How an object interests a person for its antiquity and/or customs! This is a matter for study. This statement is proved true when the name ‘Kavrady’ (pronounced Kaa-vra-_Di) captured my attention in a wrapper of ‘chakkuli’ (Chakkuli is an eatable made of rice flour with black gram, salt, etc., circular shaped and deep fried in oil). I purchased this packet at Kundapur State Transport Depot when Pune bound KSRTC luxury bus stopped there for tea break during my return journey (May 20th). My curiosity grew owing to the peculiarity of the name, unheard by me.
Kavrady in Kundapur
Kavrady (Kavradi) is a village in Kundapur Taluk of Udupi District (carved out of erstwhile Dakshina Kannada District). Kundapur is Taluk Headquarters (36 km north of Udupi) and it takes the name from the Kundeshwara Temple around Panchagangavali River, built by Alupa King Kundavarma. Kundapur is also famous for Kunda (i.e. jasmine) flowers. Kunda also means a pillar. Kundapur is a peninsula, surrounded by Panchagangavali River on the North, Kalaghar River on the East and Kodi backwaters of Arabian Sea on the West. Basrur is a historical place and is a natural port. Traders from foreign countries used to bring their boats and ships in olden days, bartering their goods for pepper and fine quality rice. Trading Guilds were powerful here in those days.
Place names are culture-centric, emerging from a specific time. It is perspicuous from our Posts on some place names. Surviving trace or memorial of custom, period, people, etc. comes handy in discerning things existing in the past. Let me explore some odd corners of history around Kavrady.
1.On dissection of the compound word ‘Ka_vra_di’, we get Kavu (garden/forest) + ur (place/village) + adi (place). ‘Adi’ is apparently is a needless addition. Kavu has traditional meaning of preserved and protected forest, holy or sacred grove or a forest area in simple sense. Firstly, Kavrady thus means a village area with protected and holy grove or forest.
2.Secondly, ‘Kāva ’ could be keeper of kavu. It is also a surname or clan name among Bunts (q.v. Tulu Lexicon). So ‘Kavradi’ could be bifurcated as ‘Kavara (Kava clan’s) + Adi (Dwelling place/Habitat).
3.Thirdly, in Malayalam, ‘Kāvara’ is a tribe trading with glass bracelets and bangles, baskets, etc. In Kannada, ‘gavariga’ means a man of the basket and mat-maker caste (Note the transformation of ‘ka’ to ‘ga’). In Tamil, it is a ‘Balija’ caste among the Telugas. (DED 1118).
4.Fourthly, it could be a junction of two roads, overseen by a ‘Kapari’ (keeper or watcher). In olden feudal society, traditional boundaries of feudal lords are demarcated and road tax (ಸುಂಕ) (a precursor of modern day octroi or commercial duty was collected.
5.Fifthly , it may mean topographically a forked shape area (Y) on analyzing Kavrady as Kavar (= kabar or kabe, i.e. cloved or forked) +adi (place). ‘Kavar’ or ‘Kabar’ could be a land split by a stream or river. (Note: No field study is done by me. Locals could give us a feedback).
6.‘Kāvara’ is a mint, furnace or smith’s work-place since ‘kavu’ or ‘kavara’ also means heat/heating (besides desire or thirst). [Example: Please note the word ‘honnagaavara, i.e. honna (gold’s) + Kaavara (Mint) = Mint of golden coins, used by M. Govinda Pai in one of his poems in ‘Gilivindu’). There might have been once a mint of Alupa Kings or some metal works in Kavrady. Alupa Kings ruled over Tulunadu for more than thousand years (CE 5th to 15th).
A vestige of sacred grove?
