Kannada is the State language of Karnataka, and surprisingly it accommodates 30 different dialects of Kannada. This contributes to the linguistic diversity of modern-day Karnataka.
Kannada is divided into four geographical regions by traditional linguists: Mysuru, Mangaluru, Dharwad, and Kalaburagi Kannada. Various communities in these regions speak a specific dialect as their mother tongue, whether it’s Halakki Kannada, Havyaka Kannada, Kota Kannada, Rama Kshatriya Kannada, Badaga Kannada (spoken by the Badaga community in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri region), or even Arebhashe.
Arebhashe or Aregannada or Gowda Kannada is a dialect of Kannada spoken mainly by Gowda and other communities in the regions of Madikeri, Somwarpet, and Virajpet taluks of Kodagu district, Sullia, Kadaba, Puttur, Belthangady, Bantwal, and Mangaluru taluks of Dakshina Kannada district; Bengaluru and Mysuru districts in the Indian State of Karnataka. Further, it is spoken in Bandadka, Kasaragod District in the Indian state of Kerala. An estimated five lakh native speakers and more than two lakh people from all other communities put together speak the language and is now a communication language in these areas. Arebhashe is also known as “Gowda Kannada,” a name coined by Prof. Mariappa Bhat, a well-known Kannada scholar.
The Gowdas from Hassan’s ‘Aiguru Seeme’ moved and settled in various parts of Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu around the 15th century CE. Those who settled among Tulu-speaking populations in Puttur, Belthangady, Karkala, and Vittal of Dakshina Kannada on the other hand, absorbed the culture of Tulu Nadu, learning the local language and worshipping deities in the Coastal Karnataka tradition of ‘Daivaradhane’, while they picked up features of Kodava culture in Kodagu.
The community, on the other hand, created its own distinct identity, which was retained through its language. In Arebhashe, for example, the community worships the daivas (demi-gods/spirits). When compared to conventional Kannada, Arebhashe has changed in phonetics, syntax, and morphology. Some of the vowels not present in the Kannada alphabet are considered phonetic in Arebhashe.
A change in the pronunciation affects the meaning of a word, which is a characteristic of Arebhashe that is difficult to express using normal Kannada font. Subrahmanya, Peraje or Sampaje, and Madikeri/Bhagamandala Arebhashe are the three major variations within Arebhashe.
The Arebhashe was recognised by the Karnataka State Government and formed an academy in 2011 to preserve the culture and literature of the Arebhashe Region which is named as Karnataka Arebhashe Samskruthi Matthu Sahitya Academy supported by the then Chief Minister D. V. Sadananda Gowda. Karnataka Arebhashe Samskruthi Matthu Sahitya Academy celebrates December 15 of every year as Arebhashe Dinacharane. The Academy has a library that houses a good collection of books and magazines in Arebhase. It also publishes a quarterly magazine by name Hingara.
This year Arebhashe Samskruthi Matthu Sahitya Academy is celebrating the decennial programme. Speaking on this occasion Lakshminarayan Kajegadde, President of Arebhashe Samskruthi Matthu Sahitya Academy told News Karnataka, “We have taken various initiatives to unite the people who speak Arebhashe across the world. As a part of the decennial celebration so far, we have published 42 books by the academy, in order to protect and popularise the language we have digitalised them.
“We have also requested the private writers who had published books on their own, of which many have agreed to get their books digitalised through the academy,” he added.
Meanwhile, the academy is working on the Arebhashe dictionary, and are also planning to prepare a full-fledged cultural encyclopedia too.
“We are producing documentaries in order to introduce our great achievers to future generations. We have already released the Documentary on artiste Mohan Sona. We are further producing documentaries on linguistic scientists Kodi Kushalappa Gowda and Deviprasad. Many short films projects have been started already in this regard. But in order to give it a professional touch, we are conducting a separate workshop on the preparation of documentaries in October.
“We are working to the best of our abilities to get ISO code to Arebhashe language, which helps to get the global recognition,” he informed.
“In Arebhashe cultures, there is no clear line separating myth from folk or fairytales; all these together form the literature of preliterate societies. Theatre in the form of the traditional Yakshagana, Yakshagana Talamaddale, and Drama prevalent in Arebhashe speaking region has greatly preserved the finer aspects of the Arebhashe language. Yakshagana which is conducted in Arebhashe is very popular among the Arebhashe people, and they often perform in summer. Academy has always supported and encouraged theatres and plays. We are conducting Arebhashe theatre workshop soon, We are also collaborating with KSS College Subramanya theatre unit ‘Kusumasaha Ranga’ College in this regard,” he added.
