Friday, July 18, 2008

128. Bairās and Mundās

Origin of the two Tulu words, bairās and munDās, posed by Manjunat, may be explained by visualizing and reconstructing the period of initial interaction between Tulu immigrants and Munda native tribes in the Karavali zone, probably dating back to ca. 800-600 BC.
The clothing accessory ‘bairās’(bahiras) is the ancient equivalent of modern bath towel and ‘munDās’ is the popular ancient headgear of the coastal area.

The Interaction
The immigrant Tulu tribes were in for a cultural shock in the Karavali land they chose to settle down. The immigrants coming from northern India were tall in stature, about six feet, fair skinned and wore full body-covering cloths designed and suited for the cold climates of the north. The native tribes of that time were shorter generation, about five feet, dark in complexion and wore minimal clothing that suited the sultry climate of the coastal Karavali. Basically, the natives wore a sheet of cloth wrapped around their loins. Another sheet of cloth was cloth was fashioned into a turban. Probably this was the standard attire of the leader of the native tribal group, known as Munda.
The immigrants had to coin new words to describe these exotic clothing accessories used by the Munda. The loin cloth the Munda wore was called ‘munDu’ and the headgear was designated ‘munDas’. (=munDa + ās).
The interaction was deep and strong. Many items were designated after the MunDa. Most of their ancient tribal habitations were named accordingly. Reconsider the still surviving place names all over the Karavali such as MunD-kur, Kalla-munD-kur, MunD-aDi, MunD-oDi, MunD-oli, MunD-aje, MunD-ūr, MunD-goDu and so on. The average height of the Munda person was employed as a unit of measure: One ‘munDu’ stands for a length of about five feet. The common prickly shrub used by MunDa tribes for preparing mats stream-boiled mooDe, was called ‘munDevu’. The conspicuous broad ‘forehead’ characteristic of MunDa tribes was named ‘munDa’ or ‘munDo’.

 The ‘Baira’ were another ancient tribal group that sauntered across Karāvali and rest of the peninsular India. ‘Bairam-palli’ is an example of their ancient habitation. The origin of the cult of tribal God ‘Bairav’ who was later considered as a form of Shiva can be attributed to Baira tribes. And words like ‘bairagi’ (nomadic recluse) have been derived from Baira-s'.Narayana Shetty cites the relevant name of a hamlet: 'BairaLi guthu'.
Similarly the word 'baikam' as in place name 'Baikam-padi' meant 'beggars' or 'nomadics surviving on alms'. Later in the history ‘Bairarasa’ were popular rulers in parts of the Karāvali.

Bahiras, the towel
Thus ‘bahirās’ (=bahir + ās) is the smaller piece of cloth originally worn by the natives and adapted by Tulu tribes as bath towel. The word may not be directly connected to the Baira tribes. The Bahir-as ('bahir' =outer) refers to the sheet of cloth used to cover the upper part of the body or the sheet used to wipe the body. The word probably was derived from an ancient Pisacha- Prakrit sources.The suffix 'ās'stands for a sheet of cloth, earlier form of 'hās';one of the component in weaving is also called 'hās'.
bairās āpuni
Viswanath adds a few idiomatic expressions related to 'bairās':
There is a phrase "bairas aapuni" (falling a prey to a yarn /believing the false statement without checking. Akin to the modern 'April fool'). This could have been based on the notion that mendicants ('bairas') are given to lying or fooling.

'ChanDi bairas'( or even 'chanDi Kamboli'; 'chanDi'=wet) mean "lazy fellow" or 'thing not suitable for the purpose'. The expected utilitarian aspect of 'kamboli'(=blanket) or 'bairas' like warming the body or driving away chillness or removing water by rubbing is lost when they are wet.
The 'Tulu NighanTu' (p.2594) cites a funny and sarcastic Tulu proverb:
AnD'g arive ijji, manDeg munDās nāduve!
=No cloth to cover the private parts, yet (he) searches turban for the head !


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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