Saturday, March 20, 2010

233. Panjurli

The cult of Panjurli, the boar spirit, is a time tested icon of the early stages in the psyche and evolution of human tribes in this land. Early tribes trusted in supernatural forces that apparently controlled the good and bad conditions of their lives. They considered that a good, comfortable and secure life is the result of blessing of the deity and conversely believed that life gets upset when the deity curses.
The evolutionary transition of tribes from forest to agricultural phases some five to seven millennia ago also laid foundation for initiation of new cults among the tribes. A Wild boar that destroyed early farmers crop became a source of awe and irritation. The boar destroyed some crops and the affected person considered that it was the curse of the deity.This could be the origin of the cult among the tribes. However, it can be seen that successive theological cults absorbed and assimilated the essence of Panjurli cult. For example, the Varaha (=boar)incarnation of Maha Vishnu is a concept based on Panjurli or its equivalent cult. Kings of Kadamba dynasty,based in Banavasi region, upheld the boar cult as seen by naming of the river as Varaahi. Similarly, Vijayanagar Kings held Varaha, the boar, as their royal insignia.

PaDdanas (=oral epic poems), trickling down through ages, are only the sources of past history in the form of recitation of anecdotes. Variation is noticeable in these paDdanas from place to place and also in length, adapted to a particular performance during annual festivals.

Oral songs and ballads (kabitas and paDdanas) are sung during annual festivals and during day to day activities, viz tilling, seedling and harvesting in paddy fields, peeling areca nuts, function of ‘madarengi’ (henna tattooing custom) on the eve of marriage, tapping toddy, and as pastime during leisure.


Vedic scriptures make a division of Aryans and Non-Aryans, who are shown in poor light. Scholars now say that they were of one and the same race with common culture and languages and were dependent on each other. The division of Bharatvarsha as ‘Uttarapath’ and ‘Dakshinapath’ (also known as Aryavarta and Dravidavarta) was a regional one with ‘Vindhya Ranges’ standing in the middle as a divider. Dravidapath or Dravidavarta is so called, as it is a peninsula, encircled by three seas. This is vindicated by the great Philosopher Shankaracharya of 8th Century from South, while replying Mandana Mishra’s question, “Who is he?” Myth of Aryan and Dravidian Races, which is a concept nurtured by colonialists, continues still.

Tulu traditions and orature (=oral+ literature), as a part of Dravidian culture relate to social, political and religious psyche of Tulunadu, located between Western (Sayhadri) Ghats on the East and Arabian Sea on the West. Tulunadu is an epitome of peaceful co-existence. All regions thrived in Tulunadu. Hinduism (with Vedic Gods and later on Mother Goddess, Shiva and Vishnu
Taking center stage), Buddhism (later on absorbed into Shaiva cult) and Jainism are naturally evolved into socio-religious order. Islam and Christianity took root in India under political considerations and coercion. There is a synchronization of Daivas (deified living legends or heroes of Past, including Muslims) and Vedic Gods and Goddesses. They are worshipped as personalized, Community and Group of Villages (Maagane) Gods and Godheads in shrines and temples. This is unique to Tulunadu. The peaceful living is manifest in precedence and sequences of annual festivals/celebrations in shrines and temples. The meeting of deities takes place(in the form of possessed impersonators) of one temple, where the annual festivals (āyana , teru, kola or nema) have just concluded, is the mark of starting (‘kodi erunu’, meaning raising of temple flag) and permitting of annual festivals in an adjacent village. This meeting takes at the periphery of latter temple.

The Divine Spirits are classified in three categories, firstly ‘Ullaya or Chakravarti’ (i.e Lord of Lords, considered as manifestation of Devi, Shiva and Vishnu); secondly, Rajan (considered as Kings, who lived before deification after death) and thirdly, 'Kamberlu' (Danda nayakas or Chieftains). Firstly, these Daivas manifest themselves, through a medium, in the palace of their kingdom or house of their birth when alive and are worshipped in these places, called ‘moolada mane’ (place of origin), and they are believed in other places also as their devotees are spread. Here is a case of direct contact, though through medium, with the deities. This speaks a volume how the custom of ‘Daivaradhane’ (=Spirit Worship) took root in Tulunadu (as also in adjoining Kerala with migration of certain ‘Daivas’ (also called ‘Bhootas’) to Kerala and vice versa. (Note: In Kerala, this Spirit worshipping is called ‘Theyyam’. Refer article by Dr. U.P. Upadhyaya in ‘Taranga’, a Kannada Weekly, March 4, 2010 Issue).

