Thursday, February 18, 2010

229. MUNDKŪR: Obscure pages of history

Mundkur Durga Parameshwari temple celebrates annual car festival this year on 18th February 2010.
A friendly comment by M.A. Acharya, on an earlier rather hastily written post on ‘MunDkūr’ prompts me to add some additional data on the obscure history of this place:
Mundkur [pronounced ‘MunDukoor’] is a large village that can be met on the way from Murukaveri to Belman. Murukaveri is a place name derived from ‘three ‘kayar’. It can be reached either from Kinnigoli or Kateel. Inna hamlet that can be accessed from the Padubidri -Karkal main road constitutes northern part of the Mundkur village.
River Shāmbavi
Mundkur village is located on the bank of River Shāmbavi. River Shāmbavi originates near Saānur and flows westward and meets the Arabian Sea near Mulki town. Hence it is also known as Mulki River. Interestingly, it takes an unusual rectangular U shaped bend south of Mundkur village. This unusual shaped fluvial path has been induced by tectonic movements in the Earth surface.
Origin of the name of the river is not clear. It appears that the name ‘Shāmbavi’ is a variant of ‘Jāmbavi’ the female counterpart of ‘Jāmbava’. The name ‘Jāmbava’ is a Tulu form of ‘Jāmbavantha’, a bear character associated with Sugriva in Ramayana. A bear spirit named Jumādi (or ‘Doomavathi’) is being worshipped in Tulunadu. Thus, the River Shāmbavi has possibly been named after the ancient spirit of the region, Jumādi.
It may be recalled that a river flowing in Kundapur Taluk has been named Varāhi, possibly after the cult of Panjurli, the ancient spirit of a wild boar.
The name Shāmbavi has been considered as an incarnation of Goddess Shakti, but there are no known temples dedicated to the worship of Shāmbavi in the region.
Place-name: Mundkur
The place name Mundkur (munD+kur) has been attributed to one demon called Mundāsura, who was exterminated by Goddess Durga Parameshwari according to the Puranic lores. Apart from this, the place name carries significant vestiges of the early history of Tulunadu. The ancient words ‘mund’ and ‘munDa’ have remained in our vocabulary as a fossils providing evidence to the notion that tribes belonging to Toda and Munda group survived in these region in the past.
Toda mund
The word ‘mund’ represents a hamlet in Toda language. And the word ‘munda’ represents ‘village headman’ in Munda group of languages. The word ‘munda’ (=young man) has also survived in languages like Punjabi.
Toda tribes now live in Niligiri are a hilly tracts of Tamilnadu. It is said they migrated to southern India from the north. Toda tribes used to follow polyandry like Tibetans. Polyandry was followed among certain tribal communities in the past. Mahabharata has documented polyandry among Pandavas, with Draupati being married to five Pandava brothers. Toda were traditionally dairy farmers, closely associated buffaloes and activities. They traditionally live in huts with semicircular to conical roof sloping in either directions.
It appears that Toda tribes lived in Mundkur and Kallamundkur region in the past. There is also another village in the neighborhood known as ‘Todar’, near Mudabidri, distinctly named after Toda tribes.

Robert Caldwell and succeeding linguists have classified the language of Toda tribes under Dravidian Group of languages. However, the basic Toda word for house, ‘mund’ and its relation to the word ‘munda’ suggests connection with Munda group. It is possible that some of the tribes and their languages now linguistically classified under Dravidian were formerly members of the older Munda group of langauges.
Mundala tribe
There are several places in the West coast that carry Munda tags such as Mundadi, Mundaje, Mundugodu, Kallamundkur, Hermunde, etc. The ‘Mundāla’ tribes of the Karavali - Tulunadu are the surviving members of the ancient Munda tribes that pervaded large parts of the southern peninsula once upon a time in the antiquity. The Munda Group of Austro-asiatic tribes, are now distributed in parts of Central India like Orissa, Jharkand, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, apparently were spread all over southern India in the antiquity. Their languages have not been studied in detail. And it is possible that some of the languages presently classified under the Dravidian Group may might actually be evolved remnants of the older Munda group of languages.
Kallamundkur village is located to the south of Mundkur, separated by River Shāmbavi. Apparently, the southern Kalla-mundkur was distinguished from northern Mundkur at a later time. The ‘ kalla’ prefix in Kallamundkur probably refers to the rocky (‘kallu’=stone) outcrops in the area rather than to the kallar/ kannar or kalavar tribes.
‘Kotrupadi’ area, reminiscent of ancient ‘Kotru’ or ‘Koitur’ Gonda tribes , is a hamlet in the northern part of Kallamundkur.

