Sunday, April 7, 2013

312. Thiyya -Belchada community : A conspectus

One of the communities that played significant role in the cultural evolution of Kerala and Tulunadu is of Belchadas or the Thiyyas.  Nowadays, the members of these communities have socio-economically progressive in the society. The community of Belchada (or Belchade) is more popular in Tulunadu, whereas they are known as Thiyyas (Tiyya) in Southern part of Dakshina Kannada.   According to Anthropologist L.A.K. Iyer   they are known as Tiyyas in North Malabar up to Calicut ; Ezhava or Izhava or Tandans in South Malabar ; and Chovas and Izhavas in Cochin and Travancore. The Izhuvans are also known as Iluvars.
They are considered to be equivalents to the Billavas of Dakshina Kannada district and also to the Tamil speaking Shanars of the Tinnalvelly District, Tamilnadu. Elsewhere theri equivalents include Halepaiks of Uttara Kannada district, and Ediga of Shimoga and Chikmagaluru district, Karnataka. They are also called Velans and Uralis, in some areas.  In Kerala the two castes of Thiyya and Ezhavas merged into one Community of Ezhavas sometime during the end of 19th century or beginning of 20th century, though  some were not comfortable with this sort of equation. 

 It is commonly supposed that the Thiyyans and Izhuvans originally came from Ceylon. The Thiyyans were noted as Izhavan in documents concerning land, in which the Zamorin or some Brahman or Nayar grandee appears as landlord.  Legends prevailing in Malabar tradition tells us that some of these Dravidians migrated again from Iram or Ceylon northwards to Travancore and other parts of the West coast of India, bringing with them coconut or Southern tree (tengina mara= coconut palm) and being known as Tivars or Deevaru (=islanders, in Kannada) or Iravars, which names  have since been altered to Thiyyars & Ilavars. The Arabic word ‘nu tiyya’ is sailor, where nu or nau is boat. Possibly this suggests that the Thiyya were also professional sailors.
Dr Shyamalan opines that there is an identity crisis among the Thiyyas of Malabar who are being categorized with the Ezhava community in Kerala. He says that his DNA testing revealed that it matches with the Indo-Aryan race that came all the way from South Africa through Kyrgyzstan and the origin of the race goes back to 300 BC. According to him the name of the community Thiyya was derived from the Tien Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan.

“Thiyyan, Malayal Thiyyan or Tivan (pl. Thiyyar or Tivar): The name what may be called the third caste (in rank) of Malabar.  The word signifies ‘islander’ (from Mal. Tivu, Skt. Dvipa, an island); and the people have supposed to have come from Ceylon” (Hobson-Jobson Dictionary-1903, Henry Yule & A.C. Burnell, p. 924).

According Mr. F. Fawcett, (as quoted by Thurston) Thiyyans of Malabar “…. have been summed up as the middle class of the West Coast, who cultivate the ground, take service as domestics, and follow trades and professions anything but soldiering, of which they have an utter abhorrence……” (Castes & Tribes of Southern India, Vol. 7, e-book, pp. 3-9, # 37-115).

Toddy Tapping 
According to legends, the Thiyya tribes introduced the coconut palm in to West Coast and the art of toddy tapping. Extracting intoxicating liquids from plants and fruits, was a common practice by human beings right from hunting and food gathering stage of human evolution.  Such potable liquids or decoctions like ‘Soma rasa’ gained acceptance even in Vedic and other religious rituals.
Since antiquity, the Toddy is being offered to Divine Spirits and manes in rituals all over the world. The toddy tappers are considered to have been the natives of SriLanka.  During the historical past they appear to have migrated to coastal South India as toddy tappers and archers  possibly via Laccadives (Lakshadwipa) islands.  There are evidences of their migration to South India and back to Sri Lanka. Tapping Toddy mainly from Palmyra palm or the toddy palm in the West Coast,  is a profession carried on traditionally also by Biruvas (.> Billavas, the ‘archers’) in Tulunadu, and Edigas in Malnad Karnataka, which probably was inherited from the  Thiyyas and Ezhavas who are also known as. Maleyāli Billavas.
According to Sadasivan, the Ezhavas and Thiyyas were the original aborigines of Kerala who followed Buddhism. Subsequently after the influx of Nambuthiris and Nairs into Kerala the tenets of  Buddhism were destroyed and the roots of Hinduism were revived. 

