Friday, September 20, 2019

421. Alake: Ancient capital of the Alupa rulers

The story of Alake (variants: “Alaka”, “Aluka” or “Alikeh”) is a forgotten page in the history of Alupas, the ancient rulers of the legendary Tulunadu. As there are no reported specific stone inscriptions celebrating this place Alake, so far it has been inadvertently escaped the attention of our historians. We shall make an endeavor in this post to reconstruct the forgotten page in the history by piecing together the available data culled together from legends, place names, history, geography and geology.
Strangely enough, there are two places existing by the name of “Alake” in Mangaluru. Out of these, one located near Bikarnakatte, a quiet, suburban residential area, is largely unknown to many of the citizens!
There is an interesting piece of history hidden behind these twin place names of Alake in Mangaluru. Let us explore!
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 There are many questions that may generally haunt the minds of aficionados of history of Tulunadu or the coastal Karnataka. For example:
·         Which was the oldest part of Mangaluru city?
·         Or where was the core area of the ancient times around which the modern city grew up later?
                - Hampankatte ? Mangaladevi ? Kadri ? Kudupu? Kudroli? ... or … ?

Mangaluru, the  capital of the historical Tulunadu, was blessed with a bevy of historians such as: Aigal Ganapathi Rao,  Bhaskar Rao Salatore, Manjeshwara Govinda Pai, Dr.K.V. Ramesh, Dr. Padur Gururaj Bhat and many others, who enriched our perspectives on the history and heritage. Because of these star historians, we presently understand that kings of Alupa dynasty ruled over the ancient Tulunadu for over 1000 years with Mangaluru as their base and capital. Some enterprising ambient power centers of youngsters from the Alupa family travelled North and Northeast towards Banavasi, Badami, Udyavara, Kolalgiri, Barkuru, Basruru etc in search of greener pastures but their base remained as such probably till the advent of European invaders and their native contemporaries. That is a broad outline of the prolonged ancient history of Tulunadu.
Mangaluru has grown in various directions in the last two thousand or more years. And due to heavy rains year after year and the vagaries of weathering on the environment, most of the ancient features of historical significance have been destroyed or lost. Some of the historical evidences are yet to be unraveled.  In this context, several basic questions that pop up in the minds of people curious regarding the ancient history and heritage of this land have remained to be answered, like,   for example:
·         Which was the earliest known capital of Alupa rulers in Mangaluru that formed the ancient coastal center of business, marine trade, culture and civilization?
·         Where exactly in Mangaluru the Alupas’ had their original capital or the royal headquarters?
·         Was Mangaluru ever under sea? Which were the parts under the sea? Or is it true that Arabian Sea has receded back leaving additional land surfaces as described in our legends?
·         Was our land, rivers and the sea have remained as such throughout the history or have undergone drastic changes over the bygone time? Whether rivers of Mangaluru, such as Netrāvati and Phalguni (Gurupur), have stayed fixed in their original positions or have drifted and changed substantially during the course of history?

We shall discuss some of these issues in detail with available evidences. However, in case you are in a hurry, please  jump to the end of the post to read the Summary and Conclusions.
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General Tools of historians
Historians, normally depend upon tangible data and resources from inscriptions, written or published documents, archeological findings, and so on for reconstruction of past events. Wherever these types of data are not preserved one has to rely on existing folklores, legends and myths prevailing in the region.
In the case of Alupa rulers of Mangaluru, where the history extends back to a huge period of two millennia, or more years, the available inscriptional data sources are meager especially for the early period of ca. 300 BCE to 500 CE.

Additional tools for history
 Incidentally, in this blog you might have noticed that we have added two more alternate lines of evidences for the validation and substantiation of the reconstructed historical data. The additional tools are (a) the analysis of pertinent place names and (b) the application of deduced geological data.

Geological events
The coastal region and the Sahyādri Western Ghats are perceived as geologically fragile zones on account of their sensitive tectonic situation.(Ravindra & Reddy, 2010)
 Two major geological events during last two to three millennia that are pertinent to the understanding of Alupa history are:
1. Regressive migration of the Karavali coastline in tune with the regression of the Arabia Sea.
2. Lateral migration of Rivers Netravati and Gurupur.

