Mundas: A product of Parashurama’s fury – VI
by Jayasree Saranathan on 21 Apr 2014 1 Comment

“Vanaras” of Ramayana fame were in the line of attack of Parashurama! An inscription states that Vali and his clan were descendants of a race of Kshatriyas who emerged in the aftermath of Parashurama’s hunt for kshatriyas. An inscription dated in the 38th regnal year of King Vikramadhitya VI (i.e., AD 1112) dealing with the origin of his feudatory of his Dadiga, son of king Gunda, of the Bali race and of Bappura family, ruler over Kisukad, says: “When Jamadagnya came in the course of his wanderings in which he destroyed the Ksatriya race, there were born from the caves of mount Kiskindha certain heroes from whom sprang the members of Bali race, who were the ornaments of Bappuras” {1}.


This is a crucial piece of evidence that stems out of some of the mythical parts of Ramayana. The Bali race mentioned here refers to the race of Vaali, the valiant vanara king. This name should not be confused with Bali (Mahabali), as Mahabali was a Daitya coming in the lineage of Prahlada and Virochana and was vanquished by Vamana. This inscription talks about Parashurama who came later to Vamana. So Bali mentioned here is not the Bali of Vamana avatara.


The inscription also says that the members of this Bali race sprang up at or after the time of Parashurama - from the people who had hidden themselves. Kishkindha being the location where they sprang up is an additional confirmation for this Bali as Vaali, the Vanara.


The members of Bali race are mentioned as Bappuras in the above inscription. In the 11-12th century AD inscriptions of Kalyani Chalukyas, two females of Bappura family have been mentioned. One was Durlabhadevi, who married Pulikeshi I and the other was Nagiyakka, married to Naga-Perggede. In the case of Durlabhadevi, the inscription gives a prefix as “Adi Maha Bappura Vamsha”, indicating the antiquity of her lineage. Nagiyakka of Bappura vamsha is mentioned as being instrumental in getting carved the icon of Tara-Bhagawati, a Buddhist deity. The foremost information we deduce from this is that the Bappuras or people of Vaali vamsha were not vanaras (monkeys) but human beings like us.


The name Bappura came from Balipura (Vaali-pura), the place ruled by Vaali. Balipura is the Sanskrit name for the place known as “Baligave” or “Balligave” – perhaps a modification from Vaali-Guhaa or Vali-guhe or Bali-guhe – the cave of Vaali which is mentioned in the inscription. According to Valmiki Ramayana, Sugreeva was living in a cave when Rama went to meet him; perhaps the cave where his ancestors lived in hiding when Parashurama was roaming in search of kshatriyas. The Vaali guha could also refer to the cave where Vaali was trapped and sealed by Sugreeva while he was fighting with Mayavi. The identity of this place was not forgotten down the ages as there are inscriptions of the 11th and 12th century AD saying that Pandavas had consecrated five Shiva lingas in this place {2}. What was Balligave 1000 years ago is now known as Belagavi. It is in Shikaripur Taluk of Shimoga district, Karnataka {3}


Dadiga mentioned in this inscription refers to King Didiga known as Konganivarma or Konkani varma of the 5th century AD. This name sounds like Dadhimukha, the maternal uncle of Sugreeva and Vaali. Both Dadhiga and Dadhi in Dadhimukha refer to dairy products. In the Ramayana, Dadhimukha was the keeper of Madhuvana, the sacred grove of Vaali and Sugreeva!


The sacred grove culture that is supposed to be uniquely found among Mundari speaking people is also found in the culture of vanaras. The grove named Madhuvana is described in Valmiki Ramayana {4}. Any sacred grove is maintained for some purpose. The Madhuvana of Kishkindha was meant for growing plants to extract honey. From one of Dadhimukha’s dialogues, we come to know that this grove was maintained from the times of the grandfather of Vaali and Sugreeva. After him, Riksharaja, the father of Vaali and Sugreeva maintained it. After him, Vaali and then Sugreeva maintained it.


