Monday, October 31, 2016

369. Paradox of Parkala

The modern interpretation of many of the ancient place names may not always be considered as perfect or final, because of the inherent uncertainties involved.  Basically the toponym interpreter should take cognizance of the, environment, language and culture that prevailed during the time period of adopting a particular toponym. The uncertainties arise basically due to the obscure nature of our understanding the history, language and environment and the timeslot of adoption of such a kind of nomenclature.
Let us consider the example of a place name like Parkala. The village of Parkala, as many are aware, is a small rural place near the famed town of Manipal in Udupi. Since there are no major ancient temples in the village there may not be existence of mythological pattern of history (sthala purāna) associated with the village of Parkala.
Tulu Parkala
If you consider the toponym to be a basic Tulu word then the word analysis would be para+kala,  where para usually means the old and the word kala represents a quadrangle, plot or enclosure,  that may be used for meeting, judgment, entertainment, worship or combat.
But note: the toponym is Parkala and not Parakala! It may be difficult immediately to decide whether Parkala means same as Parakala.

Other possible source of meanings
 In case 'par 'in Parkala does not mean 'old' then, some of the  other possible explanations for the originally intended meaning by our ancestors for the place name “Parkala” could be one of the following:

1. Parkala (parapu = to flow; stream).  Tulu word 'parap(p)u'' means bathing ghat in the riverside (cf.Tulu Nighantu). The River Swarna flows by the side of this village located near Manipal. ( Thus, possibly “Parkala”= A  quadrangle by the side of river.). This choice appears valid as the Kannada translation of the place name matches with the interpretation. The Kannada translated name 'Harekala' incidentally contains 'hari' which also means to flow.

2. Para (=respectable; supernatural) + Kala (=place, quadrangle).  A revered place or shrine.

3. Para (= Outside people; immigrant) + Kala (Assembling Place).  It could have been a colony for immigrants, like ‘Agrahara’ for Brahmins. (Compare with another similar place name, like “Parampalli”.) 

4. Par (ಪರ್) + kala (ಕಲ/ಕಳ):  (par = to drink.)  Thus, Parkala could have been an area earmarked for consuming liquor or intoxicant drinks.  Like, an ancient army camping place, where ‘Chakan’ is an indispensable place for food and drinks (See our Post on Chakan).

5. Parkala  ( Bengali/ Munda)= glass, lens, mirror.

6. Parkala ( Hindi) = (i ) staircase ( सीडि ) ; veranda, square or threshold ( चौकट). (ii) piece of glass; (iii) cinder (अंगार/ चिंगारी).

Many Parkalas’
If you go beyond the limits of ancient Tulunadu you shall find there are quite a many Parkala villages other than the one we started with. The census of India data for 2011 will enlighten you on the presence of villages named as Parkala in Telangana as well as in Jharkhand. In Chattisgarh you can find a Parkal kasba. There may be many more hamlets carrying the same name in other parts of India.
Pa to Ha transition
In coastal Tulunadu, the transition of administrative languages from Tulu to Kannada has been evident in place names probably coinciding with the suzerainty of Vijayanagara empire, which extended up to the West Coast.
Thus, we find transition of place names like Perur to Herur, Perga to Herga and so on especially in the region of Udupi and Kundapur that centered on the Barkur State of Vijayanagara administration.
In the same vein, we find Harekala (in southern part of Mangaluru) which probably was the translation of older name Parkala.
But the interesting thing here is that Harekala is not an exclusive Kannada word as we find the toponym Harkala also in West Bengal.
Thus, it should be noted that the pa- to ha- transition is not exclusive to Kannada. The distribution of the word in a wider region beyond the general limits of Dravidian languages renders that the actual meaning of the term par/para/har/hare in the toponym Parkala  remains to be concluded.
One of the famous religious center (Mutt) in Mysore is known as Parakala Mutta. It is not clear whether the Parkala and Parakala are related and mutually relevant words. Similarly a high grade calico cloth produced at Sonargaon, West Bengal during 17th Century was also known as Parkala.

Meaning of Parkala?

If we think that Parkala has been translated into Harekala, then it may be noted that the meaning assigned to para (=old) in Parkala has not been translated to hale (=old) in Kannada. Again, we are led into confusion of accepting hare as alternate form of hale or a word of unknown or uncertain meaning. (Some may even argue that hare is a version of arey which means rock).
However, choosing from the list of other possible meanings, it seems the term par or hare/hari which means  'to flow', representing a flowing river appears to be more closer to the originally intended meaningThis seems apt as the the place Parkala is located on the bank of River SwarnaThus the original meaning of the place Parkala would be a quadrangle or enclosure by the riverside.

Beyond limits of Tulunadu
 As we have reported in many older posts in this blog, the Tulunadu and parts of Karnataka, share many of the presently odd sounding place names with Eastern coast especially Andhra, Orissa West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. Therefore one cannot argue that the pattern of toponym analogy as mere coincidence.