Reconstructed tidbits of history
Before we discuss the significance and antiquity of the place Alake, let us retrospect and review some of the   keystones in the early history and evolution of Alupa kings in Mangaluru.

1. Alupa and Alupe:
The Alupa rulers evidently began their royal career from Alape (ಅಳಪೆ; some call it:  “Alupe” ಅಳುಪೆ) village, located in the eastern part of Mangaluru city. They were marine traders who occasionally had fierce disputes with foreign traders, as some of the Greek historians have accused them as pirates. There are strong evidences to propose that the Alupe (or Alape) town was the first headquarters of the ancient Alupa kings who are credited with the record of ruling Tulunadu for over thousand years. The place Alape is about 4 km east of Hampanakatte in central Mangaluru on the Mangaluru - Bengaluru road.
Incidentally, the place name Alape was a popular name in ancient times, as we can find a similar sounding place name namely, Alleppey in neighboring Kerala also.
Early historians of Tulunadu have adequately debated on the origin of the dynastic name of the Alupa rulers, mostly attempting to unravel possible derivation of the word Alupa from known Sanskrit roots. However, one of the forefront historical researchers, Manjeshwar Govinda Pai, in his published research works, apart from various other possible etymological deductions, also had fleetingly conjectured, especially in a footnote to one his papers in Kannada entitled:“Tulunādu poorva-smruti”, the possibility of these rulers hailing from the town of Alupe in the outskirt of Mangaluru. (Govinda Pai, 1947; reprinted in: Govinda Pai,1995, p.587).
 Previous posts in this blog have consistently proposed the Alupe region as the original center of Alupa dynasty, based on independent studies and composite evidences garnered form geological, geographic/ topographic and the toponymic data.  We shall review here the available evidences and inferences in this regard.
Basically, it is a common practice in this land to identify or describe persons by the name of the place he/she hails from. Thus, the proposal of the connection between the place-name Alupe and Alupa rulers is simple and straightforward and can be corroborated further with other supplementary evidences as follows:

2. Geography of Alupe
The Alupe and adjacent Maroli villages, in the eastern part of present Mangaluru city, together consist of an unusually large and deep, more or less elliptical shaped valley of topographic depression, located between Bikarnakatte and Kulshekhar in the North and Kankanadi, Alape, Bajal and Padil in the South (see, Map 1: Paleo-geography of ancient Mangaluru, ca.500 BCE). The deep valley can be intermittently traced East-West on either side along identifiable paleo fluvial valley courses. The intermittent nature of the paleo fluvial valley courses owes to the tectonic earth movements that have affected the region.
1. Paleo geography of mangaluru around 500 BCE

Such an unusual topographic valley, as a geological structure, could have been formed at the mouth of a river, where the river meets the sea. In other words, the deep valley could have been an ancient estuary known as “aliveh”(ಅಳಿವೆ ) in Tulu, Kannada, Tamil and other Drāvida languages.

3. Ancient course of River Netrāvati
Geologically, the deep large, circular valley preserved within the limits of Maroli and Alupe villages can be interpreted as an old site of abandoned site of paleo (ancient) estuary site. An estuary can be described as a widened and deepened mouth of the river where it joins the sea.  Such a natural deep, wide valley structure of Maroli - Alape could have been formed by a large river at the contact of an ancient coastline and the Sea.
2. Paleo geography of Mangaluru around 500 CE

