Friday, December 29, 2017

396. Melānta

In history, western world knows only two divisions as commoners and nobles, despite the professions they follow.  We, in India, have many artificial caste distinctions or divisions, based on hereditary occupations of individual professional sometimes -groupable under the traditional classes of Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. The Brahmans, who are in highest rung of Vaidika Chaturvarna, have also divisions, supposed to be 84 or so. These artificial divisions, known in Portuguese language as ‘Casta’ (probably taking cue from Kayastha of Bengali), are made known to Europe by Portuguese. Further, in Southern India, there are high (right-hand) and low (left hand) divisions within a caste itself. The English borrowed this word ‘casta’ and invented the word ‘caste’.  The description of castes makes an interesting reading in Hobson-Jobson Dictionary (Pages 170 t0 173).  Glossaries of Anglo-Indian words and phrases are gleaned (and edited by the Authors) from the writings of foreign explorers, Arabian and European marine traders, colonial officers and European missionaries. Some books record  skewed views, skirting a subject partially, but they give some insight into the history of Tulu Nadu.  There is no entry in this Dictionary for ‘Melanta or Melānta’, who were very much a vibrant social group in Tuluva history. 

With this introduction, we try to describe the less known story of Melāntas, who are spread in coastal areas upto Kasargod and interior places like Bantwal, Puttur, Sulya, etc.
 In global map, the Melanta as a surname is widely and thickly spread.  It is a matter of another study whether they relate  someway or not to the Tuluva  Melaantas.

'Melanta or Melānta’ etymologically means ‘Mel-banta’ (ಮೇಲ್ ಬಂಟ), i.e. a handy-servant or attendant or forefront servant or a warrior in any movement.  He worked as a serf to a grandee, a village sabha (societal gathering), a feudal chieftain or a  king.
Presumably, they might have come from Hassan and Kodagu with Gouda Chieftains of Hoysala  Kingdom when they conquered coastal areas  which were under Alupas.   They are mostly concentrated in coastal villages beyond Mangaluru, say Kasaragod Taluk of South Kanara and now Kasargod District of Kerala after the State reorganisation in 1956, based on concentration of language-speakers. The border areas are normally an area of bilingual speakers.  It is also likely they followed the legendary Bhargava Rama during his sojourn to Tulu Nadu from North.

Presently the Melānta   is a predominant sub-community within Mogaveeras  and Bunts, doing  menial jobs. They pursue ancestral  profession of fishing, palanquin carrying, body-guards and farming. What is ethnical link between Mogaveera  Melanta and Bunts Melanta?  It is a matter fit for future  genetic studies.

Mogaveera Melānta
Each Mogaveera Patna used to have a Melānta to do hair-cutting and shaving for the community people (Now the system is stopped after  absorbing them into main stream of Mogaveeras).
Further, he was supposed to perform all types of religious rituals from birth to death. This is an exercise of purification -   on child birth, first menstruation of a girl etc. He was to  act as messenger of the village Sabha to inform activities of the village to householders and the duties assigned to individual householders (in rotation in the case of large villages) in matters of mangala snana or kalasa snana, i.e. pouring of sacred water in new and small earthen pots (= mutti) on the head of a girl on attaining puberty or during ‘sese muhurta’ of bride or bridegroom in the case of marriage. He informs the households (who are on rotational list) to accompany marriage procession (dibbana) of a girl.  The custom is similar to what is practiced traditionally by other castes of Tulu Nadu.  He was paid by individual household for this priestly service. Community Gurikaras (Village traditional leader) and elected members of Village Committees must be present  to see through the customs.

In the case of death, he proclaims the death and turn of the households to be present for assisting in funeral work.  He also informs the members of the Bhajana Mandali, to sing devotional songs during funeral procession. He is the priest in all last rites of a departed soul.
This practice was in vogue mostly in southern part of Dakshina Kannada (Mangalore Hobali).  In Udupi side, Mogaveeras use Madivalas for such rituals.  Melānta families, other than the family anointed for the ceremonial duties, are engaged in fishing profession.

They speak Tulu.  Those who are of erstwhile Kasaragod Taluk of South Kanara speak Tulu or a mixture of Tulu-Kannada-Malayalam at home and study in Kannada schools whereas after State-reorganisation, they study Malayalam in schools also.  Region up to Northern Part of Malabar was called as Tulu Nadu during the history.  So, people identify themselves with Tulu Nadu, i.e. extended Karnataka.

Earlier, it was a social taboo on a Mogaveera boy marrying a Melānta girl.  As a result, Melānta girls North of Mangaluru were married of to Melānta boys South of Mangaluru.

