Saturday, February 10, 2018

400. Buddhism in Tulunadu – Marpadi and Marpalli villages


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.

Marpa˜  villages
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.


Analysis
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.

R

Saturday, January 27, 2018

399. Devadigas and Sapaligas


Tulu Nadu is cosmopolitan, in that all profession-based classes or castes live in harmony, dependent on each other without prejudice.  It embraced all people coming to this land of Nature Worship and Spirit Worship.  To be precise, people of this land worship trees, animals, birds, snakes and manes and spirits.  This Tuluva Cosmos is a world of highly structured and ordered system of a whole. Their way of living, beliefs and customs and ideas are identical.  Low and High feelings come as an attitude in all societies of the world.  Such feelings can be contained by a spirit of universal brotherhood.  In the present-day world, we live in at many places, playing a significant role in development of economic, cultural and social conditions.

Many tribes have trodden this land in the past, as we can deduce from a variety of surviving ethnonyms encountered, of whom we know a little.  Their signatures are also found in odd words, customs, personal names, apart from   place-names.
 We try to trace the importance of distinct   groups who made this land their home land and contributed to the overall culture of Tulu Nadu.  In that direction, this article is an attempt to know about Devadigas and others. Traditionally, they are the Spirit players and drummers in the ancient Hindu temples.  Besides, they have also pursued cultivation of land. Edgar Thurston has included them in his book:  Castes & Tribes of Southern India.

Devadiga Community
‘Devadiga’ is an ethnic name for a group of people of Tulu Nadu (Districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Northern Malabar (i.e. Kasaragod, which was a part of South Kanara up to recent history – State reorganization of 1956). Regionally,   Devadigas are known by different names.  We have come across the following names:

Muyile, Moyili or Moyli, S(h)erigar,  Sani, Sevagara, Servegara, Shereyar, Ambalavasi, Bogunvale (?), Devadasi, Devadigar, Dewale, Devadig, Ganikula, Kavalnath, Konkan Valegar,etc.  They are all Hindus, speaking Tulu, Kannada and Malayalam.  
In some government classifications, the Sappaliga or Sapaliga   are included in this list of Devadigas, though the Sapaligas   profess separate identity and lineage.

Etymology
Devadiga is split as Deva+Adiga or Aadiga.  Deva means Deity and Divine Spirits of a temple.  Adiga or Aadiga means: a player or servant (in temple).  One of the important work assigned to Devadiga (Moilees) in the temples is playing the role of official temple Spirit (holding a sword accompanied by shivering and dancing) dancing in front of the chief deity of the temple, while the deity is in the process of making divine rounds (known as bali or bali barpini) around the temple precincts.  They are also doing variety of additional jobs, such as cleaning, lighting arrays of earthen oil-lamps, and beating the kettle-drum (Nagāri), Barrel Drum (Chende) or double drums (Mourri ?) and sometimes also playing musical instruments in the temple.

Legends
Devadigas of Kasargod region consider that they were originally Tamilians.   When a Tamil Pandya Raja invaded Tulu Nadu, they were one among the retinue who came with him. The   Pandya Raja conquered regions up to Nandavara and built many temples.  Before going back, he appointed his chieftains as administrators and left behind Devadigas to serve in those temples as musicians and do other   cleansing jobs.
At Kumble, Pandya Raja appointed Jayasimha as his representative.   They assimilated into Tulu culture and adopted Tulu, Kannada and Malayalam languages, one of them being their mother tongue.  So, they are polyglot, i.e. multi-lingual. (Source: YouTube: Shree Paadangara Bhagavathi Prasanna, Arikkad, Kumble).

