Tulu Nadu

Tulu Nadu or Tulunad is a Tulu speaking region spread over parts of Karnataka and Kerala. Tulunad is the homeland of the Tuluva ethnic people. Mangalore, Udupi and Kasargod are its important cities. Tulu belongs to the Dravidan family of languages, and whose native speakers are referred to as Tuluva. Linguists have suggested that the word Tulu literally means water. In Tamil tuli means drop of water, and tulli means the same in Malayalam. Hence Tulu means the language of the waters.

According to the 2001 Census, the population of the region was 3,005,898. Tigalari Script has been used for Tulu since at least the 10th century.Most Sanskrit works and Tulu classics are present in this script. This script was used by Brahmins.

As per Hindu Mythology, LordParshurama commanded Lord Varuna to make the seas recede to make the Tulu Nadu.

Ptolemy, the 2nd century Greek geographer identified the Tulu Nadu region as Olokhoira which is widely believed to be a corruption of the term Alva Kheda, 'the land of the Alvas'. Historically, Tulu Nadu included the two separate lands of Haiva and Tuluva. The longest ruling and oldest known native dynasty of Tulu Nadu was that of the The Alupas also known as Alva (5th -15th century AD.). The name of the dynasty is variously recorded in inscriptions as Alupa, Aluva, Alva, Aluka and Alapa. Alupas is one of the four unrecorded group that migrated to the coastal region of Mangalore as early as 300 B.C.E and took control of the coastal land stretching from Southern Kasaragod till modern Udupi with Mangalore as the epicenter.

The Alupas ruled the modern districts of Udupi and Mangalore and parts of Shimoga and Uttara Kannada districts in the state of Karanataka. Their kingdom was also known as Alvakheda. They ruled independently since the beginning of the common era. (5th -15th century AD). Their royal emblem was the double fish and they claimed to belong to the Pandyavamsha and Soma Kula (lunar).Their coins carried the dynastic title "Sri Pandya Dhananjaya" which means "Arjuna among the Pandyas". Pandyas are said to be the descendants of Pandavas.

Later with the dominance of Kadambas in Banavasi, they became feudatory to them. With the changing political scenario, soon they became the feudatories to Chalukyas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagara Rayas. Their influence over coastal Karnataka lasted for about 1200 years by switching between Mangaluru and Udyavar, Barakuru and back to Mangaluru as their political centers. The Alvas or Alupas were a minor dynasty in Western Karnataka but the longest reigning dynasty of Tulu Nadu that ruled without interuption for almost 1000 - 1200 years over the small territory of coastal Karnataka.

There is evidence that the Alupas followed the law of matrilineal inheritance. The legendary king who is credited with introducing matrilineality in Tulu Nadu is named Bhuta Alupa Pandya. The name Alva survives as a surname even today among Bunt landlords who are Matrilineal. The last Alupa king to have ruled is Kulasekharadeva Alupendradeva. The Alupas ruled until the Vijayanagara Empire took control of Tulu Nadu from 14th to the 17th centuries.

Later during the rule of Vijayanagara, Tulu nadu was administered in two parts - Mangaluru Rajya and Barkuru Rajya. Tulu Nadu was the original homeland of the dynasty that founded the vijayanagara Empire. based in eastern Karnataka. Tulu Nadu was governed by the native feudatories of the vijayanagara Empire until the 18th century. These feudatories gained power towards the end of Alupa period.

Notable among them were the Chowtas of Ullal and Moodabidri (c. 1160-1801 C.E), Ajilas of Venur (c. 1418-1800 C.E), the Savanta or Samantha Rajas of Mulki (c. 1411- 1700), the Bhairarasa Odeyas of Karkala (c. 1240-1650 C.E), the Tolaharas of Suralu (c.1139-1800 C.E), the Bangas of Bangadi (c. 1410-1800 C.E.), the Rajas of Kumbla (c. 12th century - 1800 C.E) and the Rajas of Vitla (c. 1436-1800 C.E).

