Tuesday, May 21, 2019

418. Moolianna: An ancient priestly designation

Most of the ancient religious shrines in Tulunadu have survived to this date as they were well managed with the active cooperation and participation of devout public. Each shrine was   an institution   with a designated administrator and caretaker (usually hereditary) to oversee the proper functioning.
One such ancient religious designation is known as “Moolianna” (or Mūlyanna). The word is significant for students of history and heritage as it throws certain light over the way our religious customs and institutions evolved over the time. We shall discuss and analyze the word “moolianna”( and related  mooliyadige” ) considering an example from Uliya  in Ullal, southern Mangaluru.

Devu Moolianna at Uliya, Ullal
On the southern bank of River Netravati, to the south of Mangaluru city, lies the port town of Ullal, historically well known as the bastion of dynamic queen Abbakka, who is well remembered for her freedom struggles against the tyrannies of Portuguese invaders.
Geographically, Uliya is a river island within Ullal. There is a historical undated Ullaldi Dharmarasu (dharma=righteous path; arasu=king) shrine, located within Uliya area consisting of a large number of members of Sapaliga community. It is managed by a “Moolianna”. Based on the religious designation, the Dharmadarshi (religious caretaker; a trustee) is specifically is known as “Devu Moolianna”, wherein the name “Devu” refers to the name of first person who donned this designation in the past history.  The title “Devu Moolianna“continues usually along hereditary lines. Presently, Shri Kripanand, son of Bhavani and Shivappa is holding the moolyadige rights of the shrine.

Muri: an  earthen vessel

Origin of  Moolianna
What could be the origin of this designation: Moolianna or Mulyanna?. The term “mūlya” or “moolya” usually   refers to members of Kulāl community, who are traditional pot makers in Tulunadu. In this case, the designated title: ” Devu Mooliyanna”  is not selected from Moolya community. Then what is the relationship between the designated title “mooliyanna” and the nature and duty of caretaker (dharma-darshi) of the shrine?
In order to understand the significance of this religious title, we have to review the evolution of our ancient religious practices that date back to a historical period, before the formation of communities and castes in Tulunadu.

Mūri and mūrlu : the symbolic holy pot worship
The word “mūri” (or mori) refers to small   earthen pot.  It is also at places known as “mūri-ginde”. (Tulu Lexicon, vol.6, p.2659).
Following the invention of wheel, the art of pot making from earthen clays came into being in the early civilizations.  The earthen pot, a wonderful creation at that point of civilization, was used as a holy symbol of deity or deities. Thus, in the tradition of one of the oldest religious customs that prevailed all over ancient India, the earthen pot was used symbolic of the deities they worshipped at that time period.
 The devotional symbol “mūri” is also associated with the word “muri”or “muria”, the ancient form of swearing or the prayer to divinity. The word “muri” is a homonym with several interpreted meanings and one of the oldest meanings associated with word means swearing (to God) or praying (Tulu Lexicon, vol.6, p.2638). The related Tulu word “mureDunu” also means swearing, entreating, praying etc. In the traditional devotional ceremonies, usually three earthen pots (“mūrlu,” plural of mūri; also known as “murlu daiva”) were used. (See also: “Tuluvara Moolatāna: Adi AlaDe” (Kannada) by Dr. Indira Hegde, (2012), p.44).

Mūri and mūrte
The earthen pot is also used traditionally for tapping toddy from toddy palms/ palmyra trees. The art of tapping the tender parts of the toddy palm trees and collecting the toddy into the mūri vessels is known as mūrte.

Kadya and Kādya
Alternate regional variants of “mūri” are known variously as kaDya, kandel, kumbha, kalasha etc. The  kaDya, another form of mūri, was used as symbolic of the ancient serpent god , the Nāga. Thus, the word  KāDya” also used to represent  the Nāga deity.
The word  kumbha also means a pot and thus the traditional pot makers are known as kumbhārs. The kumbha also became a zodiac symbol of an astral constellation.

Kalasha and brahma-kalasha
An alternate word for “mūri”, was “kalasha”. Even nowadays, the kalasha consisting of earthen or metal pot filled with water and overlaid with mango leaves and coconut, is used extensively in auspicious ceremonies. This appears to be an evolved form of the ancient “mūri”.
The concept of kalasha, originally derived from ancient primitive prayer forms has evolved further and in the present cultural scenario it is customary to perform periodically  the auspicious “Brahma-kalasha” ceremony during the  renovation of  temples.