The the special knife used by a traditional  toddy extractor for scarifying the palm trees is known as ‘Tier Cutti’ in Malayalam (Hobson-Jobson Dictionary, 1903, p. 919), and  ‘Tarkatti’ (ತರ್ಕತ್ತಿ) in Tulu (in coastal Kannada).  Tarkatti is a curved sickle used by toddy tappers. The etymology of the term ‘Tier Cutti’ and Tarkatti’ could be, Tar(i)= to chop, katti = sickle in curved shape.

 V. Ananda suggests  the origin of the word ‘Thiyyar’ as ‘Thi (=fire) + eyer (one who throws) .  Thus the term "Thiyyar" may also represent  skilled archers, with arrow-tips specially fitted with combustible (fire-producing) elements.

Spirit dancing: 
  The Belchada or the Thiyya were also the traditional Spirit dancers, authorized to participate in the mass possession rituals of Spirits such as Vishnumoorthy Kola (Tulu Lexicon, p.2382). The Tulu  term ‘Bhuta’ (Spirit) is known as ‘Teyyam’ in Malayalam. The Dravidian Etymological Dictionary (p. 506; # 5544) describes Belchada as a devil dancer, possessed with Kāli. The Kannada words ‘deyya’ or ‘devva’ (=devil) apparently is synonym of the Malayalam usage Teyyam.
The Belchada were the conventional spirit dancers’, possessed with divine primordial energy, which is referred to by names like Durgā, Kāli, Bhagavati, Vishnu Moorthy, etc, in tune with event-specific incarnations. Walking on a bed of cinders has been an attendant ritual common in the annual celebrations of some Divine Spirits.
Traditionally, the Thiyyas have worshiped Goddess Bhagavati in small shrines known as kāvu. It contained a ‘māda’ or kalimāda, a sacred seat to keep the masks, swords and other objects of Spirit worship.

They are also known as ‘Belchappade or Belchapaade’ and Velicappatan in Malayalam. Its archaic usage is ‘Belchampade’, who were the ordained Pātri (priest) of Bhagavati Temples with ritualistic wearing of ‘kai bale or kadaga’ (bracelets) - as is in vogue with spirit impersonators.  They have to observe some ‘dos’ and don’ts for maintaining cleanliness and purity. [It is proverbial in Tulunadu when elders often rebuke youngsters for their refusing a work as: ‘Are you wearing a holy bracelet’?].

According to L.A.K. Iyer, the Thiyyas of Malabar are the offspring of Chirakkal Mannar Raja, who was the son of ex-communicated Nambuthiri lady from the Royal family of Chirakkal. ‘Mannan’ means ‘a king’. It is a title for a subordinate king in Malayalam. It corresponds to ‘Manneyaru or Manya> Mane in Kannada.
It is recorded in legends that a Thiyya Mannan (chieftain) took care of certain ostracized Nambuthiri women by either marrying them or treating them as sisters. As a gesture of appreciation, King of Chirakkal donated him land.

Ezhavas and  Tandan:
The members of the Ezhava and Tandan community are generally nestled in the natural environs, being traditionally  engaged in toddy tapping and agriculture.  In olden days some 'high' caste Hindus used to treat them as untouchables and were denied of modern education and employment.  The leader of the Ezhava community in a village was known as a tandan. (We can compare the word "tandan" with Tulu word "tandela" the leader of a group of Mogaveer community.
Thus under the erstwhile system of feudal lords and landed gentry, they were land-tenants or bonded laborers  working in agricultural fields.
However, some of them were well-versed in the traditional knowledge of application of medicinal plants for curing various ailments and were designated as Baida (or Vaidya ). The ancient knowledge of application of curative herbs and plants has with passage of time evolved into  the   Ayurvedic system of medicines.
Further, under a liberal Buddhism, they were open to Sanskrit learning.  This was initiated by Vagbhata, a Buddhist Teacher (6th-7th C.) from Sindh, who migrated to South when Buddhism lost its sheen in Northern India upon the decline of Mauryan Empire.
Thus, the Ezhavas were Buddhists to begin with but later joined mainstream Hinduism. In the earlier days, narrow minded concepts of certain high classes tended to consider these tribes as Scheduled Castes especially in Kerala.  