There are similar village names with prefix or suffix ‘Kavu’ in Tulunadu and other southern States, namely Kavoor (a suburb of Mangalore), Kavugoli (in Kasargod District), Mujumgavu (Mujum+kavu), etc. This ‘Kavu’ (sacred grove) culture is an early tribal culture, probably pre-Dravidian in Tulunadu and in other parts of India. It is known later by other equivalent names in Tulunadu, such as Bana, Kapu, Kaana and ‘devara kadu’ (in Kannada). They are mostly found near mounds, hilly areas, riverine places and within family and community properties. ‘Kapiri Gudde’ (Kapiri Hill), which is explained as an Ethnonym in our Post-273: Kaprigudda, Mangalore, might have also been a sacred grove. [ ‘Kapiri’ also means a Negro in Malayalam.]
‘Sacred Grove’ is a cult, practiced all over the globe, and invariably followed throughout India right from prehistoric period. It is known as ‘Temenos’ in Greco-Roman, ‘hÕergr’(Note: ‘o’ is an umlaut and spelt ‘oe’) in Norse (Scandinavian), ‘Nemeton’ in Celtic (France), Baltic Russian ‘Romowe’ (Some are still surviving like ‘Sventybrasis’), in Lithuania ‘Alka(s)’, etc. In Nigeria, sacred groves are dedicated to Fertility God of Yoruba mythology. ‘Nemetons’ are fenced by means of ditch and wooden palisades in quadrangular shape. Particular type of trees or deities is worshipped with sacrificing of animals during annual rites in these groves.
In North-Eastern part of India (Orissa, Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, etc.),in Austro Asiatic Munda tribal communities, these sacred groves are called as ‘Sarana or Sarna’(1). In Kerala, these sacred groves are called ‘Kavus’. It is habitual among Kerala Hindus to set apart some land around the house for Goddess Durga and create a small sacred forest (Kavu) (2). In Tamil Nadu, Sacred groves are important traditional method of both in situ and ex situ conservation of economically and spiritually valuable tree species. An extensive survey of 266 sacred Groves of Tamil Nadu was conducted in order to conserve them (3). In village Minor, Kumaon Region of Uttarkhand, the Deity Golu Devata is venerated by restoration of Sacred Grove (4). Birhor Tribe clans think themselves to have been descended from a common ancestor, belonging to a particular hill or mountain and feel kinship relation among them all (5). Villagers in Kumaon, Himalayas, discovered that Gods were the best guards for their forests (6). Folklore plays an important role in the preservation of Sacred Groves. Not only tribal people but rural people also preserved the sacred groves by traditional customs, rituals, ceremonies and folk belief (7). In Maharashtra it is called ‘Devari’ and ‘Varana’ in Rajasthan.
Original tribes of Tulu Nadu are Naga (snake) worshipping people. Sacred groves are called as ‘Nagabanas’ here. These are natural or reserved forests for Naga (Snake) worship, along with other divine spirits. There are around 6000 Naga Banas in undivided Dakshina Kannada District (q.v. Dr.Paltadi Ramakrishna Achar’s book ‘Naga Berma’, p.27). In Kodagu too, there are many sacred groves.
Protection of sacred groves is one of the traditional conservation practices followed by Tribal as they are priceless treasure houses of some of the most rare and important flora and fauna. Tribal festivals, revolving around these groves, are linked to specific deities. Orissa tribal worship nature for keeping the Nature satisfied. Common objects of worship are the Sun, the Earth, hills, rivers, streams, rain, forests and trees. ‘Sarna dharma’ is followed by Pauri Bhuyan, Kandhs, Santhals, Oraons, and Munda. ‘Sarna’ is a Mundari word. A tree in a Sarna is not damaged or felled. Pantheon of Munda is composed of ‘Sing Bhong (The Sun God) at the apex and the Nature Gods, ancestral spirits, village deities. Tribals have imbibed instinctively strong and deep sense of love for the Nature from primeval days.
These days, ‘corridors of power-that would be’ are ignoring the utilitarian, ecological and environmental and socio-cultural importance of such protected groves. Rapid industrialization of rural areas is playing havoc on the lives of project-affected people. Vitiation of marine life, trees and water resources is detrimental to the economy of local people of such regions, as is evidenced in coastal belt of Mangalore and Udupi. Readers would do well if they read the Seminar Paper of Jayakara Bhandary to find out the reasons for degradation and destruction of sacred groves. Theme: ‘Tussle between Development and Displacement’ is rightly depicted in the Tulu Film ‘Oriyardori assal’ (ಒರಿಯರ್ದೋರಿ ಅಸ್ಸಲ್, i.e. One is smarter than the other), based on a Tulu Drama.
