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.
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.
‘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
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