Thursday, July 16, 2009

198. Bridge on mud-crack

Tulu oral ballads (paD-dana) have perpetuated ancient stories, replete with fine sense of imagination. One of the popular ballad pertaining to the legendary King Bali known as ‘Tuluvala Baliyendra’ recounts several improbable imaginary situations that prevent King Bali from returning to his homeland. One of the Tulu phrases encountered in the ballad is: ‘dembeligu pāpu pādnaga’ or when bridge is built across a mud-crack!

Tuluvāla Ballyendra
'Dembeligu pāpu pādnaga’(= when cross over bridge is built on mud-crack) is one of the predictions in Tulu PaDdana (= oral poem; orature) ‘Tuluvāla Ballyendra’ (=Ballad of Emperor Bali of Tulunadu). The rare word ‘dembelu’ fascinated me and engaged my attention. Here is an old word, among others, spoken by our forefathers but now not in day-to-day use.

Sheenappa Heggade
Late N.A. Sheenappa Heggade Polali collected and rendered this oral poem into print in 1929 which was further reprinted in 1999 by Sri Devi Prakashana, Parkala.

The word dembelu means mud-crack; split, or crack on the surface of earth formed of desiccation of mud (Tulu Lexicon p.1643). ‘Dembelu pudāvuni’ means ‘cracking of the surface of mud field when it dries up (ibid). The synonym of this word is ‘debbe budupini’(ibid p.1561).

Dembeligu pāpu padnaga’, is a point of time in future when a bridge needs to be constructed over a crack on the ground. This is an impossible imaginary condition that may occur only if the future mankind are so dwarf that it needs a bridge to cross a mud-crack on ground.

Story and Context
Bali Chakravarti, son of Virochana, was a great King of Daitya lineage from Sage Kashyapa and Diti, twin sister of Aditi (Meaning ’not second’, i.e. first). Aditi begot Indra and other Devas from Kashyapa. In those days, Bharatavarsha was demarked as Uttarapatha and Dakshinapatha regions, Vindhya Ranges being the dividing (middle) point. Dakshinapatha was also known as ‘Dravidapatha’, as it was a peninsula encircled by three seas (Arabian, Indian and Bengal seas).
The division of regions is vindicated by Adi Shankacharya’s answer to Mandana Mishra, who asked him during a religious debate, ‘Who is he?’ Shankara replied, ‘I am a Brahmin from south region called Dravida’.
As is the vogue with kings of yore, enlarging the kingdom is the foremost duty of kings. Hence Devas and Daityas (Dānavas) were sworn enemies. Scholars now say that they were of one and the same race with common culture and languages, and depended on each other. The concept of Aryan and Dravidian Races is a myth nurtured by European colonialists of bygone centuries to divide and rule.

Bali was a pious, generous and patronising King. Being grandson of Prahlada, an avowed devotee of Vishnu, Bali was also a devout worshipper of Lord Vishnu. He ruled his subjects well. Aspiring to ascend the throne of Indra, he performed Ashwamedha Yagas hundred times. The Ashwamedha Yaga preceded a sequence of victories over all kings of the land beforehand.
Fearing losing of his kingdom, Indra (King of Devas) and his mother Aditi requested Lord Vishnu to save Devas. Vishnu promised to reincarnate himself as Vamana through Kashyapa and Aditi.Vamana means ‘dwarf form’. Vamana goes to Bali’s yajnashala as ‘Vatu’,a child celibate, to bless him whereupon Bali offers to give whatever things Vatu wants in land and other kinds. Vamana asks for three steps of land only for conduct of his acetic life, which was readily agreed upon by Bali. This enrages Shukracharya, Preceptor of Daityas, who advises Bali to dishonour his promise as Vishnu himself has come in disguise as Vamana to dethrone him by deciept at the behest of Indra. The Guru tells about various circumstances when one need not keep up ones promise. To keep up the honour of his words and seeing the Almighty himself is the beseecher, Bali Chakravarti goes ahead to grant the request. Vamana then takes the Cosmic Form (Vishwarupa) and grows to such an extent that he fills the entire Universe, being extolled as 'Trivikrama' by all Gods. In first step, he measures up the Earth and in the second Sky (Heavens), leaving no space. For the third step, Bali offers his head and Trivikrama pushes him to Nether world, Patala. Having been pushed to the nether world, Bali requests Lord Vishnu that he may kindly be allowed to visit his subjects once in a year and be remembered as a Devotee of Vishnu. The boon being granted, the hallowed memory of Bali is celebrated on the 1st day of bright fortnight following the Amavasya. This recognition is called as ‘Bali Puja or Bali Padya’ during Deepavali festival every year.
This story is a part of Shrimad Bhagavatam, Vishnu Purana, Padma Purana, Skanda Purana and Brahmanda Purana. King Bali belongs to all Indians. North Indians believe that the ritual of Ashwamedha Yaga took place at Kurukshetra. Kerala and Tamil people say that Bali’s kingdom existed in their land. Tuluvāla Ballyendra gives us the impression that he belongs to Tulunadu.