Mūri > mūli
The word “mūri”, has an alternate, probably an evolved   form in “mūli” (or mooli). Thus traditionally, the person or the priest who conducts worship and prayers to “mūli” was known as “Mūliyanna”.  The designation initially was formed before the ancient society was divided into different communities.  Thus we find the “mulyādige” (or the status of conducting muri/muli worship) was independent of community tags.  However, with passage of time, those priests were known as “mūlya”.
Since such muri/muli worships were conducted by traditional pot makers (now known as Kulāls (old name: Oḍāri) in Tulunadu), the term “Mūlya” (the priest of holy pot worship) became a surname of pot makers. (The –anna suffix tag in the designation “Muliyanna”, is   an honorific  suggesting ‘elder brother’).
There is village known as “Moolara-patna” on the banks of River Gurupur, near the ancient temple town of   Polali.

Muri> murthi
From one original word another word derives during the course of the time. The ancient practice of “muri”, the symbolic holy or auspicious pot worship, has evolved over the time and refined artistic idols replaced the place of symbolic worship.  The auspicious time for performing any ceremony is known as mūrta (> muhūrta). Similarly, the   symbolic artistic idols were and are known as “mūrthi”. Thus the word mūrthi  appears to have been derived directly from the ancient word : mūri.

 Murthi: A bronze idol of Krishna.

Mooliyanna vs. Mukkaldi
Similar to “Moolianna”, there is another priestly designation namely, the Mukkāldi .  Mukkālti (or Mukkāldi) is a designated person who would take care of the facial mask symbol of the Bhūta deity (moga/mooka/mukha) and other accessories of the spirit shrine.  In some areas he is known as “Bhūtada māni” (man of Spirit deity).
Usually there will be a mukkāldi  (Bhuta mask keeper) in every family, who carries on the duty of performing periodical worship rites in the Spirit shrine of ancestral house. The designation and rites of  Mukkāldi  was once commonly found all over southern India, as evident by   the existence of Mukkaldiyar caste in Tamilnadu
The status of Mūliya  priesthood is known as Muliyadige. The designation was irrespective of the caste or the community.  Even though the origin of the word “Mūliya” (or “Mooliayanna”) and the parallel word “Mukkāldi” are different, nowadays due to confusion, the words are sometimes used interchangeably.
  For example, the Tulu Lexicon defines the term “muliyadige” as …” the duties of bringing the mask and other objects of worship to the place where annual kola rituals of Bhuta take place, holding of torch and other responsibilities usually performed by the members of potter community” . (Tulu Lexicon, vol.6, p.2663).

Gunaga priests
After the communities were formed in the society, the members of Mulya (now equivalent of Kulal) community were the traditional priests. The Gunaga (potters) are the equivalents of Mulya/Kulals  in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Even today, they are performing the worship rites in the rural temples of Uttara Kannada.

1. Following the invention of wheel, the art of pot making from earthen clays came into being in the early civilizations.
2. The earthen pot, a wonderful invention during the early civilization, became the symbol of the invisible supernatural, the God.
3. The holy earthen pot was referred to as muri, muli, kadya, kalasha, kumbha etc in different regions and sub-cultures.
4. The priest and the caretaker of mūri/mūli was designated as “mūliya” ( or respectfully: “mooliyanna”).
6. The priestly designation “mūliya“, eventually, became the surname of a community.
7. The ancient symbolic worship cult of “mūri”, further evolved into the art of making   idols or “murthi”s.
8. Presently, the priestly two designations “mūliya“, and “mukkāldi”, are sometimes used interchangeably due to confusions, probably because of the merger of essential duties handled, in spite of the independent origin of the two words.


Friday, May 3, 2019

417. Baje and allied place names

Many of the toponyms or the place names serve as useful   components   in deciphering strings of history, as we have suggested in some of our previous posts herein.
 There are a number of   villages (and hamlets) in Tulunadu that bear the place name Baja1” or “Baje1” or a prefix component of similar word. The ancient   word “baje” in general represents a dry barren or hard topped area. Related   modern Kannada words, such as “banje” (=infertile) and “banjaru” (=dry, waste land) connote the significant meaning of the term “baje”.
Further, the “baje” word in the commonly found: an oil-fried coastal vegetarian dish, ”golibaje” (popularly designated as “Mangaluru bajji” in  Bengaluru)  also declares the dry, fried status of the delicious  eatable.  (In Kannada, it has become "bajji"). Besides, there is also a “baje” a dried medicinal root material used as a household  Ayurvedic medicine in  villages of Tulunadu. Similarly, "bajant" (or bejant) in Tulu is dried cow dung cake.
The scope of the meaning of the word “baj-” can be further elucidated with the help of “bajra” the ancient word form of “vajra” (bajra>vajra = diamond), wherein baj+ra stands for hardest known mineral or gem stone.
That the term “bajra”   means hard and strong is further vindicated by the name “Bajrang-bali”,  referred to Hanuman, the faithful servant of Rāma. The term Bajra+ang+bali means a powerful  person (“bali”) having body (“ang”) like “bajra”(diamond).