Etymology of Belchada
1. ‘ Bel’  in Tulu/Kannada/Malayalam appears to be an action word.  It gives a concrete meaning as ‘to offer into fire or with fire as ghee, animals, etc.
Beluve:  Oblation with fire, burnt offering;
Belamba: Destruction of human life in fire.
Velvi/Vezvi means ‘sacrifice’ in Malayalam.
Cetu (ಚೆಟು) = chip; Chekke/chakku (Tulu/Kannada) = cut pieces, trim or reduce by cutting away edge.
Chettuka (M) = Pare, curve.  Chettukaran = Toddy rapper. Cheytha (Adj) = made by.  Chey (V) = to do, make, create, cause.
In Telugu: Velucu = to put or throw on sacrificial fire; Vel(u)pu = God or Goddess, Deity, Divinity, a celestial, Demi-God;  Velpudu = worship. ( DED-5544).

‘Bel’ is also a qualifying word. It means ‘white’, speckless, spic and clean or virtuous. One who is without blemish in speech and deed is treated as ‘belia’, i.e. ‘Big or Great (person)’.  ‘Ecchi’ means ‘trance or possession’.  When a Divine Spirit possesses medium or impersonator, it is called ‘ecchidu barpuni’. Divine Spirit shows his/her identity or form through the medium.  The medium should be man of good character, to be called a ‘bel or belia’. The event of possession is called ‘belicchapadu’.  Impersonator becomes ‘Belicchapad’ or ‘Belchade’, commanding honour and respect.  The appellation ‘Belchade’ is gradually applied to whole community in general as ‘Poojari’ is to ‘Billava’.  Migrant Thiyyas imbibed the Tulu culture but to differentiate with Billavas, they preferred to identify themselves as ‘Belchada/Belchade’.

2. Other angle is to identify ‘Bel or Bol’ as a tribe or group.  It is a prefix in place names, as explained elsewhere in our Posts.  Dr. P. Gururaja Bhat made passing remarks in his Book ‘Tulu Nadu’, hinting at tribal signature.  Prefix ‘Bel/Bol’ in place names may not apply to the settlement of Belchades as a tribe or caste. Nevertheless, they are found in villages, having ‘Bel’ or ‘Bol’ as suffix in place-names (eg. Bolar, Bolnad, etc.  It is worth considering Bolinj locality in  West Virar, Maharashtra). Whether they are Bellas or Velalas is a matter of further studies.

3. The ethnonym, Belchada can also be analyzed as Bel+ch+Da, where ‘bel’ means white, which possibly represents the immigrant white skinned tribes.
To begin with, the prehistoric India was dominated exclusively by dark skinned tribes. In the course of progressive human evolution, people with white or fair skin were evolved during a specific phase due to certain genetic aberrations from the original dark pigmented skin. During a specific historical period, influx of white skinned tribes into India created wide spread awareness in the natives and the colonies of immigrants were denoted as ‘white’ villages and settlements, like: Bellara, Bellari, Belgaum, Belman, Belgumba, Belavadi, Belkunja(> Balkunje), Bellipadi, Belur, Bola, Bolar, Bolur, Bolman, etc. Similarly the white immigrant tribes were named Belchada, Bellara, Vellal, Bellala(>Ballal) etc.

Therefore,  the term 'Belchada' possibly meant one of the immigrant ‘bel’ (white skinned) tribes. The morpheme ‘cha’ is a pre-Dravidian Prakrit-Pali agglutinative meaning of or relevant to. (As in Paichār, Punacha, KomchāDi etc). The suffix Da means  area, tribe, etc. Thus, in overall analysis the term Belchada possibly represents a specific white skinned immigrant tribe who settled in Tulunadu and amalgamated with natives with passage of time.

