Friday, July 20, 2012

Long tailed Shrike: the butcher bird

  All Shrikes have black bands over their eyes, and they look great the little bandits!! Long tailed Shrike that i get to see very often avoids dry as well as thick forests, preferring edge of the forests or open areas of cultivation where they perch on vantage position so that it is able to survey for insects or small reptiles. With sharp intent eyes it waits for movement in the bush, and then swoops. The hooked bill is meant to tear into the flesh of victims; it’s a ferocious bird and means business. Shrikes are referred to as ‘butcher bird’ for the reason that it doesn’t stop hunting even if its appetite is satisfied and so stacks surplus victims onto a thorn. It does have a lighter side and doesn’t shy away from miming its garrulous neighbours. 
The paaddanas of Tulus

Tulu language is one of the earliest offshoots of Dravidian language, quite a sophisticated language it didn’t really develop classical literature but there is treasure of folk literature that is handed through folk traditions. Considering the limited area in which this language is spoken, the folk ballads can be ranked quite high in folk literature tradition of the country. It’s amazingly vibrant and marvellous in its melody and rhythm. Not only do the paaddanas maintain high aesthetic sensibilities but are a study on socio-cultural history as also the nature –animals, trees, snakes, birds...  The word paaddana comes from Dravidian root paadu i.e. ‘to sing’ and the traditional singers are referred to as pambada or nalke. The paaddanas can be religious or ritualistic as also secular with entertainment value. It is speculated that origin of highly stylised dance forms like Yakshagana traces its roots in Tulu folklore traditions.  One thing that stands out in the tulu folk literature is that they are free from influence of other cultures and oral traditions. It is believed that the supreme god sends the spirits (bhuta) to Tulunad to uphold laws and righteousness, and these spirits descend from forests. The paaddanas provide framework for traditions and values of tuluva life. These lines from Panjurli Paaddana describes not only the splendour of tulu land but is a study on sheer beauty of language use...

Tirtu tuluva raajya tuunaga baari porlu toojindu
Satiigedaatu malle , arivaannadaatu urutu, panavudaatu porlu
Tirta tuluva raajya yaanu oppuve

Tulu kingdom below looks exceedingly pretty
Specious like umbrella, round like the worship platter,
Pretty like the coin, i approve of tulu kingdom below

The above may look like simple lines in the translation; apart from rhythm what is sought is the roundness that connects the worship platter, umbrella, on.

   Tulu speaking people inhabits the coastal region extending from Kasargod in Kerala to Udupi and Uttara Kannada in Karnataka -a protected terrain bound by the ghats in the East, the sea in the West and rivers in North and South. Tulu is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ language (in the list of endangered languages).  The term Tulu seems to have originated from word water (note in Malayalam/Tamil ‘tulli’ means drop). Tuluvas are quite an enterprising set of people. Till recently i was under the impression that Tulu doesn’t really have a script and used Kannada, then i happen to visit Tulu Sahitya Academy at Mangalore. So they do have a script! I am rather surprised since it is almost Malayalam, indeed i could read seventy percent of it!!

One of the popular paaddana deals with the story of Koti-Chennaya, with another one ‘Siri’, is a major epic in tulu folklore. Koti-Chennaya deals with twin brothers as cultural heroes. The story was translated into English as early as in 1886 by one Mr. Manner, another two followed in 1894 and 1895. There are now lots of translations available, even the first Tulu film ever to be made was on this story. Few translated lines from the original ballad...

murampayi uddala mallige
kebit kenjava
tigaled ambrata gindevundu ...banjid
berit bhimana arjunere
morampudu mulla onji kaveri
indra parvata
okkod olimulla...rayervundu padodu

The translation...
He wears the knee length jasmine flower
from his ears, kenjava birds, he creates.
On his chest, a small goblet of nectar, around his stomach,
gem studded ornament –god has.
On his back, of Bhima’s and Arjuna’s
Combined strength he creates.
A river that flows from his knees,
And the Indra mountain, Bermer possesses.
A serpent like girdle encircles his waist, and his feet glitter,
With the panipanca ornaments, worn on his toes.

nal kodidavu deyya deverle japa
muji kanna tarayi nirmuder
orkanna bajjeyi
orla bolenteda ari nirmiyer vilya
kekkil uddada jaladigu
dever avulu
jaladi nadutu radd boliya attasada
mundala kodi
dever avulu nirmidere
suttige diyer nalu kodida deyya

The translation...
‘For the spirits and the gods of the four directions, chanting of holy names
Must be organised’ says God Surya Narayana.
He creates –coconuts with three eyes
And areca nuts with one eye.
He produces –one seru of white rice, betel leaves,
And the areca flowers.
Into the neck deep stream,
God gets down.
In the middle of the stream, of the white holy fig tree, two
Short, front section leaves,
God creates.
Placing the leaves and putting rice on the leaves,
God keeps suttige. Of the four directions –the gods
And the spirits –he brings them to life.  

From my scribbling pad...

Soothing sleep
O benign divine, give the hymns
that balm the still night in silent slumber
cast the spell of fairy order in the disintegrating allure.
In the shadow of soul where disquiet dwell
lull the willing eyes into soothest  of sleep