The other story is that Kadamba King Mayur Sharma (later he assumed Varma, a Kshatriya name) encouraged construction of Hindu temples in Banavasi. Similar practices came up in Tulunadu. The Stanika Brahmins, Devadigas and Sapaligas were ordained by the rulers to work in temples to assist the temple preist  Brahmins in maintaining  the day to day business of the temple.
Shri Vadiraja Tirtha (C. 1480-C.1600), who lived for 120 years was a great Dvaita Philosopher, poet and mystic.  He was a polymath.  There is a belief in currency that he ordained Carpenters, Goldsmiths, and Devadigas to be treated as Brahmins during their period of stay in temple for doing temple duties by performing a sanctifying ritual.

Sappaliga  or Sapaliga
Sappaliga means one who makes musical sound in a temple through Vadya (musical instrument) and Vadana (playing the musical instument). Now they are known as Sapaliga or Saphalya. Sapaligas, adept in playing musical instruments, used to serve in the temple along with Devadigas in temples, but there are no marital alliances between these two communities. Both have independent community associations and affiliations.
Traditionally there has been matrimonial alliances between the members of  Sapaliga and Marakala (now Mogaveera) communities  especially in and around the Udupi region. Besides, Sapaligas and Marakalas share similar bari lineages. The  local oral legends  also suggest that the initial members of Sapaliga were drawn from the Marakala fisher community during the ancient history and were trained in the art of playing musical instruments to serve as pipers and musicians in the temples.

Ganigas
In Mangalore and Bantwal areas, the Sapaliga  have adopted coconut oil extraction as a profession and have considered themselves as Ganigas. The gāna is the device used for the extraction of oil.  There are matrimonial alliances between Sapaligas and Ganigas in Mangalore-Bantwal area   and they have designated their association as “Sapaligara yāne Gānigara Sangha’.
 However there are generally no direct traditional matrimonial alliances between Mogaveeras and Ganigas in Mangalore area.

Beliefs & Customs
They follow same Hindu rituals, as other communities of Tulu Nadu, during birth, puberty of a girl (first menstruation), marriage, death.  They are also followers of animism, i.e. the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena and the universe itself possess souls.  So, they also believe in Spiritual beings or agencies. At some temples, they are mediums for spirit-possession (Pātris).

Nāgaradhane  (serpent  worship) is common in all communities of Tulu Nadu.  Each Devadiga clan has its own ‘Moolāsthana’ where snakes are worshipped.  There is one ‘Moolasthana’ of Adyaranna at Gudde Angadi, Kavattar, (near Mulki ; Pin code 574 195.).
They follow matriarchal system as other Tuluva communities.  Marriage between girl and boy of same ‘bari’ is forbidden.  Traditionally, heritance ofproperty rights moves along female line though male is custodian.

Septs of Devadigas
They too have similar clan (bari) names, like Mogaveeras, Billavas, Kulalas, i.e. Kunder, Salian, Suvarna, Shriyan, Karkera, Maindan, Mendon, Bangera, Gujaran, Uppian, Kukkiyan and so on. Besides that, we have come across other baris, viz. Bundhan, Bageeyatan, Adayran (Adyaranna?), Shettiyan, Kayaran, Guliyechan, Vadeyaran, Pergadan, Karmaran, Puthian, Odrenna, Malayanna, Huttaryan, Chandiyan and Katkane.

Adayran Bari
The incidence of Adayran and other baris among the Devadigas is interesting from the genetic point of view. For example, Adi is an ancient tribal community and about 192 villages named after Adi such as Adia, Adyar, Adiyur, Adivala, Adve, Adigon, Adihal etc are found in Tulunadu as well as in other parts of India.
Similar deductions can be made about some of the less common baris prevalent among the Devadigas enlisted above. Thus admixture of common and less common baris among the Devadigas suggest infusion of several tribal streams during the initial stages of creation of communities from the tribes.