Significant ‘Rajan Daivas’ are: (1) Jumadhi (Sanskritised as Dhumavati), believed to be reincarnation of Aadi Shakti (Mother Goddess), (2) Jarandaya, supposed to be the reincarnation of Shiva or Dharmaraja and (3) Babbarya or Bobbarya [supposed to be the reincarnation of Shastara and born to a Mogaveera woman as Babbana at Mulki (See ‘Babbana Babbarye’ in Mogaveera January 2009 Issue, written by Narayana A. Bangera). (The other version says, he is born to a Bunt woman and a Muslim trader)

Panjurli Daiva is assistant to Rajan Daivas, as cited above, as 'Kshetrapala' (Guardian of the area), in maintaining justice and peace in the places where he is believed and worshipped. He has got seven manifestations. He is the Divine Spirit, who sits in judgement on the conduct of members of a family, village and cluster of villages. Hence he is known by different names. In South of Tulunadu, he is known as ‘Annappa Panjurli’ at Dharmasthala, in the North he protects the borders as ‘Tembikalla Panjurli’, in the East, he is worshipped as Kuppettu Panjurli, in the West he is known as ‘Bolada Panjurli’, and at individual Tuluva households he is known by simple name of ‘Panjurli’. His adventures while guarding and protecting the borders of Tulunadu and benevolence on oblating devotees are legendary.

Dr. B.A. Viveka Rai writes his impressions in “Epics in the Oral Genre System of Tulunadu” as follows:
“Interestingly, in one version, the narrative about the genesis of Panjurli is made to include even the Vedic gods, as Vishnu’s sweat is transformed into Panjurli. Likewise, Shiva has been depicted as a character possessing the qualities of both the deity and a village farmer.
More than ten paddanas exist that give an account of the adventures of Panjurli bhuta and thereby its dissemination in the Tuluva region. All of the episodes substantiate the supremacy of Panjurli bhuta and the reasons for its worship in different places. With its magical power Panjurli causes buffaloes tethered to a jackfruit tree to vanish, momentarily blinds the priest who carried the god in procession at Dharmasthala, makes the elephant of the Kepaadi temple fall sick, does the same to the cattle at Kalle beedu, kills the two wives of Hebri Ballala, and so on.
Thus it is that Panjurli bhuta exhibits its supreme power through an array of magical deeds. The people who are affected approach the soothsayer, who with the help of magical objects discovers the reason for the disaster, namely, Panjurli’s miracle. The remedy for the calamity is also provided by the soothsayer: he suggests that a shrine should be built for Panjurli and a festival performed. The people act accordingly and are saved from the disaster. These same incidents, with some variation in the manifestation of the calamity, are repeated in neighboring places. Thus Panjurli is worshipped in different places for different reasons, all concerned with untoward events involving the people, their crops, and their
The word: Panjurli
‘Panjurli’ as per tradition means ‘Panji kurle or kurli, i.e. a wild boar’s offspring. This offspring was created by Lord Shiva and was cursed by Goddess Parvati for his misdeeds of destroying her ‘kadalivana’ (=banana grove). The curse is mitigated by ordaining him to be born on Earth as a Divine Spirit to protect and uplift the masses from evil to good. There is another version in Bappanadu Kshetra Mahatme that he was born out of sweat of Hanuman, which fell into the ocean while carrying the mountain bearing the Sanjivani herbs.
Panjurli (Panji+urli) is a compound word wherein Panji = wild boar is clear. The exact meaning and source of 'Urli' here is baffling and is to be recognised.
‘Uri’ has the meaning of angry, savage, wild, ferocious and fierce, as we can understand in Ugra Narasimha or Uri Brahma (Uri Brahma is one of the Daivas, worshipped in Athur Bailu Mahalingeshwar Temple). The suffix ‘li’ generally represents ‘animal’ or ‘bird’, as we find in ‘pili (=tiger), ‘palli (=lizard), ‘eli’ (=rat) and ‘gili’ (=parrot), etc.
What makes it clear is that Panjurli means: an Ugra (=violent) Panji (=boar), a deity with abilities to punish for the evil deeds and bless the good. Overall, the word 'Panjurli' means a wild boar.
There is a place in Pune District, named 'Uruli'. One part of it is called ‘Uruli Devachi', which is famous for Mahatma Gandhi Naturopathy Foundation. This place is always in news these days because of villagers’ agitation against dumping of garbage by Pune Municipal Corporation and recurrence of fire at dumping sites owing to summer heat. The other village is called Uruli Kanchan and has a railway station by that name. This word ‘Uruli’ is fascinating as it is akin to our Uruli in Tulu. This word reminds me ‘Panjurli’, a Divine Spirit, worshipped in Tulunadu and enkindles my quest for exact meaning of ‘urli’ in ‘Punjurli’