In ‘Tuluvāla Ballyendra, Bali asks when he will be allowed to stay in his kingdom permanently. Then –

Hoho! Sirinarayana dever pander O! Bhumiputre Ballyendraa, manasu bene malthonada. Yee anda kargallu kayanaga, borgallu poo ponaga, uppu kapuraanaga, jaal paade aanaga, urudu maddoli aanaga, godderme ghone aanaga, eru dadde aanaga, tumbedaditu koota aanaga, nekkidaditu aata aanaga, dembeligu pāpu pādnaga, aletu bolney murkunaga, gurugunjida kale maajanaga, manjalakki meyideppunaga, Kotrunja kodi jaanaga, ninna rajyogu yee battudu ninna rajya maadonu arataana aaliyondu sukha santhosoduppulaa Ballyendra, indudu kattappane maltu kadapudiyeringa nalkaita Narayana deveregaa

“Hoho! Lord Shrinarayana tells, “O! Son of this Earth Ballyendra, do not grieve. You will come back to your Kingdom in this Earth,
… when black stone becomes a fruit, barren rock blooms, salt becomes camphor, court-yard turns rocky, black-gram becomes ‘mridanga’ (=musical drum), barren she-buffalo transforms to un-castrated he-buffalo, he-buffalo becomes a sow (female swine) or a barren woman (as it is the other meaning of dadde), meeting takes place under Thumbe herb(=a medicinal herb), open-air drama takes place under Nekki shrub, a bridge is made to cross the cracks on mud, lump of butter sinks in butter-milk, the black spot on scarlet ‘gurugunji’ seed fades away, yellow bird** induces abortion,or when the crest of Kotrunja Bird is lowered like a temple flag-post.
….and then you may visit your kingdom and rule and live with abundant peace and happiness." Thus, the four-armed Lord Narayana bade and bid farewell to Bali Chakravarti.

* Kotrakodi = a tip of a tender shoot-TL 948.
** oviparous

In Tulunadu Bali (also known as Mahabali) is invited to visit Earth annually during ‘Aatida amaased sona barpina sanskradidu (July-August), bonteldu mooji dinata parbodu’ (i.e. Deepavali festival falling between October-November). After placing the offerings and reciting the Bali PaD-dana, local Divine Spirits are worshipped. I had witnessed once this recital, prior to starting Bobbarya Parba in July-August at Hosabettu in my school days. Rhapsodical and mellifluous recital by late Thimma Gurikara was a treat to my ears. Offerings, called ‘Daane’, made to Bobbarya, are made on the spot by concerned devotees.

Prediction of Doom?
The conditions prescribed are improbable happenings. It implies some innate sense of doom, similar to the Predictions of Nostradamus of France (nicknamed as Prophet of Doom). Lord Vishnu offered Bali the ‘Indra Padavi’ (Authority of Indra Loka) in Sāvarna Manuvantara. So the boon possibly forebodes destruction of the world.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath


  1. Nice article you got here. I'd like to read a bit more about that matter. Thnx for giving this info.
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  2. Kerala and tamilnadu versions of Bali myth actually refer to pallava king Mamalla of Mamallapuram as Mahabali.

  3. During the long history we have left behind, there are great episodes, like that of King Bali, which have been remembered (poetically re-enacted)again later and attributed to living Kings of the period.Overall events relating to the original Bali episode, takes us back to days of Munda- Arya conflicts for supremacy, probably ca 1200-600 BC period.


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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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