Kula Devata
Hindu temples follow Panchayatana (ಪಂಚಾಯತನ) system.  That means: Five temples, having one for main God and other four for other Gods.  Mostly, five Deities are: Vishnu, Shiva, Devi or Durga, Surya and Istha Devata, like Ganesh, Skanda, or any personal God of devotees.  Temples for Divine Spirits are now accommodated within the precincts of main temple.
Devadigas of Kasargod have Paadangara Bhagavathi as Kula Devata.  They officiate as priests to Divine Spirits, who are parivara Daivas attached to the Temple.  They act as impersonator of the Bhoota Kola/Nema,
Kula Devata of Devadigas of Barkur Hobli is Shree Ekanatheshwari at Barkur, known since Alupa rule.  The old temple with Parivara Daivas is under renovation since January 2017 and to be re-established and dedicated to the community and public on 15th February 2018 and related purification and Brahma Kalasotsava rituals and other ceremonies run up to 22nd February 2018.

Community Associations & Aspirations
Devadiga Sangha was established in 1948 at Dadasaheb Phalke Road, Dadar (East), Mumbai-400 014 for overall upliftment community people at native place and Mumbai.  As other Tuluva communities, this Sangha has also branched offat many areas in Mumbai and Vashi (New Mumbai).  There are many other organisations in Tulu Nadu also for the benefit of Devagidas.
At a symposium in the precincts of Ekanatheshwari Temple in April 2017, the Community elders decided to have a “Devadiga Global Foundation”.


-Hosabettu Vishwanath with  Ravi Mundkur.

Monday, January 22, 2018

398. Trail of Potter’s Wheel in Tulu Nadu


A traditional profession is a religion in itself.  Followers of this profession have their own tenets with its inherent ethical propensity towards their job.  This principle is ensconced in one of the Vachanas of Saint Basavanna, who is a 12th Century Statesman, Philosopher and Kannada Poet.   Vachanas means: those words which are said and written rhythmically.‘ Kayakave kailasavaaya’ (ಕಾಯಕವೇ ಕೈಲಾಸವಯ್ಯಾ), is the Vachana referred.  This means: ‘Work is worship’.
Benjamin Franklin says, “Example is the school of mankind”.  We can deduce that such exemplary actions or creations led to the emergence of inter-dependent specific groups of professions, say tillers of sea and land, archers, oil-pressers, weavers, smiths, and many traditional artisans.  Potters are traditional artisans, whose existence is known from the figures and pot-shreds found in Sindhu excavations. 

Tuluva Potters
Pot-makers of Tulu Nadu are called as ‘Moolye, Odari, Kumbaara or kumbar, kusave (ku+sa+ve = one who works with mud and water) and Handa.   They are toilers in earth or soil (Mannu in Tulu & Kannada) and water.  As a dignified nomenclature, they are also known as Kulala (ku = earth + ala = water and/or man), tracing their origin to Kulalan, the son of Lord Brahma. Potter’s chakra or wheel of creation is proverbial.  So, they also call themselves as ‘Chakrashali’ (word coined on the line of Padmashali, the weaver’s class), i.e. one who possesses Chakra as ones implement (for his creative job). In Kannada, they are called as Kumbāra, Tamil Kusave, Telugu Kummara, Orissa Kumbaro, Sanskrit Kumbhakāra and Northern India Prajapati.  They are all Hindus, following either Vishnu or Shiva.
It is a belief that potters of Tulu Nadu are from Telugu and Kannada speaking areas (as also quoted   by H.A. Stuart).  Usually, Telugu potters are followers of Vishnu, excepting Lingayat potters, who bury their dead.
Tuluva potters’ mother tongue is Tulu.  They follow ‘Aliya Santana Kattu’, i.e. matrilineal system of inheritance.  They have the same Tulu culture and follow Bari System as Mogaveeras, Billavas, etc., say Bangera, Karkera, Kunder, Salian, Suvarna and so on (besides Moolya, a community-marker surname).