 I was a privy to a funny situation, which arose in 1956. Panambur and Tannirbhavi villages were liberal and there was less discrimination.  Melāntas were allowed 'saha bhojana or paNkti Bhojana (Eating together, sitting with each other in a row) there.  This was not liked by some villages.  In 1956, a girl from our village (precisely, of Heggade House) married off to a Tannirbhavi boy.  Fearing a clash in the 'saha-bhojana',  the village committee ordered that one male per house should accompany the 'dibbana' (marriage Procession, going on foot in those days). It would be a big Dibbana as Hosabettu is a big village. My eldest brother asked me to go as he was busy. I was forced to go.  He gave his vastee.  I felt uncomfortable with the slipping vastee as I was not used to wear mundu or vastee.  Luckily, no untoward things happened there.
During   annual celebration of Kola or Nema of the village deity, the Melānta  would trumpet or proclaim loudly the duties assigned to each household.  Each household must give ‘siri’ (tender coconut fronds to be used for preparing sacred dress of Divine Spirit Dancers), tender coconuts, pingara  (inflorescence  flower of arecanut tree).  He announces the Households appointed for bringing sacred leaves (mango leaves, kepula flower and leaves and other medicinal leaves and flowers for decoration and erection of pandals over and around the sacred seat of Daiva Bimbas, persons to be present during Bhandara Procession from Bhandara House to the Shrines of Daivas, and holders of Hilalu (Stand with a cup for holding lighted oiled-cloth).  (Read Post-250/20.08.21010 – From Olasari to Varasari on annual worship ceremony of Divine Spirits)

Melānta on village duty used to   get a part of fish catch, besides the wages fixed by the village sabha. He gets paid by householders in kind and money for the priestly work done at households.

Now, Melāntas are absorbed into Mogaveera Community (some time in 1980’s), thanks to the sagacity of leadership of Community Federation, the Mogaveera Mahajana Sangha.

Melānta of Bunts
They are engaged in farming as tenants.  We are not aware whether they used to do the duties as Mogaveera Melāntas.

Melanta Daivas
In Tulu Daivaradhane customs, there is always a 'Banta (=attendant) Daiva' to each  principal Daiva.  They are called as Banta, Melanta or Melantāya.   It is supposed that they are ‘Ganda Ganas’ (Valient warriors or fierce fighters) always in the vanguard of the army of Lord Shiva.

Melāntas among Brahmins
Melanta Sept is also noticed among the Brahmin community.  It is said that Brahmins arrived in Tulu Nadu right from the beginning of Alupa rule.   They were given gifts of land to increase the fertility of land by using it for cultivation. ‘Shodganga’ quotes, from an Epigraph, the names of Brahmin clans of Udupi.  They are: Varamballi, Ungrapalli, Adiga, Hebbara, Asranna, Ballala, Basura, Bayiri, Hande, Hathwara, Goli, Bhatta, Herale, Holla, Joisa, Kalkura, Karantha, Kedilaya, Manja, Mayya, Melanta, Navada, Puranika, Tantri, Somayaji, Urala, Madhyastha, Vaidya, Tunga, Upadhyaya, Nidambura, etc.

The subject ‘Melānta’ needs more study. This article is based on readily available information – verbal and on record.  Readers are welcome to add additional information available at their reach.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune

Monday, December 25, 2017

395. A matter of cleansing

A couple of years ago, I noticed an informative leaflet on Savitas on the wall of a Hair-cutting shop in Udupi. In nut-shell, it contained ethics to be followed in the profession.  Savitas are known by many traditional names in Tulu Nadu and for that matter, all over India.  Here in Pune, I was wonder-struck when a Hindu barber from UP is having 'Sharma' as surname. In Tulu Nadu, madyelas or madivalas perform, as a convention, priestly rites – whether auspicious or inauspicious - but they are not having such a surname.  This induced me to know more about Savitas, who have a good social status.  

Tulu Ethos
Tulu Nadu is known by different names in history.  It is difficult to say with certainty who are the original inhabitants of Tulu Nadu. Existing sources, if any, are obscured by Time. Normally, it is a custom to trace a race from the migration route.  The root or original migration, as is understood today,took place in Africa and these migrated people spread out to different parts of the world. Immigrants who came to another region are known by the region they migrated or by their traditional occupation. It suggests a common umbilical cord as is manifest from place names and common words of identical meanings in many languages of the world.

Modes of living created traditional occupations that suited to a man’s environment and circumstances.  The occupations gradually acquired the shade of a caste or class.  These castes were considered as specialists in a specific profession. Each traditional profession devised tools suited to it.  It is generally assumed that there was no competition to such class-based skills. But the analysis of available data shows that different tribes adapted to similar set of professions in the evolving timeline.

The aboriginals, pushed to a remote area on social, professional, economic and political considerations, were compelled to subsist on the natural resources confined to its ‘natural ecological niche’. Compartmentalized professionals, with social and political justification of high and low status, enjoyed, nevertheless, an equally important place in the religio-cultural evolution of the Tulu Nadu. These professions - then and now – are shaped by needs of the Time.

