Mundas: A product of Parashurama’s fury – VII
by Jayasree Saranathan on 26 Apr 2014 0 Comment

According to anthologists, the Konkan coast was the former home of the Oraon tribes of the Mundari speaking groups. The Konkan coast is a raised or reclaimed region; such a region is known as Urvi or Ur. The people of Ur are known as “Uran” or Uravan” in ancient Tamil. The name Oraon sounds like these words which refer to the people living in “ur”.


Ur and Oraon


Researchers believe that Ur in Mesopotamia was originally the first place of organised city-dwelling. But a few leafs from Tamil Sangam texts and the Mahabharata tell a different story. During the Tamil Sangam era culture, the land forms were classified into five, of which one category is about fertile regions irrigated by water, called “Marutham”. The place of dwelling in Marutham was known as Ur and there were many ‘Ur’s named after some special feature. The people of Ur are known as Uran or Uravan or Ooravan or Ooran.


Coming to the Mahabharata source, the derivation of Ur is found in the episode of Parashurama. The term Ur is derived from Uru, the Sanskrit word for ‘thigh’. Mahabharata says that when Parashurama caused a massive devastation to the warrior class, there was a sinking of the earth; the earth sank due to the misdeeds of the people as there were no kings to bring order. Seeing the Goddess Earth sinking, sage Kashyapa lifted her up on his thigh, i.e., uru; hence the Earth came to be known as ‘Urvi’. {1}


This shows that anywhere, if the earth is lifted up from sinking, it is a manifestation of Urvi and the place comes to be called as Ur. It becomes fit for living, because in that episode Goddess Earth asks Kashyapa to bring back the descendants of the kshatriyas who were living incognito for fear of Parashurama. Therefore Ur is a place lifted from sinking and it becomes habitable thereafter. It may be recalled that Parashurama was linked with reclaiming or restoring the sunken or sinking parts of the west coast on peninsular India. He did that after his war on kshatriyas. The episode of Goddess Earth’s talk with sage Kashyapa conveys that the western coastal region was sinking soon after the war on kshatriyas by Parashurama. However it was reclaimed by him later.  


Even in the Tamil culture explained above, Ur is connected with some waterway nearby. In a surprising connection, the people living in the artificially created floating islands of Lake Titicaca in South America are known as Uru People! This name Uru with its relevance in a faraway place like South America is an example of the prevalence of same ideas related to same words prevailing over a vast part of the globe with its genesis in Vedic culture. 


The period of this episode on Urvi, that is, the earth being rescued from sinking matches the reclamation of the western coastal lands by Parashurama. It is in those regions that fresh settlements were made. A similar kind of lifting from water happened in Ur of Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). Ur was originally a coastal city on the mouth of the Euphrates in the Persian Gulf, but due to a shift in the coastline it is inland today. The Persian Gulf was a highland before Holocene and it started getting flooded in course of time. Any difference in the water level in the Arabian Sea had an effect on the level of the Persian Gulf too. If during Parashurama’s times, the west coast of India had risen (due to a fall in the Arabian Sea level), similar trends could have been experienced on the coasts of the Persian Gulf. Therefore the Ur came up there.


The Ur of Iraq, spelled as ‘Urim’ in Sumerian language, resembles Urvi, the symbolism for earth- rising). In the Sumerian legend, Goddess Nanna is said to be the Goddess of Ur. In a surprising similarity, the raised (or extended) west coast of India was ruled by king Nannan and his descendants (before the Kadamaba dynasty), according to Tamil Sangam texts. Sumerian Nanna has no etymological explanation. Tamil Nannan means “good person”.


Similarly only in the context of Lake Urmia, the name Parasuwash is mentioned. Lake Urmia is on the border between Iran and Turkey. The 9th century BCE Assyrian records mention “Parasuwash” in the context of Lake Urmia.  Does it show that Parashurama’s followers went on to occupy the raised regions of Lake Urmia? In a surprising similarity, Urmia in Syriac language means “City of water”! This is further proof of connection between Ur and water which is explained only in Indian texts (Mahabharata).


In Tamil Sangam parlance, the Ur is situated where good irrigation facilities exist. The Ur will be criss-crossed with rivers or dotted with ponds and lakes. The dweller of Ur is Uran or Uravan. The Oraon tribes, who claim to be the descendants of Vanaras of the Ramayana period, could have occupied the lifted-up regions of the west coast. Their name Oraon could have been the corrupted forms of Uravan or Uran, the dweller of Ur.


It may be noted that the word “Munda” refers to a raised platform in the coastal areas of Tulu speaking regions of the west coast of peninsular India that was supposed to have been reclaimed by Parashurama. This “Munda” was used by fisher folk to spread their catch. Even the mangoes grown in this coastal area are called as “Mundappa”. This raises a question whether Munda is the local term for Ur which is derived from Sanskrit Uru. Like Ur, Munda is a raised area, safe from inundation and therefore fit for living.


After the killing expeditions, Parashurama settled down in a place in this region called Shurparaka, derived from the Sanskrit “Shurpa” which means winnowing basket. A winnowing basket is of the shape of a gently raised structure. Its function is to remove the finer elements from coarser sediment. The hard-based coastal land that is left high after the finer and loose particles were washed off by the sea waves perhaps left an appearance of a winnowing basket. Parashurama settled in such a land in the west coast. Today this place is known as Sopora situated in Maharashtra.  


