Wednesday, February 1, 2012

295. Sankesha: the Conch colony

There are numerous ancient localities all over peninsular India named as Sankesha. People in general have forgotten the word Sankesha as it is not in general usage. On first impression, you may feel that it is something to do with hairs (‘kesha’) or a hairy person. Or you may think it as another name of Lord Shankara, the Easha.
 The Sankesha is a widely used ancient Indian word and the Tulu Nighantu (dictionary) describes it as a residence or colony of houses. There are several houses, places and hamlets in Tulunadu as well as outside Karavali known as Sankesha. A few Sankesha hamlets located within Karavali villages have been enlisted here: 1.Near Kottara, Mangalore, 2. Markanja, Sullia Taluk, 3. Doddathota, Sullia Taluk, 4. Koila, Puttur Taluk.5, Punacha, Bantval Taluk.
However, the Sankesha is not exclusive to Tulunadu. This place name can be found all over southern and eastern India. An area and nalla named as Sankesha can be found in Rayagad district of Orissa. Usage of Sankesha name can be found in Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Sankeshwara, near Belgaum (Karnataka) and another Sankeshwara in Gujarat are the place names modified after the original hamlets of Sankesha. During the period of ascent of Shaiva cult in India, ca 4 to 7 century CE, many of the villages were converted into place names ending with the suffix of –eshwar, such as Rameshwar (from Rama), Pandeshwar (from Pandi), Murudeshwar (from Murud), Mahabaleshwar (from Mahabali), Neeleshwar  (from Neela), Sankeshwar( from Sankesha) etc.
The word Sankesha can be analysed as Sanka+sha. The suffix’ sa or sha’ is a spatial attribute as found in ancient Coastal place names like Belshe (Kumta Taluk, Uttara Kannada District), Amashe (-bail), Kundapura Taluk, Avarshe,( Udupi Taluk,District), Kervashe (Karkal Taluk, Udupi District), Anshi,( Belgaum district) , Shimsha( Mandya district). etc.
Thus the place name and the word  ‘Sankesha’ basically means a colony of conches, wherein the conch represents a protective home.
Sanka: protective home
The prefix Sanka (Shanka) basically refers to conch, the sea shells of Gastropoda group of organisms. The shell of Conch has deep rooted cultural and religious significance, revered as an auspicious item since antiquity. The ancient religiousness of the conches is well defined in the visualization of Hindu Gods who sport Shanka (Conch) in one hand and Chakra (Wheel) on the other. Some of the cultural ramifications based on the concept of conch during the course of evolution can be traced.
Sanka: Conches, conch flags ,cowries and Saligrama

 The blowing the conch at the initiation of ceremonies was a traditional practice during Mahabharata period. Lord Krishna carried conch (sanka) and wheel (chakra) in his hands. The Travancore (Tiruvanantapura) Kings had conch emblem in their royal flag.
The convoluted shape of a conch shell symbolized protectiveness, and the early dwelling houses that protected people from the vagaries of nature were likened to conch shells. Thus the ‘sanka’ represented a protective dwelling house to the early cultures and the usage ‘shanku stāpane’ meant laying foundation for a dwelling house. The ‘shanku kamba’ (Tulu Nighantu, p.) in the houses represented a symbolic Vāstu structure.
 Sanka:a mystery
The convoluted covered shape of conch also meant mystery or hiding the secret. It was a symbol of secretiveness, therefore ‘sanke’ (Tulu, Kannada) also meant doubt or suspicion. Thus the Tulu word ‘sankalpu’ means suspicion. The Sanskrit word 'Sankalpa' (= resolution) has also a similar shade of meaning which hints at a secretive plan or determination.
The ‘Saligrama’ revered and worshipped in many Hindu religious circles as symbol of divinity is a fossil shell of an organism known as Ammonites. During Paleozoic to Cretaceous periods of Geological history, before 60 Million years, the Ammonites, a genus of Cephalopod Group of marine organisms,comparable to Squid and Octopus,and characterized by circular,coiled shell forms were surviving in the Earth. In fact, the name Ammonite for the fossils was adapted from the name of Egyptian God Ammon, who is depicted with coiled horns in the head.There is an  analogy between Ammon's horns and Ammonites in Mid-East and the divinity attributed to Saligrama  fossils in India. 
Sanka: the name
People were named after the Sanka (conch) in olden days. Sankappa, Sankaru, Sankanne etc. in Tulunadu and   elsewhere. A ‘ Sankaru poonjedi’ was the mother in law of Tulunada  Siri. However the ancient name Sanka is not exclusive to Tulunadu or southern India. Traces of personal name Sanka can be found in Africa, Jamaica and Brazil suggesting the trail of human migrations during the course of evolution and also the antiquity of the word. Similarly a nomadic  tribe in Japan are known as Sanka. In ancient Sanskrit literature, Egypt was referred to as 'Sanka Dwipa' or conch island.
 Smaller Gastropoda shells like cowries (‘kavaDe’) were used as coins in ancient Africa, India and China. Cowries were also used for counting as well for finding numerological and astrological answers to mundane problems (also known as conch divining ) was prevalent almost all over the world. Conch divining was   in practice since antiquity in parts of Africa, Brazil, India etc.
Sankhe, Sanketa
 Thus conch represented symbols (sanketa) to begin with and since cowries were used for counting   the words ‘Sankhe’ or ‘Sankhya’ (number) were possibly derived from the ancient word Sanka.
 Shells derived from a kind of Mollusc  known as Maruvayi  are used for calcium oxide production (used for whitewashing and traditional dye prepration for printing on cloths).  'Kesa maruvayi' ( a large mollusk variety) is put in 'saraneda adde' (ground rice preparation - sweet and pungent - poured through a sieve) by coastal people of earlier days. Snails from land, available in plenty in rainy season, are also used in such a preparation.
 Sanka2: bridge
The word Sanka2 in Tulu has another meaning of bridge across a river or streamlet. The sanka2 is possibly a word originated from another ancient tribal culture and language that eventually merged with Tulu linguistic groups.
Sanka3pāla: serpent
There is a third possible meaning for the word Sanka3. The Tulu word ‘sankapāla’ refers to a serpent, usually the cobra type. Similarly the Tulu word ‘sanka-pāshaNa’ refers to deeply potent poison, possibly the venom of a cobra. These analogies indicate that the word Sanka3 refer to a serpent or cobra, that was intensively revered and worshipped in ancient cultures and the practice of serpent worship (Nāgaradhane) continues even today. It can be mentioned that the conical shape of cobra hood resembles the overall shape of a conch or sanka.
Tanka: guts
Last but not the least we cite here, the Tulu word ‘tanka’ which means the guts or the essential inner part of the body like, heart or the liver. The word tanka is cited here because, in some dialectical variants of Tulu, the consonants ‘ta’ and ‘sa’ are exchanged intermittently and ‘sanka’ becomes ‘tanka’ in those dialectical forms.
There are a few place names related to Sankesha : for example Sankala(kariya) and Sankolige.
Sankala kariya on the Kateel-Belman Road on the bank of Shambavi River refers to a kariya(ferry). Sankala can be analysed as Sanka+ala ie houses/colony (Sanka) on the bank of a river('ala') .Similarly Sankolige (Sanka+olige) refers to a housing colony.

Additional inputs: 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 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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