BUNTS


Mudirajas are also known as bants (buntlu) in some parts of western Andhra Pradesh. But bunts are quite wide spread in Karnataka and they are quit dominant peasant community in tulanad. All Mudirajas must know about Tulu and kannada speaking Bunts as Mudirajas were also in the profession of soldiers just like bunts during mediveal times and both were closely associated with the great Vijayanagar Empire from the day of its foundation till the last day of its survival. It is quite apparent from the fact that Mudirajas are also known as Bunts in Western Andhra Pradesh clearly indicates that bunts of Karnataka and A.P are not different from each other and both belong to one single block of people. It is also a fact that the name and fame which the great Vijayanagar Empire earned not only in India but in the entire world was due to the great contribution of the great warrior soldiers of bunt-mudiraj people of South Indian Peninsula.

If there is any difference between the Mudirajas (Muthurajas) and the Bunts, it is very minor due to their regional adaptation for survival. The people who spread to Tamil and telugu speaking eastern part of South Indian peninsula came to be known as Mudirajas (Muthurajas) and the people who spread to Tulu and Kannada speaking Western part of South Indian peninsula came to be known as Bunts. While some bunt-mudirajas in some regions switched over to agricultural farming and some others in some other regions taken over fishing and fish farming for survival after the collapse of kingdoms due to establishment of colonial rule by East India Company. Here is some information which is extracted from one of the web sites of Bunts for the benefit of Mudirajas of Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu.

Bunts are known to be one of the ancient and aboriginal communities of Suth Asia. About the origin of Bunts, no definitive records are available. But in the earlier centuries, some Tuluva households ruled some smaller kingdoms or areas under the kings and in some instances they were the rulers under smaller kings (e.g. Pallavas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Kalachuryas and Hoysalas). These smaller rulers had frequent clashes, with the kings, who gave birth to a group or community of warriors who were called BHATARU in Kannada, which means able warriors. In due course, the same community was called as BUNTARU or BUNTS. Even today, "bunta" word is commonly used in Tulu language, particularly in cockfight. The winning cock is called "bunte kori".

Mr. H.A. Stuart, a Historian of South Kanara district has written that like Nairs of Kerala, bunts also, originally belong to the warriors group. As centuries rolled on they became the landlords of their own area. "The Kingship Organization of India" a book authored by Dr. Iravathi Karve, reveals that buntaru means warriors and the Naadaavas, residing in the northern part of South Kanara district (from Brahmavar to Baindoor) are also a branch of Bunts community, but instead of Tulu they speak Kannada. The origin of word "naadava" is derived from the Kannada word "naadu", which means village or native place. As they used to fight for the land or "naadu" they were called as "Naadabunta" and because they were also the administrators of "Naadu", "Naadavaru" word came into practice.

The important point to be noted here is that in ancient Kerala and Tulunaadu, people had a special interest or bent of mind towards military or being a warrior. (In the olden days, service in the army was made compulsory for every able man by the ruling kings.) Likewise, large number of bhataru who served in the armed forces gradually became "Bhantaru". Rest of the community was divided according to their profession such as carpenter, blacksmith, goldsmith, potter etc.

As the kingdoms came to an end, together with it, other smaller kingdoms also became weak and lost their existence. But smaller rulers of Tulunaad such as Bhangas of Bangadi, Chautas of Puthige, Bairarasa of Karkal, Maramma Heggade of Yermal, Tholahas of Sooral, Rajas of Kumble, Kadambas of Kadaba, Saamanthas of Simanthur, Moolas of Bailugadi, Ajilas of Venur, Heggades of Nelyadi, Kundaheggade of Yellur and Marda Heggade of Kavu still remember their political history.

The living pattern of the citizens changed with the political pattern. Due to the end of kingdoms, wars stopped and the so-called Bhataru or Bunts lost their position and jobs. But as Bunts are born fighters, they did not lose their fighting spirit. Instead of fighting for the king or kingdoms, they had to fight for their very existence. Fortunately, the land given to them by the kings in appreciation of their bravery, selfless service and loyalty to the Kings came to their rescue. They diverted their tireless spirit of fighting, towards cultivation and became "sons of soil" thereby improved their living standards. They became landlords and agriculture became their main occupation. Bunts being born fighters, were also gifted with an adventurous nature, risk taking habits and leadership qualities. They moved to other parts of the world looking for better opportunities and greener pastures and excelled where ever they went and in what ever they did.

Mr. M.W.Hunter wrote in his book that Bunts or Naadavas of South Kanara and Nairs of Kerala belonged to the rich class. Originally they did not cultivate the land, given to them as gifts by the kings, by themselves, but got it done by other communities. This showed their managerial ability even during those days.

As per the opinion of Historian Mr. E.Thurston, "men and women of bunt community belonged to a beautiful race of Asia". Men had a broad forehead and parrot nose. Mostly they were of fair complexion. Even today they are of an independent nature, short tempered, self respected and have muscular body, which tells about the history of belonging to warrior families.

Divisions in Bunt community:

Maasaadika Bunts: They are the common bunts of Tulunaad who have mostly settled in the southern part of South Kanara, stretching from Udupi to Kasargod.

Naadavas or Naada Bunts: They are Kannada speaking people from northern part of South Kanara (from Brahmavar to Baindoor)

Parivaara Bunts: They are normally from the northern side. Their ways and culture are similar to the other divisions but matrimonial relationships are restricted with other divisions. They follow Brahmin culture unlike the Naadavas or Maasaadika bunts.

Jain Bunts: Basically they are a smaller division, influenced by Jain kings and religion. Their population is far less in comparison to other divisions.

