Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mumbai’s “Lungi hatao pongey bajao” slogan: A Perspective on an ancient Historical conflict.

One book that I have extensively referred to for my learning (if not for this blog) is “The Origin of Bombay” by J. Gerson da Cunha published in 1900. Bimbakyan (Chronicles of Bimb or Bhim), is presumed to have been written in 1139, and is referred to by J Gerson da Cunha in his work, Raja Bhimdev established his capital at Mahikawati (Mahim). “ “With the king, came a sizable group of Pathare Prabhus, Palshis, Pachkalshis and toddy tapper Bhandaris, who comprised the first wave of immigrants to Bombay. Members of agricultural communities like the Vadvals, Malis, Bhois and Agris, Brahmans and traders from nearby regions were also thought to have settled in Bombay during this time.” See figure below (click to expand) for location of early settlements in an 1849 map and Fig 13 of previous blog for their location with repect to present-day Mumbai.
Burell (“Bombay in the days of Queen Anne”)would write “Banderes (his spelling for the Bhandaris) ,,,  that look after these trees ... will swarm up with incredible swiftness, having a basket hanging on the right side into which they put the toddy ... The basket ... work'd so closely together that although it hath no lining, [it] will not emit one drop, so well are they contrived.
After Raja Bhimdev “... took possession of Bombay. His immediate successor was dispossessed of his authority by a Bhandari chief, Shetya of Chaul, who in turn wa dispossessed by Musalmans. Upon the arrival of the Portugese the Bhandaris were once more in power and assisted the invaders against the Musalmans. Thereafter at Mahim a Bhandari kingdom was established Bhongules or Bhandaris. With the help of the Portugese several petty kingdoms seem to have been established by the Bhandari on the western coast.” One may therefore assume that the Bhandaris were among the major early influences on late (after, say, the European Dark Ages) Maharashtrian  culture. “Some of them possessed houses”(!!). Bhandari is said to be a combination of the Prakrit word Band and the Sanskrit word ari and “appears to have been invented by those anxious to assign a higher origin to the caste than it can probably claim.”

The Bhandari “Bhongulee”

One of the more lasting influences of the Bhandaris seems to be (to me, at least; I have not researched enough) their unwitting role in the Shiv Sena’s slogan “lungi hatao, pungi bajao”. One assumes that the pungi is something one associates with typical Marathi culture. The internet does not readily identify what pungi is in this context. The pungi is identified as as a “... pipe or nose-flute composed of a gourd or nut-shell into which two wooden pipes or reeds are inserted. It emits a droning or humming sound, and is the instrument commonly used by snake-charmers.” (fig 14 top left; the numbering of figures continues from the previous blog). Such a pungi is not peculiar to Maharshtra alone.

Of the Bhandaris the most remarkable usage is their fondness for a peculiar species of long trumpet called Bhongulee,which ever since the dominion of the Portugese, they have had the privilege of carrying and blowing on certain state occasions. Fryer, in a letter written between 1672 and 1681describes the Bhandaris as as forming a sort of honorary giards or heralds to the Governor, and even to this day they carry the union flag and blow their immense trumpet before the High Sheriff on he opening of the Quarter Sessions. From these descriptions I imagine that the bhongulee is the name for the immensely popular symbol of Marathi-ness, the Tutari (Fig 14 top). Like the Bhongulee of earlier times, the Tutari is blown in Mahrashtra to announce arrivals of kings or palkhis
Before I continue any further I am asserting at this stage that the Bhongulee orTutari is what Bal Thackeray may have meant in an onomatopoeia-ic poon-poon sense when he exhorted the marathi manoos to poongi bajao. The word poongi is actually a trans-Indian word for a “...pipe or nose-flute composed of a gourd or nut-shell into which two wooden pipes or reeds are inserted. It emits a droning or humming sound, and is the instrument commonly used by snake-charmers.” (Fig 14, top left).
On searching the internet I have not found much connection between the Bhandaris and tutari, In the neighbouring state (The Castes and Tribes of H R H the Nizam’s Dominions by Syed Suraj Yl Hassan, 1926) the Bhandaris are described as temple musicians “ ... and play on the sanai, a pipe, samhal, a drum, and cymbals, and blow the shinga or conch at the worship of the temple deity.” The Shinga or Shringa are Tutari-like instruments. An Wikipidia article “History of primitive and non-Western trumpets” has the “tutari (Marathi), tuttori (kannada), bhongal (Marathi)” as “... Indigenous straight trumpets (that) have been made in India since the Neolithic and are still found today ...  

The immediate point of my jumping-to-conclusion tendencies is to look for a connection between the word bhongulee and bugle, if only because the names sound so similar. During one of my forays through the juna bazaar of Pune I had found a bugle (fig 15) which was not kept in the best of shape and whose sound my dog did not particularly approve of. It had the British Empire insignia on it. There is a tendency for the layman like me to think that the bugle is just another version of the trumpet.  I educated myself from the internet.

From  I learnt that the Greek trumpet, salpinx, was used In 396 B.C. Greek Olympic Games.  These trumpets were made of ivory and had or.  They had bronze on the bell and mouthpiece. Something similar to the salpinx were found in Egyptian tombs as early as 3000-2000 bc. There is, however, a distinction to be made between a bugle and a trumpet.

In an article titled An Introductory History of the Bugle From its Early Origins to the Present Day, Jari Villanueva says that

 “... the basic difference between bugles and trumpets is found in the shape of the bell. The musical definition of a trumpet (natural trumpet) is that of a horn which has two thirds of its length in the form of a cylindrical tube – usually it is five sixths of the total length. A bugle has a conical shape through-out. We can therefore make the general assumption that a trumpet is cylindrically shaped with a cup-shaped mouthpiece, while a bugle is conical in nature with a funnel-shaped mouthpiece. .... The bugle first appears as a hunting horn with the distinctive coil ... In the late 18th century the bugle then took on the form we know today.”

