The demand for inclusion of Tulu, an important language of the Dravidian linguistic family spoken by the people in the state of Karnataka and also in the northern part of Kerala, is gathering momentum, with Members of Parliament from Karnataka, and leading political and literary persons from the State and abroad announcing their intention to gather in the national capital next Sunday (February) to articulate their demand.
Though primarily the native land of Tulu speakers was the western coast of Karnataka and northern part of Kerala, Tulu is also spoken outside the state of Karnataka, such as Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and also in Delhi. The Metropolitan cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi have a large number of Tulu population settled there since many decades.
Tulu diaspora outside India are known by the active role played by Tulu people in countries like United Arab Emirates, Middle Eastern Countries, United Kingdom, United States of America, Singapore, Australia and some other European countries. It is estimated that the total population of Tulu speakers within India and abroad amounts to one crore.
Tulu is one of the ancient languages of India and it is one of the five major Dravidian languages of South India. M.S. Andronov, the Russian Linguist, states that 'Tulu has emerged as an independent language from the Proto-Dravidian family, 2000 years back.' (M.S.Andronov: Dravidian Languages, 1970.) Robert Caldwell, another Linguist had clearly stated, 'Tulu is one of the most highly developed languages of Dravidian family of languages and has an equal place among the languages like Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada'. (Robert Caldwell, Comparative Grammar of Dravidian Languages, 1856.) Dr. P.S. Subrahmanyam, Professor of Linguistics, Annamalai University, Tamilnadu has shown Tulu as the first offshoot of Proto-South Dravidian Language Family, about 2800 years back (Position of Tulu in Dravidian, Indian Linguistics; 1968).
On the basis of excavations, the archaeologists observed that Tulu speaking area was inhabited by the people of old stone age (about 25000 B.C.). The tools of old stone age were also discovered in this region. The axes of new stone age (of 12000 B.C.) were also discovered in this region. Similarly copper age, bronze age and iron age tools were also discovered.
Tulu speaking people were mentioned in Tamil Sangam Literature of 2nd century A.D. A Greek drama of 2nd century A.D. also records some Tulu words spoken at that time in coastal Karnataka. The language, Tulu is spoken by people belonging to different religions, castes and tribes. Hindus, Jains, Muslims and Christians use Tulu language in their communication in west coast region of Karnataka. This language is considered as a binding force and also a symbol of communal harmony by different religious groups and sects in Karnataka.
Tulu has its own independent script. The first manuscript in Tulu script is 'Tulu Mahabharata' of 14th century AD. Tulu classical epics in Tulu script like Tulu Bhagavata, Kaveri, Devi Mahatme were written in 16th and 17th centuries. There are thousands of palm leaf manuscripts written in Tulu script which are preserved in archives, in universities and research institutions in Karnataka.
Tulu has a rich heritage of oral traditions. Different genres of Tulu folklore, namely , oral epics, prose narratives, proverbs, riddles, customs and rituals, performances, festivals, theatres and such other forms exist since thousands of years. This rich oral tradition of Tulu culture has been documented and studied by scholars from various countries like USA, Finland, Germany, France, Japan, UK, and Italy. Linguists and folklorists from various countries had conducted research projects on Tulu folklore.
Tulu language and culture have been included in academic programmes in universities and research institutions within India and abroad. Many Indian universities including Mangalore, Mysore, Hampi, Kannur, Calicut, Kerala, Madras, Madurai, Annamalai, Central University Hyderabad, Osmania University, Dravidian University, Delhi University, Mumbai and Poona are doing research on the various aspects of Tulu Language and culture.
Universities abroad, including the California State University, Hayard and Wisconsin University in USA, Turku University, and Kalevala Institute in Finland; Heidelberg University, Tubingen University, and Wurzburg University in Germany; Waseda University in Japan have also been conducting research on Tulu.