The region became extremely prosperous during Vijayanagara period with Barkur and Mangalore gaining importance. After the decline of the vijayanagara Empire, the Keladi Nayakas of Ikkeri controlled much of Tulu Nadu.Over the following many centuries, more ethnic groups migrated to the area. Konkanis from Goa arrived by sea, as Mangalore was a major port that served not only the Portuguese but also the Arabs for maritime trades. Jains were already a prominent group and even today are uniquely preserved in Tulu Nadu. Though small in number, the Jains left behind indelible reminders of their glory with temples ( Bastis ) in ( Moodabidri ) and monolithic statues of Bahubali in Karkala, Venoor and Dharmasthala. In the 16th century there was a large influx of Catholics to Tulu Nadu from Goa. The Muslim community of Tulu Nadu were basically Arab traders who married local women and settled there. Some came from Kerala. They speak the Beary dialect, which is a mix of Tulu and Kannada., and the others speak Urdu.

In the 18th century, Tulunadu was conquered by Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore. After the British defeated Haider's successor Tipu Sultan in 1799, the region was attached to the Madras Presidency before being reverted to the state of Mysore in the aftermath of independence. Mysore has since been renamed Karnataka.

The Alupas built some fine temples in their area of rule. The Panchalingeshwara temple at Barkur, Brahmalingeshwara temple at Brahamavar, Koteshwara temple at Kotinatha and the Sadashiva temple at Suratkal are attributed to them. They used sculptural styles from their various overlords over the centuries.

Belmannu is a growing village in Karkala taluk of Udupi District, Karnataka. It is famous for Shree Durga Parameshwari Temple.

This is one of the oldest temples in Karnataka. The temple is situated in middle of a forest amidst panromic scenes and greenery. The temple is said to be built before 7th century AD. The copper plate of Belman Temple is suppose to be the oldest Kannada copper plate till today. The inscription was found under the foundation of this temple in 1952. It states that certain rights were given to the Belmannu Village Council which functioned from the Temple, probably looked after the functioning of the temple. As the inscription dates back to 8th century AD, the temple is believed to be older than the inscription.


The YAKSHAGANA is a night-long dance and drama performance practised in Tulu Nadu with great fanfare. Yakshagana is a typical south Indian folk dance form said to have originated around 400 years ago in Karnataka state. It is similar to Kathakali of Kerala and has a strong classical background.

The performance comprises of dance, music and spoken words with the themes based on Hindu epics like Mahabharatha and Ramayana. The costumes of the Yakshagana artistes are very attractive and different.

PILIVESHA is a unique form of folk dance in the region fascinating the young and the old alike, which is performed during Marnemi (as Dussehra is called in Tulu) and Krishna Janmashtami.

KARADI VESHA (Bear Dance) is one more popular dance performed during DUSSEHRA in Tulu Nadu.

BHUTA KOLA (Spirit worship), which is usually done at night is practised here.

KORIKATTA ( Cockfight ) is another favourite sport for the people..

NAGARADHANE (Snake worship) is practised in the Tulu Nadu according to the popular belief of the Naga Devatha to go underground and guard the species on the top.

KAMBALA (Buffalo race) is conducted in water filled paddy fields. Kadri Kambala, which has a history of 300 years, was first held by the royal family of Alupas at Kulashekar on the outskirts of Mangalore. Kambala (slush track buffalo race), which is a popular folk sport of the district, is held after the cultivation of rabi crop when water bodies have enough water for the "suggi" crop.

UDUPI CUISINE is popular across South India, mostly due to Udupi restaurants, which are primarily vegetarian. Apart from Southern India, there are famous Udupi Hotels in Mumbai and New Delhi too.


Historically, Tulu Nadu was primarily dependent on agriculture and fishing. The main crops grown were rice, vegetables and fruits. Plantation crops like coconut, Areca nut, Cocoa, Cashew nut, and pepper are also grown. In the early 20th century, the Mangalore Tile industry, cashew nut processing, and the banking industry grew substantially. Tulu Nadu is called "the cradle of Indian banking". Five major banks of India namely Syndicate Bank, Canara Bank, Corporation Bank, Vijaya Bank and Karnataka Bank have their origins here.


Tulu Nadu is the most prominent Educational Hub on the western coast of India. There are hundreds of professional colleges in Tulu Nadu. Thousands of students from all over India and Countries abroad study in these institutions. Mangalore and Manipal are the major cities that accommodate these students. The Central Government owned National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK, Surathkal ) is ranked as one of the best engineering colleges in Karnataka and is one among the top ten engineering colleges of India. Kasturba Medical College ( KMC Manipal ) is one among the top ten Medical Colleges in India and stands at sixth position.
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