Saturday, 17 January 2015

Why Sunil Shetty speaks Tulu?





Tulu - the language of the Tuluvas

In a way, Tulu-speaking people are a distinct culture and indeed different from the Kannadigas of Karnataka. During British rule, this region was under Madras Presidency and later during the re-orgnisation of states this region was included in Karnataka state. The new generation of Tulu-speaking population, have been demanding official language status for Tulu and a separate state for Tuluvas…….


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Tulu is an ancient language spoken mainly in South Kanara, in Mangalore, Udupi upto Kundapur and a small part of north Kerala. The language is spoken by over 2.5 million Mangaloreans, the colloquial term generally used for Tulu-speakers. It is presumed Tulu belongs to the Dravidian family of languages but it is very different from say Tamil and Kannada. However Tulu is considered to be one of the most highly developed languages of the Dravidian family. And the language has a lot of written literature and oral literature.

Tulu is primarily spoken in South Kanara or Dakshina Karnataka, also known as Tulu Nadu, a region comprising Mangalore, the districts of South Kanara and Udupi on the west coast of Karnataka, and Kasaragod taluk of north Kerala. 


Mangaladevi temple in Mangalore
Apart from these areas, Tulu is also spoken in Maharastra, Mumbai, Bangalore and other parts of India where Tulu-speaking people have settled for long. It is also spoken in USA and Gulf countries where significant number of Tulu-speaking people, have settled.  Non-native speakers such as the Konkani-speaking Mangalorean Catholics and Gowd Saraswath Brahmins, Karhade Brahmins and Daivajnas, as well as Beary Mangaloreans are also well-versed in the language. Apart from Kannada script; historically Tulu Brahmins used Tigalari script mainly used to write Sanskrit.




Milagres Church in Mangalore
Tulu is thought to be the ‘language of the waters’ as the traditional homeland of the Tulu-speaking people is the coastal region in present Karnataka and northern Kerala. Linguists have suggested that the word ‘Tulu’ means that which is connected with water, based on the words from Tulu, Kannada, Tamil and Malyalam. ‘Tulave’ (Jackfruit) means watery in Tulu; and the other words related to water in Tulu include ‘talipu’, ‘teli’, etc. In Tamil, ‘tuli’ means a drop of water and ‘tulli’ means the same in Malyalam. The oldest available inscriptions in Tulu are from the period between 14th and 15th century AD. These inscriptions are in the Tigalari script, are found in areas in and around Barkur, which was the capital of Tulu Nadu during the Vijaynagar period. Another group of inscriptions are found in the Ullur Subrahmanya temple near Kundapura.


Mangalore Airport
Many linguists have suggested that Tulu is among the oldest languages in the Dravidian family which branched independently nearly 2000 years ago. This dating is based on the fact that the region where Tulu was spoken was known to the ancient Tamils as Tulu Nadu. The Tamil poet Mamular describes Tulu Nadu and its dancing beauties in one of his poems. In Halmidi inscriptions, one also finds mention of the Tulu country as the kingdom of Alupas. Surprisingly, the region was also known to the Greeks of the second century as ‘Tolokoyra’. Here one needs to mention of the ‘Charition mime’, a Greek play belonging to second century BC. The play’s plot is located around the coastal Karnataka, where Tulu is predominantly spoken. The play is mostly in Greek, but the Indian characters in the play are seen speaking a language different from Greek.


Mangalore cty  Corporation bldg
Interestingly, according to Malyalam works like ‘Keralolpathi and ‘Sangam’ literature in Tamil, the region stretching from the Chandragiri river, now part of Kasaragod district of Kerala to Gokarna, now part of Uttara Karnataka, was ruled by the Alupas and was known as ‘Alva Kheda.’ This kingdom was the homeland of the Tulu-speaking people. Today, Tulu is widely spoken in Dakshina Karnataka, Mangalore, Udupi district and Kasaragod in Kerala. The cities of Mangalore, Udupi and Kasaragod are the cultural centres of Tulu culture and tradition. Efforts are on to include Tulu in the list of Official languages of India. Many online sites from Mangalore and Udupi post requests inviting Tuluvas to like and support this cause.


Infosys in Mangalore
The earliest available Tulu literature that survives to this day is the Tulu Translation of the great Sanskrit epic of Mahabharata called ‘Tulu Mahabharato’. It was written by Arunabja, a poet who lived in Kodavur, near Udupi around the late 14th and 15th century AD. Other important literary works in Tulu are: Sri Bhagavata, Kaveri and Devi Mahatmyam’s Tulu translation.

It is believed that till 20th century, Tigalari script was used by Tulu Brahmins, apart from Kannada script. Even today, the official script of the eight Tulu monasteries (Ashta Mutthas in Udupi) founded by Madhvaacharya is Tigalari. Tigalari or Tulu is a southern Brahmic script which was used to write Tulu, Kannada and Sanskrit languages. It evolved from the Grantha script. It bears high similarity and relationship to its sister script Malayalam, which also evolved from the Grantha.


Shri Krishna temple, Udupi
The chief priests of the monasteries write their names using this script when they are appointed. To give further impetus to the language, Tulu Sahitya Academy was established by the Karnataka state government in 1994 as also the Kerala Tulu Academy in Manjeshwaram by the Kerala state government in 2007, to promote Tulu literature.

In a way, Tulu-speaking people are a distinct culture and indeed different from the Kannadigas of Karnataka. During British rule, this region was under Madras Presidency and later during the re-orgnisation of states this region was included in Karnataka state. 



Malpe beach
The new generation of Tulu-speaking population, have been demanding official language status for Tulu and a separate state for Tuluvas. Though the statehood demand has been subdued, this demand is getting stronger in recent years in the region. Several organizations have taken up the cause of the Tuluvas to voice their demand. But it is not clear how intense is their demand for a state but they are very keen that the central government include Tulu in the list of Official languages of India.

Tuluvas are a hard-working and enterprising people. Their contribution can be seen in various fields. In Mumbai, majority of the Udupi hotels and even many bars and restaurants are owned by them. You might be surprised to know that amongst the many major banks in India, most of them have originated from Mangalore and South Kanara – Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank, Vijaya Bank, Karnataka Bank and Corporation Bank. Tuluvas have also made a rich contribution to business, sports, academics, medical, etc. Some of the prominent Mangaloreans are – Aishwarya Rai, Pooja Hegde, Sneha Ullal, Rohit Shetty, Sandeep Chowta, Shilpa Shetty, Sunil Shetty and Guru Dutt, to name a few in the glamour and Bollywood. Budi Kunderan, Ravi Shastri and recent debutant cricketer KL Rahul hail from this region. Entrepreneur BR Shetty, Restaurateur SB Shetty and many others who have made a name for themselves in India and abroad. Among the politicians, the familiar names are – George Fernandes, Janardhan Poojary, Sadanand Gowda, TA Pai, Margaret Alva, Oscar Fernandes, Veeraappa Moily and others. BV Karanth, the writer, Devi Prasad Shetty, a surgeon, KS Hegde, an associate of Anna Hazare are some of the Mangaloreans who have made a name and excelled in different fields. Besides there many well educated managers and other professionals occupying top positions in the corporate world in India and around the world.

But the native Tuluvas feel they and their region is neglected or not given its due by the elected state governments. However, presently there is a strong demand that Tulu be included in the Official language list so that the language spoken by over 2.5 million Tuluvas gets its due and is recognized; and gets its due importance amongst the Official languages spoken in different regions of India.



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Picture Post:
Chittorgarh fort in Mewar, 
Rajasthan in India
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- Foreword by Shri Asaranna Swami,
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