tulu nadu culture

Tulu Nadu Culture

Tulu Nadu Culture and History

Karnataka is not a homogeneous state as evidenced by its diversity including Tulu Nadu culture, Kodva culture etc. Kannada spoken in different regions are different. Even more surprising is the presence of two districts in Karnataka that speak entirely different languages, which makes one wonder how they were classified under the linguistic state of Karnataka. These two regions are Tulu Nadu and Kodagu. Though Kannada is the official language, the spoken languages here differ a great deal from it. When the history of Tulu Nadu is studied, the reasons for it to be included in Karnataka become apparent.

Area of Tulu Nadu, Culture and Traditions

The Tulunadu areas currently known as Dakshina Kannada and the coastal part of the adjacent district Uttara Kannada up to Gokarna are the historical Tulu Nadu. Many centuries ago the center of Tulu culture was probably in the Uttara Kannada (Honnavara), and Udupi as well as Mangalore were at the periphery.

Tulunadu in India Map in the Karnataka State
Tulunadu in India Map in the Karnataka State

Tulu Nadu is the Tulu speaking region of Karnataka and Kerala, India. It consists of the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts and the northern parts of the Kasaragod district of Kerala up to the river Chandragiri. Tulu Nadu is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west, Uttara Kannada to the north, Shivamogga to the north-east, Chikkamagaluru to the east, Kodagu and Hassan to the south-east and Kerala to the south. Tulu is the primary spoken language in the region, but other languages like Konkani, Kannada, and Beary are also spoken. Tulu Nadu spans an area of 8,441 km2 (3,259 sq mi), roughly 4.4% of the total geographical area of Karnataka. The population of this region is roughly 5,500,000. Mangalore and Udupi are the chief cities in Tulu Nadu.

Tulunadu consists of the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts and the northern parts of the Kasaragod district of Kerala up to the river Chandragiri.

Today, however, Tulu is spoken only in the region below River Kalyanpur. The people living north of the river now speak Kannada. The reason for this is not clear in history. The region, although it maintained some form of independence, was always under the suzerainty of various rulers and dynasties that controlled Karnataka. Tulu Nadu was originally called Alvakheda (a second century C.E. reference from Greece calls it Olokhoira). Many historians agree that this is the region Emperor Ashoka referred to in his edicts as Satiyaputra, one of the four regions outside of his empire (the other three being Chola, Chera and Pandya kingdoms).

History of Tulunadu

The political history of Tulu Nadu can be classified as follows:

1. The Alupa (Aluva) period
2. The Rayas of Vijayanagara period
3. The Nayaks of Keladi period
4. The Sultans of Mysore period
5. The British period.
6. Post Independence period.

Alupa Dynasty was the Longest Dynasty Ruled Tulunadu, almost 1,400 Years
Alupa Dynasty was the Longest Dynasty Ruled Tulunadu, almost 1,400 Years

Untold India History: The longest reigning dynasty of Tulu Nadu was the Alupas (Aluvas). Switching between Mangaluru and Udyavar, Barakuru and back to Mangaluru as their political centers, Alupas have the distinction of a continuous dynasty for more than one thousand years. They were the feudatories of the prominent dynasties of Karnataka. Kadamba dynasty of Banavasi was the earliest, under which the Alupas flourished. Later the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta, Chalukyas of Badami, Chalukyas of Kalyani, Hoysalas of Durasamudra and Rayas of Vijayanagara were the overlords. Alupas, however, were independent and their subordination was nominal at best. They ruled until the Vijayanagara kings totally dominated the Tulu Nadu from 14th to the 17th centuries. The region became extremely prosperous during Vijayanagara period with Barakuru and Mangaluru gaining importance.

In fact the Alupa Dynasty has been the longest ruling dynasty in the world !. They ruled from 2nd century BC to nearly 15th century AD. They ruled over coastal area of Karnataka or Tulunadu above 1400 years and trade with the Romans and Arabs. No wonder why Tulunadu, Tulu Bhashe, Udupi/Mangalore Cuisines, Restaurants and Tulu Culture still exists and most of the Tuluvas rocks all over the world !

After the decline of Vijayanagara Empire, the Nayaks of Keladi (Ikkeri), who controlled much of Tulu Nadu, let it decline and internal skirmishes eventually led to it being controlled, at the end of 18th century, by the Sultans of Mysore, namely Haider Ali and Tippu Sultan. Mangalore played a prominent role in Tippu’s battles with the British. Tippu’s French alliance also led to some French presence in Mangalore. The British gained full control in 1801, after the defeat of Tippu in 1799. The British ruled the region with Madras as its headquarters. When the Indian independence was achieved in 1947, Tulu Nadu became part of Madras state. When the states were divided into linguistic states in the 1950’s, Tulu Nadu became part of Karnataka.

Much of the land known as Tulu Nadu was under sea eons ago. There is fossil evidence to support this. This might even have led to the legend of coastal Karnataka as a creation of Parashurama. Lord Parashurama was said to have had a dispute with the lord of the seas, Varuna. In a rage he threw his axe and claimed the coastal region from the sea, part of which is Tulu Nadu. Hence the region is referred to as “Parashurama Srishti.” Visits to seven well-known temples of Parashurama Kshetra (Tulu Nadu) will bring countless blessings to the devotees. The seven temples all nestled in the coastal Karnataka are in Udupi, Kolluru, Subramanya, Gokarna, Kumbashi, Koteshvara and Shankaranarayana. They are collectively called Mukti Sthalas.

