Saturday, August 13, 2011

285. Nagavanshi Kshatriyas

In the recent years some of the communities, like some Rajaputs, Jats, Nairs and Bunts, are claiming that they are Nagavanshi Kshatriyas. Nagavanshi means one derived from the dynasty of the Naga or the serpent. And the term ‘kshatriya’ represents the warrior community.
Bari, Gotra and Vamsha
During the Vedic period, the identification, recognition and classification system among groups of civilized people was essentially based on the concept of gotras . The term "Go-tra" refered to the name of the cattle-shed to which a family of blood relatives  engaged in managing a specific herd of cows were connected, during those times (ca.1500-2000 BC).
Apparently, the "Vamsha" concept was floated later to differentiate different dynasties of rulers. Rulers during the history usually declared that they were either from "Surya Vansha" or  from "Chandra Vansha" literally tracing origin of their families directly to Sun or Moon.
Ancient Tulu people followed a heritage system of genetic   identification, classification and recognition known as bari or bali system which was similar to the concept of Gotras.. Since the Bari system is analogous to the system of Gotras followed during Vedic times, we can assume that it is as old as, if not older than, the Gotra system.
Tulu people also followed a system of recognition of original places or Mulastaana (literally, the original place of domicile). The concept of Moolastaana (place of origin or original place/settlement of  the particular group of people)  is still prevalent among Tulu communities living in Tulunadu.
For instance, the town of Multan (mool=origin + taan =place), now located in present Pakistan, still carries the ancient name of one of such original place of ancient settlement/domicile of Tulu and Dravidian and other tribes who migrated to their present homelands following  this route of migration during the early history. We suggest that ancient Tulu people also followed this migration route since the ancient concept of Moolastaana do still exist among Tuluvas.

 The recognition of communities based on the division of labour or profession was said to have been initiated during the regime of Chandragupta Maurya. The broad brush communities (Chaturvarna, literally four colours) of Brahmana (preist), Kshatriya (warrior), Vaishya (merchant) and Shudra (menial servant) were recognised and uncivilized tribes were treated as Panchams (the fifth category).

Ancient Kings considered themselves to be off springs of great dynasties originating from major celestial bodies like Sun and Moon. Thus the imaginative attribution of dynasties of Sun (Surya Vamsha) and Moon (Chandra Vamsha) were popular among ancient rulers. It appears that ancient Kings adopted such fancy dynasty names to glorify themselves. Legends describe that during the Gupta regime, some of the pre-Aryan Nāga tribes were elevated into the status of ‘kshatriyas’. Thus, it appears that fancy dynasty titles like Naga Vansha (=Dynasty of Serpent) and Agni Vamsha (Dynasty of Fire God) were added later as part of regal glorification processes.

Naga cult: Antiquity and spread

The fear and worship of Naaga   is one of the oldest cults in the world   that dates back to early days of civilization. This fear lead to worship of serpents among early tribes. Distribution of such cults revering the serpents is widespread all over the world suggesting that  it is an very ancient cult that was spread among the tribes along with ancient tribal migrations.

Totem Surnames: Besides, many ancient tribes considered that they were originated or derived from specific animals like tigers, lions, serpents, rabbits, rats, ants or even spiders. This was the concept of totems. A symbolic totem pole was erected at the entrance of the community settlement. Even these totem concepts do exist among Tulu tribes as we find for instance surnames like "Sanil" (named after totem of rabbit, Sanil/Chanil), "Saliyan" (named after totem of spider, Taliya/Salia) etc.

In this fashion, some of the ancient tribes considered themselves to have originated from totem of serpents or the Naagas.There are still tribes that designate them as Naagas in northern and northeastern parts of India. There is a suggestion that Naga were a tribe originally from ancient Ethiopia. Ethiopia in Africa has been considered as the cradle of earliest   human civilization. Some believe that ancient Naga tribes from Ethiopia, migrated and ruled parts of ancient India. There are persons in Ethiopia having the name of Naga. 
However, cities named Naga are found far and wide in Phillipines as well in Japan (Nagasaki), showing the spread of this ancient cult. There are Naga tribes of Austro-Asiatic origin in northeastern part of India and in parts of Kashmir. The spread of Naga cult can also be found in Srilanka where Kings with surnames of Naga ruled during the early centuries of the Common Era.
It appears that during the compilation of Puranas in India, the Nāga tribes had become rare minorities. Some of the Puranas and legends, imaginatively described the Naga tribes as mythical creatures with half-human, half-serpent bodies.
It appears that Old Indian words ‘nagna’, ‘nanga’ and old English word ‘naked’ are all genetically connected to the word Nāga.

Nāga worship
In Tulunadu, there are no distinct evidences to suggest that the ancient rulers were from Naga tribes or considered themselves as kshatriyas distinctly or were derived exclusively from any specific Nāga dynasty.
 The cult of worshiping Nāgas,  no doubt, was not exclusive to Tulunadu but widespread all over India. It should be understood that Tulunadu still hosts a number of cults and traditions which formerly existed all over India. However, it is difficult at present to pin point which Tulu community was derived exclusively from ancient Nāga tribes. The available evidences rather suggest that most of Tulu communities are admixtures of several ancient tribes through the dark lanes of prolonged history. The Alupa rulers were basically marine merchants and that may be one of the reason why they exclusively categorised themselves with four division Chaturvarna classification. Even the Bunt-Nadavas of Tulunadu were professional admixtures of warriors (Bunt), cultivators (Nadava) and merchants (Shetty< Shresti).
Vansha vs. Bari
Some of our Readers have enquired innocently whether Mogaveeras are also derived from Nagavanshi kshatriyas, since some of the Bunts claim that they were from such a Nagavanshi dynasty.
Our inference is that only warrior communities (kshatriyas) derived directly from the ancient Nāga tribes should claim such a descent. 
In Tulunadu, as well as in rest of Karavali and Karnataka, you will find many ancient place-names reminding the presence of ancient  settlements of certain Naga tribes such as Nagur, Nagori, Nagarakatti, Nagarbavi, Nagasandra, Nagarahole, Nagapatna, Nagavara, Nagamangala etc. 
However, the available data suggest that the ancient Nāga tribe was only one of the numerous ancient tribes that existed in ancient India. Basically, as discussed already, none of the communities and castes in Tulunadu described themselves exclusively as ‘Kshatriyas’ during the history, because they (especially, the part time warrior groups) adopted multiple professions in their lifetime.

Thus, it may be summarized that it may not be appropriate to adopt some fancy titles adopted by bygone rulers unless you are convinced of your exclusive derivation from any specific Naga tribal lineage. 
In case you are looking for your original roots, the Tulu ‘bari’ lineage genetic recognition system would  be more meaningful and appropriate heritage link than the rather superfluous Vansha system.

® updated on 28-10-015

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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 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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