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363. Deciphering Tulu-nadu place names

The readers would observe that many of the Tulu Place names may not convey, on the face of it, any specific meaning or apparent meanings...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

253. Mangalore: Antiquity & Evolution-1

Mangalore has changed immensely during the last five millennia! The city of Mangalore initially evolved as a group of agricultural villages located on ancient river banks some 5000 years ago! The position (flow-paths) of the ancient rivers of Mangalore, have changed with passage of time, but the original agricultural signature villages have remained as fossil place names!
India was populated by early humans migrating since ca.120,000 years according to recent studies. Early pre-history of Mangalore is hazy but it was definitely home for numerous ancient tribal immigrants from Africa, northern India and Austro-Asiatics from Southeast Asia as found and immortalised in the numerous ethnonyms preserved to this date.

Kudla
The familiar Tulu name for Mangalore is ‘Kudla’. Often the name ‘Kudla’ has been confused with ‘Koodla’ (=confluence of rivers). However, the confluence of two rivers that bound the Mangalore city at present, namely Phalguni (Gurupur) and Netravathi, happened only in the year 1887. (Cf: Post 98 in this blog). Before that period the two rivers were flowing independently and not showing any features of confluence! Therfore, the ‘koodla’ or confluence definition for kudla ventured in older posts herein (No16, 17) or other inspired texts requires amendments.
The word ‘Kudla’ (kuD+la) should be understood as agricultural village on river bank. Let us look into this explanation in detail.

Ancient Agricultural phase :(ca.3000 BC-400 BC)
Tulu rural people have a special fascination for the humble horse-gram (‘kuDu’), do you know why? ‘KuDu’ (Tulu) or ‘Huruli’ (Kannada), or the horse gram was the earliest agricultural food crop preferentially grown by our ancestors some 4 to 5 millenia ago as found out by archeo-botanical studies in southern India!
Within Mangalore there are atleast four areas that were formerly (ancient, ca. 3000-1500BC) dedicated to the cultivation of earliest known crop, the horse gram (‘kudu’). Of these, the place names ‘Kudla’ and ‘Kudupu’ are well known.

Ancient Rivers of Mangalore: Phalguni
Geological studies (conducted by our team during the last two decades) evince interesting historical and paleo-geographic data on the rivers of Mangalore. The flow paths (channels) of the two rivers of Mangalore, namely Phalguni (Gurupur) and Netravathi, have continuously changed paths several times during the period of last 10,000 years or more.
One of the interesting aspects of geological and historical data correlation is that the River Phalguni was flowing along what is presently known as Kodialbail (recognisible as a paleo-valley paths), cutting across Mahatma Gandhi Road near TA Pai convention center and flowing across Alake and joined the Sea near Kuduroli. As far as geological evidences for the existence of river channel are concerned, you can see distinct presence of water worn quartz pebbles preserved in the soil zones all along the paleo- river path described above.
The ancient village names actually support the geological findings. The name Kudla suggests agricultural/farm area (kuD) beside a river (‘ala’). Similarly ’Alake’ (Ala+ke) is a village on river bank, ‘ke’ being a spatial suffix of south-east Asian Austro-asiatic origin. Thus we can correlate the time of flow of Phalguni along Kodialbail to the ancient agricultural Kudla phase estimated at ca.3000-2000 BC, based on archeo-botanical studies in southern India.
Further, Kuduroli represents a village (Oli= village) of ‘kuduru’s (=riverine islands). The ‘Kuduroli’ place name may be slightly later in time and coined after the period the river shifted its position northwards from Alake- Kuduroli area.

