Saree, Kachra and Rathore

This is a more of research paper for a blog post. I literally had to reside below a bodhi tree for a month to gain this knowledge. You better read it and like it. 🙂

If you recall a post I had Previously written, I had adequately addressed a few of my north Indian friends’ quintessential questions. It was “Why does Karnataka has a flag of its own, while other states don’t“. This is the second one in that series “Why do South-Indians add a letter h to ‘t‘ sound, such as Jayalalitha as against a proper Jayalalita“. Okay, let us get to it.

South-Indians consider four ‘t’ sounds a set of mutually exclusive and distinctive representations in their native languages. For this very reason, when written in a foreign script, such as English, they will get four different spellings.

  1. t for voiceless retroflex,
  2. tt for voiced retroflex,
  3. th for voiceless dental,
  4. and finally, tth or tthh for voiced dental.

North Indians, however, chose to manage it with two even though Devanagari still has the same combinations.

  1. t for both voiceless retroflex and dental
  2. th for both voiced retroflex and dental.

For example, the English spelling of an Atal and Atul for a north Indian will change to Atal and Athul for a south Indian.

Now, who is correct? The answer is neither, nor maybe both.

Please be aware that this cannot be a spelling bee. Indian native languages are exceptionally and perfectly capable of representing all their native sounds in their preferred scripts. The trouble comes only when one needs to write them in a foreign language such as English. In English, however, we simply do not have a one-to-one mapping for all the sounds of Indian origin. Why should they? Understandably this is by design.

If it is of any consolation, the vice versa is true as well. For instance, we can never write the word ‘acid’ in any Indian languages, convincingly. It can be either ‘A-sid’ or ‘aasid’, and that is the best you can get. Hence the verdict is, the argument itself is wrong. Unless we are talking about Unicode or international phonetic symbols as foreign languages of consideration, both representations should and are correct. Stop arguing now.

Now that we have settled that debate let me pose a counter-question on a related topic. Why do all North Indians write few words such as Saree, Rathore and Kachra with two different representations or even pronounce differently? You must be familiar with Saadi, Rathod and Kachda.

Most of the time, it is pronounced as a Sadi and written Saree? This is very annoying for a non-native.

Disclosure. I am not a native Hindi speaker; I did not even have proper formal education on Hindi. I studied Hindi as my fourth language, but my Hindi teacher was in a great hurry and skipped a topic or few, such as alphabet! Obviously, she could not answer may of such questions we had. Why such a level of imperfections

  1. Why does Hindi omit (or swallow) the final vowel, e.g., Kannad for Kannada?
  2. Why does turtle have strange spelling ending with a vowel KachuAA instead of Kachuva?
  3. Why does translation for Yesterday and Tomorrow has the same word leaving it to its verb to decide the fate?
  4. And the most crucial question is, why on earth Hindi does not end a word with a consonant and must be a vowel? I mean, Hindi’s mother Sanskrit does the proper ending of each word. E.g., In Hindi Jal and Jala written the same. At the same time, Sanskrit differentiates even with the same script of Devanagari.

What surprised me the most is my friends with proper education on Hindi could not explain this deviation of Hindi from her mother, (Samskrutam) Sanskrit.

In my quest for knowledge, I had asked many many of my friends on these discrepancies. I quizzed them precisely on the r spelling for d sound. Most of them dint have a clue but a few attempted explaining it to me. Apparently, the language Hindi has a sound/letter that falls somewhere between an ‘r‘ and a ‘d‘. Unfortunately, this consonant does not sit in a scientifically classified and tabulated alphabet of Indian languages. So, it has to be foreign.

It’s called Nuqta. Let me quote Manisha Kulshreshtha, and Ramkumar Mathur on what they wrote in Dialect Accent Features for Establishing Speaker Identity. A few sounds, borrowed from the other languages like Persian and Arabic, are written with a dot (Bindu or nuktā). Many people who speak Hindi as a second language, especially those who come from rural backgrounds and do not speak conventional Hindi (also called Khariboli), or speak in one of its dialects, pronounce these sounds as their nearest equivalents.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of a dot (period). You can bring this confusing sound by merely putting a period, below or on the side, wherever you find some space. It should be done for one and the only purpose – to represent a foreign sound, especially with loan words. By definition, anything and everything can be covered here, including click sound of African languages. Nuqta was introduced in Devanagari to accommodate pronunciation India’s invaders bought in.

This is brilliant stuff; I have full clarity now. Absolutely useless! But still brilliant!