Proof of earliest human habitation is from about 10,000 years ago. Before the Kadambas of Banavasi invited Brahmins in the 5th century to settle in the region, the people were mainly spirit-worshippers (Bhutaaradhane). Brahmins brought Vedic culture to Tulu Nadu. In the 8th century Shankaracharya had a profound effect on the theology and philosophy of the educated class. He had visited Subramanya and Kolluru, where he won over many theologians in discursive debates. Advaita philosophy of Shankaracharya became popular.

Over the following many centuries, more ethnic groups migrated to the area. Konkanas from Maharashtra and many of their sub-sects moved to Tulu Nadu, mainly seeking business opportunities. Konkanas and Gouda Sarasvats were said to have come by sea, as Mangalore was a major port that was serving not only the Portuguese but also the Arabs for maritime trades. Jains were already a prominent group and even today are uniquely preserved in Tulu Nadu.

Their prominence declined not only after the Hoysala king, Vishnuvardhana converted to Hinduism – with the influence of Ramanujacharya in Melukote – but also because of targeted decimation of their population by the Muslim rulers in the North. The strong influence Madhvacharya had in the region also played an important role in decline of other religions. However, Jain community thrived in smaller numbers, in the relative safety of Tulu Nadu. The ancient Jains have left behind indelible reminders of their glory with temples-bastis- (Moodbidri) and monolithic statues of Bahubali, the Gomateshwara in Karkala, Venoor and now in Dharmasthala.

The Alupas (or Aluvas-hence the term Alvakheda) who were ruling Tulu Nadu continuously for more than one thousand years have left few reminders of their existence except for some forts, which are in ruins. Their descendants are now in the Jain as well as non-Brahmin communities. Madhvacharya in the 13th century built the eight monasteries (Matths) in Udupi, which became the nucleus of Hindu theosophy. In the 16th century there was a large influx of Catholics to Tulu Nadu. They arrived from Goa, mainly as farmers and had a close association with the Portuguese.

They quickly became successful landowners but suffered a setback under Haider Ali and Tippu Sultan in late 18th century. About 60,000 of them along with Portuguese Christians were interned in Srirangapatnam, when their loyalty was questioned and they were accused of colluding with the British. Only after Tippu’s death in 1799 did the survivors return to Tulu Nadu, once again to become a prosperous community. A glorious church, inspired by the Sistine chapel of the Vatican, built in Mangalore (at St. Aloysius College campus) is a monument to the Catholic architecture.

They also excelled at building educational institutes. The Muslim community of Tulu Nadu is also prominent. They have had close ties to the Muslims of Kerala and even speak a language that is a combination of Malayalam and Tulu. Their population increased during the rules of Bijapur sultans and the sultans of Mysore. They, along with the Konkanas have carved a niche in the business society of Tulu Nadu.

All these communities live in harmony in Tulu Nadu today. This has given it a diverse culture and society. The Brahmins, Konkanas, non-Brahmin Hindus, Jains, Catholics and the Muslims play a pivotal role in the local economy. Having vastly different landscapes, from seashores to mountainous Western Ghats, with their rain forests, give the region a unique advantage. Farmers, landowners, businesspeople and professionals are to be found in all the communities. The once prevalent separation according to castes is no longer seen in Tulu Nadu.

Tulu Nadu Culture and Traditions

There are Eight distinct features of Tulu Nadu that separates it from the rest of Karnataka. These give an exclusive Tuluva flavor to the region:

1. Bhuta-Nritya or Spirit-Dance or Daivaradhane

Bhuta Nritya Daivaradhane Kanthara
Bhutaradane in Tulunadu – Swami Koragajja, Panjurli Daiva, and Korathi Amma

This practice can be still seen played in villages and many bhutas are still worshipped in Tulunadu regions of Coastal Karnataka and part of Kasargod, Kerala.

If you have watched the Kannada movie Kantara, the recent blockbuster that earned RS. 400 crores, there is a strong possibility that the movie has left you impressed with its stunning visuals and the very captivating ritual dance that the script is centered around, Bhuta Kola. An ancient tradition, it has left the audience intrigued, thrilled and impressed with the practice; if the movie has stoked your curiosity, these ritual dances of India’s Coastal Karnataka(Mangalore, Udupi) are just the thing for you.

The kola or nema is the yearly ceremony celebrating the festival of bhutas. They have attained a godly status among some worshippers, mainly non-Brahmins, and even have their own Bhuta-Sthanas (a place of abode similar to temples). Bhutas can be animistic as in Panjurli (pig) or Pili-bhuta (tiger). However, in many villages the Brahmins, who consider these spirits as their protectorates, conduct the yearly ceremonies. A second variety can be representatives of characters taken out of the Puranas like Berme (Brahma), Lekkesiri (Raktesvari, Kali) or Vishnumurti etc.

A third category is deified human beings like Guliga, Annappa, and Koti-Chananye etc. The fourth kind is strictly local characters like Male-Chandi (from the male-Nadu), Ullaldi (from Ullal), and Malaraye (from the Ghats). Then there are devils which provide comical relief during Nemas, namely Marlu-Jumadi (crazy Jumadi) or Potte (dumb/deaf devil). Newer bhutas also have been added like Posa-bhuta (new devil), Vokku-Ballala, and Muttappe etc

2. Naga-Mandala and Dakke-Bali

Naga Mandala in Tulunadu
Naga Mandala in Tulunadu

An elaborate form of serpent worship, unique to Tulu Nadu. There is a distinct form of dance associated with it that is akin to Yakshagana. It is performed only by a group of people who call themselves Vaidyas. The origin of Naga-Mandala is still a mystery. It seems to be a remnant of some ancient tribal worship of the serpent god: Naga. The Naga-bandha is an art that is drawn at the time of the dance ritual. The dance is associated with the families of Vaidya and the origin of such families is also lost in obscurity.