Deciphering the ancient tracts of migration as evident in the distribution of toponyms which reflect the   exchange of language, words and culture would be useful links in understanding our roots. Besides it may be hoped that the proper and realistic understanding of our roots and the history would go a long way in forging national integration.

Tailpiece: On Pareeka

‘Pareeka’ is a locale near Parkala, notable for a Naturopathy Hospital. Incidentally, the term   Parik or Pareek also refers to an ethno-linguist group of Brahmins from Rajasthan and Gujarath. ‘Parikh’ in Gujarathi means ‘assayer or examiner’ (of diamonds) from Vanik (= Merchant )class. The people of the community usually profess descent from the legendary sage Parashara.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

368. Bari lineage groups in Koraga Community

The study of the evolution of bari lineage system in Tulu communities is an interesting subject given its importance in the overall evolution of the heritage, language and culture in the region. The Koraga community being one of the earliest settlers and inhabitants of this land bear clues to the early evolution of our heritage. A popular spirit deity from the Koraga community known as Koragajja, has been considered a powerful spirit and is being believed and worshipped by many devout people.
However, the community in general has been ignored and remained backward and poor for many years. The situation is being remedied in the recent years as a result of encouragement and support from the governments well as welfare agencies and it is hoped the community shall get better employment opportunities and live with natural justice and pride on par with rest of the members of the society.
Agave fibers for clothing
Traditionally, fibers derived from “daddel” shrub (Agave) are offered symbolically along with “aghel” (offering) to the dead along with food offerings in the posthumous ceremonies among the Koraga community. The usage of agave fibers as symbol of cloths among the Koragas,   is a vestige of ancient practice of offering clothing material to the dead along with food.  Bālarāj suggests that the fibers of agave were used for fashioning cloths in the early days of civilization among the community.
Bari system
The Koraga community follows the bari   system of genetic lineages like other Tulu communities. Probably, for the first time, we present information on the bari   lineages existing in Koraga community.
Naḍusāl bari lineages
Traditional Tulunadu region has been conventionally divided into northern part, central part and southern part for convenience of reference. The central part (from Pavanje River upto Brahmavara ) is commonly referred to as “naḍu-sāl” among the tribes. 
Five baris in the nadu-sāl Korags:
 1 Tadpennār
2. Pāddyanār
3. Tirgenār
4. Mookenār
5. Kundaranna
Among the Koragas of the “baḍakāyi sāl” (northern part)   and” tenkayi sāl” (southern part) may have different bari lineages. (Data to be collected).
Equivalent baris
It is interesting to note that the five baris have equivalent baris existing in other Tulu communities. The Taḍpenār is considered equal to Tālianna or Salian bari. The Pāḍḍyanār is considered equal to Bangera or Bangeranna    lineage among other communities. The Tirgenāar Is considered to  be equal of Shriyaan lineage and Mookenār has been considered to be equivalent of Muncharianna and Kotian baris.

Analysis and implications
It is interesting to note that at least three of the above cited five baris are apparently unique to the Koraga community and probably not repeated among other communities. The Mookenār and Kundaranna appear to have been present in other Tulu   communities.  
It appears the three basic baris-  Taḍpennār, Pāddyanār and  Tirgenār indicate three types of early professions followed by these tribes in the early civilized society. Based upon simple word analysis of the bari names, we can infer that Taḍpenār originally represented   a set  of tribal artisans specialized in basket weaving and “ taḍpe” making. A taḍpe is a traditional woven hand crafted plate designed from tender pieces of bamboo stalks or other similar type of tender plant material and utilized in cleaning rice and other grains.  The Pāḍḍyanār, possibly represented tribal artists  devoted to singing ballads, the pāḍ/pāḍḍya being referred to songs. In the same lines the Tirgenār bari probably represented the group of wanderers who conducted the marketing of the handicraft products among the civilized society. The word “tirgu” means to wander, spin or rotate”. However, Shri Balaraj suggests that the Tirgenār is the person who is able to divert the decisions in tribal panchayat meetings.
The origin and meaning of the lineage sects Mookenar, Muncherianna and Kundaranna are not clear at present: It is probable that these baris represent ancient tribal groups/subgroups that merged with the community.
Recognition of equivalent baris has certain important implications. One, it suggests that those baris considered  equal to the basic Koraga baris possibly represent parallel tribal groups that settled,  inhabited and probably partially assimilated with the community in the antiquity. Two, it suggests that in the early historical period, the degree of communal discrimination was insignificant among the tribal communities. such that members of the Koraga tribal community could openly consider equivalents among the newly invaded and settled tribes in the land. In other words all the tribes were relatively poor and shared common problems of livelihood. And the discrimination in the tribal society probably was set in later as a consequence of recognition of socio-economical   rich- poor dichotomy among the various tribal groups.

The essential information is gathered from Shri Palli Gokuldas (80 years) and Shri Bālarāj Kodikal, two leaders of Koraga Community in   Mangaluru. The interview was arranged on 15-09-2016 with the help of Shri Dinesh Salian,   Mulki and Shri Peroor Jāru. The blogger is indebted to these gentlemen for kindly providing the information and sparing their time and efforts for him.