There are several usages in Tulu having  ”baje” as a word component: For example:
Bajant; bejant= dry cow dung cakes
Baji; bajee= empty;waste;
Bajee banji=empty stomach; bajee mande=bald head.
Bajikre; bejikre= dry leaves.
Bajavu=dry leaves
Bajil= dry rice flakes ; beaten rice; avalakki

Bajel= (water for) quenching thirst

Baja1 or Baje1 and allied Villages
Let us study the following place names, carrying   the prefix of   ‘Baja’ or ‘Baje’:

Baje: the location of water supply dam on the banks of River Swarna, near the Udupi town.
Bajape:  the village associated with Mangaluru international airport.
Bajāl: a village located on the bank of River Netrāvathi in the outskirts of Mangaluru city.
Bajagoli:  a rocky village on the Karkal -Kudremukh road.
Bajathur: a village near Uppinangadi, close to Mangaluru-Bengaluru  National Highway.

Bajre: a village near Venur,  Beltangadi Taluk, Dakshina Kannada district.

Now, the village of Baje, near Udupi is located on the bank of River Swarna. A dam has been built at Baje village to store water for the Udupi city agglomerate. Thus, by present day standards, you cannot now classify this village as a dry, hard, unfertile or barren region.  But when the village name was coined by our ancestors probably some two thousand (or more) years ago, the village was quite dry, barren by standards of that time. To complement this, the geological data suggests us that the coastal rivers have migrated and changed their position due to neo- tectonic movements during the recent geological past.
In this village name Bajape, the prefix baja- has a suffix of -pe  (baja+pe) attached to it. The suffix variants such pa, pu or pe represent ancient spatial units such as habitation or village.examples: Mudipu, Odipu>Udipi, Kudupu, Aryapu, Didupe, Balapa, Kadapa etc).
  The Bajape is a laterite plateau located to the north of Mangaluru city and part of the village has been area adopted for the Mangaluru international airport.
By modern standards the Bajape village now is not exclusively a dry or barren area, being endowed with adequate ground water resources that are being tapped by deep open wells and bore-wells. However, when the village was named some two millennia ago it was considered a dry region being away from rivers and lakes.
The Bajāl (baja+āl) village is rather dry area with hard granite outcrops, even though currently it is located on the northern bank of Netrāvati river. The suffix –al   denotes that the place is located close to river or lake.
Bajagoli is an interesting place name because some people may try to analyse the word as baja+goli, wherein the suffix term  goli’ usually may be confused with Goli tree (Ficus benghalensis, the Ala tree).
The correct analysis of the place name should be baja+ga+oli, wherein ga is a short suffix for village (as commonly found in Gadaga, Binaga etc place names) and oli also means village. Therefore, goli (ga+oli) simply means village and not the banyan tree.
The village name can be analysed as baja+ta+ur, where ta means of or related to and ur (oor) means the village. Thus the original meaning of the word happens to be the village of barrenness.


The Bajre village can be accessed on the Siddakatte  to Venoor road in Beltangadi Taluk. In the place name Bajre (baj+re), re (ar,ara, ra,re, ri) is a spatial suffix suggestive of open field or ground (as also found in numerous place names such as Bolar, Kombar, Kadire, Ujire, Hebri, Naguri, etc).
Baja: a word of Prakrit/Munda origin
Since, I chose some examples from traditional Tulunadu for the Baja/Baje village names in this  post, do you get a feeling that this is an exclusive Tulu word? No,  it is a borrowed word in Tulu!
If you check up the list of Baj/Baja/Baje/Baji - prefixed village names in the database of Census of India 2011, you will find that there are not less than 750 number of villages distributed mostly all over India. (And this does not include the list of sub-village/ hamlet names). Most of these “Baj” and “Baj+ “ village names are found in the States of  Uttar Pradesh(157), West Bengal (87), Madhya Pradesh (65), Rajasthan (62),Uttaranchal (58), Bihar (52), Jharkhand (47),Orissa (46),Himachal Pradesh (42), Assam(29), Punjab (28), Maharashtra(22) and so on.