Naga-mandala ritual is practiced in only four districts in Dakshina Kannada, namely Udupi, Karkala, Puttur and Mangalore. One Naga-Patri (possessed one) and three or more Vaidyas dance around the Naga-bandha for hours, to the music of drums (called dakke or damaruka) and cymbals, in a trance like manner. It is believed that the ritual will absolve the attendees of the curse of the serpent and protect them from leprosy. It also restores prosperity of progeny and begets children to barren couples. Bhootaradhane in Tulu Nadu is similar to the rest of South India though the bhutas as well as their worship differ.

3. Aliya-Santana

Aliya Santhana - Story of Boothala Pandya
Aliya Santhana – Story of King Boothala Pandya

The practice of inheritance passing to the nephew (maternal), instead of one’s progeny. This along with 14 kattus and 16 kattales (laws governing the society), is seen in the non-Brahmin community. Similar to the gothras of Brahmin community, the ancestral lineage is traced through bali (Dravidian system).

The legend of Aliya-Santana (as against Makkala-Santana) is traced back to Bhutala-Pandya in year 77 C.E. Deva-Pandya launched his newly built fleet of ships into sea but ran afoul with the lord of demons, Kundodara. The demon asked the king to give him one of his sons as sacrifice, the king’s wife refused. Satyavati, the king’s sister offered her son, Jaya-Pandya instead. The demonic Kundodara was pleased by this act, honored the child and restored to him his father’s kingdom of Jayantika. Later, the same drama was played out again and this time the king’s wife not only refused to part with one of her sons but also publicly renounced her position as queen and her son’s rights for any property. Kundodara then instructed Deva-Pandya to disinherit his children and make his sister’s son (nephew) his legal heir. Jaya-Pandya was given the name Bhutala-Pandya and was seated on the throne, from where he ruled for 75 years. Thus was born the Aliya-Santana, where the nephew became the legal heir to property. From whence the practice of Aliya-Santana is prevalent in the region is not clear.

4. Tulu Language

tulu vowels
Tulu Vowels (Tulu Sorokulu)

Spoken nowhere else, serves as a bond between the people of different communities, giving them a sense of separation from the rest of South India.

The etymology of Tulu language is also not known as well the meaning of the term Tulu is a matter of conjecture. There are half a dozen variations of spoken Tulu. An original Tulu script was thought to have never existed but a script resembling Malayalam was used to write it. Brahmins seeking further knowledge in agama shastra went to Kerala and jotted down notes in a script that was thought to be heavily borrowed from Malayalam. This came to be known as Tulu script, which later became extinct due to disuse.

However, the close resemblance to Malayalam may have created the impression that Tulu is not a legitimate language with its own script. More recent discovery of some Tulu literature (two poems and one prose) may yet prove that Tulu had its own script derived from Grantha script just like other Dravidian languages like Tamil and Malayalam. It is now strongly believed that the script of Malayalam (which evolved much later than Tulu) was derived from the original Tulu script and not the reverse. With their close association with Karnataka throughout its history, the Kannada language is the official language of governance and trade. More and more evidence has been gathered to suggest that Tulu is one of the oldest Dravidian languages (one of five) with its own script, and preceded many of the major languages of the South used today.

5. Tatva-Vaada of Sri Madhvacharya (birth place of Dvaita philosophy)

Tatva-Vaada of Sri Madhvacharya
Tatva-Vaada of Sri Madhvacharya

If Christianity influenced Madhva philosophy, as proposed by some experts, the influence of Christianity in the region was long before the appearance of the Portuguese in the 16th century.

Madhvacharya’s Tatva-Vaada or Vaishnava-Siddhanta took shape in Udupi in the 13th century. Madhva was a child prodigy, who had mastered Sanskrit by age five and the Vedas by the age of ten. He lived for eighty years and said to have joined his guru, Badarayana in the Himalayas in the year 1317. He was a well-built personality, a tall and strong-limbed man, interested in varied subjects including music, sculpture, debating and weight lifting. He has written 40 books, mostly commentaries on Vedanta, and established a unique approach to Vedantic philosophy. He claimed to be the third incarnation of Vayu, the sublime angel of God.

His Tatva-Vaada is referred to as Dvaita philosophy (dual). He founded the Sri Krishna temple in Udupi and the eight monasteries for the ascetics around the temple. Udupi became the center of devotional Hinduism and even today is considered as the hub of Vaishnavism and Vedanta. Madhvacharya was undoubtedly the most famous and influential personality of Tulu Nadu. Over its history, Tulu Nadu has been the melting pot for outsiders. The immigration continues even in the modern era. Many Northerners like Gujaratis and Sindhis have settled in Mangalore and become successful businessmen. It is the largesse of the heart of Tuluva people that does not discriminate between the people of any ethnicity, caste or creed. This quality is deeply rooted in their history

6. Yakshgana

Yakshagana Badaguthittu and Thenkuthittu Styles

To this maybe added the extraordinary dance ritual of Yakshagana, which is practiced in the form of bayalata, in open-air theaters. Yakshagana is a traditional folk dance form popular in Coastal Karnataka of Mangalore and Udupi and also North Kerala districts of Kasargod. It is the rendition of stories of the Hindu mythology and Puranas in the form of dance-drama. The most popular theme for bayalata is the story of Koti–Channaye, which has deep-rooted mythical significance in Tulu Nadu.

