Deluge of Atlantis

Deluge of Atlantis
Deluge of Atlantis

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Guest Blogger Jayasree - Mundas - a fused culture of Tamil and Sanskrit speaking Vedic society (Mundas -10)

Mundas - a fused culture of Tamil and Sanskrit speaking Vedic society (Mundas -10)

Previous articles in this series:-

One of the common views held by many scholars is that ‘Aryans’ or Hindus influenced the Mundari people such that these people had started worshiping “Aryan” Gods. The same explanation is given to justify the presence of Sanskrit words in their language. However a closer examination of their festivals and practices give rise to a view that such ‘Aryan’ practices are running basically in their culture. Another important observation is that they all have had some connection with peninsular India and ancient Tamil or proto-Tamil. 

The basic problem is in thinking that Mundas are different from Hindus. All the features and ideas of their culture are seen in rural India even today. They are found in Tamil Sangam texts too that describe the culture that existed 2000 years ago. Texts like “Malai padu kadaam” and “Maduraik kaanchi” describe the life style of different types people living in forests and hills and we do find them similar to the life style and beliefs of Mundas. The Mundari speaking people show a close semblance to the life style in Peninsular India. We will discuss them in this article.

The Vedic or “Aryan” festivals of Mundas.
The Mundas celebrate Bissho karma puja which is the same as Vishwa Karma Puja – Vishwa Karma being the Creator-architect. It is easy to attribute this to some influence from ‘Hindus’. But their celebration of “Asharhe Puja” in Ashada month is something that Vedic society was celebrating but had given up long ago. This is similar to “Ashada Puja” in the Vedic society in which Goddess Saraswati was invoked as Vaak Devi to help in determining the level of prosperity of the upcoming rainy season. The available record of this Puja is found only in Brihad samhita authored by Varahamihira. {1) This puja was in vogue before the times of Varahamihira. No wonder Mundas worship Goddess Saraswati too which people think is an influence from Hinduism.

Monsa Puja
Another festival is the Monsa Puja which they celebrate in Shravan month. For Mundas, Monsa signifies serpents. Their belief in Monsa as a serpent God is so indigenous and so deep rooted that whenever they see a snake in the dream, they connect it to Monsa Devi. In Vedic culture there is Goddess Manasa Devi with a hood of a snake upon her head. Manasa Devi appears with a child in her hand.  
Pic courtesy:-  

There is a story behind this appearance of Manasa Devi,  narrated in Mahabharata. This story recognises the child in Manasa’s hand as Astika who was born to release the ancestors. Hindus believe that the snake signifies an impediment to getting progeny and worship of snake removes this impediment. The iconography of Manasa Devi seems to be the precursor to this belief. By worshiping Manasa Devi who is a personification of snake, one is blessed with a child. The child is desired primarily to pay off ancestral debts through ancestral worship. This concept is very much original and oldest concept of the Vedic society. The accessory elements may be missing in Mundari Monsa Devi. But the snake identity is retained by them. Monsa Devi could not have been an adopted concept as they have dream interpretations for Monsa. It must have been a former concept that was retained by them even after they had gone into isolation.
The same idea of Manasa Devi with a child is there in Tamil nadu by the name Isakki amman. 

This Goddess is found in many regions of Tamilnadu where some valorous women in the deed of protecting a child had been deified as Isakki. There is mention of Isakki as Iyakki in the 1st century AD text of Silappadhikaram, thereby establishing this deity as an olden concept. By the name Iyakki, it means that she is one who ‘drives’ the world / souls. She is Iccha shakthi of Creator God. That is identified as Manasa Devi. Thus a similar meaning with a similar iconography had existed throughout India. The original idea must have been Monsa Devi worshiped by Mundas. The idea of Monsa with serpent related to progeny could have been converted into forms of Manasa and Isakki, perhaps after Parashurama ushered in Devi worship through his Kalpasutra.

Plough – festival, Akshay Tritiya and Rohini
The paddy sowing festival of Santals is called “Ero”. It is done on Akshaya Tritiya  in the month of Chithrai– on the day when Sun and Moon exalts simultaneously. Even Toda people have a celebration on Akshaya Triteeya! This day is an important day in Vedic society. How did the Mundari people come to possess the knowledge to compute the date of Akshaya Triteeya if they had not had that knowledge by themselves – from the time of their previous habitat?   
A surprising connection to this day is that it is the day of Parashurama’s birthday! This day must have been an important day in the coastal region of Konkan and Malabar. Toda people hailing from there can be expected to have remembered this day but lost out the significance in course of time. The Santali tradition of remembering this day for ploughing might have come from an early Tamil practice. The Tamils had a tradition of starting the first ploughing called “ponnEru” (golden plough) in the month of Chithrai. It continues even today. The plough is called “Er” or “Eru” in Tamil. The festival Ero sounds like Tamil “Eru” (yEru) which means plough.
On the day of Akshaya Tritiya, Moon will be in the asterism of Rohini (Aldebaran). On this day the agricultural tribes of Jharkhand including the Mundari people start sowing the seeds. The star Rohini is identified with Creator God Brahma. Anything to do with growth and development is done on this day. This is a concept of Vedic society. The Mundas and other tribes of Jharkhand sow the seeds on this day, but without any pomp and festivities. This is something unusual for a society that is known for songs and dances for every activity. Perhaps this day coinciding with Parashurama Jayanathi could have nipped out the festivities! However the day was not discarded due to its significance for growth related activity. The absence of festivity does indicate a conscious decision to do away with it due to Parashurama’s connection to this date. But this reason could have been forgotten over time. 

Today this date had been commercially exploited by gold merchants calling people to buy gold. Originally this date was used as an ideal time for starting the agricultural practices to get a ‘golden’ harvest. 
From axe-culture to Plough culture.

In this context it is apt to make a comparison between ‘axe’ culture and ‘plough’ culture. Axe culture is identified with Parashurama and Plough culture is identified with Balarama, another avatar of Vishnu. In Parashurama’s times, new settlements were made by clearing the forests. Axe was the main implement to cut the trees. The Bhargava people of Parashurama’s clan fell out with Haihaya rulers and were forced to move out of Vindhya ranges. They were said to have made new settlements by clearing the forests.

In his times Parashurama was known to be carrying the axe always. Even the Mundari speaking people carry the axe all the time. Particularly the Savaras are known to be carrying it always. There was even an attempt to decipher the name Savara from the Scythian word Sagaris having the meaning axe. In the words of Cunningham, “It seems therefore not unreasonable to infer that the tribe who were so called took their name from their habit of carrying axes. Now it is one of the striking peculiarities of the Savars that they are rarely seen without an axe in their hands. The peculiarity has been frequently noticed by all who have seen them.” {2}

The Asur- Marundas also must have carried the axe to procure wood for furnaces. The Sanskrit name of axe as Parashu exists in Asur clan names as Parsa. However the common word for axe in Mundari language sounds closer to its Tamil equivalent. In Tamil the axe is called as “Kodari”. In Mundari language a small axe is called as “Konde”. Likewise the plough is called as “Hada” in Mundari – similar to its Sanskrit equivalent ‘Hala’. But the first ploughing is called as “Ero” – similar to the Tamil word “Er” for plough.
Makar festival.
The Makar parba or Makar parva is celebrated by Santals of the Mundari speaking people. The words Makar and Parva are Sanskrit but the festival is similar to Tamil festival of Pongal celebrated on Makar Sankaranthi. It is a three day celebration in Santali as well as Tamil tradition. On the first day that comes before Makar sankaranthi,  Santali children and youth burn logs of wood in the morning in a celebration called “Kumbha”. On the same day Tamils burn discarded things in the morning in a celebration called “Bhogi”.
Maghe festival.
The Maghe festival coming on Full Moon of Margashira is related to Dattatreya Jayanthi. However this was also the day when “Paavai nonbu” was started in Tamil lands. But the features of Tamil Paavai festival is not found  in Maghe Parba. Maghe parba resembles only Dattatreya Jayanthi that was discussed in Part 2. This festival bears the imprints of an earlier memory of the Vedic society.

