Sunday, April 13, 2008

108. Koraga language: A primer

A simple word can prompt different people to think in different dimensions and probe different shades of meanings leading to better appreciation of the genesis and evolution of the words.
The derivation of the word kavu:>kapu / kayu in one of my previous post elicited some further analysis by Manjunath where he concluded that ‘kavu’ could be a Dravidian word. The word ‘kavu’ has been cited as a Koraga word (Ramakrishna Shetty, 2007). The frequency of occurrence of the words ‘Kavu’ and ‘Kapu’ as place names in Karavali Tulunad tempted me to conclude that Tulu word ‘Kapu’ has been derived from the pre-Tulu word ‘Kavu’
The word ‘kavu’ has several shades of meaning, as reminded by Hosabettu Viswanath, which includes (a) heat (b) husk(c) dark-coloured cloth or soil -‘kavi’ (d) to wait etc., apart from the place names that mean (e) reserved area (common in place names such as Kavu, Kavur, Kavugoli, Kapu, Kapikad, Modankapu, etc).

Early Munda groups
Normally, the Indian people have been classified into Dravidian, Aryan and Austro-Asiatic origins. In the earlier posts I have tried to support the existing theories that the point that Aryan and Dravidian ancestors immigrated into India during the period 1900-800 BC. At the time of arrival of these Aryan and Dravidian groups, the ancient India was not an empty zone. It was already manned by inhabitants who are generally designated as Austro-asiatics .The Austro-asiatics are at presented represented by Munda group of people who are distributed mainly in Chotanagpur and surrounding tribal areas. Various evidences and cultural vestiges in Tulu and other Dravidians suggest that these tribal groups were once distributed widely in different parts of India. To account for the pre-Tulu and pre-Dravidian lingual-cultural elements, I introduced the concept of “Early Munda tribes” that inhabited whole of southern India, especially at the time of arrival of Dravidians ca. 800-600BC.Somehow the phrase ‘Early Munda groups’ has confused many of the readers because of the present Munda tribes whose present distribution has been reduced to certain tribal pockets of India. Added to this, tribal groups like Koragas and Bhils are usually not classified as part of the present Munda tribes.

Early Indians tribes
My concept of introducing the phrase ‘Early Munda groups’ was to represent all those tribes that inhabited India before the arrival of Dravidians/Aryans into India. Since the usage of the phrase (‘Early Munda groups’) in my earlier posts has lead to confusion, I would to replace it with the phrase ‘Early Indian tribes’ to encompass the whole gamut of early settlers in India before 1900-800 BC periods.
These distinctions may be of help in further detailed philological and genetic studies of our evolution.

Koragas are a distinct usually dark coloured tribal group that inhabit the Karavali area. It is not certain right now whether these tribes should be classified under Austro-Asiatics or under those migrated from Africa during the initial or subsequent stages of human evolution. Evidences of presence of relict Koraga words in Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam suggests that the Koragas groups thrived in different parts of southern India. Kurumba, Korava, Korama, Kuruvan and other tribes may be variants of Koragas of Tulunad. Kannada researcher, Sham. Baa.Joshi has suggested that the Kannada word ‘Kuruba’ (=Shepard)is derived from ‘Kurumba,’ wherein the word ‘Kuru’ stands for hilly region.
Koraga Subgroups: Several subgroups have been distinguished among Koragas of Karavali zone.Edgar Thurston (1975) recognized Ande Koraga,Vastrada Koraga,Tippi Koragaand Panti Koraga subgroups. D.N. Shankara Bhat (1971) recognized Ande Koraga, Onti Koraga, Tappu Koraga and Moodu Koraga,. Aravinda Malagatti and Odeyar Heggade distinguished Ande Koraga, Soppu Koraga, Chippu Koraga, Mundu Koraga and Bakuda Koraga. The 'bakuda', apparently is also a part of the Munda group of tribes.Ramakrishna Shetty (2007) concluded that the Koraga is not a sub-dialect of Tulu and it is an independent language. The following analysis of Koraga words is based on the cited research paper by Ramakrishna Shetty.

Koraga words adapted into Tulu language
During the spatial- temporal evolution, the Tulu ancestral people have borrowed several words that were in usage among the native Koraga tribes. Some of the Koraga words that were adapted into Tulu language are:

gaDi1 (=wound),
gaDi 2 (=mark made on the land to distinguish boundary),
koTTa>koTya (=hut,shed),
booru (=sleep)>booru (to fall),
ijji.>ee (thou,you),
nikal:>nikul (=you people),
nakal.>.nama (=we people),
ayi:>aye (=he).
pakki =bird),
dina (=day),
pooja (=worship)
pari.> par (=drink)
oli.>olipu/leppu(=to call)
kudpu.>kudpu (=to peck)
kavu.>kapu (=to wait, reserve?)
laak.>lakk(=to get up)
kall.>kalpu(=to learn)

.. etc.

Koraga words adapted into Kannada language
Adoption of Koraga words was not restricted to Tulu people. Ancestors of Kannada Tamil and Malayalam ancestors have borrowed Koraga word from their respective areas. Some of the Koraga words that were adapted into Kannada language are:

gaDi 2(=mark made on the land to distinguish boundary),
nakal:>naavu (=We),
nikal.>neevu (=you people),
kavu.>kayu(=to wait)
kall.>kali(=to learn)
kel.>keLu (to listen,hear)
ganDe.>ganDu (=male)
puDdu/ huDdu.>hiDi.(=to hold)


Koraga Weekdays
The immigrant Tulu ancestral people brought the names for seven days of the week from the north. Thus the Tulu week names are similar to or derived from Sanskrit (or Prakrit derived) week-names based on names of solar planets and the Sun. Aitara (<.adityavara), Somara(<.Somavara), Angare(<.Angaraka is Mars),Budaara(<.Budhvara) etc.
But Koraga week names are distinctly different and not imitated from Prakrit/Tulu week names. For example, Koraga tribes use the word ‘Pooja dina’ for Sunday! It leads us to conclude that words like pooja(=worship), dina(=day), pakki (=bird), kodanTi(=wooden club) etc are originally derived from Koraga language.