A trip to the coastal belt would be incomplete without watching the Yakshagana – an elaborate dance-drama performance unique to Karnataka. It is a rare combination of dance, music, song, scholarly dialogues and colorful costumes. A celestial world unfolds before the audience, as loud singing and drumming form a backdrop to dancers clad in striking costumes. Hence the name Yaksha (celestial) Gana (music). This is a night-long event, with elaborately adorned performers dancing to the beat of drums in open-air theatres – usually in the village paddy fields after the winter crop has been harvested. Traditionally, men portray all roles, including the female ones, though women are now part of Yakshagana troupes. A typical troupe consists of 15 to 20 actors and a Bhagavatha, who is the master of ceremonies and the main storyteller. The performances draw crowds from far and wide, with a fair-ground atmosphere pervading the venue till dawn.

Elements of Yakshagana

The Act: Each performance typically focuses on a small sub-story (known as ‘Prasanga’) from ancient Hindu epics of Ramayana or Mahabharata. The show consists of both stage performances by talented artists and commentary (performed by the lead singer or Bhagavatha) accompanied by traditional music.

The Music: Musical instruments used in Yakshagana include Chande (drums), Harmonium, Maddale, Taala (mini metal clappers) and flute among others.

The Dress: Costumes used in Yakshagana are very unique and elaborate. Large size head gear, coloured faces, elaborate costumes all over the body and musical beads on the legs (Gejje). Performers need great physique to perform with heavy costume for several hours and also strong voice and acting/dancing skills.

The Troupes: There are several popular troupes (known as Melas) performing Yakshagana throughout the year. Saligrama mela, Dharmasthala Mela, Mandarthi Mela, Perduru Mela, Katil Mela, Karnataka Mela, Surthkal Mela, Perduru Mela, Idagunji Mela are some of the leading names.

Experiencing Yakshagana

Yakshagana performances occur at multiple places in the districts of Udupi, South Canara and North Canara. Check on local media or your host to help identify an upcoming Yakshagana performance near you during your visit to coastal Karnataka districts.

Some shows are sponsored by local donors; few are performed at government sponsored events while others could be ticketed events. Most events run overnight from sunset to sunrise and patrons get to enjoy the elaborate performance and cultural extravaganza. Do not miss an opportunity to witness one of Karnataka’s unique art forms.


The southern (Thenkuthittu) form showcasing an authentic Shiva (left) and Veerabhadra (right) at a performance in Moodabidri, depicting Roudra Rasa
One of the traditional variations, the tenkutittu style, is prevalent in Dakshina Kannada, Kasaragod District, western parts of Coorg (Sampaje), and few areas of Udupi district. The influence of Karnatic Music is apparent in tenkutittu, as evidenced by the type of maddale used and in bhaagavathike. Yakshagana is influenced more by folk art blended with classical dance aspects. In tenkutittu, three iconic set of colours are used: the Raajabanna, the Kaatbanna, and the Sthreebanna.

The himmela in the tenkutittu style is more cohesive to the entire production. Rhythms of the chande and maddale coupled with the chakrataala and jaagate of the bhaagavatha create an excellent symphonic sound. The dance form in tenkutittu strikes the attention of the audience by ‘Dheengina’ or ‘Guttu’. Performers often do dhiginas (jumping spins in the air) and will continuously spin (sometimes) hundreds of times. Tenkutittu is noted for its incredible dance steps; its high flying dance moves; and its extravagant rakshasas (demons).

Tenkutittu has remained a popular form and has its own audience outside the coastal areas. The Dharmasthala and Kateelu durgaparameshwari melas (the two most popular melas) have helped to popularise this form. Several creative tenkutittu plays have been composed by noted scholars, such as Amritha Someshwara.


The Badagutittu style is prevalent in North Canara (Uttara Kannada District) and the northern parts of Udupi district from Kundapura to Byndoor. The Badagutittu school of Yakshagana places more emphasis on facial expressions, matugarike (dialogues), and dances appropriate for the character depicted in the episode. It makes use of a typical Karnataka chande.

The Badagutittu style was popularised by Shivram Karanth’s, “Yakshagana Mandira,” presented at Saligrama Village in Dakshina Kannada as a shorter more modern form of Yakshagana.[20]

Keremane Shivarama Hegde, the founder of the Yakshagana troupe, Idagunji Mahaganapati Yakshagana Mandali, is an exponent of the Badagutittu style of Yakshagana. He is also the first Yakshagana artist to receive the Rashtrapati Award from the president of India. He hails from the Honnavar taluk of Uttara Kannada (North Canara) District.

7. Kambla or Kambala

Tulunada Kambla or Kambala or Kambula
Tulunada Kambla or Kambala or Kambula

Kambala (or Kambla/Kambula) is an annual buffalo race held in the Tulunadu (southwestern Indian state of Karnataka). Traditionally, it is sponsored by local Tuluva landlords and households in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi of Karnataka and Kasaragod of Kerala, a region collectively known as Tulunadu.

The Kambala season generally starts in November and lasts until March. The Kambalas are organized through Kambala samithis (Kambala Associations), of which there are currently 18. Over 45 races are held annually in coastal Karnataka, including smaller remote villages such as Vandaru, Thonnase and Gulvadi.

I think Kambala is derived from ‘kampa-kala’, where the word ‘Kampa’ is related slushy, muddy field. The Dravidian origin of the word Kampa is kan+pa and ‘kala’ means field, where it is conducted. Another interpretation of modern Kambala is derived from ‘Kamba’, a pole used for water spurt during race by buffalo pairs.

Kambala is a sport. The Kambala racetrack is a slushy paddy field, and the buffaloes are driven by a whip-lashing farmer.