By this definition the Tibetan horn (Fig 15) would be a bugle; so would the tutari, or shringi. The kombu depicted in Fig 15 would not be a bugle nor would the Roman Tuba or Cornu (Fig 14).


It seems natural to think that the Bhongulee would have been a bugle. In this case, it is perhaps of historical importance to realize that the humble Bhandari bhongulee or bhongal gave the bugle even if one calls it the Tutari now.


The lungi


Inevitably, the lungi is worn by the muslim community, although my father as well as my elder brother would not trade it for anything when they wanted to lounge around in the hot summer climate of Madras (now Chennai). The predominantly muslim association with the muslim community is roughly true if one considers that the lungi is typically worn primarily by the Islamic community of the kingdom of Travancore (now kerala), Bengal (Bangladesh), Burma (longyi, Myanamar) malay peninsula (Malaysia).


The difference between a lungi and a veshti is that both ends of the lungi are stitched together while in the veshti it is not. I have no idea why muslims should wear lungis and not dhotis or veshtis. It is probably derived from the Arab dress thawb which is something like a male version of the burqua except that the men do not cover their face. The lungi would then be a top-less thawb that was propagated in the coastal regions of the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere.


In highly humid weather one sweats considerably. One can then fold the lungi up and allow the sea-breeze to ventilate and cool your body. In Fig 16 top right, there is bare-bodied man who is sweating. He is wearing a mundu or vesti. Because his hands are not free he has a belt around his vesti to make sure it does not fall down. A man by his side carrying a broom wears a lungi. In Fig 16 extreme right there is a man lifting up his mundu and one can see his white cloth is wet probably by being in contact with his wet legs.


The folding up of a lungi is shown in the bottom middle of Fig 16. The bottom right of Fig 16 shows the relaxed body language of the veshti-wearer. At the extreme left is a scene from a village near Shirali, near Mangalore in Karntaka (the sloping roof uses Mangalore tiles). The majority are wearing the window-pane-patterned lungi. There is a lady in burqua (mulim). There is man in white veshti (non-muslim). And there is a fisherwomman selling fish much as a koli fisherwoman would. The whole scene is typical of a community of diverse people living together in easy harmony.


In its original form the lungi was probably known as veshti or mundu in kerala, It was a white garment and Tanuk fishermen were involved in its export to what is now the mainly islamic Middle-east countries. The transition from white fabrics to the now popular coloured windowpane (see Fig 16, top) pattern fabrics of the lungis does not not seem to have been documented clearly. One may speculate that it is the British who exploited the weaving skills of the people around Bombay to set up mills for making coloured windowpane cotton fabrics instead of the windowpane woollen fabrics that they were familiar with in England.

I have not found any reference to the origin of the word lungi on the internet. I have a feeling it comes from the word “lounge” which itself comes from the word “lawn” or early English “laund”. The lungi was earlier known as 'Veshti', a white colored garment. Historical evidences point out that the Muslin cloth of Veshti was exported to Babylonia by fishermen from Tamil Nadu. Writings in Babylonian archaeological articles specify the word 'Sindu', which in Tamil means 'garment'. The English word lungis itself comes from Longinus or Longius the soldier that pierced Christ’s side with a spear and “fell into a dreaming luske, a drosie gangrill” (from Dictionary of Word Origins by by Joseph T. Shipley).


One may look at tthe lungi-sation of the common people of early Mumbai. In Fig 17 left (click to expand) an old scene of native Maharashtrians from what seems to be the Bhuleshwar-Byculla part of the coast. They did not have the Congress cap then and wore a white cloth on their head either loose or as a turban. Thir dhoties were usually folded up. In the right of Fig 17, the bearers of Palanquin are seen with their veshtis folded up (see also Fig 18, right). The palanquin bearers are associated with the harbour and were probably required for transporting the lazier European aliens.  

The mode of the dress of palanquin bearers are the same later (Fig 18 left). The features of the palanquin bearers seem to me to (I have no idea of the anthropological sytem of classification) be Dravidian in an “aboriginal” Koli-Tamil sense (see Fig 18 right). These palanquin bearers are in the Bombay greens. They must have participated in other “empire”-building activites of Bombay and were probably as Marathi-speaking as anyone else. One may not draw an ethnic distinction between Tamil and non-Tamil Marathi speaking people indigenous to the regions around Mumbai. They were not immigrn\ants. As Bombay city grew and commerce led to a cosmopolitan-isation the dress of the people changed (Fig 18, middle). One cannot make out from their bottom- wear what religion or caste theybelong to. If one attempts to distinguish them by their head-wear they seem to be seamless homogeneous as friends.

The lungi hatao slogan cannot be allowed to apply to the so-called south Indians as many assume including Shiv Sainiks.


There could instead be another historical aspect in the lungi hatao Pungi bajao saga.

Given the historical antagonism between the Bhandaris of early Bombay and the Mussalman from Malabar one may interpret the lungi hatao pungi bajao slogan as a slogan which could be several centuries old. For this one has to associate lungi with muslims. Since the Bhandris themselves are also temple musicians from the present Hyderabad-Telengana region and the muslims are from the Malabar region the lungi-hatao-Pungi-bajao slogan is actually an ancient south-south, “telengana-kerala” conflict.

I do not know whether the Thakurs referred to in the early (1849) “Hindu map” shown in the beginning are the present-day Thakres. They don’t seem to be. 

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