Thiyyas of Kerala
 It is said that they were first brought to Tamil Nadu by Karaikala Chola when he conquered Sri Lanka.  He brought many families of soldiers and engaged them as security guards and bonded laborers at earthen-bunds/dams, constructed during his reign for agricultural purposes.  Unable to tolerate the excesses of King’s personal guards, they fled to hills and forests of Wayanad.  Being adept archers, they could overcome the menace of wild animals.  They led a life of hunters and toddy tappers.  Seeking greener pastures on plains and they started migrating to coastline in groups.  First they found a place in Kolattanadu (now Kannur).  Thence they started moving Northwards to Kasaragod and from there spread to fertile land of Tulu Nadu in plains and sea shores.  The early migrant Thiyyas joined Feudal Chieftains armies as archers and sacrificed their lives for enlarging the borders of their lords.  They spread from Kasaragod to Kalyanapura of Tulu Nadu, bordered by Seeta River on the North and Payaswini (Chandragiri) river on the South.

Wherever they went and settled, they did not forget their culture and customs.  They bought their Deity ‘Wayanada Kulavan’ (also known as ‘Thondachchamaran’).  The Periplus of ca. 1 st Century CE does not mention coconuts or its derivatives as an exportable item of Malabar. But coconut produce is mentioned in the Cosmas indicopleustes in 520-550 AD. It is also stated that in the copper plate grants that the Tiyyars were an organized guild of coconut plantation professional farmers.

Bari –Illam system
Thiyyas distinguish eight groups of ‘bari’ or ‘illam’ (equivalent of gotra).  The original house of the family is called a ‘Taravad’, (or ancestral house). The term Taravad appear to have been a relic of Buddhist period in the coastal history, being derived from Prakrit - Pali lingos. According to the matrilineal system followed in Tulu Nadu, similar to Tulu communities, each Thiyya Bari  in Tulunadu has its own Moolasthana

The eight clan names prevailing among the Thiyya communities (with  equivalents Tulu bari ) are: (1) NellikaThiyya (equal to Tulu Bari ‘Kunder’), (2) BaThiyya (=’Bangera’), (3) Padam kudiya (=’Kotian’), (4) Pullamchutti/PullamchiThiyya (=’Suvarna’), (5) KarakaThiyya (=’Karkera’), (6) Then kudiya/ Thenkudi Thiyya (=’Salian’/’Palan’), (7) Paimba kuriya / Paimba Thiyya (=’Kukyan’,’Uppiyan’) and (8) Nangudiya/Kuttiporatha (= ‘Amin/Gujaran’).

The present generation  of Belchadas prefer to put surnames of Tulu equivalents. These Clans are associated with four Taravads in Mangalore region, namely at (a) Kodialabailu, (b) Bolar near Ferry, (c) Jappu-Kudupadi and (d) Kadri-Kannabettu.
Ordained ‘Gurikaras’ (community leaders) guide the socio-religious activities of members of Taravads. The Gurikara system among the Thiyyas is similar to the one prevailing in communities of Tulu Nadu.

Language & Customs
Religious rituals and customs from birth to death are more or less the same as native Tulu people. They speak a corrupt Malayalam with more words of Tulu and Kannada. Their Malayalam dialect is different from the ‘Byāri Bhāse’ vogue in Tulunadu. They also speak in Tulu and Kannada fluently like others in the region.

Goddess Bhagavati
Thiyyas have inseparable connection to Goddess Bhagavati. Eighteen pilgrimage centres of Goddess Bhagavati are sacred to all Thiyyas.  Each Taravada member  offers oblations annually to Bhagavati temple.  Goddess Bhagavati is worshipped in all her various manifested forms with all her attendant Divine Spirits, Village Deities and also of Gods of Hindu pantheon.  So it is a complex centre of worship for Thiyyas and all other communities. These Sri Bhagavati Kshetra complexes are located at:  (1) Eriyakota,Kavugoli Chowki, P.O. Kudlu-671124 (Kasargod), (2) Patla, Kudlu, P.O. Patla-671124 (Kasargod), (3) Padi (Pullikaringali), Meethelepadikkal, Via Chengala, PO Edaneer-671541, (4) Mogral, PO Shiribagilu, Via Kudlu-671124, (5)Talangara, Kasargod-671121, (6) Kumbadaje PO, via Perdala-671551 (Styled: Sri Cheerumba Bhagavati Kshetra), (7) Padikaladka, Adoor Post Via Urdoor-671543 (Styled: Adoor Sri Aivvar Mahavishnu Thambarati Kshetra), (8) Kuttikkal PO, Via Chengala-671541 (Styled: Kuttikol Sri Thamburatti Bhagavati Kshetra), (9) PO Muliyar-671542 (Kasargod) (Styled: Kodavanji Sri Pullikaringali Bhagavati Kshetra), (10)Arikkadi, PO Kumbla-671321 (Pare Sri Padangara Bhagavati Alichamundi Kshetra), (11) Adka, Mangalpady, Kasargod-671324, (12) Uppala-671322, Kasargod, (13) Pattathoor, Ballangudelu. PO Majibail, Via Manjeshwara-671323, (Styled Sri Padangara Bhagavati Kshetra) (14) Kanila, B. Manjeshwar, Manjeshwara-671323, (15) Ullal, Dakshina Kannada-574159 (Styled: Sri Cheerumba Bhagavati Kshetra), (16) Kodialabail, Mangalore-575003 (Styled: Kudroli Sri Bhagavati Kshetra*), (17) Sasihitlu, Haleangadi PO-574146, and (18) Pullikunnu, Kasargod (Styled: Pulikunnu Sri Aivvar Bhagavati Kshetra).