Names of places with Munda are very common in this coastal part of Karnataka. It is more surprising that this name Munda appears in the names of villages throughout India. There are nearly 801 villages having “Munda” in their names according to 2011 Census, spread throughout India, including Jammu & Kashmir and Andaman & Nicobar. This sheds light on a different feature of what actually a Munda is, as we shall see in another article.


Below is a list of some names of villages with Munda prefix [2]


Andaman & Nicobar Islands: Munda Pahar


Andhra Pradesh: Mundrai, Mundladinna, Mundla Pahar, Mundala, Mundur, Mundlapadu, Mundlamuru, Mundla palle, Mundlavaripalle, Mundlapudi, Munda basti,


Bihar: Mundamla, Mundiari, Mundipur, Mundaramchhapra, Mundwa, Mundichak, Mundisarae,


Chhattisgarh: Mundadih,, Mundagaon, ,Mundadeori,,Mundadadar, MundaTola, Mundeli, Mundera, Mundara, Mundapal, Mundagarh, Mundenar, Mundaplli, Munderm, Mundwal,


Gujarat: Mundha, Mundamer, Mundhvay, Mundra, Mundi,


Haryana: Mundheta, Mundarka, Munda Majra, Munda khera, Mundhri, Mundh, Mundi Garhi, Mundlana, Mundhlian, Mundhal Kalan, MundhalKhurd, Mundakhera, Mundakera, Mundra, Mundia khera, Mundain, Mundra, Mundawa, Mundi, Mundhalia, Mundiakhera,


Himachal Pradesh: Mundah, Mundla, Mundha, Mundhal, Mundwin, Mundkher Genda, Mundkher Tulsi, Mund kher, Mundru, Mundi khurd, Mundi kalan, Mundar, Mundu,  Mundli,


Jammu & Kashmir: Mundli Gaon, Mundak Pal, Mundah, Mund dhar, Mund,


Jharkhand: Mundatanr, Mundradih, Mundhari, Mundro, Munda, Mundli, Mundih, Mundomala, Mundo, Mundudih, Mundar, Mundatoli, Mundari, Mundiedal, Mundul, Munduam, Mundadeo, Mundatand, Mundakati,


Karnataka: Mundwad, Mundaganur, Mundargi, Mundki, Mundaganamane, Mundagesara, Munduvalli, Mundkuru, Mundanahalli, Mundre, Mundagadore, Mundaghatta, Mundagodu, Mundanahalli, Mundur, Mundaje, Munderga, Mundodi.


Kerala: Munderi, Mundur, Mundathikode, Mundakayam, Mundothuruth,


Madhya Pradesh: Mundla, Mundrawaja, Mundhari, Munda, Mundia,Mundli, Mundedi, Mundla Parval, Mundiaram, Mundlakhurd, Mundlakalan, Mundri, Mundlasondhya, Mundlibhoj, Mundlidotru, Mundlasuleman, Mundat, Mundpura, Mundla Maina, Mundladev, Mundlana, Mundipur, Mundaheda, Mundana, Mundis Kalma, Mundla Husain, Mundlabag, Mundla Nayata, Mundla Dordar, Mundal Jotkaran, Mundi, Mundia, Mundia Kheda, Mundiya, Mundla lodha, Mundra, Mundari, Mundala, Mundrai, Munditola, Mundhol, Mundol, Mundwada, Mundalwad, Mundalgaon.


Maharastra: Mundipar, Mund, Mundhari, Mundikota, Mundala, Mundhal, Mundra, Mundwadi, Mundagaon, Mundwali, Mundhani, Mundewadi, Mundhe, Mundhar, Mundka, Mundhela, Mundkati, Mundabele, Mundhwa (near Pune).


Orissa: Mundaghat, Munder, Mundagohira, Mundala, Mundajohire, Mundatopa, Mundasahi, Mundali, Mundakati, Mundali, Mundalo, Mundida, Mundabeda, Mundakeri, Mundaguda, Mundikia, Mundagan, Mundikia, Mundati, Mundabadi, Mundakuri, Mundadaka, Mundapada, Mundapadua, Mundakani, Mundagaon, Mundar, Mundapadar, Mundagad, Mundaguda,


Punjab: Mundi Karal, Mundi, Mundkhera,


Rajasthan: Mundital, Mundana, Mundpuri Kalan, Mundraheri, Mundiya, Mundota, Mundwara, Mundoti, Mundeti, Mundata, Mundol, Mundele, Mundri, Mundli, Mundiya, Munderi,  Mundawali, Mundol, Mundwara,  Mundle,


Tamilnadu: Mundiyur, Mundachedu, Mundamalai,


Uttar Pradesh: Mundikheri, Mundet, Mundhol, Mundi,Mundali, Mundre, Mundhera, Mundia, Mundele, Munder, Mundera, Mund, Mundadeo, Mundala, Munder, Munderwa, Mundbara, Mundori,


West Bengal: Mundira, Mundamari, Mundakti, Mundukhola.




{1} Mahabharata, Shanti parva – 49. 



(To be continued…)

The author is an independent scholar; she blogs at Non-Random Thoughts

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