Badaga and Tamil
‘Even people with considerable education are often wholly unable to answer certain quite simple questions about their language. For most people language is primarily a tool to be used, rather than a subject for close and critical attention’ (Gleason 1974:1).Actually in a society which has unlettered language like Badaga, the study of language plays a major role to understand its ethnology, tradition, ethos, culture, tribal character etc., Other than language the society has very little records to show its antiquity etc., In many places we have to deduce certain things through language only. So it is inevitable to study the Badaga language at least to some extent when we try to say something about Badaga society.
Badaga is one among the 26 languages of the Dravidian family. Badaga, a tribal language of the Dravidian family preserved more of its archaic features. Its prolonged isolation might be the cause for this. However to understand these features we have to compare them with the ancient forms found in any other Dravidian language. Among Dravidian languages Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam are literary languages. They have recorded history. And also these languages were studied thoroughly by experts. Being that is the case; there is no doubt that we can have a clear picture of the Badaga terms when we compare them with the corresponding terms of the languages of the Dravidian family.
‘Tamil language being probably earliest cultivated of all the Dravidian idioms, the most copious and that which contains the largest portion and the richest variety of indubitably ancient forms, it is deservedly placed at the head of the list’ (Caldwell 1856:6).‘Tamil has usually been considered to be the Dravidian language which has preserved most traces of the original forms of speech from which all other Dravidian dialects are derived. It seems certain that no other Dravidian language has developed the common Dravidian principles with so great consistency as Tamil’ (Linguistic Survey of India, vol.iv. p.283).
‘Words of Dravidian origin occurring in all the languages are without any great difference of form. The original Dravidian speech seems to have split up in to these languages. Tamil is probably nearer to the original tongue than any other member of the group and it has preserved the older forms of the Dravidian roots knowledge of it is essential to the proper study of the South Indian languages’ (Brown, Telugu-English Dictionary,Int.).
Of course there are hundreds of common words in Badaga and Kannada. On the other part Kannada adopted Sanskrit words enormously. Whereas Sanskrit borrowing is less in Badaga and Tamil. Anyhow there are few borrowed items in Tamil too. In that case, we have to compare Badaga with indigenous things of Tamil and not with borrowed ones. I hope, then, we shall have a clear idea about Badaga when compare with Tamil. E.g. the word habba (festival) is found in Kannada and Badaga. But the prior form paruvam (season, the festival celebrated in a particular season) is found only in Tamil. In the same way the word maduve (marriage) is in Kannada and Badaga. But its older form vaduvai is attested in Tolkaappiam, the earliest available grammar of Tamil. Badaga ganige (finger-ring, signet-ring) is nothing but Tamil kanaiyaazhi. Badaga oppottu is nothing but Tamil orupozhudu. Badaga korali batta (small millet,setaria italica) is Tamil kuraal tinai. Badaga baambullu (andropogon schananthus) is Tamil vizhalpul. Badaga sarangana (orderly,nicely) is nothing but Tamil siiraaga. Badaga ugilu (finger nail) is in literary Tamil ugir
- korambu (a last rite) karumaandiram ;
- beggaayi (wind alone) verum kaatru ;
- sutrigaayi (whirl wind) suzhal kaarru
- sere mee (drizzle rain) saaralmazhai ;
- hola (field) pulam ;
- gudu,guttu (plough share) kozhu ;
- kirugaayi (eastern wind) kiizhkaarru ;
- karambe (curry leaf) kariveeppu ;
- netturu (blood) neyttoor ;
- manaarna(heartful) manamaara ;
- maggilu (side) marungil ;
- koolu (flute) kuzhal ;
- orage (equal age) oor agavai
- paame (story) pazhamai ;
- hemmakka (women) penmakkal
- heroodayya (Lord Siva) peruvudaiyaar
- haayola (fertile land) pazhanam
- neegilu (plough) naanjil
- angay (palm) agangai (agam+kai)
- pottuguude(small basket) puttukkuudai
- emmehatty(buffalo camp) erumaippatti
- koomekallu(sharp stone) kuurmaikkal
- taave (fern) taagai ;
- batte (cloth) vattudai
- monakaalu (knee) muzhangaal
- darsepetti(granary box) davasappetti
Like these many single and compound words are better known by comparing with Tamil. Other than word level, to our wonder, the glimpse of Badaga culture, tradition etc., are seen in Tamil literature. The thing is, we have to study it in depth to get the relevant points. For example, the good old marriage system of the Badagas was depicted in Sangam (aganaanuuru 86 and136) literature. Kannagi worship is similar to Badagas’ Hethe worship. The Tamil word peyaran or peeran (grand’son) indicates the usage of christening grandfather’s name to grandson. In the same way peyartti or peetti indicates the usage of naming grandmother’s name to granddaughter. To our astonishment, this practice is still vogue in Badaga. In Badaga society a new born male child gets first his grandfathers’ names(father’s father and mother’s father).In the same way a new born female child gets first her grandmothers’ names (father’s mother and mother’s mother).
In ancient Tamil society there was no caste system. The concept of karma was not there. It advocated neither vegetarianism nor sobriety (absent from toddy consumption). In the same way the society didn’t encourage renunciation. These are all relevant to Badaga society even today. The ancestor worship is common to both Badagas and ancient Tamils. More or less the religious activities are same for both Badagas and ancient Tamils. However the Badagas preserved and maintained the good old systems in every sphere of their life due their prolonged isolation. In this background, I hope the study of Tamil literature, grammar etc., will help us to describe Badaga thoroughly.