by Richard Lasrado
Mangalore, Feb 8: The twin districts of erstwhile South Kanara, stretching from Shirur in the north to the Chandragiri river in the south, were part of what was known as Tulu Nadu in the days of yore.
The history of Tulu Nadu has been recorded by eminent scholars, researchers and historians, among others, prominently by, Dr B A Saletore, Manjeshwar Ganapati Rao Aigal, Dr Padoor Gururaja Bhat, Dr K V Ramesh, Dr K S Haridas Bhat, Prof K G Vasanthamadhava and others, in research papers and books.
Tulu Nadu might have taken a substantial shape during the lifetime of the Kadamba king Mayuravarma around 345 AD. The Kadamba rulers ruled from Banavasi and because of the geographical distance, they may have ruled the region through their local satraps like Sawants.
The Hoysala rulers too held suzerainty in part over Tulu Nadu. One of the Hoysala rulers is said to have married Chikkayitayi from the Barkur-based dynasty and she ruled a part of Tulu Nadu from Barkur for some time.
The Alupas were quite independent and their allegiance to others was nominal at best. They held full sway over Tulu Nadu under delegation of powers from Vijayanagar kings and totally dominated Tulu Nadu from the 14th to the 17th centuries.
During the rule of Vijayanagar dynasty, Tulu Nadu continued to be administered in two parts – Mangaluru Rajya and Barakuru Rajya. It is also believed that Tulu Nadu was the original homeland of the dynasty that founded the Vijayanagar Empire based in eastern Karnataka. As mentioned already, Tulu Nadu was controlled by the satraps of the Vijayanagar Empire until the 17th century.
Mangalore, Barkur and and the region around it prospered and gained importance during Vijayanagar period. Afer the decline of the Vijayanagar Empire, the Keladi Nayakas of Ikkeri controlled much of Tulu Nadu.
In 1763, Hyder Ali vanquished the Bidanur rulers and took over the control of Tulu Nadu. After his death, his son Tipu Sultan took over and ruled until his death in Srirangapatna in 1799.
A good number of stone edicts and pillars have been found in the two districts over the last century during excavations and during construction activity. Most of them have only corroborated the existing records. However, a stone incription found very recently in a strip of land currently owned by Malathi V Kurup in Jeppu Bappal in the city seems to have added a new twist to the local history.
The picture in the middle is of the epigraph as it originally lay and those on either side are the front and back faces of it, after restoration
Two new names, of a local minister and his son, who held sway over the region just over seven centuries ago, have surfaced as contents of this inscription.
Malathi had not realized the value of this important historical piece until a friend and acquaitance B M Rohini, a Kannada writer, who herself has brought out a book on ancient stone inscriptions found in Tulu Nadu, came to know about it. She brought it to the notice of Prof T Murugeshi, lecturer in Ancient History and Archaelogy at MSRS College at Shirva in Udupi district.
Prof T Murugeshi
Prof Murugeshi, joined by one of his erstwhile students Prashant Shetty, who is currently a lecturer at Milagres College, Kallianpur, visited the spot and realized it was kind of a golden nugget of historical evidence.
With Malathi Kurup's permission, they both brought it to their college in Shirva and have now preserved it in the college museum, after restoring it to its original look.
Says Prof Murugeshi, "The inscription is about 4 feet in height and is rectangular in shape, having four faces. On the front face, 27 lines are inscribed and on the reverse 26 lines have been found. In all, there are 53 lines written in Kannada language and script. At the top of the first side, a Nandi and Shivalinga are found engraved in bas-relief. On the back, at the top of the inscription, an unidentified sculpture is seen." He feels it could be of Lord Ganesh.
Prof Murugeshi along with Malathi V Kurup and B M Rohini
He explains further, "The inscription starts with an auspicious word ‘Swasthi Shri’ and carries the date of Saka era as ‘Jayabhyudaya Shakabdha 1305 ne Dundhubhi Samvtsarada, Magha Shuddha 5 lu. This corresponded to 1384 AD."
The inscription continues as ‘Shri matu Vasistha gotrada Chowdarasa mantriya kumara Malagarsa oderu Mangaluru Rajyavanaluvaga, Kashyapa gotrada Mayi Dikshitara maga Murari Bhattarige Ardhoodaya Punyakaladali dhare eredu kotta urtti.’
The gist of the edict is that the land around it was a grant from Magalarsa, son of minister Chowdarasa of Shri Matu Vashistha gotra, who ruled Mangaluru Rajya that time, to Murari Bhatta, son of Mai Dikshit of Kashyapa gotra.
New twist to history?
Two salient aspects of history are worth the mention here. Firstly, although the stone pillar was of Vijayanagar times, there is no mention of Vijayanagar or any other ruler in it. Secondly, mention of period and time is significant. Although the Ardhodaya cited therein was initially believed to be the Kannada form of Godhuli Lagna, another scholar says it represents the Amavasya day of Pushya Masa when Rohini Nakshatra ruled on a Sunday.
The most curious part of the find is that these two names, Chowdarasa and Malagarsa, were hitherto unknown to historians and unheard of so far. Adds Prof Murugesh, "The inscription also mentions the Aalanti Math and one Siri Ganga Heggade of Kuvalam Bali for the first time."
He feels that the inscription needs further deeper and detailed study and for this purpose the stone pillar has been preserved in the Shirva college.
He says he is indebted to writer B M Rohini who passed the vital information and also accompanied him and Prashant Shetty to the spot. He is also grateful to the land-owner Malathi V Kurup who generously permitted to shift the epigraph to the college and also to Dr Y N Shetty and Prof Y Bhaskar Shetty in helping in its transportation to Shirva.
When asked, B M Rohini said it was a mere fluke that her book was seen by Malathi and she happened to make a mention of the stone pillar lying near her house to Rohini. She in turn spoke to Prof Murugeshi about it, who decided to visit the place to conduct a study.
Prof Murugeshi has already found several ancient edicts in the undivided Dakshina Kannada district during the past years. He has thoroughly studied the history of the undivided district and Tulu Nadu.
When complimented for taking so much of interest in the undivided district, he shot back with a friendly protest, "Although I hail from the neighbouring Chikmagalur district, I am very much a part of this region, having already lived here for the past 22 years"
Well, that statement could go down in history.