Friday, December 30, 2011

292.Fishing Ritual at Kandevu

Fishing, along with hunting, is considered to be one of the oldest employments practiced by early human civilizations, probably dating back to some 60,000 years before present. River Nile and the Mediterranean Sea were the earliest fishing domains for early tribes in their African homelands, and as the tribes set on paths of migration from in several episodes they carried their fishing skills to diverse shores where they eventually settled. Some of the fishing rituals adopted by Tulu and Malayalam people, since ages are also being celebrated in distant shores of Taiwan suggesting the common origin of some of the basic customs in diverse cultures. “Samudra-pooje” or ceremonial worshipping the Sea and praying for bountiful fish catches is a common ritual practiced since ages at the beginning of annual fishing season for the fishing communities living along the seashores. However, similar community fishing rituals in inland or estuarine rivers is not a common practice in Tulunadu. Thus, community fishing rituals at Kandevu and Payyanur may have special significance in terms of evolution of the coast such as the geo-morphological   retreat of the Arabian Sea coast during the course of history, attributed imaginatively to ‘Parasuram Shristi’ in the legends.
In this post we shall describe the annual fishing ritual of Kandevu Temple on the bank of River Nandini, near Surathkal, Mangalore Taluk, Dakshina Kannada and followed up with parallel examples from Payyanur, Kerala (‘Meenaruthu’) and Orchid islands, Taiwan (Flying fish festival).We shall discuss some of the implications of marine retreat theory at the end of the post.
There are several places called Khandige in the Karavali sector, but our present discussion pertains to the one within Chelair Village, Mangalore Taluk. Kandevu or Khandevu also known as Khandige beedu. The Chelair village in Mangalore Taluk, also hosts a major rehabilitation colony of people displaced during the construction of ONGC-MRPL mega industry.
The word Kandevu appears related to ancient God Kandiya worshipped in various parts of Southern India in the antiquity (Post 274). The Kandevu tribes who believed in God Kandiya, spoke Kandevi language which was also known as Goakanadi. It is reported that the Kandevi language was being written in a script similar to Kadamba Kannada. The modern Konkani is said to have been derived from Kandevi.
 A location map of Chellair area showing features of Pavanje River
Chelairu village is located about 3km east of the West Coast and the Pavanje - Nandini River flowing by the village is affected by salt water encroachment from the Arabian Sea. In Tulu parlance, the village is called Telar.The name 'Telar', connotes a sense of river migration that occurred in the past history. 'Telavuni' in Tulu language is to drift, migrate or change course.
It is reported that the Tamil Sangam literatures cite a coastal city called ‘Cellur’ in Tulu Nadu. . Possibly , it was referring to the ancient form of Chelairu. The place is also associated with the legends of Siri, who has been compared to Kannagi of Tamil Sangam literature ‘Silappadikaram’.(Post.97
Maritime Merchant Guilds
  The place was definitely identified with maritime trade, with ‘Pandis’ (big sailing boats) owned by the King, or feudal lord of the area. Kandevu was inhabited by fishing and sea-faring Mogaveeras, who shifted to coastline Mukka in 1920 and this place, is named as ‘Mitrapatna’.  As we know, there were many maritime merchant guilds around the ports of Tulunadu (Eg. Mangalore, Panambur, Udyavara, Basrur-Kundapura, Honnavara, etc).  Such places are known by Nakhar or Nagar or Pattana (qv our Posts on Panambur).  It is possible that the river basin and the estuary might have been larger and deeper in those olden days to allow ships to go interior.
Dharmarasu Ullaya
Dharamarasu Ullaya the principal spirit of Kandevu is considered a reincarnation (avatar) of Lord Shiva.  According to legends, it is said that he appeared in the River Nandini in the form of a face.  Thus place is now called as (Mukha>Mugaa=face) Mukka.  The place where he ‘espied to stay’ is now called Kandya, Kandevu or Khandige.
Fishing Ritual at Kandevu
As a part of Kandevu Temple Festival, catching fish from Pavanje (aka Nandini) River in middle of May – just before the onset of summer monsoon – is a unique socio-religious custom in Tulu Nadu. It is a community fishing fair without distinction of caste and creed, connected to Khandige Beedu Temple at Chelairu or Chelar Village on the bank of Nandini.  ‘Beedu’ is the historical manor house/palace of erstwhile ruler of the area. The event - ‘Kandevuda aayanodu meenu pattuni’ - is a part of Kandevu Aayana or Chelairu Jaatre, which falls on either 14th or 15th of May month [Besha or Vrishabha Sankramana, i.e. moving from Mesha (April-May) to Besha (May-June)]. (Aāyana or Jātre means ‘a recurring annual festival on falling on a specific day,’).
Fishing ritual at Kandevu (Photo: Deccan Herald on web)

