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Category Archives: Tulu

The Land Of Snakes

South Karnataka (or South Canara) can be called the Land Of Snakes. Many snakes, poisonous and non-poisonous, keep roaming around the rural places without harming anyone. Snakes such as rat snakes run away at the sight of humans. One would think that with so many snakes around, death due to snake bite would be common; but that’s not the scenario at all. This place has a story behind it.

It is believed that once Sage Parashurama, angered by the kshatriyas, came in search of a place to do his Tapasya. Not finding any, he stood atop a mountain and threw his axe ahead into the sea. The entire area the axe covered became land and thus south Karnataka was born. All the snakes in the sea cried out due to the loss of their home. The sage blessed them and told them that in that region they will be worshiped and no one will harm them.

From then on people worship the Snake God with utmost reverence. Almost every Brahmin household has a small shrine, known as Naga Bana, dedicated to this God. When people’s prayers are answered, they do a thanksgiving to the lord and the ritual is known as Thanu. When some household don’t keep up their word and forget to offer the Thanu, the lord of snakes King Cobra will appear before the house in order to remind them. I have witnessed such an event at my neighbour’s place. My grandfather, a revered purohit, even used to bring home dead cobras that he found on his way and used to meticulously perform the last rite.

Hailing from such a place, I have a staunch belief in God and this one incident proved the God’s existence to me. I was 5 years old then. My aunt and I were sitting in the yard when a snake passed by. I exclaimed, “Aunt, Snake!” She casually retorted, “Might be a Rat snake”. But the moment she finished the sentence the snake stopped half way, turned towards us and raised its hood! We were dumbstruck. My aunt exclaimed in a terrified voice, “Kshamisi Nagaraja” (Pardon me Lord of Snakes). The cobra slid away into the woods.

This article first appeared in the New Indian Express. I felt like adding a Post Script to it and here it goes –

Rituals are to bring about a structured way to invoke the inner spark. They were formed with strong reasoning as to why they have to be followed. Nowadays, most traditions and rituals aren’t followed and those that are followed are blindly done. We will have to question ourselves as to – Why any ritual is being performed and does it hold good even today? Or do functions at least act as a gathering place where one can get to meet other, make merry and enjoy the food. If doesn’t hold any good or doesn’t create happiness, why bother with it at all? Deities and Idols are to help us concentrate the prayer on a single entity, it is up to the individual to choose this path or the no idol path; but I feel that there is definitely a Power that makes the world go round. Call it as you want – Love, Positive Vibrations, Good Thoughts, Doing Good without expectation or Desire, Evolution, or God! Scientists put out a Black Hole theory and said inside it and beyond it, human mind cannot conceive the sophisticated instruments cannot retrieve. The ancestors gave it a name! Only problem now is the abuse of it. Some believe in God , some believe in Human Beings; no one is correct and no one is wrong. (And some like me believe as per convenience!). Just, Live and Let Live.

Insight on Tulu!

An insight on Tulu, my mother tongue (& Father-tongue too), and the Tulu Community from various sources like blogs and wiki –

Tulu Nadu is a region on the South-Western Coast of Karnataka, India. It consists of the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. Tulu Nadu is bordered by the Arabian sea to the west, Uttara Kannada to the north, Shivamogga to the north-east, Chikkamangaluru to the east, Kodagu and Hassana to the South-East and Kerala to the south. Tulu is the principal language in the region, but other languages like Konkani, Kannada and Beary are also widely spoken. Tulu Nadu spans an area of 8,441 km2, roughly 4.4% of the total geographical area of Karnataka. The population of this region was 3,005,897 in 2001. Mangalore and Udupi are the chief cities of Tulu Nadu. Though it is a small region in Karnataka, it has quite a lot of history attached to it.