Friday, October 21, 2016

367. A wild spice: Jummana /Kavunte kāyi

Jummina (or Jummana) is a wild thorny tree common to rainy areas of Malnād and Karāvali  It is known as Zanthoxylum rhetsa in botanical circles.. The thorny tree with moderately large leaves bears pungent tasting bunch of berries known as Jummina kāyi in Uttara Kannada.  
Jummana  (Kavunte) with berries
In coastal cuisine the dried outer skin of the Jummina (Kavunte) berries are used as spices for imparting a special taste to fish curries, especially Bangude. People consider that the wild spice has anti-flatulant characteristics to ward of possible ill effects of indigestion especially associated with fishes like BangudeThe Indian tree is considered to be a cousin of Szechuan pepper (Zanthoxylum piperitum) a popular spice in Chinese and Thai cooking.
In the villages of Tulunadu, the berries of the tree are commonly known as Kavunte kāyi or Petala kāyikāyi = berry of the plant), which is used by rural children for playing as toy bullets.  The children while playing make piston like structures in the form of tubular structures from selected plant stalks, inside which rod like plant parts, are used to drive out the berry bullets forcibly such that berries explode with a thud sound.
 The “Jummina” term might have been adopted because of the stunning “jumm” kind of pungent feeling you get while tasting the outer cover of the berry. Our Konkani and Marathi friends call the tree by the name of   Teppal or Tirphal.
The tree bears fat thorns on the stem that are used by children to make rubber stamps. The thorns of Jummina tree are also used in the Yakshagana costumes, especially for designing the thorn like shoulder ornaments (known as “bhujakeerti”).


Friday, October 14, 2016

366. Mystery of Gokarna and Havyaka

Many of the place names that appear simple on the face may in fact be more complex in reality because of the obscurity in the historical evolution of our land.   It is necessary that care should be taken, while deciphering the original meaning intended and attributed to the place name, by our ancestors who gave the particular name at a remote point in the past history.     Similarly it would be wise to discard the apparent  but untrue meanings that may be attached to  the  name because  of      limitations  in  our  understanding the history and meaning of  the original word. Let us analyze the place name Gokarna and its relation to ethnic words Ha(v)iga and Havyaka.
Legends of Gokarna
Gokarna is a well known place in West Coast of Karnataka, located on the flank of Aghanāshini River in Kumta Taluk, Uttara Kannada district.  The Gokarna is a renowned tourist spot famous for Hindu religious ceremonies especially in the celebration of traditional posthumous rites apart from attractive beaches like Om beach, Kudle beach and main Gokarna beach.
Legends related to the epic Ramayana describe the Gokarna as the place where Asura King Rāvana, while carrying Ātma-linga requested Lord Ganapati (Ganesha) to hold the Ātma-linga for a short while as he wanted a brief respite from the burden. But legends envisage that   the Lord Ganapati tactfully or rather playfully placed the Linga on the coastal sand which was installed permanently. The Rāvana who returned to the site was perplexed to find that the Linga could not be moved from the place in spite his best physical efforts. Ultimately, Rāvana had to leave the Ātma-linga entrenched in that place which later became famous shrine of the Lord Shiva in the name of Mahābaleshwara.
Toponym : Gokarna
The analysis of the toponym (place-name) Gokarna appears quite simple at the outset as it apparently contains two rudimentary Sanskrit words:  Go (=cow) and karna (=ear).  Therefore Gokarna=Cow’s ear. There are legends supporting the hypothesis of Cows ear stating that the Ātma-linga came out a cow’s ear.
However, if you are a serious   student of Indian place names, you may feel that it is unusual that a place should be named after the ear of a cow (in spite of our respect for the holy cow).
The basic reasons for dissent are:
(1) The place names coined by our ancestors reflect the words selected from the language existing at that time in that region.
(2)  Most of our place names are desi words which may have been modified in the due course of time. (The term desi usually reflects the words derived from Prakrit, Munda or Dravida languages.)
(3)  Most of our ancient place names end with characteristic spatial indicator suffixes or morphemes like –na, -ka, -ga, -sa, -ba, -va,-ma, -la,-ala, etc (or their variants and modifications.).  (You may peruse previous/older posts in this blog dealing with toponymic analyses).
(4)  If you apply such a kind of logical place name analysis, then, the origin of the word would be: Gokarna = gokar + Na.
Many Gokarnas' !
It may surprise you to know that there are many places in India,  known by the name of Gokarna. The census of India 2011 database reveals that that are several villages distributed in different states of India, carrying the name “Gokarna” with or without additional modifier suffixes. A few places named exactly as "Gokarna" also exist in Gujarat and West Bengal besides Karnataka.
This may lead to controversy  as to which was the actual Gokarna referred to in the epic Ramayana.  Note that there is a village by the name of “Gokarni” in West Bengal. In Uttar Pradesh, there are "Gokhar" as well as "Gokhari" villages. In Uttara-khand, "Gokhuri"  and in Rajastan, "Gokhri" named villages are found.  Besides, there are many villages bearing  varying names such as: "Gokhara", "Gokharpada", "Gokarnapur", "Gokarnabinda", "Gokarneshwar", "Gokarnakhal", "Gokarnameri" and "Gokharkuda" especially in the State of Odissa. There is village known as "Gokhar Bedi" in Madhya Pradesh.  In Gujarat, "Gokharva" and "Gokharwala", villages are found. In Andhra Pradesh, apart from villages named as “Gokarnapuram” you will also find “Gokarnapalle” and “Gokaram”. In Bangalore District near Devanahalli there is a “Gokare” village. You can also find villages named “Gokhar” in Uttar Pradesh and Nepal.

