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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...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Language and culture

Language and culture are sensitive and emotional issues. We all have grown up with certain set of ideas and it will be difficult to give up our clichés when somebody suggests anything contrary to our coveted opinions.

Anthropologists are almost unanimous that early man originated in Africa and his tribes migrated to different parts of the world. Rosenberg study(2002) based on heterozygosity or genetic diversity suggests that human beings originated in East Africa, around Kenya, where oldest modern human fossils were found, and migrated to other parts of the world. The Harappa –Mohenjodaro and Sind/ Baluchistan area where early Indian civilizations are recorded also along the paths of migration of human beings.

Dravidians as well as Aryans have settled in India since say 3500 years. They have evolved languages and cultural trends that are well established by now. It should not mean that we all Dravidians and Aryans were originated and evolved within this declared motherland only.

It is just like the comfortable experience we enjoy in the house or the town in which we live and wherein many of our ancestors had have lived. Just because several generations of our ancestors lived in this house or town and etched unforgettable pages in the history should not mean that at some point of early period of history, one of our primal ancestors came from some other town and settled here.

If we believe that human populations migrated, it is taken for granted that the proto languages they were speaking and the cultural habits they were accustomed to also migrated with them to different parts of the world.

6.Bermer II

In response to my blog on Bermer, Manjunath at Incoherent theories suggests that Tulu Bermer (u) was a later adaptation of Brahma in Tulunadu. The Bermer of Tulunadu is not a Boota (spirit) and now is not worshipped like other Gods or Bootas anywhere in the coast regularly. Earlier, the Bermer was definitely a worshipping diety in the early period (ca. 500 BC to 14 Century AD) for Tulu people, as (partly) evident from folklores like that of Koti-Chennaya. With the ascent and dominance of Shiva, Shakthi (Durga) and Krishna cults in Tulunadu, the primal Bermer was slowly forgotten. In many villages, dilapidated and neglected Bermer temples existed until seventies. Subsequently, the title of creator Bermer has been shifted gradually to another powerful concept in Tulunad, Nagaaradhane (Naga worship), and Naga God is often referred to as Naga Bermer.

The available historical data suggests that Brahmins were brought to Tulunadu ca. 4 century AD by Kadamba king Mayura Varma to conduct regular puja ceremonies at temples of Tulunadu. The installation of Shiva temples took place during the period as expounded by Dr.Gururaja Bhat on the basis of dating temple idols. Brahma of later date, a member of Trimurthis, was a four faced creator whereas primal Brahma Tulu/Vedic was a horse riding male God.

The Bermer was worshipped as God of creation by Tulu and other tribes dwelling around Pirak-Mehrgarh areas (dated ca. 1700 BC). At that period the creator must have been visualized (especially by the Tulu tribes) as a heroic male figure straddling on a horse. Mysterious horse figures reported from Pirak archeological sites possibly represent the creator Bermer worshipped by Tulu tribes in that area. Horse was an animal prevalent in that region. It represented power, agile ness, activity and efficiency. (Then horse was not a common animal within India). It is not certain whether the contemporary and coeval Vedic tribes also conceived Brahma as a horse riding God. But the early Vedic texts have attached paramount significance to the concept of the Almighty Brahman. In this regard, the origin of the word ‘Brahma’ (as cited in Incoherent theories) is pertinent.

Br (semetic root) = to create. > creator (Brahma)

Br (Sanskrit) =to expand, swell > brahmanda, expanding universe.

The rivalry between Vedic Aryans and Iranians is documented by Michael Witzel. As a consequence of rivalry between two dominant factions antagonists of Brahmas followers created Abraham, in the same way as Suras had ahura/ asuras pitted against them.

Brahma (Vedic & Tulu tribes) > <>

5.Mundkur, Munder

Mundkur is a small village, in Udupi district, Karnataka, situated on the bank of Mulki (Shambavi) River on Kinnigoli - Balman road. The place is known for a Durga Parameswari temple. According to Dr Gururaja Bhat the worshipping Durga idol installed originally during ca. 13 century AD. The picture below presents a scene of temple car festival during the annual festivity of the temple. The ornate wooden car or chariot is topped with a globular wood and cane superstructure, decorated with numerous red and white flags. The colourful and vibrant car festivals have continued to inspire devotees since years.

Traditional anecdotes connected with the temple describe that one bad rakshasa called Mundakasura was pestering people in this region. The Godess Lord Durga Parameswari killed him and brought solace to the people, and so on.