This raises more questions than answers. Why on earth would you consider sadi/saree is a foreign loaned word? Have you seen anyone in central Asia or the middle east wearing it? The Saree, its style, its etymology – they all have origins in India. It existed even before Hindi was even born, let’s not even talk about loans.

Photo by Nivedita Singh on

The answer is very straightforward. This is the side effect of a hangover by Turkik and Persian speaking empires ruling us. We could not even decide if a piece of clothing we wore for a millennium, was foreign or Indian. Finally, we settled, and we decided its foreign. Well done there.

Let me know your thoughts, do write your opinion on the comments section.

Reviving a thousand year old song

I could not help but share this fantastic rendition of one of the oldest songs in the Kannada language. The ‘old’ part is an understatement. It’s written somewhere around 900 C.E in an older version of Kannada. Credits of this poem go to Pampa, who generally, is referred to as Adikavi – an honorary title (Translation: first poet).

What is heartwarming is the attempt to revive a song written more than a millennium ago. 

Okay, Here you go. 


ಚಾಗದ ಭೋಗದಕ್ಕರದ ಗೇಯದ ಗೊಟ್ಟಿಯಲಂಪಿ ನಿಂಪುಗ ಳ್ಗಾರವಾದ ಮಾನಿಸರೆ ಮಾನಿಸರಂತವರಾಗಿ ಪುಟ್ಟಲೇ |
ನಾಗಿಯುಮೇನೊ ತೀರ್ದಪುದೇ ತೀರದೊಡಂ ಮರಿದುಂಬಿಯಾಗಿ ಮೇಣ್‌ ಕೋಗಿಲೆಯಾಗಿ ಪುಟ್ಟುವುದು ನಂದನದೊಳ್‌ ಬನವಾಸಿ ದೇಶದೊಳ್‌ ||

Chagada bhogadakkarada geyada gottiyalam pinimppuga Lgagaramada manasare manasarantavaragi puttale | Nagiyumeno tirdapude tiradodam maridumbiyagi men Kogileyagi puttuvudu nandanadol Vanavasi deshadol ||

Although the language used in this song is Kannada, not many can comprehend it because it is an old Kannada version. The language has moved on from here and evolved into a different version by gathering influences from various languages of neighbors, traders and invaders.

Anyways, while you are here, and if you are interested, please take some time to read through a fantastic post on same topic.

Translation: Hands up – Avane Srimannarayana

It’s deplorable that in the land of Kuvempu and Bendre, the Kannada movie songs exceedingly obsessed nothing more than morning hygienic routines. Or it’s evening routine if you chose to take a bath at night. Don’t get me wrong – these are beautiful songs with great original tunes, it’s just that their poetic value is abysmal. This is not something I could tolerate easily with the unfortunate reason that I happen to know the language. Sometimes, it seems like producers never provision a budget for a lyricist and instead choose to get it done by their kindergarten kids.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

Exhibit 1: A foot-tapping item song with 61 million views translates as “Female: Planning for a Disco, I donned self payal. I used Lux branded soap and just took a bath. Male: I was relaxing after a large meal of Onions !! I washed my hands just to shake your hands.”  

Exhibit 2: another viral song translates as “Put soap, scrub body, close the door and take a bath, then put on powder … “

I can go on and give you more examples, but you get the point. To make it absolutely clear, I am not an anarchist to dislike songs about human hygiene and its importance. But I am absolutely convinced that we don’t need legends, songs and epics on what we should do in the bathroom.  

Generally, it could take up to a for a single fantastic song to come out of this industry with both good tune and lyrics. One of such rarities I liked very much is “Hands up” from Avane Shrimannaraya. A very classy song in all aspects. The Originality, choreography, direction, cinematography, lyrics, tune. It’s an all-round entertainment. I am sure you have seen it as it had gone viral a few months ago.

Unlike the typical Kannada movie songs, this song is actually written in Kannada, not with English vocabulary. You would definitely require a translation to understand the context. However, unfortunately, the entire Internet does not have a translation. That would be a criminal injustice!

So, I thought, why not do that service.

Disclaimer: I do not call myself a poet, or even a translator. I have tried my absolute best to do this, Hope it helps.

Note: Singer switches the roles between Narrator and Protagonist. Careful about that, please…

[Narrator] ಕೇಳಿ ಕಾದಿರುವ ಬಾಂಧವರೇ, ಭುವಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಅವನ ಅರಿತವರೆ, ಯಾರಿಲ್ಲ ಬಿಡಿ, ಮುನ್ನುಡಿ, ಇದ್ದರದೊಂದು ದಂತಕಥೆ
Keli kadiruva bandhavare, Bhuviyalli avana aritavare, Yarilla bidi, munnudi, Iddaradondu dantakathe
Listen, patient Ladies and Gentlemen, and those who think who comprehend him, He is not that. What you heard of him is a pure urban legend.