Gokhar: the Nāga cult
Gokhar (or Gokar) means Nāga, cobra or serpent in Prakrit and its derived languages like Odissi.  Therefore, places known as Gok(h)arna  were ancient villages, originally were named after the  cult of Nāga, which was a holy deity for the native tribes.   The prevalence of ancient cult of Nāga worship  has been well known in different parts of ancient India.
Thus, the Gokarna and its derivative toponyms are suggestive of ancient areas dedicated to the cult of Nāga worship in the antiquity. These place names also indicate that in these regions Austro-Asiatic Munda and/or Prakrit languages prevailed during a specific period in the past history.
That the toponym Gokarna originally meant place of serpent cult can also be proven by the existing alternate historical name for the Uttara Kannada (region around Gokarna) by the name of  “Haiga” ( or Haviga).

Haiga, Haviga = Gokarna
The analysis of the place name "Gokarna" (= village of Nāga ) throws light further on another disputed term in the Indian history : Haiga or Havika. The Kannada dialect in Uttara Kannada district is generally pronounced little bit faster ,such that some of the words unintentionally get mutilated or distorted in the spoken language. Thus the term "Haviga" is generally pronounced as "Haiga" in the local dialect of Gokarna and surrounding areas. We can see that 
the word “Haviga” [Hāv+(i)+ga] in Kannada is equivalent of  Prakrit word "Gokarna," as hāvu means Nāga or serpent in Kannada and –ga is an ancient suffix indicative of a settlement, habitation or village. Thus Haviga (also Havika or Haiga) is the Kannada eqivalent of the Prakrit place name Gokarna.

Lingual transition: Prakrit to Kannada
Thus, the place name Gok(h)arna on translation to Kannada has become Havika or Haviga, where in suffix -ka or -ga is indicative of habitation, similar to the prefix -na in Gokharna. This is suggestive of an important historical fact which documents the change of administrative language in the region from Prakrit to Kannada. The date of lingual transition probably can be assigned as ca.300 CE.

Thus it can be realized that the Brahmins originating from Havika or Haviga (Uttara Kannada district) area of Karnataka are traditionally designated as Havika or Havyaka Brahmins.  The word Gokhar is known as Haavu in Kannada. 

However, the origin of the word “Havyaka” has also been disputed in learned circles. Basically,
 so far there are two schools of explanations in vogue with regard to the origin of the word "Havyaka".
(1) It has been suggested that the category of Brahmins traditionally engaged in the rituals of offering Havana (Havya) and Homa were considered as Havyaka.
(2) Alternately, the category of Brahmins,  hailing from the region of "Haiga" were known as "Havyaka".

(3) It can be seen that the origin of the word "Haiga" ( or Haviga) is itself has been somewhat controversial, as there is  a school of thought suggesting that the word "Haiga" might have been derived from the term "
Pashuka". There has been a suggestion that Haviga came from "aavu" which means cow in Old Kannada.

Of all the hypotheses discussed above, it appears that the word "Haviga" (shortened to Haiga as it is customary in the dialectical version of Kannada of Uttara Kannada) gave rise to the word Havyaka - one related to the region of Havika/Haviga.  Clearly, the term "Havika/Haviga" is the Kannada translation of the Prakrit place name word "Gokarna". 
Thus, the Gokarna region of Uttara Kannada,   has been known as “Haiga” (or “Haviga”) in historical documents probably after 3rd Century  CE. The native (Kannada) word ”Haiga” was the deformed version of the Kannada word Hāviga.  

Ucchila(=Gokarna, Haviga)
In this context, we can study a similar meaning, analogous place name from Tulunadu. The place name "Ucchila" is equivalent of Gokarna or Haviga as Ucchu+ila means habitation (-ila) of the Serpent (Ucchu). There are at least two coastal villages in Tulunadu (1.Near Kapu, Udupi district and 2.Near Manjeshwar, Kasargodu District, Kerala) bearing the name of Ucchila.