Mundkur or Mundakur village is known as Munder in Tulu. I presume that the name Munder came into being on account of the fact that it was a early settlement of Munda tribes in Tulunadu. There are many villages in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts that carry the name of Munda tribes: Munduru, Kalla Mundkur, Mundaje, Mundodi, Mundadi, Mundoli etc. The reference to tribal term Mund- is specific in all these place names. Linguistic and anthropological studies have suggested that Munda tribes of Austro-Asiatic origin predated Aryans and Dravidians in India.

These villages appear to relics of bygone settlements of earliest recorded settlers in our land. Besides, one of the tribals in Tulunadu are popularly known as Mundaladakulu (= Mundala people).

Monday, February 19, 2007

4 . Brahma worship: Brahma and Bermer

The place name Pirak, where several early Indian tribes, including Vedic and Tulu tribes lived formed words pirak in Tulu, prak in Prakrit and Sanskrit that carries the meaning ‘ancient’. Probably, the words were formed after these tribes migrated from the pirak area into present Indian lands.

All these tribes possibly worshipped Brahma or the Brahman (referred to in Vedas and Upanishads). Tulu people called their early God, Bermer (the respectful word for the Brahma, pronounced as berm’er). The –er is a plural indicative or respect indicative suffix in Tulu. The migrating Tulu tribes later carried Bermer concept to their Tulunad homeland. The Bermer was the prominent God for Tulu people for centuries. Bermere gunda or Brahmasthana (=Brahmas shrine) were existing in many Tulunad villages till seventies or eighties. There may still be some relics of them in remote villages.The lyrical folk literature of Tulu people, pad-dhana, describe Tulu heros Koti and Chennaya worshipping the God Bermer. The Garodis (traditional gymnasiums of Tulunad ) had idols of the God Bermer. Interestingly, the idols of Bermer, in most cases I know, were represented by a human male figure mounted on horse. Italian tourist Della Valle who visited Queen Abbakka Devi at Ullal, a small coastal town south of Mangalore, Karnataka, during AD 1623, also described a similar idol of Bermer, within a small shrine in the area.

With the ascent of Shiva and Durga worships in Tulunad the Bermer concept is slowly vanishing. However, the word bermer was further extended as suffix denoting God to Naga bermer (=Naga /serpent God) also devotedly worshipped by Tulu people.

There is a Brahma temple in Pushkar, Rajasthan and this has been described as the only Brahma temple in India. However, the discussions above clarify that Brahma or Bermer was a prominent God for several early Indian tribes.

It appears that the concept of Brahma or Bermer worship has evolved with the passage of time. The relics of early clay horse statues found in the Pirak region by archeological excavation teams (ca.1700 BC), possibly represent the Bermer as worshipped by Tulu people until recently. The original Brahma, a human male figure straddled on a horse, might have been worshipped as the Creator or Almighty by early Indian (Tulu and Vedic) tribes. Subsequently, as a consequence of domination of Shiva and Vishnu cults, the original horse-seated Brahma might have been evolved into a four faced, Chaturmukha Brahma, with passage of time. Thus we can distinguish the early horse riding Bermer and the subsequent four faced neo-Brahma stages in Brahma worship in Indian subcontinent.

The Pushkar region is a place of ancient civilization where early Brahma/ Bermer was being worshipped. With passage of time, the appearance of Brahma has also underwent change in Pushkar. The Brahma temple in Pushkar now presents a four faced Brahma idol.

Even with evolution of his appearance, the Brahma has retained his position as creator of the world in Indian mythology. However, with dominance of Shaiva, Shaktha and Vaishnava philosophies, the concept of the original creator Brahma as supreme God has taken a back seat.

The migrant Tulu tribes carried Bermer concept with them to Tulunad, before the Shaivism made major impact in southern India. Shiva worship in Tulunad, as suggested by dating of linga/shiva idols, were initiated in the early part of Christian era.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

3. Pirak, Prak and Prakrit

Pirak village in present day Baluchistan province of Pakistan is a place known for relicts of ancient settlements and civilization, estimated to about 1700 BC. Remains of statues of horses are specially reported from this region. The place is geographically proximal to the Sumeria or the southern Iraq (refer, post 2 below).

Some of the early Tulu, Kannada and other Dravidian tribes that migrated from the Sumerian region as a consequence of natural calamities or famine there, possibly settled in the Pirak area. This was an important place where several cultural groups or tribes coexisted. It appears that migrant tribes from Sumeria, Africa and Caucasian regions settled in this flourishing cultural centre.

