Thursday, October 18, 2012

305. Mulki: An Emerged Land

Mulki is an unassuming small coastal town located midway on the National Highway 66 (formerly NH17) that connects the port city of Mangalore with the temple town of Udupi along the West Coast. It is located on the southern bank of the West flowing River Shāmbavi. The name for the town of Mulki was said to have been given by the Kanakadasa (ca.1508-1606 CE), a renowned proponent of Bhakti cult in Karnataka. Kanakadasa introduced the place name Mulki in the 16th Century CE for a place earlier known as Volalanke. Mulki was ruled by Samantha chieftains, whose inheritors still remain in the present day as landlords in the area.
The Shambavi and Pavanje Rivers and theVillages around Mulki Town.

Somewhere in the period of 7th or8th Century CE, a Muslim merchant from the Beary community, faced an acute problem   as his merchant boat laden with rich goods was struck at the Port of Volalanke. Someone from the locality advised him to pray to Goddess of the area Bhagavathi/Durga and build a temple in her honour. Merchant Bappa prayed to the Goddess and that he would build  a temple in her honour if his boat was  salvaged from the rough weather.
The edicts of King  Ashoka,  ca 3rd Century BC, refer to Satiyaputo   which can be correlated with legendary Satyanapura documented in the Siri PaDdana. The Eastern part of Mulki is the fabled domain of legendary lady Siri  comprising the present villages of Mundkur, Bola, Kadandale and Kallamundkur. Further,the legend of Parashuram essentially envisages a major event of retreat of the Sea and emergence of land in the west Coast of India (known generally as ‘regression of the sea’ in geological parlance). Combining these anecdotes we may infer that Siri legend predates the legend of Parashurama.

Recent geological studies coupled with analysis of the available scanty historical data by this Tulu research team reveal that Mulki is part of the coastal strip of land that emerged from the Arabian Sea approximately during the beginning of the Common Era. However, the natural process of emergence of land from the Sea has been metaphorically attributed in the prevalent coastal legends of the West Coast of India to the miraculous feat accomplished by mythical Lord Parashurama. Similarly the flow path or position of River Shambavi has altered and indications suggest that the river has migrated laterally towards North in the recent history of the Coast. We shall discuss some of these interesting historical aspects in the light of our recent studies in this post.

Volalanke- Mulki
Writer Narayana A. Bangera in his Kannada serial Hari bhakti sāra being published in Mogaveera periodical of Mumbai, states that Kanakadasa who visited this coastal area while he was travelling around the temple town of Udupi, sometime in the 16th Century CE, renamed the place originally known as Volalanke as Mulki. The name Mulki has been Sanskritised in some references as Mulikapura.
The term Mulki possibly refers either to (1) the herb (moolike) or to (2) the land (derived from Urdu word Mulk).
The Volalanke (or simply Olalanke) still remains as the name of a hamlet within Mulki located about 2.5 km East of the Coastline. The area near the Venkataramana Temple in the Eastern part of Mulki is still known as Volalanke. The term Vola-lanke means an inner island or in other words an island within a river. The coastal rivers of Karavali invariably consist of numerous small islands generally known as kuduru in Mangalore Udupi area (or kurve  in Uttar Kannada).

Thus Volalanke represents an ancient kuduru or river island within the former course of the River Shambavi. The area west of Venkataramana  Temple extending up to  Mulki Bus stand, consisting of an elevated land area that was formerly an island (or kuduru) within the erstwhile course of River Shambavi. The River Shāmbavi has changed its flow path and migrated northwards during the course of evolutionary history   leaving the ancient kuduru of Volalanke as part of the landmass.

One of the major landmarks of Mulki town is the Durga Parameshwari temple which is also popularly known as the Bappanād Temple. The original temple of Bappanad was said to have been constructed under the direction of a Muslim Beary merchant called Bappa Beary, sometime during 7th or 8th Century CE. Anecdotes prevailing in the society describe that a merchant ship owned by Bappa was stranded in the Sea and could not be brought to safe anchorage   at the ancient port of Mulki. When he pleaded help of the locals in bringing his ship to safety, someone suggested him to pray to the native presiding diety of the region Bhagavati Durga Parameshwari. Accordingly merchant Bappa vowed to build a temple for the diety if his ship loaded with merchandise was rescued. Legends state that Bappa succeeded in retrieving his ship from the troubled waters and later he accomplished his oath by building a Temple for the Bhagavati Durga Parameshwari near the Bundar area of Volalanke. The area around the temple was known as  Bappanad and the temple was famous as Bappanad.
Location of ancient coastline of Mulki region  with Bundar (Port) during the period of Bappa Beary.(Purple line shows the deduced ancient coastline ca 6th Century CE and the yellow beach strip indicates the current coastline.Volalanke means an island within river or a 'kuduru'. Note the presence of islands or  'kuduru's in the current River Shambavi.)