Thiyyas of Mangalore
  Thiyyas further settled at the ancient port towns of Mangalore and Mulki. During British India, Mangalore was the District Head-quarters of South Canara, which included Kasargod and North Malabar, until States Reorganisation. 
 Initially, the Bhagavati Temple at Mangalore was located at Bokkapatna sea shore, Kudroli, which was the location of Ancient Mangalore Port during Vijayanagar Period.  Due to migration estuary and  sea erosion, it was shifted to Kodialabailu at a place, donated by Manjanna Nayaka, who was landed gentry of Kodialabailu. It was around 450 years ago.  The issueless land-lord was bestowed with a son thereafter, as was promised by the Deity in his dream.  The Temple is still called as Sri Kudroli Bhagavati Kshetra and popularly as ‘Guttyamma Kshetra’. The name Guttyamma might have been derived from the word Guttu or it might have been named after the Goddess of Chandrgutti,(Shimoga District) traditionally worshipped by Nayaka Chieftains. Land transfer registration is now made in the name of the Deity by Raghurama Rao couple, a scion of Manjanna Nayaka.

Legend of Goddess Bhagavati
According to Bhagavati Purana, Lord Shiva ordered Cheerumba Bhagavati and her attendants to remain on earth to protect the innocent people and punish cruel people.  First she appeared at Kodangallur, Thrissur (Kerala). Then proceeded northwards to Talangara (now Tallisseri, Kasargod) and then up to Mulki-Hejamadi and established Temples through Thiyya community at her will. The Bhagavati and her retinue returned to Kudroli and shown her presence as embodiment of other thirteen primordial energy manifestations, consisting of four manifestations of Sri Cheerumba Bhagavati (Sankritised as Sri Kuru Amba), five of Sri Padangare and another five of Sri Pulluraali.  It is, therefore, called ‘Kootakkala’ of Shakti, a complex of fourteen Deities enshrined in three Temples.  It happened at the beginning of Thirteenth Century, more than 800 years ago. (Source: Kootakkala Souvenir, 2005, Kudroli Sri Bhagavati Kshetra).

