Efforts to preserve 2000-Year old Tulu culture(Article)

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New Delhi, Dec. 22 (ANI):The month of December was marked by agitations in different parts of the country for the carving out of separate states like Telangana in Andhra Pradesh, Gorkhaland in West Bengal, Bodoland in Assam, Vidharbha in Maharashtra and Harit Pradesh in Uttar Pradesh.

For a while, the agitations made people ask whether it was time for the appointment of a second States Reorganisation Commission after half a century.

In contrast to all the turbulence, I was witness to another effort along the western coast of India, the South Kanara and Udupi districts of Karnataka, to revive and consolidate the centuries old Tulu culture. According to scholars, Tulu was the first off shoot of the Proto-South Dravidian language family 2000 years ago. The people of the region find mention in Asoka's edicts, which refer to them as 'Satiya Puta' while Tamil Sangam literature refers to them as 'Kosher'.

The inhabitants of Tulu Nadu, which includes the former district of Dakshina Kannada-now divided into South Kanara and Udupi districts-along with the adjacent areas of Kasaragod district of Kerala, have a distinct culture, though their mother tongue, Tulu, has no living script. The original Tulu script, which is over twenty centuries old, is now defunct and has not been in vogue for over 300 years.

The present culture of Tulu areas is composite in nature. People of different communities - Hindus, Muslims-referred to as Beary-Christians, Jains - live together. Besides the famous Sri Krishna Temple of Udupi, the area also has Jain temples, Christian churches and Masjids.

The most famous Jain temple is the 1000 pillar 'Basadi' at Moodubidri and the stone statue of Mahabali or Mahaveeera at Karkala, Venoor and Dharmastala. People of the region are keen to conserve the old Tulu culture, which is in danger of being swept away by modernisation.

Tulu Nadu is located west of the Western Ghats, along the Arabian Sea coast from Coondapur in the north to Kasargod in the south. It has retained and absorbed various cultures, for centuries, and grown richer in the process. Today, the languages that are used in the region include Tulu, Kannada (the state language), Konkani , Hindi and Urdu. An estimate is that nearly a million people speak Tulu.

Tulu Nadu is also well known for the banks that have originated there. It was said that people of the area may not be rich, but they know how to manage the money of the rich. The banks, which originated in the area, are the Canara Bank, the Syndicate Bank, the Corporation Bank and the Vijaya Bank - which have all been nationalized -- and the Karnataka Bank, which is still a private holding.

The area is also known for its educational institutions. The Basel Mission was followed by the Roman Catholic institutions. The district was known for the famous St Aloysius College, which is more than a century old. It is now known for its medical, engineering and other professional institutions. The earliest came under the umbrella of Manipal-the Kasturba Mediacal College and the Manipal Institute of Technology - were founded four decades ago.

Many more professional training institutions have mushroomed, including dental, nursing and even fashion technology. Who has not heard of Aishwarya Rai and Shilpa Shetty who belong to the region?

The two coastal districts had the advantage of having colleges within an hours' bus travel from any village. The spread of education has seen young men from the area settle in almost all parts of the country in banks or professional institutions - as doctors or engineers and now IT experts. A question that must have risen among many elders must have been - is our Tulu culture being swept away?

It was natural that many must have felt that it was necessary to conserve the culture of the region, which has produced authors of the repute of Shivarama Karanth, Muddana, Manjeshwar Govind Pai , Sara Abubakar , and many others

A fallout has been the organization of the International Tulu Convention-Vishwa Tulu Sammelano 2009 - organized from September 19 to December 13 at different centers in Tulu speaking districts. An effort was made to project the Tulu language, attire of the people of the area, their food specialties and life style.

The Tulu Convention was organized by Padma Bhushan Dr Veerendra Heggade. Among the Tuluvas who visited the convention and participated in various events included the Swamiji of Pejavar, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr Yediyurappa, Home Minister of Karnataka, V.S. Acharya, the Central Law Minister Veerappa Moily, the Governor of Uttaranchal Margaret Alva, and former Central Minister Oscar Fernandes, Fifteen persons from Tulu Nadu, who had distinguished themselves in various fields , were honoured at the convention.

Participating in the convention were artistes from the region, who performed traditional Yakshagana episodes, the bootha (or spirit) worship, Tulu dramas and Hari Kathas. A typical Tulu village was erected which depicted how in village schools, temples, masjids and churches co-existed, along with local officials and professionals like teachers and doctors. The village also depicted the crafts that still exist and depend on local crops like rice, sugar cane, areca and cocoanut.

Over seven lakh people participated in the culminating phase of the Tulu convention, which succeeded in instilling in the people a pride in the Tulu culture. The address by Law Minister Veerappa Moily, a prominent Tuluva who was the Chief Minister of the State and a well -known scholar having authored the Ramayana Anveshanam and other works which won him the coveted Moorthidevi award from the Jnanapith foundation, echoed the desire of the listeners.

Veerappa Moily told the listeners that he would try to follow the appeal of the Tuluvas for inclusion of their language in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution. The demand for inclusion was made in 2002, following a conference in the national capital, but it foundered. He said that there have been recent instances when languages which did not have an active script were given the status.

The epilogue to the conference was an address by its President, Veerendra Heggade, a Jain heading the Hindu Dharmastala Manjunatheshwara temple, who said that his greatest satisfaction was to see the active participation of Hindus, Christians and Muslims in the Tulu sammelan, in a spirit of togetherness and feeling that they belonged to a family.

Having witnessed it, I wish the sentiment echoes in other parts of the country as well.

I Ramamohan Rao, former Principal Information Officer, Government of India.

E:mail: raoramamohan@hotmail.com(ANI)

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