Class of Beauticians

Nai-Barber community, nick-named as ‘hair-stylists, are known regionally by different names in India.  There is a light-hearted comment (masked in teasing tone) in Tulu on seeing a newly hair-cut person: ‘ನಿನ್ನ ಕೊರಪೊಳು ಪೊರ್ಲು ಉಲ್ಲೋಳ್(Ninna korapolu porlu ullol). It means: Your ‘crop’ is very beautiful.   Here, Korapolu stands for woman of Koraga Community.  They are naturally beautiful with photo-genic face and by braiding their hair in their own rustic ways.  May be, this is the reason for such a blithe comparison.

They are known as ‘Nayindas’ in Karnataka though there are various nomenclatures regionally.  In Tulu Tongue, they are known as Kelasi, Bhandari, Maddela or Madyela and Melanta. Maddela or Madyela is ‘Madivala’, both in Tulu and Kannada. Melantas were working for Mogaveeras; now the practice is discontinued on absorbing them into Mogaveera community. There is also a sub-sect among Bunts, known as Melantas. Now in Tulu Nadu, all in hair-styling or dressing profession are called as ‘Savita Semaj’.Their jobs include hair-dressing, shaving, removing hairs under arm-pits, trimming eye-brows, nail-cutting, colouring of head-hairs and medicinal treatment to face and hair. Some of them do the traditional purification rituals in village households and temples.

They are called as Ambattan In Tamil Nadu, Kavutian in Kerala, Nhavi or Nabhik in Maharashtra, Mangali in Andhra Pradesh, Ghajios/Matkos in Gujarat, Napit/Mahu Napit in West Bengal, Bhondari in Odisha, Sanmukh in Satara, Variks (Time-keeper) in Sholapur, Hadapada (Lingayat) in Bijapur, Bidar, etc. of erstwhile Nizam Karnataka.

Bhandaris are mostly found in Ankola, Honnavara, Karwar, South Kanara.  They are doing hair-cutting services to higher castes, such as Brahman, Bunt and Jain.
Mhalle, Mahale or Malye is a sect among the barbers who migrated from Goa to Tulu Nadu.

In the North, each region has distinct name for the Nai, more correctly Nayinda, such as Sen/Sain or Napit (Haryana), Raja (Punjab), Kuleen (Himachal Pradesh), Khawas (Rajasthan – They work as attendants to grandees as Melantas in Tulu Nadu), Raja or Ustad, Nai-Thakur or Savita Samaj (Delhi), Shrivas, Sarathe (Sanskrit: Stotri?), Savita, Napit, Omre, etc.  Muslim Nais are called as Haj(j)ams.   By Notification, it was ordered that the spelling for ‘Nai’ should be ‘Nayi’ (Thanks to the efforts of Pandit Revati Pradeep Sharma of Varanasi in Thirties of last Century). They lead wedding parties, carry messages between villages and communities.  They are followers of Lord Krishna.  They adopted many clan names: Sains, Mangali, Vostad, Manthri, Nayee, Valand (Gujarat).  They might have also adopted the Brahmi Surname ‘Sharma’, for doing hair-cutting job only for Brahmins.     (Note: ‘Senvivah’ is a popular Matrimonial Portal).
Each small traditional group is now demanding more benefits under BC/OBC category.

The word ‘Nayee’ stems from the Sanskrit root ‘Nay’.  ‘Nay’ means ‘Nayak’, i.e. one who leads.  Nayees acted as ambassadors between different States, being Khatrias (i.e. kshatrias), who changed their profession.  In Karnataka, including Tulu Nadu, Nayees played pivotal role in state matters (under Vijaya Nagara Empire and feudal chieftains and kings).  Story of Nandu Raya of Tulu Nadu is proverbial (See a Post on Panambur or so in our Blog).
Nomenclature ‘Kelasi’ in Tulu Nadu is derived from Kelasa, meaning work, as per a Note on Barbers of Tuluva by Mr. M. Bapu Rao.  Readers may do well if they read (e-Book) Castes & Tribes of south India, Vol. III, by Edgar Thurston & Rangachari for an insight into this class of Kelasi of South Kanara.
Bhandari and Hadapa names are derived becauseof box they carry with implements necessary to their profession.
Napita means one who deals in hair-cutting.  It is considered as corruption of Sanskrit word ‘Snapitri’, meaning one who bathes.  It may be more so when he makes others to bathe.