J.T Molesworth's Marathi-English Online dictionary provides the following meanings for the word 'Urli':

1) Borders or skirts or purlieus.
2) Curling or entangling (as in cloth threading)
3) Gurgling, rippling of whirling brook, purling
4) A stanchion, purlin, etc.
5) suspicious, jealous, malignant, grudge-bearing, morose, sulky, churlish.

Uruli in Tulu

This interesting Tulu word 'Uruli or Urli' is a bell metal vessel. This process of alloy making involves mixing and rolling. The utensil rolls over or tumbles down because of its round shape. Rice, cooked in this vessel, is offered to God as 'Naivedya' (Oblation) in temples (See Tulu Lexicon). Tumblers, made of brass or bronze, are also called as 'uruli or urli'. They tumble down because of its round shape, tapering at the bottom. Such tumblers are not used these days. One, who is now between 40 and above, must have eaten in trays made of bell-metal (Pitteleda battalu) and drunk water in ‘urlis’ in one’s childhood. Tulu villagers know these utensil-objects, which are now part of antiquity. Steel glass (without rim) has taken the place of brass/bell metal ‘urli’.

Panjurli and Varthe

The cult of Panjurli appears to be as old as the beginning of agricultural phase of human civilization,probably it dates back to 3000 BC or older.
The cult of Panjurli appears to have been rejuvenated around 4th Century CE during the uprise of Kadamba regime.As you know, Sanskritization was the order of the day at that period.The age old Spirit of Panjurli became Varaha and was moulded as one of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu!
Besides, the incidental information suggests that Panjurli was worshipped in female form during the Kadamba regime. It was known as Varahi. One of the rivers flowing in the Banavasi(Kadamba Kingdom)-to Kundapura region was named as Varahi! Further, it appears that the people began to worship Varahi as "Varah(i)ti" . The ti or thi suffix is indicative of female forms, as you know, from examples like gowdti,ullalti, etc.In due course, Varahti became Varti or Varte!
So there were two forms(avtars) for the same cult!There were people who worshipped both the forms together.
This has lead to the confusion of relationships between the two forms. Some people think that Panjurli and Varthe area brother and sister while others argue that they are husband and wife. It can be opined that this can resolved by considering that Panjurli and Varthe are the two forms of a single Spirit power.


Panjurli is a powerful Divine Spirit. He is considered to be intolerant to feuds and disharmony in a family, in a village or between villages and becomes vengeful when devotees commit mistakes. So, Marathi meaning of ‘urli ‘(i.e. suspicious, jealous, malignant, grudge-bearing, morose, sulky, churlish etc) seems relevant.

Our academic interest is limited to theoretical analysis of the word without any disrespect to the Deity or the believers. Bear in mind, there may be no connection between Uruli/ Urli of Pune District to Urli in Panjurli. It only provoked us to search for possible meaning of the word.

-By H. Vishwanath & Ravi

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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