Historical implications
Thus it is concluded that term “Hāviga” or “Haiga “ as employed  in historical inscriptions refer specifically to the region of Gokarna in Uttara Kannada. Corroborative historical data (discussed elsewhere and also in our older posts,) suggests that Prakrit language prevailed as administrative language in Karnataka probably up to ca. 200 or 300 CE.  Further, Kannada language dominated and took the place of regional administrative language, which is also evident by the natural translation of the Prakrit term Gokarna into Hāviga. 
Thus, it can be concluded that "Haiga" was the Kannada term for the "Gokarna" (in Karnataka) and the term Havyaka as applied to the group of people meant the Brahmins of Gokarana (or Haiga) region.  
It is interesting to note that out of the two analogous terms, Gokarna and Haiga (Haviga), the latter has gone out of usage in the long run, whereas the former has remained in active usage. The term Gokarna stayed with the people as favorite, possibly because of its  appeal as a word apparently akin to Sanskrit, the widely respected language, . 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

365. The Mugera Community

Our heritage is simply a summary of continuum of cultural, religious, linguistic and genetic contributions by various tribes inhabited in this land since the beginning of tangible forms of civilization. In spite of explicit evidences of stratification and discrimination, it can be inferred that every Tulu community has borrowed cultural, linguistic and genetic rudiments of heritage from its earlier generations. It is necessary that we should endeavor to appreciate and understand the contributions of various tribes, beyond the general limitations of bigotry that pesters our society in general.
In this post we shall look into the salient information currently available on the Mugera community of Tulunadu.
In terms of population, the Mugera is the largest dalit Tulu speaking community in Dakshina Kannada district.  Variants of the word Mugera are Mogera, Muggera and Mera. They are known as Mera in eastern parts of the district. Other dalits groups in the district refer to Mugers by alternate names such as Kalaler (by Koragas), Kaipuder (by Manser), or Poojari (by Nalike).  In parts of Kerala they are known as Mayya or Mayyamar or Māyila.
During the history, the Mugera were hunters, fishers, warriors or agricultural laborers.  Ancient forts known as Mayila kote at places like Madhuru, Kātukukke etc. suggest that they were rulers during the history in parts of Tulunadu and Kerala. They were generally dark in skin color and Tulu was their mother tongue. They were well versed in the use of bows and arrows (known as biru-pagari in Tulu).  They also lived as artisans skilled in basket weaving or   making rain shields (korambu). During the history they worked as security personnel for the Tulu landlords of Guttu and Māgane.
Two scholars from the community, Dr. Abhay Kumar Kaukradi (1997) and   Dr. Koira N Balepuni (2005) have brought out two independent sociological studies on the Mugera community. The essential field data in this post has been gathered from these two excellent research works.
The Mugerlu: Mudda and Kalala
The Mugeras worship Spirits of martyred twin heroes from the community known as Mudda and Kalala or simply as “Mugerlu”(=the mugeras) who were considered to have been killed in their youth by deceit..  They appear to have been the contemporaries of and served under the renowned Billava twin heroes Koti and Chennayya. In some areas, another pair of heroes Yenmura Deyyu and Kelata Perne take the place of  the “Mugerlu” twins.
 Tanni Māni
 Anecdotes describe the legend of Tanni Māni, brave sister of Mugera heroes Mudda and Kalala made use of her drape( sāri)  as a rope and helped in the release of Koḍdabbu (Koteda Babbu) an artisan from the Mundala community who was captive and trapped in an sealed open well .
According to legends Kelata Perne was the husband of Tanni Maani.
From the legends of Mudda-Kalala and Koti Chennayya we get the impression that Mugera and Billava youths were serving as soldiers and security personnel for Jain Kings and the legends of these probably date back to later part of 16th Century CE as inferred by Dr Vamana Nandavara (2001).
Mugera Etymology Word origin
In Tulu language the word muger means (1) floodplain or flank of a river and (2) rabbit. However, the term Mugera stands for a community of Muger tribes. Incidentally in Tulu ‘—eru’ is a plural indicator denoting a group of people. In most of the tribal languages, the group name usually means people in their language (For example Koraga, Bantu, Munda etc mean ‘people’ or ‘human beings’ in their respective original languages.) Therefore, if there was a distinctive Mugera language before the prevalence of Tulu then the word Mugera in that language would have meant people by analogy.
Totem of Rabbit
However, on other hand, the rabbit (‘Muger’ in Tulu)   was an ancient totem found in many parts of the ancient tribal world. Therefore it is possible that originally  the core of Mugera community is a representation of ancient totem of rabbit in Tulunadu. During trans-continental migration of early human tribes of into coastal India, the ancient tribes may have carried their totemic cultural traits to West Coast along with them. The totem theory is proven by existence of other ancient totem groups in Tulunadu like Sanil /Chanil (=squirrel) and Salian<.Talya  (=spider),  Bāge (=Tiger) etc.

Mugera names

Some of the male proper names of Mugera people are Mangura, Pijina, Kukka, Kumbe, Kalanja etc.
The village level community leader gurikara, among the Mugera tribes is known as Kāpaḍa, Kāpa or Oorudāye. The community leadership of a Kāpaḍa is passed on to his son as a hereditary feature.
There was a custom of erecting banana plant in the middle of large agricultural paddy fields after ploughing the field in the West Coast. This was known as bare paaduni (= installing banana plant). This duty in the village was traditionally carried out by Kāpada of the Mugera community.
Similarly, the honor of installing the ceremonial flowery post (“Pookare”) in the Kambula (traditional buffalo race) wet field was also being allotted to the leader of the Mugera community, the Kāpada.