 There are many legends:
·         Lord Brahma created the Sage Savita (meaning: One who shines and makes others shining) to do services of hair-cutting to Gods.  He is supposed to have written the Samaveda andhis daughter is Gayatri, author of Gayantri Mantra.  Somabrahma, a master in Ayurveda, is supposed to be the son-in-law of Gayatri.  Barbers were used to practice Ayurveda.  Barbers take pride as progeny of their Progenitor Savita Brahma Rishi.
·         Nayindas also profess that they are born from the left eye of Lord Shiva. Legend is that Goddess Parvati made fun of God Shiva’s unkempt mien.  Taking a cue, Lord Shiva created a man from his left eye, who came out with a box of cutting and shaving instruments and musical instruments. Some play musical instruments in temples and are aptly known as ‘Bhajantris’ in North Karnataka.  So, they are called as ‘Nayanajas’ (those who are born from eye or Nayana Kshatriyas. Nayana = eye, ja = to come forth/born).

·         According to Mythology, Nayee is born to a Khatria father and Shudra mother.
·         Another story tells that Lord Shiva created them from his navel to cut and clean the nails of his consort Parvati.
·         In another legend, it is Vasuki, who created the first barber from the  Nabhi (=navel) of Lord Shiv.  So, the progeny is called as ‘Navi or Napik or Napit. 
·         According to L.K. Anantha Krishna Iyer’s writings, Ambattans (of Tamil) are descendants of a Vaisya woman by a Brahmin.
·         In Dravidian Encyclopedia (1993:467: Vol.2), Nayindas are descendants from one of Brahma’s sons (i.e. Mangal Maha Muni) through a Sudra Woman.
·         In South Kanara (meaning erstwhile Kanara District), legend says that Lord Shiva created ‘Kelasi’ (=doer of a job) community to perform Kshourika Vritti (hair-cutting profession).
·         A Gandharva woman was accursed to be a rock.  Lord Parashuram redeemed her from the curse and blessed her with sons, equal to Brahmins, who would perform rituals as performed by brahmins, besides their destined profession of hair-cutting or hair-dressing.
·         In recent history, Pandit Revati Prasad Sharma, born in Varanasi to a Nayinda family, strived for the uplift of Nayinda Community.  He digged into the Scriptures and Puranas and wrote many books, which traced the lineage of Nayindas. Two important books are: Nahvi Brahman Pradeep and Nahvi Brahmana Vansh Katha.  He founded an Organisation, named ‘Akhila Bharatiya Nayi Mahasabha, Banarese.  Owing to his efforts, the then British Government of Indiacertified the Nayindas as “Nayi Brahman” in 1930, and declared that they be returned in Census records as such.Other Provinces also followed suit to bring out similar Declarations.

Social Functions of Tuluva Savitas
In Tulu Nadu, Madivala’s place in physical cleanings and religious cleansing is proverbial. At the same time, we have observed some attitude of contempt.  Now they may be entertaining low and high ideas, based on difference in cleaning - laundry cleaning and hair-cutting and on their participation in religious rituals. There are divisions among them as (1) Parel Maddele, (2) maddele and (3) bhandari or kelasi. 

The sect called as ‘Parel Madyele’ under Madyela,  works traditionally as barbers to certain class of Tuluva people. Even today,  madyelas or madivalas perform as priests to Tulu people in all matters from birth, naming ceremony, first menstruation of girls, marriage (Subha-shobhana, i.e. auspicious rituals) to death rituals (considered ashuba, i.e. inauspicious)from funeral to last rites) despite incursion of Vaidika customs. These are all activities of purification.

They get salary for the services and keep the sacred offerings (purified rice with kumkum, coconuts, betel leaves and nuts, etc).  There is   a saying in vogue in Tulu:  ಓಡಾರಿ ಅರೆ ಬುಡಾಯೆ, ಅರಿ ತಾರಾಯಿ ಮಡ್ಯೆಳೆ ಬುಡಾಯೆ(Odaari ‘are’ budaaye, ‘aritaraayi’ madyele budaaye). Odaari = potter, are = softened soil prepared by leg-thumping over special soil with water, ari = rice, taraayi = coconuts, madyele = washerman, Budu = to leave, Budaaye = one who does not leave or forget to take things.  It means that pot-maker uses all softened soil without wasting while making pots.  Similarly, a washerman makes it a point to take away all the offerings made in a purification ceremony.

Ujeneer (ಊಜೆನೀರ್)
The water drips in the pot when the soaked clothes are steam-boiled by washerman.  This collected steam water is considered holy and hence is used in ritual purification by priestly washerman.  Similarly, ashes of coconut fronds, obtained from the oven of washerman, are used in ritual purification of clothes.

Bolgude Paarravuni
In Annual ceremonies of kola or nema for divine spirits their presence is necessary.They are working as bearers of decorated post, known as Bolgode (= bol+kode = white umbrella) in ceremonies of Divine Spirits.  It is known as ‘ಬೊಳ್ಗೊಡೆ ಪಾರಾವುನಿ (Bolgode Paaraavuni).  It is a ritual of wielding a supple and decorated post, supporting it on waist cloth near navel, while going around the Bhuta/Daiva Shrine in procession in front of impersonators of Divine Spirits.


