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.
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.
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.
Books for Reference
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- 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
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