Monday, June 4, 2007
Reports said that sweet potato (see, Manjunath) was also brought to India by the Portuguese some five centuries ago along with chilies, beans, potato, cassava, breadfruit, sunflower, groundnut, pineapple, guava, sapota, passion fruit, cashew, tobacco, onion, garlic and so on. Sweet potato is reported to be native to the American continents since 5000 years. Archeological evidences suggest that it was cultivated ca.2400 BC in South America; and Columbus is said to have discovered it in the Caribbean region during AD1502.
Balasubramanian, a reader commenting on Manjunath’s cited posting on imported vegetables, elucidated an interesting custom of using native vegetables and materials in shraddha ceremonies of Tamil Brahmins. Sweet potatoes are one of the acceptable tubers used in the preparation of ceremonial food, indicating that sweet potato has attained nativity to our land since long time. They use bitter gourd, raw bananas, banana stem, colocasia, snake gourd, cluster beans, local cucumber, sweet potato, ginger, raw mango and black pepper. Similar ceremonies in Tulu households make use of specified vegetables and allied materials for the preparation of meal on the uttarakriya day. Raw bananas, ash gourds and inner part of plantain (banana) stem constitute the essential vegetables for obituary ceremonies in Tulu families, though modernization has tacitly replaced some of the traditionally accepted items with currently prevalent ‘desi’ items (like chillies for black pepper) in the menu. These obituary traditions appears to be quite ancient and some research is desirable on the nature and evolution of our traditional ceremonies.
Balasubramanian distinguishes between ‘valli kizhangu’(=sweet potato) and ‘mara kizhangu’(=cassava). Even in Tulu, cassava (tapioca) is called ‘mara kireng’, wherein ‘mara’(= tree )refers to the shrub of cassava. However the Tamil word sarkarai valli kizhangu is a clear translation of sweet ‘vine tuber’ inspired by the imported name of sweet potato.
Apart from its emphasized nativity to American continents, the sweet potato is being grown in diverse lands such as Polynesia, New Zealand and China. In Polynesia, New Zealand and Peru, it is called ‘Kumara’. The similarity of the word Kumara to the Sanskrit word may be coincidence. However, according to linguistics like Michael Witzel, the word ‘Kumara’ in Rigveda, composed in Indo-Aryan language (early Sanskrit) has been considered an extraneous word borrowed from uncertain language. How the sweet potato traveled into different continents is still an unsolved mystery.
The Tulu and Tamil words for the sweet potato are interesting. In Tulu it is ‘kireng’ (also, ‘kileng’ and other variants) and in Tamil it is ‘kilang’ (or with slightly different but allied pronunciation like kizhangu). Both the words mean the same: keeL or keer =the lower or underground; ang=part. The nomenclature is quite original and not an adopted word from the imported name of sweet potato. Most of the imported vegetables and fruits have names similar to or derived from their foreign names. The Malayalam word ‘kiraNNu’ is related to Tulu and Tamil words. However, Kannada and Telugu have the word ‘genasu’ for the sweet potato. In Tulu there are several related species of sweet potatoes cited in Tulu Nighantu (=dictionary) such as: Tuppe kireng, koLLi kireng, guddoli kireng, toonNa kireng, pottel kireng, muLLu kireng, apart from the kempu kireng (=red sweet potato), boldu kireng (=white sweet potato) and mara kireng(=cassava). I have seen tuppe kireng, a short variety of tuber named after tuppa, the butter. MuLLu(=spines) kireng refers to one with spines. Other species may still be surviving in our rural areas and our botanists should look into these research aspects. All these tubers, some of them rare and vanishing species, could not have been brought by the Portuguese. Tribals in India still consume several variety of tubers. Many of these tubers are possibly native to our land since ages.
Similarity of Tulu and Tamil words for sweet potato (or allied tuber) suggest certain antiquity to the said tuber. Available evidences indicate that proto-Tulu and proto-Tamil tribes coexisted in early Vedic times (ca. 1500 to 500BC) as suggested by borrowing of Tulu/Tamil words in Rigveda. (See, previous postings, No.26).The reference to edible tubers in the Ramayana (ca. 500-200 BC) only confirms this postulation.
Similar problems exist for other agricultural crops also. For example, peanut (groundnut) is also considered a native of Americas, but it is reported to be cultivated in China since 1500 BC. The antiquity of agricultural crops suggests that many of these are as old as our civilization, if not more. For example, how to fix the nativity of a now ubiquitous plant like coconut? Coconut (Cocos nucifera) is found on the earth since Miocene age ca. 20 million years ago, i.e. long before man appeared on this planet.