Nayinda, a Dravidian Class, is a generic   term for all traditional barber communities.  They have ethnic links to other parts of India.  But in the course of time, the difference in language, environment   and culture make them distinct, forbidding them to have dining together or marrying in between two castes of the same profession.  Winds of change   are breezing silently now despite resistance.

The hair-cutting business has climbed to a high status with the modern class of beauticians and beauty parlours with sophistication. Similarly, washing and dry-cleaning business is an industry instead of a household business.
When I came to Mumbai in late fifties of last century, chain of laundries branded as ‘Band Box’ was well-known. It was a grand sight to see white collared people surging out in mornings from railway stations and marching on to offices and surging back into railway stations in evenings (Note: ‘White Collar’ is a sobriquet for (office) working class.  White Drill and long/poplin cotton cloths were the order of the day for pants and shirts.  Jeans and chequered shirts have taken its place these days.

The communities in Tulu Nadu have been (as we observed) a cohesive society despite the high and low distinctions, based on economic considerations.  This is a fundamental spirit of Tuluva ethos.  On religious matters, each community has a part to play, as we see in temples and shrines of divine spirits (Daivasthana) even today.  There is a moral element, determining a character’s action, devoid of his/her individual thoughts or emotion.  There has been an economic co-operation.  Alas!  It is now under threat due to parochial sentiments.

Feelings make one what one is.  It is our thoughtful attempt to bring out the details of Nayindas.  There is no carefree indifference to offend anyone’s feelings. 
Readers comments would enthuse us to bring out more Posts on the inhabitants of Tulu Nadu.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune

Thursday, November 30, 2017

394. Reflections on Tulu word ‘Totte’

Recently, a catalogue of a big online selling company, attracted my attention to an item ‘Tote bags’ (Ladies hand-bags) while checking my Inbox.   It surprised me and enkindled my memory of ‘Totte’ in Tulu and Kannada languages.  It provoked me to explore these words and their origin.  Here it goes!

In English (both British & American), ‘tote’ (pronounced as ‘toht or taut’) means :(1) to carry as on one’s back or in one’s arms (e.g.: to tote a bundle), (2) to carry on one’s person (e.g: to tote a gun) and (3) to transport or convey as on a vehicle or boat.  As a Noun, it also means: ‘an act of toting and something toted. So, ’tote’ denotes carrying, bearing and carting.
‘Tote’ is also a shortened form of ‘a totalizator’.  It is recorded since 1890-95 (Source:, based on ‘Random House Dictionary’).

Word Origin
Online Etymology Dictionary (© 210 Douglas Harper) gives the original history for ‘tote’ as below:
“  …. ‘to carry’, 1670s, of unknown origin, originally attested in Virginia, but OED discounts the popular theory of its origin in a W. African language (cf. Kikongo tota ‘pick up’, Kimbundu tuta  ‘carry,  load’, related to Swahili ‘tuta’ pile up, carry’).  Related: Toted – toting.  Tote bag is first recorded in 1900.”

The word ‘toTTe’ ( t  pronounced as ‘third’ and   T as in English word 'tata ' and 'e' as in 'eddy') is vogue in  both  Tulu and Kannada.   We find its variations in other Dravidian languages and also African languages, as explained in starting paras.  Originally, it is a basket or bag made of coconut leaves, mundevu (Pandanus utilis) and other broad   ribbon- like leaves of some trees and shrubs
  I reflectively remember the days holding a ‘totte’ of coconut leaves, when I followed my father or eldest brother to Kandevu, holding a ‘totte’, during community fishing in the tributary of River Nandini (Pavanje River) – in May months (Read our Post-292: Fishing Ritual at Kandevu).
Let us study the word and its variants in Tulu & Kannada and other Dravidian languages.

Tulu & Kannada:
Basket made of coconut leaves or bag of paper. On evolution, it is made of plastic as small containers for liquids, such as milk, curd, butter-milk, country liquor (ಸಾರಾಯಿ Saraayi) or any small solid things.
 ‘Nesara Totte’ (ನೇಸರ ತೊಟ್ಟೆ) means a ‘Solar cell’.
Tulu ‘totte’ = tatti, i.e. beehive, honeycomb or bee’s empty cell, Kannada: Jenu totte (= beehive),
Tottu = Nipple of a breast (both in Tulu and Kannada) or joint of flowers and fruits in tree branches.
Tulu totte’ also means: ‘empty’.  It is empty before filling. 
 ‘ನಿನನು ನಂಬುನ್ಡ ಬಂಜಿಗ್ ತೊಟ್ಟೆನೆ’  (Ninanu nambunda banjig tottene). Meaning: “If we believe in you, our stomach will be empty.” Derived meaning is: “We will be losers.”  It is a statement of lack of faith or confidence on the ability of a companion.

