Friday, July 17, 2015

The Kannada History of Maharashtra

Dr. M Chidananda Murthy is a researcher, historian and scholar par excellence. Even at age 84, he has great grip of his research and presents his papers with amazing clarity. He has published a long list of papers and books throughout his life, and lots of debates happen on his findings. His strong support to Hindutva in particular makes his opponents very uncomfortable. His research on Tipu Sultan in particular, exposed the other side of Tipu which self-proclaimed seculars had a very hard time digesting.

I have met this extremely gentle human many times. I am thoroughly impressed with his ability to research into Indian history in a precise manner.

Today, I came across his column. "Earlier Karnataka was three times the size of today's Karnataka". If you can't read the font properly in the image below, use this link to read the Vijayavani epaper.

The focus of this article, with lots of historical proofs is to inform that during ancient and medieval periods, Kannada speaking areas were from Kaveri delta in today's central Tamil Nadu till Godavari in Nashik area of Maharashtra. As with everything in history, there would be for's and against's to such claims. But I thought it would be useful to give a quick translation so that those interested further in research, can pursue the topic.

Some snippets from his article, which extensively focuses on today's Maharashtra, and its Kannada past in many areas. Here are some districts of Maharashtra for which the Kannada influence has been researched and presented by Dr. Murthy in this article.
Districts of Maharashtra covered in this article. Pic: NIC
Sri Vijaya's Kavirajamarga from 850 CE, has given 8th and 9th century CE description that Karnataka, or the land of Kannada speaking people, extended from Kaveri to Godavari.

Sham. Bha. Joshi, Raja Purohit, and Alur Venkata Rao have done extensive research supporting the geographic claims of Sri Vijaya.

Chidananda Murthy has written "Bhashika Brihat Karnataka - From Nilagiri to Nashik". 

Deshabhakta Veer Savarkar is from Nashik district. His father's place is Bhagur. His mother's place is Kothur. Notice "Ur" or "Uru" in both places, that are distinct Kannada names. Savarkar's family dog was named "Kariya" (Darkie or Blackie in Kannada). Savarkar's father used to call Vinayak as "Balam Bhatta" during younger days. That name is very popular in Karnataka.

Maharashtra's Mahanubhava pantha (sect) was started during 13th century by Shri Chakradhar swami. Chakradhara's guru was Gundama Bhatta. Gundama is a medieval Kannada name.

Nashik district has a distinct tribe called "Hatkar Kaanadi" people. Maybe they are named that way because they lived in Huts and spoke Kannada (Kaanadi). Per Chidananda Murthy, they are the native people of Nashik from ancient times. Even today that tribe speaks sentences like:
  • Ninge magadir yaanayudu? (How many children do you have?)
  • Nange ain magadir, eddu magardir aaidu (I have 5 sons and 2 daughters). 
  • Nange maneg hogadu usiraat (it is time for me to go home).
Here, magadir, magaLdir, usiraat (avasara) are all old Kannada words. Similarly Hatkar Kaanadi people use kundal (hair), ba (mother) and many other words showing that North Maharashtra's Nashik area had Kannada population 1000 years ago.

Next, Murthy tells about Mumbai. A famous place today in Mumbai, Malabar hills is per him named after "male" people. In Kannada Male (maley) means hill. British would have used this for the hilly people (ghaati) who lived there. In 1818 (or 1819), when a new British person Mount Stuart Elphinstone was appointed as the Governor of Mumbai, Malabar hills people submitted a letter in Kannada welcoming him. British used the word "Canarese" or "Kanarese" to describe Kannada speakers. That's why they named Uttara Kannada and Dakshina Kannada districts as North Canara and South Canara districts.

Some evidences suggest that Mumbai's original inhabitants, the KoLi people, spoke Kannada centuries ago. BA Salettur has opined that long ago, today's Mumbai area was inhabited by Kannada speaking people.

Talking further about Mumbai, the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal, placed Bombay in possession of the British Empire in the 1660s, as part of dowry of Catherine to Charles. Dr. Murthy says that in 1670, when the British brought in new law in English, they translated it into Portuguese and Canarese (Kananda) to help the inhabitants or Bombay. Goa during those times also had many Kannada speakers. In 1737, a British writer has described Kannada as a language of "lower class" people of Mumbai.

Dr. Murthy presents two maps - One from 1909 (English and Kannada) and one from 1940 (Marathi text book), that indicate the contemporary Karnataka of those times. The 1940 text book map published by British government, named "Arvachin Karnataka" (Modern Karnataka) has Belagavi/Belagav in it. The 1909 clearly is much larger than what Karnataka is today. It includes today's Goa, Belagavi, Kolhapur and even Solapur in Karnataka.
Post 1956 Karnataka - Map: Wiki
Of course, the districts were merged into administration of various neighbouring kings or provinces during British era. You can compare that side by side with Karnataka since 1956 States Reorganization done by Jawaharlal Nehru's government to get an idea of districts within today's Karnataka and the ones which are with other states today.