Phagu festival.
Phagu festival is related to Holi festival. It is celebrated on the full moon of the Phalguni month. The name Phagu is corrupted from Phalguni. It was a very old festival in the Vedic society as it is about Holika, the aunt of Prahalad. This has reference to the Narasimha Avatar,that preceded Parashurama’s times.
Tamil culture in Mundas.
The flower festival of Sarhul celebrated by the Munda people resembles such festivals noted in ancient Tamil lands. Sarhul sounds like “Sarakonnai” flower of Tamil lands 

Sarakonnai flower

The first flower in spring and first rains in summer were celebrated in Tamil culture. Even today “raining the flower” festival (Poo-chorithal) is celebrated in almost all the Amman temples in Tamil lands in the month of Chithrai. Sarhul of Mundas seems to resemble that.
The Karam festival is related to Kadamba festival of the Konkan region which was discussed in Part 1.
Remnants of Skanda culture in Savaras.

One example of a very olden connect with Peninsular India is seen in the traditional names that Savaras have for their religious functionaries. They have a village priest, a Shaman, a helper to the Shaman and one who does funeral rites. Shamanism in India can be traced back to Skanda cult. Even today one can witness Shaman practices among Skanda devotees on popular festival days for Skanda. In the Tamil Sangam age it was too widespread and there were people called “Velan” who used to do fierce dances to the accompaniment of drum-beats to drive out the evil spirits or to spell oracles. This tradition is said to come in Kura-magal community of Valli, the local tribal girl whom Skanda married. Kura- magal means the girl from Kurava community. (There is a Korwa clan among Mundari speakers!).
The Shaman priest of Savaras bears a similar name – “Kuranmavan”. {3}  This is a Tamil word meaning “the guy of the Kurava clan”. Kura-magal is a female and Kura-mavan is a male.
The helper to this Shaman priest is “Idaimayan”. This also sounds like a Tamil word “Idai-magan” the one who comes in between or in the middle – meaning one whose services are taken in between, or one who comes in the middle in the hierarchy.
The one who does funeral rites is known as “Siggamavan”. ‘Mavan’ in this word is a Tamil word used in colloquial form for ‘magan’ – meaning person.  Sigga perhaps comes from “Sigi” in Tamil which means fire! As one engaged in keeping up the funeral fire, it is perfectly logical that he was called as “Sigi-mavan” that corrupted as “Sigga mavan” meaning “the guy working on fire”
Pic courtesy:- 
Project Gutenberg's Castes and Tribes of Southern India, by Edgar Thurston

The Santals call the head of the village as “Manjhi”.”Manjan” is the Tamil word that refers to a man. Similarly the word “Pergana” is common among Santals and widely prevalent in North east India. It refers to some groups or septs among them. This context of the word “Pergana” seems to convey that it is “Perum-gana” in Tamil meaning “the big group”.
Munda’s original name is a Tamil word.
The Mundas call themselves as “Horoko” in which ‘horo’ refers to man, according to them. In their speech the letters ‘h’ and ‘r’ are interchangeable with ‘k’ and ‘l’ respectively. As such ‘horo’ is also mentioned as “kolo” or “kol”. Mundas say that ‘hor’ or ‘kol’ means ‘man. This can be seen in the way they refer to people as “Santali Hor”,  “Mundari hor” or “Mundari kol” etc.
But there exists a word “Kolam” in Tamil that refers to ‘appearance’ or ‘form’. In Tamil it is common to use the word ‘Kolam’ along with a name to refer to someone ‘in the form of so and so’. For example ‘Andi-k-kolam’ means ‘in the form of an ascetic’. This can be understood as ‘ascetic man’ in which kolam comes to refer to man. But that is not the actual meaning of kolam. The word ‘kolam’ here only means ‘in the form of’.  Lord Skanda is famously referred to by the term “Andi-k-kolam – meaning “Skanda in the form of ascetic”.

The same idea seems to exist in the word ‘kol’ of Mundas. They refer to a Santali as ‘Santali hor(kol)’.   By the logic of the usage in Tamil,  Santali Hor means ‘one in the form of Santal’.  They say “Larka kol” to mean “one in the form of war-like person”. The say “sAdAn Horo” to refer to a non-Munda or a foreigner. The word “sAdAn” is a corrupt form of  ‘sAdArana” in Tamil and SAdharan in Sanskrit - which means ‘ordinary’. If we substitute ‘form or appearance’ for horo or kol, the word sAdAn Horo refers to “ordinary man and not a Munda!  The subtlety in the use of ‘hor’ or ‘kol’ is understood from this word.  

The word “Kolam” is used in Tamil when a person is in disguise in that form. The Mundari speaking people were actually living incognito and hiding their true identity. In such a context it makes perfect sense to refer to a person to be ‘in the form of a Santal” or in the form of a Kurukh or Korwa and so on by the use of the word “kol”. So when the Munda identifies himself as “Hork-ko” (ko in the word makes it plural. Similar use of ‘ka’ or “ga” for plural is there in corrupt form of Tamil. Eg – avan’ga’ to refer to they or these people), he is making a reference to his disguised form as so and so. A society that is living by hiding its identity can be expected to use such terms.
Tamil and Sanskrit in Munda septs and totems