Kannada ‘Totti” = Water tank.
Tamil:  Totaiyal  = honeycomb.
Telugu:  Tettiya = honeycomb.
Kolambi: Tatta

(Refer ‘Tulu Lexicon’ and ‘Dravidian Etymological Dictionary, page 307, Entry: 3489 & 3490)’
Totte   to Tote?
The origin of ‘tote’ is uncertain as we gather from the information given above.  What is the origin then? We firmly believe that it is a Dravidian word. We can trace it to the ancient maritime (traditional) trade with South Indian coasts by the Arab World and European countries.  So, the word ‘totte’ has travelled to West Asia and other Continental countries through trade route and is shaped to ‘tote’ with the meanings in present-day English language.
Plastic Tottes
Totte-making from traditional and unharmful items (say, leaves, rattan, cloth or paper) has evolved and now almost all the carry-bags are made of plastics and aluminum foils.  Though it looks innoxious or innocuous, it has deleterious effects on environment   and human health.  We can add diapers also to ‘Totte’ category.  Burning of plastic carry bags and diapers emits obnoxious gases and irritating smell, thus polluting the air and the earth and harming human health.  Measures are taken by almost all countries to get rid of the menace of plastic ‘tottes’ or carry bags but they are not effective.
We lay emphasis on influence of Dravidian languages, especially Tulu and Kannada, on the origin of word ‘Tote’ in English.  Linguists may make a note of it.
Garbage of plastic bags are spread on roads, rivers, trees, mountains and pilgrimage places.   Let us resolve not to use plastic carry bags indiscriminately.

- Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

393. Pages from the forgotten history: Kolalagiri

Kolalagiri (Kolalgiri) is a rural hamlet, located to the north of Udupi city. Presently it is generally known for quality laterite stone bricks, though the resources are fast dwindling, due to pronounced quarrying operations during the last century.
 The Kolalagiri hamlet is currently is a part of Uppoor village in Udupi Taluk. However, only few people may be aware of the fact that once upon a time it was an important commercial town in the bygone history of coastal Karnataka. 
During the period between 8th century CE and early part of 12th Century the Kolalagiri was a active commercial town ruled by Alupa kings.

Geography & Geology
Kolalagiri is located on the northern bank of River Suvarna (Swarna). The region forms an elevated plateau consisting of well formed red laterite stones. The belt of laterite stones runs from Manipal to Kolalagiri in an NW-SE direction. Like most rivers of coastal Karnataka the Suvarna River appears to have migrated laterally and changed its position during the last three millennia.
Similarly geological data supplemented by historical facts as well as legends (of Parashurama) suggest that   a stretch of the present West Coast was under sea before two millennia which receded gradually. Thus it can be visualized that once upon a time (about 2000 years ago), the Kolalagiri was a port town located on the northern bank of River Suvarna.

“Kolalu” means a flute in Kannada. Thus Kolala-giri  literally   stands for the metaphor of  hill of flute. The Kolalagiri  settlement forms the northern geographic extension of the  Udupi   town. The Udupi became a major center of Krishna worship after installation of idol of Krishna by sage Madhvacharya who is also well known for propagation of the dualism (“ Dwaita”) concept of metaphysical    relationship between the soul and the God.  

Local legends suggest that there was a shrine dedicated to Lord Krishna in Kolalagiri in the olden days. However, remains of such a ancient Krishna temple or the township around the temple have not be traced so far.

It appears that the Sanskrit styled nomenclature "Kolala - giri"  was  created during the hay period of Krishna cult  in the Udupi region, as the flute (“kolalu”) forms the signature musical instrument of playful Krishna in the legends.

However, on retrospection,  it appears that the deducible original word "kol-ala" in the toponym  was derived from the ethnic kol tribes, as ala is a common suffix in ancient India denoting  human settlements located beside a river.  In support of this argument, there are villages named "Kolala"  in other parts of Karnataka also.
A map of  coastal region around Kolalgiri (click to enlarge).