An artificial bund is constructed across the tributary of the River Pavanje (Nandini) near the Kandevu Temple, a month before the event to conserve fish as well to restrict flow of saline water upstream. Fishing is banned during this period on the stretch of this river and any culprits caught will have to pay fine. 
On the day of festival, an officiating priest known as ‘Mukkaldi’, opens the Fishing Fair by sprinkling ‘Prasadam’ at Nandini River in early morning.  He comes to the river in a procession to the beating of traditional musical instruments.  No sooner the priest signals the inauguration of fishing by bursting ‘Kadani/kadoni’ (a swivel-gun invariably used during traditional temple festivals in Tulu Nadu) than the devotees on both banks of the river rush into the river to catch fish.  The din, hurry and fervor are to catch fish more than others.  There are different kinds of fishing nets and crude devices:  Beesu Bale (Cast-net), Gorubale/Gorale (Long net with two sticks to gather/scoop and lift up, handled by one or two persons, depending on size), Kanni-bale (Oblong open net driven by two or four persons), Kuttari (a cylindrical shaped open basket made of ratten used to trap fish and remove it by hand from the narrow opening at the top.  Kuttari is also used to keep fowls covered).  There is a brisk trade of these articles before fishing starts. Those enthusiastic and fun-loving persons without any means of catching use their legs and hands to trap and catch hapless fish, escaping the nets and legs of the multitude wading through water. View of onlookers and frenzied catchers is a picturesque one. Carrying a ‘totte’ (a bag made of coconut leaves), I had accompanied my father and brother twice during my school days in fifth decade of last century.  The war-like expedition for the kill is a wonderful experience.  
Some participating devotees sell the fish on the spot.  Fish is tasty, thanks to the one month ban on fishing.  It helps fish to conserve and grow.   So it fetches high price.   Partaking curry made out of this fish caught here is considered as ‘Prasadam (Blessing of the deity).
Yermal Aayana is the harbinger of festivals of Tulu Nadu and Kandyada Aayana is end of Festivals.   It is described in Tulu as “Yermal jappu Kandevu aDepu” (Yermal beginning and Kandevu Stopping).  (See Post: 110. Mukka).
The Annual celebration includes Nema of Ullaya Daiva, Nandigona, Siri Darshana, Kumara-Siri visitations (Kumara, the son of Siri, is considered to have been bestowed with divine powers), Tambila Seva to the Serpent God, Bakimaru Chendu Nema to Parivara Daivas, etc.  Tambila and Siri Darshana (Dance of Spirit of Siri-possessed women) rituals are held at night before the fish catching ceremony in the following morning.  Hoovina Puje (Flower offering) to Ullaya Daiva and attendant ritual are held in the day time.
Payyanur Meenamrutu Festival:
A fishing festival similar to Kandevu Aayana is conducted at Payyanur, Kerala. In the Ashtamachal Bhagavathi Temple, Payyanur, Kerala, Meenamruthu is the main attraction in the month of April, besides Theyyam (Malayalam equivalent of Tulu Nema or Kola), during the 8-day long annual festival of the Temple in April.  By mid-day, old and young devotees, dive into River Kavvayi Puzha to catch fish, using nets and other accessories.  Fish, gathered by community fishing, is grouped and the excess fish is distributed to people present.  It is believed that fish, known locally as ‘nongal, maalan, and irumeen’ varieties, are liked by the Goddess.  The chosen fish bunches are taken in procession, to be offered to the Goddess. The sacred room of the Goddess is opened once in a year for the annual festival and kept closed thereafter. As in Tulu Nadu, this festival marks the end of festival season of Payyanur.  
The origin of this tradition is related to business community called ‘valnchiyarmar’, who owned and operated merchant vessels from Kavvayi Sea-port to various ports around the world, including China. Payyanur was an important business hub in olden days.   Before embarking on the voyage, they used to perform ‘meenamruthu’, seeking blessings of the Sea God and Goddess Durga for safe voyage and successful business.  Presently, the weaving community called as ‘Padmasaliya’ is conducting the festival. 
Flying Fish catching in Taiwan:
Tao Tribe, living in Orchid Islands of Taiwan, conduct a fishing ceremony begins generally in second or third month of Lunar Calendar and runs for some four months.    Flying fish come into Taiwan waters with ‘Kuroshia Currents’ from January to June.  Tribals, whose activities are connected to coming and going of flying fish, believe that these fish are a bounty from the Gods. Different Stages of Festival are: (1) Blessing of the boats, (2) Praying (facing the sea) for a bountiful catch, (3) Summoning fish, (4) First catching night ceremony, (5) Fish storing ceremony, and (6) Fishing cessation ceremony.  Participation is restricted to men, who wear loincloths, silver helmets and gold strips and pray for bountiful catch from the Sea.

Traditional conservation of fisheries 
Our forefathers were thoughtful in practicing natural conservation methods in fisheries with the aim of balanced consumption of fishes as well as preserving various species of fishes. In Tulunadu coasts, the Fishing season stops with the phenomenon, which is known as 'Tuppe Kanti Malaka' in Tulu.  'Tuppe' means granary.  It also means the constellation of stars in the shape of granary.  Setting of the Constellation is the indication of blowing of pre-monsoon strong winds and resultant rough sea, normally around May-end.  The tempest is known in Tulu parlance as 'Tuppe kanti Malaka'  - Rough sea with tidal waves (Malaka) on setting of (Kanti) the Constellation ('Tuppe'). At that period the Tuluvas have free time with the harvesting of 'Kolake' crop and the stoppage of marine-related profession. The spawning time of fish is monsoon.  Thus traditionally the marine Fishing activity is stopped by forefathers between May end to mid or end of July in the days of manual fishing.
The traditional conservation practices are meaningful in the light of modern unbridled mechanized fishing and its well known adverse effects.

Historicity of Chelairu    
It appears that the village of Chellair, recorded as Cellar in the Sangam literature of Tamilnadu, was a flourishing coastal town during Sangam period. This would mean that the coastline was a few kilometers interior than at present. Or in other words the coast has receded in recent years after the Sangam period. Thus, it appears that the historical fact of recession of the Western Coastline due to geological factors has been converted into legends of Parasuram. Legends imaginatively describe that Parasuram (who is considered as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) threw his axe into the Sea with the demand that the Sea be receded as far as the axe fell and that the Lord of Sea obliged by receding.
It follows that the community fishing ritual of Kandevu could have been a vestige of the age old custom of ‘Samudra Pooje’ carried out, when Chelair was a coastal town.
Chelairu guttu is also associated with the historically famous Tulunadu hero known as Agoli Manjanna.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune
+ Ravi

Suggested reading
Paltādi Ramakrishna Achar: ‘NAGABERMER’ (Kannada Book). Supriya Prakashana, Narimogaru, Puttur-574312 (Dakshina Kannada/Karnataka).
Narayana A. Bangera: “Kandevu Kshetra Mahātme” (Greatness of Holy Place Kandevu), in Kannada.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

291. Garodi and Kalari

Ancient Garodi and Kalari schools trained youths in physical development, body building and various combat techniques in the antiquity. Well known Tulu researcher and academician Dr. Vamana Nandavara in his blog ‘Nandavara’ has compiled an informative post on the contribution of Garodi ancient martial art training schools of Karavali Tulunadu on Kalaripayattu martial art system prevalent in Kerala-Tamilnadu.
 The ancient school of martial arts and gymnasia, the ‘Garodi’ (pron: ‘garoDi’) or ‘Garudi’ (garuDi) is also known as ‘Garadi ‘(‘garaDi’) especially in Kannada regions including Karnataka. It seems the Garodi/Garudi/Garadi schools were popular since antiquity, not only in Karavali Karnataka but all over southern India. The Dravida Etymological Dictionary (DED) cites ‘Karati’ as Tamil equivalent of Garadi. In Telugu areas these were also known as Giridi. The Garadi and Karati are the same word considering that ‘ka’ and ‘Ti’ also represents ‘ga’ and ‘Di’ respectively, because of paucity of consonants in Tamil alphabet. It is believed that Buddhist missionary monks from southern India carried ancient techniques of self- defense to China and Japan that eventually developed into ‘Karate’. Thus it is possible that the word ‘Karate’ originated from the Dravidian word ‘Karati’.
It appears that the word ‘GaroDi’ (garuDi or garaDi) originated from roots ‘garu’ and Di. The Pali (also Paisachi?) word ‘garu’ means guru or the teacher; (In Telugu suffix –gāru is appended to personal names to signify respect). Di (or Da) is a spatial attribute suffix found in ancient place names [like Kaladi, Shiridi, Niddodi, Posodi ; Baroda, Muruda etc.]. Overall, the word ‘Garodi’ means teaching area or school. In Gujarathi language Garodia means a teacher. Similarly in Tulu language, 'Garandal' (garand+aal) means a stalwart or an important person, suggesting that the word 'garand' [older variant of 'garad'] reflects a respectable [aal] person. Similarly, the flag-post in front of Temples is known as Garuda-kamba. The word 'garuda' in this usage may not be the bird vehicle of Lord Vishnu.Because the same temple flag ('dhwaja' or symbolic mast) is known as 'Garna' in Kundapur area. The word Garna, again signifies symbolic honour in front of the abode of God. Similarly, the gun powder explosive  blasted to announce auspicious ceremonies in the temple is known as 'garnaal'. 
[Note: The teacher in TuLu Garodis is usually known as 'Nanaya".This could be a subsequent or parallel development in the course of evolution of Garodis].

