Ancient village names in some cases may provide valuable hints on the incidents and events that took place in the past, especially where inscriptions are scanty. I some of the older posts in this blog, we have shown prevalence of strange diverse tribal signatures or even words derived from exotic lands from which the tribes immigrated.
Buddhism in Tulunadu
Buddhism originated in India a few centuries before Christ and spread all over India and neighboring countries during the early centuries of Common Era. Evidences of spread of Buddhism during historical past can be inferred in Karavali/Tulunadu also. Kadri in Mangaluru was said to be known as “Kadarika Vihara” where Vihara meant a Buddhist monastery. Similarly one of the old names of Mangaluru, Mayikala suggests a “kala” (a plot, quadrangle or shrine) dedicated to mother Māyi. The Māyi was the mother of Siddartha, the Buddha. The worship of Buddha’s mother was prevalent in ancient India.
In this post, we shall look into an unusual set of place names that hint at the influence of a celebrated Buddhist monk who visited parts of India during eleventh century CE.
|Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097)|
Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097)
The Buddhist monk in this case is Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097). The Tibetan monk is credited with transmission of many of the Buddhist tenets from India to Tibet (and maybe vice versa). It is recorded that he visited a number of places in India several times in connection with spreading Buddhism. Marpa Lotsawa was a great teacher of Tibetan Kagyu school of Buddhism known for the translation of several teachings of Vajrayana school of Buddhism. Jetsun Milarepa (1052-1135) was his famous disciple.
The village near Mudbidri is known as Mārpadi. Similarly, near Udupi we have a Mārpalli. Both these villages (Marpa+aDi and Marpa+palli) are named after the celebrated teacher Marpa. The name Marpa is of Tibetan origin. Even now there are Tibetans having Marpa as a part of their names.
The term “marpa” does not exist or have any straight meanings in Tulu or Kannada. Some may argue hazily that marpa is a Kannada word, assuming that it is mār+pa, which may give obscure meaning such as: sale-able. However, it should be noted that this is not a place exclusive either to Tulunadu or Kannada regions.
Marpa villages in India
There are some 39 villages in India known either as Marpa or carrying the prefix of Marpa or Marapa (as in Marpalli). These villages are distributed in Andhra Pradesh (Marpalle, Marapalle, Marpaka, Marpadaga), Bihar (Marpa, Marapa), Chattisgarh (Marpa), Jharkhand (Marpa), Madhya Pradesh (Marpani), Maharashtra (Marpalli), Meghalaya (Marpara, Marapara), and Mizoram (Marpara).
Since these different areas have different languages other than Dravidian, suggestion that mar-pa was a word of Dravidian origin is untenable. In all the villages names cited (source: Census of India, 2011) the name used as prefix is Marpa or Marapa. It seems that Marpa Lotsawa was a celebrated monk wherever he went in India and the places he stayed for some period, were named after him.
Besides, it seems the name Marpa was familiar in Tulunadu since the visit of Marpa Lotsawa. Even now you can find people named as Mārappa in villages of Tulunadu.
It is agreed that there are numerous possibilities when words in place names are taken up for analysis. Each word has numerous dimensions and meanings, since there is amalgamation of several diverse individual cultures over the prolonged historical lineage.
In this post, I have analysed the village names Marpalli and Marpadi as Marp+(p)alli and Marpa+aDi respectively, considering that different regions in India have had shared history as well as village names(as reported in several of our older posts).
On the other hand, for example, mār in Tulu also means a paddy field (Bākimār, Mālemār etc).
If you analyze these two Tulu place names (Marpalli and Marpadi) from Tulu/ Dravida language context :
Marpalli (1.paddy field +village; or 2. A mosque in a paddy field)
Marpadi (mār=paddy field+ pādi =mini forest).
The odd connotations in the above analysis such as a village or wooded area within a paddy field do not appear logical to me.
There are other meanings for the word Māra such as (1) cupid and (2) Vishnu. The names of people having names like Marappa could have this line of origin also from the names of cupid or Vishnu.
It is interesting to note that the spread of these Marpa places is along a specific travel path in eastern and southern India. The overall distribution of the Marpa villages outline a contiguous travel track from Tibet-(Nepal)- Bihar- Jharkhand-Chattisgarh- that further split into two tracts of:
(1) Andhra-Maharashtra-Karnataka-Tulunad and
(2) (Bengal) - Assam-Meghalaya- Mizoram.
It appears that there were two lines of journeys of Marpa Lotsawa and his followers in 11th century CE from Jharkhand- Chattisgarh one towards South (and Southwest) and another towards Northeast.
If you have any positive evidences in favor of or against my arguments please comment here in a healthy spirit.