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Ancient Tulu Language

1. Devi Mahatme :

Devi Mahatme, which is the Tulu translation of the Sanskrit holy verse ‘Saptashati’, is the oldest Tulu work available till now.  The palm leaves’ manuscripts of this work were discovered by Dr Venkataraja Puninchitthaaya at the house of Sri Thenkillaaya in puttur.  The period of this work can be traced back to 1200 A.D.  The use of the ‘sd’ sound, the use of ‘Rala’ letters and the use of many cases are some of the specialties of the tulu used here. The use of the passive voice, which cannot be found in the present day tulu is another uniqueness of this verse.

2. Mahabharatho :

A poet called Arunabda, who lived at Kodavoor in Udupi, somewhere around 1383 A.D. is the composer of this work. Dr. Venkataraja Punchitthaya discovered its palm leaves’ manuscript at Sri Laxminarayana Kekunnaaya’s house at Mundya in mudnoor village of Puttur Tq. D.K. Among the 1757 stanzas of this verse, 883 stanzas have been in octaves. Many traditional vrutta  like ‘Thotaka’ Thotaka Dheerga’ ‘mallika male’ etc have been used in this verse.  The story of Adiparva of Mahabharatha is its subject.  The mention of 26 sound instruments of the tulu region,various children’s games, magical dolls of the marriage altar, flexible umbrellas, supply of cool water, the offering dates as ‘naivedyam’ to God and Bhoota worship are some of the special features of this work.

3. Sri Bhagavatho :

Shri Vishnu Thunga is the author of this work.  On the basis of his horoscopic verse, his period can be traced back to around 1737.  The recent studies have fixed his period around 1370.This palm leaf manuscript too was discovered by Dr Venkataraja Punchitthaya at the house of Sri Narayana Saralaya in Madhoooru.

Dr Kabbinale Vasanta Bharadvaj opines that ‘Sri Bhagavatgho’ must be the title of this book, as it is often used in the title verses. According to him, the author of this work lived at Heroor near Udupi. The 1988 stanzas of this long verse are divided into 49 chapters, which are grouped into 3 skandas.  Compared to the Kannada and Sanskrit versions of Bhagavatha, this work is very short.  The absence of ‘Phalashruthi’ at the end indicates that this work has not been available in full.

4. Kaveri :

Only a part of this work has been found in the manuscripts collection of Calicut University.  The period of this work is considered to be the end of the 14th century.  The author of this work remains unknown.  The greatness of Kaveri which is incorporated within Skanda Purana is its subject. The work is socially remarkable from the point of view of metre, language use, and the use of figures of speech. One of the poet’s statements about the people, who criticize poetry, reflects the literary atmosphere of those days.  Also the poet’s statement that his poetry is like the sugar cane, which gets sweeter, the longer you munch it, becomes paradoxical as the later parts of the work have not been available.   The palm leaves’ manuscripts of this verse were found at Vitla palace of Vitla seeme, in Bantwala taluk.  Presently it is preserved at Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara cultural research centre.  At the cover leaf, the title is written as ‘Tulu Baraha – Tulu Bhashe Ramayana’.  The work is edited by Dr. S.R.Vighnaraja.  The work has fifteen chapters, which narrate the history of Ikshvaku family.  The 10th, 11th and 12th chapters narrate the story of Ramayana in brief.  Dr. Kabbinale Vasantha Bharadvaj opines that this work is a part of’Sri Bhagavatho’, authored by Vishnu Thunga.

6. Tulu Karna Parva : –

The author of this work is Immadi Harihara, the king of Vijaya Nagara.  He is also called Hariyappa. This shows that the rulers of Vijaya Nagara, not only belonged to the ‘Tuluva’ family, but they also had Tulu as their language.  The defeat of Karna by Arjuna is the subject of this verse. On the basis of one of the opening verses of this work, its period can be traced back to around 1385.  The verse is written in partial sestets.  It makes use of other vrutta  as well.  It is very special that invoking Ganapathi, the author offers to him Bananas, leaf Appas, sugarcane, ‘Undaliges’ and jack fruit too as Naivedyam.  The remembrance of his predecessors by the poet also suggests the existence of the tulu poetic tradition prior to the poet.

– Dr. Kabbinale Vasantha Bharadwaj

27 Responses to Ancient Tulu Language

  1. Vedavyasa Acharya

    I am really proud to know about all these things .Even i am from a place near Udupi called Kalmanje.I hope this will be very helpful for many brahmins because many information is given about shivalli brahmins.One small suggetion from my side please make all the audio and videos as downloadable format so that we ned not go site every time.