Baj villages in India
 A few of the interesting baj place names distributed in India, along with their interpreted etymological analysis are given here below:
Baj. Variants: Bajda (baj+da), Bajna (baj+na) etc
Baja.  Variants:  Bajha (baj+[h]a); Bajah (baj+a[h]); Bajai(baj+ai); Bajaili(Baj+ai+li) , etc.
Bajad (baja+d). Variants: Bajadi (baja+di), Bajaddi (baja+ddi),Bajadih(baja+dih) etc
Bajai (baj+ai).Variants: Bajaihal (baj+ai+hal) etc.
Bajaj (baj+aj). Variants: Bajaji (baj+aji) etc.
Bajak (baj+ak), Bajakhana (baja+ka+na) etc.
Bajal (baj+al). Variants: Bajali(baj+al+i) etc
Bajan (baj+an).  Variants: Bajania (baja+an+ia); Bajana(baja+na); Bajang (baja+ng); Bajania (baja+n+ia) etc
Bajar (baj+ar). Variants: Bajarda(baj+ar+da), Bajardih(baj+ar+dih), Bajari (baj+ari) etc
Bajata (baja+ta)
Bajau (baj+au)
Bajar (baj+ar). Variants: Bajara,(baj+ara); Bajari (baj+ar+i); Bajahar(baja+[h]ar); etc
Bajarda (baj+ar+da)
Baje.  Variants: Bajel( baje+al)
Baji. Variants: Bajida(baji+da), Bajidapur (baji+da+pur), Bajira(baji+ra), Bajiya(baji+ya) etc.
Bajor (baj+or). Variants: Bajora(baj+ora)
Bajol (Baj+ol); variants; Bajoli(baj+oli);
Bajra (baj+ra); variants: Bajre(baj+re),Bajrol (baj+r+ol), Bajrakot(baj+ra+kot), etc.
Bajwa (baj+wa) ; variants: Bajwad (baj+wa+d);Bajwala (baj+wa+ala), Bajwar(baj+wa+ar); Bajwas (baj+wa+as) etc

Bajyoli (baj+y+oli), Bajyora (baj+y+ora);Bajyura (baj+y+ura) etc.
The distribution of these Baje place names and their antiquity suggests that the origin of this ancient word is Prakrit or Munda languages of India. King Ashokas epitaphs were inscribed in Prakrit language (ca 300 BCE). It has been found that until three centuries of the CE, Prakrit was the common administrative language in Deccan, including ancient Karnataka and Tulunadu. It appears that during this period Kannada and Tulu imbibed words from Prakrit (and Munda) languages.

Homonyms of   the word ‘baje’
Additionally, the word “baje” also has other homonyms in Indian languages, with following meanings:
(1) baje2 (Hindi, Punjabi) = hour
(2) bhaja[+n]3= devotional sound, prayer or music.

Baja caves

Note that there are Baja (Bhaja) caves with carvings connected with Buddhist historical prayer halls located at Maval , near Lonavala, in Maharashtra.

Phonetic evolution: pa>ba>va
We have noted in passing above that ba>va phonetic evolution has taken place along the timeline. Similarly indications suggest that an apparently older variation of ba was pa. Among other similar relevant places, we also find the place name Pājaka , near Udupi, being the birthplace of Madhvacharya.
Therefore the overall phonetic evolution in Indian subcontinent, at least, in these consonants  along the historical timeline  appears to be: pa>ba>va. Apart from the present example under discussion, another example that comes to mind immediately is : panga>banga>vanga.

Since the ba->va- word transitions apparently are associated with renaissance of Sanskrit probably corresponding to the period of ca. 100 BCE-500 CE, it is tempting to suggest that ba- words (and pa>ba words ) possibly dominated along with Prakrit languages during 1000 to 100 BCE. The pa-words could have been the regional variants of ba words or  probably were associated with an older period of time-span. This is a rough linguistic model amenable for further refinement with additional data inputs. (Reader comments and suggestions welcome)
Phonetic transition: pa>ha

While Kannada language evolved from old (“hale”)Kannada to new (“hosa”)Kannada words beginning with pa- were transformed into ha- words.(For example: palasu>halasu (jack fruit)). Similar pa>ha changes were applied to place names also, like Pejamādi>Hejamādi; Perur> Herur; Pangalūru > Hangalūru etc.. The p>h transitions are also apparent in some European languages. However, the pa>ha transitions are not evident in Tulu language. More detailed relevant studies are required into these aspects.
-Ravindra Mundkur  with Hosabettu Vishwanatha.

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 Culture.by 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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