Bunt (community)

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Bunt (/ˈbʌnt/, also known as Nadava[1]) are a community from Karnataka, India. They traditionally inhabit the coastal districts of Karnataka[2] and also the neighbouring areas of Kasaragod[3][4] and Kodagu.[5] The Bunts are described as being the landed gentry and military class of the cultural region of Tulu Nadu,[6] the Bunts today are a largely urbanised community.[2]


The word Bunt means powerful man or warrior in the Tulu language.[6]

The word Nadava is a synonym for the Bunts used in the northern region of the erstwhile South Canara district.[7]


Nayarbettu: A medieval Bunt manor house.

American anthropologist Sylvia Vatuk states that the Bunt-Nadava community was a loosely defined social group,[8] the matrilineal kin groups that constituted the caste were linguistically, geographically and economically diverse which were united by their arrogation of aristocratic status and power.[8] The Bunts living in the northern parts of Kanara speak the Kannada language [7][9] while the majority living in the south speak Tulu[7][9] The Bunts follow a matrilineal system of inheritance called Aliyasantana,[5] they have 93 clan names or surnames and are divided into 53 matrilineal septs called Bali.[10] Members of the same bali did not intermarry.[10][Note 1]

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 landowners and nobles of the region."[6][11]

Norwegian anthropologist Harald Tambs-Lyche, states that the Bunts were warriors of the Jain kingdoms,[12] they had become a land owning feudal caste by the 15th century C.E.[12] Bunt families controlled several villages and lived in a Manor house.[12] Several villages were generally united under a single Bunt chiefdom.[12]The Bunt chiefdoms had considerable autonomy and were vassals to the Jain kings,[12] the Bunt chiefs and petty princes became virtually independent after the rise of the Nayakas of Keladi.[12]

A section of Bunts believe that they were originally Jains who later became a caste group.[13] Bunt surnames and clan names like Shetty, Rai, Hegde, Ajila, Banga, Chowta and Ballal are of Jain origin.[14] A legend prevalent among the Bunts states that one of the Jain Kings of the Bunts is said to have abandoned Jainism and took to eating peacock meat to cure a disease.[13] Veerendra Heggade, the hereditary administrator of the Dharmasthala Temple has also publicly spoken about the Jain origin of the Bunts.[15] Heggade is the current head of the Pattada Pergade family of Bunt heritage which continues to practice the Jain religion.[16]

Some Bunt clans also claim descent from the ancient Alupas. Historian P. Gururaja Bhat mentions that the Alupa royal family were of local origin possibly belonging to the Bunt-Nadava caste.[17] The title Alupa (Alva) survives till this day among the Bunts according to historian Bhaskar Anand Saletore.[18]

The feudal life and society of Bunts began to disintegrate in the succeeding colonial British Raj period leading to urbanisation.[2]


The Bunts practice Hinduism and a section among them follow Jainism.[19][4][14] Nominally all gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon are worshipped by them and festivals like Deepavali and Dusshera are celebrated.[19] S. D. L. Alagodi wrote in 2006 of the Tulu Nadu population that, "Among the Hindus, a little over ten per cent are brahmins, and all the others, though nominally Hindus, are really propitiators or worshippers of tutelary deities and bhutas."[20] Amitav Ghosh describes the Tulu Butas as protective figures, ancestral spirits and heroes who have been assimilated to the ranks of minor deities.[21] The Cult worship of the Butas is widely practiced in Tulu Nadu by a large section of the population,[21] the Bunts being the principal landowners of the region were the traditional patrons of the Buta Kola festival which included aspects akin to theatrical forms like Yakshagana.[21]

Traditional houses[edit]

The Kodialguttu joint family of Bunts. Most members are seen in traditional attire though some men have taken to western attire (circa 1900)

Traditional Bunt houses can be seen across the Tulu Nadu region. One of the more well-preserved houses, Kodial Guthu, stands at the centre of Mangalore city.[22][23] Other notable houses displaying traditional architecture include Badila Guthu[24] in Kannur Dakshina Kannada, Kowdoor Nayarbettu in Karkala taluk and Shirva Nadibettu near Udupi.[25]