Kudu, horse gram
Kud (u) =meant agricultural land ( ‘kuDu’, pre-Dravidian word of Munda origin: ku+du, ku=good,prosperous; du=land).Kudu (=horse gram) represented one of the earliest grown and consumed cereal grain in southern India. According to paleo-botanical evidences, Rice, the major food crop of the south, was introduced in southern India probably during ca.800-400 BC period. (Kudugol, Kannada word, is an agricultural/farming, crop cutting sickle.).
Incidentally the equivalent Kannada word ‘huruli’ is a modification of ‘uruli’, where uru=land and uru+li means product of earth. Thus both the words ‘kudu as well as ‘uruli’ reflect the deep respect early farmers had toward the earth.
Kudla= A habitation formed during ‘kudu’ phase. (Kud+la, Kud=agricultural land, la= a habitation beside a flowing stream,river).The word ‘Kudla’ has been also interpreted as kooD+la or confluence of rivers, but the agricultural explanation appears more appropriate because in the original area identified as ‘Kudla’ (or Kodialbail) proper, there is no evidence of any sort of confluence of rivers!
Kudupu= An agricultural (Kudu) village.
Kudthadka (near Bajal) = A field (aDka) dedicated to farming. kuDuta +aDka
Kudpadi (Jeppu)= A shady zone (shrub or tree grown area=’pāDi’) dedicated to Kudu farming.
Almost all these places were originally on the banks of river, now with passage of time most of the rivers have changed their flow paths due to earth movements. KuDupa (=farmer) was one of the ancient proper names among Tulu people.
It can be seen that ‘koDipu’ (=to sprout) evolved from the original word ‘kuDu’. With this, ‘koDi’ and ‘koDa’ place names like Kodipadi, Kodavur etc evolved.

Pre-Dravidian signatures
Kudu place names are not exclusive to Tulunadu. Infact Tulu people have inherited this word from the pre-Dravidian culture of Munda civilization had dominated in southern India, before the advent of Dravidian speakers. Even though there were skirmishes between the Munda aborigines and Dravidian immigrants as testified in 'Devi Mahatme' and other epics of the period, Dravidian culture gradually absorbed essence of of the older Munda language and culture as testified by the presence of older Munda words as well as continuation of Munda place names in Tulunadu and other pats of southern India. As a proof you of pervasive Munda civilization in southern India, you can find kudu place names in other parts of Karnataka and Maharastra such as Kudle, Kudne, Kuditi, Kuditini etc. Besides, ‘Kudubi’ or ‘Kudumbi’ were an ancient agricultural tribes.

Associated Naga cult
One of the possibilities apparent in the analysis of Kudu village names is the growth and association of Naga worship cults along with the Munda agricultural phase. Prehistoric agricultural development in Tulunadu lead to destruction of natural forest areas and the wild serpents began to invade cultivated farm areas. The farming tribes were appalled at the sight of snakes that had magical powers to terminate people by their venomous stings. The early farmer had no other choice but to pray ardently to these serpents for the security of his family and livestock.
The Kudupu village was an ancient centre of Naga worship.(Later it was transformed to centre of Kumara/Skanda worship). The derived word ‘koDapu’ means to sting (like a serpent bite). And the word ‘koDa’ also represented a ‘Naga’ or serpent. A special word in this connection is ‘koDamaNi’ (as found in the name of the Tulu Spirit Kodamanittaya) which possibly represents the ‘Nagamani’ or the mythical gemstone found on the hood of cobra.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

252. Rediscovering Tulunadu

Strikingly odd conclusions or opinions, which go beyond ordinary understanding of a reader, attract a ridicule or disdain. More often than not, he (reader) is sceptical of the findings. This situation is more pertinent to the Posts, discussing Place-names of Tulunadu in this Blog. These place-names are a sort of riddles, hard to crack. The other day, I confronted Ravi with a teaser on Bijai and Bejja (Post-251). I observed, “Our obsession to ‘African Tribes’ should not be over-emphasised.” His quiet reply was very direct: “Many of the history items are obviously obscure. These aspects are not documented so far totally. I am only to thread through these strings, using logical evidences of migration patterns. I know that you are sceptical of these all. Naturally, anyone should be sceptical to begin with. But what makes a sense is that when deduced strings are logically matching with one another. Alternate explanation, if any, should correlate in space and time, to be realistic.” Yes, Ravi is ‘ploughing a lonely furrow’ when he is not following trodden path.

