Monday, December 1, 2014

345. Mysterious History of Mangaluru

The Karnataka Government has finally resolved to officially modify the place name Mangalore to Mangaluru. However, there are voices of dissent as usual, with some preferring the ancient name Kudla. Some even may prefer the exact spelling of Mangalooru to match the appropriate pronunciation in the native languages.  
            The history of the city of Mangaluru has several shades of mystery attached to it. The place was known by different names in the past. Part of the Mangaluru city was under the Arabian Sea until probably 200 CE and the subsequent regression of the Sea,  coupled with recovery of land has been attributed to the mystic powers of Lord Parashurama in our legends. It is interesting to note that the two rivers of Mangaluru, Netravati and Phalguni have mysteriously drifted in the opposite directions across the plains of   Mangaluru though the  ages.The changes in the position of rivers with attendant seismic activities in the form of earth movements with passage of time have played major role in shaping the history and destiny of the city in the past.
           In retrospection, let us glance through the available and the reconstructed data on the history of the city.

Topography of Mangaluru at present

Megalithic and later tribes
The Mangaluru area known by different names was the home for numerous tribes in the past. Megalithic stone burial structures or dolmens, known locally as Kodakkal (=umbrella stone) existed as we find place names of Kodakkal near Padil-Kannur and (modified name of) Kodikkal near Urwa. Similarly, a number of locality names such as  Konchadi (Kom tribes), Yeyyadi, Iddya (Yey or Yedia or Idiya tribe), Maroli, Marakada, Maravur (Marava tribes), Bijai (Bija tribes), Bolar, Bolur, Belma (“Boll” or Bella: white/fair skinned tribes), Derebail, Derlakatte (Dera tribes), Eliyar padavu (Eli tribes), Kannur (Kanna tribes), Panambur (Pani tribes), Maladi, Malemar (Male tribes), Kordel (Kor or Koraga tribes), Kudumbi bittil(Kudubi tribes), Kenjar (Kench or reddish tribes), Nagori(Naga tribes), Kankanadi (Kanka tribes), Gujjarkere (Gujjars), Baikampadi, Baithurli (Bai tribes), Mangar, Mangala (Mang tribes) etc. remind us of the tribes that lived in these habitations in the past.
We can probably classify the settlers into (a) tribes of North Indian origin (b) tribes of African origin, (c) tribes of European origin and (d) tribes of austro Aisatic (Munda) origin.

Early Immigrants    of   African origin
Some of the local place names in Mangaluru are suggestive of settlements of tribals of African origin. Omanjur (Vamanjur) for example, is reminiscent of Om valley of Ethiopia which is considered to be the cradle of civilization and the deduced site of Early Man, Homo Sapien. Similarly Kinya village in the Southern part of Mangaluru Taluk is reminiscent of the region Kenya in Africa. (There is also another Kenya Village in Sullia Taluk). The Kaprigudda (or Keprigudda) near Attavar in Mangaluru reminds devotees of the ancient Egyptian Spirit God Kepri. Inccidentally, the Spirit Kepri is still worshipped in Karwar and parts of coastal Uttar Kannada.Besides, there are placenames suggestive of habitations of immigrant tribes like Derebail, Derlakatte (Dere tribes); Konchadi, Komdodi, Komapadavu (Kom tribes); Koikude (Koi tribes) etc.

Immigrants with fair skin
 Biologists have inferred that the human race initiated with black skin color and the fair or the white skin evolved in due course of time. Early tribes settled in Indian subcontinent were endowed with black colored skin. It seems along the history there was a distinct period when fair skinned tribes arrived into what was a dominion of early settled blacks. This can be surmised based on the existence of words/place names referring to fair skinned tribes/colonies of fair skinned tribes in most of the Indian languages.Thus, when tribes with fair skins arrived on the scene, they were distinguished by their distinct skin color. Bola, Bolla (or Bella in Kannada; Vella in Tamil; Gore in Hindi etc) suggest white skinned people and the settlements inhabited by these whites were termed as Bola, Bolar, Bollur, Bellur, Belman, Belgaum, Goregaon etc. Tribes with white skin were referred to Bellal (later modified to>Ballal ) or in other areas ( Vellal , Vellar). Similarly people with reddish skins (“kencha”) gave terms like Kenjar, Kemral, Kenchanakatte, Kemthur, Kemmannu, Kemminje etc.