To begin with, the spatial halls in the front of traditional houses (ChāvaDi) or open fields were used as Garodi training grounds. This is evident from the usages like garodi (for chāvadi) and Garodi kanda (see Tulu Nighantu, Vol.3, p. 1057-1058). Subsequently, these were shifted to dedicated schools dictated by specified Vāstu norms (blog post in Nandavara).
The meaning of the term ‘Kalari’ is generally explained as battle-field: however, origin of the word seems similar to garodi. The ancient word ‘kaLa’ means a plot or field [For example neji da kaLa means the paddy field  in Tulu language; the plot dedicated for spirit worship among early Tulu tribes is also referred to as kaLa]. Therefore, the word ‘kalari’ originally referred to the open field where the art or techniques of combat were taught and practiced. Subsequently, Kalari also meant the battle field, since battles were also held in open fields.[The  word’ kalaha‘ for combat has similar origin].
Antiquity of Garodis and Kalaris
Thus ‘garodi’ and ‘kalari’ seems to have evolved as two parallel schools of martial arts with similar origins in the antiquity. And these schools evolved by borrowing technical know-how from their friendly neighbours wherever possible. The Kalari (or Kalaripayattu) also imbibed principles of graceful movements from the ambient dance styles originated in this land during the course of its evolution.
Fig 291.1.Idol of horse mounted Bermer flanked by idols of Koti and Chennaya in a Garadi [ photo source: Dr Vamana Nandavara (2001)]

Even though the garodi and kalari schools flourished well between the period 10 th 16th Century CE, it appears their   origin dates back to early years of the Common Era or before.
One important clue for the antiquity of garodis comes from the nature of God traditionally worshipped in garodis. The master deity of Garodi is Bermer or the concept of Brahma in original form.
Fig 291.2.Idol of horse mounted Bermer  God worshipped in a  Garadi (above picture partly highlighted).
 The cult of Bermer   mounted on horse originated before the introduction of revised cult of four-headed Brahma in Indian Puranas.The introduction of the horse mounted Bermer cult in Tulunadu possibly dates back to the period ca.400 BC to ca.400 CE.
Garadi and Karate
 Garadi ( the other verbal form of the term Garodi) was also earlier pronunced as Karati. The Tamil equivalent of Garadi was Karati as  there are paucity of consonants in Tamil alphabets wherein ka-ga and ti-di etc pairs are pronunced similarly. In the early history of  India, Buddhist teachers from southern India proficient in Garadi (Karati) and Yoga arts travelled  to China and Japan to preach or propagate Buddhism. It appears that these monks also propagated a mixture of Garadi (Karati) and Yoga as Karati or Karate in those countries.

 [If you have missed previous posts, check in for more on Bermer God.. and discussions ]
Read the Nandavara post on Contribution of Garadis to Kalaris at:

Vamana Nandavara, Dr.(2001) Kooti Cennaya: Folkloristic Study (Kannada).Hemanshu Prakashana, Mangalore,p.420.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

290. Vaiyāli-kaval: Origin and significance

Have you ever wondered about the origin or significance of some of the odd sounding place names in the burgeoning city of Bengaluru? Bengaluru (or Bangalore), originally built by Kempegowda in the year ca.1537 CE, is presently the capital of Karnataka, where Kannada is the official State language; however, you can find several local place names within Bangalore that cannot easily be explained by Kannada pundits or lexicons. Vyalikaval (Vaiyalikaval) is one such place name within Bengaluru. The significance of this place name is that the cosmopolitan  nature of Bengaluru dates back to a period not less than two millennia.
Normally pronounced as Vaiyāli-kāval, this particular area is located between Malleshwaram (Originally Mallapura village) and Sadashivanagar (named after freedom fighter Karnad Sadashiva Rao) Extensions in the Northwest part of Bangalore. The suffix ‘kāval’ refers to areas reserved as sylvan zones or protected forests during the historical regime of kings and chieftains. However the word ‘vaiyali’ appears unintelligible in general. Some have tried to explain it as a Kannada version of Tamil word ‘yali’, a mythical animal figurine displayed in temple sculptures in the form of half-lion-half elephant. The mythical ’Yali‘  is generally known as ‘Shārdūla’ in Kannada-Tulu areas.
Google map of Vayalikaval, Bangalore.

