Tuesday, June 7, 2011

280. Last Rites : A book review.

 “Tuluvara Maranottara Kriye – Tulu Jānapada Samskāra”, (Kannada ). By Narayana A. Bangera, Mitrapatna. Dombivli Tulu Welfare Association, B/6, 1st Floor, Mai Mauli C H Society Ltd., Opp. Gaodevi Mandir, Manpada Road, Dombivli (East), Mumbai- 421 201.

 Price: Rs.50/-(postage not inclusive)

 In a simple and straight-forward style, Narayana A. Bangera, presents in Kannada the Tulu psyche behind the customs of the last rites and rituals for the departed souls. For non-Kannada readers, the meaning of the Kannada Title of the book is “After-Death (or Last) Rites of Tuluvas – a Tulu Folk Cultural Tradition”.  It is a welcome addition and we thank N.A. Bangera for rendering this unwritten law on purification process of body and soul of a departed person, percolating down the ages, to Tulu/Kannada speaking world. According to Hindu traditions, the Samskāra, (performance of purification rituals) is applicable only to a man and a Nāga (a serpent worshipped by Hindus). The book is an outcome of a symposium arranged by Dombivli Tulu Welfare Association.
Life and death are an eternal process – a cycle of birth and death of a body. Birth is a matter of rejoice whereas death is gloomy and sorrowful. One becomes nonplussed on the death of a beloved.  Even a sympathizer is speechless but shows his sympathy being present at the funeral. How a man of different geographical region distinguished by customs (of caste and community), language, religion, environment, etc., behaves and deals with death is a subject of study by ethnologists and anthropologists.
It is a book on specific cultural group, i.e. Tulu speaking people of Tulu Nadu, variously described  as ‘Pātala’ or ‘Nāga naDe’ (or Loka), ‘Satiyaputra/Satiyaputo’, ‘Alvakheda/ Alvakheta’, etc. during historical past, now covering essentially  the districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada in coastal Karnataka.
Glossary of ritualistic acts
The book deals with the procedural social codes and customs, prevailing in Tulu Nadu.  Step by step acts to be performed, right from a time when a man is in death-bed to post-funeral, are elucidated. A drift in trends is ridiculed or supported, as the case may be, by the writer. The  book is a timely reminder to present generation to understand and uphold the systems (in spite of ineluctable changes taking place in physical and mental characteristics because of gradual and steady crossings among so called races, caste and tribes, communities, etc).  Considering the fact that Tuluvas (Tulu speakers) are scattered in nook and corners of India and abroad, a Tuluva is prone to lose contact and forget the significance of these unwritten codes of conduct. He performs such acts perfunctorily and exigently.The book brings out essential facts, which are unwritten so far, in a fair measure of success. It is evident in the Q & A Session (Note: P. 51-66 are bound in reverse, i.e. descending order as 66-51).  As Ashok Suvarna, Editor, Mogaveera (Mumbai) rightly says, the book is a helpful compendium for diaspora of Tuluvas.
Glossary of oral technical terminologies, used from time immemorial in Tulu Nadu, is mentioned consecutively with elucidation in Kannada by the author.  In this Post, equivalent Tulu phrases are used with brief elaboration for the benefit of its readers owing to space constraints.
Marana – Bayigu Niru Korpini: When death is imminent to a person on death-bed or is dead, family members offer drops of water (equated to Ganga water) into his mouth with Tulasi (Basil) leaves or Durva (a type holy grass).  Water is dropped in proxy for absent members, by uttering their names and God’s name as ‘Achuta-Ananta-Govinda’.
Mannigu Paadunu: To lay straightened dead body on the floor, without under garments, chest upward, head southward and drape a white cloth over the body leaving face portion open.
Marana saarunu (Beri barpini): This is an errand of informing village (specifically village heads), neighbours and dear and near ones.
Chatta Kattunu: To prepare a bier made of bamboo poles and splinters to carry corpse to cremation ground.
Puna Meepavunu:This is an act of washing dead body with specific injunctions by the ‘Gurikara’ (Village head/leader).
Punonu singara malpunu:  On washing the corpse, Bhajane (devotional songs) starts.  Washed body is either seated in a chair or laid down on floor (as said above) and draped with clean white cloth or attired with normal dress.  If dead woman is not a widow, she is decorated with her bridal attire.  Prominent person places a garland of Tulasi (basil) leaves.
Paada Tirtha: This is a sacred act of washing legs of the deceased and drinking washed out water.
Muttesana kalepini/deppunu: This is a pathetic scene of removing all things of married symbols of a woman. (Here the writer explains the auspicious ceremony of bestowing these symbols during a woman’s marriage).