[Narrator]ನಾಕು ದಿಕ್ಕಿನಲೂ ಬೇಕವನು, ಬಂದೂಕು ಹಿಡಿದ ಮಾನವನು,, ತಲೆಮೇಲಿದೆ ಕಿರೀಟ, ತೀರಾ ಹಠ, ಗುರಿ ಬೆನ್ನತ್ತೊ ನೇತಾರನು
Naalku dikkinalu bekavanu, Banduku hidida manavanu, Talemelide kirita, thira hatha, Guri bennatto netaranu
He is ‘most wanted’ in all directions, flaunting his gun, sporting a crown, a stubborn and very focussed on his goal.

[Chorus] ಗಾಳಿಮಾತಿನ ಬಜಾ಼ರು, ಸುದ್ದಿ ಸಾರಿದೆ ಸುಮಾರು, ಪಾತ್ರದ ಪರಿಚಯ ಇರೋರು, ಆ ಬಂದೂಕಿಗೆ ಇದೆ ಘನಹೆಸರು
Galimatina bajaru Suddi saride sumaru, Patrada parichaya iroru A bandukige ide ghanahesaru
You know the Rumour mill, has spread this news, Only those who know the character, must know, his gun has a reputation to keep

[Protagonist, Chorus] ಹ್ಯಾಂಡ್ಸ್ ಅಪ್‌, ಅದು ಅನವರತ , ಹ್ಯಾಂಡ್ಸ್ ಅಪ್‌, ನಾ ಅಜ್ನಾತ, ಹ್ಯಾಂಡ್ಸ್ ಅಪ್‌, ಇದೆ ವೇದಾಂತ
Hands up, adu anavarata , Hands up, na ajnata , Hands up, ide vedanta
Hands up, that’s infinite, Hands up, am in disguise, Hands up, its a philosophy

[Narrator] ಇದು ಚರಿತ್ರೆ ಸೃಷ್ಠಿಸೊ ಅವತಾರ
Idu charitre srusthiso avatara
This character meant to write history

[Narrator as Protagonist] ರಂಗೇರಿದೆ ಮಾಯಜಾಲ, ಅನುಭವಿಸು ಓ ಪ್ರೇಕ್ಷಕನೇ, ದೃಷ್ಟಿ ನನ್ನೊಬ್ಬನ ಮೇಲಿಡಿ, ತಪ್ಪದು ನಿಜ ಮನರಂಜನೆ
Rangeride maayajala , Anubhavisu o preksakane, Dristi nannobbana melidi, Tappadu nija manaranjane
The stage is now set, experience it oh Audience. Keep your eyes on me, and I promise you entertainment

[Protagonist] ನನ್ನ ಗೆಲ್ಬೋದು ಅನ್ನುತ ನಿಂದನು ಓರ್ವ ರಾಕ್ಷಸ, ತಪ್ಪಲ್ಲ ಆದರೆ ಅದುವೆ ಊಹೆಗು ಮೀರಿದ ಸಾಹಸ
Nanna gelbodu annuta nindanu orva raksasa, Tappalla adare aduve uhegu mirida sahasa
An evil man will face me thinking to defeat me, It is not wrong, but it’s a dare beyond imagination.

[Chorus] ಅನಿಸುತ್ತೆ, ಬಂದ ಹಾದಿಗೆ ರಚಿಸಲು ಹೊಸದೇ ಶಾಸನ, ಮೆರೆಯಲಿ ಗಗನದಲಿ ನಿಮ್ಮದೆ ಲಾಂಛನ
Anisutte, banda hadige racisalu hosade sasana, Mereyali gaganadali nimmade lanchana
It’s evident, has come here to write new rules, and to take your pride to the sky.

[Chorus] ಯುದ್ಧ ಮಾಡಬೇಕು ಓದಬಾರದು, ಕಟುಕರ ಮುಂದೆ ಭಗವದ್ಗೀತೆ
Yuddha madabeku odabaradu, Katukara munde bhagavadgite
Let’s fight the war and let’s not preach Bhagavat Geeta in front of butchers.

Okay, I had previously written about the plight of the Kannada movie industry and its literary bankruptcy, especially the lyrical value it brings to the table. You can consider this post is in continuation of that.