 However, the term ‘Vaiyali’ can be traced to an immigrant tribal community that settled in parts of ancient Bengaluru and spread in parts of Tamilnadu and Kerala during or before the early years of Common Era. The ancient tribe of Vayali was of Afghan origin and they used to speak a kind of Paisachi language now extinct in Southern India.
Waynad is the name of a popular town and district in Kerala. Like the mysterious Vaiyali-kaval, the place name Waynad also begins with the unusual prefix ‘Wai’. The word Wai normally can be mistaken for ‘Vāyu’ the equivalent  Sanskrit word for the air or the wind.    
Vai  or Vaiyal tribes
Vaiyalikaval or Waynad are not the only places that bear the signature of ancient Vai or Vaiyal tribes. There are numerous villages and settlements spread across the Southern India that bear the name of Vai or Vaiyal people. In Kerala, besides Wayanād, several villages and towns like Vaikom (Kottayam dt), Vaithiri (Wayanad dt), Vayalar and Vyttila (Ernakulam dt), Vailattur (Mallapuram dt), Vaipur (Pathanamthitta dt), and Vylathur (Thrissur dt) have preserved the prefix of the ancient Vai tribes. In Tamilnadu, numerous villages and towns such as: Vayalakkavoor (Uthiramerur dt), Vaipoor and Valayakkaranai (Kundrathur dt), Vayalur (Tirukkalukundram dt), Vayalur(Minjur dt), Voyalanallur (Poonamallee dt), Veialoor (Keerapalyam dt), Vayalamoor (Panagipettai dt), Vaiyangudi (Manglur dt),Vayalur (Kilpennattur dt), Vaividanthangal (Pudupalyam dt), Vayalathur (Vembakam dt), Vaikundam (Mac Choultry dt), Vayalappatti (Mohanur dt), Voipadi (Chennimalai dt), Vaithianathanpettai (Tiruvaiyaru dt), Vaimedu (Vedaranyam dt), Vaipur (Tiruvarur dt), Vayalore (Kodavasal dt), Vaiyampatti (Vaiyampatti dt), Vaiganallur (Kulithalai dt), Vayalaur (Krishna-rayapuram dt), Vayalur (Madurai west),  Vaiyapuripatti (Singamapunari dt) still carry the tag of the extinct ancient Vai tribes. In Maharastra, Wai , Vaijapur etc places bear the signatures of these ancient Vai (or Wai) tribes.
Wai-Ala language
Vai or Vaiyala were an ancient tribe speaking a kind of Paisachi language. Waiyala or waiyali has been considered as a variant of Paisachi languages. Grierson (1906) has described Wai-Ala as one of the Dardic-Kafir languages belonging to class of modern Paisachi languages.  Waigala is a town in Nuristan, Afghanistan. Hence ,it is also known as Waigali; and other alternate names for the language in Afghanistan are Wai, Waigala, Waigalii, Waygali,  Waigeli, Kalasha-Ala, Chima-Nishei, Suki and  Zhonjigali etc.
Vāyuvya: Northwest
The Vai tribes migrated to India from the northwest direction. The Northwest is known as Vāyuvya in Sanskrit. It seems the Sanskrit word for the Wind God ‘Vāyu’ and the Northwest direction,  ‘Vāyuvya’ have been named after the Vai tribes that came from the NW direction.
Suffix -Ala                                                                                                              
The suffix ‘-Ala’ in Paisachi languages of Northwestern Indian subcontinent such as Wai-Ala, Kalasa- Ala etc remind us of the Al suffix in Tulu-Kannada  place names such as Kodiyala Kadiyali, Madivala, Ilawala, Horeyala, etc. These Tulu Kannada place names apparently have been coined while Paisachi- Prakrit was the common language in southern India during the early years of Common Era.
Immigration of Paisacha speakers
The Paisachi languages have been considered as extinct languages that originated in NW part of Indian subcontinent and spread to rest of India Before Christ and during early centuries of Common Era.  Even though any disdained these as languages of devils (pisāchi= devil), it seems the term has been totally misrepresented as the word ‘pai-sa-chi’ essentially means languages of the Pai tribes. All over Southern India including parts of Tulunadu, have place names that suggest existence of Pai-sa-chi speakers, possibly before the advent of Common Era. The Paisachi languages in the NW Indian subcontinent had several variants like Vaiyala, Basgali, Pasai, Sina, Kalasa, Kashmiri, Garwi etc of which some of the variants also survived in the southern Indian villages in the antiquity, as a result of migration of relevant human tribes, before the dominance of Dravidian languages. This aspect is evident from the elaborate list of Paisacha- Vaiyala and other related place names in Southern India. Grierson (1906) proposed that with passage of time Paisachi language evolved into Sauraseni and Maharastri Prakrit language forms.
Grierson map(1906) showing distribution of of Paisacha languages of North-western Indian subcontinent.

 Several Afghan place names like Kalasa, Hunza-nagar etc have apparently been replicated in parts of Karnataka like Kalasa (Chikmagalur dt), Huncha (Shimoga dt) suggesting that these were the ancient settlements of immigrant communities from Northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. Similarly, place names Sindhanur (Raichur dt), Sindhudurga (Maharastra), and surname Sindhya remind us signatures of Sindh and Sindhi culture. Maiya was one of the Paisachi- Prakrit tribes and their language; likewise, the surname ‘Maiya’ or ‘Mayya’ surviving in present Tulunadu could have been a vestige of immigrant ancient Maiya tribes from the Northwest. The suffix –gāli in many of the place names such as Parthagāli, Poorigāli, is a Paisachi word meaning valley.
We have described in Older Posts the significance of the Tulu word ‘pirāk’ (=ancient) that is derived from the ancient place name Pirak, now in Pakistan.
We can see that  a number of ancient place names have survived vagaries of time and tides and  still serve as marker clues to the ancient migrations that affected this land in the bygone pages of the forgotten history.

George Abraham Grierson (1906). The Pisaca languages of the North-western India. Royal Asiatic Society, London. Online source:
Older links herein: 
259.Bekanata and Paisachi
262. Significance of Paisachi language.

Monday, November 14, 2011

289. In search of Punnata

Many of us may not have heard about the existence of a Kingdom called Punnata in ancient Karnataka during the early part of Common Era. Punnata or Punanadu (pron: puNanāDu) was a minor kingdom in southern India dating back to 1st Century CE (or earlier) and persisted until 14th Century CE. The existence of Punnata has been documented in some of the ancient Tamil Sangam texts like Periyapurana, wherein it is described as a land perennially washed by rivers.
Based on Mamballi inscription (ca 5-6 Century CE) scholars consider the area between Rivers Kaveri and Kabini was the ancient Punnata kingdom, with Kittur (formerly Kirthipura) in Heggadadevanakote Taluk (Mysore district) as its capital. It is said that the boundaries of Punnata in its heydays covered parts of Dakshina Kannada, Kodagu, Hassan, Mysore and Bangalore  districts (in present Karnataka) parts of Kerala and Coimbatore (in present Tamilnadu). It is said that regal families of  Punnata  had matrimonial relations with members of Ganga dynasty. References in Sangam literature describe skirmishes between Nannan (Nanda King) and tribal kings of Punnata.
According to Chandravalli inscriptions Kadamba Mayura Sharma defeated king of Punnata during 4th Century CE. Punnata is recorded in the Shivapura inscription (ca.1320) of Doddaballapura taluk, suggesting the time range of Punnata Kings in Karnataka.
Beryls of Punnata
Greek geographers Pliny (ca 23-78 CE) and Ptolemy (ca 127 CE) have described emerald gem stones that originated from the land of ‘Pounnata’. Egyptian accounts described ‘Punt’ which is supposed to be a corruption of the word Punnata.
Emerald is a green colored precious stone, known as beryl in mineralogy. Beryl is known to be occurring in small quantities in pegmatite rocks randomly distributed around Krishnaraja sagara, in Mysore district. This mineralized area was a part of Punnata kingdom in the past and the cut and polished green colored emerald gems derived from beryl crystals were apparently exported to Mediterranean markets in the past.
Emerald or beryl is known as ‘pachche’ in Tulu as well as in Old Kannada. The term ‘pachche’ means green. The ‘che’ or ‘cha’ at the end of this word ‘pachche’ is reminiscent of the ‘-cha’ suffix in some of the Paisachi words.
Punnata Sangha
Punnata region was also known as an ancient centre of Jainism in the southern India. It is said that during 4th Century BC Jain monk Bhadrabahu accompanied Chandragupta Maurya and travelled to southern India. Chandragupta is said to have settled in Sravanabelagola at the end of his lifetime. A Jain religious association was established known as ‘Punnata Sangha’. Later these Jain monks migrated to northwestern India and branches of Punnata Sangha were subsequently found in Gujarat.
According to some authors the term ‘punnaTa’ derived its name from punal which means a stream or river. The word ‘punal’ became ‘honal’ (flow, flood or river) in modern Kannada. This interpretation is based on the fact that an ancient Tamil text Periyapurana described Punnata as a region located on the bank of a river.
However simpler analysis suggests that ‘punnaTa’ should be pun+nata wherein ‘PuNa’ represents the name of an ancient tribe and ‘nāTa’ represents a ‘nāDu, a cultivated region or a country. Therefore it can be described as a country built by PuNa or Punar tribes. Evolution of the term ‘nāDu’ from ‘naDu’ (=to plant) has been explained in earlier posts.
 In other words ‘PunnaTa’ was also known as PunnāDu or PuNa-nāDu.  Thus the term ‘Puna’ or ‘punar’ refers to the people or the tribes inhabited in Punnadu.
 In fact, we find several strings of evidence for the existence of an ancient tribe called ‘Puna’ (singular) or ‘Punar’(plural)  in names of sour fruits and in place names in various parts of Indian subcontinent. In this post let us explore traces of ‘Punnata’ and ‘Punar’ tribal people in  southern India and especially in ancient Tulunadu.
Pune, punaka
Pune, one of the major cities of India is also referred to as ‘Purna nagari’ or ‘Punya nagari’ (Purna=complete; punya=divine blessing) in some medieval Sanskrit texts. Before that it was known as “Punaka Vishaya” (Vishaya=territory). Thus it is clear that refined form of nomenclature ‘Purna’ was derived from the older name of ‘Punaka’. The term ‘punaka’ can be analysed as puna+ka wherein suffix ‘ka’ represents a village or habitation.
Now the place name ‘Punaka’ is a not unique word restricted to southern India. There is a ‘Punakha’ town Bhutan.
Origin of names of some of our popular sour fruits can be traced to ancient Punar tribes.

