Many people based on an indistinct inference of available human genome haplotype studies believe that Dravidians were the aborigines in southern India. This inference also presumes that Dravidian languages existed and evolved in this terrain since the inception of human evolution. However, the existence of records for input of possible ‘foreign’ language elements in the antiquity may have to be considered in the current linguistic and genetic studies.
Delanta-bettu is a rural region near Surathkal and Surinje in Mangalore Taluk. You may be aware that ‘delanta’ (d in de pronounced mild as in English ‘the’) is a not common word in Tulu parlance! The Tulu suffix ‘bettu’ (like Kannada ‘betta’ or Gujarathi ‘bett’) means an elevated or hilly terrain.
There are other similar place names in other areas of Tulunadu like Delantabettu in Bantval Taluk, Delanta-majalu , near Manila, Bantval Taluk and Delantottu.
But what does the word ‘delanta’ means?
De, the body
The available indications suggest that the ancient root word ‘de’ originally meant ‘human body’ or ‘divine person’. It signifies that human body or persona was treated with utmost respect in the ancient days and the demised persons were worshipped in the form of Spirits. Later words ‘deha’ (=body) and ‘deva’ (=god) evolved with time from the original word ‘de’. It is interesting to note that the word ‘deva’ has other two meanings such as (1) body and (2) male genitalia (cf. Tulu Nighantu, p.1650), implying the origin and evolution of this particular word.This also signifies the transition of original Spirit cult to the worship of anthropo-morphic Gods with passage of time.
Thus the old Tulu word ‘dela’ suggests corpse or dead body.The word dela is found in the word ‘dela-gooDu’, which is a traditional decorated structure built at the site of a buried or cremated corpse. It can be understood that these structures (dela gooDu) were built as a symbol of reverence to the departed soul.These can be compared to the ancient cult of construction of elaborated pyramids to house the departed noble persons in Egypt and other countries. Similarly, Tulu words ‘deyyo’ (=Spirit) and later ‘daiva’ (=Spirit, God) evolved from the original ‘de’. In other languages like Kannada, where the cult of Spirit worship took a back seat with passage of time, this was modified to ‘devva’ (=Ghost or apparition).
With passage of time ‘dela’ also meant temple. Evolving Buddhist cults introduced early temples in India in the form of ‘Stoopa’ where mortal remains of Buddha were preserved and sanctified.Thus Buddhists Stoopa were continuation and improvement of the ancient delagoodu concept.Later Hindu temples evolved following the archetechtural styles invented and introduced by the Buddhists.Thus ‘dela’ became ‘degula’, ‘devala’ or ‘devaālaya’ (=temple).
After the word ‘dela’ was adapted to temples (ca. 4-6 Century CE), it appears that the word ‘delanta’ in Old Tulu was used to indicate aspects relating to divinity or worship and and area or zones reserved for priests.Thus ‘agrahara’ areas related to the temple were known as Delanta -majalu, Delanta-bettu, Delant-ottu etc.The 'Delanta bettu' in Tulu is almost equivalent of 'Devara dibba/gudda' in Kannada.
Delanta in Ethiopia
However, the analysis of the word ‘delanta’ as above is not so simple or conclusive. The roots of the core word ‘de’ suggested above, could have been a word originally invented by an early generation of human beings in Africa. Ethiopian region in Africa, where oldest dated human forms were discovered has been considered as the cradle of human species.
Secondly, the word ‘delanta’ as we find in ‘Delantabettu’, like the root word ‘de’, could have been imported to Karavali from Africa along with immigrants during one of the early cycle of human migration from Africa to India. And during the introduction of temple cult period, the pre-existing ancient imported word ‘delanta’ could have been redefined to reflect ‘devanta’ or divine sentiments as per the requirrements of ambient time period.
Delanta is a plateau region or place (name) in Ethiopia Africa known for occurrence of a mineral ‘opal’. There are many people around the globe with a name or surname of ‘Delanta’ or ‘Delante’.
Origin of some of the Tulu words and place names appear mysterious as we delve more deep.However, these mysteries reflect and conform to the overall scheme of human evolution and migration across the continents as accepted currently by the scientists.