According to Bhagavati Purana, Darigasura (Darika+Asura) was a wicked Asura King of Darikapura in Pātāla (Nether world, supposed to be West Coast).  He became powerful with Lord Shiva’s boon on his doing a penance.  He became invincible in all three Worlds. Suffering defeat and disgrace and ill treatment, the celestials and sages complained to Shiva for redressing their problem. Swayed by pity on the plight of the people, tears trickled down from Shiva’s eyes.  He became angry and at the same time, a Divine Lady sprang out from a drop of tear.  The Lady was called Goddess Bhagavati (aka Cheerumba). (It may be noted that in ‘Bappanadu Sri Kshetra Mahime’, it was Lord Vishnu who created Sapta Matrikas/Durgas, i.e. Seven Divine Mothers, from his tears, which fell down on the earth).
Shri.Cheerumba Bhagavati (Courtesy: Kootakkala Souvenir)
The Goddess Bhagavati, sitting on the shoulder of her attendant Aadimela (aka Guliga), went to the kingdom of Darigasura.  Darigasura was then on his way to the river for taking bath as a routine before offering prayers to Shiva.  The Divine Lady in the guise of an old woman, begged for a meal.  He advised her to ask his wife at the palace.  On reaching the palace, the Goddess asked for his magic weapons given by Lord Shiva (Note that according to the other version, it is Lord Vishnu). Logically thinking, his wife refused to give the demanded weapons and called out her husband for clarification.  The King, as he was already late, got irritated on getting delayed.  So he shouted at the queen and told her to give whatever the old lady would ask.  On returning to Prayer Room, he could not find his weapons and other materials used for prayers.  He realized his mistake and was furious.  Sri Bhagavati appeared before the King in her real form, along with her other manifestations.  In the fierce battle, Bhagavati killed the tyrant and maintained peace and happiness on the earth. Shiva (or Vishnu) ordered her to settle down on the earth with her other manifestations to ensure peace and prosperity to her devotees. 

Goddess Bhagavati then set sail to the Earth in a Sandal wood boat and crossed Kasargod, Kumble, Uppala, Pattathur, Manjeshwara, Udyavara (South of Mangalore), Ullala and Kudroli.  The retinue halted at Sasihitlu near the estuary of Nandini and Shambhavi Rivers.  Taking offence on Bhagavati (elder sister) accepting tender coconut from a Thiyya, then considered as lower caste, other sisters left her behind at Sasihitlu.  Elder sister then settled down at Sasihitlu.  Durga Parameshwari emerged at the confluence of Nandini and Shambhavi and manifested formless to Bappa Byari, a marine trader, and settled down in Bappanadu in the form of a Linga, consecrated by Vedic rites in a Temple built by Bappa Byari with the help of local Samantha Chieftain.  Remaining retinue returned to Kudroli where the other elder Bhagavati with thirteen other incarnations, settled down to be worshipped by Thiyyas and other communities.

Brahmashri Guru Narayana Swami
Today, various sects of toddy tappers worship and follow the principles advocated by Brahmashri Guru Narayana Swami (1856-1928).  He was a great social reformer who declared equality of all human beings. He was a refined spiritual Guru,  born in a family of traditional Ezhava Ayruvedic Pandits.  He spearheaded movement of social justice for the down-trodden of Kerala.  He was respected and venerated by high and low and people from far and near.  He preached ‘oneness of Humanity under one Supreme God’, rejecting compartmentalization on the basis of castes and religions.  His thoughts are contained in his Sanskrit work ‘Advaita Deepika’. Guru Narayana built temples at Calicut, Tellicherry and Cannanore.
He is responsible for the inauguration of exclusive temple of Billawas in Mangaluru dedicated to Lord Shiva under the name of  Gokarnanatha, now renovated into a beautiful temple which has become a popular piligrimage and tourist destination. There is a commemorative idol of Guru Narayana at the  Gokarnanath Temple, located at Kudroli, Mangaluru.

Evolutionary trends
The Thiyya are widely considered to have immigrated to Kerala from an island like Srilanka or Lakshadweep in the remote past. Similarly, Ezhava are considered to have come from Iram or Srilanka. The members of the Thiyya, Ezhava and other related communities traditionally practiced the art of toddy tapping contemporaneously, along with Spirit dancing, teaching Kalari form of ancient Indian martial arts besides propagating the application of plant based Ayurvedic medicines. Some of them were also archers, soldiers and farmers.

The existence of independent bari or illam patterns among these different communities suggest independent origin and evolution of tribes even though they adapted similar professions in the due course. The language also played an important role in unifying or separating these tribes.

The Thiyya, Ezhava and other related communities followed Spirit worship and Buddhism that was prevalent in the Tulunadu-Kerala region in the early centuries of the Common Era. With the advent of Vedic Hinduism in the region, the cult of Goddess Bhagavati, came into prominence, imbibing the essence of Spirit cult combined with Vedic concept of Goddesses, in the background of dominant matrilineal system. The progressive outlook and the reforms preached and practiced by Guru Narayana (1856-1928) are responsible for progress in the status and outlook of these communities.