Punarpuli (pron: puNar-puLi) is the common name in Tulu for that well known maroon coloured ethnic, wild plum or berry fruit, also alternately known as baDupuli, birinda, binda, murla hannu, kokumm, etc. Botanically it is known as Garcinia indica and is similar and related to mangosteen Garcinia mangostana L. popular in other tropical countries. It commonly used as base for sherbats and juices in Karavali and Malnad regions and is considered to be of medicinal value especially in the treatment of bile disorders, especially in controlling excessive ‘pitta’.
Now what is the origin of the conventional Tulu word Punarpuli?
The term ‘puNar’ in puNar+puli does not have a well defined genetic meaning in Tulu or in Kannada since the word ‘punar’ is non-speciifc, even though ‘puli’ clearly means sour tasting berry or plum. It is suggested here that it was a sour berry named after or discovered by the ancient Punar tribes.
Punake da puli
The conventional and widely popular source of sour ingredient in Indian cooking, the tamarind (botanical name: Tamarindus indica) is called ‘Punake da puli’ in Tulu. The term ‘Punake’ refers to the tamarind tree in general. It was ‘punase’ in Old Kannada which became ‘Hunase’ in modern Kannada. Puna-se, apparently is an old Prakrit word that means the one brought  from Puna!
Similarly,the phrase ‘Punake da puli’ in Tulu also means the sour berry from Punake, where the latter represents name of a place or region (Puna or Punak) in ancient Deccan. The English word Tamarind is derived from the Arabian word ‘Tamar Hind’ (or Indian date) that suggests that Arabs learnt about the usage of this sour berry from India. However, the Tamarind tree is said to be native of Sudan and other African countries originally where it grows wilderness. It is believed that the Tamarind was carried to India and other Asian countries along with human migrations before the Common Era.
The existing terms for some of the Indian sour berries -Punar, Punake or Punase- have analogous root affinities that may be attributed to the extinct (or assimilated) Punar tribes. One of the logical possibilities is that the ancient Punar tribes were pioneers in introducing sour berries in Indian cooking.
Location map of Punacha and Punachapadi villages, Dakshina Kannada District.

There are several analogous place names in Tulunadu relevant to Puna tribes. One is Punacha, a large village in Bantwal Taluk, Dakshina Kannada district, near the Kerala border. This village could have been an older colony or domain of Punar tribes. Researchers may look for strings of historical data on Punar tribes in this village.
There is also one Punchame or ‘Punachame’ near Polali Kariangala, Bantwal Taluk and another Punchapādi  or Punachapādi  near Sarve village, Puttur Taluk.Besides, there is also a Punachatār near Kaniyur, Puttur Taluk.
In these place names the term ‘Punacha’ is generally being confused with similar sounding term ‘puncha’ (= anthill) the common residing place of snakes. There is another clue to conclude that the word is Punacha and not puncha. In Tulu Brahmins, there is a surname known as Punamchattaya or Punimchattaya. (This particular surname is popular since Dr Venkataraja Punimchattaya discovered several ancient texts written in Tulu script.) The surname ‘Punanachattaya’ can be analysed as Punancha+ttaya which means a person from Punancha, wherein ‘Punancha’ is an alternate old Tulu/Kannada word form of ‘Punacha’.
It is also pertinent here to note that proper name ‘PooNachcha’ is popular among the natives of Kodagu. It apparently is a remnant from the ancient tribe of Punars that pervaded Kodagu and surrounding regions in the past.
 There is also a Punarur (punar+ur) near Kinnigoli, Mangalore Taluk, which has been made popular by celebrity, Kannada activist, Harikrishna Punarur.
Similarly, Tulu paDdanas refer to a legendary place in Tulunadu known as ’PuNakedoTTu’.

Prakrit vs. Paisachi
Puna+cha and its analogous place names area related to Punaka places, wherein spatial suffix ‘cha’ replaces suffix ‘ka’ or ‘ga’. There is also a ‘Punekodi’ (kodi=corner) hamlet near Addur. The suffix –cha is widely used in ancient place names of Tulunadu such as Kodachadri (Koda+cha+adri), Paichar (Pai+cha+ar), Chara (Cha+ara), Konchadi (Kom+cha+adi), etc. The suffix -cha, now obsolete, apparently was part of Paisachi language that prevailed in these areas in the early centuries of Common Era, whereas the suffix –ka (or -‘ga’) as in Punaka, Madaka, Pun(a)ga(nur), Binaga, Gadaga etc can be traced to Prakrit language.

Punattur, Punalur, Punganur
There are more such places in several other parts of southern India. Ponnani. Punattur, Punalur, Punnala, Punnaveli, Punnamada etc in Kerala; Punganur in Andhra Pradesh; Punnakayal, Pungavrnattam, Punnamallee, Ponnai, Ponmeni, Ponnarkulam (Punnayurkulam) in Tamilnadu. In Indonesia there is a Punaga beach.