The name Riksharaja for the father of Sugreeva is intriguing. Riksha means bear. But this Vanara had been named as Rikshraja, king of bears. It would have been more appropriate to hear his name as Kapiraja, king of monkeys, but why Riskharaja? There is a popular riksha character in the Ramayana - Jambavan. Jambavan and vanaras were friends. At several places in the Ramayana, Jambavan is mentioned as “Kapi-shreshta”, best among the monkeys. Why this interchange between bears and monkeys?


Probing deeply, we find that there was a mountain by name Rishavaan (perhaps a corrupted word of Rikshavan) where the son of Viduratha of Puru vamsha grew up under the protection of ‘bears’ (rikshas) in secrecy to escape the fury of Parashurama! {5}. Many kshatriyas were on the run and many had hidden themselves in forests to escape from Parashurama. This king of Puru vamsha too had taken shelter in the Rishavan mountain which is situated at a place where river Narmada divides as a fork. He was given protection by the bears of whom Jambavan was a descendant.


Jambavan had never been an ordinary bear, but behaved like an intelligent human being. Jambavati, who married Krishna, came in the lineage of Jambavan. She could not have been a bear. But the bears and monkeys (vanaras) had existed at Rishavan and Kishkindha and had interchanged their identities. This could be possible only if they were human beings in disguise as bears and monkeys to escape the wrath of Parashurama. This means they were originally kshatriyas who went into hiding – one group in Rishavan in the northern part of Dandaka forests and another in Kishkindha caves, south of Dandaka forests.  


The first generation person to go into hiding seems to be the grandfather of Vaali as we find Dadhimukha saying that Madhuvana was maintained by him (grandfather) {6}. He was a kshatriya and had taken shelter in a cave in Kishkindha along with his clan when Parashurama was wandering in that region. At the same time, another group of this clan had taken shelter in mount Rishavan and camouflaged their appearance as bears. Initially all of them in Rishavan and Kishkindha had appeared as bears. That could be the reason why the father of Vaali came to be called as Riksharaja. But the next generation descendants could have started moving out of the cave to test the outside conditions. There comes Vaali, the valiant son of Riksharaja.


The best way to roam around the forests swiftly without being identified and harmed by forest animals is to jump from tree to tree. Like Tarzan of the apes, Vaali could have started moving around by tying a tail-like rope made from forest products. The name “Vaali” sounds like a Tamil word for tail called “Vaal”. Vaalin in Sanskrit means “haired” or “tailed”. This appearance could have become a success and others of his clan too started sporting it. That could be reason why Jambavan is at times a bear and described at other times as a monkey. The advantages of this kind of artificial tail were used in full by Hanuman. He was able to stretch it long or shrink it at will. He did not get hurt when his tail was set on fire.


This kind of changing of form by vanaras is mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana. Kabhanda refers to Sugreeva as one who can change his form, at will {7}. This is not a special attribute of Sugreeva, but something which all vanaras were capable of. While speaking to Sita, Hanuman describes the vanaras as those who can change their forms at will {8}. Hanuman himself changed his form from a vanara to an ascetic while going to meet Rama for the first time. He took up vanara form after talking to Rama{9}.


That they were not monkeys is made out from a verse in Ramayana. While talking to Sugreeva, Hanuman ridiculed him “oh monkey, you made a monkey of yourself” when Sugreeva was found confused {10}. Other clues come from expressions like Arya for the vanaras. Tara addressed Vaali as Arya {11}. Vaali was praised by Sugreeva as having “arya-bhaava” {12}. Even Valmiki characterises Tara as “Aryaa” the female of Arya {13}. In the Ramayana, the vanaras were not shown as just monkeys but as elite human beings. Vaali exhibited the greatest power of a kshatriya as one who defeated Ravana!


