Sunday, November 21, 2010

259. Bekanata and Paisachi

A mysterious and rather unscrutable, word cited in Rigveda, the Bekanata, has spurred imaginations of several researchers even though satisfactory meaning and explanation for the word has remained elusive. According to some investigators ‘Bekanata’ was an ancient name of Karnataka! Yet , some authors have tried to identify Bekanata with Bikaner.
 A stanza in Rigveda (6.4-31-5) cited by Varadaraja Umarji runs as follows-
“Indro vishvān bekanāTan ahadrushya
Utakritvā paNirabhi
The cited stanza describes that Indra, the king of Gods, won over Bekanata and Phani merchants.
Phani (or Pani, Panab or Panamb) were known to be a merchant class of tribes that evidently lived during the period of Rigveda (ca.1700-1500 BC). Pani tribes lived all over India including many parts of West Coast. The place names like Panvel (Maharastra), Panaji (Goa), Paniyur, Paniyadi, Panambur, Panapila, Panaje, Panakaje, Pāner (Karavali Karnataka) have survived as fossil indicators of the lost merchant tribes of Panis.The word pāne in place name ‘Pāne Mangalur’ (‘PāNer’ in Tulu) is also apparently related to the Pani tribes.
The word ‘paNi’ gave rise to ‘paNa’ and later ‘haNa’ (=money, the medium of trade transaction) and also ‘vani’ and ‘Vanija’ (=merchant). A merchant community is known as ‘Vani Shetty’ in Uttar Kannada.
However the other word ‘Bekanata’ has been disputed.
Varadaraja Umarji (1909-86) in his work on the history of Prakrit poets of Karnataka*, states that ‘Bekanata’ means two ‘kanata’s. According to him be=two and Kanata = large country. He suggests that two large countries were ancient Karnataka and Chola country of ancient Tamilnadu. Umarji also cites opinion of Muliya Thimmappayya who has suggested in his work on ‘Nadoja Pampa’ that Bekanata was the land of Pishachis, the ancient Karnataka. According to Thimmappayya beka means Pishachi. However R K Khadbadi in an article in Sambodhi has contested these views.
Beka-nata
The name Beka-nata and its alleged connection with the term ‘Pishachi’ (literally means, ghost) with ancient Karnataka appears rather mysterious.Note that the word ‘betāl’ (as in Vikram and Betal stories) also means the ghost.
Bekal to Bikaner
When we look for possible word fossils of ancient Bekanata we find many place names with prefix ‘Beka‘  in various parts of southern India.For example, Bekal and Bekur in Kasargod district of Kerala; Baikampadi in Mangalore;Baikandi near Bantval; Bekkur (near Sakaleshpaur), Begur (near Hassan) in Karnataka; Byculla in Mumbai, Maharastra; Bekapalli in Andhra Pradesh; and also Bikaner in Rajastan and so on.Some names obviously have evolved due to local reasons; for example, 'Byculla' appears very much different from Bekala.
In all these place names,’beka’ is the common prefix which has been modified to ‘beg ‘or ‘bik’ or ‘baikam’ in some cases. We find that ‘bai’ were an ancient tribe probably of Austro-Asiatic origin that settled in India during obscure ancient period.Thus the word ‘beka’ is derived from bai+ka, wherein ‘ka’ represents a village or a hamlet in Austro-Asiatic language possibly of ancient Singapur origin. Interestingly, the derived word ‘baikam’ (as in the place name Baikampadi) also as cited in the ancient Kannada text ‘Vaddāradhane’, represented Buddhist or Jain monk as well as beggar, showing the social status of these tribes with evolving times.There are also villages or hamlets known as Bayar, Bayadi, Bayandar etc
Thus the widespread presence of beka place names in southern India, justifies that the region was formerly known as bekanata, where ‘nāta’ (  nādu) means a civilised region.The word ‘nāta’ was equivalent of the word ‘nādu’ in ancient Sangam literature in Tamil. Then regional States were known as Karnata, Punnata etc.
Bai and Pai tribes
There are strong evidences to suggest that ‘Bai’ tribes were also known as ‘Pai’ tribes, because of b: > p:  transition common in Indian languages. Paithan in Maharastra was an ancient capital of ancient Karnataka-Maharastra. Ancient Karnataka, also known as Maharastra (great country) was spread from the River Kaveri to River Godavari as documented in Kavirajamarga.Thus Paithan ( area of Pai tribes) has been documented as ‘Baithan’ (area of Bai tribes)in ancient Greek travel literatures.
Besides ‘Paithan’ town in Maharsstra, there are numerous place names that have immortalized Pai tribes in Karavali/ Tulunadu, such as Paichar (Sullia), Paivalike (Bantval), Pailur, River Payaswani (Sullia) etc.River 'Payaswani' (payas=milk, vani= flow, river) is a subsequently Sanskritized version (name) of a river-name whose original name is untraceable at present: however, it is closer to a place called Paichar.
Similarly, the place name 'Peshavar' (Afghanistan) and the group name 'Pathan' are also possibly connected to the word 'Pai' tribes.
Paisachi language
The Pai tribes had there own language known as ‘Paisachi’. The word Paisachi, Pai+sa+chi , possibly originally meant the language of the Pai tribes. An ancient word of African origin ‘chi’ (also found now in Somali ) means a language. The Paisachi language became extinct probably during the beginning of the Common Era. However, the word Paisachi was made fun of by other later tribes, because of similarity to the word Pishachi which meant ghost!
It is said that modern languge Konkani is derived from the ancient extinct Paisachi language. The ‘Pai’ surname has remained among some of the Konkani people even today,
It is reported in ancient Prakrit and Kannada texts that poet Gunadya (ca 1st Century CE) wrote in Paisachi language.However, it is said the text of his works have not survived today.

-Ravi and Vishwanath
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 References:
Varadarja R Umarji (1909-1986) Karnataka Prakrita Kavi Charite (reprinted 2008).Kannada
Muliya Thimmappayya .'Nadoja Pampa':(Kannada).
RK Khadbadi . A paper in  Sambodhi Vol 6.

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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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