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Billava

Billava is one of the largest Hindu communities of Tulu and also found among Kannada speaking Kundapura region of Karnataka and some parts of Kerala including Kasargode District. They were previously engaged in Martial Arts (Garadi), Ayurvedic business and racially same as of Ilava (now known as Ezhava) community of Kerala. This community was reformed under Sree Narayana Guru’s teachings.

Origins

Etymology

It is believed that billava and ilava are derived from a Proto-Dravidian word. The word Billava is the variation of Villavars or Archers who were a warrior caste among the Dravidians who ruled most of India, along with their allies Meenavars(fishermen)during ancient times.Villavars founded the Chera kingdom and the Chera king was addressed as Villavar Kon. The meaning of Billu in Tulu is Bow. Martial act centres of Billawas are known as Garadi. Reading, writing and teaching of bows, arrows and martial arts were the main activities of this Garadi, similar to Kalari practiced by some of the Ilava(now known as Ezhava) community in Kerala . Thus the word billava, meaning fighters, could be derived from word billu or Villu in Tamil.Billavas,Illavars and Bhils(Bhil Meena) of North India all descend from the ancient Villavar warriors.

Billavas are also known as 'Biruva's. This again strengthens the name derivation from Dravidian/Tulu root "bow". Tulu words for bow are 'billu' or 'biru'

Some of the traditional occupations of Edigas and Gouds of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are similar to Billavas and State Governments of the both states included them in same category.

Language

Tulu is the main language spoken by Billavas. In some areas of Karnataka where Billavas also speak Kannada and identifies themselves as Kannada Billavas. The Tulu dialect spoken by the Billava people is known as common Tulu. There are also group within Billavas also called Thiyyabillas or Malaylali Billavas in South Canara district who considered part of the Malayalee community.Other tulu speakers are bunts,mogaveeras.

Garadi or Gardi

The coastal regions of Karnataka and Kerala had a very active martial traditions. Many Billava families, though now handicapped by the caste rules, did not lose this tradition . Very soon they developed some kind of community identity. They built Garadis in the line of Kalaris in Kerala in honour of their folk heroes Koti and Chennayya.The Tulu term Garadi is derived from Kannada word Garodi which means gymnasium. These garadis became major religious and martial centre of Billavas all over coastal areas of Karnataka. Though this tradition was common to their equivalent caste in Kerala, due to rigid caste rules they lost all their independent religious/martial traditions. Billava is Kannadised word for Birwa. Billawas still follows matrilineal system and a highly centralised community. Marrying ones own sisters daughter is strictly prohibited except few cases among Belthangady Billawas. Maliyali Billawas speak Byari language and their Kula God is Baghavathi. Billavas are believers in ancestral worship. However some people are trying to Braminise Billawas.

Nema

Just like Theyyam in Kerala, Tulu regions have Nema, a kind of spirit worship. Billavas were important part of this native worship. Bobbariya is most common bhuta worshipped by the community. Distillation is one of work of Billawas. However some politicians are involved in country liquor manufacturing business are projecting liquor distillation is the main caste job of the Billavas .

Tuluva paddanas

Tuluva paddanas are sung narratives which are a part of several closely related singing traditions, similar to Vadakkan Pattukal(Northern ballads) of north Kerala and which could be called ballads or epics or ritual songs, depending on the context or purpose in which they are sung. The community have special occasions in which it is traditional to sing paddanas. They will sing the paddana of Koti-Chennaya during a ceremony on the evening before a marriage. Women of the caste who sing the song in the fields will sing those episodes appropriate to the tonsure of the young heroes.

Nagaradhane

Nagaradhane or snake worship, along with Bhuta Kola, is one of the unique traditions prevalent among Billavas of coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in Karnataka.

Aliya Kattu

Aliya Kattu (Nephew lineage) is a matrilineal system of property inheritance and other associated traditions practiced among Tulu/Malayalee Billavas in coastal Karnataka and Kerala.

Yakshagana

Yakshagana is a Tulu classical folk art form in India mostly popular in Tulu Nadu areas of South India. Billavas contributed ennomously to the development of this folk dance. This dance form was very famous and were taught in billava Gordis. Sri Anada Kuthpady(pen named as Yakshananda Kuthpady), hails from community, awarded with 'Yaksha Kavya' State Level Award for his contribution to Yakshagana.

Sub sections

The community have different subsections based on language and culture. The sect which involved nagaradhana are called Baidya while those involved spirit worship called Nema are called Poojary. These sections fall under two major subsections called Malayali or Tulu billava. The malayali billavas are also called Thiyya Billavas or Belchadas.

Poojari

The word Poojary or Poojari literally means "worshiper". In olden Tulunadu region the Poojarys had very important role in Nema or Bhuta Kola which is a kind of spirit-worship, a practice seen amongst the tribal communities of Tulunadu. Tribal communities of Tulunadu like Koragas and Mansas were practicing spirit worship but were not supposed to take the role in Pooja related matter. This sub-sect of Billawa community was perforforming the Pooja activity during spirit-worship. That is how the name Poojary came for this community.