The Last Samurai, Taranaki Maunga and Mangaluru

Question : Do you recognize this mountain? Name and location please..

Yes, it’s the same one in the backdrop of the legendary movie – The Last Samurai. This is supposed to be Mount Fuji where Tom Cruise and other ancient Japanese’s warrior tribes fought their last battle and perish.

However what you are looking at is not Fuji, It’s Mount Taranaki! In fact, It’s not even in Japan. This is located thousands of miles away, in middle earth. I am not kidding, it’s apparently true. A mountain played Body-double for another mountain for its striking resemblance with other. I wonder what did Hollywood show as body-double for the Himalayas? Mongolia?

Like any mountain, Mount Taranaki has a history, let me cover the “its name” part of it. The indigenous native Māori people had called it as Taranaki for centuries. When European explorers came down, their first natural instinct was to rename it. They named it Mount Egmont. Then the colonizers arrived, and unsurprising stuff followed. They claimed the country with the cunning use of Flag . As usual practice a lot of things were formally renamed, including Taranaki – as Mount Egmont.

For about a century it is called by both names in official records. Let me fast forward the story to the current century. Almost a year back, authorities and legislators finally resolved to have one and only one name for the mountain. It’s now called Taranaki Maunga. So well done there. It’s a sentiment that matters, and I fully agree with them. Why should anyone call themselves or places with a name their colonisers or comfortable to pronounce with? It should always reflect the roots.

However, a section of society finds this kin of renaming very hard to swallow. To this date, some people prefer to call themselves as they are from Bombay. It’s the name their colonizers gave while breaking fingers of their cotton Weaver’s. In comparison, Chennai has caught on better. I hear no one is calling it Madras any more. Prayag for previous Allahabad is yet to catch up, I wonder what Amitabh Bacchan answers now if you were to ask about his roots. It’s all about the collective self-respect of locals.

Anyways, the thumb rule is a name that should be devised by local. There could even be multiple names as long as they all are all local. I have seen numerous local names co-existing. For example, let’s take a city of Mangaluru, it has/had at least 13 titles – mostly regional. FYI only, Mangaluru has very diverse cultural deviation, perhaps next only to Northeastern states.

  • Mangaluru in Kannada, the state language and language of education
  • Kodial in Konkani, a language spoken by Saraswats and Catholics refugees emigrated from Goa to avoid Portuguese persecution and Inquisition. A language is closer to Marathi than Kannada.
  • Kudla in Tulu, mother tongue of Aishwarya Rai and Shila Shetty. A local transactional language. Widely spoken in the region, but has no script. Vocabulary is closer to Tamizh than Kannada.
  • Kodeyaala in Havyakka, a dialect of Kannada sounds very poetic and closer to medieval Classic.
  • Its Maikala in Beary, a language spoken by local Muslims, which is closer to Malayalam than Kannada.
  • Its Mangalapuram in Malayalam, Keralites who share a border with Mangaluru.
  • Its called Kaudal in Urdu

Historic references. These names faded away due to its number of speakers reduced in the region.

  • Manjarun in (Samskrut) Sanskrit exists only in books
  • Nitra (Greek Ptolemy – based on the river Netravati)’
  • Manjarour/Manjiloree (Arabic), traders named it.

Finally, Let’s come to two names given by Colonisers/invaders :

Mangalore in English. This is no longer a standard spelling.

Jalalabad – Tippu Sultan, temporarily renamed it – this did not get caught on.

P.S. The producers of The Last Samurai may have their own reasons to shoot a Japanese Legend in New Zealand. Bollywood does it too. It did shoot most of its 80s and 90s dance sequences in Europe, mostly Switzerland. They did this even when Kashmir was peaceful primarily, and Insurgency did not start.

P.S.2 Hollywood gets the ethnicity of actors wrong as well. More often than not, an Indian character role is fulfilled by an English actor with a Pakistani or Srilankan descent. I have seen vice-versa as well. For example, the Arab princess jasmine in the movie Aladdin (2019 – Disney) was half Indian Naomi Scott.! The protagonist was played by Egyptian-Canadian and Genie was played by African-American. To remind you, the story was about Arabian nights in 14th century Iraq. Its a discussion for another day

Kannada Rajyotsava, the Flag and the Language

November’s up. It’s that time of the year, my north Indian friends exclaim “Aray Bach, tell me one thing; Why does Karnataka has its own flag and while no other state has one ?”. They are both right and wrong simultaneously and let me explain.