Pārtana, Sandhi and Kabita
They refer to traditional ballads and songs as Pārtana instead of Pāḍdana as in other Tulu communities. (Note that the Mugera word Pārtana is akin to Sanskrit Prārthana). The type of ballad known as Sandhi refers to recitation of traditional viewpoint of history of the specific Spirit. The song type known as kabita refers to popular ballads sung during traditional planting of saplings (neji) in paddy fields.

Spirit worship pattern
Mugera tribes are known for worshiping spirits of “Mugerlu” as Kola or Nema festival on a village level. The periodic spirit worship, celebrated on monthly basis, at family level on the day of Sankranti, is known as  Manja; and the offering is known as Aghel.   Generally, there are no specific idols  and the traditional symbols of worship consist of bow and arrows (biru-pagari), sword (suria) and  in some cases  the crown or headgear (chapparambu).

Dudi drum
The traditional drum used by Mugera tribes is known as duḍi.  The Duḍi is a kind of horizontally aligned, double conical or hour glass shaped drum, usually carved out of wood with constricted passage in the middle portion and the opposite circular open heads covered  with animal hide (see figure).  Usually animal skins of monkeys and lizards were used to cover the drum head. The drum head is beaten with a curved stick and simultaneously the rope tied round the constricted central part of the duḍi  is pulled to elicit required pattern of percussion sound.
Variants of Dui drums

A few varied forms of duḍi are also popular among other tribes such as Kodava, Irava (Yerava), Mansa, Mayila and others. Some of the Kodava  duḍis’ are made out of metal bronze unlike other wooden models popular with other tribes.
The tribes perform a number of types of traditional dances in tune with the beats of the duḍi drums.
Damaruga and Shiva
We can see that the dudi drum is similar in shape to the damaruga drum held by Lord Shiva in our legends, even though the duḍi is larger in size compared to the ḍamaruga.
Apart from the common shape of duḍi and ḍamaruga, the connection of Mugeras (and other tribes) with Shiva and linga are also evident in folk-lores connected with many of the ancient Shiva/Linga temples of Tulunadu. Anecdotes suggest that a tribal woman while gathering fodder or forage stumbles upon a piece of stone which exudes blood; and further the local people build a temple and worship that stone as Shiva- linga.
Types of  Mugera dances
The Mugera tribes traditionally perform a number of dance types as a part of specific seasonal celebrations or for the purpose of entertainment in the community. Salient seasonal celebratory dance forms include: (a) Karamgolu (b) Chennu (c) Aati Kalanja and (d) Pili panji. Besides, there are a number of types of dances performed for entertainment or during marriage (Darilo; Oddunalike) or public festivities at temples(like at Ubara makhe) or at buffaloe race( or Kambula).
A few of the significant seasonal dance celebrations are discussed here under:
(a) Karamgolu
The Karamgolu is seasonal a group dance performed by male dancers along with recitation of pertinent folk ballads accompanied to the beat of duḍi drums specifically in the Tulu month of Māyi (roughly February to March) especially on the full moon day.  The term “Karamgolu”, as implied in folklores, represents a special type of seed used for sowing crops, according to Dr Amrita Someshwara. In other words, the “Karamgolu” signifies the sanctity of “karam” (karma= physical   labor; agricultural activity) and sowing  of seed (golu). In some legends, a specific type of paddy seed known as Atikāri (a rice variety) is referred to as Karamgolu.
The seasonal dance of Karamgolu appears to be not exclusive to the Mugeras, as it is also played by other tribal communities of the region. However, Karamgolu is commonly played by Mugeras in parts  of Bantwal Taluk in Dakshina Kannada.
Ancient tribes gave sanctity and importance to essential agricultural practices which included selection of proper seeds. The Karamgolu dance is headed by a senior man referred to as “Angara Bakuda”, who represents the leader of the community in the dance.
(b) Chennu
The Chennu (means a beautiful woman) represents the folk ballad of a woman with child and is relevant to aspects of maternity. It is performed for a month from the full moon of Māyi (February/March) to the full moon of Suggi (March/April). The role of Chennu is portrayed by men dressed like woman and the child is symbolic in the form of a doll. She presents pictures of maternal care and love along with aspirations for welfare of the humanity in spite of the abject poverty experienced by the her family and community.
The celebration of   the seasonal dance of Chennu is said to be exclusive feature of the Mugera community.
(c) Aati Kalanja
The word Aați (= Ashaḍa in Kannada areas) refers to a Tulu month, characterized by intense rainfall, falling between July and August. And Kalanja is name of the young man, who is supposed to be a representative of the ancient Spirit divinity known as Bermer. He is also known as Kodanje in some areas.The Birmer (or Bermer) is the ancient Spirit deity of Tulunadu worshiped by various tribes. He visits the rural households chanting ballads for blessing them  for getting rid of ailments and (food) scarcity that usually pester the rural people during the peak rainy season. Thus, the Aati Kalanja is also known alternately, as Birmere Māni, Kalenja Bermer, Birmer etc. The performance is celebrated on the Full moon day and its eve during the month of Aati. The yellow powder of turmeric (Curcuma longa), which has known insecticidal and antibiotic properties, is usually sprinkled around the houses visited by Kalanja.
The Aati Kalanja is an ancient representative of divinity in vogue since early historical days. He carries a “tatra” or palm leaf umbrella symbolic of power, authority and divinity. He sings the ballad accompanied by the beating of dudi drum. The peak month of rainy season since antiquity is also a period of diseases and shortage of food grains. The aim and intention of the Aati Kalanja celebration is to wipe out the diseases and restoration of health.
(d). Pili panji
Pili panji means a tiger and a hog (pig). It is a hunters dance pattern symbolizing hunting wild animals like tigers(=‘pili’) and hog,  or wild pig (=‘ panji’) and the like. It commonly performed by the Mugeras of Beltangadi and Puttur Taluks which are closer to dense forest areas.
Kasaraka tree
The Mugera tribes traditionally held Kasaraka tree (Kayer or Kaveri tree) in high esteem. Whenever there is a child birth in the house it was customary to place four twigs of Kasaraka tree in the four corners of the roof of the house apparently  for the protection of the newborn baby from evil eyes.
Vāstu rudiments
The Mugera have a specific pattern of Vāstu for construction of dwelling houses, according to Dr. Abhaya Kumar (1997). Generally, the houses are simple in design with entrance of their houses face Eastern direction.  North facing entrances are taboo among them.
The dead bodies are normally buried, without aligning the body to any of the specific directions.
Stratification in Tribal Society
The members of the Mugera community generally consider themselves superior to other dalit groups such as  Mundala, Bākuda, Godda, Mansa and Māyila. These are generally considered as the first ranking dalits in Tulunadu (Abhaya Kumar, 1997).  Spirit dancers such as Nalike, Panara, Pambada and Kopala are considered as second ranking tribes.   The  spirit dancers  came from outside, probably from Tamilnadu, according to Abhaya Kumar. The Koraga tribes appear to belong to older/earlier generation of tribes that inhabited coastal Karnataka.
Bari lineages
In the Mugera community there are 18 bari lineage sects according to Dr. Abhaya Kumar (1997) but he gives a list of total 22 baris’, the additional ones being added in later years. Among these the Koormer is said to be the most respected or preferred bari during forging matrimonial alliances.