Significance of Moolya
Why in Tulu Nadu a pot-maker is called ‘Moolya’?  Normally, one is  ashamed of being called by caste-name (This applies to call castes).  First thing that occurs to one’s mind is that ‘Moolya’ stands for ‘valuable’.  It is an adjective and a noun, meaning ‘Value’. (The writer pities those parents who are now fond of naming their children by adjective word). The caste name ‘Moolya’ has a specific connotation.  We all belong to this Mother Earth, wherefrom  we all spring and merge but are not called as ‘Moolya’.   He is a man of the earth and always toils with it in an open space of a village or in colony of pottersin a corner (= Moole).  One who lives in a  ‘moole’ is came to be known as ‘moolye’.  This is in one sense.  In another sense, ‘moola’ means ‘original’.  As Lord Brahma creates many types of living beings, a potter too moulds and creates pots of different shapes for different uses.  So, he becomes the originator (Moolye). This is the reason why potters of Northern India call themselves as ‘Prajapati’ (Creator). He is an artist on his own right. He creates, sustains and destroys.Analogy of shristhi, sthiti and laya is hidden in ‘Moolya’. This is the ‘tripadi’ (a poem of three lines) of a human existence.  We remember here Kannada Poet and Saint Sarvajna, who composed many poems in Tripadi metre.  He is from a potter’s family.  Karnataka Government has erected a statue of him at Bengaluru.

Origin
Some members of the potter’s community call themselves Kulala Vaishnavas as against Tamil and Kannada Kusave/Kusavans and Kumbaaras, who worship Lord Shiva.  They claim their descent from Kulala(n), the son of Lord Brahma.  Kulala was fond of creating things and destroying them daily.   So, Brahma made him a potter, to be the progenitor of Pot-maker’s community.  
All the potters claim an impure Brahmanical descent.  Edgar Thurston records this collected story in his Book ‘Castes and Tribes of Southern India (Vol.4)’.  His   source was  H. A. Stuart:  Madras Census Report, 1891 & Manual of North Arcot District – Stuart, IV-8).  The concise story is given below:
 “A learned Brahmin, after long study, has discovered the day and hour in which he might beget a mighty offspring. After a long wait for the opportune time, he sets for the house of his selected bride but could not make it. Being obstructed by a flood, he stops at a potter’s house en route and marries the daughter of his host to seize the opportunity of ‘auspicious time’. He begets a celebrated son Shālivāhana. He develops a knack for pottery and makes  many earthen  figures of mounted warriors right from childhood and hides them in a place. When Vikramarka invaded Southern India, he ordered the people to supply him with pots for his army.  People appeals  to Shalivahana. Miraculously infusing life into his clay figures, he leads them to battle against the enemy and wins the battle.The country (Mysore) falls into his hands.  Eventually, he was left as its ruler and became the ancestor of the early Mysore  Rajas. “
(Source: H.A. Stuart:  Madras Census Report, 1891 & Manual of North Arcot District – Stuart, IV-8)

Hard-work
The efforts put in by a potter is typified in the following proverb in Tulu and Kannada ಕುಂಬಾರಗು/ ಕುಂಬಾರಗೆ ವರುಷ, ದೊಣ್ಣೆಗು/ದೊಣ್ಣೆಗೆ ನಿಮಿಷ” (Kumbaargu/Kumbarage varusha, donnegu/donnege nimisha). This means:  “What is made in a year by a potter is destroyed by a stick in a minute, meaning within no times”. This depicts the vulnerability of his products.  Quirk of fate may leave these simple folks destitute. That is why some families always live in a state of poverty by ignorance of availability of good raw material and market.