Kolala nakara
The inscriptions dating back to some 8th century CE suggest that earlier in the history the place was known as “Kolala-nakara”.  A “nakara” was a merchants guild during ancient historical times. The merchants were influential and economically powerful during regal periods and the rulers had close relations with the merchants who would not only pay taxes but also loans to the rulers during exigencies.  The association of merchants (“nakara”) periodically assembled in temple premises and discussed their strategies and affairs.  Because of the involvement of economics, places with ‘nakara’ associations grew up as “nagara” or cities.
Merchants of such 'nakhara' trade guilds were usually dealing with export of natural products, like rice, spices, cashew, coconuts, cotton, silk, fibers, precious stones, pearls, shanks and cowries, fish and other manufactured artefacts.   Guilds  especially for cotton and silk textiles were flourishing in many of the South Indian Coasts – both East and West.  Such guilds thrived with the patronage of kings, chieftains and powerful professional groups.
Gururaja Bhat (2010) explains the content of the inscription as follows:
“One of the inscriptions from Udyavara perhaps, of 8th C refers to the Alupa ruler- Maramma Alvarasa. He seemed to have according to the inscriptions, summoned the Nayga(Nayaka) of Odevura (Udayapura) to the Kolala-nakara and entrusted him with the administration of Udayapura. It becomes almost clear from the epigraphs that Maramma alvarasa had his capital at Kolala-nakara. It may be surmised that this Kolala-nakara could be identified with the place Kolalgiri, just 10 km to the north-east of Udupi (there are no traces of city at Kolalgiri). Tradition has it that there was a Krishna temple at Kolalgiri and because of this shrine that place name came into vogue.”
Similar opinions have been expressed in their works by renowned   historians such as K.V. Ramesh and Saletore.

The place name Kolala-nakara   reveals that the original name of the  historical village was Kolala. There are several ancient villages in different parts of Karnataka bearing the name of “Kolala” or “Kolalu” .  Incidentally, the place name Kolala is an ethnonym   as the word analysis  Kol+ala shows.

‘Ala’ (as a suffix in the toponym “Kol-ala”) is an ancient Indian word denoting a habitation located on the bank of a river; incidentally the suffix ~ala means water or water body, as also suggested by the word” jala” (=water) derived from ~ala.

Kols were an ancient tribe of India. They are considered to be a part of Austro-Asiatic Munda tribes, once found all over India, but now restricted mainly to parts of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgadh, Orissa and Bengal. There are about 1420 villages in different parts of India carrying the prefix of Kol tribes. Even in coastal Tulunadu we can find Kolnad, Kollur Kollamuger etc villages still carrying their ancient signatures.

Historical significance
Alupa rulers ruled from Alupe port in the eastern part of present Mangaluru, which formed the coast of ancient Mangaluru until   about 100 CE.  The region west of Alupe (in Mangaluru) which was under Sea earlier, was exposed due to regression of the Arabian sea after 100 CE. (The natural event of regression of the sea has been described in the legends as creation of land by Lord Parashurama .

Further natural disasters like southern drifting of Netravati River around Mangaluru, appear to have forced the Alupa rulers to shift their capital from Alupe, Mangaluru to Udyavara.
The inscription involving Kolala-nakara implies that Alupa rulers were not content at their new base at Udyavara.  Alupa ruler Maramma Aluvarasa planned to shift his base north to Kolala nakara which appears to have been a thriving “nakara” (commercial town) at that time.  Kolal nakara was located in the northern part of Shivalli (Odipu/Udupi). The decision of Maramma Aluvarasa to shift from Udyavara to Kolala nakara suggests that Kolala nakara then was a potential commercial town, superior in importance to Odipu and Udyavara. Thus it seems Kolala nakara was a commercially important coastal town from later part of 8th century and up to the  first part of 12th century.

However, another town was gaining importance during the period. It was Barkur. Alupa ruler Kavi   Alupendra shifted the base from Udyavara/Kolalgiri to Barkur   around 1139 CE ( date identified by Vasantha Shetty, 2016) .


  Thanks to reader  Shri Melwin Kolalgiri for suggesting the topic and providing essential data.

Gururaja Bhat, P (2010) History and culture of south India (Discoveries in Coastal Karnataka: Vol 1 Edited by A. Sundara. Dr Padur Gururaja Bhat Memorial trust,  Udupi. p. xviii+ 364+40.

Vasantha Shetty ,B (2016) Barakuru. A Metropolitan city of antiquity its history and culture. Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy.Mangaluru, p.xvi+296.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

392. Masked early history of Padangadi

The Padanagdi (alias Padavinangadi) is a vibrant locality on the Airport road leading from Yeyyadi to Bondel- Kavur in Northeastern part of Mangaluru city.
The “Padangadi” ( padangaDi : first d pronounced as in English word: the; second D as in English Dog) is an ancient Tulu locality name  that is also known by its Kannada   version “PadavinangaDi”.
There is also a serene village known as “Padangadi” (pronounced paDangaDi: both D as in Dog) in Beltangadi Taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, Karnataka.
Location map of Padangadi, Mangaluru.

Ancient words
The words in ancient place names are like preserved old coins that are useful in understanding stages of generally masked or obscure pages of early history of this land which has not been documented otherwise. In other words, the surviving ancient words can be compared to fossils in the science of paleontology that throw significant light on the reconstruction of bygone days of past life history,  paleo-ecology and  environment.

