Kota is an urbanized coastal village near Kundapura. And Kotiyan is an important lineage (bari) among certain Tulu communities. Kota and Kotiyan: Are these two words mutually related in space and time in terms of Karavali and overall Indian anthropological evolution?
Let me present some perspective data on these two words so that you can decide for yourself.
Kota is small town near Kundapur, known as the home town of Jnana Peeta awarded late Dr. Kota Shivaram Karanth. Kota village is also known as the base or original settlement of ‘Kota’ Brahmins of Karavali. However the place name Kota that sounds like a deformed version of ‘Kote’ (= the fort) is not unique to Karavali. There are several towns spread across India that bear the name Kota. Some of the other Kota towns and district places are:
Kota town in Kota district Rajasthan; Kota in Sonbhadra district, Uttara Pradesh; Kota in Nellore district, Andhra Pradesh; Kota in Bilaspur, Chattisgarh and Kotagiri district in Tamilnadu. (‘Kota-giri’ means ‘the mountain of the Kotas’). Besides, there are numerous villages that carry the prefix ‘Kota’-(or modified to ‘Koti’) in various parts of the peninsula. The widespread occurrence of the place-names Kota across India leads us to visualize that these represent ancient settlements of the Kota tribes who were spread out in different parts of India.
Kota or Kotar tribes at present speak Kota language and live in Niligiri area of Tamilnadu. At present they are known as traditional artisans and experts in pottery and terracotta. In Niligiri region, they are associated with another tribal community, the Toda tribes, who are the traditional agriculturists in the Niligiri ranges.
The Kota tribes of Niligiri region have a peculiar custom of smearing the face of pubescent boys with blue paints. They believe that the transition of boyhood to manhood is like a death and rebirth and the ritual of painting the face represents symbolic death before rebirth! The Kota tribes wear impressive costumes.
Cow-herders and potters
The ‘Kota’ tribal name is said to be derived from the root “ko” which means cow. The Kota people believe that their forefathers were cows. A place they live in is called a “kokkal”, meaning resting place of the cows. This leads us to assume that Kota tribes were originally cow-herders who later adapted to the profession of pottery. The tribes of Cow-herders were once extensively spread in India. They were known as Yadava, Jadon, Jadeja etc. in the northern parts of India and Idaiya(r), Yadia etc in southern India.
The Kota tribes traditionally consume buffalo and other meats but do not eat cow. This custom throws light on the antiquity and origin of the specific Indian tradition of worshipping cows.
The distribution of ancient Kota settlements all over India and the present seclusion of Kota tribes to Niligiri hills imply the effect of time and tides on the evolution of these tribes. Once widespread tribes have been reduced in number. On the other hand this aspect also connotes widespread assimilation of these ancient tribes into other existing communities of India during the course of evolution.
The present Kota language is considered to be a member of Dravidian languages. The present Kota tribes are living in Tamil/Dravida area and hence it is natural to expect the influence of surrounding languages on the language of the Kota tribes. Or in other words, the present language of the Kota tribes has been modified and evolved in tune with changing times.
Tribes like Gadaba have two regional variants of their languages: one of (pre-Dravida) Munda heritage and another of superposed Dravida succession. Similar variants can be expected in the language of Kota tribes. It is also possible that the older version of the Kota language has been obsolete or assimilated into other Indian languages during the course of cultural evolution and assimilation.
The word Kotiyan appears to be a variant of the ancient tribe Kota. The Kotiyans existed as a group during early centuries of the CE as we find reference to them in Tamil Sangam literature. They were performers in the courts of Tamil Kings. The comparative Dravida dictionary describes the word ‘Kotiyan’ as (a) a fierce young man (b) a glutton or one who hankers for food. The descriptions derived from ancient Tamil texts possibly imply that these Kotiyans were originally a strong but poor (and hungry) tribal community with special talents in performing arts. Or rather they were compelled to perform before the Kings for the sake of their livelihood.
Like many other tribes Kotiyans were spread in different parts of southern India including Tulunadu during the early centuries of the Common Era. Obviously they had cultural-matrimonial relations with the Tulu tribes that led to cultural-genetic assimilations. This is confirmed by the existence of a distinct lineage in the name of Kotiyan that came into being before the division of ancient Tulu tribes into various communities.
Kotesvara is a well known temple town along the Karavali coast located between Kota and Kundapura. The place name Kotesvara has significant hidden clues in terms of the evolution of the Kota tribes that apparently proceeded in several lines. That they were a significant or socio-politically dominant group in the Kota - Kundapura area, is further confirmed by the place name Kotesvara. The Kota tribal groups introduced the concept of Kotesvara, which has become the dominant form of Lord Shiva in that region.
It was a general practice in the early centuries of Common Era to name the God Iswara (Shiva) according to the preferences of rulers or dominant groups of the land. Alupa Pandya Kings had the God Isvara named after their dynasty as Pandesvara. There are t two places named Pandesvara in Karavali.(One in Mangalore city another near Parampalli-Kota).
The inference on the concept of Kotesvara suggests that Kota tribes were either rulers or a socially dominant affluent group in that region during the history
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