The deep valley of Maroli-Alape can be traced on either side, East-West, along abandoned valley courses that can be identified as   paleo (ancient) fluvial courses. There are many such ancient river valleys in the Mangaluru region and these suggest that the rivers of Mangaluru have drifted their flowing positions along the course of past history.
 In this setting, we can deduce that the river that was flowing in the ancient river valley of Maroli -Alape, which was the ancient course of River Netrāvati. The old now abandoned fluvial courses of the river Netrāvati can be traced on the Western and Eastern extending sides of the Maroli – Alupe circular valley. However, the reconstruction of the ancient course of the river is not as simple as explained here, because a large amount of complex tectonic earth movements, involving vertical as well as lateral movement of blocks have complicated the paleo river course. These need extensive field surveys, geological mapping and structural interpretations which are yet to be completed. Some of the early versions of the basic data have been published in a geological research paper by Ravindra & Reddy (2010).
Thus there are topographic evidences of continuous historical changes in the fluvial course of rivers of the Mangaluru. The position of rivers of Mangaluru shown in the maps produced here may be taken as schematic, until more detailed and refined field studies and analyses are completed.
It is well known that ancient civilizations world over have survived and evolved besides rivers and estuaries, as potable water source is a major requirement of living beings. We can deuce that the ancient Alupa civilization evolved by the side of ancient fluvial course of River Netravati.
Further, later in the history, the River Netrāvati drifted and has shifted its flowing course South. The field data suggest that the river channel has been migrated South by about one kilometer, to its current flowing position.
To sum up, the River Netrāvati, during the history has changed its fluvial course, drifted and shifted southward gradually leaving the ancient fluvial course and ancient estuary in the form of a dried up circular deep valley as a testimony.
Rivers Netravati and Gurupur during the course of the history drifted and migrated in opposite directions: River Netravati drifted South, whereas River Gurupur drifted Northwards.
Present geography of Mangaluru, especially the position of rivers and the sea.

4. Alupe: Village beside a river
 Incidentally, etymology of the word “Alape” (Ala+pe) or “Alupe” (Alu+pe) in the ancient languages of the land means a habitation or village (“pe” or “pu”=habitation) by the side of a water body: a river (“ala “ or “alu”=water). Matching the place name data with geography of the area suggests that the oval valley of Alupe-Maroli was the place of ancient estuary and port of Alape, before and   during the early centuries of the Common Era.
The field evidences corroborate with the historical data that the Alupa were seafarers who thrived on the marine trade of food grains, spices and timber.

5. Aluva: the estuarine land
An alternate name employed for Alupa rulers in historical documents and inscriptions is Aluva.(ಅಳುವ).   The word “Aluva” (or “Alivey”- ಅಳಿವೆ) means an estuary in Tulu and Kannada even now also. The word Aluve (Alu+ve) etymologically means a watery place [Ala or Alu (= water) + suffix: ‘va’ or ‘ve’ (= place)]. The word corroborates the evidence that the circular deep valley of Maroli - Alupe was an estuary in the past history. The estuary of Aluva-kheda was apparently used as a port for anchoring boats in those times.
In this context, we can note that in a Sanskrit work “Prapancha Hridaya”, dating back to about 7 century CE, the “Aluva” has been recorded as one of seven coastal (“Sapta-konkana”) regions of the time.(Govinda Pai, 1927, 1949). Incidentally, the seven konkana (coastal) states described in “Prapancha Hridaya”,  are:    Koopaka, Kerala, Mooshika, Aluva, Pashu, Konkana and Parakonkana.
One of the earliest Alupa king, Gunasāgara (ca.650-680 CE) was popularly known as Aluvarasa I. (ಅಳುವರಸ/ ಆಳುವರಸ). Since the word Aluva (= 1. Ruling 2. Estuary) is a homonym which has an additional meaning suggestive of ruler, the historians have mis-interpreted this title as Aluva + arasa, the ruling king. On reconsideration, it is proposed that the title Aluva + arasa, means the arasa (king) from the Aluva, the estuary.  The place name “Aluva” (=estuary) appear to have been referred to the Aluva - kheda, the estuarine valley of Maroli - Alupe villages. Further, later in the history, Alupa king Gunasāgara (Aluvarasa I) had a grandson who was popularly known as Aluvarasa II (ca.730-760 CE).
Besides, Govinda Pai (1927) also reminded that in Drāvida languages like Tamil, the term Aluva has the following meanings: (a) sea (b) pit (c) extended part of a forest (d) country. Thus, we can conclude that Aluva refers to the estuarine pit (river mouth) near the sea and the word was later applied to their country or state and the kings (or chieftains) hailing from the region were referred to as Arasa (king) of Aluva (estuary) or the Aluvarasa.
 Thus it can be seen that the place name and the term “Aluva” (> Alva) became a popular surname among the Tulu people subsequently, especially among the Bunt-Nadava community.