    Thanking you,
    Vedavyasa Acharya

  2. Yathish K Hebbaar

    I was happy to see this site for our SHIVALLI community. carry on.

  3. Neria Harish Hebbar

    May I request that some of the scholars translate some of the Tulu classics into Kannada? It would be worthwhile reading such a document and get a sense of life in Tulunadu in the medieval period. Translation into Kannada will make it more widely available to everyone. This may also help in shining the spot light on Tulu language as one of the oldest of the Dravidian languages.

    With kind regards,


  4. Ballakur Balakrishna

    The information presented above on ancient Tulu language is a very good one. Is it possible to make a audio recording of the same and place it on this site for wider reach of the younger generation of tulu people.

    Ballakur Balakrishna

  5. Pradeep Sherighar

    Dear all,
    Thats really great to hear about that our tulu language having such a history..
    I feel proud be that i am a person were i am from udipi(alevoor), but thing is that i am staying in hyderabad with my parents missing my native a lot because we dont have any of from our place udipi..

  6. Pradeep Sherighar

    Kindly help me out by providing some more interesting about our tulu scripts to my mail id

  7. admin

    Ancient Tulu Language article in Kannada :

  8. Vasant S Bhat

    This is fantastic information about the ancient lineage, specially when the use of the language itself is on decline. I hope it entices a passion in all Tuluvaas to use the language Tulu rather than Kannada, which is in fashion in the heartland of Tulu (from Udipi to Sulia-Puttur). I am thankful to all the various contributors who have given us such useful details of our language, customs & culture. Jai Ho Tulunadu !

  9. Dr.KabbinaleVasantha Bharadwaj

    Dear Tuluvas,
    Thanks for the replies and if I know the e.mails, I can send the book ‘Palantulu Kavya’ to you.
    Dr.K.Vasantha Bharadwaj
    My e.mail is: kabbi_nale @yahoo.co.in

  10. Dr.KabbinaleVasantha Bharadwaj

    Dear Sir
    please forward my response.
    Dr.Kabbinale Vasantha Bharadwaj

  11. shrikant bhat

    Good to know a site dedicated to shivalli brahmins. Pl carry on the good work. Can a tutorial be started to get know one’s tulu language ? It will be very useful for all the interested tuluvas.
    My very best wishes to all operating this site.

  12. Venkatesh Bairy

    I am interested in learning Tulu Language. Is there any books available or a tutorila classes to do so.

  13. Karishma Bhandari

    Thanks to all who have taken so much of efforts in making me more proud to be a manglorean..speaking tulu. I wish u all the best for your future venture & hope that coming generations continue speaking our sweet tulu.


    Karishma B.

  14. srinivas hariachar

    Has anybody carbon dated the available materials?

  15. sanketh mala

    there is urgent need of reconstruct tulunadu..

  16. Supriya Acharya

    Dear Dr. kabbinale Vasantha Bharadwaj,
    It’s a very good site which provides ample information to show the efforts put on by our anscestors to bring very good books on tulu language. It’s a shame that its not been carried forward by present generations. I would appreciate if any book is published to teach the language(writing and speaking). I want to learn our language tulu as well as my 8 yr old daughter. The language should continue and it should not be given up younger generations.
    Thank you

  17. aruna pujari

    it is really very important to reconstruct our rich language tulu.I belong to mangalore and am proud to call myself as mangalorean-tulu speaking.

  18. aruna pujari

    it is really very important to let our younger generation know about our rich language tulu.I belong to mangalore and am proud to call myself as mangalorean-tulu speaking.

  19. Uday Shetty

    please put some light on SIRI PARDANA

  20. Ramesh Salian

    The research on ancient tulu language shows its glorious past as one of the oldest dravidean language. Discovery of palm leaf manuscript is really great. I congratulate to all the contributors to these studies and request them to keep up this good work.

    I only appeal to all the parents of tulu community to teach our great language to the children so that it doesn’t get vanished like the manuscript.

  21. B. S. Hegde

    There are lots of false conclusions relating to early rule of Vijayanagara Rayas in Tulunadu. There is an inscription of 1336 A.D. relating to construction of a fort in Barkur by Hariappa Dannayaka, which is wrongly attributed to Harihara I. In fact Barkur was ruled by Hoysalas till 1345 A.D., though they had accepted overlordship of Vijayanagara in 1336 itself. harihara I or Hukka was a Teluga of Sangam dynasty and it is unlikely that he had knowledge of Tulu. Karnaparvo imust have been written by some Tuluva Brahmin poet, possibly Arunabja Kavi himself, in the name of Hariappa Dannayaka.