Genetic haplotype studies of 104 Ezhava samples by Parvathy Seema Nair (2011) showed pronounced genetic heterogeneity and also indicated European paternal derivation having similarity of genotypes with Jat-Sikhs and Turks. Similarly Dr. Nelliatt Shyamalan also suggested European (specifically Kyrgyzstan) genetic origin for Thiyyas based on limited DNA studies.

The genetic heterogeneity concluded by Seema Nair reiterates the antiquity of the tribes as well as extensive interbreeding among the contemporaneous tribes. More genetic studies would be essential to trace detailed evolution of various tribes that shaped our cultures and customs along the time line.


*Notes:  “Ecological niche is ‘a way in which a species utilizes the resources of its environment’ and its relation to other species in a biological community in terms of a symbiosis or competition, predation or parasitism.  In a biological community, no two co-existing species share the same niche.  Similarly, no two castes have same traditional niche in rural India…” (Ecological Journey by Madhav Gadgil).

Tulu Proverb: ‘Tarkatti taarigu, parkatti keyiku’, which means,  Curved sickle for palm trees, sickle with teeth for paddy harvesting (Tulu Lexicon, p.1426) , signifies usage of different tools for different works.

Acknowledgement:  I am grateful to my friend and colleague Mr. B. Anand (Bajpe), Pune for providing me a copy of Souvenir-2005 on Kudroli Kootakkala brought out on the eve of Punar-Pratishta Brahmakalashotsava  of Kudroli Shri Bhagavati Kshetra, popularly known as ‘Kootakkala’.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune
 With inputs from Ravi Mundkur


  1. what bull shit ezhavas/thiyyas were never scheduled caste they are categorized under OBC and let me tell u one thing they are a very rich community from ceo of infosys to big cooperate leaders like ujjala jyothi lab renaiisance five star and many more are all product of this community!!!! atleast 3 out of every 15 millionaires are from th!i community

  2. after read this article realy felt for go and die. i am belongs to thiyya community. thiyya and Ezava completely different community. the big mistake did by some english educated thiyya from Thassery invite sree narayana guru for temple "pradishta karamam" thiyya were never follow temple system but we thiyya follow and worship Kavu culture and we had been govering system what lateer brahmin looted and populated as 64 grama system

    thiyya grama system : worship place called Thara under Thiyya Thara karanavars and thandan. Thara was worship plase and center of village governing system, all decision were taken by tara karnavars.
    a group of 4 Thara make Kzakam, higher level governing system 21 Thara make Perum Kazakam (group of 21 thiyya gramam) and 64 Thara make supreme Kazkam where final decision were taken place.

    Mannar is Vamsheeya Raja, he only king for thiyya and thier ethnic system. as tribe thiyya person will not become raja. Chirakkal Raja suppose to move out from his pallak and give way of mannanar in-case happen to they cross the way


  4. Capt. Ajit VadakayilOctober 12, 2012 at 5:54 PM
    hi vijan,

    there has been too much of history written by the british about kerala , using tamilian brahmins. all this is just plain bull.

    how ever, i agree with the term "white thiyya" -- in malayalam they are called KOPPA KOOTU, which means porcelain mix..

    the british found the thiyya girls very hot and full blooded . and just like the anglo indians these koppa kuttu fair shinned thiyyas exist even now.

    the only difference being they did NOT leave hinduism -- they exist within hinduism.

    so a fair girl among thiyya community are often referred to as koppa kootu in a DERISIVE manner -- which is unfair as there are so many fair girls in this community -- unlike the ezhavas , with whom they have been bracketed.

    70 centuries of trade and mixing of blood is inherent .

    DNA tests should be done, on the Thiyyas to check out the mix with Arab and Judean blood -- -- ALL THIS BEFORE ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY CAME INTO EXISTENCE.

    no thiyya father will give his daughter to an ezhava girl-- no matter how rich and prominent they are in society. YOU MUST DO A CULTURAL POLL OF YOUR OWN ON THIS SUBJECT IN A DISCREET MANNER.

    this fierce thing about marrying off own daughters , rubbed on on the nairs of north kerala -- north of kannur.

    and nairs of north kerala, told the lecherous namboodiris who came for sambandham with a hop at night , to FU#K OFF.

    capt ajit vadakayil

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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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