Dr. Murthy continues district-wise in Maharashtra. He says that betel leaf growers of Nashik are "Tigula" people, the same ones found in Karnataka speaking Kannada or Tamil. South Maharashtra's districts like Solapur, Kolhapur, Nanded, Sangli etc. have most of their ancient shila shasana (inscriptions) in Kannada.

Shri Siddheshwar Temple, Solapur. Pic - Wiki
Solapur's village deity (grama devata) is Shri Siddheshwar. His name was Siddha Rama, and he was a vachana writer 800 years ago. His father was Muddu Gowda. They are from Moradi village of Solarpur. Moradi or Mordi in Kannada means small hill. Vachanas are Kannada literature of Lingayat or Veerashaiva community. So the Kannada origin of Solapur goes back centuries or even millenium. 

In Nanded, common people call laying foundation for a new house as "Kesaru Kalliku". (In Kannada, Kesaru = wet mud, Kallikku = put stone).

Solapur district has a very famous temple for Vithoba or Vitthala in Pandharpur. Marathi scholar RB Shere clearly attributes Kannada origin to Vithoba. Sant Dnyaneshwar in one of his Marathi abhangaha screams - "O Vithala.. You are Kaanadi (Kannadiga).. Hence you are not hearing my pleas". You can read more on Sant Dnyaneshwar, Marathi and Kannada in my earlier blog here. In the famous Pandharpur temple, the last song sung for Lord Vithoba after all puja is in Kannada - to put him to sleep.

Khandoba or Mailara. Pic - Wiki
Jejuri near Pune has the famous Khandoba temple. Khandoba is a Marathi name for Mailara, a very famous name for Shiva in Kannada. If you travel in North Karnataka, especially Hoovina Hadagali area, millions of people worship Shiva in the form of Mailara or Mailara Linga, with almost exactly same description as Khandoba. In Khandoba's major festivities, people near Pune even today shout "El Koti Ughe" or "Khande rayaca Elkot". Here "Elu" and "Kote" are Kannada words meaning Seven forts.

Coming to literature, at the feet of Bahubali's statue in Shravana Belagola in south Karnataka, there's an inscription "Shri Chavundaraje karaveeyale". This from 983 CE, is believed to be the earliest Marathi inscription ever found. But Kannada was existing for centuries before that. Per Dr. Murthy, Marathi existed in the northern regions of Godavari by then. So this inscription was for those people, along with Kannada and Tamil inscriptions for other people visiting this place. Till 12th or 13th century, most of today's Maharashtra below Godavari river were Kannada speaking areas. Badami Chalukyas, Kalyana Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and many more were ruling over these areas. It was only since the Yadavas of Devagiri about 800 years ago, that Marathi spread widely into today's southern Maharashtra area, replacing Kannada (and some Telugu).

Source: Wiki
The famous Elephanta caves near Mumbai, were built and temples carved by Kannada kings - Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas. Before that, Pulikeshi II had fought Harshavardhana at Narmada banks itself, going far north of Godavari river. And the only battle Harsha lost in his life was this one!

World famous Kailasa natha temple, Ellora. Pic: Wiki
Chalukya emperor Pulikeshi's inscriptions are found in the world famous Ajanta caves today in north Maharashtra. It was during Chalukya and Rashtrakuta empires Ajanta and Ellora became great centers of arts and temples. The world famous Kailasa natha temple in Ellora was built by Kannada king Krishna I before 774 CE using a unique top to bottom rock chiseling technique. It is estimated that about 400,000 tons of rocks were scooped out over hundreds of years to construct this monolithic structure!! The contribution to Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta, Solapur, Pandharpur, Kolhapur and many other areas of Maharashtra by Kannada kings and people is immense.

Then Dr. Murthy goes into the vocabulary of Marathi language. There are lot of Kannada origin words there. Olage or Oule (inside), Kolu (stick), Tupa (ghee), Mudila (before, first), Oli (letter), Konth (weapon), Balanti (mom or newborn), AŠłćakitta (nutcracker), Akka (sister), Anna (brother), Veergal (stone inscription for a martyr), Mechu (small sword like device), Hon (gold)... If you go into depth, you will find that Marathi has a Kannada or Dravidian foundation from ancient and medieval times, but the upper structure is that of Aryan language. Even today's Devanagari script being used as a standard to write Marathi, is an adaptation of recent centuries. For almost a millennium Modi alphabets were used to write Marathi (and occasionally Kannada in Maharashtra).

Per Dr. S Srikanta Shastry, Shatavahana empire that ruled over Maharashtra 1700 years ago, had lot of Kannada (and Telugu) impact.