It can be emphatically proposed that the Tulu tribes were distinctly there. A solid evidence in favour of this argument is that the word Pirak has been retained even today in the Tulu language. In Tulu pirak stands for something of ancient days (For ex: Avu baari pirakdaya! (=It is of very ancient days!), Pirakda kaladavu (=of ancient times).

Secondly, there were other tribes (Vedic Aryans?), who spoke a language known as pirak or prak in other areas. Later Prak language was further refined and adapted for writing and thus Sanskrit came into being. The Prak language, probably after the evolution of Sanskrit, was known as Prakrit.

The influence of Prak language (prakrit) on Tulu language is very strong. Many Tulu and Kannada words have been derived from prakrit. Similarly, it is also possible that words of early Tulu/Kannada language may have influenced formation of many words in prakrit.

2. Traces of Tulu -Kannada-Dravida words in early Sumerian language

Sumerian civilization flourished about 3500 to 2000 BC in the Mesopotamia region of northern Africa and Asia Minor, between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. John A.Halloran has reconstructed the Sumerican lexicon and its version 3 is available in the internet.Sumerian language was considered to the spoken and written language in what is now the southern Iraq, during the period 3400 to 1800BC.

Some of the words cited in Halloran's Sumerian lexicon have similar words in Tulu and other Dravidan languages.

Infact, origin of the word Tulu has been disputed for long.It is considered to represent something connected with water. 1.Tuluku (verb) in Kannada means to swish or oscillate or overflow (like water). 2.Tuluve in Tulu also means soft fruit especially refers to ripened soft watery jack fruits.

In the Sumerian lexicon the following entries are found:

1.Tul = public fountain, cistern, lowland or well .
Tu=wash , bath.(ie. activity connected with water)

2.Tu-lu = to make loose or limp.

(Numbers 1, 2 ..shown for relevant comparisons)

Ur or Uru (=city) was a major city during Sumerian civilizatin times. The word Uru or Ooru ( village or township) has got into almost all Dravidan languages including Tulu.Possibly the the name of the once famous Sumerian city was extended to all civilized settlements later on.It is a common suffix now in most of the place names in southern India. Mangalur,Bengalur,Mundkur,Arialur,Trichur,Gudur etc.

Possibly, the suffix -ur became -pur or -pura in Sanskrit. Jaipur,Udaipur,Mathura,Nagpur, Shivpura, etc.

There are also other Sumerian/Dravidian words sharing similar sounding verb -ur. Sumerian
Uru (2) (= firewood.) has similar words in Tulu, Kannada (Uri- is to burn) and other Dravidian languages. Similarly, Sumerian Uru (3)(=to till or grow) has Urpini/Ulpini (Tulu), Ulu(=to till) in Kannada.

One of the numbers,"five" in Sumerian was Ia or i (=five).It is ain in Tulu and aidu in Kannada.

Sig(=sun burnt clay tiles) has analogous Sike or seke (=sunny sultriness) and Sigadi (=fire place/oven) in Tulu and Kannada.

There may be more such analogous words in Sumerian and Tulu/Kannada/Dravidian languages.

The analogy is cited here to suggest that some early Tulu,Kannada and other Dravidian tribes might have migrated from Sumerian region to India.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Tulu Language: Origin & Evolution

Tulu is a widely spoken language in coastal Karnataka,India. However, Tulu speaking people have been spread in many parts of the world, as a consequence of globalization and increase of opportunities.
My father late Budhananda K. Shivalli compiled extensive data on philology of Tulu language during the period 1977-1981 and his book "Tulu Patero" (written in Tulu language, using Kannada script) was posthumously published at Mangalore in the year 2004.
In the same publication (Tulu Patero), I wrote an editorial on the evolution of Tulu language and culture based on the available published data and analytical interpretations. One of the concepts I discussed in the said editorial was that Tulu tribes originated some 4000 years ago in northern part of African continent and possibly due certain sudden climatic, meteorological or other changes some of the Tulu tribes migrated to Baluchistan region.
Pirak town in Baluchistan ( now part of Pakistan) was a centre of civilization about 1700 BC. The word 'Pirak' has been retained in Tulu language signifying 'ancient'. I deduced that Tulu tribes subsequently migrated from Pirak to coastal Karnataka through what are now known as States of Rajasthan,Gujarat Madhya Pradesh and Maharastra.
Interestingly, the word Tulu has remained in certain African regions and in Afghanistan. Deratu Tulu is a famous Ethhiopian (female) athlete. An Afghan TV channel is known as Tulu TV.
Now I want to gather more information on this word TULU.
I request learned people who know these African/ Afghan regions and languages may kindly help me more information on these lines.


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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