Padangadi vs. Padavinangadi
Now, of the two (Tulu- Padangadi /Kannada- Padavinangadi) names for the Mangaluru locality under study, which one is the older? 

Going by the regional   linguistic evolutionary analysis carried out in the older posts in this blog, it can be summarized that during the early three to four centuries of the Common Era, Prakrit was the dominant/administrative language in Karnataka including coastal Tulunadu. During fourth century CE onwards old Kannada (“Halegannada”) was introduced by Kadambas as administrative language as we find in Halmidi inscription. At that time, Old Tulu was in usage in coastal Tulunadu. Old Tulu and Old Kannada were closely related languages by then, more like regional variants of a single language, as we find many Tulu equivalent words ( that are now obsolete or modified in modern Kannada) in the Halmidi inscription.

Subsequently, Kannada was imposed as administrative language in coastal Karnataka (Tulunadu) by the Vijayanagar Kings during and after 12th century CE.  Under this program parts of Tulu regions around Barkur were brought under the intensive influence of Kannada.   During the Kannada period, most of the local names were translated   to  Kannada  prevalent in the period.
Therefore, the Kannada version of the locality name Padavinangadi can be dated to 12th Century CE or later, attributable to the influence of ambient Kannada kings.

What could be the original meaning of the composite word Padangadi ?
For a simplistic analysis, if you split the word into pad(a) + angadi: we can find 9 possible meanings for the words ‘pad’ and ‘pada’ in Tulu Nighantu, Vol. 5 .

Pad = (a) ten (b)shrink;
Pada =(c) level, status (d) word (e) song (f) maturity (g) square pattern (h) tranquility and (i) sole or foot step.

It can seen that those who translated the original Tulu word ‘Padangadi ‘  into ‘Padavinangadi’ under the  regional “Kannadaization” program,  utilized the meaning  #(c) ie., the level ground. The Tulu geographic term “padavu” represents a lateritic plateau or a planar open field.

As a contrast, the term “angadi” (pronounced: angaDi) is a common word for a shop or a marketing stall in most of the Dravidian languages, including Tulu and Kannada.
If you analyze this particular word as ang+Di,   you get the meaning of an open area or open field. The ang means open; as in angai (ang+kai=open hand; palm of hand). Or as in Tulu phrase: bāyi angāvu open (your) mouth.

~Di , as in angadi,  is a spatial suffix in ancient Indian languages.  (Examples: Garodi, Gardadi, Tadadi, etc).  From the   suffix ~Di,   further suffixes  ~Adi and ~Odi have evolved.

The original meaning of the word angadi, as courtyard or open field is still preserved in Parji language.
 Since early days of civilization open fields or yards were used for selling goods on a designated day of the week. The open market was known as “santhe”.  From the ancient markets in open yards, the usage of the word angadi was later applied to shops.

There is another interesting twist to the story offered by the “Padangadi”, name of the village in Beltangadi Taluk, located on the Guruvāyana-kere - Venur stretch of road. This particular village name is pronounced locally as   “paDangaDi” (D as in Dog) adding a tinge of   dilemma  to our derivation of the meaning of the place name.
Which of the two toponymic   pronunciations: padangaDi and paDangaDi - is original one and which one was modified with passage of time?
Cenang beach, Kedah, Langkawi, Malaysia

Padang : Southeast Asia connection
Since ~Di, is an ancient spatial indicator suffix, we can also think of analyzing the word Padangadi  as Padang+Di or Padang+aDi. Thus, we confront with a   new word Padang.

A recent   visit on tour to Malaysia and Singapore, enlightened me regarding the word Padang.  The Padang is a usual toponymic word in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Mynamar and other Southeast Asian countries. Besides, the place name “Padang” also means an open field in Malayan language.
Incidentally, there are many place names in these Southeast Asian countries that contain the suffix ~ang, such as Padang, Penang, Kallang, Cenang etc.
By the bye, the words containing Padang are not limited to coastal Tulunadu alone. Similar  place names are also found in   parts of Orissa and Rajasthan suggesting the wide distribution of early phases of Austro-Asiatic cultures in different parts of India.
 Thus after an overall analysis, we can conclude that the ancient place name Padangadi evolved from the words of Austro-Asiatic- Munda origin, namely:  padang+adi .

Austro-Asiatic languages
Early forms of Munda languages had their sway in southern India during and before the early centuries of the Common Era, as evident from the existence of umpteen fossil Munda words and related cultural vestiges preserved in Tulu and other Dravidian languages. ( Older posts in this blog.). The Munda languages of India (now surviving mainly in central and eastern parts of India) are considered to be a part of the ancient Austro-Asiatic language family.


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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