Settlers of Austro-Asiatic Orign
Settlements of tribes of Austro-Asiatic origin, generally known as Munda tribes, are known by place names with prefix of Munda. Settlements of other tribes like Mang (Mangar, Mangala, Mangalapadi, Mangalpete), Bai (Baikampadi, Bendur [<.Bayndur], Baithurli, Bekal) etc are also known.

Settlers   of   North Indian origin
Movement of tribes within India are well documented by ethnic place names such as Gujjarkere (Gujjars), Panambur (Pani, Panab), Kannarapadi, Kannur (Kanna), Kankanadi (Kanka), Yeyyadi, Yedapadavu (Yedava, Yeyy, Idava, Yadava) etc.

Mahabharata & Ramayana
Even though several unverified obscure (now obsolete) names for a number of  places in the West Coast have been cited in the ancient Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, we are not sure what exactly was the  oldest name for  the place now we know as Mangaluru.

Greek historians in the beginning of Common Era appear to have referred to the place as Olokhoira. Since the Greek travellers concentrated their attention on coastal ports of the day we can assume that Olokhoira was a marine port in those times. ( Some believe that Olokhoira may refer to ancient Udyavara).  Manjeshwara Govinda Pai has suggested that the term Greek term Olokhoira refers to Aluvakheda.
 The Aluva kheda or the Alupa kheda appears to be the present day Alupe valley (kheDa=valley, moat, depression) on the eastern part of Mangaluru city.(However, perceptions differ among the historians and a few tend to believe that Aluva kheda may refer to entire Tulunadu).

Artists impression map of submerged Mangaluru area ca 100 CE.

Legend of Parashurama
Former Alupe estuary is now a dried up river course of a deep valley between Maroli and Alupe. It was right on the West coast earlier and apparently the Greek historians referred to it as Olokhoira during the beginning years of the Common Era.  There was no mention of Mangalūru or even Kudla for the place at the beginning of Common Era! The possible reason for this is that the Arabian Sea transgressed and engulfed parts of the West Coast approximately during ca. 800 BC- 500 BC and receded only during ca. 200-300 CE. The regression of the Arabian Sea (ca. 200-300 CE) has been documented in legendary anecdotes  as a magical feat performed by a superhuman Parashurama, who was able to drive back the Sea by throwing his axe towards the Sea. The Bhargava clan ruled ancient Goa and parts of West Coast during the beginning of the Common Era and it seems that Parashurama apparently was a renowned charismatic sage among the Bhargavas. Later in the history,the  folk legends of the Parashurama appears to have been incorporated in the Sahyadri Khanda of Skanda Purana possibly during the regime of Kadamba King Mayura (ca. 400-500 CE).