Historically, Tulu Nadu included the two separate lands of Haiva and Tuluva. The Ballal kings of Sullia ruled this area around 1100 years back. Madhvacharya in the 13th century built eight monasteries (Mutt) in Udupi. During the rule of Vijayanagara Empire, Tulu Nadu was administered in two parts- Mangaluru Rajya and Barakuru Rajya. Tulu Nadu is the original homeland of the dynasty that founded the Vijayanagara Empire until the 17th century. The longest reigning dynasty of Tulu Nadu was the Alupas. The Kadamba dynasty of Banavasi was the earliest, under which the Alupas flourished. Later the Rashtrakutas of Manyaketha, Chalukyas of Badami, Chalukyas of Kalyani, Hoyasalas of Durasamudhra and Rayas of Vijayanagar were the overlords. Over the many following centuries, more ethnic groups migrated to this area. Konkanis and Goud Saraswath Brahmins arrived by sea, as Mangalore was a major port that served not only the Portuguese but also the Arabs for Maritime traders. Jains were already a prominent group and have left behind indelible remainders of their glory with temples (baustis) in Moodabidri and monolithic statues of Bahubali, the Gometeshwara, in Karkala, Venoor and Dharmasthala. In the 16th century there was a large influx of Catholics to Tulu Nadu from Goa. They instituted excellent educational institutes and contributed to the development of education in the region. The Muslim community of Tulu Nadu was basically Arab traders who married local women and settled there. Some of them speak the Beary language, which is a mix of Tulu and Malayalam and others speak Urdu. Tulu Nadu, just like its history, is rich and varied in its culture and traditions.

Tulu Nadu is a very unique place in India. In terms of size, it is a very small region. But in terms of its contribution to Indian art and culture, it’s giant. Tulu Nadu has contributed immensely to various fields such as performing arts, dance cuisine and so on. Even the Great Vijayanagar rulers had a Tulu background (Tuluva dynasty). Tulu Nadu can be called as a land of culture, traditions and rituals. Today in the 21st century most of the people in the district follow traditions, customs and rituals, even though they have received a British-implemented modern education. The district has many Hindu temples of Gods and Goddesses, which are ancient and have deep spiritualism attached to them. When it comes to art forms, there is probably no other region India which offers such a variety within such a small geographical section. When it comes to culture, though performing arts play a dominant role, they are seen more as a ritual than as an art by the people.

Yakshagana is the popular folk art of this district, probably the most important contribution of Tulu Nadu. Yakshagana is a night long dance drama practiced in Tulu Nadu with great fanfare.

Bhuta Kola is a mixture of art and belief. It is a form of worship to the Bhuta or demigods of the land. This is done to satisfy the spirits. It is very intensive, colourful and equally ritualistic.

Kambala is a form of buffalo race on muddy track in the paddy field, is basically a rural sport. It is extremely intensive and requires great energy on the part of the participants.

Aati Kalenja is a very unique art form where kalenja goes around villages during the monsoons singing native stories. The belief is that honouring Kalenja with rice and eatables would ensure that evil spirits are warded off during the rains.

Nagamandala, like Bhuta kola, brings art and belief together. It is a very ritualistic dance worship of snakes. This is practiced according to the popular belief of Naga Dhevatha who goes underground and guards the species on top.

Hulivesha is a form of folk dance in this region fascinating the young and the old alike; it is performed during Dashara and Krishna Janmashtami. During Dashara in teams of five to ten go around the town in tiger costumes, accompanied by music. Just like snakes, tigers are revered in Tulu Nadu and Hulivesha is a natural outcome of such reverence.

Koti and Chennaya is a dance form stands as proof of how folklore can influence the culture of a community. Koti and Chennaya are two heroic brothers who worshipped as protectors of land.  Thus it is evident that Tulu Nadu’s culture and traditions cover various aspects like religion folklore, animal worship, sport and history.

The origin of Tulu community can be traced down in the history. The Vijayanagar Empire was divided into four dynasties of which Tuluva dynasty was one. King Krishnadevaraya belongs to this dynasty. People who speak Tulu can be traced back to this dynasty. Though Tulu language had a script, its usage was less and eventually it became an oral tradition. So, literary works weren’t produced in this language. As a result there is no record available about the people, their lifestyle, traditions and customs in Tulu language. Only very little information is available about the Tulu community in Kanada literature. Though the community is small in number it is pre-dominant in South Karnataka and is famous for its cuisine and their traditions and customs. The interesting fact is that the customs of Tulu people are all eco-friendly rites. And in Tulu Nadu Snakes are worshipped with great reverence and deaths due to snake bites in the region are an extreme rarity. The best part of the region is that the Tulu people’s lifestyle and rituals have not lost its pristine purity and identity in its enthusiasm to keep abreast of the times.



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