Friday, August 20, 2010

250. From ‘OLA SAVARI’ to ‘VARASARI’

 A decorated Bhoota (Spirit) with attendants, [Courtesy:]
Words, in any language, are outcome of an idea, experience (mental and physical), objects and events. Physical experience includes seeing and hearing. Sounds, that resemble those associated with an object or action to be named, becomes an onomatoepic word – an outcome of seeing and hearing. Besides having their own and original meanings, some of the words have acquired or derived meanings.

‘Varasari’, an antique word in Tulu, was engaging my mind for quite some time.
If one had spent ones childhood in Tulunadu, one would have heard some of the following phrases or idiomatic usages in Tulu language:
1) Admonition from elders: “Mulpa varasari malpochhi, pidayi po_du gobbule” (Meaning: Don’t run here and there nor make noise here. Go and play outside). ‘Varasari ‘here means noisy movements to and fro and in all directions, creating obstruction to elders in doing their work.
2) Unkemptness and disorder: “Illada varasaridu odegula povera aapuji” (Meaning: Things of the house are lying here and there, making the place untidy. Putting them in order takes so much of time that I am not finding time to go out).
3) Disunity in a house: Sentence at point (2) may also mean disunity in a house on account of chaos. Mark this statement: “Illada varasariye muggyuji.” (There is no end to disturbing activities in the house).

Spirit worship
Narrating a nostaliagic childhood episode may not be out of place. I take you way back to about 65 years to Hosabettu, then a sleepy coastal village without much modernity creeping in its stride. The Primary School was nestled between a verdant ‘Bailare’ (a stretch of low-lying, water-logged agricultural land) in the East and greenery all around with cashew, mango, coconut and casuarinas trees. A spacious ‘Goda’ (=gymnasium) – open on all sides - was standing on the North. Teacher (in charge 2 to 3 classes in those days) used take out pupils to this Goda for memorising the Tables, teaching numbers and letters, to be written on sandy surface. When teacher was late or absent from class, children used to play a game, having relevance to Bhoota (Divine Spirit) worship. Hosabettu has a Jarandaya Shrine where a 3-day Nemotsava is taking place in nights, concerning Jarandaya, Jumadi and Banta/Bunta Spirits. Fag end of the annual ceremony, a game is played with ‘Marlu Bhoota’ (In some Temples or Bhoota shrines ball games are played in adjoining agricultural field).
Taking a cue from this game, children used to play a game of ‘Marlu Bhoota’. The boy, who was always made to play the part of ‘Marlu Bhoota’, was Laxman (son of ‘Mulyada Poojari'1 Jannu). A fake impersonator holds a stick or some other twigs, while Other boys act as teasers and tormentors. Leader of the group entreats the Bhoota by saying “Marlu Bhoota pattodu pannaga pattodu, budodu pannaga budodu” (The mad spirit should possess the impersonator when told to do so and leave his body when told to leave). On beating of drums (i.e. brass plates carried to school for midday meal) and shrill music of wind instruments (made of coconut leaves) the impersonator starts to shiver as if he is possessed by the spirit and beats whosoever comes near him for teasing in words and in action, i.e. making fun of the spirit by throwing whatever things comes to hand. This game turns violent when either impersonator or any teaser is badly hurt. When it turns to personal fighting, the spirit is pacified and told to stop manifesting. Movements, shouting, swearing and littering the area with dried coconut or palm leaves, twigs and shreds of roof-tiles bring home the meaning of ‘Varasari’. (Note: In the real ritual, burning torches are used).

Ritualistic Connection
‘Varasari’ is a variant of ‘Ola Savari’ – a terminology connected with ritualistic worship of Divine Spirits of Tulunadu. Tulu Lexicon gives various versions of ‘Olasavari’, such as ‘Olasari, Varasari, Olasaru, O_lasiri (Oolasiri) or Vaalasiri’. It means “A ritual of Bhoota worship in which the Bhoota impersonator goes out of the arena in procession.”
A decorated Bhoota in trance.(courtesy: www)

