Culture of Tulunadu

Tulu Nadu is a very unique place in India. In terms of size, its a very small region – probably 100kms by 50kms. But in terms of its contribution to Indian art and culture, its a giant. Tulu Nadu has contributed immensely in various fields such as literature, dance, cuisine and so on. Even the great Vijayanagara rulers have a Tulu Nadu background (the Taulava dynasty, in particular).

When it comes to the art forms prevalent in Tulu Nadu, there is probably no other region in India that offers such a variety within such a small geographical section. Here is a short intro on some of these art forms.

  • Yakshagana – probably the most well known contribution of Tulu Nadu. Similar to the Kathakali of Kerala. Stage performance where the focus is on expressions, make-up and religious themes. Very popular even today.
  • Bhuta Kola – a mixture of art and belief. Form of worship to the Bhutas or demigods of the land. Very intense and colorful. Equally ritualistic. Not enough is being done to preserve this culture though.
  • Kambala – a rural sport. In a nut-shell, this is a buffalo racing competition in a muddy field. Extremely intensive and requires great energy on the part of the participants. Not really common nowadays.
  • Aati Kalenja – a very unique art form where “Kalenja” goes around villages during the monsoons singing native stories. The belief is that honoring Kalenja with rice and other eateries ensures that evil spirits are warded off during the rains. Dying art form.
  • Nagamandala – Like the Kola, this brings together art and belief. A very ritualistic dance worship of snakes. Snakes are revered throughout Tulu Nadu and it is but natural that we took to the dance form of worshipping them.
  • Dakke Bali – Very similar to Nagamandala but is offered to the “Brahma” – a local demigod. More prevalent near the Padubidri region of Udupi.
  • Hulivesha – similar in concept to Aati Kalenja. Common during Dussehra when people in teams of five to ten go around the town in the costume of tigers accompanied by music. Just like snakes, tigers are revered in Tulu Nadu and Hulivesha is a natural outcome of such reverence. Dying art form.
  • Koti and Chennayya – A dance form which stands as proof of how folk lore can influence the culture of a community. Koti and Chennayya were two heroic brothers who are worshiped as protectors of the land.

It is of course difficult to capture the entire essence of the above art forms in one posting. More research, support and encouragement is definitely needed for these so that future generations can get to watch, participate and enjoy them.

The Hindu Unit of Time

Every day when practising Brahmins do their Sandhyavandana (or Japa, in short), they perform what is called as Sankalpa. This is a “declaration” at the beginning about doing the activity. As part of the sankalpa, one identifies oneself temporally and spatially (time and space, I should say). In the Hindu system, the concept of time is a little more elaborate (more defined, really) than our current way of saying, for example, 24 Jun 2008 A.D. So, here are some details about where we stand in time as per our culture…

The main reference for our time is Brahma, the cosmic creator. The life of one Brahma is 100 years after which a Maha Pralaya (Armageddon??) takes place and another cycle of life is initiated by GOD. This 100 years in terms of our scale is calculated as follows…

  • We are currently in Kali Yuga. Kali Yuga lasts for 432,000 human years.
  • Dwapara Yuga is twice as long as Kali Yuga.
  • Treta Yuga is thrice Kali Yuga’s length.
  • Satya Yuga is 4 times Kali Yuga.
  • The four yugas combined together are called as Mahayuga which lasts for 43,20,000 years.
  • 71 such mahayugas together form one Manvantara.
  • There are 14 manvantaras. Each manvantara has a head called Manu.
  • 14 manvantaras together constitute one day (kalpa) in the life of Brahma.
  • A day is followed by a night of equal duration.
  • 360 such day-night kalpa combinations constitutes one year in the life of Brahma.
  • Brahma’s lifetime constitutes 100 such years.

Currently, in Brahma’s time scale, we are in the 51st year, 1st day, 1st day (out of day-night), in the 7th manvantara (whose head is Vaivasvata manu), 28th mahayuga (out of 71), Kali yuga and in the first quarter of Kali Yuga.

The birth of Sri Vadiraja Swamy

Just like his life, the birth of Sri Vadiraja Swamy was also miraculous. His parents were from a village called Kumbhasi near Udupi. They did not have any children for a long time and therefore were longing for one. Once they visited the nearby Kumbhasi matha (the name that Sode Vadiraja Matha used to known by then). When they stood in front of the Swamiji (Sri Vageesha Tirtha) for prasad, they asked the Swamiji to bless them so they could have a child. The Swamiji declared that they would have a boy soon but the child must be handed over to the matha (so he could become a Sanyasi). The parents were not too keen on doing this. Sensing their discomfort, and to prove that there were divine plans in place, the Swamiji modified the condition that if the child would be born inside the house, the parents could keep it. Else, the child would come to the matha. Confident that the child would be delivered inside their house, the parents agreed.

About nine months later, one day when the entire family except for the pregnant Gauri (mother of Sri Vadiraja) were having food, a cow entered the paddy field in front of their house and started grazing. Instinctively, Gauri came out of the house and started to chase the cow away. The cow ran away but Gauri sat down as she wanted to catch a breath. The next moment, she was in labor and before other members of the house could reach her, Gauri had already delivered a baby! The baby was named Bhuvaraha and went on to become the great Dvaita saint Sri Vadiraja Swamy.

Even today, in remembrance of this episode, during the annual festival in Sode, rice from the same paddy field (known as “Gauri Gadde” or “Gauri’s field” ) in Kumbhasi is offered to Sri Vadiraja Swamy.