Ancient words in any language are like fossils and can be useful in understanding the mysteries of antiquity. Ancient words in Tulu language similarly provide us useful hints that enlighten factors relating to the origin and evolution.
Linguists have traced dual features of south central and southern Dravidian trends of evolution in Tulu language ( ref:) though there has not been clear explanation of this duality. Earlier posts in this blog have identified and explored explicit evidences of an Austro-Asiatic base of Munda group of language under the Dravidian linguistic heritage in the evolution of Tulu language.
Ancient words like paggu (=first month in Tulu calendar), tude (=river), tāri (=toddy palm), urdu(=black gram)……. etc apart from numerous place names in Tulunadu that still carry a prefix of Munda- or manki or related words –are all suggestive of an explicit undercurrent of an older layer of Adi-Dravida or pre-Dravida traditions in this land, before the onset of Dravidian phase of socio-cultural and linguistic evolution.
Relicts of ancient Austro-Asiatic Munda culture and language still exist in Eastern and North eastern India. Bengalis and Odiyas sport such ancient words as Desi in their languages.
Let us discuss two of such ancient desi words, surviving in Bengali language, struck me because of their significance in the evolution of Tulu language and culture here below:
Bari is a very common word in Tulu language representing genetic lineage of person. It was used traditionally to identify a person and distinguish him or her from persons of other lineages especially in matrimonial proposals. Persons from the same bari were considered traditionally to be blood relatives among whom marriage was a taboo. Bari is alternately known as bali, gotra, bedagu or illam in other socio-cultural groups. The origin of bari or gotra system predates the introduction of caste based communities as we discussed in an older post.
The analogy between the words bari (Tulu) and bali (Kannada) earlier led us to suggest that bari was an alternate form of the word bali (balli) which usually meant a plant creeper. The Tulu word bari at present means a side or margin. The meaning was adopted by some since it approximately conveys the connotation of a lineage.
However, the understanding that bari is a desi word of Austro-Asiatic origin existing in Bengali suggests fresh dimension of origin and meaning to the Tulu word bari. The word bari of Austro-Asiatic origin means home in Bengali.
Thus it is possible that the heritage word bari in existing in Tulu language means the name of the home or the original house of person. In ancient cultures a person was identified by the name of his home. In this way it appears synonymous with the term illam (=home) used by Malayalis or gotra (name of cowshed) used by cowherds in northern India during the ancient history for lineage.
In the same vein we can see that the word pulo means a flower in Bengali. We can compare pulo with phool in Hindi.
A red colored wild flower (usually occurring as a bunch of flowers or inflorescence) commonly seen in rural settings is known as kepulo or kepula. We can understand the origin of the name of this wild red flower as it is ke+pulo, where ke represents red and pulo means flower.
We also may understand that with passage of time, the original pulo has been reduced to poo (= flower) and the original ke has become kempu (=red).
Tulu language has absorbed words from Austro-Asiatic and other pre-existing languages during the prolonged course of evolution. Many of these words are pre-Dravidian in nature, and the presence of such ancient words in contemporary Tulu suggests partial or selective socio-cultural assimilation of ancient tribes with Dravidians during the history. This explains the basic reason for the exposition of dual South-central and Southern Dravidian linguistic trends in the evolution of Tulu language.