Traditional Kambala was non-competitive, and the pair was run one by one. In modern Kambala, the contest generally takes place between two pairs of buffaloes. In villages such as Vandaro and Choradi, there is also a ritualistic aspect, as farmers race their buffaloes to give thanks for protecting them from diseases.

Historically, the winning pair of buffaloes was rewarded with coconuts and bananas. Today, winning owners earn gold and silver coins. Some organising committees award an eight-gram gold coin to the winner.[6] In some competitions, cash prizes are awarded.

Decoration of Buffalo:
The buffaloes are decorated with colored Jhuls and head-pieces made of brass and silver (sometimes bearing the emblems of the sun and moon), and ropes which make a sort of bridle. The special towel used to cover the buffalo’s back is called the paavade (In Tulu).

Types of Kambalas

Traditionally, there were types of Kambalas

1. Pookere Kambala
2. Baare Kambla : The celebration of Bale Kambala was discontinued about 900 years ago. Bale means baby. During Small Kambala, the small-scale farmers prepare their field for paddy cultivation.
3. Kori Kambala: is a distinct agriculture-based celebration in Tulunadu. This refers to a kind of collective ploughing and planting on a fixed day for the enel(Tulu) cultivation. A general race of buffaloes is known as kori Kambla
4. Arasu Kambla
4. Devere Kambla
5. Baale Kambala

Legal Battle for Kambla

Many have criticized Kambala as cruel to the racing buffaloes, which are driven by whips. Noted animal-rights activist Maneka Gandhi expressed concerns about the ill treatment of buffaloes during the race. While Kambala organizers contend that whips are necessary to elicit maximum speed, government officials advise the riders to be gentle on buffaloes and avoid using whips during the race.

In 2014, based on lawsuits filed by animal welfare organizations, the Supreme Court of India ordered a ban on Kambala. The ban also covered Jallikattu (Sports with Bulls in Tamilnadu), a sport of hands-on bull taming. A government order lifted the ban on Jallikattu in January 2017, and the public asked for the ban on Kambala to be lifted, too.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 re-legalized the Kambala festival in Karnataka. Then-President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, promulgated the new law on 3 July 2017. Litigation continued but was resolved by the passage of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2018, which then-President Ram Nath Kovind approved on 19 February 2018.

Namma Kambla buffalo race is making its debut in Bengaluru in 2023

Namma Kambla took place in Palace Grounds in Bengaluru too in the month of November 2023 for 3 days. Originating from coastal Karnataka, the traditional buffalo race deeply ingrained in Tulunadu’s local culture promises a unique fusion of tradition and excitement, drawing participants and spectators alike to its debut in Bengaluru.

Over 100 pairs of buffaloes from the coastal region, the first competitive Kambala, or slush track buffalo race, unfolded on the extended 155m ‘kare’ (slush track) at the Palace Grounds, surpassing the standard 145m track. The venue was well-equipped with essential facilities, including a dedicated gallery for spectators, numerous stalls, and ample parking. Organizers were explored the implementation of a fully automated time (FAT) system, complete with a photo finish for Kambala.

8. Pili Vesha or Huli Vesha or Tiger Dance

Pili Vesha (In Tulu) or Huli Vesha (In Kannada) or Tiger Dance - Folk Dance of Coastal Districts of Karnataka.
Pili Vesha (In Tulu) or Huli Vesha (In Kannada) or Tiger Dance – Folk Dance of Coastal Districts of Karnataka.

Pili Vesha (Huli Vesha in Kannada or Pili Yesa in Tulu) is a folk dance in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi and is home to several talents who perform this form of dance.

According to Huli Vesha dancers, it is said that the tradition of ‘Huli Vesha’ (Tiger Costume)began after a mother from Mulihithilu took a vow that she will dress up her son as a tiger and make him to dance in front of Mangaladevi temple after he get well soon from physical illness. As her son got well soon, she made him dance in front of the temple and thus began this tradition during Navarathri. Later, the tiger dance has spread its wings worldwide.

Initially, to bring prominence to Sharadha Devi’s procession, ‘Atte’ was used to carry painted tigers. But, for the first time Bajilakere Kamalasha introduced the concept of tableau during the procession on the last day of Navarathri festivities.

Moreover, there are different steps in Pili Nalike (tiger dance) which are also called as ‘Paula Nalike’, (dance steps performed in tiger dance) that includes 2, 4, 6, and 8 steps. As various dancers have entered into Pili Nalike teams, even the steps of older Pili Nalike have undergone changes, as per the locals.

Earlier, there was a concept called ‘Kuri Hakuni’ which has been replaced by ‘Mudi Hakuni’. But, only a few teams can perform these stunts during their performance.

Now, the ‘Pili Nalike’ has become a matter of pride of Tulunadu. There are various teams emerging in Mangaluru and other parts of coastal region that are performing the Pili Nalike.

During the tiger dance, teams perform various stunts like picking up the coins from the plate, opening the cap of a soda bottle and breaking the coconut and lemon with the head. There are also many other stunts including front and reverse slip and forward slip.

‘Appe Pili’ (Mother Tiger) is an added attraction to the team of Pili Nalike (Tiger Dance). Usually, Appe Pili enters the dance when musicians play the song ‘Dharani Mandala Madyadolage … song.’

Commonly, there are black tigers in all the Pili Nalike teams. For each team ‘black tigers’ are a matter of pride. These black tigers become aggressive while performing stunts during their performance.

The concept of black tigers was first introduced by Kalicharan Friends. It is said that one Naveen had worn a black tiger costume for the first time in the district. Performing stunts in tiger dance is not an easy job. One should be physically fit and be ready to take risks.

Now, there are a number of competitions to showcase talent of tiger dance. Several organizations are holding tiger dance competitions.