The presence of Tamil is seen in the word they use to refer to the septs. Mundas are divided into septs called “Killi”. ‘Killi’  is a Tamil word. There were Chola kings by names “Killi Valavan”, Nalam “killi”, Pernar killi” etc. “Killi” in their name exists as family name or clan name. But no analysis or information exists on why these kings came to have ‘killi’ in their names. But the application of the word “killi” as it exists in Mundari language shows that the word “Killi” is derived from “Kilai.  Kilai means ‘branch’ and also ‘relatives’. Therefore a group of people who are related to each other or those who belong to the same gotra could be called as “Kilai”. From Kilai, the word ‘killi’ had come. Among Mundas, people of the same Killi do not marry within the Killi. This establishes the gotra identity among the same killi. The Tamil meaning as ‘relatives’ concurs with this practice.
I wonder whether any connection exists between Cholan Killis and Mundari Killis! Mundas were Maruttas originally. The Cholans trace their origin in Sibi’s dynasty. This is known from many Sangam texts and also from copper plate inscriptions found at Thiruvalangadu.  A commonality exists between them as both Sibi and Marutta people had gone underground to escape from Parashurama. Sibi’s descendants lived near the river Sindhu in North west India and Maruttas lived incognito in Shindhu kalaka of the same region. It is possible the some of them had gone further west and to central Asia. But Cholavarman, a descendant of Sibi dynasty came to Pumpukar and founded the Chola dynasty. {4} This was before Parashurama’s times as there is a narration in a Tamil text called Manimegalai of how the Cholan king of Pumpukar went into hiding when Parashurama was around on the lookout for kshatriyas.
{Note on Cholas:- Cholavarman’s ancestry coming from Sibi in North west India must not be considered as proof of Tamil speaking people having come from North west of India. The original Tamil speakers were Pandyans who came from the now submerged regions in the Indian Ocean. Tamil as a language refined with grammar was developed by Pandyans. However Tamil in corrupt form called as “Kodum Tamil” (meaning ‘stunted Tamil’ which is what Apabrahmsa also means) existed in other regions of India. It is a different history of how this happened. It will be discussed in another series). 
There is no etymology for Chola in Tamil. But Choda or Chauda or Chaula as variations of this name, refer to tuft. There is a proverb in Tamil related to Cholas and their tuft. (“Cholian Kudumi chumma aadaathu” – meaning the “the tuft of the Cholia does not shake for no reason”) The tuft of a Chola was tied in the front of the head. The existence of this proverb and people with Cholia titles and having tuft connected to Cholia make it known that Cholas were originally known for this kind of tuft. Perhaps the Cholas got their name from the tuft they sported. 
The following illustration shows the front-tuft. The picture is that of Periyaazhwar, a Vaishnavite saint who was the father of AndAL. He is always depicted with the Cholia tuft that is tied in the front of the head. 

Cholistan in present-day Pakistan might perhaps be the place of Chola origin. The presence of Brahui language  with similarities with Tamil could be related to the emergence of Cholavarma from this part of the country. It must be noted that the similar front-side tuft is found in people of the olden days in the stretch starting from Pakistan to Russia. A genetic study on the traditional front-tuft people of Eurasia and Cholia titled castes of Tamilnadu such as Cholia Brahmins and Cholia Vellalas needs to be done to look for connections.
The Cholan presence in the region near Indus makes them and Maruttas share language and traditions. The title Killi for Cholan kings to be same as Killi of Mundas must be viewed in this perspective too. }
Sanskrit and Tamil in totems of Killi.
Each Killi of Mundas has a totem as an identity. The names of these totems are found to be Sanskrit or Tamil. For example Kachap killi has Kachap as totem – kachap means tortoise in Sanskrit. Likewise there are totems like Tuti that refers to Tulsi plant. Mundas use tulsi leaves in pujas to sprinkle water. Soe totem refers to ‘sura’ in Tamil which refers to a fish. Nag totem refers to serpent. Purthi totem means insect. In Tamil ‘Puchi’ means insect. The term Purthi seems to be a corrupt form of Tamil word ‘Puchi’. Hansda totem refers to swan. Obviously Hansda is a corruption of Hamsa!

The fusion of Sanskrit and Tamil is seen in the totem ‘Kamal’. It means lotus in Mundari language too. The link with Tamil word exists in the Sept name that has Kamal as the totem. The sept name is “Tamar Pergana” – Tamarai is a Tamil word for lotus! Tamar Pergana is similar to “Tamarai Perum gana”. The septs and totems are something indigenous to the Mundari people. They have come from their basic culture. Many totems were formed in course of time, but their names certainly show Tamil or Sanskrit words mingled in their language. The co-existence of Tamil and Sanskrit in these names show how these two languages had co-existed as part and parcel of the society in their previous origins.
In this context it must be mentioned, that the famous Tamil Sangam age Grammar book called “Tholkappiyam” (meaning ‘ancient Kavya’) was authored by a descendant of Jamadagni’s lineage or Jamadagni Gotra! Popularly known as “Tholkappiyar”, his original name was ‘Trunadhoomagni  In the very first verse of this grammar book he expresses his qualification as having mastered the Sanskrit Vyakarana text called Aindram. It is with the knowledge of this Vyakarana text, he had written the grammar for Tamil. A JAmadagya possessing fine knowledge of Tamil and even qualified to write a grammar book in Tamil that became the official grammar book of the Sangam Assembly is a crucial piece of evidence that Tamil was a widely spoken language and that it co-existed along with Sanskrit in India, particularly from Vindhyas downward south and among Vedic sages. The probable time period of this grammar book was 1500 BCE – the time when the last and the 3rd Sangam was inaugurated.

The Mundari tribes.

The Mundas had existed as Maruttas and then as Marundas. Those who were engaged in iron smelting were identified as Asurs. The Santals seem to have come from Coromandal coasts. The Savaras came from the Vindhya regions. The Kurukhs aka Oraons came from Kishkindha as they were descendants of vanaras. “The ‘Bhuiyas’, a Munda tribe, call themselves as Pāwan-ka-put or Children of the Wind, that is of the race of Hanumān, who was the Son of the Wind”. {5}

The former regions of these tribes were near Vindhyas and the west coast of South India. The warrior ancestors of these tribes living in these regions left these regions due to fear of Parashurama and later settled in the hills and forests of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Bengal and Orissa. Of them the mention of Savaras by Mahabharata comes as a strong evidence of why they still continue to be as they are now. The Mahabharata  says that they became Kshatriya vrratyas due to the rage of Parashurama. The Savaras and others who fled had to live on whatever they could lay their hands on. They had to subsist on anything that they can catch hold of, say a frog or rat. Mahabharata 18-135 says,

“By accepting food from a eunuch, or from an ungrateful person, or from one who has misappropriated wealth entrusted to his charge, one is born in the country of the Savaras situated beyond the precincts of the middle country.”

This is to say that one would get degraded food in Savara areas which was beyond the Madhya desa – of Saraswathi basin. Though Savaras existed in seclusion, their existence was known to people in Mahabharata times.

The fear of Parashurama resonated upto Pumpukaar of the Chola kingdom. The reigning Cholan king Kanthan handed over the kingdom to his son born to a concubine thinking that Parashurama would not consider him to be pure kshatritya race. That Parashurama went after only valiant kshatriyas is known by a similar reference to one “Balika” of Amshuman dynasty who was always surrounded by women. This earned him a name “NAru kavacha” – the one who is protected by women. It is for this reason he was spared by Parashurama, says Srimad Bhagavatham {6}
 Inscriptional evidence:-
That the Parashurama episode was a fact of history is known from an inscription of the Cholas. Parashurama crowned the one born to a Haihaya princess whose father was killed by him while his wife was pregnant with this child. Parashurama crowned him somewhere in Konkan region near a hill called Mooshika (in Tamil “Ezhil malai”). This king was called as Rama kuta Mooshika – one crowned by Rama of Bhargava kula.  King Rajendra Chola I captured this crown given by Parashurama from the “sAntima dweepa” {7}
Today no place exists by this name. But the Tulu Gramapadhata mentions an island called “sAnti” as one among 77 islands that belonged to Gorashtra on the west coast of India. {8}  None of these islands exist today. But a look at the sea level maps of Graham Hancock shows that some islands had existed in this part of the sea which were once an extension of west coast at the time of Ice age.

The following series of maps would reveal the changes that happened in course of time. 

The figure below shows the complete inundation of the island under sea water. The arrow-mark in yellow points to the sunken island which is seen in light blue.

This image shows the region of south west in the Kurma Chakra of division of India as it existed about 2000 years ago. According to Varaha mihira, places called Hemagiri, Sindhukalaka, Raivataka, Surashtra, Baadara, Dravida and Maharnva were located within the curve as shown in the figure above. {9}
This region housed some important places of pilgrimage in Mahabharata times. 
There is reference in Mahabharata of a pilgrimage by Pandavas that speak about the islands off Konkan coast near Surparaka where sacrificial platforms for Jamadagni were present. {10}. As per Mahabharata accounts, the Pandavas went to Surparaka. From there they crossed certain tract on the coast of the sea and reached the islands dotted with forests. Those places were beheld by rulers and ascetics in the past. The Pandavas offered their worship, fasted and made donations. Then from there they came back to Surparaka. From Surparaka they went to Prabhas (Somnath) where the pilgrimage was formally concluded. {11}

 The islands off Konkan coast that Pandavas visited are no longer there. A marine exploration of this region would reveal many clues to Parashurama’s historicity. 
West-coast connection to Dravida and Manu

The importance of those islands is something that goes far beyond Parashurama’s times. What it could be?
An important feature of the Parashurama episode is that he relocated Brahmins in the stretch of west coast that was reclaimed from the sea. In the process, people like Kurukhs /Oraons had to quit this place or were forced to leave this place to make room for the new settlers. The so-called Dravida Brahmins were made to settle in this stretch who later spanned out to Kanchipuram and Andhra. Of all the places in India, why Parashurama chose this stretch and even made his final abode in Surparaka in this stretch is a big question. Added to this is the mystery of the sunken islands off Surparaka that Pandavas visited.
There are many leads to unravel this mystery in British records, Mahabharata and some inscriptions on Dravida lands in this stretch as far as south Kerala near “Aryan-kaavu” – the place where the famous Iyappa temple is located. An analysis of these leads give us a revelation that Vaivaswatha manu also known as Dravidewara Manu  was living in this stretch before Holocene when the sea levels were low due to Ice age in the Northern hemisphere. When the sudden sea floods happened at the end of Ice age, Manu and his men (who were prepared for the flood) were pushed by the sea currents in the Arabian seas that gushed from Indian Ocean. The currents carried them northward and pushed them into river Saraswati and reached them as far as the Himalayan mountains. The birth of Rig Vedas started after that. But the previous habitat in the west coast of India was lost to the seas.

The following illustration shows the probable movement of inhabitants - Vaivaswata Manu and his subjects and sages who lived in the coastal extensions at the beginning of Holocene.

River saraswati was flowing mightily at that time. The estuary of that river formed the entry point of Manu pushed by the currents (or pulled by the Mathsya, the mythical Fish) which came to be called as Dwaraka. Every time this entry was swallowed by the sea, another Dwaraka was built in remembrance of that early entry that facilitated the growth of new civilisation of Vaivaswatha Manu.
In course of time, when the domination of Kshatriyas grew to the extent of arrogance, Parashurama was present in the picture affected by an act of arrogance and atrocity by the Kshatriyas (Haihaya Kartha veeryarjuna) . He decided to call it a day and destroyed every kshatriya around him. Wanting to start from the beginning, he reclaimed the lost coast of Dravida Manu and settled the Brahmins who had come from the time of Manu. The explanation and justification of this require another series of articles which I will take up in a future date.


{1} Brihad samhita – chapter 26.
{2} “The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India” - Volume IV of IV, by R.V. Russell
{3} “Tribal culture of India” L.P Vidyarthi & Binay Kumar p260
{5} “The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India”, Vol 3 by R. V. Russell
{6} Srimad Bhagavatham - 9.9.40
{7} One dated at 1024 AD found on a rock on top of Thirumalaik kunRu near POLur and another dated 1031 AD found in the southern side of the sanctum sanctum of Rajarajeswara temple in Tanjore.
{8} “Ancient Karnataka” Vol I ‘History of Tuluva’.
{9} Brihad samhita 14- 19
{10} Mahabharata 3-88
{11} Mahabharata 3-118

Guest Blogger Jayasree - Maruttas as progenitor​s of Mundas and Asurs (Mundas-9)

Maruttas as progenitor​s of Mundas and Asurs (Mundas-9)

1:31 PM (18 hours ago)
Previous articles in this series:-

Munda in Sanskrit:-

The Sanskrit meaning of Munda is ‘Shaven head’. But the Munda people are not seen with shaven head. From the records of the British period, it is known that they used do grow pigtails and even tie up the long hair into a knot {1} They however have a custom of hair removal ceremony for the new-born baby. This is done on the 9th day of birth, called as Narota ceremony when the baby is named. A barber is called in and the razor is blessed by the elders by touching it. The use of razor shows that it was not just hair cutting ceremony but hair removal ceremony. 

This is perhaps done as continuing tradition from the time of the first ancestors who lost their men while fleeing from the enemy. The children who were born after the death of their fleeing fathers could have been administered the death related ceremony of hair removal once the birth pollution period was over. This practice – without remembrance of the cause for it– is continuing till today. Other than this, shaven head is something that Mundas are not known for. 

At  Narota ceremony.

However there is an exception to this found in a particular clan or sept of Mundas called “Mudia” or “Mudrundia”. They say that this name means “shaven head”! {2}. The surprising element in this name is that “Mudi” in Mudia is the Tamil word for hair! 

The only people of the Mundari speaking tribes having shaven head are the women of Bonda tribes. They are also known as Remo!

Remo from Ramayana times

The Remo or Bonda women used to shave their heads regularly. The reason for this habit is attributed to an incident that happened in Ramayana times! Some women of these tribes happened to see Sita taking bath in a pond and were cursed by her for having seen her bathing. The curse was that they must have their heads shaven and be naked. Later she rescinded the curse by allowing them wear a waist cloth. It is easy to dismiss this as a cooked up story, but why should a people who were supposed to have been living in seclusion in remote places for ages have their women tonsure their heads regularly and attribute the reason for it to Ramayana times? 

Remo woman

Hair-dressing is naturally an integral feature of womanhood in any community. There have been instances of forced tonsuring as a method of punishment or purification. Voluntary tonsuring as a method of propitiation or prayer to God continues among women in many communities in India even today. But to condemn all the women-folks of a particular community for all ages, to not grow hair on the head looks odd. If the Bonda women have had some episode in the past, they could have retained the memory of it in some corrupted form. But to connect that episode with Sita of Ramayana could be a real incident and not a product of an external influence from ‘Hindu neighbours’. As Rama’s period overlapped with Parashurama’s period, the people who accidentally got exposed to Sita or anyone from outside would have changed their looks to avoid detection. The name as Remo for these tribes, resembling Rama adds substance to this story.

Munda in Tamil

Looking for other meanings for Munda, Munda could even be a corrupt form of the Tamil word “mandai”. In Tamil “Mandai” means head. This word fits with their frightened beginnings of danger to head, as beheading was common mode of killing in wars. Thurston’s recording of the castes of South India contains a name “MandapOtho” who were found in Ganjam district and were roaming in the streets of Puri – the place where a Savara king made secret visits!! (Puri is connected with Dakshina Kali too). Thurston records that MandapOthO man used to bury his head in sand as a way of attracting people to give him alms. Manda in MandapOtho means ‘head’ (Tamil word), Potho means “bury”. The Manda or Munda referring to head seems to be the name associated with a people of this region in Puri and Ganjam.

Munda also means “headless body” in Tamil. The MandapOtho people had exhibited headless body by burying the head in sand. All this goes to show that people with a name connected to Manda (head) or Munda (shaven or headless) were in existence in this part of the country.

Munda in Puranas.

The name Munda appears in Vishnu Purana in the list of kings who ruled Magadha. While giving the names of kings and dynasties who ruled for 1390 years after Mauryas, there comes the mention of thirteen Mundas and eleven Maunas as those among them. {3}. It is possible to assume these Mundas to be different from the tribal Mundas as they were mentioned along with Maunas. The names Munda and Mauna give an ascetic tinge to it. Mundaka Upanishad speaks of Shiro-Vratha in which the ascetic carries the agni on his shaven head. This makes it plausible that ascetics were known as Mundas. In the Buddhist lore too, a king by name Munda had existed.

But a similar list of kings found in Vayu Purana skips Mundas but retains Maunas. However immediately afterwards, it mentions 13 Marundas as those who ruled Magadha. The number of kings is same in both Vishnu Purana and Vayu purana, but the name Marunda appears in Vayu Purana instead of Mundas. This makes it plausible that Marundas and Mundas refer to the same clan.

The crucial name in the list of Vishnu Purana is “Brihadratha” and his dynasty as the early kings of Magadha. Brihadratha finds mention in Rig Veda also. Jarasandha of Krishna’s times was a descendant of Brihadratha. Mundas or Marundas came long after Mauryas in the list of kings. The surprising connection with Brihadratha is that a king by name Brihadratha fled for fear of Parashurama! This king  Brihadratha, who was the son of Deviratha and grandson of Dadhivahana went into hiding in Gridhrakuta. {4}. It is possible that he belonged to the Brihadratha dynasty or it was from him the Brihadratha dynasty was started. Their area of control was Bihar where the Munda tribes are living. Mahabharata lists out other kings too who had escaped from Parashurama and were living in secrecy. At that time, they were engaged in tending the cattle or working as artisans and goldsmiths or doing odd jobs. After the period of Parashurama, these people returned to their original places and started new life, mostly as kshatriyas. They were

{1} Haihayas.
{2} Viduratha’s son of Puru’s race (protected by “bear” like people)
{3} Sarvakarman, son of Saudasa
{4} Gopathy, from Sibi’s dynasty
{5} Vatsa, son of Pratadana
{6} Brihadratha, son of Diviratha
{7} Maruttas.

The last name mentioned in the list was Maruttas, the descendants of a powerful king, Marutta. They went to live in the sea shores to keep away from Parashurama. All of them returned to their original regions after Parashurama’s times.

The Brihadrathas had obviously restored their sovereignty in Magadha. There is no news on Maruttas after that but the name Marundas appearing in Vayu Purana in the place of Mundas in Magadha raise a question whether they were descendants of Marutta. The cross reference for this comes from Ptolemy’s reference to a tribe by name Moroundai in the western border of ‘Gangaridai’. This covers the region of Bihar. Further cross reference is taken from Pliny’s narration on “Moredes” tribes along with Surari or Savaras. {5} But today there is no clan by this name or resembling this name living along with Savaras in the tribal regions of Bihar or Jharkhand. The only closest name is Mundas or Marundas (of Vayu purana)! The phonetic resemblance of Marundas with Maruttas who were also at the receiving end of Parashurama’s fury makes Mundas the possible descendants of Maruttas.

Marutta and Asurs

Even the mythical stories on  Asur  tribes of smelting iron have a parallel with King Marutta. Fire is the main component needed for iron smelting. The invention of smelting iron must have been considered as a break-through idea for it opened up the possibilities of making various weapons and also agricultural implements. In the narrations about King Marutta, it is said that he discovered the wealth found buried inside the earth. {6}. The wealth seems to be the extraction of  iron from iron ores buried under the earth.

Though it is not told openly in the story of Marutta, there are indications to this effect in the story. {7} Desiring to get wealth, Marutta approached Brihaspati, the preceptor of Devas to do a sacrifice to get wealth. Brihaspati refused to officiate the sacrifice citing the reason that he was the priest of Indra of Devas. Therefore Marutta approached sage Samvarta, brother of Brihaspati and the son of the sage Angiras. [Angiras was connected with Atharva Veda and also Agni]. Samvarta is known as Brihat Jyothi and said to be wandering naked. This symbolises agni that can be ignited in Nature. The name Samvarta also means some kind of destruction or a dense mass. He agreed to officiate the sacrifice which was refused by Brihaspati. Being opposed to Brihaspati, their sacrifice seems to indicate something not done by Devas. As if to indicate that this sacrifice had some fierce nature of agni or fire that is not Daivik but asuric, the story goes on to narrate an interesting episode.

Upon knowing that the sacrifice by Marutta was going to be a grand one to bring out the wealth buried under the earth, Brihaspati wished that he could have agreed to officiate. Indra decided to fulfil this wish of Brihaspati and summoned Agni Deva to go and stop the sacrifice by Marutta done under the supervision of Samvarta.

Agni went and blew up all along the way burning the forests and everything on the way. This shows that some severe fire raged at that time. But Marutta planned to pacify Agni by offering a seat and offerings. Agni wanted Samvarta to stop officiating the sacrifice and make Brihaspati to take his seat instead. This infuriated Samvarta who said that he would burn Agni with his fierce evil eyes. Agni got scared that he would be destroyed by the fire of Samvarta! This is a strange idea, but if we assume that the sacrifice to get wealth buried under the earth was in fact cutting out iron ores and smelting them in furnaces, this predicament of Agni would not sound strange. Agni as used in sacrifices is Daivik as it does not hurt or scorch others. But the heat of the furnaces does hurt others, besides scorching the surrounding area and this makes it Asuric. That is how the basic difference exists in Agni as a Deva and Agni as an Asura. It is no wonder that those who live by this agni (of Samvarta) as though they are doing it as a sacrifice came to be called as Asur.

In this connection the narration in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad throwing light on what makes a Deva, or a Manushya (human) or an Asura is worth relating. All the three (Deva, Manushya and Asura) received an advice from Prajapati as ‘da’. The word “da” has several meanings, but each of them understood the meaning of ‘da’ in a way that is applicable to their nature and attitude. Each one was aware of their area of deficiency and as such understood the meaning of “da” as the thing needed by them to overcome their respective deficiencies. In this way, Asura understood the meaning of “da” as ‘being merciful’ because the innate tendency of Asura that makes him Asuric is the tendency to harm others ruthlessly. {8} Applying this rationale in the above episode, the Asura-agni can harm others indiscriminately while the Deva-agni does not; it only burns for the sake of carrying oblations to respective destinations / Gods. (In the Rig Vedas, wherever a Deva entity is signified with an Asuric connotation, it can be deduced that it refers to the furious or destructive side of the entity).

There exists a connection between Agni and Marutta too. Marut or Marutta means wind or gale. When Maruts and Agni come together the fire is stoked well. There is a hymn in Rig Veda that calls Agni to come with Maruts, the wind {9}. In the story of Marutta and Samvarta, Samvarta threatens Agni that he would burn it! One of the meanings of Samvarta is destruction. Perhaps this warning by Samvarta is allegorical to the destruction potential of the sacrifice of Marutta (wind) when Agni is allowed to be present near the furnace.

In Marutta’s story, Agni got frightened by the prospect of getting burned by Samvarta and went back to Indra. The infuriated Indra decided to stop Samvarta by bringing thunder bolts and rains to douse the sacrificial fire of Samvarta. This is also allegorical to a situation where smelting furnaces had to be closed due to rains. But then again Marutta decided to give a seat and honour Indra and other Devas in the sacrifice. Once given a seat, Indra became calm and accepted the offerings. He was joined by other Devas too. Two bulls, one of red colour for agni and another of blue colour for Viswadevas were sacrificed and the yajna was successfully done. It resulted in Marutta getting huge wealth that was buried under the earth. No one else could come to possess the kind of wealth that Marutta possessed. {10}

The place of Marutta

There is a cross-reference to this episode from Uttara khanda of Ramayana. {11} While Ravana was roaming in his Pushpaka vimana, he happened to come to a place called “Usheerabeeja” (उशीरबीज)where he found Marutta doing a sacrifice with Samvarta as the priest. Ravana called Marutta for a fight but Samvarta stopped Marutta from taking up arms for the reason that he must not deviate from the sacrifice that he had started doing. Samvarta said that if Marutta left the sacrifice midway, Maheswara would burn up his dynasty. This is also allusive of giving up kshatriya-hood which the Maruttas did when they fled for life from Parashurama’s fury. Perhaps they didn’t become warriors after the self exile but diverted their attention to producing iron.

Ravana’s period comes closely after Parashurama’ period and Maruttas are mentioned in Mahabharata as people who had fled from the fury of Parashurama. This Marutta doing the sacrifice with Samvarta  must have the one who started new life after Parashurama's time. The meeting with Ravana justifies this time period after Parashurama.

The amazing clue found in this narration is the meaning of the place “Usheera Beeja”. Usheera is the fragrant root of the plant Vettiver (Andropogon muricatus ) that grows in river banks and marshy soil. Bihar or the Mundari tribal regions are not known for growing this plant. But a place bearing another name of the same plant was there in the west coast of India. It was known as “Sindhukalaka”. In the map of the world called Kurma (tortoise) Chakra, Varahamihira  gives the names of places that were located in South West part of India which is actually the region of west coast of India starting from the estuary of Indus river to peninsular west coast.

 Kurma chakra division of India.
The region in rectangle is South west.
The line passing from Lanka to North is the axis that passes through Ujjain and Kurukshetra.
(Not accurate, only for illustrative purpose) 

South West part of Kurma Chakra showing 
the probable location of Sindhukalaka on the estuary of River Indus.

He lists out Hemagiri, Sindhukalaka, Raivataka, Surashtra, Baadara, Dravida and Maharnva in this stretch {12} Of these Sindhukalaka coming before Raivataka and Surashtra places it at the estuary of Sindhu where the Kalaka plants (vettiver / Usheera) grow well. Both Kalaka and Usheera refer to the same plant that grows well in marshy coasts and estuaries.

The Maruttas lived incognito near the seashore to escape from Parashurama {13) Therefore Usheera in UsheeraBija could refer to the coastal region in west. Once having come back to his previous place, Marutta had retained Usheera as Usheera Bijas. It must be searched whether any place resembling Usheerabija exists in Bihar – Jharkhand region.

Marutta in Assyria:-

It is also probable that a section of Maruttas went from Sindhukalaka to Mesopotamia and Central Asia where they founded Assyria. 

(Sindhukalaka was the place of hiding for Maruttas to escape from Parashurama. 
Once the threat was gone, they split with one group 
going back to Bihar – Jharkhand and another to Assyria)

Some of the names of Old Assyrian kings make a striking resemblance with the characters in Marutta story and in Tamil. Among the early list of Assyrian kings “who lived in tents”, the name of the first king was "Tudiya" . Tudiya is a Tamil word that refers to a clan that was one of the 4 olden clans as per a verse in a Tamil Sangam text. Tudiya was a drummer by profession. Kadamaba is another one of this group of four. Kadamba was a dancer who was seen wearing Kadamba flowers.  {14} The 5th king after Tudiya in the list of Assyrian kings was “Mandaru” – Mandura is the Sanskrit name for rust of iron!
Another king in the link was "Ushpia" who founded the temple of Ashur. Is ushpia related to Usheera or Sindhukalaka, in the West coast of India?

Another name is Nazi Marutta of Babylon. The Kudurru stones of Nazi Maruttash depict the image of Scorpio that is referred to as Bica in Assamese to mean Iron-stone ore. {15} 

Maruttas’ movement through Mesopotamia reaching Assyria must be probed. Persia as Parsuwash (in old Persian language) lends further support to the theory of Vedic kings having moved to these parts of Middle east in the wake of threat from Parashurama.
Asur and Munda.
Research has shown that iron technology has been indigenous to India and iron was an important source of income in Mauryan times. {16} Asurs must have been the unrecognised and invisible contributors for the growth of this industry in ancient India. The Asur practices at the start of lighting the furnace bear some resemblances to Marutta’s story. They perform SANSIKUTASI worship which is in the nature of some magic (as though how Samvarta managed to stop Agni and Indra from obstructing the sacrifice).Two fowls of red colour (for agni) are sacrificed (In the sacrifice by Samvarta, 2 bulls were sacrificed of which one was red, meant for Agni).

There is dance and merry making on this occasion. A peculiar feature is that musical instruments which are very much essential for dance or any festive occasion is not played only during this furnace-lighting ceremony of these tribes {17} . No one can give a proper reason for this. But if we relate this to Marutta’s sacrifice, the danger or obstruction to that sacrifice came from Indra, the wielder of the thunder bolt. The sound of thunder means the arrival of rains that could douse the fire of the furnace. Perhaps in memory of this, a practice came to stay not to beat any drums that could mimic thunderbolt or arrival of rains.

Iron smelting by Asurs or the descendants or subjects of Marutta must have continued from Marutta’s times. The Agaria community of Asurs derive their name from agni. The name Maruttas must have changed into Marundas in course of time. The Maruttas being warriors, a section of them could have worked for regaining rulership which is indicated by Vishnu and Vayu Purana. There had been others cut off from the mainstream. There is scope to believe that Marundas were originally engaged in iron smelting. One of the words in Sanskrit to denote iron is “Munda” (मुण्ड). The Munda people say that the word “Munda” has its origins in the word “Murha” which they say means “root of the tree”. But “Muru” (मुरु ) is the name of a variety of iron! The rust of iron is known as “Mandura” (मण्डूर ) in Sanskrit. These words of Sanskrit sounding like Munda and related to iron cannot be dismissed lightly.

In course of time Marundas had moved away from iron smelting. Those who were doing it came to be called as Asurs – perhaps due to the connection with Asura Agni.  An Asur story of the Munda version says how those Asurs greedy of making gold (alchemy?) suffered destruction. That story also narrates how the land was scorched by the furnaces accompanied with rain of fire. Perhaps seeing the environmental hazards of iron smelting, the Marundas aka Mundas started turning their attention to agriculture, but Asurs continued with iron smelting. The concept of sacred groves must have come up after experiencing the side effects of iron smelting on the environment and the loss of forests that were cut to supply fire-wood for the furnace. 
An Asur tribe preparing the furnace.

 The hazards of fire as expressed in Munda’s myths perhaps made them shun fire in any form. They even shunned the sacrificial fire in their marriage ceremonies. In Vedic marriages, the couple go round the fire to take marriage oath. But in the marriage custom of Mundas, the bride goes round the bride groom for seven times with a pot of water. Water being given an important place in all the ceremonies and customs of Mundas seem to indicate a conscious decision to move away from fire related works and adopt water related customs, obviously with an intention to preserve water and have  a cool environment in the neighbourhood of iron smelting Asurs.
Axe as an indicator of Iron age in Parashurama’s times.
Parashurama was known by that name for wielding an axe. The Savara tribes of the Mundari speaking group are known for always carrying an axe – the weapon cum implement of Parashurama. Savaras were contemporaries of Parashurama and they took shelter in the mountains and forests of Bihar to escape from him. {18} The main purpose of the axe was to cut trees of the forests apparently for the purpose of clearing the land.{19} A Savara myth says that Mahadeva gave them the axe to clear the forests and the plough to cultivate the land. In the times of Parashurama, axe was in wider use for they needed to clear forests to build settlements. The story of Jamadagni  itself is replete with references to how he shifted his residence to new places by clearing forest lands. Axe being the commonly available implement, had also come in handy in beheading Renuka and killing kshatriyas!

Axe or Parashu has a presence in the tribal names too. One group of Agarias of Asur clan are known as “Parsa” and they are engaged in producing high grade iron even today. There are caste names in Chhattisgarh as “Parsoli” – from Parsa meaning axe. It is derived from the Sanskrit word Parashu, the axe.  Among the Oriya (Uriya) tribes too, there is a section by name “Pharsi” with the meaning axe. {20} Without a fused presence of Sanskrit in the country or community and without the iron technology being present for thousands of years in the past, these tribal names or use of axe as an integral identity of people ( as in the case of Savaras) could not have come to stay.
(To be continued)

{1} “The Tribes and Castes of the Central of India” - Volume IV of IV, by R.V. Russell  
{2} The Tribes and Castes of the Central of India” - Volume III of IV, by R.V. Russell
 {3}Vishnu Purana 4-24
{4} Mahabharata 12-49
{5}“Tribes in ancient India” by Bimala Churn Law.
{6} Mahabharata 14-63
{7} Mahabharata 14-Chapters 6 to 10
{8} Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5-2- 1 to 3
{9} Rig Veda 1-19
{10}Mahabharata 14-89
{11} Ramayana 7-18
{12} Brihad Samhita 14-19
{13} Mahabharata 12-49
{14} Pura nanuru - verse 335. There were 4 clans in existence from olden days in the Tamil society. They were PaaNan / PANa / BANa (bard), Parayan (who plays the drum called Parai), Tudiyan (who plays the drum called Tudi) and Kadamban (a dancer who wears Kadamba flowers)
{18} Mahabharata 14-29
{19} Rig Veda 9-96-6 
{20} “The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India” --Volume I (of IV), by R.V. Russell

Guest Blogger Jayasree - Toda connection to the word “Munda” (Mundas-8)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Toda connection to the word “Munda” (Mundas-8)

Previous articles in this series:-
The word “Munda” is found in the names of many villages throughout India. It is generally believed that ‘Munda’ is the name of the community. But the fact is that the so-called Munda people do not call themselves as Mundas! They have a different name for themselves. “Munda” is the name by which they call the chief or head of a village.  Even the Oraon people call their chief as Munda. It is from this title of the chief, the entire community was given the name ‘Munda’ – by others in the past couple of centuries. The same word Munda is in use in Tulu speaking regions to mean a raised land. The same word refers to any village and is present throughout India.
The same word means shaven head in Sanskrit. It is strange to find researchers connect this Sanskrit meaning to the name Munda of this community which they consider as totally indigenous and pre-dating ‘Aryanism’. Does it mean that these people were influenced by the ‘Aryan Brahmins’ in taking up the word Munda to refer to their chief? If so, a question arises why this name Munda is not used to designate the chiefs in “Aryan” or Sanskrit speaking / knowing regions and why it is used only by these tribal people. Assuming that Munda is a Sanskrit word used by these people to refer to the chief of the village, what word is “Manki” which they use to refer to the chief of group of villages?  For them, the head of a village is called “Munda”. The chief of Patti is “Manki”.
The next higher level of Village in the Munda groups is called “Patti”. A Patti comprises of many villages and the head of the Patti is called as “Manki” by the Munda people. [In Tamil, Patti refers to the place where cattle are housed or raised. Since cattle wealth gave rise to prosperity, Patti became prosperous and needed to be regulated and governed. Thus from Patti, came terms such as Pat, Patna, Patnam, Patta, Pattam, Patta-nayaka etc.] 
Even this word “Manki” is present in ‘Aryan’ literature. There is a man called “Manki” whose story is narrated by Bhishma to Yudhishtira in Mahabharata {1}. This story revolves around ‘Manki’s efforts to multiply wealth by buying cattle for use in agricultural operations. Finally Manki renounced all desires and attained Brahman-hood. Bhishma held him along with Bali, Prahaladha and Namuchi.  Interestingly like Munda, this name Manki  is in existence in the coastal region of Uttara Kannada!
These two names of importance in Mundari culture – namely, ‘Munda’ and ‘Manki’ seeming to have Sanskrit basis, have a presence in the coastal region of the Peninsular India that was cleared by Parashurama to pave way for new settlers. These names seem to tell the story of Indian past which was not necessarily pre-Aryan or non- Aryan, but a culture that was indigenously Aryan and had both Sanskrit and local language as the two eyes.
The exact decipherment of the word “Munda” can perhaps be traced to Toda people of the Nilgiris! The Toda people call their village as “Mund”. {2}. Interestingly the Toda people have a connection with the west coast of Peninsular India.

Toda connection.
Today the Toda people live in isolation in the higher regions of the Nilgiri hills. However the genetic studies show that they are closer to Brahmins of Kerala! {3}. Though there is no legend on their origins, this information takes their previous habitat or origins to the West coastal regions. Edward Eastwick in his “Handbook for India” Part 1, published in 1859 had made an observation that Todas “regard the brahmans with contempt”. This is quite strange given that there is hardly any contact with Brahmins and that Todas are supposed to be living in the higher ranges of the hills in isolation. The hatred might be the result of a past enmity when they were living in the coastal regions that resulted in displacement of these people to Nilgiris. Based on the genetic studies it can be surmised that the Todas were once Brahmins living in the west coast but segregated from the main clan due to some skirmishes. Adding strength to this conjecture is the name that the Todas have for themselves. According to Eastwick, the Todas called themselves as “Toruvar” - a term that is phonetically similar to Tuluva or Tuluvar! Infact Tulu Nadu was called as “Toualava Rajya” in olden days.
Yet another link comes from the buffaloes they keep. The genetic studies on the buffalo breeds of South India had shown that Toda buffalos and South Kanarese buffalos are of the same origin. “Few mutations in two of the haplotypes of South Kanara buffalo were found to have contributed to ancestral haplotypes of Toda buffalo suggesting the possible migration of buffaloes from Kanarese region towards Nilgiris along the Western Ghats. Considering the close social, economic and cultural association of Todas with their buffaloes, the present study supports the theory of migration of Toda tribe from Kanarese/Mysore region along with their buffaloes” {4} This affinity of the Todas with Kanarese / west coast cannot be ignored in the study of “Munda”.
Mund, the village.
The Todas call their hamlets as “Mund” – a name that must have stuck with them from times of yore. The village is called as “Munder” in Tulu language. In Kannada the village is called as “Mundukur” or “Mundkur” It is reasonable to assume that from Mund, the village, the name of the chief or headman of the village came to be called as “Munda”!

The Toda mund (village), from, Richard Barron, 1837, 
"View in India, chiefly among the Nilgiri Hills'. 
Oil on canvas.
Even the name of the Toda habitat, Nilgiri (Neela giri) is found in the legend of Mundari speaking Savaras. A Savara king was making secret visits to Neela giri for worship. Neela giri was the old name for Puri! Are they mere coincidences or indicative of a common origin of these people who had split and migrated to different places?
The etymology of the word “Munda” referring to village is not in Sanskrit, but in Tamil!
‘Mund’ that refers to land either as village or as a raised one has the basic component “MaN” (मण्) meaning mud. MaN is the Tamil word for mud. It also refers to land or world. There are many words in Tamil derived from MaN. The “Mandar” is the soldier. The “Mandala maakkaL” is the king of the land. As a ruler of “MaN” – the land or the world, the king is called as “maNdaleekan” or “maNdalakan”. While “maNdala maakkaL” refers to kings, a slight difference in the spelling as “maNdila maakkaL” refers to the authorities who rule segments of the land or kingdom. The word (for the ruler of a land or segment) seems to have changed as Mandila >Manda > Munda. It must be remembered that Munda people call their chief of the village as “Munda”.
[Note by Dale: This is obviously the same as the Latin word "Mundus" for "World" and the root of many other words such as "mundane" (worldly or common). The root must have gone into Latin pretty directly from South Indian sources and I imagine it was feedback from the Indian Megalithic or dolmen-building period, when Roman coins are found in Indian graves]

There are many Manki- Pattis in Mundari speaking regions. There is a place called Manki in Honnavar Taluk in coastal Karnataka. Honnavar transliterates as Ponnavar in Tamil. Ponnavar means ‘cultivating gold’. The rich produce of a land made the land be called as Ponnavar or Honnavar. This shows that ‘Manki’ stands for prosperity and growth. This very idea exists in the Mundari use of Manki. The group of 17 villages comprising a Patti, administered by a Manki is treated as common property shared by individuals whose main occupation is agriculture. An annual tax is collected by Manki (Chief) to pay for security of the Patti. Such pattis are known as Manki-pattis by these people.

There is an interesting mutation in the use of Munda and Manki. Munda refers to a village in coastal / Tulu speaking regions. But the tribes of Chota Nagpur call the chief of the village as Munda! Similarly Manki is the name of a place in coastal Karnataka, but these tribes call the chief of a group of villages as Manki. The generic name of a place came to be used to denote the chief of that place by the secluded Mundari people. This connection with coastal Karnataka may even mean that these words have been carried by the Kurukhs or Oraons from their previous habitat to Mundari habitat in Chota Nagpur.

The word “Manki” sounds like Tamil “mandhi” which means monkey! This region being close to Vanara’s regions raises the possibility of this name being related to that. Infact  the name Hanuman could have come from “mandhi” as ‘anu-mandhi’ – the anu related to the episode of him getting his cheeks squeezed like a monkey.  The one, who already took up a name as mandhi (monkey), came to look like a monkey when his cheeks were deformed and therefore he is Anumandhi and Anuman or Hanuman. {The English words Mud and Monkey do not have proper etymology in English or any other European language. It is plausible that they have their roots in Tamil}.

Another interpretation for Manki is that it closely resembles the Tamil word “Maggi” or “Maggu” which refers to the top soil or humus of the soil. This top layer is formed by the decomposition of the plant material. It makes the soil fertile and helps in water retention too. It is matter of interest to know how the coastal regions of the Konkan and Malabar regions were reclaimed and retained. A forest cover in this region in the past could help in forming humus cover which could have helped in strengthening the soil and making it fertile also. The Tulu coastal regions are known to be under cultivation. This is not possible if it is just a reclaimed land form sea. The previous forest covers had enriched the soil by forming humus cover.

The currently available scientific tool to decipher the time period of the formation of the extension in the west coast is taken from Graham Hancock’s maps based on sea-level changes computed by Glen Milne. The current sea-level was obtained about 7000 years before present. That means the present stretch of land on the west coast between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea did not change in the last 7000 years. Any reclamation of land, that happened naturally or by Parashurama’s efforts could have happened before 7000 years ago.

The maps of Graham Hancock show that the coast was broader than it is now about 12,000 years ago. The West coast of India was an extended one having Gujarat fused with main land and not as a peninsula.

This stretch received good rainfall and therefore was dotted with rain forests. Vegetation had thrived in the coast at that time. This was about 10,000 years ago. 

As sea level rose, most of this extended land, west of Western Ghats went under sea water. During Parashurama’s times, the sea level had gone lower thereby exposing parts of the sunken coast. It is on these regions that new settlements were made by Parashurama according to legend. The reclaimed and regained lands must be having the earlier forest cover sunk in the ground as humus. This is a probable explanation for why the Manki – meaning “maggu” or humus is present on the coast. The sea level attained the current level by 7000 years BP. From this it is deduced that Parashurama’s time was before this final level of sea surface.

Tulu from Tamil.
This region in the west coast houses Tulu Nadu and Kanara regions. These two words also have their roots in Tamil. “Thulu” is the basal word for ThuLumbuthal (துளும்புதல்) in Tamil word which means ‘rising up’ “hopping up” or “brimming” (mEl ezhumbuthal,  thuLLUthal, thathumbuthal). This word fits with a region that sprang up from the sea which is what Tulu and other regions of the west coast are.
This part of the west coast is known as Kanara or Canara.  Kanna or Kannam in the name Kanara is a Tamil word that refers to an extension. The projections in the balcony of houses were called as “Kanna saalai” based on the word Kanna to mean projection or extension. {5}. The reclaimed land or the land that rose up due to sea-level change in the west coast were probably called as Kanna that later changed into Kanara or Kannara or Kannada. The name Karunada (Karnata) was different from Kannara as per Tamil text of Silappadhikaram. All these places are merged today.
Pur or Pura in Munda language.
The Manki heads ‘Pura’ or ‘pur’ – the name that is used to designate a city or a town. In the Mundari culture, the variations of the word “pur” or “pura” is seen to signify the larger group of hamlets. The area headed by “Manki” is called as “Paraha” by Mundas; “Pargana” by Santals;pir” or “Pirhi” by Ho people. The underlying word is ‘para’ – as a corruption of ‘pura’. This word is a Sanskrit word and certainly no “Aryan” or any outsider had influenced them. The Mundas were part of the early culture of Sanskrit based vedic tradition.
To substantiate this further let us see other proofs in the next article.

(To be continued)
{1} Mahabharata 12-176
{5} Tamil lexicon edited by N.C. kanthaiya pillai, page 144