Family system of Bunts:

As per Dr. Karve, Bunts mainly follow the matriarchal family system. Mostly the family property rights rested with the lady and all rights were centralized on her. Even today, some of the surnames of bunts come from the mother's side. The name of mother's ancestral house normally became the prefix or suffix of one's name. The reason for this may be that as the men went to the battlefield, the wife took all the responsibilities of the family, so she became the decision-maker. Though they followed the matriarchal family system, men had respectable and important position in the family, may be because they were the bread earners. All important positions and responsibilities always rested with men. But the surprising fact is that from the ancient days, the position of women in the family or society was not so important.

Matriarchal family system gave more importance to the mother's side. The respect given to the maternal uncles were not normally given to the paternal uncles. Another reason for this may have been, to keep the family property intact. To support this, "aliya santhana" system came into practice and was followed by every one with the belief that it was an ancient practice.

But with the change in the present day society pattern and Indian law, "Aliya Santhana" system lost its importance. So now the Bunts mostly follow the patriarchal family system and instead of mother's surname or house name, they use father's name and surname. The most important quality of a BUNT is that though he was influenced by other cultures, societies and countries, he retained his original qualities of leadership, fighting spirit and risk taking, which made him to rise above the common man.

Bunt worship :

It was generally believed that bunts were originally spirit worshippers (bhoota). They started believing in and worshipping puranic gods like Shiva, Krishna, Rama, Janardhana, etc. much later, maybe after the Brahmins settled and started spreading their influence in Tulunad. But as per my opinion bunts were originally cobra (NAGA) worshippers, much before they started worshipping spirits (BHOOTA). The Cobra, a mixture of beauty and fear must have made them to bow down and worship. Later, they must have started the practice of worshipping cobras by installing cobra idols carved in stone, in the nagabanas, a place where trees and vegetation was allowed to grow and that area was reserved for the nagabana. Gradually, when the Brahmins settled in this area and started performing pooja in temples with Vedic mantras, bunts must have also started performing pooja rituals for cobras through Brahmins with Vedic mantras.

In Tulunad, cobra worshipping was there in existence much before the arrival of Brahmins that is why it may have been called as NAAGARAKHANDA. If Tulunad was known as NAGARKHANDA, (Naga continent) we can imagine how deep-rooted the cobra worship was. Even today, one can see the rural populace of Tulunad identifying themselves with one or the other of the original places of cobra worship. They usually ask, "which is your ALADE?" which means where do you offer pooja or milk to NAGA, or in other words NAGABANA. Normally, each family has its own NAGABANA, , which is usually situated in the original house of that family. Though we are in the 21st century, with all the advances in science & technology, we find people going in search of their nagabana (moolasthana) to perform naagapooja. Even today one can see people performing nagapooja in their new houses, in spite of having moved from their ancestral houses.

Later bunts moved towards spirit worship. But even today, one can see those spirits (bhootas) praising nagas, existence of nagabanas near the temples of spirits, performing pooja to cobras before the pooja to spirits, which has become the common practice. Today such nagabanas near spirit temples are worshipped as brahmasthana (Naga Brahma). In such places daily poojas are performed by Brahmin priests. In the next stages, Vedic Brahmins came to Tulunad and spread their worshipping of Vedic gods on a wider scale. As a result the bunts also adopted such religious practices. In many places we accepted the responsibility of the management of such temples. Despite the strong influence of Brahmin culture and beliefs, we did not leave our original cobra and bhoota worship. Even though worship of Vedic gods reached its peak with all its grandeur, belief in the cobra and spirit worship never faded out. Our original type of worship influenced vedic god worship culture. Due to this influence, later some nagabanas became temples. We can name Subrahmanya and Kudupu temples as examples of this. Not only that nagabanas were created near Vaishnavite temples and nagapooja became the regular ritual together with the main temple festivities. Hence NAGARAKHANDA name became more appropriate to Tulunad.

Bunts had major roles in cobra worship of Tulunad. Important beedu, guthu, baalike, parari and houses of bunt families perform nagapooja in their respective nagabanas even today. Not only in Tulunad, cobra worship is found in many other parts of the world. But the depth of belief in naga worship in Tulunad, is not found in other places. Naga worship was with us much before spirit (bhoota) worship, which is evident from the paddhanas (folkloric songs sung in praise of bhootas) for some of the spirits. There are many more evidences to prove that Bunts or rather primitive Tuluvas were originally only NAGA worshippers.

Historians believe that Nagas were non other than the aboriginal dravidians of South India. There are innumberble villages, and towns in Deccan and South India having the name of NAGA such as Nagpur, Nagapattanam, Nagulapadu, etc. There were also some reference in Mahabharata where Arjua was said to marry a damsel of Nagas. Even the Nagas of North East India were the aboriginal Indians with back ground of Nag worship. All these people used to worship Shiva who is considered to be the God of all Gods and whose necklace is a living Cobra. The association of Cobra, Bull, lion, moon and Himalaya mountains with Shiva and partvathi is also a strong pointer to the orientation of dravidians and aboriginal Indians to nature's worship.

The worship of spirits commonly seen in Bunts can also be seen in Mudirajas and kolis. There are some Mudirajas who worship the spirits of martiyars in the name of " Veerla Kolupu", while some other Mudirajas worship Gods in the name of "Devara Kolupu". The Kolis who worship martiyars are known as "Veerkar" and the kolis who worship Gods are known as "Devkar".


For more details on bant / bunt origins of mudiraj people, please read chapter on "bant / bunt origins" in the webpage "origins" in this website.


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