Mercantile, Cultivator & Warrior Class
Hunter-gatherer man is a classless entity in the pre-historical past. How elitism had a sway on masses on basis of customs, religion, ruler & ruled, and professions is subject-matter of history. Power-clash between Vedic and Non-Vedic societies/cults is etched in history. Fermenting and transition period culminated in fusion of all beliefs in Hinduism, showing the sagacity of our seers from time to time. This is visible from scriptures, inscriptions, legends, fossils, surrounding Vedic and Non-Vedic Society. Evolving Hinduism gave birth to Chaturvarna system that is four classes of Society (Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra) with scriptural injunctions for righteous living in four stages of life. Cults of original inhabitants were accepted by Aryans (say Brahmans) and gradually assimilated. This can be seen in the addition of fourth Veda, say Atharva Veda. The first three Vedas are on cosmological knowledge and the fourth on mystic and magical knowledge of non-Aryans. Hierarchical order resulted in the Supreme class disliking the royal class (Kshatriyas) and vice versa. These are seen in curses by priests (in Puranas). This led to emergence of new merchant class, who were either supporters of Vedic class or adherents of non-Vedic Sects, such as Jainism and Buddhism. Migration, cross-fertilization and assimilation were seen as a continuing process. Being warrior class, merchants had their own security system in the guise of merchant or trade guilds, located near rivers and sea ports. Being landed gentry, they worked as cultivators and also warriors when a need arose. Some of the trader-cultivator-warrior group could build kingdoms, as we see in Alupa Dynasty of Alvakheda, i.e. Tulu Nadu.
Coming to ‘Kava(s)’, we can deduce that they were trader-agriculturists, shouldering the mantle of soldiers in times of war. Sea trade was an essential part of their mercantile profession, making them to settle down in different regions and countries. Kavara tribe is mostly spread in the South.
Among Balija of Andhra, who share history with Bunts, Kunubi of Maharashtra and Kapus of Telugu, has following sub-groups:
(1) Balija Chettis or Setti (aka Shetty Balija): In the Annals of Vijayanagara Empire, they were said to be wealthy merchants, who controlled powerful trading guilds. Vijayanagara Kings made them Desai’s or Superintendents of all castes in the country to secure their loyalty. There is another view (by David Rudner) that Balija Chettis branched off from Balija Nayakas, having close relationship to Nayakas. Veera Banajigas were mentioned in the inscriptions of the Chalukyas.
(2) Gajula (Gaju = Glass) Balija/Kavara Balija/Sugavansi (pure) Balija: Myth is that Parvati, Lord Shiva’s wife, did a penance for looking prettier to please Shiva. A man sprang from the sacrificial fire bringing forth cosmetics for her. Thus, this man became ancestor for Gajula Balija. The Gajula Balijas are known as ‘Kavarai’ in Tamil Nadu, having Titles of Naidu, Nayakan, Chetti, Sethi and Nayaka. They claim connection to Kurus of Mahabharata and that Kavarai is corrupt form of Kauravas.
(3) Kambalattars/Thottiyars: Refers to cultivators.
(4) Gopita (Gopa/Golla = Cattle-herder) Balijas. [Note: ‘Gopita’ may be ‘Gupta’, as I had a Telugu acquaintance from Andhra, having this surname when I was staying in a Lodge in Pimpri in initial years of my arrival (July 14th, 1968) in Pune. I thought him to be a Marwari Maheshwari (Vaishya) as my boss was Jagan Nath Gupta ].
(5) Rajamahendravaram Balija or Musukkama Balija – They are traders in ear ornaments.
(7) Kannadian / Ravuth
(8) Adi Balija. A sub-caste in Hyderabad Karnataka.