Spatial suffix –kūr
The spatial suffix ‘-kūr’(or -koor) is less common in Tulunadu. It appears it developed as ‘ku’+’oor’ (= good +village). Apart from Mundkūr, we have Nandikūr village towards north. Nandi represents bull.
Some people believe that the name of Bārkūr, a major historical city of Tulunadu was derived from the words ‘bār+kūr’, where bār means paddy. However, analogy of similar place names duplicating along the West coast (such as Kalyana, Uchila, Pandeshwara, Bārke, etc) suggest that Barkur was Barka + oor. Historical reports of Ptolemy ( ca. 150 BC) for example refer to the Gulf of Cutch as Gulf of Baraka. Similarly, the Barkur during the early historical period was located in the gulf or estuary of Seetha and Swarna rivers. The combined river mouth of Seetha -Swarna has been altered during subsequent history. Besides, the estuary of Kudroli -Bokkapatna was known as ‘Barke’. The name Barke near Bokkapatna, Mangalore still exists.
Bellar: White tribes
One of the interesting features in the ancient history of Tulunadu is the documentation of arrival and settling of white races. There is a distinct set of villages carrying names of ‘Bel ‘or ‘Bellar’ (kannada) and ‘’ or ‘Bollar’(Tulu).
Tulunadu There are several villages around Mundkur that carry the names of Bella/Bolla/Vella (=white) tribes. Originally the southern India was a habitat of dark skinned tribes. Fair or white skinned tribes immigrated into these areas at a later period in the history. Village names Belman, Bola, Beluvayi, Balkunje (originally this village might have been known as ‘Belkunje’) and probably also ‘Inna’ suggest the invasion of white skinned tribes. These villages are located on the either periphery of Toda-Munda villages and probably there were historical clashes between the Toda Mundas and Bella tribes, possibly during the early centuries of the Common Era. The clashes have been glorified and reflected in the theme of Devi Mahatme.
Inna is also a strange name without any appropriate meaning in the native languages. It is possible that ‘Inna’ represents an immigrant tribe from Caucasian/Russian region. Possibly the villages with ‘kencha-‘ (=reddish) prefix also refer to such reddish tanned European immigrated into these areas during the early history.
Gururaja Bhat (2009 edition) has cited the presence of Bellar tribes in Tulunadu and other parts of southern India. He opined that they existed during the Rigveda period. Therefore it may be tentatively proposed that ‘Bellar’ white skinned immigrants entered southern India during the period ca.1200-800 BC.