 The local people report that the ancient Bappanad Temple was originally located near the Old Bundar in Mulki and was shifted to its present location West of National Highway some 400 or 500 years ago.

Old Bappanad Bundar
Ports are invariably located on the mouths of the estuaries or closer to the beaches so as to facilitate convenient marine navigation for merchant ships. However, as pointed out in older posts herein, many of the Karavali Ports are located on river banks, a few kilometers inland from the Sea.
In Mulki we have an area called Bundar located on the southern bank of River Shambavi and about 2 km East of the present coastline. The term Bundar (=Port) is of Arabic origin and appears to have been introduced in the West coast after the Arabs entered into trade in the ports of Karavali.

Migration of Shambavi
The Volalanke area was an island within River Shambavi when it was flowing further south around Volalanke several centuries earlier. It means in other words that River Shambavi has shifted laterally northwards during the recent history. This observation is also confirmed in the case of other Rivers of the Karavali like Phalguni, Netravati etc.
The lateral migration of rivers is an event of relatively lesser importance from the point of history compared to the miraculous, sequential emergence of coastal land by gradual retreat of the Sea. The aspect of miracle in the natural event made people to attribute the event to the mythical powers of the legendary Parashurama.

Parashuram legend
Legends of a mythical hero known as Parashuram acquiring surplus land from the Lord of Sea are rampantly widespread in the West Coast of India. While old fashioned believers piously consider the story of Lord Parashuram quite seriously, atheists with scientific bend of mind scientists spurn the legends. However, the compiled geological data coordinated with available historical data reveal that retreat of the Arabian Sea and emergence of extra land in the West Coast of India was a real geological event that occurred sometime during or before the inception of the Common Era.

Domain of the Legendary Lady Siri
The oral genre of folklore of Tulunadu known as ‘Siri PāDdana’  (D pronounced as in Dog, d as in ‘the’) describe the anecdotes of a brave lady called Siri. Folklore experts tend to believe that the Siri PaDdana was initially composed around 10th Century CE or later. However, we have suggested in older posts that the folklore was originally composed in an older period probably contemporaneous with the renowned Sangam Period of Tamilnadu. Probably, similar to Sangam in Tamilnadu there was a Tulu Sangam period in Tulunadu. Since its early composition, the original folklore might have been revised several times over during the course of subsequent history.
However, one of the curious observation of historical significance is that the Siri anecdote occurs mainly in the present villages of Bola, Mundkur, (Saccheripete) Kallamundkur and Kadandale. These villages can be considered as the central area or domain of Siri folklore. Probably the earliest form of Siri PaDdana was originally composed in this region. In the PaDdana, We also hear about Karkala town market, parts of  Nandalike, Kalya, Pilar etc that are located North and North-East of the principal Siri domain. We can also judge that Basarur, the town to which the Siri was married off to  Kantha Alva, was another important principality and Port town of the time (ca. 4th-3rd Century BC).
But the key point to be highlighted is that the folk document totally lacks any reference to the important coastal towns of today. Note that none of the present coastal towns of Karavali like Kundapur, Udupi, Mulki or even Mangalore find mentioned in the Siri folk document. Indirectly it may point out to the fact that none of these present coastal towns actually existed during the original composition of the Siri fable. And this could only happen because these coastal towns were under the Sea and hence, did not exist during the Siri times! Indirectly this data points to the fact that the Siri domain (Mundkur, Bola, Kadandale and Kallamundkur) was the located on the ancient   coastline during  the Siri period! Thus the circumstantial evidences reveal that the Siri legend in original form predates the legend of Parashurama.
(Fig 305-2).
The Arabian Sea receded after the composition of the Siri PaDdana. The process of regression could have begun before the  original composition of Siri legend period. And it continued slowly and progressively westwards thereafter as evidenced by the  position of Barkur and Mulki Ports.
(For comparative discussion on regression of the sea in the West Coast also read articles on Basrur and Alupe in the Older Posts herein.)

Retreat of sea
Retreat of the Arabian Sea and consequent emergence of coastal strip of land is a fact supported by geological and historical data. Overall data reveals that the ancient coastline of Arabian Sea was near Mundkur-Bola-Kadandale  before and during the period of King Ashoka, corresponding with the time slot of ca 4th to 3rd Century BC.
Further the Bappanad legend reveals that the inland area even now known as ‘Bundar’  was the actual estuary and Port during the period of Bappa Beary, estimated roughly as ca. 6th to 7th Century CE.
From the overall analysis of the data it can be concluded that the regression of the Arabian Sea has taken place continuously during the last 2500 years. Possibly it has continued even after the composition of the legend attributed to Lord Parashurama.

An Emerged land
Thus the region Mulki that emerged from the sea during the last two millennia reminds us the pages of bygone colorful history admixed with seemingly unexplained mysteries of regression of the Arabian Sea that have been converted by our ancestors with rich poetic imagination into everlasting legends attributed to mythical Super-humans like Parashurama.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath & Ravi Mundkur

Blog Archive

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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