The costumes and dance styles of the Pili Vesha dance in Mangaluru and Udupi districts are distinctly different. Even there are changes in the style of painting.

Tulunadu, Malabar and Western-Konkan – The Creation of Lord Parashurama

Parashurama Theme Park in Karkala Udupi District
Parashurama Theme Park in Karkala Udupi District

There are legends dealing with the origins of the western coast geographically and culturally. One such legend is the retrieval of the west coast from the sea, by Parashurama, a warrior sage. It proclaims that Parashurama, an incarnation of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the sea. As a result, the land of the western coast arose, and thus was reclaimed from the waters.

Therefore the the current day Konakan, Malabar and Tulunadu district was reclaimed by Lord Parashurama from the sea. According to the 17th-century Malayalam work Keralolpathi, the lands of Kerala and Tulu Nadu were recovered from the Arabian Sea by the axe-wielding warrior sage Parashurama, the sixth avatar of Vishnu (hence, Kerala is also called Parashurama Kshetram ‘The Land of Parasurama’). Parashurama threw his axe across the sea, and the water receded as far as it reached. According to legend, this new area of land extended from Gokarna to Kanyakumari. The land which rose from sea was filled with salt and unsuitable for habitation; so Parashurama invoked the Snake King Vasuki, who spat holy poison and converted the soil into fertile lush green land. Out of respect, Vasuki and all snakes were appointed as protectors and guardians of the land. P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar theorised, that Senguttuvan may have been inspired by the Parashurama legend, which was brought by early Aryan settlers.

About Tulu Language

Its Script and Dialects:
Tulu language is one of the five Dravidian languages of South India (Pancha- Bhasha, others are Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam). The four major languages spoken today are dominantly spoken in their respective states (Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala), whereas Tulu is spoken in a small niche, mainly in coastal Karnataka and Northern Kerala (Kasaragod district). About 2.5 million people speak Tulu and call it their mother tongue. Tulu Nadu is a region where many languages are spoken. While Kannada is the official state language, different ethnic communities in Tulu Nadu speak different languages. Tulu, derived from proto-Dravidian is the predominant language spoken by Hindus of various castes and by the Jains of Tulu Nadu. Konkanasthas and Catholics speak two variants of Konkani. Muslims speak a language of their own that is derived from Tulu as well as Malayalam.

There are about 24 Dravidian languages recognized by linguists. Of these the five languages in the South developed into major languages. Tulu is the only developed language that has not received the recognition it is due. However, Tulu language with its near extinct script has been generating much enthusiasm amongst the linguists, as it is now believed to be one of the oldest Dravidian languages.

Tulu Script

Tulu Vowels
Tulu Script – Tulu Vowels (Tulu Sorokulu)

The Tulu language has lost its prominence as a major language. Lack of serious literature in Tulu language has also hampered its claim as a language to be taught in educational institutes. Though it is certain that most of the literature has been lost because of difficulties in preserving palm leaf scrolls, the earliest literature available is from the 15th century. This indeed is a much later work than the language itself, which is thousands of years old. There was also some confusion regarding the script of Tulu language, which closely resembles Malayalam.

It was thought that priests from Tulu Nadu went south to Kerala to perform and learn Agama Sastra rituals, where they jotted notes borrowing the Malayalam alphabets. This was the prevailing thought of many researches although now there is a consensus that Tulu language possessed its own script before Malayalam script existed. Perhaps the reciprocal is true that the Malayalam script developed from Tulu script as the language predates Malayalam by more than a thousand years. The priests who went south are now credited with carrying mantras written in Tulu script to Kerala. Like Tamil and Malayalam, Tulu script is derived from the Grantha* script.

The earliest piece of literature, Tulu Mahabharata is from the 15th century written in Tulu script. Another manuscript that was discovered Tulu Devi Mahatme, a prose work like the Mahabharata, is also from the 15th century. Two epic poems written in 17th century namely Sri Bhagavata and Kaveri have also been found. Madhvacharya’s eight matts established in Udupi in the 13th century were centers of Tulu literature during his lifetime and thereafter. However, very little of this has survived. So it is not inconceivable (as it is claimed) that Madhvacharya himself did all his writings in the Tulu script. Other inscriptions discovered are Sanskrit mantras transliterated in Tulu script. It appears as though the Brahmins used the script mainly for this purpose.

In the first half of 19th century the German missionaries undertook a renaissance of the language. Unfortunately, they published Tulu literature and materials related to Christianity in the Kannada script as they had established printing presses in that language in Mangalore. In addition the German missionaries also produced Tulu lexicon and Tulu-English dictionary. They are also credited with transcription of Tulu folklore, Tulu proverbs and works on spirit worship in Tulu Nadu. Printing material in the Kannada script led to further disuse of the original Tulu script. By late 19th century Tulu script became remote and was endangered. Today there are no books or literature in the Tulu script and there are only a handful of Tuluvas who can read the script.

All the classic literatures discovered thus far are written only in one of the four dialects of the language, namely the Brahmin dialect. The dialect spoken by Brahmins in the southern part of Tulu Nadu is used in these manuscripts. The priests belonged to a sect of Tuluva Brahmins called the Shivalli Brahmins. (Only the Shivalli and the Sthanika sects in Tulu Nadu spoke the Brahmin dialect.) Tulu script was used by these Brahmins to write mantras. The Brahmin dialect also has imported many Sanskrit words into its dialect and lexicon.

The Common dialect, which is spoken by the non-Brahmin class, was not used in writings of Tulu. However, the Common dialect is used in many of the folk songs, proverbs and riddles. The folk songs called the Paardanas treasures reflective of the rich culture of Tulu Nadu. They also allow a glimpse into the society of Tuluva people. These were never written down and have been passed on through generations as oral traditional songs.