Stages of pot-making
They are:
1)  Collecting suitable clay, i.e. sticky soil (jedi mannu/āve mannu or mudar (= soft) mannu in Tulu):
A  variety of mud is used in pot making. We find this soil deposited in water-logged low field (Patla Kanda in Tulu) due to flood and on stream (‘Tār’ in Tulu) and river beds.   It is said that such soil, digged at a depth of 6 ft. below stream or river, is very good. As reported, Uppinangadi and ManEl (now Malali near Puraal, aka Polali – 3 km away from Gurupura-Kaikamba in Mangaluru) areas are famous for availability of such soft earth and hence, the preponderance of potter-families there. Jedi Mannu (potters clay) mixed with parel mannu (= maralu mannu, i.e. fine sandy soil) is perfect soft soil (āve mannu) for pot-making.  Now, there is a demand for reverting the village name Malali to ManEl by locals to preserve its meanigfulness.

2)  Powdering lump of earth, sieving & burning:
Lump of ave mannu is to be beaten to powder. This powdered soil then is sieved to separate pebbles, stones and other coarse matters, before burning.

3) Soaking, thumping and softening mud:
To make the soil soft and pliable, it is to be soaked in water.  Soaked mud is thumped or pounded by legs.  This soil is to be kept for 2 to 3 days for seasoning.  This well-ground softened soil is called ‘are mannu’ in Tulu.
 There is a wise-saying in Tulu:ಅಳಪ್ಪೆರ ತೆರಿಯಂದಿನಾಯೆ ಆಚಾರಿ ಅತ್ತ್, ಮೇಲಿಪ್ಪೆರೆ ತೆರಿಯಂದಿನಾಯೆ ಓಡಾರಿ ಅತ್ತ್” (Alappere teriyandināye aachari att, melippere teriyandināye odari att).  This means: A carpenter must know how to take measurements. 
Likewise, a potter must be skilled in mixing clay well with water and knead it into a mass by thumping.  If they are not skilled in their respective jobs, then they are not fit to be called as ‘Aachari (carpenter) and ‘Odari’ (Potter).
‘Are mannu’ is very precious for a potter and he never let it go waste.  It is a matter of pride to him. This trait is epitomized in a Tulu wise-saying: “Odari ‘are’ budaaye, ‘aritarayi’ madyale budaaye”, which means, a potter is very much conscious not to waste the well beaten and softened soil (= are), just like a washer-man who never forgets to take rice and coconut (ari & tārayi) offered in a ceremony, which he officiates.   (Read the explanation given in our Post-395/25.12.2017: A matter of cleansing).

4)  Using potter’s wheel (Kulala Chakra):
In Tulu, potter’s wheel is called as ‘tigari/tagori and gaali. Monier Williams (Sanskrit) Dictionary describes potter’s apparatus as “a simple circular horizontal well-balanced fly-wheel, generally 2 or 3 feet in diameter, which can be made to rotate by slight impulse.   The potter loads it with clay lump and then, with a few easy sweeps and turns of his hands, he moulds his material into beautiful curves and symmetrical shapes and   leaves his products of skill to bake in the Sun.”  (Source:  Madras Pottery Journal, Indian Arts VII, 1897 as quoted in Castes & Tribes of Southern India).
His product varieties are:
·         kara (rice cooking vessel),
·         bisale (large-mouthed vessel for cooking vegetables, fish and other preparations, mande (big vessel used  for boiling bathing water, storing rice and grains, etc.),
·         neeradyara/Korai (a wide-mouthed used to clean rice and filter or decant liquids,
·         bavade (lid for vessels),
·         gaddavu (half spherical small eating vessel with circular leg),
·         toori/mutti (Sans: kalasha) (small vessels,
·         kooji/kooje (beaked water jug),
·         kundi (flower pot),
·         dose kavali (cake pan),
·         tibile (used for oil-wick-lighting at homes, temples and during Deepavali, Festival Lights, etc.