It is true. Karnataka does identify itself with a flag, but it is not an official flag of the state or Government. It’s a flag of a torchbearer group which fights for Kannada identity, which eventually went on to become a popularly accepted flag of Karnataka. Even though it’s not official yet, for all practical purposes, Karnataka does have a flag.

Now, the question is, why?

This has a straightforward answer. Karnataka is probably, the only state in India which is going through an identity crisis. Kannadigas strongly think if they don’t wake up now and fight for it, the state will end up speaking a language or following a culture alien to them. Karnataka has been suffering from a while, and the issue is now much more severe than it ever was. With this background, a Flag‌, an anthem, and even a logo should undoubtedly help to create a brand value for the momentum. Hope that answers your question.

Karnataka unlikely to get separate flag by this Rajyotsava

Let’s take the Kannada language, for example. The total contribution to its literary tradition been too superficial for a while now. In my opinion, the first and foremost measure of the health of any Classical language should be how alive its literary tradition is? Imagine this, Kannada prides itself with the highest number of Jnanapeetha Awards and the first one as well. Even then, the book stores continue to stay empty in Kannada sections, this is where masterpieces go to embrace their neglect. Lets not even talk about lit fests. Let’s take Amazon Kindle or Audible books. As of now, they support many Indian languages including Tamizh and Hindi, but not Kannada. I am not blaming them, its definitely not discrimination. Why wouldn’t  Amazon and Google create fonts for Kannada, if there are actual “takers” for it !!

There are several factors which acted against Kannada, both internal and external. For example:

  1. Kannadigas seem to have relatively lowest self-esteem as compare to any neighbouring states. For instance, two Sardars in South Hall will always talk in Punjabi. Two Keralites in Dubai significant each other in Malayalam. But two Kannadigas in Bangalore will always prefer to speak in English.
  2. Get this, if I need to buy a Kannada newspaper or Magazine, I need to travel for 6 kilometres. That is true while Rajasthani, Tamizh and Malayalam news magazines are available at a walking distance.
  3. Royal Challengers Bangalore – The pride of Bangalore, the IPL cricket team release an Anthem.  No points in guessing this – it’s in Hindi. Please compare this to CSK.
  4. The friend who challenged me on the flag did his Graduation in Bangalore for 4 years subsequently were working in Bangalore. He did not care to learn more than “Kannad Gothilla” and “Swalpa Adjust Madi.”. In his defence, the Kannadigas around him repeatedly reassured him on the sufficiency of the above two phrases.
  5. Kannada Vocabulary deteriorated over the period to an extent, even a common Kannada word sounds like a poetic version of the same language. English & Hindi words have infiltrated in their place. The T.V., Movie or Print media have made themselves so much dependent on English that they struggle to complete even single sentence in Kannada. I am not exaggerating when I say this, any non-Kannadiga can switch on Kannada news channel and can still comprehend 100% because if it’s Kannada Vocabulary.

I can go on with my list, but I think you get my point.

I am not saying that the Government is not doing enough. They indeed have taken several measures to protect the language. But in my opinion, they all remain mostly unsuccessful. Even though the intention and effort were honest, some of those arrows landed miles off the target. Let me call out one of them.

There is a Government directive mandates all boards within the boundaries of Karnataka should be written in Kannada along with English and/or Hindi. This directive gets into very prescriptive mode and it even defines the font and size of Kannada letters in the entire board – by both square footage and percentage. However, the biggest drawback of this order is, it warrants the protection of Kannada Script, not language.! In other words, you can even write a board with an African language, as long as it is written in Kannada script.!

Example :

Let me decode it for you. The board states “Karnataka Shops and Establishments Bangalore” twice in the English Language, once in Kannada Script and next in English Script 🙂 What’s the point of all these?  A Villager Kannadiga knows to read this but can not understand what is actually written.!

Also, we need to make up our mind on what exactly are we protecting? The script or the language? Mind you, scripts come and go. When the greatest epics were written in Sanskrit, Devanagari script did not even exist. In fact, to this date, you can write Sanskrit literature in Kannada script or even Telugu.

My advice is, don’t be precious about the script, love the language. Protect the literary tradition and spread it, everything else should fall in place.

P.S. I will leave you with a recent video on how annoyed a lady gets when a security guard speaks to her in Kannada. She goes on with unparliamentary abuse Kannada‌, Karnataka and so on. Apparently, she has the right to do so due to her knowledge on some penal code. Please do not assume this is an isolated incident, these are widespread. If you don’t trust me, please talk to an Auto Driver or Food Delivery Agent, they can tell you stories.

Caution : Please reduce volume of your device before you play this.