5. Olokhoira: Aluva-kheda or Alaka city?
The Greek historian Ptolemy (ca. 100 CE) has recorded the inland port city of “Olokhoira” in Western India. Our historians considered Olokhoira as the Greek equivalent of “Aluva-khea” (Govinda Pai, 1927).  The Aluva-kheda was the region in the West coast as mentioned in some of the later inscriptions in Kannada.
The word “khea” ಖೇಡ - means a depressed valley or deep ditch. The word has an alternate form:  “kheḍḍa”. (The kheḍḍa – ಖೆಡ್ಡ -  is a camouflaged ditch or pit designed for capturing and taming wild elephants). The geography of the circular deep valley within the limits of present  Maroli – Alupe villages, East of Mangaluru city, matches with the word ” khea”.  Thus the Greek word “Olokhoira”, can be interpreted as a khea (or deep valley) formed at the site of the ancient   Aluve (= estuary) as discussed above.
Origin of the Greek word Olokhoira may be disputed. The Olokhoira may be Greek equivalent of Aluva Kheda as suggested by Govinda Pai or it may be the Greek modified  equivalent of Alaka-oor!
Olokhoira = Alaka + oor?
We shall discuss about the place “Alaka” in following sections:

 6. Tentative paleo geography of Mangaluru region
The discussions above suggest that Mangaluru on the West Coast of Karnataka had a past geography that differs from the current scenario. To understand the probable past geographic scenario, we present herewith two maps to represent the situation (a) around 500 BCE and (b) around 500 CE. For comparison we have also provided (c) the present geography superposed with interpreted locations of the Aluva and Alaka.

7. Why Mangaluru missing in Greek records?
The Greek historian who mentioned “Olokhoira” has not mentioned the port city of “Mangaluru” or any of its equivalent ancient names. Why?
The strange fact is that Mangaluru or the ancient places like “Mangāra”(the area west of Mangalādevi) and “Mangala” (the field area of Mangalādevi) from which the place name Mangaluru originated  did not exist while the composition of the Greek documents cited during the beginning of Common Era!  These places were rather unknown as they were submerged under the sea, before the beginning of Common Era, and as result of regression of the Sea, the region were exposed later !
On the other hand, before the beginning of Common Era the Aluva/Alape estuary was the sea port (on the mouth of the ancient position of Netravati River). Ptolemy noted that Olokhoira was an inland port city (Govinda Pai, 1927). Thus, based on this information, we can tentatively deduce that the Sea had receded from Aluva kheda estuary before 100 CE.

8.Position of Basruru Port
Note that Basruru, another renowned port of Tulunadu, is also inland in position similar to Aluva.  The position of this historical port also provides additional support to the theory of marine regression.
The recession or regression of the Arabian sea   tallies with the anecdotes conceptualized in the legends of “Parashurama Shristi” popular all over the West Coast of India.
What is the essential theme of Parashrama Shristi?

9. Parashurama Shristi
The popular legend of sage  Parashurama   has described in the Sahyadri  khanda of Skanda Purana. In summary, sage Parashurama when confronted with the issue of scarcity of free land to be allotted to new immigrants to the region, he impleaded with the Lord of the Sea, Varuna, to retreat as far as his axe can go. He threw his axe towards the Sea and the Lord of the Sea obliged and retreated up till the line of the place of fall of the axe.
 The beautiful visualization in the anecdote apparently is based on a natural event of regression of the Arabian Sea during the early centuries of the Common Era, probably the phase of regression  that occurred   between ca.1000 to 100 BCE. That is say that about 500 BC and before the present city area of Mangaluru was under the Sea!

What are the other geological evidences to suggest that Mangaluru city was under the Sea?

10. Tidal pebble deposits
One of the interesting geological evidence in support of the theory of submergence of Mangaluru city under sea is the existence of extensive tidal shallow water sedimentary formations of quartz pebble deposits that evince the deposits formed under tidal shallow sea conditions. Such quartz pebble deposits strewn in a matrix of lateritic or clayey material, can widely seen in parts of Mangaluru city such as Attavara, Kadri, Bendur , Kodialbail, Pandeshwara and other areas, which also correspond to the traces of  recognized ‘paleo’ (= ancient) river channels of Netravati and Gurupur rivers. The present thickness of such quartz - pebble deposits set in lateritic- clay matrix is about 30 m as estimated in borewell sections in these areas.
Similarly, fine bedded layers of sedimentary formations, with current bedding and other structures, have been observed in civil construction locations like Kadri - Shivabagh areas, that are suggestive of formations under shallow sea conditions.