Malayali Billava

They were the inhabitants from time immemorial concentrated between north of Chandragiri river (Kasaragode) and south of Kalyanpura river (Hejamamdi) and West to East between the shores of the Arabian sea to Sulya region. There exist 18 important Bhagavathi Kshetras apart from many Tharavadu(Family) shrines spread over Kasaragode, Mangalore and Udupi districts. Though the ruling deity of community is Bhagavathi ,there are temples dedicated to Vishnumoorthy, Wayandu Daiva and Korathi- the later to are believed to be incarnation of Lord Shiva and Shakthi respectively. Chaitanyas like Kallurutti, Panjurli ,Guliga, Naagadevan are being devotionally worshipped by this community and regular Kola ,Thamblia, Kaliyatha etc are performed to invoke their blessings. The community is divided into 8 Illams which traces it’s origin to one Amruthamani born out of the Lord Shiva’s grace and seven others born to the Sapthamathas through the same Lord’s divine blessings, which means Thiyas are the progeny of Lord Shiva. Marriage between the same Illams is considered a taboo being Sagothra. Link

Surnames

The common Surname used by the communty are Kunder, Poojari, Salian, Sanil,Palan, Kotian, Baidya, Baishya, Bangera, Suvarna, Karkera, Amin, Kukiyan, Upiyan, banan, Jathanna, Kirodian , Anchan etc.

Shri Narayana Guru

Sree Narayana Guru (1856-1928), who was born into a religious Billava family, was a great sage and social reformer of India. Billavas were a backward class people, however they emerged dramatically mainly due to the role played by Sri Narayana Guru, a great saint and social reformer who preached a message of self-help, self-improvement, and self-esteem. During Guru's time, he exhorted people to educate themselves and to improve themselves through industry and thrift; but most of all, he preached the dignity of the individual: a universal message for our troubled times.

But never once did the Guru attack Hinduism. He never advocated hatred for any faith or its priests.'No matter what the religion, man must improve,' he said. He personally believed the core of the Vedanta teachings was eternal and truthful and universal. The social excrescences that had attached themselves to those sublime philosophies could and would be excised.

An order of monks called the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) was established by Guru. The SNDP Yogam has gained immense popularity as one which nurtures the material and spiritual welfare of the community at large.

He has visited all parts of Kerala, South Canara, Srilanka and Tamil Nadu and built temples for the Billava community and had given the foundation for the progress of the community. When he established his own temples, he was challenged by the upper castes. When challenged about his right to consecrate a Shiva image once, he replied, that it was Billava Shiva that he had consecrated and that Brahmins have no right to question it.

Kudroli Gokarnanatheshwara Temple

The Billawa Community was being traditionally suppressed by the upper caste, who treated them as 'untouchables'. It is in such a scenario that the community found a leader in Sree Narayana Guru. Sree Narayana Guru has been regarded as the up lifter of the downtrodden and a visionary social servant.

Learning about the work undertaken by Sree Narayana Guru in establishing social equality through his temple in Sivagiri, Kerala, a prominent Billava leader from Mangalore, Sahukar Koragappa visited the Guru along with the leaders of the community in 1908. The delegation appraised Sree Narayana Guru about the problems faced by the Billawas.

Sree Narayana Guru visited Mangalore on invitation from this delegation and ascertained for himself, the exactness of the then prevailing situation. After visiting the place, Sree Narayana Guru himself selected the place in Kudroli and advised the community elders about a suitable location to build their temple and the work began under his direction. Elders such as Sahukar Koragappa took the initiative in ensuring smooth progress in the temple's construction.

Sree Narayana Guru himself formally consecrated the temple in February 1912 with the establishment of sacred Shiva Linga, which was brought by him. He also named this place as Sri Gokarnanatheshwara Kshethra. Sree Narayana Guru advocated that all of God's creation had the right to worship the Almighty and preached that people irrespective of the caste, creed or religion must worship one divine force, known by different names.

As per the Guru's advice, idols of Lord Ganapathy, Lord Subramanya, Goddess Annapoorneshwari, Lord Bhairava, the Nava Grihas (Lords of nine planets), Lord Shanishwara and Lord Shri Krishna has been installed at the Kshethra. This has helped devotees worship at all these sannidanams (abode) and seek blessings and solace for their varied problems.

Sahukar Koragappa then donated the land needed for the Kshethra. He was also chosen as its first administrative head.

Social conditions and present social status

Once a thriving community , after the arraival of Brahmins from north, many families were forced do jobs like toddy tapping and brewing arrack and were declared impure as the caste rules were implemented and prohibited from entering temples. Many social restrictions were imposed upon this community. As a result, until the social reforms in twentieth century the community faced many a hardships. It is in such a scenario that the community found a leader in Sree Narayana Guru. After the construction of Kudroli Gokarnanatheshwara Temple at Mangalore, he asked community leaders to work together for the progress of the community by starting schools and industrial establishments. He asked them organize themselves and after guru's instruction many Sri narayana organizations have been formed by the community members.

Under the leadership many Sri Narayana organization and hard-work, Billavas are today fast improving and gaining strength economically, culturally, spiritually and politically. A large number of Billawas have been settled in Persian Gulf and cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore have contributed enormously for the community development.

Famous politicians

  • Mr. Janardhana Poojary, Rajy Sabha MP, Indian National Congress leader;
  • Mr. Vinay Kumar Sorake, former Congress MP;
  • Mr. Gopal Poojary, MLA - Baindoor;
  • Mr. Somappa Poojary;
  • Mr. Basavaraj, Sasthana-Brahmavara;
  • Mr. Vasanta Bangera;
  • Mr. Prabhakara Bangera;
  • Mr. Rukmayya Poojary

See also

Notes

References

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