Bhootaradhane ’ – an Overview
Bhootaradhane (Divine Spirit Worship) is a time-honoured ritualistic tradition of Brihad Tulunadu spread from Gokarn to Kasaragod (but now limited to Dakshina Kannada and Udupi Districts of Karnataka). Northern parts of Kerala, which includes Kasaragod District, evince Bhootaradhane, in the form of Theyyam.
There is a subtle difference between ritual and religion. Religion is a system of specific beliefs, based on doctrines or theologies, and revelations, involving the worship of supernatural forces or beings. Rites or rituals are a set of symbolic actions, formulated by a religion and/or Religious Gurus (teachers) or by the traditions of an individual family, community or a society, comprising a village or cluster of villages (‘seeme ‘or ‘maagane’s). Religious rites are religion-centric and traditional rituals have landed down from pre-societies, centring around hero-worship; say of Kings and their chieftains after death (Compare this with Paraohs – Priest Kings - of Egypt). These traditional rituals are not falling into any specific religious category.
With Brahmanism taking root in Tulunadu and synchronising with Dravidian cultures, the Bhoota shrines are located inside main Temples of Vedic Gods or vice versa. Being super-natural beings and remaining attendant to main deities, they protect their devotees. Hence there is conceptual statement in Tulu: “Deveregu dooteru, nambina manushyaregu daateru” (=Attendants to God and Benevolent to believing masses). Fear for these Divine Spirits – Upholders of Dharma - is more than that for main deities.
Communities of a region take part in Bhoota rituals, irrespective of religious leanings. All aspects of the life, teachings and after-death-life of great and noble historical figures are represented in these rituals. Their frailties notwithstanding, these legendary figures attained divinity after death. There are several historical figures, such as Chamundi/ Ma(h)ankaldi, Posappe, Panjurli, Maisandaya, Ullaya, Ullalthi, Jarantaya, Jumadi (Dhoomavati), Babbarya (Bobbarya), Vishnumurti, Varte, Kallurti, Kalkuda, Guliga, Koddabbu (Koteda Babbu), Koti & Chennaya (twins), Siri, Abbaga, Daraga, Pilichamnundi, Nandigona and so on. Saga of these heroes are perpetuated in lengthy oral poems, popularly called as PaDdanas, some of which are now documented. These PaDdanas are enacted during annual or specific festivals, called by different names, eg. Kola, (Dharmada) Nema, Tambila, Agelu, Bandi, Jatra, Maime, Mechchi, Kajambu, Jaalata, Kenda Seve, Ottekola, Panarata, etc.

There are some variations in ritualistic actions and text of songs due to regional difference and dearth of traditional singers with full knowledge of these orally handed down epic songs.
There are classified glossary evolved through past and present societies regarding flag-hoisting, special gestures, words for invoking and entreating deities, assurance given by oracles, specific make up and ornamental dress, dances to special music according to the sequence of ritual performance, pompous procession of initiated persons, called Poojaris, and dance performers, along with retinue of high-ranked persons (‘Gurikaras’, i.e. community leaders, and other dignitaries) to the beating of drums and blowing of trumpets and wind pipes.

Purpose of worship
1. Obliging religious and traditional beliefs of individuals, groups or societies, as a mark of respect and submission - an awe-inspired reverence.
2. Satisfying emotional needs during personal discomfitures, fears, and epidemics.
3. Spiritual needs.
4. Social solidarity: It is an occasion to extend and confirm social bonds by sharing common beliefs. It creates and strengthens a sense of group identity.
5. Social justice: Strengthening moral education. Right and wrong deed by an individual, group or a village is decided at the instance of divine spirit with tacit approval/acceptance of main deity of a particular temple.

Ola savari, Olasari to Varasari
Annual rituals ,as aforesaid, last for a day or two or three days, except ‘Deyi Nalike’, as in vogue in region to region. The first day is inauguration by taking ‘Bhandara’ from dedicated store-house and raising the dedicated flag (Kodi eruni). ‘Angana Seve’ (cleaning, decorating the pandol and invoking the deities (Daivas) through initiated persons, called Poojaris. The second or third day is called the ‘Ola Savari’ It is the inter-action of Poojaris and Trance-drama performers (impersonators). Tradition holds that these dance performers are from Nalike, Pambada, Parava, etc. They are artists, fashioned out of customs, to sing and dance according to epic lore and are sustained by Temples, Chieftains, village groups and communities.
Deyi Nalike’ is a composite Bhoota ritual in a royal household, or a big family for offering annual oblations for many Bhootas, one after another. This festival lasts for several days with rituals relevant to each and every Bhoota, dance and entertainments.