Publication of Tulu books started in 1830 by German missionaries in Karnataka. They were instrumental in bringing out standard reference books for Tulu like grammar, dictionary, text books, translations, compilation of folklore. More than 500 Tulu books were published during 1830-1930. Tulu is recognized as having a modern scientific lexicon which is somewhat rare for a language like Tulu.
Tulu-Kannada-English Lexicon (Vol. 1-6 Chief Editor Dr. U.P.Upadhyaya, 1988-1997) has got international recognition as an unique work incorporating different dimensions of a language like classical literature, modern literature, spoken dialect and folklore.
From 20th century onwards, Tulu has been used as a medium for writings both in creative and research fields. For the last hundred years, about two thousand Tulu books have been published in various areas like literature, history, linguistics, folklore, translation, culture, art and architecture. Tulu literature has to its credit all major genres of modern literature like poetry, epic, short story, novel, drama, criticism and prose.
Mangalore University in Karnataka recognized Tulu for its academic programmes at Masters level as early as 1976, which was followed by other universities in India and abroad.
Many American and European Universities have recognized Tulu as one of the 17 important Indian languages in their bulletin of GRE and TOEFEL examinations.
Tulu songs have been broadcast by Ceylon (Srilanka) Radio from 1970 onwards.
All India Radio Mangalore has been broadcasting programmes in Tulu since 1976. Doordarshan channels Bangalore and Delhi are telecasting programmes and serials in Tulu. There are a number of Tulu channels which are exclusively devoted for telecasting Tulu programmes. Tulu magazines have been published from 1970 onwards. Even Kannada news papers devote columns for Tulu writings.
The Government of Karnataka has established Tulu Sahitya Academy in 1994. The Tulu Academy has been instrumental for the development of Tulu language and literature in modern times. The Government of Kerala has also established a Tulu academy in 2007. This is a rare example of two neighboring states, Karnataka and Kerala, establishing academies for the development of Tulu.
Central Sahitya Academy. New Delhi has shown a rare gesture, in recognizing Tulu in the form of instituting Bhasha Samman award. Two eminent Tulu writers Mandara Keshava Bhat and Kedambadi Jattappa Rai, have been honored with Bhasha samman by Sahitya Academy New Delhi in 1996.
Tulu is very rich in traditional folk theatre, like Yakshagana. More than 40 troupes of Yakshagana perform throughout the year in different places and cater to the needs of lakhs of people with rich heritage of Tulu language and culture. Tulu is also popular in modern theatre. Tulu drama theatres draw large audience and such theatrical troupes travel across the globe attracting Tulu people in large numbers.
Tulu Films had their beginning in 1970 and till today more than 50 Tulu films have been produced and released. Some of the Tulu films like 'Sudda' and 'Gaggara' have bagged national awards. The film 'Sudda' has won an international award.
Tulu people have been active in the freedom struggle of India. Queen Abbakka, a Tuluva woman of 16th century AD was the first freedom fighter against Portuguese rule. There were thousands of freedom fighters from Tulu region, influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, who had visited Tuluva region.
Many freedom fighters from Tuluva region served the nation after independence in different capacities like ministers in the Government of India and speakers in the Parliament and also ministers in the erstwhile Mysore state. Tulu speakers have contributed for the development of the country in a big way, in fields like education, literature, arts, science, law, politics, sports, banking, industry and commerce.
Tulu people desire that their contribution to the struggle for Indian Independence , the progress of Karnataka state and India should be recognized by including their mother tongue Tulu in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution.
Currently a total of 22 languages are listed in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution; 18 of them are northern Indian languages and just four are from southern India. The demand has been made earlier and , the last one being in 2003 in New Delhi when a resolution was passed and handed over to then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
The demand was sidelined as Tulu was not the official language of a separate State. But since then the Constitution has been amended and Dogri, Bodo, Santhali and Maithili have been included in the Eighth Schedule. Tuluvas have been patient so far, hoping that they will receive justice which is their rightful due.
The author is a leading folklorist and currently the Director of the American Institute of Indian studies in Delhi by Purushottam Bilimale(ANI)