South American nativity of sweet potatoes and several other agricultural crops has been asserted based on the extensive archeological and paleo-botanical studies carried out in the Americas. Similar studies in Indian context are highly desirable for better understanding of our past.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
The story of Brahma, the deified hero who is considered as the creator and one of the Trinity (Trimurthy) and ultimately the generally forgotten God, is a very interesting episode in the origin and evolution of culture and religious beliefs in the Indian subcontinent as well as
Brahma is also one of the earliest Gods in
The Brahma worship initiated in the present northwestern
The Tulu Bermer (e in bermer is pronounced as initial e in ‘eligible’) [‘berme’(< brahma) is the singular form and ‘bermer’ is the plural or respective form of address] is a dialectical corruption of the Vedic word Brahma. This leads to the suggestion that Tulu tribes then living with Vedic scholars were mostly ‘illiterate’ folks, who modified the high sounding Vedic words to suit their preferred pronunciation styles. The possible coexistence of Tulu tribes with Vedic scholars at Pirak during Rigvedic times is suggested in the previous posting (No. 25) on Pala and antiquity of Tulu words.
We go back in the timeline to about 1900 BC in search of the origin of Brahma. Then
The educated few (Vedic tribes) initially composed hymns of Veda in their native Indo-Aryan language. Similarity of Indo-Aryan Vedic hymns and hymns of Iranian Avesta have lead experts like Michael Witzel to suggest that Indo Aryans might have migrated from
The character of Abraham has been described in the Bible (Genesis) and later retold in the Anacalypsis. Abraham (or the Brahma) was actually a mass hero, an uncommon leader of early tribes, born ca. 1900 BC, more or less during the chaotic time of earth movements, migration of major rivers and mass exodus of tribes from the
Abraham is said to have been lived for a period of 175 years. (The cited lifespan appears to be an exaggerated figure, characteristic of hero worship societies, nevertheless may imply that Abraham was a strong, dynamic character and had considerably long healthy lifespan.) Different tribes called him slightly differently depending upon the style of pronunciation native to them. He was called Abraham by Jews and subsequently by Christians. Arabs called him ‘Ibrahim’ whereas IndoAryans referred to him as Brahma. His father, ‘Terah’ originally came from a place known as Ur of Chaldees or Culdees, a part of
Terah had a beautiful daughter called ‘Sara’ (or ‘Saraswati’ for Indo- Aryans and cohabitants of Pirak and northwest
At that time, the present day Asia minor-Indian subcontinent region consisting of
The people of Pirak worshipped him as a hero, the creator of the tribes. Thus original Brahma as worshipped by Tulu tribes was a hero straddling on a horse. This leads me to suggest that Abraham was a horse rider. The original concept of horse seated Brahma was transported by migrant proto-Tulu tribes from Pirak to Tulunad. (see postings 4 and 5).The Bermer idol in garodis of Tulunad even today consist of idol of brahma (abraham>berme) in the form of soldier seated on a horse. The garodis, the ancient institutions of Tulunad, established to propagate the art of body building, physical development and techniques of warfare, continue to have brahma as worshipping idols. The legendary Tulu heroes Koti and Channayya worshipped the Bermer according to the paD-dana folklore. There were many brahmasthans in Tulunad in olden days that have been dilapidated or destroyed on the wake of people changing over to Shiva, Shakti or
Vedic tribes venerated his legends as Brahma, the almighty, the creator of universe and incorporated the concept into Vedas. The word ‘Brahma’ gave rise to ‘braahman’(=educated person), ‘brahmaanDa’ (=universe), ‘brahma kalasha (=the holy pot used in the installation of temples and also the connected ceremony)’, brahma-ratha (=large temple chariot), brahma-rakshsa (= a huge demon), brahma-sthana (=temple of brahma) etc. The words root ‘brih’ to mean big or great was developed as a consequence of Brahma worship.
Brahma worship was at its peak during the composition and writing of Ramayana (ca.300 BC to 200AD). Then Brahma became a fusion of a creator deity with the impersonal absolute Brahman in a more popular and personalized form according to indology experts. S.S.N.Murthy (2003) of
However, the subsequent ascent of Shiva and later Vishnu worships sent the initial God Brahma into the background.
Thus the Tulu concept of horse riding Brahma may be older than the ten or four headed Brahma depicted in Ramayana and the Tulu tribes were not aware of the transformation of initial horse riding Brahma into four headed God. In that case, it appears that Tulu tribes migrated from Pirak and northern
Footnote on Pela and Peja
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