Punar tribes
Overall analysis of the available strings of data suggest that enterprising Punar tribes established their own territory in parts of southern India. However their signatures can be traced as far as Bhutan in Himalayan region. They were cultivators settled on river banks, had knowledge of edible wild sour berries like Punarpuli and Punake puli, possibly also discovered ‘Punangu’ (‘punagu’) or glandular excretion (musk)  from civet cat. They had discovered green colored beryl mineral resources that could be fashioned into emerald gemstones.
It appears that Punar (Punnar)  tribes used Paisachi and Prakrit languages before the early years of Common Era as indicated by the surviving words of that period, like the term ‘pachche’ which was then absorbed into Old Tulu and Old Kannada. It is documented in inscriptions that later the Punar tribes adopted Kannada as administrative language. Punnar tribes were also spread in parts of Gujarat and Rajastan. East Indian Gazetteer by Walter Hamilton mentions that Jahrejahs of Gujarat selected their brides from Rajaput families of Punnar, Surweyo, Goel, Walla etc tribes.
It appears that the Punar tribes migrated to southern India from the north from the Himalayan region as suggested by the existence of a Punakha town in Bhutan. It is possible that Pun(n)a(r) tribe was an older variant of the Central Asian Huna tribe that later invaded northern India. It would worthwhile to delve further into the mysteries of this lost or assimilated tribe that had cast distinct footprints in the early history of southern India.



S Shettar (2007). “Shangam Tamilagam mattu Kannada naadu nudi,” (in Kannada) Abhinava, Bangalore. p.266.  6th Edition,2010

The East Indian gazetteer: Volume 1.  Walter Hamilton M. (also in Google Books).

Friday, November 11, 2011

288.Manja in Tulu

 Words, being vehicle of thoughts and actions, are born every now and then and are ever living – generation after generation – may be with varying meanings, which crystallize with the passage of time.  Some words attain sublimity and some others notoriety.  Some are having different shades of meaning and that too  undergo changes in usage over the time.
What is striking about the word ‘Manja’?  It means different things to different people, regions and culture.  It needs no illustration for those who know about it.    To give just an example, ‘manja’ in kite flying is known to everybody, particularly in Maharashtra and Gujarat.  Here ‘manja’ is a special string, smeared with glass powder, to give it a cutting edge in kite fighting.
‘Manja’ in Tulu
‘Manja’ in Tulu language of coastal Karnataka and Kasaragod (Kerala) means generally an ‘elevated place’.  There are many usages of Manja, as documented painstakingly in Tulu Lexicon by scholars.
1.     Kayimanja:  Kaimanja is a small shrine for departed souls, also known as ‘Kayimada’.  On the burial place, a mound is made so as to place food, offered to manes.  Well-to-do people make a shed-like structure for this purpose.

Kadri Kambla 2010, Mangalore
2.    Manjotti:   In Kambala (Buffalo race), it is a raised place at other end of buffalo race slushy field.  It is a reaching point for buffalo as speedily as possible with adept handling by handler.  Speed is measured by time.  Pair of buffalos taking the least time is declared a winner.  Winning buffalos are known as ‘Manjottigone’.  There is a folk narration (PadDana) by name ‘Manjottigona’, which tells about exploits of a young he-buffalo and its tragic end.  This song is sung in group by women in agriculture field while planting nursery plants of paddy.  It is sung when buffalos are not around.
Coming to spirit worship, it means a purification ritual to ward off pollution of the shrine.
3.       Ritualistic act:  Tuluvas are animists. ‘Manja’ is an archaic use in worship of Divine Spirits in Tulunadu.  Manja ritual is a vow fulfilled periodically or on special occasions for appeasement of Divine Spirits of household, village or group of villages (Maganes). There are several Bhutas (Divine Spirits), exploits of whose are described in respective PadDanas, a kind of Tulu literature orally preserved. It is a custom (which is in vogue in Tulunadu) of offering meat (chicken), fish, etc. (with toddy in certain cases). The ritual is known as ‘Manja Balasuni/Malpuni’.
In Siri Festival, a main and lengthy ritualistic celebration, ‘Manja Balasuni’ to Siri Kumara is a less known performance.  RRC News Bulletin of Jan-March 2003 throws light on this performance (q.v. Prasanga –

4        Place & personal names: Manja is used in place names, such as Kalmanja, Ballamanja, etc., with specific meaning of ‘elevated place’.  Probably, Kalmanja means a village, beset with rocky mounds and Ballamanja, a high place, full of creepers and bushes.
As for popular names, we can cite Manja and Manjanna as male proper names and Manjakka, a feminine name.  Probably, giving these names has some bearing on physiques.
5      Times of a day:  Manja is used either for evening, darkness or early morning. So it indicates different shades of light as day proceeds.
6       Raised Platform in market: Primarily, it means a ‘raised platform’ for a seller. So, ‘Manja’ literally means a market-place.
7        Engagement Feast: ‘Manja’ is used for a ceremonial feast in bride’s place on consummation of an engagement. In these days, we do not hear this word for the function.  It is now just an engagement party in a hotel.

     The term ‘Manja’ has been explicitly used in several Tulu place names. Mangalore was known as Manjarur especially during 10th and 11th Century CE. Manjanadi is a village in Mangalore Taluk, bordering with Kerala. There are several Manjanakatte, Manjara pāde, Manjarapalke, etc hamlets across Tulunadu.
      Similar analogous names exist in Uttara Kannada district also. For example Manjuguni near Ankola.
      The Lord of Kadri Temple, Mangalore is well known as Manjunatha. The Lords name was later replicated in now renowned Dharmastala temple. Manjeshwara is a coastal town in Kasargod Taluk, south of Mangalore. There is a locality known as Vamanjur in Mangalore as well as in Manjeshwara. In earlier posts we interpreted that’ Vamanjur’ could have been originally Om-manjur, named after immigrant Om tribes of Africa.
    Manjanna, Manjappa, Manjamma etc proper names were common in  Tulunadu and adjoining Kannada areas. These may have an obscure tribal heritage that needs to be explored further. The proper name 'Manja' in these could possibly be traced to an ancient Paisachi-Prakrit word 'manja' that represented man (Post 261). The old word 'manja' evidently evolved into 'manuja' with passage of time.

Words are not dead objects, though they undergo changes with passage of time.  They live with people of a region, state and country, perpetuating the  extant beliefs, traditions and culture. This is manifest on exploration of ‘manja’, pertaining to Tulunadu.
 Sometimes, in the antiquity the words have crossed borders to remote countries or words  in usage in different continents may had similar roots to begin with.Note for example: An 'Igloo' means a hut/house made of ice blocks among the Eskimos. Another parallel word 'Illu' in Tulu and some of the other Dravidian languages  means a dwelling place.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune

Sunday, October 2, 2011

287. Balmata, Mangalore

Origin of the name of a familiar and one of the oldest roads in the heart of Mangalore city- Balmata (pronounced as balmaTa) road is disputed. The local newspaper  Udayavani dated 29 september 2011 in the commercial supplement carried an anonymous note on the origin of the name Balmata. Excerpts from the cited article inspired me to write this post.
Bell Mount
One of the possibility suggested  is that a Bell shaped mount (hill)  or Bell on the mount apparently was corrupted to Bal-mata.However, this explanation is not quite satisfactory as none of the hills in the area are in the shape of  bell.

