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380. Antiquity of iDli

The Idli being a steam cooked dish made of ground and fermented paste of rice and black gram can be considered as one of the healthiest ...

Monday, October 12, 2009

209. Dravidian place-name cognates



In Post-186 (Traces of common regional lingual history in Tulu Place Names), we have just illustrated the affinities between Place- names in Tulunadu and other near and far States and far away countries. In the materialistic world, a layman is lukewarm about understanding the origin and meaning of Place-names. In the first place, affinities are not noticed in hurly-burly of one’s routine life. Secondly, relevance of these similarities is ignored as coincidence. Revelation of such similarities is misunderstood by parochial feelings and is construed as offensive.

Cognate place-names
Cognate place-names, spread all over India and neighbouring countries, do not neccessarily mean that one area was occupied by a later arrived other tribes. As the behavioural pattern of early mankind, each group/tribe lived in isolation side by side but they mingled at appointed days in a barter-economy society. Each group maintained their uniqueness, at the same time having some commonality with regard to languages and customs. This is because of some base language of a tribe, which branched off into different tribes in gradual evolution.

Dravidian languages
Dravidian languages are geographically distributed in and around India. There are around 26 to 27 languages in the family of Dravidian languages in India, out of which five languages, known as ‘Panch Dravida Bhasa’, have emerged prominent in South India, having more or less similar Brahmi Script in the beginning. They are Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam and Tulu. Former four languages have rich literary tradition, which Tulu fails to measure up. Though Tulu is having a script of its own and some written literature, it fell into disuse on the political influence of Kannada overlords. Tulu is considered as a dialect of Kannada but it is not so. All the languages have branched out of the Proto-Dravidian language, which has a bearing on all the languages spoken in India. Tulu is still vibrant in Tulunadu in Tulu Folklores and PaDdanas. PaDdanas are oral poems about heroic deeds of the Tulu ancestors, who are later on deitified and are worshipped. These lengthy ballads have trickled down orally through ages.

In North India, Dravidian languages were lost through absorption of Prakrita and Sanskrit. In South India, in Marhatti (Marathi) area, Sanskrit engulfed the Dravidian language (B.M.Shri– ‘Poorvada Halegannada mattu Tamil’, p.168. Earlier Old Kannada & Tamil). Respected B.M.Shri opines in this article that Telugu was spilt first from Proto Dravidian language and then Tamil and Kannada.

Olden literary works are indicators of linguistic interactions. In ‘Puranaarooru’ (a literary work in Tamil of circa 2nd C), there are two poems describing Hoysala Dynasty (Source: Anthology of B.M. Shri’s writings p.302). I have read somewhere that Karnataka Bharata Kathamanjari, popularly known as Gadugina Bharata of Naranappa (Kumaravyasa), was translated into Marathi in those days itself.

There are many scholars and researchers conversant with many languages of the world who do research on comparative history of Dravidian languages. Robert Caldwell is the forerunner in the academic field of Dravidian linguistics. There are around 75 languages all over the world (including 27 languages spoken in India) with or without scripts.
The word ‘Dravidian’ refers to a peninsular region, surrounded by seas (Arabian and Indian Seas and Bay of Bengal) and is based on Sanskrit word: Dramila > Dramida > Dravida. It is a designation for the entire people, living in South India below the Vindhya ranges, and not a description of race.

Recent international genetic research has ruled out the postulations of Aryan and Dravidian races. The European imperialists perpetuated racial theories of European intellectuals of 18th -19th Century. In his article ‘The Aryan-Dravidian Controversy’, David Frawley writes: “The Nineteenth Century was the era of Europeans’ imperialism. Many Europeans did, in fact, believe that they belonged to a superior race and that their religion, Christianity, was a superior religion and all other religions were barbaric, particularly a religion like Hinduism, which uses many idols………..European thinkers of the era were dominated by a racial theory of man, which was interpreted primarily in terms of the colour. They saw themselves as belonging to superior ‘White’ or Caucasian Race. They had enslaved the Negroid or ‘Black’ race. As Hindus were also dark in or coloured, they were similarly deemed inferior. The British thus, not surprisingly, looked upon the culture of India in a similar way as having been a land of a light-skinned or Aryan Race (the North Indians), ruling a dark or Dravidian race (the South Indians).”

All traditional thoughts are based on powerful under-current of reality and its reflection in land and nature. Our remotest ancestors were emotionally integrated with nature with respect to their beliefs about Universe and their relationship with places, animals, plants and other people. (Source: Australian Aboriginal Personal & Place Names – John S. Ryan). So these people, as is evident in many place names, like to be called as ‘a man from……..’ (as reflected in ethnonyms, eponyms, euonyms and toponyms).

Legends give some input about historicity of place names but pure legends may not decide the origin of a place name. Archaeological findings help solving ‘mysteries of antiquity’. It is advocated that probes of linguists can give clues only when it is ‘relied on linguistic substrata, linguistic paleontology, dialectical geography and loan words’.