Evolved Language
It is difficult to sift, weigh and conclude when materials are scattered. These are available in the form of monuments, inscriptions, popular legends, historical writings (genuine or skewed), some loose strands of writings, i.e. superficial data, and fossil/archaic words, traceable in place-names but hinting to some base language, lost, assimilated or forgotten. Origin of such words is not clear. Evocative words or some other links tend to rouse some interest or impulse to search for some long-lost or forgotten materials of history.

Obelisks of Persepolis
Not so long, I chanced to glance through a Book: ‘A History of Babylonia and Assyria’, written in 1900 AD by Roberts William Rogers. He gives a vivid picture of how the strange language(s) used in inscriptions on the Obelisks or Pillars of Persepolis in Persia (erstwhile Iran) are deciphered. This involved several travellers and decipherers, spanning from 14th Century to 19th Century. They are all laymen in history and linguistics. Being ignorant about the history of these pillars, locals engaged in pillage of these structures for building purposes and/or in spoiling the ruins. Noting and observations of way-farers, led the group of learned men to decipher three languages. A simply small note by a European Friar, named Odorific(us), in his Travelogues in 14th C. inspired European travellers and instigated other European States to send ambassadors to Iran. They picked up the thread left by their predecessors. Method used by George F. Grotefend (a German born on June 9, 1775) was ridiculed as unscientific and his decipherment was rejected. Gottingen Academy of Sciences refused to publish his Paper, fearing of risking a bad name. His Paper saw the light of the day with the help of his personal friend A.H.L. Heeren, who published it in his book on Ancient World, as an Appendix. Others who followed Grotefend proved him to be correct.

Tulu Studies
Let the readers know that we are not historians in the real sense, i.e. learned ones, nor linguists. It is our inquisitiveness and interest that drives us to dabble.in the subject. It is for readers to reject or accept the postulations wholly or partially. Indifference by readers is discernible by the negligible comments or feed-backs coming forth. Note how the successive attempts to solve the mystery of inscriptions of Persepolis ruins culminated in adding up ‘materials in a new and substantially correct form’. It is a slow process but aimed at the purpose to leave materials for others to carry forward and improve. Consensus of opinion is possible only when a group of like-minded people – learned or otherwise – work together. The rediscovery of Babylonian and Assyrian languages (considered as ‘wonder of ages’) is made in Iran, away from those Lands. Let us rediscover our Land, called the Tulunadu, mention of which is found in place-names in travelogues of foreigners.

Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune
13th September, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

251. The ethnic Bijai : Bijapur


The Mangalore city area north of Kodialbail (the original ‘Kudla’) around KSRTC Bus station and Bharath Mall etc is known as ‘Bijai’ area, usually pronounced like ‘bijayi’ or ‘bejayi’. The word ‘bijay’ sounds like Bengali equivalent of ‘vijay’ (= victory) to begin with.
Have you ever wondered about the origin of this place name Bijai?
Bijai
The odd sounding place name can be analysed as Bija+ayi or Beja+ayi, where in ‘ayi ‘means spatial dimension. In general we may assume that ‘bija’ stands for seed or even cashew nut. However, this sounds somewhat mysterious as the rugged topography of the area might neither had represented any agricultural or seed area; nor cashew was documented as an ancient plant in Tulunadu.
Bijadi
There are other places along the coast that carry the ethnic prefix: Bija. For example,  Bijadi in coastal Kundapur Taluk, Udupi district.
Bijapur
Other analogous names include Bijapur, Bijayavada (Vijayvada), Bijaynagar (Vijaynagar), etc. While Bijapur again reminds of ‘bija’, the seed, ‘Bijayvada’ or ‘Bijaynagar’ may reminds us of the historical regal battles and victories against their less fortunate foes.
Interestingly, the Bijapur was known as 'Beja-pore' or 'Beja poor' during the British period.
Beja tribes & villages
If you look beyond the bija=seed theory, you shall find that there are numerous villages and towns around the world carrying the name of Beja (or Bija).There is a Beja vllage close to Mangalore,near Manjeshwara, Kerala. Similarly there is another ‘Beja’ village in Ludhiyana district of Punjab.There may be more such villages and hamlets, but these examples in different language zones of India may help us to visualize the regional spread of this particular ethnonym Beja.
Similarly, you shall find villages or towns named Beja (or Bija, Bejai, Bejala, Bejar, Bejak Bejan, Bejaja etc) in diverse countries of the world like Pakistan, Latvia, Laos, Brazil, Guinea Bissau, Portugal , Columbia, Spain and Tunisia. These villages were named after a nomadic pastoral tribes known as ‘Beja’, that originally lived in African zone between Red sea and River Nile , in Sudan  to Egypt and migrated during the past history to diverse regions of the world.
According to Encyclopaedia Brittanica the Beja tribes are ca.4000 BC old .They speak Bejawi or Bedawi language, occupy mountain country between Red sea and River Nile.They were archers in historical armies.
These data suggest that these nomadic Beja tribes   originally from Sudan Ethiopia and adjoining regions of Africa migrated during the history to different parts of the world including southern India and Tulunadu. It is also possible that these were related to the Beda tribes (Beja>Beda) of India, considering that their language ‘Bejawi’ is also known as ‘Bedawi’.