There is one more explanation for the origin of the word: Balmata. Close to the Balmata area there is one ‘Sanyasi gudde’ (hill of the ‘Sanyasi’; ‘sanyāsi’= a sage) that can be approached from Arya Samaj  cross Road. Here we have an ancient Kālbairav temple and relicts of Natha monasteries that held held powerful influences on the history of Mangalore during the period 9th  to 14th  Centuries CE. The word ‘bāl’ refers to children in Indian languages. It is said that the term ‘Bāl maTa’ was applied to one of the Natha monasteries, even though it is not clear if any Natha monastery dedicated to young people existed in the antiquity in this area.
Bol -mata
A third possibility discussed was that in the Balmata area some two centuries ago there were a couple of deserted British Bungalows. It is said deserted Bungalows were called ‘Bol’ (barren,empty) in Tulu.
Boll -mata
However, the fourth and the best possible explanation would be that  a group of German missionaries established Basel Mission Church and Monastery in this area. Tulu people used refer as ‘Boll ‘ or ‘Boller’ for the white people. The ancient places Bolur and Bolar in Mangalore also designate areas of ancient white immigrants as discussed in our older posts herein.
It seems apt that local Tulu people described religious centres ( designated as ‘maTa’ in Tulu and Kannada) established by white people (German Basel Missionaries) as ‘Boll maTa’. The ‘Boll-maTa’ with passage of time has been reduced to mere ‘Balmata’.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

286. Bari system predates Castes

The recognition and practice of human genetic lineages or the Lineage system (alternately known as Bari, Bali or Gotra system) among civilized ancient communities in India is distinctly older in origin and date than the caste system.

A reader has asked about the caste of Tulu people that migrated into southern Tamil country during early history corresponding with Sangam age.In my opinion, there were no modern castes (like Bunt, Billawa, Mogaveera) in Tulunadu at that time. In the early period the Tulu People were recognized by their bari lineages (matrilineal and patrilineal) and persons of the same bari could be seen practicing different professions like those of Bunt (warrior and defense assistant), Billawa (archer), Salian(weaver), Baidya (tribal doctor), Nadava (cultivator; one who plants crops), Okkeleme(farm worker; farm settler), Poojari(tribal preist), Maddela (washerman), Mogera (fish catcher), Kottari (Store-keeper), Kulala (potter) Sapalya(musician) etc without people being assigned to or divided into distinct caste/community  groups as known now.And those who did not subscribed this bari system of genetic lineage recognition, especially older generation of tribals, were recognized by various tribal group names.

Alupas of four lineages

The aspect of antiquity of existence of Baris over castes shall be more evident when we study the lineages of Alupa Kings who ruled early Tulunadu.  Data from early inscriptions reveal that Alupas belonged to four lineages which suggest that in the progress of time Alupas had offsprings from persons hailing from four different lineages; however the specific castes have not been attributed to Alupas in the inscriptions, because castes in Tulunadu did not exist at that point of time. Alupas also had matrimonial relationships with Kannada Kings like Kadamba, Chalukya and Rastrakutas.

Ancient Bari lineages in Tulunadu
In other words, to begin with there were no castes but only lineages in early India. And the distict division of people into dufferent castes developed later in the history.This is especially evident in Tulunadu which provides distinct evidences in favour of antiquity of the lineage system over the caste system.
The Gotra system prevailed among the Vedic sages-cowherds of ancient Indo-Aryan communities of Indian subcontinent appears to be as old as 1900 BC or older.It seems ‘bari’ or ‘bali’ linege types of genetic identification or recognition system similar to Gotra lineage system coupled with recognition of original place of domicile /settlement (‘Moolastana’) prevailed among Dravidian communities contemporaneous to early Vedic sages. Multan in Prakrit language means the Moolastana. Multan in present day Pakistan still carries the name of one of the earliest Dravidian settlements in Northwest Indian subcontinent and is useful in tracking the route of early Dravidian (including Tulu) immigrants into southern India.
Tulu Baris
Indira Hegde (2001) compiled a list of 61 Baris currently prevailing among Bunts and Nadavas. She has also enlisted some 55 Baris recorded in inscriptions and generally considered to extinct at present. Similarly there are some 20 known baris enlisted among Mogaveers. Mogaveeras have Amin, Bangera, Chandan, Gujaran, Kanchan, Karkera, Kotian, Kunder, Maindan, Mendon, Naika, Pangal, Puthran, Rao, Salian, Sapaliga, Shriyan, Suvarna, Thingalaya, and Tholar lineages. And Billawas and other Tulu communities also have numerous baris.Even Tulu Brahmins adopted a system of bari lineages.New Baris have evolved and were added throughout the history with passage of time.Similarly, many baris must have been lost during the long history of our communities due to various natural factors.

Baris before Caste system
However, on analysis we find that atleast five baris are common to most of the Tulu communities.This leads us to propose that such common baris have been in existence before the arrival of distict caste system in Tulunadu. We find that Bari lineages known as Banger (or Banga), Salia (or Salian), Putra (or Putran), Kundra (or Kundaran) and Gujar (or Gujaran) are common to many of the Tulu Castes at present. The presence of common bari lineages among diverse castes suggest prevalence of these baris before the consolidation of caste system in Tulunadu.It appears that there were  more such baris common to different castes but became partially or fully extinct. Among the common bari examples that became partially extinct in some Tulu communities, we may include Suvarna and Tingalaya baris. The Suvarna bari has been preserved among Mogaveers and Billawas. Tingalaya bari/surname is found retained among Mogaveers and Brahmins.Similarly, Menda/Mendon and Tolar bari lineages are shared among the present day Bunts and Mogaveers.
We shall discuss the five bari lineages generally found distributed in most of the communities/castes of Tulunadu.
Banga, Banger.
In an early post in this blog we considered that Bangera were the settlers in Bengare (Sand Spits) areas in the coast.This earlier interpretation of Bengare settlers may not be appropriate as we find ‘Bangera’ or ‘Banger’ (Banga+yer) in Tulu language is a respectful version of the Banga lineage, who ruled parts of Tulunadu as Jain Kings.