5) Potter’s kiln (Ave) and baking:
Potter marks-out a circular space, about 10 ft. dia., at any convenient open space.  Small pieces of wood and dried sticks are spread over this space to a depth of six inches and a layer of dried cow-dungs cakes are laid over the sticks.  He piles up all sunbaked vessels carefully over this platform of fuel to a height of 5 to 6 feet.  This whole heap is then covered with straw.  This straw is plastered with clay all over, leaving a few openings here and there.  These openings allow the smoke to escape.  Now the potter’s kiln is ready.  He then fires the fuel at the bottom.  He has to keep a watch that   fire does not die. Half-burnt vessels are useless. Baking process is complete during a few hours. Avedu deevandi kara, uppuda kadaludu odedu chooraavu (=non-baked vessel in a kiln breaks and dissolves in salty sea water).

6) Polishing Techniques:
In some special vessels, potters make use of polish made from seeds of Gyrocarpus Jacquini for polishing.  “Another method employed for producing a polish is to rub the surface with the mucilaginous juice of tuthi (Abutilon Indicum) and then fire the vessel again” (ibidem). Such polished antique potteries are found in cromlech (= a megalithic chamber tomb, dolmen, passage grave).
Potters were skilled in making pyriform sepulchral urns.  In excavations, these are found in Tinnevelly, Madura, Malabar and elsewhere.  Dr. G.U. Pope shows that these urns are mentioned about the burial of heroes and kings as late as 18th Century AD.
Note: Common names of Gyrocarpus Jacquini:  Helicopter tree, Whirly Whirlytree burl, Stinkwood, Kannada: Kadu bende, Tamil: Chaivavatala, Tanakku, Kadavai, Telugu: Tanuku, Hindi: Zaitun. (Source: Wikipedia)

Marketing
A big rattan basket is tied to wooden plank.  A potter stacks all his wares into this basket. Alternatively, he makes ‘kavadi’ of bamboo stick with nets fixed at both ends for keeping vessels and carries it on his shoulder. Traditionally, he used to take his earthen-wares on head load to weekly markets, which are held regularly in different villages. He also sold his wares by going house to house in villages.
Now-a-days caste cooperative societies are providing market-platforms for these products. These societies are based in a village, town, city and State-wide).

Mulyadige (ಮೂಲ್ಯಾದಿಗೆ)
It is customary that some members of the potter’s community are doing priestly work in Bhootasthana (Shrine of Divine Spirits) during annual celebrations (known as Nema or Kola).  Duties include:
(1) Bringing masks and other ornaments, etc. used in worship of deity,
(2) Acting as Torch-bearers and
(3) Purification and other rituals of the shrine. 
They are called as ‘Moolyada Pujari’ (Read our Post-314 on Billava Community).  Besides potters, this title is also given to people of other communities, say Mogaveeras, Billavas, Bunts, who are doing the duties as said above as a convention.  They are also called as ‘Mukkaldi’
 
Woes of Potters
Most of the potters, sticking to their ancestral livelihood, are struggling under acute poverty though there is demand for pottery, being consumer products.  Reasons and problems are many:
·         With modern education, youth are not interested in sparing their time for pot-making.  Earlier, all family members were a part of the pot-making ritual.
·         Scarcity of raw materials, i.e. suitable clay (as nearby natural water courses are disturbed or nearly vanished) and burning wood and straw.
·         Heavy cartage for transporting such materials from distant places.
·         Demand is dwindling because of modern cooking utensils (of alluminium or stainless steel).
·         Use of plastic vessels and decorative items
·         Pots are very brittle and needs care and suitable warehousing before finding markets.
·         Difficulties in getting quick returns in commensurate with efforts put in.
·         Besides traditional marketing, potter must take his earthen-wares to different and distant places, entailing prohibitive cost of transportation.
·         No Government subsidies and loan facilities as are offered to other traditional artisans.

Community Organisations           
Kulala Sangha is a charitable trust, founded in 1929 in Mumbai, for the upliftment of Kulalas.  The primary object of the Sangha is to promote education, spirit of fellowship and co-operation.  Their mouth-piece Journal is ‘Amulya’.  Their pet project of Kualala Bhavan – a Convention Centre - and Students Hostel is under construction at Jeppu, Near Mangaladevi Temple, Mangaluru.
There are many other organisations at village, town and taluk levels in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada and in other cities.  Some are styled as ‘Kulala  Sudharaka Sangha’.