There are many organisations that cater to the needs of the community, these include the Bunts Mathr Sangha based in Mangalore.[26][27] Since the 20th century when Bunts began to emigrate out of their native region organisations have been formed elsewhere, such as in Mumbai,[28] Kuwait,[29] United Arab Emirates,[30] and United Kingdom.[non-primary source needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kāmat, Sūryanātha (1973). Karnataka State Gazetteer: South Kanara. Director of Print, Stationery and Publications at the Government Press. p. 108. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c M Raghuram (19 April 2010). "Bunts feel at home wherever they are - DNA". DNA. Retrieved 23 July 2016. 
  3. ^ International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, Volume 14. Department of Linguistics, University of Kerala. 1985. p. 92. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  4. ^ a b S. Jayashanker (2001). Temples of Kasaragod District. Controller of Publications,Directorate of Census Operations, Kerala. p. 7. Bants of Kasaragod are a military class. They are mostly Hindus except for few Jains and they include four divisions, Masadika Bants, Nadava Bants, Parivara Bants and Jaina Bants 
  5. ^ a b Iyer, L. A. Krishna (1969). The Coorg tribes and castes (reprint ed.). Gordon Press Madras and Johnson. pp. 67–70. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Alagodi, S. D. L. (2006). "The Basel Mission in Mangalore: Historical and Social Context". In Wendt, Reinhard. An Indian to the Indians?: on the initial failure and the posthumous success of the missionary Ferdinand Kittel (1832–1903). Studien zur aussereuropäischen Christentumsgeschichte. 9. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 143. ISBN 978-3-447-05161-3. Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  7. ^ a b c J. Sreenath, S. H. Ahmad (1989). All India anthropometric survey: analysis of data. South Zone. Anthropological Survey of India. p. 41. ISBN 9788185579054. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Vatuk, Sylvia (1978). American Studies in the Anthropology of India. Manohar. pp. 236–239. Retrieved 16 February 2018. 
  9. ^ a b Sri Sathyan, B. N. Karnataka State Gazetteer: South Kanara. Director of Print., Stationery and Publications at the Government Press. p. 108. Retrieved 16 February 2018. 
  10. ^ a b Siraj, S. Anees (2012). Karnataka State: Udupi District. Government of Karnataka, Karnataka Gazetteer Department. p. 179. Retrieved 16 February 2018. 
  11. ^ Hegde, Krishna (1990). Feudatories of Coastal Karnataka. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. p. 10. Coastal Karnataka was home to number of feudatory rulers. All of them being Bunts following matrilineal inheritance called Aliya Santana and favouring both the Hindu and Jain Faith 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Tambs-Lyche, Harald (2017). Transaction and Hierarchy: Elements for a Theory of Caste(Feudal Fiefs and Mosaic Patterns in South Kanara). Routledge. p. 376. ISBN 9781351393966. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  13. ^ a b Sabharwal, Gopa (2006). Ethnicity and Class: Social Divisions in an Indian City. Oxford University Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 9780195678307. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  14. ^ a b March of Karnataka, Volume 25. Director of Information and Publicity, Government of Karnataka. 1987. p. 17. Retrieved 12 May 2018. The Bunts, the martial race of the district are not only agriculturist, but also administrators of olden days. Considerable number of them were once Jainas and the surname 'Shetty' many of them inherited from the Jaina Shreshthis. 
  15. ^ Bantwal, Rons (11 October 2011). "Mumbai: Dharmadhikari Dr Veerendra Heggade Lauds Social Welfare of Bunts Sangh". Daijiworld Media Network Mumbai (RD. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  16. ^ R. Krishnamurthy (21 May 2015). "In the lap of the Western Ghats". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  17. ^ Bhatt, P. Gururaja (1969). Antiquities of South Kanara. Prabhakara Press. p. iii. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  18. ^ Saletore, Bhaskar Anand (1936). Ancient Karnāṭaka, Volume 1. Oriental Book Agency. p. 154. 
  19. ^ a b P Dhar (2004). People of India: Maharashtra, Part 1 (Bunt). Popular Prakashan. pp. 387–391. ISBN 9788179911006. 
  20. ^ Alagodi, S. D. L. (2006). "The Basel Mission in Mangalore: Historical and Social Context". In Wendt, Reinhard. An Indian to the Indians?: on the initial failure and the posthumous success of the missionary Ferdinand Kittel (1832–1903). Studien zur aussereuropäischen Christentumsgeschichte. 9. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 142. ISBN 978-3-447-05161-3. Retrieved 2018-03-15. 
  21. ^ a b c Ghosh, Amitav (2002). The Imam and the Indian: Prose Pieces. Orient Blackswan. pp. 192–200. ISBN 9788175300477. Retrieved 15 March 2018. 
  22. ^ Monteiro, John. "Mangalore: Kodial Guthu House Restored to Glory". Daijiworld Media. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  23. ^ Monteiro, John. "Mangalore: Once a Place of Pride, Kodialguttu now under Siege". Daijiworld Media. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  24. ^ Team Mangalorean. "Badila Guthu House - a Century old Heritage". Mangalorean.com. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  25. ^ Siraj, M. A. (3 March 2012). "You can go back in time here". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  26. ^ Daijiworld Media Network- Mangalore (RS/SP). "Mangalore: Bunts Sangh Felicitates Achievers from Various Fields". Daijiworld Media. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  27. ^ Daijiworld Media Network – Mangalore. "M'lore: Prof B M Hegde Exhorts Bunt Elders to "Walk their Talk"". Daijiworld Media. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  28. ^ "Bunts Sangha Mumbai". Bunts Sangha Mumbai. Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  29. ^ "Welcome to Buntara Sangha Kuwait (BSK)". Kuwaitbunts.org. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  30. ^ "UAE Bunts 41st Annual Get Together 2015 | U.A.E Bunts". Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  1. ^ S. Anees Siraj quotes Ganapathi Rao Aigal, one of the earliest historians to document the history of the Kanara region

Further reading[edit]

  • Claus, Peter J. (1975). Kinship organization of the Bunt-Nadava caste complex. Duke University. 
  • Hegde, Krishananda (2008). History Of Bunts - Medieval Age To Modern Times. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 
  • Rao, Surendra (2010). Bunts in History and Culture. Rastrakavi Govind Pai Research Institute. ISBN 9788186668603. 
  • Heggaḍe, Indirā (2015). Bunts: (a Socio-cultural Study). Kuvempu Bhasha Bharati Pradhikara. ISBN 9788192627212.