Tule Language and its Dialects

Research in Tulu language and script has been sorely lacking. In 1856 Robert Caldwell undertook a systematic study of the Tulu language with his monumental work, “A Comparative Grammar of Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages.” Caldwell called Tulu one of the most developed Dravidian languages. In 1872 J. Bigel wrote, “Grammar of The Tulu Language.” Then in the 20th century S. U. Panniyadi and L.V. Ramaswamy Iyer published more books about its grammar.

These authors contended that the language was well developed, and was one of the earliest off-shoots of proto-South Dravidian language, with many dialectal variations. (Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada also were derived from it, whereas Telugu was derived from proto-Central Dravidian). There is renewed interest in the language as evidenced by the fact that many universities both in India and abroad are promoting more research of Tulu language. Rashtrakavi Govinda Pai Research Center in Udupi has encouraged such research. Dr. D.N. Shankar Bhat and Dr. Padmanabha Kekunnaya have been doing commendable, ongoing research in the field.

Different regions within Tulu Nadu developed its own dialect of the language. The language developed with various dialects and peculiarities, unimpeded by the proximity of the regions. Five main such geographical divisions with dialectal variations can be seen.
1. Southwest: comprising of Kasargod District of Kerala
2. Southeast: Includes Sullia and Kodagu
3. South Central: comprising of Puttur, Belthangady and Bantwal
4. Northwest: area including Mangalore and Udupi
5. Northeast: includes Karkala.

Other languages have influenced some of the dialects in these regions. Thus Malayalam may have influenced Tulu in the Southwest (Kasargod), whereas in other areas Kannada has influenced it. The differences in the society also influenced the dialects. Brahmins developed their own dialect influenced by Sanskrit that they were proficient in. Four main social dialects have developed.

1. Brahmin Dialect
2. Jain Dialect
3. Common Dialect and
4. Harijan/Tribal Dialect

Brahmin Dialect – spoken by Shivalli and Sthanika Brahmins – is the language used in writing the few classical literature discovered thus far. They also borrowed Sanskrit words and pronunciation of words. Even the local Dravidian words were enunciated with retroflex words (unusual in Dravidian languages, where non-retroflex sounds are used).

Jain Dialect spoken by the Jains in the northern part of Tulu Nadu. They have a distinct dialect where the initial t and s have been replaced by letter h. As an example the word tare (head) is pronounced as hare. Saadi (path) is haadi.

Common Dialect is spoken by the majority of people (non-Brahmins) of Tulu Nadu, and is the dialect of commerce, entertainment and art. It is the language of the Paardana. It is subdivided into more than five groups as spoken by Bunts, Billavas, Mogaveeras, Gowdas and Kumabaras etc. Due to the similarity in these dialects, they are grouped under the common heading of Common Dialect or Common Tulu. The borrowed Sanskrit words in this dialect are invariably altered to a non-retroflex sound unlike in the Brahmin dialect where the words are pronounced just as in Sanskrit.

Harijan and Tribal Dialect is spoken by the Mera, Mansa, Harijan and Tribal classes. They closely resemble the Common dialect though in the South they still have maintained their distinction. The sound c replaces the sounds t, s, and c of other dialects. Hence tare is care and saadi is caadi. Onasu (meal) is pronounced onacu. Non-retroflex words are pronounced with retroflex in this dialect.

New words like baanaaru (Brahmin), jeerklu/jeerlu (children), dekke/meere/korage (husband) and dikkalu/meerti/korappolu (wife) are also found in this dialect.

There is a common perception that there are only two kinds of Tulu dialects, namely Brahmin and Common. Dr. P Kekunnaya suggests studying the language in four different dialects by combining both geographical variations in the dialects and the different social dialects. Hence the divisions studied are:
1. Sb: Brahmin dialect of Southwest, Southeast and South Central region.
2. Sc: Common dialects of the same regions in the South
3. Nb: Brahmin dialects of Northwest and Northeast.
4. Nc: Common dialects of the same regions in the North.

It is fair to say that Tulu is one of the five major Dravidian languages, the script of which has not received the attention it is due. The Tulu script was mainly used to write Sanskrit mantras by the priestly class. Lack of serious literature before 15th century hampered its claim as one of the legitimate South Indian languages. Some literary works have been unearthed recently. The German missionaries in the early 19th century, perhaps, did much disservice to the Tulu script as they opted to transliterate Christian literature into Tulu language but used Kannada script to do so.

But they are also credited with introducing print medium to the language, though in the Kannada script, thus helping in preserving many of the dying stories and folk songs. The dominance of Kannada print medium led to further disuse of the script. Currently there are no attempts at resurrecting Tulu language or the scripts in the universities and other institutions in the Tulu Nadu. The language and the script had remained a curiosity for researchers until recently but now there seems to be renewed interest in this ancient language. There seems to be some hope for a Tulu renaissance mainly because of works done by Padmanabha Kekunnaya, Drs. U.P and Susheela P Upadhyaya and the diligent work in the Rashtrakavi Govinda Pai Samshodhana Kendra in Udupi.

There are many households in Tulu Nadu with many Tulu manuscripts and inscriptions, especially in the Brahmin homes. Many have been lost because of lack of interest in attempts to preserving them. Though most of these are Sanskrit mantras written in the Tulu script their numbers must be significantly high.

Why Tulunadu State is not created for Tulu speaking people even though Indian states were created based on languages spoken?