Invocation stages
There are different stages of invocation of Divine Spirits in these traditional dances. Following will give an idea about this ritual to an outsider.
Osaya Sandi (=Invocatory singing): A particular PadDana (Folk Epic) is sung by the Bhoota impersonator or mostly by his family in front of the idol or mask of the concerned Bhoota in order to invoke a Bhoota. ‘Tembare’ (a small drum) is beaten by Paratti (wife of Parava). There is saying: “Tembare pandavodu paratti, kola kattodu parave (Paratti has to beat the small drum, Parava has to dance). It means, essentially each one has to do his job assigned to him.
Siri singara: Auspicious costume, made of tender leaves of coconut. Leaves (in one piece) are split into thin strings and this piece is wrapped up from waist downwards. There are specific steps for this ‘siri kattuni’ dance with music. Bhoota impersonator goes into trance with this sacred dress. This is called ‘Siri singarada echchi’ (Dance-movements with ‘siri singara’ until being possessed by the particular Spirit).
Gaggarada Echchi: ‘Gaggara’ is a big boat-shaped anklet with jingling bells set inside. ‘Beetal leaf with nut’ is given to impersonator as a mark of permission to wear the ‘gaggara’. This permission is called as ‘gaggarada boolya’. Bhoota impersonators (mostly two – one for main deity and the other for his attendant) make several rounds to and fro, swerving, frolicking and leaping, running and making gestures to assembled dignitaries in front row or seated in assigned structure opposite to the pandol, where masks (muga) of deities are adorned, seeking permission for tying the jingling anklet. They dance according to changing music tunes till getting possessed or going into trance.

Ani kattuni: Ani is a kind of ornamental, halo-like structure made of areca spathes, cloth, tender coconut leaves or metal materials and worn on the back by the Bhoota dancer. Dance with ‘ani’ (crown) is a last leg of awe-inspiring Bhoota dance. There is inter-action with initiated Poojaris, conversation between the possessed impersonator and Gurikaras (in case of family festival, chief householder), show of approval, annoyance by shouting, disapproval by banging the ‘jeetige’(= a torch, made of cloth wrapped round the end of a stick in metal cup and soaked in oil, usually held before the deity or priest) to his chest every now and then, pacification of deity by entreating words (madu panpini) by Gurikaras and dignitaries, representing many castes). There is a pompous and tumultuous procession around the main shrine. There is a ‘badikara bali or badikara paravuni’ dance ritual, involving initiated person (Paatri) holding the ‘badikara’ (= a pot containing auspicious objects) and Bhoota impersonator.
Madipu: Prayer by devotees and enquiry, settlement and assurances by Bhoota impersonator in trance by giving ‘gandha prasada’. After ‘madipu’, Bhandara is taken back to the ear-marked store room.

‘Sari’ means to move. In short, inside and outside to and fro movements of invocated Divine Spirits, with frisking, leaping, swerving, gesturing, etc. to the deafening music of wind instruments and drums are called Olasari and Varsari during Kola or Nema Festival. Pell-mell created is awesome.
Divinity in man is not an accident. It is there during life and after death. The concept of Supreme Soul and ramification of this Soul in all creations of the Universe is a universal truth. This truth has no religion. With simplicity of living, depending on the Nature, man lived as a child of the Nature. With technological developments, man lost his touch with the Nature, thereby separating himself with Divinity. Revelation of one’s true nature comes in one’s life with concentration of thought process, that is ‘Self Enquiry’ – ‘Who am I?’ He becomes a man of God then and there and for ever, with qualities of God himself. This is how tradition of adoring the Divine Spirits has come to stay. Connecting oneself with this Divine Supernatural beings is an expression of humanity, i.e. acceptance of divinity pervading in all human beings. This traditional worship becomes a culture of a society, as is evident in Tulunadu.

1.‘Moolyada Pujari means an initiated man in charge of the images or masks (pāpe) of Spirit-Gods, armoury, ornaments and other things. He is entrusted with performing Pooja and maintaining the cleanliness of the Shrine (Daiva Sana) where periodical Kola ceremonies are held.
2. Readers may refer to older Posts No.32 (Origin of animal and spirit worship), 62 (Characterization of spirits of Tulunadu ), 94 (Antiquity of Siri) and 233 (Panjurli).
3. Thanks to Tulu Lexicon for documenting the words, phrases and idioms concerning this ritualistic art-form – Bhootaradhane.

20.08.2010                                                                                                                      -  H. Vishwanath