Durga Parameshwari
The idol of Mundkur Durgadevi temple has been identified as Mahisha Mardini. Durga Devi is known as Durga Parameshwari in the region suggesting supremacy of Shakti cult. (‘Parameshwari’= parama + eshwari=supreme goddess).The idol in the Durga temple is 75cm in height with slim body holding conch (‘shanka’) and wheel (‘chakra’) in upper hands. It has a small crown on the head. The lower left hand is carved showing the act of seizing the tail of ‘Mahisha’ (the buffalo demon)and the lower right hand holds the trident-spear (‘trishula’) vertically slaying the Mahisha.
Based on the sculptural style, the idol has been dated at 6th Century CE. (Murulidhara Upadhya & Narasimha Murthy, 2000).
Mahisha Mardini
Several versions of “Devi Mahatme” puranas, describing the prowess of the goddess Durga Devi are in vogue. Historians believe that the Bhagavathi cult during the waning stages of Buddhism in southern India , probably under the influence of Hindu revivalist sages like Shankaracharya later developed into Durga worship cults in Kerala and Tulunadu. Devi Mahatme envisages several villainous Asura characters like like Chanda, Munda and Mahisha, who were ultimately slained by the Goddess Durga. She acquired the name ‘Mahisha Mardhini’ (mahisha=buffalo, mardhini=slayer) after slaying the Mahisha-asura. ‘Mundkur kshetra Mahatme’, a variant of ‘Devi Mahatme’ envisages that the place name Mundakūr came into being, consequent upon Goddess Durga killing the Asura Munda.
Infact, Asura tribes were one of the members of Munda tribes. Ancient tribes like Munda and Toda , being dairy farmers, held ‘mahisha ‘(=buffalo) in respect. Or in other words, the dairy animal buffalo was representative of the Todas and Mundas.
It appears that the entire concept ‘Devi Mahatme’ (ca. 6 century CE) consisting of extermination of the buffalo- demon (‘Mahishasura’) was probably built on the theme of driving off Toda tribes from the region. Buffaloes were integral part of Toda culture. The ‘Asura’ were also a sub-sect of Munda tribes. And the cult of ‘Mahisha Asura’ probably depicted the villainous elements among the Toda Munda tribes that clashed with Bellar tribes over various socio-political issues, before being driven out of the area.
Todas tribes possibly had evacuated the region (ca. 1-3 century CE) before the creation of the legend. And Mundkur region might have been the original site where the concept poetic theme of buffalo slayer ‘Mahisha Mardini’ in Devi Mahatme was conceived.
The West face: Vāstu
Originally the main entrance to the temple and the idol was built and installed facing towards the West facing the proximal segment of the Shāmbavi River. An old ‘kalyani’ (temple pond) still exists on the Western boundary of the temple, providing substantial evidence to this fact. Later the main entrance and the idol were changed to face the East direction. This appears to be the result of a major shift in the architectural (Vāstu ) concept during this period. The main entrance of many old Shiva/ Durga temples of Karavali like Sharavu (Mangalore), Chitrapura, Bappanadu etc still face Western direction. It is a Vastu concept that the devotee should face eastern direction while praying to the God.This concept might have been initiated on account of Sun worship wherein the devotee to faces Sun in the East direction. Therefore,in the Vastu concept, to enable the devotees to pray towards east the idol and the main entrance are to be placed facing west.
Somehow this concept underwent changes apparently during the eminence of Natha cult.Thus, Mangaladevi temple, Mangalore, has been built with idol and main entrance facing towards East. The Kadri Shiva temple faces north,but the main entrance to the temple premise faces East. Thus, it seems the periodical changes in the Vastu concepts,during the history, prompted alteration in the direction of idol and entrance in the Mundkur Durga temple.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