Then Dr. Murthy finally mentions about Ananthpur and Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh, and Dharmapuri, Salem and Nilgiri areas of Tamil Nadu, to cover the ancient Kannada links.

The purpose of me translating this is not for any political reason. I have good friends from every language. I just found it historically interesting to see the linguistic overlaps. In some cases, I have added a few words of my own, giving additional Wiki or other links to establish better connection. Just like any case involving neighbours in India, you can also find the other side of overlap, if a research is presented properly.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Amazing Tamil Nadu Temples

If you have a desire to see the glory of Hindu Dharma, via medieval or ancient temples, Tamil Nadu is the place to go. There's no second thought about it. Luckily, most massive temples have been retained in the original shape and splendor, when unfortunately many other states in India couldn't during foreign invasions.  I made five trips in the past five years and an opportunity came for a sixth trip - a trip with lots of temples to see in TN and PY. I immediately grabbed the invitation of friend Bharath and got into the vehicle.

Let me narrate some interesting things about each place we visited last weekend.

First of all, our interest is in covering all the five Pancha Bhoota Sthala Linga or Pancha Tatva Linga. There is one major and historic temple dedicated for each of the five basic elements of nature as shown in an image from Wiki here.  Three months ago, we had seen the Agni Linga temple in Thiruvannamalai. This time we aimed at three, but ended up doing two.

So we got started, in an anticlockwise road trip, heading straight to Tiruchirapalli or Trichy, the place of our first Shiva Linga temple - Jambukeshwarar.

Once we finished eating chapati at the local restaurant, we started asking common people in Trichy. Where is Jambukeshwara temple? Five queries and no one answered properly. Then I found that we were asking in the wrong way. Made some calls and found that we should be asking for Thiruvanaikaval Kovil (Kovil in Tamil = Temple). Got the answers immediately. I must say that common people in Tamil Nadu have always been very helpful and friendly. We just have to figure out some basic Tamil speaking skills.. that's it. Kovil = Temple, Perumal = Vishnu, Siva = Shiva, Periya = Big etc...

To our surprise, we booked a hotel within half a KM from the great Srirangam Vishnu temple, which is not far from the Jambukeshwara temple. We set out to see Shiva temples. But our first visit next morning had to start with Vishnu Bhagawan! That's called divine planning.

So we were there to see sleeping Lord Vishnu (Ranga natha) in our proper uniforms :)

You will be amazed at the vast nature of this Srirangam temple complex. This is one of the Tri-Ranga (3 Rangas) along the Kaveri river. The first one being Sriranga Patnam near Mysuru, the second one at Shivana Samudra near Gaganachukki falls and the third one being this Srirangam near Trichy. There were nine massive gopuras/traditional doors from the street. There is a 1000 mantapa (pillar) auditorium. There's the (jiva) samadhi of the famous Vaishnava Guru Ramanujacharya. There must be at least 50 smaller temples within the complex itself.

It will take a full day just to pay proper visit to each deity within this massive and ancient temple complex. Our friend Nagesh chanted Purusha Sukta in one of the Rama temple and we were elated along with the local Purohit. Great darshan, great food (paid, not free) and a wonderful place to visit.

Next stop, the mighty Jambukeshwara temple for water tatva of Shiva. And to our total surprise, we entered right when the abhisheka was happening in the main temple. It was fabulous to sit outside the small garbha gudi (sanctum sanctoram) of the temple, besides small holes in the wall, and watch the pouring of liquids over this very ancient Linga, and then decorating it with various pastes and cloths.

This temple has interesting history involving an elephant and a spider worshiping the Linga.

They do very nice Gow-puja (Cow Worship) in this temple after the main abhisheka.

And of course, the thing which caught my eye was this.. We can discuss that some time later.

So our first major Shiva temple was done. Vishnu had called us even without our planning at Srirangam. Time to head east to the glorious UNESCO heritage city of Tanjavur. No surprises here. The massive ~13 feet tall Shiva Linga (Brihadeswarar) in one of the greatest buildings ever built by ancient and medieval world - the BIG temple. You have to visit this place to understand the immense technology Indians had 1000 years ago. In this Kaveri river delta area devoid of any big granite mountainous, Chola empire got a massive 81,600+ KG stone, and hoisted it above 200 feet. The total height of the gopura or vimana on the temple is 216 ft (66 m) high. Just imagine the technology to do this 1005 years to be precise? No where in the world you can find such a massive feat, which is living even today surviving tsunamis, earthquakes and of course, human invaders!

And of course, Bharat makes it look small.. really small :)
I felt like... I am witnessing 1000 years of Bharatiya history in just a few minutes.. Awesome and proud experience. Felt so good about our ancient shilpis, rajas and everyone who left us such great legacy.