There are numerous branches of Balija. Some were named after Villages. Some are odd names, like Mulaka, a tribe, Meriyala (pepper traders), Vyas and Tota. Difference between sub-castes appears to have been wiped out in the sands of time. (Note: Mulaka may give us a lead to decipher the place name Mulki, which was earlier known as Mulaka.)
In divine spirit worship in Tulu Nadu, some spirit impersonators address local feudal chief as ‘Baler’. This ‘addressing’ is also available in Tulu PaDdanas. We can definitely draw a kinship between Balija and Baler (Child). This 'Bale' in Tulu or Bala (Child) has parallel in Maheshwari Vaish’s of Rajasthan. Maheshwari means ‘Children of Shiva’, as he is instrumental in bringing back the Kshatriya Prince of Khandela and his 72 trusted soldiers, who were turned into statues by the curse of seven Rishis, to life. In short, they are called as ‘Bala’. Legends about transition from Kshatriya to Vaishya are available in web-pages.
In Rajasthan, the mercantile community (Bania) is generally divided into two groups: (1) Shravaks (Jains) and (2) Meswari, i.e. Maheshwari (Hindu). Maheshwaris are predominantly found in Mewar of Rajasthan and in Gujarat. The nomenclature ‘Maheshwari’ is derived from Mahesh as they are followers of Shiva. They are originally Kshatriyas but later on converted to Vaishyas, a community of traders with 72 clan names in the beginning, such as Agarwal, Bidla (Birla), Bajaj, Gupta, Khandelwal, Kabra, etc. Birlas are the first Maheshwari community who started a jute mill in Bengal in 1918. Mark the similarity between ‘Kabra’ (one of the surnames of Maheshwari community) and ‘Kavara’.
How maritime trade was prospering during days gone by in Tulunadu is still found in the following expression, made when a man sits downcast. "Daane ancha kudondini? Ninna kappal murukuduna?" (Why you are sitting like this. Is your ship sunk?)
Kavaratti, a cognate
Mark the cognate of Kavradi: Kavaratti, a blue lagoon island and a favourite tourist destination. It is an island town/city and the smallest Capital of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, an archipelago of 36 corals islands, off Kerala coast. It is famous for ornately carved pillars and roofs of 52 Mosques, lining the unspoiled beach. Last ruler was Cheraman Perumal of Cannanore in 8th Century. Fishing, cultivating coconut trees and coir making are economic activities here. Until State re-organization in 1956, local administration was partly under erstwhile South Kanara (Dakshina Kannada) and partly under Malabar Districts.
Kavradi could have been an ethnonym referring to the habitat of Kavar(a) people. ‘Kavar’ could be (1)a keeper of ‘kavu’ groves or(2) a professional connected with smelting metals.
Political and socio-religious changes have a bearing on place names. This can be applied to ‘Kavrady’.
ENVIS Centre on Conservation of Ecological Heritage & Sacred Sites of India, quoted following sources:
1. Hindu Survey of the Environment, pp.120-130, 1998)
2. The Sacred Groves of Kerala/The WWF India Quarterly Vol.11, pp. 3-4, 15-16)
3. Sacred Groves in Tamil Nadu – Annual Report 1996-97 (p.28-35)
4. Adhikari S.S. & R.S. Adhikari – Journal of American Science Vol.3 (2), pp.45-49 (2007)
5. Adhikari A.K. – Society & World View of Birhor, Memoir No.60, Anthropological Survey of India, Calcutta (1984)
6. Agarwal R. – ‘Divine Protection’, Down to Earth, Vol.11(11), p.44(11.10.2002
7. Amrithalingam M. ‘Folklore of Sacred Groves’, Indian Folk Life, Vol.1(3), pp.8-9 (Oct. 2000)
Jayakara Bhandary, “God’s own pharmacies – The Sacred Groves of Udupi & Dakshina Kannada as the Treasure Houses of Medicinal Plants”, a Paper read on Oct. 4 & 5, 2008 at MM Science College Sirsi during National Seminar.
-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune