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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An unplanned visit to Chennai


The alarm rang at 4.00 AM, and the cab was on time when I got ready after having a nice cup of tea in the early morning. Left from home at 4.45AM, as expected reached well before time to bengaluru international airport. There was KIOSK machine, and it was my first time to use that machine, without much problem I checked in for both the flights and got windows seats. I usually prefer aisle seats in international flights but here since the distance is very less I prefer window seats. I came inside to the gate after the security check.

I was thinking of having breakfast in Chennai somewhere near the consulate. But since the morning tea had made me feel very hungry, I went to the Taste of India near the gate, I was shocked to see the Idly and chutney priced 79 exclusive of tax, that comes to about 90 bucks for Idly. Anyways, I was hungry and I had very little choice, so I took idly, it was very tasty and I found it not waste of money. I was happy about one thing that foreigner gets a better taste of India than us inside, because I have never had such a nice idly and chutney inside Bangalore in any hotel.

All were good and by the time I finish my breakfast it was time to board, quickly I was on flight and without much delay the flight took off to Chennai @ 7 as scheduled. No worries till I landed in Chennai.

I know things are going to hit its worse in this place of the world and it started, I took a prepaid taxi by paying 300 bucks to go to German consulate and was shocked to see that the car driver came and took the slip and walked away. I need to rush behind him to find exactly where he has kept his car. Another shock, I see a car seemed to be made of wreckage after accident, a 1920 ambassador; the seats are an impossible year old sofa. I just cursed ma luck. I could have stayed away from prepaid taxi. I advice everyone coming here (I wish you don’t come here, but if at all you come) to avoid this prepaid taxi service (even though I don’t know how other services would be, but I think it cannot go worse than this). It’s totally useless.

He took another fellow along and started to German consulate. I wondered if he would drop me safely. Finally I managed to reach the consulate in that wreckage. I was all very nice in the consulate, very green place, nice surrounding in the boat club road. I think it must be a very posh locality in Chennai, I can see lot of well maintained bungalows nearby, and rich people going on walk in the morning.

I finished my interview before the scheduled time, Again the worry started to come back to the airport. One good thing I did was having breakfast in Bangalore, there was no breakfast or snacks in the flight (wonder if jet airways in running in loss) and no place to eat near the consulate. I could not find a taxi anywhere nearby, so I took an auto, he too is not a kind person; he took here and there and got some receipt from some taxi fellow. When I boarded he said 250, and later after giving the bill he stated, I have to pay 350!!, what the f***, I said, I am not going to come with you. Then he said, “Ok, ok, 250!” what a cultureless a***ole. Somehow I was very irritated with that fellow, and I was cursing my luck to be in that auto when company pays for a luxury taxi. He dropped me about 100 meters away from the departure gate saying that autos are not allowed inside. Somehow I reached the airport. I was thinking I will have some nice lunch and take rest in the airport.

I was at airport at 12.30 and my flight ticket was at 5.30, fortunately they allowed me inside airport, may be because I was already holding the boarding pass as I already checked in the flight in Bangalore. Good, I was saved, because outside the temperature is running 32 degrees plus. There was one burger shop and a Maggie shop if you want to eat and there is nothing else. I had to search to find a place to buy drinking water from. I had a chicken burger and some juice. I could have bought something from Bangalore if I knew this is going to happen to me in Chennai. I did not even have any books to read, so that wait till 5.00 turned out to be the worst waits of my life in that shouting crowd inside the airport. Now writing this note of my trip to kill ma time and anger.

I would never come unplanned for taxi to Chennai ever again; else you will get robbed for terrible service. I wish there should be some taxi service like Meru in Chennai too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Aliya-Santana (Nephew lineage)


This is a system of inheritance of property followed mostly by Bunts and other non-brahmin communities in south canara which is complete opposite compared to the system followed by Hindus. It is also referred as Ali-Santana (Kundapura Kannada) or Aliya-Kattu (Tulu), where in the children belongs to mother’s family, and they will inherit the “Bali” of mother. Bali is similar to what is called as Gotra in Brahmins. All the laws governing the marriages are based on Bali, so that boy and girl of same Bali are not supposed to get married and they are considered siblings. All the property is inherited in such a way that, the girl will get most of the property while the boy would get only his share. That is, if the girl has children, they also get their share, but the boy does not, his children are supposed to get their share from their family (mother’s family). There were no clear rules for the father's property. Probably, in the earlier times it might have gone solely to nephew. However, it was observed in the later period even though the mother's property distribution would always follow matrilineal inheritance rules (sometimes at the expense of sons), father was free to distribute his property according to his wish.

As opposite to the tradition in Hindus, the Aliya Santana follows different tradition. When marriages happen, the girl won’t go and stay with her husband in his house; instead the boy would come and stay with her in her house, and will look after the property. In my opinion this is a better option as there are very less chances of girl being suffered in her husband’s house. The law was recognized by the modern courts as far back as the British India in 1843. The rules of Aliya Santana were first published as the English translation in 1864, by the German Press Mission in Mangalore

There are several inscriptions found near Barkur which say that the Aliya Santana is being followed during the time from 10th to 16th century. The story behind Aliya Santana is very interesting. It is said that very long ago Barkur was called as “Baraha Kanya Pura”, since the King Bhootala Pandya had twelve wives. The king of demon, Kundodara Bhoota demanded a “Bali” (Sacrifice) of king’s son when the newly built ship was set out to sea. Even though he had twelve wives and lot of children they refused to give one. Then his sister agreed to sacrifice her son. The demon Kundodara was impressed, he not only spared the young boy’s life, but also ordered Bootala pandya to follow the Aliya-Santana, where in all the property would be inherited to his Nephew, and the laws of inheritance were written, as dictated by the demon Kundodara. Even today Aliya-Santana is followed in Tulu-Nadu, or the undivided South Canara, especially in Bunts community.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

History of Bunts


The Bunts are a usually Tulu or Kannada speaking community mostly found in Udupi, Mangalore and Bombay. They are originally from region of Tulu Nadu in which includes the districts of Udupi and Mangalore in the Indian state of Karnataka, they are also found in Kasaragod of Kerala. According to the system of Varna Bunts belong to the Serpent Lineage (Nagavanshi) of Kshatriyas. Bunts traditionally follow the matrilineal system of descent and kinship like their related communities of Samanta Kshatriya, Tulu Jains and Nairs.

The word Bunt is derived from the San-skrit word 'Bhata' meaning powerful man or a soldier, the Tulu equivalent is 'Bunte' or 'Bunter' (plural) which means protector. Bunts are also referred to as 'Nayaka', 'Shetray' and 'Nādava' which means leader, nobility and landlord respectively in Tulu. The word 'Shetray' anglicised as Shetty is the most common of all Bunt surnames followed by Rai. In fact in certain parts where the community has migrated like Mumbai, the community is simply referred to as the Shettys.

Historian Edgar Thurston in his book “Caste and tribes of south India” described the Bunts as follows “Men and women of the Bunt community belong to a beautiful race of Asia. Men have a broad forehead and a parrot nose. Mostly they are of fair complexion. Even today they are of independent nature, short tempered, self respecting and have a muscular body, which tells about the history of belonging to warrior families”

Krishna Devaraya (1509-1529)
There are different studies done regarding the origin of Bunts, Prof S. Shivaram Shetty’s research shows that a tribe called ‘Kosars’ wandered into Tulu Nadu after the Aryan invasion. Mercenaries by nature, they first settled in Deccan and established the Shatavahana kingdom in Andhra Pradesh. In Tulu Nadu they founded the Alupa kingdom. According to one of the various theories regarding the origin of Kadamba Kings, they are connected to the Bunts since one inscription states the kadambas belonging to the Nāga or the serpent lineage to which Bunts also belong and many Bunt families hold the surnames of Kadamba and Varma which were the titles of the Kadambas

As a warrior class, the Bunts attained their greatest glory during the rule of Vijayanagara Emperors belonging to the Tuluva Dynasty which was founded by a chieftain Bunt called Tuluva Narasa Nayaka. The glory was further enhanced by Krishnadevaraya by extending the kingdom to whole south India. During the rule of Vijayanagara Tulu Nadu was administered in two parts – Mangalore State and Barkur State. We can still see the glory of Vijayanagar kingdom in Barkur by the beautiful temples they built during that period. After the fall of the dynasty the Bunts again concentrated themselves in Tulu Nadu where they took to large scale agriculture in the vast area of land they still possessed and also served as ad-ministrators and warriors in the various minor Hindu and Jain kingdoms that controlled various parts of the region from time to time.

The people of the community to the north of River Kalyanapur (closer to Barakuru) speak Kannada and people south of the river (closer to Mangaluru) speak tulu. There seems to have been a close relationship between the Bunts and Jains in Tulu Nadu. Not only are their last names similar in many instances (Ajila, Ballala, Hegde, Banga, Chowta etc.) but they also have similar customs. Aliya santana is followed by both Bunts and Jains in Tulu Nadu, perhaps the only Jain community in India to follow this matriarchal system of inheritance. Bunts of higher social staus were said to have converted to Jainism, though it is not clear when this conversion predominantly occurred.

The Jains of Tulu Nadu suffered a cultural recession. The glory of Jain period was abruptly curbed during the confusion of the takeover of Tulu Nadu by the Nayaks of Ikkeri. It is evidenced also by the lack of building great monuments and the bastis (like in Mudubidri).

Another group of people with similar cul-ture was the Nairs in Kerala. They have disappeared as an entity from Tulu Nadu, but the inscriptions found in Barkur from the medieval period as well as the Grama Paddathi, which gives the history of Brahmin families in Tulu Nadu, have made several references to the Nairs. They acted as their protectors of Brahmins, brought to Tulu Nadu by the Kadamba kings in the 8th century. Kadamba king Mayuravarma, who is credited with bringing Brahmins from Ahichatra (from the North), also settled Nairs in Tulu Nadu. Yet, there is no written proof for this occurrence and the only mention of the Nairs in the inscriptions comes after the Alupa period (early part of 14th century.) It is postulated that the Nairs were later absorbed into the social stratum of the Nadava community.

It is also postulated that the Nairs of Malabar originally migrated from the Tulu Nadu as noted here: Manual of Madras Administration Vol II (printed in 1885) notes that the Nadavas are the same people as the Nairs of Malabar and the Bunts of Southern Tulu Nadu. “They appear to have entered Malabar from the North rather than the South and to have peopled first the Tulu, and then the Malayalam country. They were probably the off-shoot of some colony in the Konkan or the Deccan.” There are different social status among Nairs, and the people came from Tulu Nadu are identified as Uarli Nairs

References:

3. Nairs Classification
4. Pictures [1]