Bari lineage groups among the Mugera
The list of Bari lineages provided by Dr. Abhaya Kumar Kaukradi (1997) is provided below:
A1. Koormer,
A2. Bangera,
A3. Salian,
A4. Kundadanna,
A5. Manjadanna,
A6. Yeradanna,
A7. Beemardanna,
A8. Kumerdanna,
A9. Mattedanna,
A10. Poovadanna,
A11. Arpudanna,
A12. Uppenna,
A13. Māradanna,
A14. Bhadradanna,
A15. Kanappanna,
A16. Pulletanna,
A17. Marder etc.
A18. Wagetanna
A19. Karamber
However, according to Dr Koira (2010) there are 16 baris’ plus a few additional baris’ which he considers as regional variants or koodu baris’.  He states that it is difficult to separate original 16 baris’ from koodu baris’. His list is as follows, .
The Bari lineage list provided by Dr. Koira N. Balepuni (2010):
K1. Chalianna (=K17);
K2. Kundachanna (=K18, K19),
K3 . Bangaradanna.
K4. Kumerdanna (=K20), *
K5. Kinnyadanna, (=K21, K22),
K6. Ponnedanna,
K7. Mardaranna (=K23, K24, K25 , K26),
 K8. Pernedanna.
K9. Bolle Aitanna.
K10. Parikadanna.
K11. Uppianna.
K12. Poovedanna.
K 13.  Sonadanna.
K14. Mottedanna,
K15. Karkadanna,
K16.  Nadaranna.
Additional bari s’ regional variants or koodu bari s’ (Dr Koira)
(K17. Sāmedanna / Sāmanidanna)
 (K22. Kinnigere),
(K25. Yerderanna ),
(K26 Oderanna),
K27. Kesardanna
K28. Bojjaranna
K29. Gunderanna
K30. Kaalikoranna
K31. Perbanna ……etc.
 (* Asterisks show numbers of equivalent baris enlisted suggested by Dr Koira. Bari names of serial numbers beginning with A are from Dr Abhaya Kumar (1997) and those   beginning with K are from Dr Koira (2010). Common Baris falling in both the lists are shown in bold letters. The suffix –anna   implies a man or person. Kundacha means Sanil or squirrel).
The Koteda Babbu was from the Parikedanna bari  and Tanni Māni, sister of Mugera heroes Mudda and Kalala was said to be from the lineage of Muncheridanna. This particular bari does not exist at present according to Dr. Koira.