Week days in Koraga language
Sunday= Pooja dina
Monday= Kunjar dina
Tuesday=Gadige dina
Wednesday=Pakki dina
Thursday=kodanTi dina
Saturday=Maral dina

Koraga community words
Similarly Koraga words that refer to certain communities of the Tulunad throw light on some ancient words. For example the word ‘Ajal’ refers to ‘authority, jurisdiction, religious rights ‘ etc (Tulu NighanTu,Vol.I,1988).Before the arrival of Tulu/Dravida tribes into Karavali, the ‘Billava’ (a part of the ancient Bhil tribes) were the authorized people to conduct the religious ceremonies in the Early Indian society. So the Koraga tribes used the words 'Ajalai' and 'Ajalthi' to refer to the religious authority of the Billava men and women during the pre-Vedic days. It is a pity that the word ‘Ajal’ has lost its original shade of meaning with passage of time.
The ‘Baida’ were the native doctors of that time. Hence the word ‘baida’ in Koraga means medicine! The ‘Baider’ sect later merged into Billava-Poojari community.
The fishermen constructed ‘pattana’ (colony) or ‘patna’ in their fishing villages and settlements. Hence they were referred to as ‘Patle’ (one from Patna) and ‘Patandi’( woman from the Patna)

Community words in Koraga langauge
Ajalai= Poojari billawa
Ajalthi=Billawa woman
Bonkudadd=Odari woman
kanchald=Christian woman
Korre korai=Koraga male
Korr korti=Koraga woman

Pre-Dravida Koraga
It appears that the Koraga may be one of the pre-Dravida languages that supplied root words to Tulu and other Dravidian languages during the course of lingual evolution. Assimilation of the pre-Dravidian roots in the Dravidian languages must have taken place in the course of time after 800-600 BC.

Ramakrishna T Shetty (2007) “Tulu-Koraga Bhashe”(in Kannada)..In: ‘Tulu Sahitya Charitre’.(Eds: AV Navada et al), pp.300-307. Kannada University, Hampi.


  1. I would to replace it with the phrase ‘Early Indian tribes’ to encompass the whole gamut of early settlers in India before 1900-800 BC periods.

    That is certainly better, Ravi! I am all for it.

    Anything is better than those pathetic categorizations based on pseudo scientific anthropometric studies. People have grown tall and short. People have changed their head shape (even in the last 20-30 years) without any external gene flow but purely because of food habits and geograhpical reasons. And we have categories that is somehow deemed binding forever based on your shape.

    Regarding, Ramakrishna Shetty's study, Isn't it going to be controversial that fundamental words like avanu, adu are borrows from Koraga languages?

    what about pakki and dina?

  2. Manju, I am sorry for conveying a wrong impression. Dr Ramakrishna Shetty has given only the basic Koraga words . The 'controversial' proposal is entirely mine! He is not to be blamed!
    If we agree that Koragas are part of the 'Early Indian Tribes' that lived and evolved in this land much before the arrival of 800-600 BC immigrants (including Dravidians),then we can expect that Dravidians borrowed many of the words that already existed with the Early Indian Tribes.
    Hard to swallow, in view of our stubborn existing opinions, but the scenario looks quite realistic for me!

  3. What is Dr. Ramakrishna Shetty's proposal about Koraga language? Does he say Koraga is an independent Dravidian language belonging to SD-II group? The picture I get here is it is a variant of Tulu with a strong pre-Dravidian substrate.

  4. Dr Shetty does not classify Koraga in the cited paper. He opines that it is an independant language in relation to other Dravidian langauges. It is only a preliminary study of Koraga language.
    The 'pre-Tulu/Dravida' inferences were drawn by me.

  5. The exact meaning of'' Kavu'' in Tulu is heating process for example
    Kori Kavu koripini.Hence your your concept of Kapu in derived from Kavu of Buddhism looks abserd.

  6. You are right! Kavu also means heat.
    The conversion or adaption of the word Kavu(from Koraga) to Kapu (middle to modern Tulu) does not affect your suggestion and implication.Incidentally I did not connect Kavu with Buddhism.

    Courtesy demands that Comment writers need to generous enough to sign their names.

  7. Please clarify why Koraga is not a dialect of Tulu. The words you quoted are almost Tulu with a slight difference.

    1. Most of the Dravidian linguists currently believe that Koraga language is a sub-dialect of Tulu, as also suggested by you. Now, the Koraga language & words are quite similar to Tulu because of the (a) spatial association with the latter as well as (b) adaption/absorption of words due to social domination of the latter. Thus, the Koraga language we find /encounter now has been modified and may not be the original form of that language as it was before Tulu was introduced in this land.
      My assessment is rather based on the reconstruction of overall cultural /lingual evolution in this land from various strings of clues discussed in some of the Posts herein. I rather consider that tribes like Mansa, Koraga, Munda(la) people (who had their own languages ) dominated this land during different early historical time phases/episodes, before the arrival of Tulu/ Dravida speaking people into the scene.


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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