Wife swiping, done by both Vaali and Sugreeva, might perhaps have to do with creating strong off-spring. It was an accepted practice among kshatriyas and in times of distress when there was a decline in the number of valiant people. Sugreeva, the son of Riksharaja was the ‘aurasa putra’ (legitimate son) of Sun, according to Kabhanda {14}. Similarly, Hanuman was an aurasa putra of Vayu Deva and not Kesri. It was not looked down upon in those days and in those circumstances. Even the Pandavas were not aurasa putras of Pandu. Exigencies of the situation allowed them to seek other ways to produce strong kshatriya men. This feature found among vanaras can be treated as a proof of their kshatriya roots and the need to hold on to kshatriya-hood.


Even the eagle brothers, Jatayu and Sampati, seem to be kshatriyas in disguise. They along with bears like Jambavan and vanaras were seen to meet often and keep in touch with each other in the Ramayana. Some kind of fraternity existed among them. The eagle brothers stand a good chance to have become “Ganda-Berunda” in course of time in the depictions of the kings of Karnataka and presently adopted as the state emblem of Karnataka. A strong feature in support of this is that the earliest form of this mythical bird is found in Balligave – the cave of Vaali.



The name Ganda-Bherunda has a meaning in Tamil: Ganda(n) means a valiant person; in Kannada it means “mighty”. The Chola warriors came with a title Kanda (there is no ka-ga difference in Tamil). Bherunda sounds like “PeraNda(m)” which refers to huge world. By this, the name Ganda-Bherunda in Tamil refers to the eagle brothers who were valiant and capable of going round the world. Of them, Sampati lost his wings and could not move around, but kept himself informed of all the happenings in the world. He was the one who told the vanaras the location of Sita. The might of the other eagle, Jatayu, is well known to all as one fought with Ravana.


These two brothers, of the same stock of the vanaras and bears, perhaps chose the form of eagle due to their swiftness, keen eyesight and slender neck! Kanta means neck. Greeva in Sugreeva also refers to neck. Dadhimukha refers to Sugreeva as a thick necked one (vipula greevah) {14}. For one having a wide neck, taking up the guise of a bird is not a good idea (Sugreeva). But a slender necked one can take up that guise as he can swiftly turn his head and watch the ground from a tree branch (Jatayu- Sampati / Ganda Bherunda).


The underlying feature in all these is that these people had gone into hiding for fear of Parashurama. Ramavatara overlaps with the time of Parashurama. Therefore the vanaras and bears had not discarded their disguise at the time of Rama. But after Ramavatara, there is no trace of vanaras. They came back to normal life after the coronation of Rama. The Bappura lineage of Dadiga having lived till 1000 years ago with the memory of their beginnings is a proof of the kshatriya roots of vanaras and the havoc caused in their life by Parashurama.


The strange but probable connection between these vanaras and Mundari speaking people is that there does exist a clan of Santals called “Kisku” that sounds similar to Kishku or Kishkindha. {The Santals have 12 gotras namely Kisku, Hambrom, Murmu, Tudu, Baske, Sorain, Besra, Pauria, Chore, Hansda, Bedia and Marandi}. Were they from Kishkindha which came to be called Kisukad in later days? Were they not as shrewd as Vali, Sugreeva, Hunuman etc to have stayed on and escaped undetected by assuming some disguise? Were they a group that chose to flee Kishkindha or Rishavan and moved north east to the forests of Bihar?


To be continued...



{1} Epigraphia Indica, XV., p 106. Quoted from “Ancient Karnataka” Vol 1- ‘History of Tuluva’. P 17 & 18.



{4} Valmiki Ramayana 4-62

{5} Mahabharata 12-51

{6} Valmiki Ramayana 5-62-33

{7} Valmiki Ramayana  3-72- 18&19

{8} Valmiki Ramayana 5-31-13

{9} Valmiki Ramayana 4-3

{10} Valmiki Ramayana 4-2-17

{11} Valmiki Ramayana 4-20-13.

{12} Valmiki Ramayana 4-24-12

{13} Valmiki Ramayana 4-24-29

{14} Valmiki Ramayana 3-72-21

{15} Valmiki Ramayana 5-62-31

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