Why Tulunadu State is not created for Tulu speaking people even though Indian states were created based on languages spoken?
Why Tulunadu State is not created for Tulu speaking people even though Indian states were created based on languages spoken?

Mostly, majority would be very disappointed and saddened if this happens because Tulunadu is like a bridge between Tulu Nadu and Karu Nadu. Tulunadu has great Tuluva Kings Alupa’s, and Tuluvas Koti-Chennayya, Verra Rani Rani Abbakka (First Woman Freedom Fighter of India), Karnad Sadashiva Rao, Rastra Kavi M. Govinda Pai, Panje Mangesh Rao, Dr. Shivaram Karanth, Ananth Pai (Founding Amar Chitra Katha) T.M.A Pai, Justice K.S Hegde, Santhosh Hegde, Dr. Devi Shetty, Sri. Girish Karnad, Udupi Ramachandra Rao (U.R Rao), Sri Madhwacharya, Vadiraja, Vishnuteertha, Vishwesha Teertha, Bannanje Govindacharaya, and many more. At the same time, we have had great Kannadigas as a part of our society like Vyasaraja, Raghavendra Swamy, Purandara Dasa, Vijaya Dasa, Narayan Murthy, Sri. Kuvempu, Sri. Da. Ra.Bendre, Sri. Maasti Venkatesh Iyengar, Prof. U.R. Ananthamurthy, Sri. V. K. Gokak, Dr. Chandrashekar Kambar and so on. I have never felt there is a difference between Tuluvas and Kannadigas. Both the communities are very much similar and hence belong to great Karnataka as great Kannadiga’s.

A lot of people are under the impression that Karnataka means just a state for Kannada speaking people. If that was the case, then languages like Tulu, Konkani, Kodava, Beary would never have flourished. All these languages are as much a part of Karnataka as Kannada. That is why our motto is “One state, many worlds”, which perfectly describes our state.

Tuluvas have always had excellent relationships with Kannadigas and vice versa. Great Tuluvas like Rashtrakavi M Govinda Pai, who is considered to be one of the greatest poets in Kannada than Tulu. Tuluvas have an excellent knowledge of Kannada and more often than not speak better Kannada than even some of the Kannadigas.

I think the majority of the Tuluvas don’t want a separate state. They have been very happy for generations together in Karnataka. Why would they want a separate state? Mangaluru is already the third most important city in Karnataka. Udupi and Mangalore are most important centers for tourism, pilgrimage, and trade in agriculture. Moreover, Udupi is not entirely a Tulu speaking district. Kundapura is a Kannada speaking taluk in Udupi and in fact, Kundapura Kannada is one of the dialects of Kannada. These two districts are in Karnataka. The other Tulunadu district is not even in Karnataka. But it was the second most important city after Dharwad during the Karnataka Ekikarana Movement. Unfortunately, the district went to Kerala after the States Reorganization Act of 1956 and even though the Mahajan Committee report explicitly said that this district should be in Karnataka in 1966, nothing has happened. V. Kakkillaya prepared a case for presentation before the commission, where K. R. Karanth, a former minister under Rajagopalachari in the then state of Madras and a leading advocate, represented the Samithi. The commission upheld the claim for merger of Kasaragod with the state of Karnataka. The Parliament of India is yet to take a final decision in the matter.

This district is none other than Kasargod district in Kerala, where the majority of people are Tuluvas and Kannadigas in a state where Malayalis are in majority. Karnataka Samithi, Kasaragod was established in 1955 to advocate a merger of Kasaragod with Karnataka state. Umesha Rao, popularly known as Gadinadu Gandhi, was the first president of the organization and the only person to be elected to the Kerala Assembly unanimously. On his death in 1957, B. V. Kakkillaya (was an Indian freedom fighter and leader of Communist Party of India from Karnataka)succeeded him as president until 1967.

A prominent figure in the movement for unification of Karnataka, B.V. Kakkillaya was later honored by the government of Karnataka, which gave the Suvarna Karnataka Ekikarana Award to the Samithi on the occasion of Suvarna Karnataka Rajyotsava in 2006. His photograph was among those used in the Karnataka Government’s Suvarna Karnataka calendar of 2006. B. V. Kakkillaya took over the presidency of the Samithi in 2000. During his term as president, the government of Kerala nominated him as a member of the State Level Committee for Linguistic Minorities in Kerala. He, too, received the Rajyotsava award in 2006.

In Karnataka CET, you can get a seat under this quota in medical and engineering colleges even if you have never studied in Karnataka. The only condition is that you or your parents must either be Kannadigas or must have studied in Karnataka. Do you know that even Tulu falls under this category? Yes, if your mother tongue is Kannada, Kodava, or Tulu, you are all treated equally and there is no discrimination. Overall, Kannadigas and Tuluvas have coexisted for centuries together and there is nothing but mutual respect and friendship between the two glorious communities.

I think majority of the Tuluvas living in Karnataka love the state as much as Kannadigas do. For centuries together, Tuluvas have worked hard and made Karnataka into what it is today. They are very happy here and don’t have any reason as to demand for a separate Tulunadu. I would love to see the Karnataka state government launch an agitation or make a proposal to include Tulu in the scheduled list of languages in our Constitution. This kind of gesture by the Karnataka government will surely win the hearts of all Tuluvas across the world and even those who are demanding a separate Tulunadu will be won over.

I think majority of the Tuluvas living in Karnataka or outside Karnataka are pretty much against any division of my beloved Karnataka. It took hundreds of years of struggle to get us Karnataka. It would be such a waste if we threw it all away over petty issues, which can be easily solved.

Check the category Tulu Traditions for more

Visit Our Sponsors: Mangalore Taxi and Udupi Taxi

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.