Tribes and migration
The recent researches talk of wandering tribes. The Nature’s fury displaces land mass – sometimes, devouring the entire civilisations, eg. Mayans, Atlantis, Lemuria, etc. Geographical and political upheavals and escapades of inhabitants with their lifestyle and languages are interesting, though pathetic.


Amitabh Sinha writes in The Indian Express (dated 6th October 2009, p. 1): ‘1 in 3 Indians a migrant, 1 in 7 wordwide’, based on Human Development Report of UNDP.” Further, “… Migration process, globally, has today become much bigger than that, though it has been mostly silent and spontaneous and largely beneficial to people, unlike the one that was forced by Partition.” Migration was a continuing process in bygone days as is the trend even today; HDR Report calls it a healthy trend.

In his Epilogue to his Book: ‘Search for Vedic India’, Devamrita Swami says, “Everything that has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped up in a thick fog. It belongs to a space of time we cannot measure. We know it is older than Christiandom, but whether by a couple of years or even by more than a millennium we can do no more than guess.” He tells about the surprises – both on the land and skies – in the year 2001, viz. (1) Discovery of two more planetary systems, not resembling each other nor anything else in the solar system, (2) Mystery of consciousness, i.e. medical research (at Caltech) that points to consciousness surviving after the brain ceases and a person is clinically dead, (3) New Discoveries by Russian and American Archaeologists of more than 4000 years old ancient civilization during the biggest quake of 2001 in Republics of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, in Central Asia. He writes, “The newfound civilization comprises settlements that cover an area of in Central Asia 300 to 400 miles long and 50 miles wide. Who the people were or what they called themselves is a mystery. Lacking a name for the culture, archaeologists call it the Bactria Margiana archaeology Complex (Bmac). Dr. Victor H. Mair, a specialist in ancient Asian languages and culture, stated that these ruins of an unknown advanced culture had emerged in a region where there was thought to be just space and emptiness. The discovery indicated that more than 4,000 years ago Asians were not as isolated as scholars thought, he said, but probably had continent-wide connections.”

When we glean lot of information for comparison, we observe a frenzied hanker for proving superiority. This is seen in some of the comments to Blogs/Articles. Unsubstantiated carping leaves ‘Q’ mark on toadyism, i.e. a servile sycophancy. Controversies in history are always there. However it should be realized that the history is written and rewritten based on surfacing of new facts.

Kol tribes
When available data is analysed, through insight, in an objective manner, it is naturally away from the trodden path. Our attempt is only to unravel the mystery of place names, made of archaic compound words, with comparable prefixes and suffixes. For example, mark these word parts: Koli/Karava (= fisherman), Kola/Kolli/Kula(m)/ Kolam(b)e (= Pond/tank/water body/bay/low land/marshy land). Some examples of place names are in Post-186), Kola/Kolla/Kolle (= man engaged in mining and smelting, i.e. blacksmith/ coppersmith/goldsmith – both kola/kole works with liquids or water, i.e. drava or rasa), kol (= iron/metal. So kolame means furnace > kolamekotya). Mark place names: Kolara, Kolluru, Kolnadu, Kolya, Kolchar, Kollamogaru, Kolivada, Kollam, and Kollegal.

Race and fossil words
What are we – a single race with intermingling but at the same time trying to maintain an identity? Vedanta teaches a Philosophy of ‘Samanya’ and ‘Asamanya’. It is a classification and is the secret of progress. In Vedanta, pre-state of Universe before creation is known as ‘Unknown or Unexpressed’. That nameless one-mass is ‘formless’ and hence ‘endless and limitless’. What has remained ‘unknown’ is Samanya (common) and what is known is Asamanya (not common and hence with special qualities or attributes). It is called ‘Prakriti’ , the Nature. It has an end and so limited and changeable. Changed part of ‘expressed whole’ (Asamanya) again becomes ‘special with epithets’ and that which remained unchanged is ‘Samanya’, e.g. Srishti , the Nature, expressed as Movable & Unmovable, Life & Lifeless. Lifeless is expressed as Earth & Water. Earth, in turn, is classified as ‘stones, soil, iron’. Life - in trees, animals, insects, mankind. These epithets again become common and we can understand their uniqueness by differentiation. One class but many people. This gives rise to origin, caste (based on profession), group, habitats, village, province, country, language – all traceable in ‘equal’ and ‘unequal’. By comparison, we can identify strings of commonalities. Intemperate expression of ‘inequality’ creates a tense situation, disturbing peaceful co-existence.

In nutshell, place names with fossils of old words, are indicators of our ancestors’ itinerary. Prof. Arysio Nunes dos Santos , a Nuclear Physicist, Geologist and Climatologist, and a linguist, writes in Introduction to ‘The Mysterious Origin of the Guanches’: “Ethnologists generally admit that languages afford the strongest evidence of close affinity – not necessarily ethnic, between different civilizations. The a-priori probabilities of random coincidences between several words in the two languages under comparison are essentially nil.”

-Hosabettu Vishwanath


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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 Culture.by 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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