Kudala- Kudla-Kodialbail
Now a days native people employ the term Kudla as an alternate local name in Tulu language for the Mangaluru city. However, it seems that originally  the term referred to a specific agricultural habitation located on the bank of a river during the pre-Dravidian days. Probably it dates back to the early agricultural phase in southern India corresponding to the period ca. 1500 BCE to 2800 BCE when horse gram ('kuDu') was one the earliest known  staple cereal grown in this region as well as other parts of the southern India.
The Kudla (Kudala) is normally pronounced with short u which probably decides the nature of the originally intended meaning of the word. The term Kudla appears to have originated as kuD+ala, wherein kuD means an agricultural or farm land and ala means a settlement by the side of river/ surface water body. The related words are Kudupu, Kudpadi, Kudthadka, etc. By analogy, the earliest pulse known to have been grown in South India happens to be known as “kuDu” (=horse gram) in Tulu language. The term "kuDu" (Macrotyloma uniflorum) appears unique to Tulu as the horse gram is known as Huruli (Kannada),Ulava (Telugu),Muthira (Malayalam), Kollu or Kaanam (Tamil), Kulith (Konkani) etc in other sister languages.[Incidentally, it has been reported that the horse gram seeds consists of polyphenols and flavonoids and proteins. Traditionally it was used in the treatment of patients suffering from jaundice and other ailments and recently it has found to contain anti-diabetic and anti-oxidant properties].
Earlier, there was an argument that the place name Kudala is actually Kūdla (or Koodla) which generally means confluence of two rivers. (The earlier proponents of this theme included this blogger also). For example, the Kannada place names Koodala, Koodali and Koodala-Sangama and so on refer to the confluence of rivers. However, Kudla (with short u) apparently has a distinct meaning different from Koodala as discussed in earlier paragraph.
           The term Kudla is at present used as a Tulu equivalent of Mangaluru. However, the exact location of the original Kudla within Mangaluru is difficult to decipher. However, it seems that  Kodial bail and the surroundings were known as Kudla to begin with.
            Regression of Arabian Sea  (ca 200-300 CE) eventually exposed and retrieved a five to six km wide tract of coastal land   buried under the sea till then. At the time of regression, the twin rivers of Mangaluru, namely the (southern) Netravati and the (northern) Phalguni (Gurupur) were flowing westward on the either sides of the (present day)  light house hill. The northern River Phalguni then flowed through the Kudala bail.
Kudala (Kud+ala) was an Ala (=habitation on the river bank) characterized of kuD (=good earth; agricultural field). The Kudala became Kudla and eventually the Kodial or the Kodial-bail, with successive settlements of new invaders with passage of time. Then the Kudla River (presently known as Phalguni) joined the Arabian Sea near Alike, south of   Kudroli temple.

The River Netravati flowed in the valley of Attavar and Pandeshwar and joined the Sea near Hoigebazar, Nireshivalaya. The estuary near Nireshivalaya served as old port known as Pandela. (The term Pandela (Pandi+ala) used to mean a boat harbor. Pandi was an old term for the sailing boat).
These evidences suggest that the Shiva temple established near the said Pandela (=Port) by Alupa rulers was designated as Pandeshwara.   The name of the God was extended as a place name that represented the area around the temple.

Mangara -Mangaruth
The area to the South of the river Netravati,the Yemmekere area, around third century onwards,  was known as Mangara. The place name Mangār has also been described in Tulu PaDdanas such as a region where the rule of the King of Mangār ("Mangarda Arasu") has been described. The ancient name Mangār within Mangaluru city still exists in the Western part of Mangaladevi area close to Yemmekere, where a premise with a group of Spirit (bhoota) shrines  continues to carry the name of Mangār compound.
The name Mangār (Mang= a tribe; ār= open field) possibly originated from the Mang tribes that inhabited the area. The Mangs are also known as Matanga in Maharastra, or as Minimadigs in Gujarat-Rajastan Region. .  It appears that whole area around Mangaladevi was earlier known as Mangār prior to the worship of Mangaladevi was introduced.
Similarly we find reference to ‘Mangarda parvata’ (Mountain of Mangar) in the Tulu paDdana (folklores) which probably refers to the present day light house hill located in the heart of the city. Thus it is possible that the light house hill was earlier known as Mangar hills.

Similar to Mangarada Parvata, the ancient Port (‘Pandela’) of Mangar located near Pandeshwara (ca. 7th Century CE) appears to have been known as Mangarda or Mangarta Pandela. The pronunciation of the word was apparently corrupted in the usage of foreign travelers (Cosmas ca.650 CE) who apparently employed the word Mangarouth to refer to the Port of Mangar.
Incidentally, an area near Mangaladevi Temple is known as Manki. The “Manki stand” was a station used for parking   horse drawn jataka (Tonga) during the British period onwards. The ‘Manki’ is said to be a Munda word signifying the leader of a group of Munda tribal habitations.Thus the ancient name Manki has survived from the settlement of Munda tribes in the area.