Pot-making is a cottage industry for livelihood.   Educated youth are not interested in continuing the ancestral art of making pots.  As a stranger to this art, we do not know how far these organisations help propagating this art.  We have come across some ads in Internet by some pottery labs (e.g. one at Bandra locality of Mumbai), offering teaching the pot-making art.  We suggest the Kulala Sangha ear-marking a spot (instead of exhibition of visuals) for a workshop and sale centre in unused land at the new Convention Centre, if not envisaged.  This will create job opportunities to under-privileged potter families. This amounts to encouragement by a Sangha, besides arranging social events.

Food  prepared in earthen-wares are wholesome and tasty.  This quality is reinvented, and canteens, eateries and big hospitality industry have started cooking in earthen-wares. So, demand for earthen pots is increasing.   Water stored in earthen jugs and vessels (madike/madka) remains ice-cool and hence they are in much demand during summer.  The Sangha would do well by highlighting   the healthy features of earthen pots in visuals at exhibitions of pottery and on Convention Hall walls.

Conclusion
As an artist, potter is adept in giving shape of his choice to the mud.   Knowledge of his art is percolating down from his ancestors. His enthusiasm and confidence are manifest from the following Tulu saying:
ಯಾನ್ ಕಲ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯೆಲಾ ಉಂಡು, ನಾಲೂರ್ ಮಣ್ಣುಲಾ ಉಂಡುನ್ದ್ ಓಡಾರಿ ಪಣ್ತೆಗೆ (Yaan kaltina vidyelaa undu, naalur mannulaa undund odaari pantege). 

Potter says, “There is abundance of clay in the Nature everywhere (Naalur mannu) and I have mastered the knowledge and skill (Kaltina vidye).  I have no worry of future."  Mark the grit and sincerity expressed in this saying.  A potter would survive despite vicissitudes in his life.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune

Monday, January 15, 2018

397 Makara Sankranthi

"Til gul ghya, god god bola". 

 This Maharashtrian adage means: Take this Sweet Candy made of til , i.e.sesame, coated  with jaggery  or sugar) and talk sweetly day after day hereafter'.  This is a sign of  making peace and maintaining cordial relations, forgetting the past misunderstandings.with neighbours and friends in office.  

This is the greeting words exchanged on the Makara Sankranti/ Sankramana with distributing til gul or til candies in Maharashtra and also Gujarat. This day falls on 14th January of every year when the Sun touches the extreme Southern Hemisphere at the Line of Capricorn, i.e. Makara Vritta in Sanskrit.  This is the end of winter solstice when the Sun starts moving northwards, bringing warmer days.  This Solar cycle is known as Uttaraayana in Sanskrit.  This day Hindus everywhere take dips in Holy Rivers and pray Surya Bhagavan,  the Sun God.   The celebration of this Solar cycle is known by different names. In Punjab and other northern States it is called as 'Lohri, Sukrat in Central India, Bhogali Bihu in Assam and eastern India and Pongal in Tamil Nadu.  This is the harvesting time and starting of new crop.  Makara Sankramana festival is observed up to Ratha Saptami.  In Northern India, people spend the previous night outside around a campfire and make offerings to the fire. 


Sweetened 'til' is only a symbolic thing for harmonious living.  The significance of eating sweetened til is that the 'til oil' produces heat, which in turn maintains our body heat to bear the acute cold.  Eating seasonal fruits, like bugari (badarika = jujube) is a practice in Northern India while praying the Sun God for a specific period (say 21 days).


We wish our Readers a Happy Makara Sankranti for a renewed energy and hope,.  As the adage goes, "Hopes are spread on withered hopes."

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.

Etymology
'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.

Sub-community
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.

Conclusion
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

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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