Antiquity of Mugeras: Origin and antiquity of the tribal community bearing the totem name of “muggear” (rabbit) may go back to early days of civilization.  In ancient tribal communities that lived together in the form of a collective habitation, each habitation had its own insignia that was symbolically represented on a pole at the entrance to the habitation. Totems of rabbit, squirrel, spider, serpent and other animals were the insignia of specific tribal communities in the antiquity. The totem of rabbit was commonly found in ancient tribes of Africa and other parts of ancient world.
Totem and Bari evidences: Of the totems and bari lineages, it is difficult to decide which was older. However, since the term “bari” means a 'house' in ancient Indian languages like Munda/Prakrit, we can deduce that the bari system chronologically followed the system of totems (tribal insignia) during the early days of civilization as recognition and registration of the genetic identity of  individuals in the ancient society .
A large number of bari lineage groups existing among the Mugera community suggests the amalgamation of several “ bari” groups during different historical stages into the fold of community, presently designated as Mugeras. It can be noted that some of the bari types existing among the Mugeras are also common in other communities in Tulunadu, suggesting clearly that the common evolution of the communities took place, before segregating into “castes” in the due course of time
Mogaveera: For example, a part of the Tulu fisher community was known as “Mogera” in parts of Tulunadu before adoption of the name of “Mogaveera” during beginning of the 20th century.  There is an argument that ‘Mugera’ and “Mogera” are different, the latter being suggestive of  ‘mugear ’ which is the floodplain of a river. However, it seems on alternate view that the fishers Mogera actually could have been an ancient offshoot of the totemic Mugera tribes under discussion.
Stratification: The Mugera were considered to be inferior to Billavas at  a point in the history may be around 16th century, as we can understand from the legends of Billava twin heroes Koti and Chennayya and their contemporary Mugera twins Mudda and Kalala. However, it is explained in the references cited that the Mugeras also considered other tribal communities such as Koraga, Mansa, Mundala etc as inferior to them in social status. This point reveals that social stratification was prevailing among the ancient Tulu communities probably as a result of sheer rivalry or as per the theory of survival of the fittest.
It is evident that migrations and settling of tribes took place in episodes. And  every batch of new settlers tried to impose the superiority of  their  acquired cultural progress over the older batch of settled 'backward' tribes. (Thus the social stratification in the land is not exclusively due to the division of castes or ‘ Varnashrama’ theory as commonly assumed)
Evolution of Tulu Language: The presence of numerous antique words exclusive to Tulu and absent in other Dravidian sister languages, suggests existence of words derived from the ancient tribal communities that settled in this land.
There are clear indications that early tribes had their own distinct language(s) which was/were different from Tulu and other Dravidian languages. During the course of evolution, probably after 2nd century CE,  Tulu language occupied a dominant position in the coastal region and the descendants of the ancient tribes were forced to forget their original language and gradually switch over to the dominant language of Tulu. In the process of cultural amalgamation and assimilation, the Tulu has liberally has acquired and adopted words from earlier languages. This explains the conclusion of the linguists who have inferred that Tulu language shows combination of South central and Southern Dravidian linguistic features.
Bari: One small and fine example is the adoption of the word “bari” in Tulu. The word ‘bari’ in ancient Indian languages meant ‘house’. In ancient days it was used to identify the person from the address of the house he originated. Thus ‘bari’ system of tagging the name of an individual’s house as a mark of his identity came into being. (Compare with Aadhar system of present day).
The pre-Tulu system of Bari lineage identities was adopted by the speakers of Tulu language as a matter of convenience. However, Tulu language had another word ‘bari’ which meant a side.  Thus nowadays Tulu people believe that the word ‘bari’ means a side. In Kannada, they have modified “bari” into “bali”. Some Kannada people have changed the word “bali” (= a side) to “balli” which means a creeper! This should serve as an example of the unintended changes to the meaning conveyed by the same words during the protracted course of evolution.
Ancient words: There are several ancient words which appear unique to dalit communities of Tulunadu, such as, for example: tullel (=marriage), chapparambu (=seven hooded crown; (worn as headgear by Mugerlu Spirit impersonators),  partana (= ballad, song; pari+tana; compare with pad+tana.), Kāpaḍa (=community leader) etc.

Abhaya Kumar Kaukradi Dr. (1997) Mugeraru: Jananga Janapada Adhyayana (Kannada). Kannada and Culture Directorate, Bengaluru and Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academi, Mangaluru.  320 p.
Koira N. Balepuni Dr.(2010) Mugerara Dudi kunitagalu: Svaroopa mattu Sanskriti. (Kannada) Dudi Prakashana. Balepuni,Bantwala Taluk, Dakshina Kannada. Xii+8+246 p.
Vamana Nandavara, Dr. (2001) Koti Chennaya. Janapadiya Adhyayana (Folkloristic study) (Kannada). Hemanshu  Prakashana.  Mangaluru. 420 p.

*  *


 The proper name or surname of "Mugera" is commonly found in some African countries. Incidentally, “Mugera” in Lulogooli Bantu language (Kenya, Africa) means  a river. Compare the cited African word and its meaning with that in Tulu, where the “muger” means a floodplain or flank of a river.


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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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