Neeru Korpini:Assembled mourners pay homage to departed soul by offering new white cotton/silken cloths, laying wreathes and soaking mouth of corpse by means of basil leaves. 
Puna derpunu: Lifting bier, following the tradition, and taking it to crematory.
Kata Ooruni:  Preparation of pyre is done at designated places.
Punonu Katodu dippini: Laying corpse on pyre for burning following traditions in practice. Remaining mourners put water into corpse’s mouth at this stage, as said above.
Prarthane Malpunu:It is a prayer on behalf of the deceased, requesting the Almighty to forgive sins of the dead when alive and bestow him a position in the Heavens accordingly. 
Punoku kolli deepuni:  Putting fire to pyre following Tulu traditions.
Mannu korpuni:  This is called as ‘Bali Mannu’, showing respect to Bali Chakravarti, ruler of Sapta Konkana in ancient period.  This is an action of throwing fistful of earth (three times) at the pyre before leaving crematory.
Dooloppa:  This is a conventional procedure on third or fifth day of cremation. This is heaping of ash and remnant bones and offering Bonda Neeru (Tender coconut water) and other favourite eatables of the deceased.  This is normally done with help of traditional priest of Tuluvas, i.e. Madyala (washerman) and Village  Head.  Bones are collected procedurally for future rites on 13th or 16th day.  This act is also called as ‘Bonda Kodatu dippini’ and ‘Kolli magapuni’.
Bojja:  This is 13th or 16th day ceremony of ‘saying farewell unwillingly’.  The Book explains significance of  various aspects of this procedure, such as (1) Drum beating by ‘Koragas’ (original inhabitants of Tulu Nadu), (2)cutting unripe banana and ash coloured gourd, (3) eating ‘dukkada ganji’ (conji as a mark of mourning) in the morning after (4) ‘Tila Homa’ by Brahmin priest, (5)‘Neeru Neralu’ (Emotion-packed act of creating an hospitable place for departed soul at main hall of a house), (6) ‘Neeru Kuntu’ (Token Wet cloth being offered by departed soul through the priest as a mark of satisfaction), (7) cooking the feast, (8) ‘Doope’ (a structure in the form of a car erected outside or at the place of ‘Dooloppu’.  This a procedure of calling the departed soul for ‘car festival’), (9) ‘Kaka Pinda’ (Offering cooked food to crows), (10) Prayer for ‘Pitru Dootas’, i.e. crows, representing Yama, the Lord of Death,  to accept the offerings without minding the lapses in preparation by bereaved family, (11) ‘Tala Lappunu’ (This is a symbolic measuring of earth by Vamana in the Bhagavata story of Bali Chakravarti), (12) Tasting the sumptuous meal, considered as pure after eaten by crows, (13) ‘Kanistharpane’, i.e. offerings made to Koragas present, (14) ‘Made-pojja’ or ‘Ulayi Leppuni’, an evening ceremony of ‘agelu balasuni’, i.e. offering meals, new cloth and favourite things enjoyed by departed soul during his/her life time.  (This invitation to the departed soul, along with manes of the family, is emotional and heart-rending.  British Historian Dr.  Buchanan had expressed his awe over the practice of remembering the dead by Tuluvas.
Highly Emotional
Some may be cynical about the practices faithfully followed by Tuluvas for ages as ‘avaidik’ ,not according to Vedic practices.  Now-a-days, some of the rituals are performed through Brahmins.  Irrespective of ‘Avaidik’ or ‘Vaidik’, it is matter of heart.  The ritual of bidding farewell to the departed ritual is an ancient emotional expression from the heart of the heart.  Chanting Sanskrit slokas (hymns) is another thing but ultimate purpose is served in the form of mental satisfaction to the performer (mourning family).
Copies can be had from the Publisher or the Author at following address:
Mr. Narayan A. Bangera
4, Rajaram CHS, Gaodevi, Ghanashyam Gupte Road
Dombivli (West)-421 202 (Dist. Thane/Maharashtra)
Contact: (R) 0251-2403151, Mobile: +919819778727
About the Author
Mr. Bangera is born on 10th February, 1939 at Mitrapatna of Mukka-Suratkal, Karnataka. Studied at native place and Mumbai and is a Commerce Graduate.  Became Kannada Pandit under guidance of Suratkal Subbarao and Ramachandra Uchil.  Taught in Kannada Free Night High Schools (of Mogaveera & Kanara Vidyadayini) and also in M.L. Dahanukar College, Mumbai.  Retired from Air India after a meritorious service of 40 years.  Being good orator, he is an interpreter and narrator of holy epics (ಪ್ರವಚನಕಾರ)over 50 years at Shri Madbharata Mandali of 133-year standing.  Regular contributor of articles in Mogaveera Kannada Monthly.  Written Nelli Tirtha Kshetra Mahatme, Kandevu Kshetra Mahatme (Prose), Shri Satyanarayana Vrata Katha (in Kannada Vardhika Shatpadi).  Exposition of “Kanakadasara Hari Bhakti Sara”is appearing serially in Mogaveera.  ‘Naga Charitre’ is under print (earlier published in Mogaveera serially).

-Hosabettu Vishwanath.

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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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