Bunt (/ˈbʌnt/, previously spelled Bant) are a community of erstwhile nobility, feudatory and gentry from the region of Tulu Nadu in the south west of India which comprises the districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada in the Indian state of Karnataka and Kasaragod taluk of Kerala. The Bunts claim Kshatriya descent from the Nagavanshi lineage and are classified as Forward caste by both the national and state governments of India.
4 Traditional houses,
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The word Bunt means powerful man or warrior in the Tulu language.
According to S. D. L. Alagodi, the Bunts "... originally belonged to the warrior class. Being the martial race of Tulu Nadu, they served the ruling chiefs which brought them considerable benefits and allowed them to become the landed gentry of the region,"
Some notable Bunt clans who were sovereign of these states are the Honneyakambalis of Hosangadi, Samantha Rajas of Mulki, Bhair Arasas of Karkala, Arasas of Kumbla, Ajilas of Venur, Tolaharas of Suralu near Udupi, Heggades of Vitla, Chowtas of Ullal/Moodabidri, and the Bangas of Bangadi. The feudal life and society of Bunts began to disintegrate in the succeeding colonial British Raj period and the Bunts today are a largely urbanized community.
Traditionally the Bunt community was divided into subdivisions. The principal among these are:
Masadika Bunt: The single largest subdivision of the community. An overwhelming majority of Bunts belong to this subdivision. The Masadika Bunts natively speak the Tulu language and follow the aliya santana system of matrilineal inheritance. They inhabit or originally hail from the region between Kasaragod town in Kerala and Brahmavar in Udupi district, Karnataka,
Nad Bunt: The Nad Bunt, also known as the Nādava, are the second-largest subdivision among the Bunts and form a sizeable minority in the community.The Nad Bunt natively speak Kundagannada, a dialect of the Kannada language, and follow the aliya santana system of matrilineal inheritance. They inhabit or originally hail from Kundapura taluka in Udupi district, Karnataka (north of Brahmavar),
Parivara Bunt: The Parivara Bunt are a minuscule minority in the Bunt community and number around few thousands. The Parivara Bunt natively speak the Tulu language. Unlike other subdivisions they follow the makkala santana system of patrilineal inheritance. Scattered populations of the Parivara Bunt are mostly found in the taluka of Sullia in Dakshina Kannada district, Karnataka, and adjoining parts of Kodagu district, Karnataka and Kasaragod taluka of Kerala. Their customs and traditions are a mixture of Bunt and those of the shivalli brahmins.,
Jain Bunt: The Jain Bunts are traditionally defined as a distinctive subdivision of the Bunt community and sometimes classified as a separate community in itself because they are Jains by faith while the other subdivisions are Hindu. The subdivision arose when some Bunt feudals embraced Jain traditions during the rule of the Hoysala Empire who propagated Jainism. They number around few thousands and speak either the Tulu or Kannada language. They follow the aliya santana system of matrilineal inheritance, except for a few families who have taken to priestly duties. Their customs are a blend of the Jain customs and those of the Hindu Bunts.,
Until the 20th century the rules of intermarriage and interdining were and strictly followed. The community as a whole practised endogamy and subdivisional exogamy was practised only by the Masadika and the Nad who freely intermarried with each other. The Parivara and Jains favoured endogamy and, though interdined with other subdivisions, did not intermarry except for rare instances where a woman from the Parivara subdivision could enter into marriage with a man from other subdivisions and a man from the Jain subdivision could enter into matrimonial alliance with a woman from other subdivisions.
Apart from the above mentioned principal subdivisions there are about 90 clans found among the Bunts.
These clans claim descent either from the Alupas or Perumal kings and were feudatories or rulers of small principalities in Tulu Nadu until the period of British Raj. The Ballal Bunts until the 20th century as a rule neither interdined with other Bunts since they are strictly vegetarian and preferred endogamy.
The heads of ballal families mandatorily undergo the Upanayanam ceremony and wear the sacred thread called Janivara or Janeyu. Wearing of the sacred thread and practising vegetarianism is not a compulsion for other Bunts, apart from the Ballals. Heads of other Bunt families who were erstwhile royalty or have the privileges of "Pattam" (the highest hereditary title of nobility in Tulu Nadu region) as certain families called "Shetty Vala'' and "Hegde'' who are "Mukteshwar'' or Muktesar (administrative trustees) of temples and solved civil or criminal disputes of areas they had jurisdiction in former times wear the sacred thread.
Traditional Bunt houses can still be seen across the Tulu Nadu region. One of the more well-preserved houses, Kodial Guthu, stands at the centre of Mangalore city. Other examples can be seen at Badila Guthu in Kannur, Dakshina Kannada and Shirva Nadibettu near Udupi.
There are many organisations that cater to the needs of the community. The oldest among them is the Bunts Mathr Sangha based in Mangalore. Since the 20th century when Bunts began to emigrate out of their native Tulu Nadu region various organisations have been formed outside Tulu Nadu, such as in Mumbai,Kuwait, and the United Kingdom.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license