The Beary people residing in the Karavali (West Coast) even now refer to the city of Mangaluru as Maikala. The word has been explained variously, some considering that the term Maikala originated from the charcoal market in the ancient town.
However it seems the word dates back to the days of prevalence of  Buddhism  in the West Coast before the rennaisance and ascent of the Hindu cult of Shakti or the Mother Goddess.  Under the spell of prevalent Buddhism, the cult of worshiping Mayi, the mother of Gautama Buddha, in specific divine plots ( kaLa or primitive form of a Temple) was introduced in several places. One of such Mayi-kala (ie Temple of Mother) dedicated to the worship of Māyi, probably existed in the ancient port town of Mangaluru. Thus it seems that the Mayi temple area was referred to as Mayikala by the Arab merchants visiting the ancient Port for trade.

The word Mangala has several shades of meaning attached to it. Nowadays the word generally stands for the auspicious aspects of life. The term Mangala also means (1) Goddess Durga, or (2) a fort, or (3) camping ground. Incidentally, the term Durga also stands for a fort. 
However, the term Mangala (like Mangāra) initially could have evolved as Mang+ala ie, ala (=riverside habitation) of Mang tribes. It is interesting to note that Mangara and Mangala coexisted in the proximal area in the past when River Netravati flowed along the ancient path of Attavara-Pandeshwara valley, north of Mangara and Mangala.
The term Mangala also means an end or death. The ‘Mangala’  stands for culminating part (end) of a devotional chanting (bhajane) or even a traditional Yakshagana folk drama play. In the Natha tradition, the ‘Mangala’ is also said to be associated with the ceremony of death.


Basically, the term Mangaluru stands for mangala+ ooru which simply means auspicious village in the current regional parlance, even though the origin of the name might have been different. The name Mangaluru has been considered to have derived from the temple of Mangaladevi in southern Mangalore. However, according to the available historical sources Shankara Acharya consecrated the pre-existing Bhagavati temple in the area as mother Goddess Mangaladevi.

Pingala shrine at Mangala 
Mangaluru, especially the Kadri, was a well known ancient center of Natha cult especially between 10th and 14th centuries CE. The Natha cult represented the transition of Buddhism to revival of Hinduism in the Southern India. According to historical sources, Queen Pingala of Kerala region was a staunch disciple of Macchendra Nath, the founder of Natha cult. She travelled to Mangaluru along with Goraksha Nath, the principal disciple of Macchendra Nath for taking part in certain celebrations associated with the Natha cult. However, unfortunately she fell ill on the way and eventually died at Mangala. According to the traditions prevalent during those days,after her death she was deified and worshiped as a Spirit or Bhagavati (in the tradition of Buddhist cult) .  Later under the waves of revival of Hinduism, sage Shankaracharya is reported to have transformed many of the former Bhagavati shrines into Temples of Shakti (the Mother Goddess) worship. Thus, the Bhagavati of Pingala was subsequently known  as Devi of Mangala  or the Mangala Devi.
These reconstructed sequence of   historical   events imply that possibly the term"Mangala" was the initial name of place.

One of the unusual names recorded by travelers like Rashiduddin (ca.1300 CE) and Ibn  Batuta (ca 1343 CE) for the ancient Mangaluru is Manjarur. At first it seems that the ancient usage Manjarur was a corrupt form of Mangaluru. On second thoughts, it appears that the city especially the northern part was probably known as Manjaruru under the spell of Natha cult in the city during 10th to 14th Centuries CE. However, now apparently there are no places in Mangaluru that carry relicts of the past place name Manjaruru, except Manjanakatte near Kulur and Manjalapade near Padushedde, both in the northern sector of present Mangaluru. An analysis of the Natha history evolved around Kadri temple suggests that the consecration of Manju -Natha worship was initiated at Kadri under the spell of Natha cult propogated by Macchendra Natha. Macchendra Natha, a sage of Nepal origin is said to have came to Mangaluru from West Bengal and settled in Kadri, Mangaluru. Thus it seems that during the Natha period of the history of Mangaluru, the place was   renamed as Manjaruru in honour of Manju Natha.