11. Lateritoid red bed deposits
Laterite deposits with hardened surface tops are a common occurrence in the coastal areas. However, in the areas West of Alape or those coastal areas submerged under the sea during the past history, we can see lateritoid (laterite like) red bed /red soil deposits which have not completely developed the dry hardened tops, but have remained as red bed formations.

 There are also other supplementary geological evidences like the occurrence of bentonites and the distribution of black clays.

12. Pandya and Pandeshwara
Note that Alupa rulers decorated themselves with the title of Pāndya. It appears that it was customary for Pāndi merchants to be known as Pāndya or owner of Pāndi boat in those times. The port where pāndi boats were anchored was known as Pandela. One such pandela port in ancient Mangaluru around 500 CE was located near Pandeshwara. The name Pāndeshwara (Pāndi +Eeshwara) came from the name of the Shiva (Eeshwara) temple located at the Pandela.

13. Kulashekara
In the medieval and later period of history of Tulunadu (12th century CE onwards) there were three Alupa rulers named as Kulashekhara. These were as follows:
·         Veera Kulashekhara I (ca 1170-1220 CE)
·         Kulashekhara II (ca.1346-1355)
·         Kulashekhara III (ca.1355-1390)

The North-Eastern part of the Aluva-kheda the estuarine valley was apparently named after king Kulashekhara I. The Kulashekhara area in Mangaluru East is a popular landmark even today.
The spatial association of the place Kulashekhara with Aluva-kheda estuarine valley  also attests the Alupe location of Alupa kings.

14. Ancient temples in the proximity:
Ancient temples in the vicinity of the Alupa headquarters possibly played significant roles in the destiny of the Alupa rulers. However, available data suggests that the temples also have evolved in terms of faith as well as structure during the historical period. Notable temples proximal in location to the Aluva-kheda are:
·         Surya-Narayana temple , Maroli-Alupe  valley
·         Anantha Padmanabha temple, Kudupu
·         Anantha Padmanābha Subramanya temple, Neermarga
·         Manjunātha temple, Kadri
·         Veera Nārāyana/Krishna temple, Kulashekhara

15. Alaka: the capital
The places known by the name of Alake (ಅಳಕೆ or “Alaka” ಅಲಕ) appear to be the actual area of Alupa capital or the site of their palace and administrative headquarters. The place near Bikarnakatte, marked as Alake I (one) in the maps here, appear to be the original site of the capital of Alupa kingdom.
The place name Alake carries the same meaning as the place name Alape. The suffix “ke” (or ka) in the place name Alake means the habitation similar to the suffix “ pe” (or pu ) in Alape.
When the place names Alape and Alake both having similar shades of etymological meanings, why the name “Alake” was selected for their capital by the Alupa/ Aluva rulers?
The answer lies in the Purana legends.
The name “Alaka” happens to be the name of capital of the legendary Lord of wealth Kubera according to Puranas !  It appears that Alupa kings wanted achieve the wealth, similar to Kubera and thus emulated the name of capital of Kubera.
Mahakuta inscription of Chalukya period (ca 602 CE) mentions “ALuka” (ಅಳುಕ) as one of the coastal States of the time. The name Aluka appears to be a variant of the place name Alaka. Govinda Pai (1949) equated the ALuka in the Mahakuta inscription with the Aluvakheda or the primary domain of Alupa rulers. Some of the Aluva youngsters were serving Chalukya army in that period (early part of 7th Century CE), but apparently, the  Aluva headquarters remained at the ancient town of Alaka or Aluka.

