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.
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.
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.
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’.