Beja is also the name of a former princely state and its capital in Himachal Pradesh in northem India.
In Bejja village near Moodambail, Manjeshwara, Kerala, there is a Bejja guttu. The name ‘Bijja’ or ‘Bejja’ also exists as a tribal proper name among Badaga and several other south Indian tribes. Bijja and Bejja surnames still exist in India (and also other countries). ‘Bijjala’ was the name of the Kannada King during the life and times of social reformer Saint Basaveshwara (Basavanna). Similarly, Bijja Mahadevi was the name of a Lingayath nun.
Similarly, the Tulu proper name ‘Becha’ (as in ‘Bechanna’) of yester years appears as a fossil variant of the tribal name Beja. In Orissa, we find proper names like 'Biju' (for example,Biju Patnaik).
In view of these, the Bijai place name of Mangalore or Bijadi of Kundapur or even Bijapur or Vijayavada , like other hosts of 'Beja' village names, may actually represent ancient colonies of Beja tribes in southern India. The ancient Beja tribes that left their signature ethnic names as fossil imprints in our place names, now totally forgotten in our cultures and regions, have obviously been seamlessly assimilated during the history into various Tulu Kannada and other Indian communities.

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Bejjara = Vajra
A curious endpiece worth pondering over:
H. Vishwanath has pointed out the relevant word ‘Bejjara’. Incidentally, ‘Bajjara’, the Pali /Prakrit word, has been considered as ‘tadbava’ (derivative) of the Sanskrit word ‘Vajra’ (=diamond).
Africa, the original home of Bejja tribes, is also well known for large diamond deposits and mines. One possibility is that the diamond was introduced in India in the antiquity by the Bejja  immigrants from Africa. And hence the word ‘ bejj+ara’ ( stone brought by Bejja) might have been coined in the ancient Indian languages like Prakrit or their precursor languages.
In that case, the refined word ‘Vajra’ appears to have been derived from the earlier coined word ‘bajjara’ or ‘bejra’.

H Vishwanath provides some more interesting additions to the meaning and scope of word 'Bejja':
'Bejja' (Sanskrit Vejja) means 'hole'.  Bejja localities apparently were in a hole-like  or narrow strip of land in between two hills. 
Bejjawada (Sanskritised Vijayawada) possibly got its name because of the narrow passage of Krishna river between two hills, forming a bejja, that is is a deep hole-like passage (Ref: Bharatiya Sthalanama Patrike Vol.8, Page 43).  'Potare' in Kannada means a bejja/vejja in a tree.
The other meaning of Bejja is Baidya/Vaidya (Doctor). Baidya was a sect  dealing with herbal medicine among the Bhils (>Billava) or Beda tribes. It appears that these tribes were responsible for the introduction and evolution of herbal medicines and Ayurveda in India. The renowned Tulu heroes Koti and Chennaya were born to a lady called ' Devi Baideti' who was proficient in administering herbal medicines.
In Bengali also bejja means a doctor.

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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 Culture.by 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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