16. Two Alake in Mangaluru
There are two places having the name “Alake” in Mangaluru. Let me designate these as Alake one (1) and Alake two (2) as shown in maps enclosed. The Alake 1 is located about 500 m north of Bikarnakatta point on the Nanturu- Mudabidri road (NH 239). The Alake 2 is located near Kudroli close to the present coast.  The former, though is less well known, is located within the zone of ancient Alape-Maroli area.
After the regression of the Sea, Alupas shifted their headquarter to the newly formed coastal place near Kudroli which was also named as Alake after the capital of Kubera. In the maps enclosed, we have marked this as Alake 2.

17. Other Alake places
On second thoughts it appears that it was a common practice during ancient times to name their ancient capitals or kings palaces after the Alake of Kubera! Thus these: “Alake” capital towns belonged to different kings and chieftains in the history.
In this regrd we can cite Alake (now altered to Alike) near Vittal in Bantwal Taluk.). Similarly there is a Nandalike, near Karkal, which appears to be capital of Nanda rulers. Further, there is a Paivalike in Bantwal taluk, which could have been the ancient capital of Pai tribal rulers.
There may be many more such presently known or unknown “Alaka” places representing capitals of forgotten ancient States in the region!

Summary and Conclusions

The terrain of Mangaluru embodies implicit evidences of major topographic changes of historical significance especially in terms the position of rivers and the Sea. The position  of the rivers have been shifted as well the sea has receded during the course of history.
In the history of Alupa kings who ruled from Mangaluru for over a period of millennium years, we encounter terms like Alupa, Aluva, Alaka and Aluka in inscriptions   found in Karnataka.  These terms generally have been considered as equivalents so far by our historians. The members of the Alupa family began their career as marine traders of food grains spices and timber in the west coast.
Our studies and inferences suggest that Alupa ಅಳುಪ referred to the name of the village Alupe ಅಳುಪೆ in Eastern Mangaluru they originally hailed from. The term Aluva ಅಳುವ (ಅಳಿವೆ) referred to the now abandoned, ancient estuary of River Netrāvati. Aluva means estuary or the mouth of the river where it joins the sea. The term “Aluva” (>”Alva” ಆಳ್ವ) has survived as a surname especially among members of the native Bunt community.

The Alaka (recorded as Aluka ಅಳುಕ in Mahakuta inscription of ca. 602 CE), named after the capital of Kubera, the God of wealth, ಅಲಕ/ಅಲಕಪುರಿ was the name of the capital of Alupa/Aluva kingdom. Alaka or Alake  now is a forgotten place near Bikarnakatte. The place marked as Alaka 1, in the maps herein, was the initial capital of Alupa kings. The Olokhoira of Ptolemy could have been the Greek equivalent of the place name: Alaka - oor, (ಅಲಕ ಊರು) instead of Aluva-kheda as suggested by earlier historians.
With regression of the Arabian Sea, and exposure of new land west of Aluva, the Alupa rulers shifted their capital to Alaka 2 , where the new estuary was formed as a result of regression of the sea. The Alaka 2 is now Alake, a known popular place in the city near Kudroli, in Western Mangaluru.


Govinda Pai, M.(1927) “Itihaasada irulalli Tulunadu” (Kannada). Reprinted in Govinda Pai Samshodhan Samputa, (1995).Editors: Heranje Krishna Bhat & Murulidar Upadhya Hiriadaka,. MGM College, Udupi, pp. 563-574,
Govinda Pai, M.(1947) “Tulunadu Poorva-smruti” (Kannada). Reprinted in: Govinda Pai Samshodhan Samputa, (1995). Editors: Heranje Krishna Bhat & Murulidar Upadhya Hiriadaka, MGM College, Udupi pp. 581-604.
Govinda Pai, M. (1949) “Dakshina Kannada jilleya haleya hesarugalu” (Kannada). Reprinted in: Govinda Pai Samshodhan Samputa, (1995). Editors: Heranje Krishna Bhat & Murulidar Upadhya Hiriadaka, MGM College, Udupi pp. 605-608.
Ravindra, B.M,  and Venkat Reddy, D (2010) Neotectonic Evolution of Coastal Rivers of Mangalore, Karavali Karnataka, India, International Journal of Earth Sciences and Engineering, ISSN 0974-5904, Vol. 04, No. 04, August 2011, pp. 561-574.
Also read older posts in this blog for additional references


Blog Archive

Books for Reference

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  • 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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