“Apart from this Academy is organising a four-day Arebhasha Samskruti Shibira (Cultural camp), where resource persons are selected locally, to enlighten participants particularly youth on the traditional practices and songs. Arebhashe has rich literature like epics, novels, dramas, dictionaries, poems, riddles, adverbs, and rich oral literature. The oral traditions of Arebhashe are one of the major traditions that show the finer aspects of the language. Shobhane is commonly recited on occasion of the marriage function. This is the theme of the way of life of Hindu Gods Rama and Seeta. Paddanas are recited in a ritualistic context by particular communities of the Arebhashe region on the occasion of the Hindu rituals of Bhoota Kola and Siddavesa kind of religious and traditional folk dance.
Tulu Gowda people of Sullia, Belthangady, and Puttur perform full moon summer dance in the month of Tulu calendar Suggi. In this same month, Suggi Nalike is also performed. Sadly, the new generation is unaware of such traditional forms. So, we have organised a Cultural camp. A minimum of 30 people will participate in the camp. Already we have conducted three workshops, we have planned to hold seven more in different localities,” he informed.
“This year we are celebrating the Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav, to commemorate the 75 years of independence of India. On this occasion, our focus is to highlight the “Amara Sullia Swatantrya Sangrama of 1837″. It is a historic incident where farmers of Sullia under the leadership of Kadambadi Ramagowda rebelled against the British and defeated them. For more than 13 days they hoisted their own flag as a symbol of independence at Bavutagudde. Such an important milestone in the history of Indian Independence is not even known to many. So, it is our responsibility to make our future generation aware of such great achievements from Arebhashigas, ” he explained.
Similarly, Prof. Vishwanath Badikana, Assistant Professor of St. Aloysius College and member of Arebhashe Academy said, “the Academy organises workshops, seminars, cultural events, and gatherings for the Arebhashe public. It also provides research grants for research in Arebhashe language and culture; publishes books and presents the annual awards in the fields of Arebhashe literature, folk arts, Yakshagana, research, and novel writing. Academy also offers leather instruments to the music artists”
“To educate the young generation it has been planned to work on textbooks, glossary, translation, and archival work, which will also help preserve and develop the language and culture of Arebhashe and its speakers. The Academy is also working on a documentary collection for veteran personalities of this region, including a seminar on youth literature, a drama camp, and poetry. We will launch our own website, and release our documentaries and other works on Youtube at the decennial event.
Prof. K. Chinnappa Gowda, former Vice-Chancellor, Karnataka Folklore University said that Gowda Bhashe or Arebhashe is been spoken by several communities. The language resembles Kannada but it is different. It has a unique cultural history that should be highlighted.
He opined that the literature in Arebhashe possesses the quality of being taught in schools.
“The academy is working best of its ability for the development of language by the translating the works, by collecting and publishing of folk literature, by holding training programmes for young writers, etc. It should be continued in the future. The cultural encyclopedia should be published by the Academy, which not only preserves the unique culture but also helps in better understanding,” he suggested.
Bharatesh Alasandemajalu, a member of Arebhashe Samskruthi Matthu Sahitya Academy said, ” Arebhashe has a history of approximately 500 years. According to linguistic scientists, it is very close to the Badaga language in the Dravidian language. There was a time when Vokkaliga Gowda came from Iguru and started living in Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu district, also Kasaragod District of Kerala State. Many of these families settled in Kodagu from the time of Talakadu Gangas (200–1004 CE). Then they migrated to Coorg (Kodagu) from the Mangalore – Udupi region, to settle among the Canarese Tulu-speaking people. And different communities in this region speak Arebhashe as a communication language.”
“Arebhashe mainly is concentrated in the State of Karnataka. Dakshina Kannada, Kodagu districts in Karnataka, and Kasaragod in Kerala. These are the districts where Arebhashe speaking people are living for centuries. They are now spread all over India, especially in the metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Bengaluru, and other industrial and business centres. Arebhashigas are also in large numbers in countries like the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, GCC countries, and other places outside India,” he added.
“The canonical word order of Arebhashe is subject-object-verb, the same as of Kannada languages. There is a very close connection to Kundagannada and Havyaka Kannada. The gender distinction in Arebhashe is similar to Brahui, a member of the North Dravidian linguistic system,” he explained.