228. Beeri, Kotekar

Many toponym words in Karavali –Tulunadu, as we have discussed in older posts, happen to be inscrutable in general. There is a suburban road junction in southern part of Mangalore along National Highway 17 near Kotekar , called ‘Beeri’. The place name ‘Beeri’ may evoke some random meanings mnemonically based on similar sounding homonyms, in Tulu language!
However, Beeri is an ancient word originating from Munda group of languages. [We have discussed in many of the earlier posts strings of data relating to the relict signatures of Munda tribes and place names in Tulunadu.]
Beeri : the forest
‘Beeri ‘ or ‘bir’ means forest in Munda languages. Mundas tribes have been considered as ancient tribes of Austo-Asiatic origin, who entered India from the south Asian and eastern routes and settled in India in the prehistoric days probably before Dravidians. However, Munda tribes and Mon Khmer Austro Asiatic tribes and languages after their initial separation in Southeast Asia in the antiquity, have evolved independently, possibly owing to the powerful influence of lingual substrata in the lands they settled in. Mon Khmer languages are characterized by rising accent pattern whereas, the Munda languages distinctly show falling accent patterns, like many other Indian languages.(Donegan & Stampe, 1983,2004).
Though, Munda and Mon Khmer have followed linguistically divergent evolutionary paths, a few Munda words can be traced to their Austro-Asiatic roots. ‘Bir’ is one such antique word whose equivalents can be traced in Mon Khmer as well.
Thus, since the toponym ‘Beeri ‘means forest we can conclude that the place was a forest and there were tribes in the area conversant with Munda languages in the antiquity. That Beeri was a forest is also corroborated by the name of the village in the vicinity, Kotekar. The ‘kār’ in this place name ‘Kotekar ‘also signifies a forest.[ The word ‘kote’ may represent :(1) a tribe or (2) a fort. The first meaning suits here]
Biruva: forest tribe
The 'biru'(=bow) was an devise invented in the forest for hunting the wild life.The derived word 'biruve' thus not only means (1) an archer, but also (2) a person from the wilderness or a forest tribe. It is possible that the word 'biruva' might be older than the other equivalent word 'bhil' or 'billava'.This indirectly also purports that 'biruva' tribes were a part of the early Munda tribal groups in Tulunadu.
The Munda tribes are characteristically known to have O2 type of Y-chromosome haplogroups. Thus,when extensive genome data are available on Tulu people,it would be interesting to compare and study the genetic traits of 'biruva' tribes .
Beeri: wild, fire
However, the word ‘beeri’ has been absorbed and adapted by Tulu and other languages in this land. ‘Beeri ‘, subsequently also meant (1) wilderness,(2) forest fire and (3) wild, unbridled temperament. Later, it also meant (4) to catch fire, or get burnt off (5) wild pig (female species), (6) wrath of Spirits [metaphorical forest fire?] (7) to brag and (8) to harass.
From ‘wild unbridled temperament ‘, evolved more refined ‘valiant nature’ and ‘heroism’. Thus, ‘bir’ > evolved to ‘bira’ (hero). (‘Vir ‘ in Tamil and ‘Veer’ in Hindi and Sanskrit). From ‘brag’ evolved ‘flattery’ of the Spirits. (‘Satyolena bira panpini ‘).
GanDu beeri: tomboy
Apparently, the usage of wild female pig has been adopted later in Kannada as ‘ganDu beeri’ , to designate a wild, unbridled girl who behaves like a tomboy.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

227. Tondru adde: another Iddli

Tulu language has several archaic words that are going into oblivion on account of displacement by potent alternate words. ‘Tondru’ is one of such ticklish word, now rarely heard in city areas. It is a special domestic steam boiled dish, similar to ‘Iddli’ in baking technology, prepared during ceremonies such as religious festivals. Nowadays, this word ‘Tondru adde’ is rarely heard except in villages. ['Adde' is a special dish - cake, pudding or steam-baked bread - prepared out of ground rice. Ingredients mixed with rice flour in variety of dishes are black gram, green gram, coconut, jaggery, cucumber of different types, fenugreek (Mente), cardamom, jack fruit, etc.]
Our popular native dishes ‘Iddli and sambhar’ have been globalised and are available in hotels worldwide. It is now a universal name for the dish we know in rural Tulunadu as ‘Tonduru’ or ‘Tondru’.
In fact, there are a variety of traditional of steam baked rice+black gram fermented dishes, that can be branded as precursors of modern iddli, in Tulunadu known under names such as ‘moode’, ‘gunda’,’kottige’ etc.
Sri Krishna Janmashtami
On the birthday of Lord Krishna in the month of August family members in Tulunadu partake this dish accompanied with coconut milk mixed with jaggery, after offering ‘Pooja’ at Tulasi Katte (Tulasi Vrindavana = a decorative pedestal for basil plant), commemorating the birth of Shri Krishna after midnight. Tulasi pedestal (‘Tulsi Katte’) by convention is located at North-East (‘Ishaanya’) corner of every Hindu household. This dish made out of fermented mixture of finely ground rice and black gram is a sumptuous meal. The steam boiled dish remains fresh for 3 to 4 days and is usually made in plenty during festivities. Sometimes, uncontrolled over-eating of this protein rich dish, may lead to unpleasant digestive problems. On account of this, a Tulu proverb is popular in the rural sectors: “Tondru (tindunda) tondare” (=Over eating ‘Tondru’ may lead to problems). There is also another rather sarcastic remark on the abundance of eatables on a festive day:
'Parbodani naayida beelodula adye undu'.(Everyone, including their pet dogs, are tired of eating the abundantly available dishes during festivals . So it is funnily assumed that even sundry dog rolls over special dishes, till it sticks to its tail.)