  22. Balakrishna Rao

    Let me narrate my feelings about this topic. I do not claim to know or practice the script. Like many of us I was ignorant of the its existence, richness, past history, its usefulness etc. Thanks to the scholars who revealed and brought it to the attention of many of us. We are grateful to these scholars – Venkatraj Puninchithaya, Dr. Padmanabha Kekunnaya and others to name a few, for their research, effort to preserve and propagate. We know lot more about Tulu lipi now than a few decades ago! For example, the Malayalam must have been derived from the then existing older common script of Tulu (controversial assumption!).

    So what? What use is the Tulu script for us anyway? Why bother to develop the script or the language when no one seems to be interested! (but you are not one among them! Or else you would not have responded to the exhibit I had at the AVG booth!). It is a dying language !?! May be. (That is what we were told about Sanskrit in those days, remember?) We may not find its usefulness now.(Technology can only prosper with a sound basic science research!) But when they collect those palm scripts from various sources such as our ancestral homes, would there be someone to read and decipher or transliterate into Kannada or English? We may store in the library. But who would read them? What will happen to those palm leaves which otherwise would have been scrapped because nobody knows how to read them or witness the tragedy of being eaten by termites! I even heard that they have used as fuel for fire?! We will never know what treasure we lost because of the ignorance.

    What is the solution? What can we do before it is too late? If I made you aware of this I have accomplished the purpose, at least half of it. First task is to urge the people who own these palm leaves to deposit in libraries in Dhamashtala or Manipala or any library that can undertake the preservation and catalog properly. Second task would be to train students to read and write the scripts and create interest in Tulu literature. As an exercise they could use the Tulu Bhagavatho, Tulu Mahabharatho or Devi mahatme etc. In trying to do this keep in mind that we have already lost a generation of students. So we have to start from children of elementary level. No parents would want their children to start another language if they can help! Everyone wants their children to learn only English and I presume that even Kannada will have to be taught through English in Karnataka!

    So, under these circumstances, we are left with the choice of only compulsory teaching of Tulu in elementary schools. Again, public schools which depend on government support are out of the question. Private schools will have to be funded. Can we foresee this happening? What choice do we have? If Tulu is not encouraged in the Tulu region of Karnataka where else can we expect of its survival, preservation and propagation?

    One more suggestion. Udupi Ashta-matha Swamis are generous in providing free shelter, food, education etc. to a number of children. They prepare them to get to the high school so that they be on their own. I understand they are being taught Kannada, English, Sanskrit and Hindi and other subjects for this purpose. Why not teach Tulu script with its grammar until they go to high school? Are there teachers to do this? Can we encourage them undertake this aspect?

    I welcome other suggestions. You are not obliged to answer or respond to this email if you choose. This is just to make you aware of the situation. That is all. Sorry, for long narration.

  23. r.varma

    is there any translation of the tulu books into english.pl reply

  24. Seby Fernandes, Goa

    Dear Sir,
    This is Seby Fernandes working as a Konkani Language expert at National Translation Mission, whch has its headquarters at CIIL, Mysore.
    I have a great interest in learning new languages and translation have been my Strong hold for so many years. I have been in touch with the Tulu community which resides in Coorg district of Karnataka. When they speak, I found that there are many similarities with Konkani language.
    I am interested in translating a good book from Tulu (Any writings) into Konkani. So please let me know if anything of yours have been translate into English or Hindi, so that I can do the same in Konkani and Marathi languages on which I have a equal command.

    Seby Fernandes


    Great to know that so many good books are published. Can we get to know to where we can buy these books.


  26. Suchindrum L.Padmanabhan Potti

    In the second para Sri Balakrishna Rao(3-10-2010) says that Tulu is dying Language. I felt that he is killing our mother Language. Why should not at least he himself take action for his valuable suggestion in this regard. All Tulu Speaking people will follow him and future generation will be very grateful to him. I am a Tulu Brahmin living in the Tamilnadu doing service in the SLOGAN 1)Linguistic Minorities 2) Always speak in Tulu Language 3) Development of Tulu Language. I am doing Shastaanga Namaskara for his feeling in Tulu Language.

  27. Suchindrum L.Padmanabhan Potti

    I pray the Goverment concerned to take suitable action for the Development of Tulu Language

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