Banga tribes: Banga or Bangera appears to be one of the oldest lineages in Tulunadu. Ancient tribes known as ‘Banga’ still survive in parts of Nigeria in Africa. In India, the delta region of River Ganga is traditionally known as Banga or Vanga desha. (It is alternately known as Gowda or Gaur desh also). The regional place names Bangal (or Bengal) [Banga+al] means river-side settlements of the Banga tribes. Banga dance form is still popular in Kalingga region of Phillipines.Banga means earthen pot in Phillipines. It is possible that early Banga tribes were potters by profession. The association of terms ‘Banga’ and ‘Kalingga’ in Phillipines is interesting to note. In India, Banga (Bangal) region exists by the side of Kalinga (Orissa)!

According to some the term Banga is derived from Bong which was Sun God (Sing Bonga) worshipped by Munda tribes of Austro-Asiatic origin. Thus, the Banga tribes relate to either early African immigrants or subsequent Austro Asiatic immigrants into Gangetic delta. The tribes from Gangetic delta migrated to West coast probably before the advent of Dravidians forming the Banga or Bangera lineage.
There is also a Banga town in Punjab. Surnames Bangar (Bangad/Bangur) exists among Marwari/Marathi communities and proper names such as Bangari among Telugu (Bangarusamy, Bangaramma) people.
Bangalore: The origin of the place name of capital of Karnataka, Bengaluru is generally attributed to the phrase ‘benda kalu ooru’ (Village of boiled pulses). However, it could have been originally Bang+al+oor also, where the term 'Bangal' originally  referred to a settlement of ancient Banga tribes. (All the ancient Banga tribes need not necessarily be considered as Bengalis, as  erroneously interpreted by certain historians.) In support of the Banga+al theory cited here ('al'= water source like river, or a settlement besides a water course), geological data suggests that a tributary of Kaveri flowed in the western side of Bangalore during early history that dried up later.

Salia, Salian
Salia or Talia represents spider in Tulu language.One of the oldest known bari lineage, apparently derived from the ancient weavers of cloths or tribes having a totem of Spider. The Sāl tree [the silk cotton tree] also represents weaving of cloths and it was a holy tree traditionally worshipped by several early Munda tribes.Some historians opine that the ‘Saluva’ dynasty that ruled Vijayanagar Empire is related to Salia or Salian lineage. 

Putra, Putran
Exact origin of the surname Putra or Putran is not available at present.However two possibilities can be discussed.1. The word Puto or Putra in Prakrit generally represents a town For example the cpital of Magadha Empire was Pataliputra. Similarly King Ashoka mentioned ‘Satiaputo’ which is considered to represent (possibly a part of) Tulunadu. Therefore we can consider that Putran means a person from the ‘Putra’ possibly ancient city of Pataliputra.2. Putra in Sanskrit and many of the Indian languages mean son. Since relevance to this meaning of the word can only guessed we can wait for additional data on the origin of this surname.The lineage is also known as Putrannaya. There are Putra surnames in Indonesia and also in Saudi Arabia.

Kundra, Kundaran
Budhi Kundaran an Indian international cricketer of yester years hailing from Mogaveera community of Udupi, was one of the first among coastal Tuluvas in the recent years to popularize the surname of Kundars. Similarly, recent Hindi Film industry in Mumbai (Bollywood) has a celebrity known as Shirish Kundar. Shirish Kunder, who is an Electronic Engineer from SDM College of Engineering & Technology, Dharwad,   became a celebrity in Bollyhood as an Editor and Director of Hindi Films.  He has married Farah Khan, a famous Choreographer and Director of Hindi Films. In the recent years popular Bollywood heroine Shilpa Shetty, originally from Mangalore has popularized the Kundar surname in Tulunadu after her marriage with Raj Kundra of north Indian origin.

While the exact origin of the name Kundar is not available at present, it can be traced to ancient Kunda tribes of African heritage. However we find that early Jains and Buddhist literatures carry the term Kunda. Originally the Kundars in ancient India could have been a tribe specialized in the skill of gold smelting since the term ‘kunda’ generally refers to (1) gold and (2) melt. A popular sweet dish in Belgaum produced from the desiccated milk and sugar is known as ‘kunda’. In common Tulu parlance ‘kunda’ means a pillar.

Kundar: A lineage (‘bari’) based surname among Bunts and Mogaveers, originally derived from an ancient immigrant Kundra or Kundar ancestor from northern India. Kundarannaya   means a person born in the Kundaran lineage.

There are numerous place names having a prefix or suffix of Kunda all over India.For example, Kundapur, Kundagola, Navalgunda, Nargunda etc. It is possible that the kunda in such ancient place names refer to ancient victory pillars (totem poles) erected in those villages.

Gujar, Gujaran
Gujar or Gujaran is a surviving surname that provides solid support to the theory of amalgamation of immigrant tribes among Tulu and other communities in the antiquity. It is said that Gujars originated in Georgia, in southern Russia ( Georgia is  also known as Gurjiya in Persian) and migrated to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India during the early centuries of Common Era.Descendants of ancient Gujar migrants are found in the States of Kashmir, Punjab, Rajastan  and Gujarat. Incidentally, the State of ‘Gujarat’ derives its name from Gujar tribes.
A famous hero of Tulunadu, Agoli Manjanna was from the Gujaran lineage of Bunts.
Gujaran: A lineage (‘bari’) based surname among Bunts and Mogaveers, originally derived from an ancient immigrant Gujar ancestor. Gujarannaya means a person from the Gujaran lineage.
Gujje: A species of Jack fruit apparently introduced originally by Gujar tribes. Presently the term is applied to any variety of unripe or raw jack fruit.
Gujjadi: A place named after Gujj or Gujar tribes in Udupi district.
Gujjarabettu:  An elevated dryland (plateau) named after Gujar tribes near Kemmannu village in coastal Udupi Taluk.
Gujjarkere An ancient pond, presently dried up named after Gujar tribes in Jappina mogaru locality, southern part of Mangalore.

The Suvarna bari has been preserved among the present day Billawa and Mogaveer communities.The origin of Suvarna bari name can be interpreted based on data existing on the words like Suvarna and Suvarnbhumi. The term ‘Suvarna’ means (1) good colour and (2) gold. Sanskrit and Buddhist texts referred to Burma, Indonesia, Java, Sumatra countries as Suvarnabhumi. It appears that the term ‘Suvarna bhumi’ referred to people of golden (yellowish) skin colour rather than golden land. This leads us to infer that originally the ancient ‘Suvarna’ people of Austro-Asiatic heritage came to Tulunadu from Suvarnabhumi countries.It can also be recalled that a coastal river flowing in Udupi district is also called ‘Suvarna’ or ‘Swarna’ River.

End piece Trivia:

It is obvious that Words sounding similar can have divergent meanings. Bangar as well as Suvarna in Tulu and Kannada  means gold.
Prajwal pointed out that 'Bangar' in Marathi/Mumbai Hindi as well as 'Gujari' in Tulu/Kannada refers to scraps! 

-With inputs from H. Vishwanath.

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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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