Friday, August 6, 2010

249. Origin of Sangam

Do you the  know the real origin and meaning of the word Sangam?
The word ‘sangam’ means confluence of rivers in Indian languages. By usage, it also means an association (of people). The Sangam literatures in ancient Tamil have been benchmark documents for Dravidian socio-linguistic studies. The Tamil Sangam literatures were compiled originally by a group of poet-sages like the Vedas.
We have suggested in the previous posts that the immortal Tulu Siri pāDdana were created in the similar fashion by unknown and unsung Tulu Sangam poets. The word Sangam, normally attributed   to  Sanskrit, is analysed as ‘sam+gam’ or get together.
However, the real origin or source of the word Sangam could be a bit strange! Let us explore!
Migration of tribes
Human evolution and heritage are so obscure and complex   that the origin, trail and trace of many of the common words   may have been totally forgotten or misunderstood. Scientists have documented that anatomically modern human being originated and evovled in Africa and with passage of time human tribes later migrated to different continents.Migrating tribes from Africa during ca 60,000 years ago appear to be the earliest tribes to settle in southern India. One of the branches of human tribes that settled in East Asian countries known as Austro- Asiatic tribes,  in another episode of migration, entered in India from the northeast and settled in different parts of India.
During the prolonged history of human evolution, human tribes settled in various continents developed and evolved independant languages, with the result we have several families of languages at present in the world. It is obvious that the earliest languages must have been simple sounds that evolved more or less independantly and developed grammatical complexities with passage of time.
Many question the basic and established tenets of human migration on the ground that the basic structure of languages in the place of origin and place of settlement are entirely different.It should be realized that many of these diverse sounding languages share common words that point towards common or shared origin of many of these languages.This could have been possible because the ancient words travelled to different continents along with migrating people rather than the languages and their grammatical structures.In some ways it also indirectly explains the resistance of the dominant native tribes vis-a vis invaders and immigrants.
We have explored in previous posts many of the African words surviving in our languages like Tulu as word fossils that document episodes of past history of human immigration. We shall explore some of the Austro-asiatic words that have been seamlessly absorbed in our languages.
Sangabettu to Sankala-kariya
Before we explore the possibe real origin of the common Indian word ‘Sangam’( the confluence of rivers), let us analyse some of the place names that are genetically related to this word such as Sangabettu, Sangolli, Sangli,Sankeshwar, Sankala-kariya etc. Infact there are numerous such village names all over India that carry the mysterious prefix ‘Sang’. (Sangner (Rajastan ), Sangariya (Rajastan),  Sangareddy (Andhra Pradesh), Sangameshwar (Maharastra), Sangamner (Maharastra), Sangrur(Punjab) .. etc)
Sangabettu (Bantval taluk, Dakshina Kannada) is a village on the bank of river Phalguni (Gurupur) and is located on the Bantval- Mudabidri connecting road. The ‘bettu’ suffix in Sanga+bettu explains that it is a ‘bettu’ a hilly or elavated terrain.Sang prefix in the Sangabettu reminds us of ancient Buddhist or literary ‘Sangh’s. But also keep in mind the common factor ‘Sang’ in Sangam and Sangabettu.
Sangolli is a village in Belagaum District, Karnataka whereas Sangli is a place in Maharastra. The similar sounding Sangolli (Sang+olli) and Sangli (Sang+ (o)lli> Sangli) appear to be two regional variants of the same toponym, wherein ‘Oli’ or ‘Olli’ means a village.
Sangameshwar (Ratnagiri Dist. Mah) is situated at the confluence of Sonavi and Shastri Rivers.
Sangrur in Sangrur District of Punjab, historically first inhabited by people from Sindh and Baluchistan, supposedly around 2300 BC. However, the present Sangrur City is said to have been founded by one Sanghu, a Jatt, about 400 years ago.
Sankala-kariya (Mangalore Taluk, Dakshina Kannada) is a hamlet on the bank of River Shambavi (Mulki) on Kateel-Murukaveri- Mundkur-Belman stretch of road.The suffix ‘kariya’ represents a ferry point, whereas the prefix ‘Sankala’ appears a bit strange since ‘sankala’ means a chain. However after a perspective analysis we feel that this word was originally ‘Sang-kala’ rather than sankala. The word ‘kala’ (pronounced kaLa) means a field or a plot (usually devoted to Spirit worship in the antiquity ) as we seen in numerous place names like Aikala, Bekala,Par(a)kala, Mabukala etc,
The common prefix among the word Sangam and the village names of Sangabettu (Bantval taluk), Sangkala-kariya Mangalore Taluk, Sangolli (Belgaum district) and Sangli (Maharastra) obviously is the word ‘Sang’! And the common natural factor among these words is these are all physiographically related to or proximal to Rivers.
Thus, it is clear that these village names share the (prefix) mysterious word ‘sang’.Besides , all these villages are located on the banks of rivers.
Song, the River!
The mystery ends when you find that the Vietnamese word ‘Song’ means a river*. The original Austro-asiatic word ‘Song‘ has been adapted in India as Sang! It can be recalled that ancient Austro-Asiatic tribes entered India from the North east in the antiquity and with time spread and settled in different parts of India.The Austro-Asiatic word ‘Song’ (=river) has been assimilated seamlessly as ‘sang’ into Indian languages during the historical antiquity.
Therefore, it appears that the word Sangam before it was adapted into various Indian languages was originally ‘songam’ or sang+am, the confluence of rivers or simply ‘rivers’ to begin with.
*Word Source: Keith Weller Taylor: “The Birth of Vietnam”. Google books.

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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