• Thursday, November 06, 2014 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | November 1, 2014 | 8.10 pm IST Even though officialdom has always called the small city Mangalore (that was the Brits) or Mangaluru (the Government of India), to the people who live there, neither of these names matter. It has six names in six different languages, and most people identify with one particular name. The city that originally came up between the Nethravathi river, Gurpur river and the Arabian sea in coastal Karnataka, is called Kudla in Tulu, Maikal in Beary, Kodiyal in Konkani, Mangalapuram in Malayalam, Mangalore in English and Mangaluru in Kannada. (Mangalore borders north Kerala and that is why it has a name in Malayalam too). For most of the people who live in and around the city in the two culturally and geographically contiguous districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, the name that they identify with the most is the Tulu Kudla.  On Saturday, the state government officially changed the spellings of the names of 12 places in Karnataka to bring them in consonance with the Kannada pronunciation.  Mangalore and parts of coastal Karnataka have historically, never had much of Kannada connection. This region was part of what was called Tulunadu, meaning the land of Tuluvas (Tulu-speaking people). It has a rich oral tradition, a distinctive form of worship that is not part of the Vedic tradition, not to mention two languages – Tulu and Beary – indigenous to it. (Konkani is spoken in several parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and most of Goa). Incidentally, Tulu itself has two dialects one spoken by the Shivalli Brahmins and the other spoken by all other Tulu-speaking communities and other local communities. It has its own script, but it has not been used for centuries. Bunder is the old port area of Mangalore. The word Bunder has Persian roots. The reason for the region’s linguistic diversity is that it was a port town, having historical links with south-west Asia and west Asia since at least the 7th century AD. Jewish and Arab traders from this region have been known to have lived in the city for a number of years even settling down with families. This cultural exchange gave rise to the Beary community – local Muslims who speak a language that bears the name of their community. Linguistically, the language is closely related to Tulu and Malayalam. But the community’s culture is distinct from the cultures of all other communities living there. Konkani speakers have their own history of settling down in this region, and much of it is contested. Even until the 1960s, Kannada was hardly spoken in this region. It was only with the introduction of the formal education that Kannada began to be spoken. Writer Athrady Amritha Shetty who lives in Belthangady, around 80 km away from Mangalore, says the word “Mangaluru” is an administrative name: “We call (the city) Kudla. The word Mangaluru is only found in government files and is used only by government officers.” She recalls that it was only in around the mid-1960s that Kannada was introduced in schools. Until then, she does not remember anybody in her village or anywhere else in the region being able to speak Kannada. Asked about the government’s move to give these 12 places a more Kannada identity, Konkani cultural activist and former chairperson of the Konkani Sahitya Academy Eric Ozario said: “Why should it be like that?” “If at all they wanted to rename the city, it should have been called Kudla, not Mangaluru. This Tulunadu, and even Bearys and Konkanis accept the name Kudla. Every language has its own value and they should all get respect.” The Arabian Sea in the monsoons “Even today, a Konkani speaker will speak to a Tulu speaker in Tulu. They will not speak in Kannada,” Shetty says. She says that she does not fear that the language will die out: “There is a village a little further from here (Belthanady town) called Didupe, where until today they do not have proper roads and no electricity. As long as there are people like that who till the land, Tulu will remain alive. It is they who built the language with their agricultural way of life, not us.” Even until today, there remain many parts in the region where people speak only Tulu and no other language.