If you have time, please browse through lots of pictures in here to know how happy we were during this entire trip, particularly the Tanjavur Periya Kovil (Big Temple) visit.

Next stop.. Kumbakonam. A city of temples where there are 188 temples within the municipal limits of a small town of 1,40,000 people. And if you include smaller temples, they say over 1500 temples are there in and around this city of temples!! Of course we wanted to visit a lot, but had time for only one.  The big Adi Kumbeswarar temple. We had a wonderful time here watching many unique things. The pujari showed us the place within the temple where the great Raghavendra Swamy had sat and meditated. They also showed the Devi (Durga) with nandi in front of her, not lion/tiger. They showed us a slight tilt of the main Linga and told that it's because of this kona (angle) of the kumbha (one above linga), it is named Kumbha Konam. You also have 9 temples around Kumbakonam, for each Nava graha (nine planets in Hinduism). We surely needed a week, just for this temple town!

We had to then drive into Puducherry enclave within TN, near Karaikal beach in the night. Our next stop was Tirunallar Saniswaran Temple at Tirunallar in Puducherry Union Territory. The specialty here is that 1000s of people come to take a dip in the pond, and leave their wet cloths on the banks of the pond, to get away from Lord Shani's wrath.
Image: Wiki

We followed what 1000s do. A proper bath in that pond, giving arghya to Surya deva early morning from within water, leaving our cloths, and then heading to the ancient temple in the town.

Just like the 100s of other big temples in Tamil Nadu, we had walk past many arches (gopuras) and finally get a beautiful darshan of Shani Deva. And to get a bonus, we were allowed to do a full Rudra abhisheka at a Shiva temple behind the Shani temple. Our Nagesh, the knowledgeable purohit, made us do abhisheka on the spatika Linga that he had carried from Bengaluru. It was a divine experience chanting the Vedic Rudra and Chamakam at this ancient temple. We loved every moment of it. Best part, I could do this on Ekadashi day, which is now my fasting day :)

Now overwhelmed with temples after temples, we took some beach breaks. It was emotional visiting the Karaikal Tsunami memorial, remembering the 1000s who perished during the 2004 mega Indian ocean Tsunami. 

Now time to head north. Next stop Chidambaram mega dancing Shiva temple. But since it opens only in the evening, we had time for some fun trip through the mangrove filled backwaters of Pichavaram. Our "vocal" skills and funny hand movements came handy when going inside the shallow mangrove backwaters :)
Even our boatman started off ->

Playing in the backwaters, climbing up some mangroves and paddling the boat was really fun. I am told that this is the world's second largest mangrove wetland!

And our boatman told us that this is the same mangrove area where the famous Kamal Hasan song from the movie Dasavataram was shot.

Next stop, the great Chidambaram temple. This great Hindu temple of South India that has held its prominence for over 2000 years is a must visit place for any temple enthusiast. The Shiva in here is associated with the Akasha (or sky/ether) tatva (essence) among the pancha bhootas (five basic elements sustaining life). This holy temple has been built and repaired by Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Vijayanagara and Chera kingdoms over the past 2000 years.

And, I insist that you learn more about the significance of Chidambaram temple's design.  Focus on why the roof has been laid by 21,600 golden tiles with the word Shiva nama inscribed on them representing 21600 breaths!!

Around the 9th minute of this famous video of Carl Sagan - Cosmos of India, you can see the description of Nataraja (Dancing Shiva), for whom this Chidambaram temple is dedicated to.

All I can say is... Srirangam, Jambukeshwara, Tanjavur, Kumbha Konam, Tirunallar Shani and now Chidambaram Nataraja. Overwhelming architecture, significance and puja tradition for millenium.
Incredible trip!! How can I forget the awesome tender coconut water in Kadalur, to break the Ekadashi fast? :)

Lastly, how can we end up such a fabulous trip without some fun in water? That too when we are close to the Goa of the east coast, Puducherry? We stayed at a nice resort right on the beach, danced in the beach at midnight, saw sun rise at the beach, offered arghya to Lord Surya after a swim, and then had super fun in the resort pool.

Lastly, visited the pious Aurobindo Ashram at Puducherry.. A small and silent zone in the French legacy town.

While returning via Tiruvannamalai, another great Shiva temple (Agni link) which we had seen 3 months back, we had some nice fun on the road trip too.. like watching this crazy scooter driver ->

Overall.. great fun. If you want historic temples, amazing Dharmic puja traditions in Sanskrit and Tamil, and fun beaches, head to these places I have listed. You will have a great time.. guaranteed!

Now that 3 of the 5 Shiva Tatva temples covered this year, hoping to do the other two - Kanchi (in TN) and Kalahasti (in AP) soon. Om Namah Shivaya!