc.
‘Munda’ related words in Tulu
Some of the Munda related words coined in Tulu language are cited below:
1. Names of Munda villages/settlements:
Mundukur, Mundagaru, Mundagodu, Mundadi, Mundodi, Mundaje, Mundur, Mundrupadi, Mundaka, Kallamundukur etc
2.Names of Munda plants:
‘Mundevu’ (Pandanus utilis), Mundu tevu, Munda kalli,
3. Names for Munda Attire:
‘Mundu’(waiste cloth, a standard part of rural attire even now in southwestern coastal India), ‘Mundas’ (=a native headgear, fashioned by rolling and tying a longer cloth around the head),
4. Names of Munda measure:
1.one ‘Mundu’=about five feet. (Average height of a short Munda man).
Possibly Munda men were of shorter stature than the newly arrived Tulu tribes.
2.one ‘AaL’= about six feet (An average height of a tall man).
5. Names of parts of the human Body:
‘mundu’= knee, ‘munda’ =forehead. (Kasha ) ‘mundana’ =shaving head.
(The word ‘munda’ in Kannada refers to the trunk or the body part below the head, as against runda=head .
6. Name of Tribe/language: Mundala.
Books for Reference
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