Paddana (pADdana) (ಪಾಡ್ದನ) or ‘sandhis’ (ಸಂಧಿ-ಸಂದಿ) constitute an important aspect of the folklore of coastal Karnataka. They are also referred to as pADdano, pADdono and pADadAna. They transcend the boundaries of narrative folk ballads and acquire the status of a folk epic even though they are short. Some of them consist of a cycle of ballads. All of them are in Tulu, the prominent regional language. They are veritable sources of history, mythology and anthropological details related to TuLu Culture. They are described by scholars as combinations of myth and legend. The customs, modes of living, religious rituals, conflicts etc are delineated in these performances in great detail. In a way they represent the voice of the downtrodden and marginalized segments of society as also cultural heroes who are raised to the level of super natural beings.

            The word ‘pAD-dana’ is usually derived from the Dravidian word ‘pAD’ (pAT) which means a song. However pADdanas are presented in recitational mode rather than the singing mode.

            Paddanas are recited in a ritualistic context by particular communities on the occasion of ‘BUta Worship’. However they are also sung during agricultural processes such as plucking the seedlings. (nEji) Consequently they can be ascribed both religious and recreational functions.

            Paddanas are divided in to two broad categories. The first category has the origin and dissemination of supernatural beings (BUta) as their subject matter. This category includes mythological beings also. Other category consists of the lives of historical personalities who are raised to a higher level.

            The first set of pAddanas is presented during the ‘bhUtArAdhane’ by people who perform the role of a bhUta. These communities are pambada, parava, pANAra and nalke. There is room to believe that these communities could once have been professional singers and they are the original inhabitants of this region. A man and a woman belonging to the same family are involved in the recitation. The woman plays on a percussion instrument called ‘tembare’. The lines of the paddana are recited alternately by these two individuals in different styles.  

            Paddanas about BUtAs contain the origin, adventures and geographical dissemination of important BUtas such as panjurLi, jumAdi and guLiga.  Numbers of ballads delineating the adventures of these BUtas are merged in to a cycle and then they acquire the status of folk epic. For instance some twelve paddanas are available about Panjurli alone. Most of these BUta paddanas are centred on agriculture which is the main profession of this region.  KalkuDa-kallurTi, panjurLi, guLiga and pili cAmunDi, uLLALti and vishNumUrti are among the more important ones among the BUta pADdanas.

            The most well known and celebrated paddanas are ‘kOTi cennaiah’ and ‘siri’. ‘kOTi cennaiah’ has its base and is popular in the southern regions of ‘tuLunADu’. It delineates a confrontation between upper caste people (ballALa) and two youths called ‘kOTi’ and ‘cennaiah’ belonging to the toddy tapping community of Billavas,  caused by discriminative treatment. They wage a war against the ballALas and meet martyrs’ death. They are deified and worshipped in temples even to this day.

            The stories of Siri, her daughter sonne and her grand daughters, abbage-dArage together constitute an epic. This deals with the rebellion of a wronged woman against her adversaries and its consequences. Siri paddana has now become a part of the feminist agenda and known for its protest against hierarchical injustice. It discusses the problems connected with matrilineal kinship pattern peculiar to South Canara and the neighbouring Kerala state.

            KOTi pUnja, korga taniya, jOgipuruSa, AliBUta are some more human beings who are elevated to the level of a BUta after their death. There are paddanas for BUtas who have migrated from Kerala and Malnad region of Karnataka.

            Most of the mythological paddanas such as ‘bAlakrishNe’, ‘siri sItAmudeyyAr’ have themes taken from vaidic epics. Paddanas such ‘balIndra’ and ‘sUrya chandra’ are constructed may be much later in order to up hold upper class values.

            Not many Padddanas, dealing with worldly themes are present. ‘gillu-billu’, ‘parati-mangaNe’ and puttakka’ are some of them. ‘Gillu-billu’ has an interesting theme as it deals with the story of a dog called billu which sacrifices its own life after the death of its owner, a woman called ‘gillu’. 

            The importance of paddanas may be summed up in the words of Heidrun Bruckner as follows: “The paddanas make up a mythological, linguistic and poetic corpus which strengthens the cultural identity of major section of non-brahmin Tulu speaking population.” Then again the analysis of B. Damodara Rao about the nature and spread of these paddanas are equally important: Most of the Tulu Paddanas have a geo-historical, legendary or mythic base. In turn they animate the landscape, history, legend or myths that sustain the folk tradition. The paddanas call for a modified aesthetic, a different creative-critical model which might facilitate a more precise understanding of the creative factors at work in the Tulu folk imagination.” Truly, paddanas are huge repositories of Tulu culture and history with abundant wealth of information about their ancient life style, games, food and other habits, agriculture, art, religion etc.  


Further Reading and Links:

1. ( A Bhuta reciting a paddana)



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