‘Tondru’ is funny to hear and is a ticklish word. Does anyone ever think of finding out the origin of this word?

‘Tondare’ or ‘Tondruda kara’ is a special, circular custom made utensil for steam baking this foodstuff. The utensil is usually made of bronze, copper. Nowadays, it is available in aluminum or stainless steel. Its original predecessor must have be an earthen vessel, as evident by the word ‘kara’ (earthen cooking pot). Preparation takes for two days – first day for grinding rice and black gram (‘Urudu’), mixing rice and black gram pastes and keeping the mixed paste, dough (‘banda’ in Tulu) over night for fermenting. This process is termed as ‘Urugere deepini’(=keeping for fermentation). The fermented dough is steam baked like iddli on next day. These days the fermented paste can be stored in fridge for some more days.

The word ‘tond(e)’ (‘d’ is pronounced as ‘th’ in ‘then’) is ‘to swell, distend, dilate or get swollen due to internal pressure '. The swelling is the outcome of fermentation. The fermented paste is put in circular cups and steam-backed in a round shaped vessel. So the puffed up foodstuff is round. Thus, it means, ‘tond (e) is a puffed up round thing.
On the other hand, reviewing from another angle, the Tulu word ‘sondu’ (=to do a tiresome work’) may be derivatively related to this word ‘tondu’, since preparation of ‘tondru’ is a tiresome job.
Deft words
Note the cleverness of our forefathers in naming the special preparation ‘tondru’. The dish is also available in the alternate name of ‘Iddli’ or ‘Idali’. In an older post we have suggested that the word ‘Iddli’ might have been named after the tribes ‘Iddya’ (also known as ‘Yedeya’), probably the inventors of this dish in the antiquity.

Iddli pun
‘Idu’ in Kannada is to ‘to put in a place’. Final paste is poured in circular bogunis (cups) and these cups are stacked in layers on the perforated circular plate in the aforesaid circular vessel. In Kannada, there is a jocular usage with double meaning: “Nimage (=for you) ondondu (=one by one) kodaliyo, idaliyo (May I ‘give’ or ‘put’, one each)? This normally means, ‘May I give more and more ‘Idli?
However, indirectly, the funny sentence means, ‘Shall I give you a blow’. The words ‘koDu’ (=to give) and ‘iDu’ (=to put in place) are related synonyms. The implied ‘blow’ is an alliterate word.

‘Tonde’, the big or bloated
The meaning: “Big, bloated, swollen, puffed up” in Tonde can be seen in the following Tulu words:

1.‘tonde’ = a kind of fish, which is normally not eaten. It has bellows-type under-belly. When we puff up air, it dilates like a balloon. In ‘ramponi’ type of fishing, this fish is thrown away. Playful children in the beach used to fill air by mouth and throw this bloated fish to water to float.

2. ‘tonde kappe’ =a big-bellied frog. One must have read in school days the story of a bragging frog, which lost its life, on challenge, by puffing up to make it bloat as big as possible.

3. tonde banji: = a big round belly.

Tulu Lexicon and DED too confirm the above meanings. Note the Entries 3507, 3508 and 3516 in DED:
Tamil: Tonti (=large belly), abdomen, fold or collop of fat. Dondi (=big belly).
Malayalam: Tonti (Pot belly).
Tulu: Tonde (=big, distended. Tonde banji (=a big belly).
Telugu: Doddu (=One who is pot bellied).
It seems the Kannada word ‘tonDe kayi’[=manoli, 'finger gourd'] smallish but swollen vegetable,finger gourd, is related in derivation.

There is a clan/lineage (bari) name known as Tondarannaya. The surname is possibly initiated after an unusually fat person, but rarely heard these days.

Tondru’ has remained in rustic Tulu tongue but its taste is relished in its equivalent ‘Iddli’ everywhere. Fried ‘iddli’ tastes still better. Secret! Ask the hotelier

-Hosabettu Vishwanath

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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