The Mangalūru was named as Manjarun in the records of   traveler Ibn Batuta (ca. 1342 CE). The term Manjarun appears to be a corrupt pronunciation of the place name Manjarur.

Obviously, the prevalent term Mangalore is an anglicized and stylized version of the place name originally  known as Mangala, Mangalapura or Mangalūru probably since 4th Century CE onwards. The name Mangalūru was popularized by Kings and administrators of   Vijaynagara who ruled over the coastal region from their capital located at Hampi in Bellary District, since 13th Century CE.

Bokkapatna: Vijayanagara Port
The Mangaluru Port during the time of Vijayanagara appears to have been located at Bokkapatna, obviously named after Bokka, one of Kings of Vijayanagara. The term Patna is a common word to represent colony or township of  Mogaveera fishermen. The name Bokkapatna has survived even till today, even though the estuary/port has migrated further south due to a natural disaster and altered its location during the year 1887.
The Port of Bokkapatna was at the ancient estuary of the River Phalguni (= River Gurpur). The Bokkapatna Port and the estuary survived up to 1887 till the river took an abrupt turn and flew  towards south and joined River Netravati, between Bengre and Ullal. It can be seen that the Battery to store war explosives (hence the name: Sultan Battery) was built near Bokkapatna by Tippu Sultan during 1769.The battery was located to counter enemies entering through the Bokkapatna, Mangaluru Port.

Mangaluru vs. Kudla
In fact the name Mangaluru comes from the southern part of present Mangalore especially the area aroud Mangaladevi. The northern part (at present central part of Mangalore) especially the area round Kodialbail was historically known as Kudla. Kudla means

Mangalur & Barkur States/Provinces
Incidentally, the Vijayanagar rulers had two coastal provinces in the Tulunadu sector, namely the (1) Mangalūru and (2) Bārkūru. In traditional ceremonies in Tulunadu until recently the gurikars (community leaders) used to welcome and call out invitees from the Mangalur seeme and Barkur seeme (seeme=territory). Even robbers were traditionally designated as Mangalur Takke   and   Barkur Takke (Takka= cheat) in   Tulu folk tales.

The Vijayanagar rulers selected Mangaluru and Barkur as these were the popular port towns in those days that specialized in exporting the goods  grown in the hinter land.

**   **

Other   Mangalūrus’, outside the Mangalūru.
The place name Mangalūru is not unique in India as there are several other  villages/towns named after Mangaluru especially in different parts of Karnataka and Maharastra. Besides, there is also an airport named "Mangalore" in Australia.
There is also a Chikkamagalur which is sometimes confused as Chikka Mangaluru. The place name Chikka-magala-ur (Chikmagalur) means younger daughters village and there is a matching Hiremagalur or the elder daughter’s   village.
Further, there are villages called “Mangalore”   in Mysore (Nanjangud Taluk), Koppal (Yelburga) and Shimoga (Sorab Taluk) Districts of Karnataka. There is a Mangalore in Cuddalore District (Tuttakudi Taluk)   of   Tamilnadu.  Besides,  Mangalore, there are two Mangaluru villages in Bijapur District (one each in Bijapur and Sindagi Taluks) and One Mangaluru in Bagalkot district (Badami taluk).
Further, there are not less than 27 places known as Mangalapur (~+a/~+am) in   Andhra Pradesh (5), Karnataka (4) Maharastra (2), Orissa (13), Tamilnadu (1), and West  Bengal (2).


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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