Shivallis of Belle

I was thinking about what to blog and suddenly a message from my uncle gave me the answer.


I hail from a place called as Shivalli and this blog is just a piece of information about that and our community. But folks I am not being communal or trying to popularize our cult or anything but I just felt that these facts need to be known….

If I have unintentionally hurt anyone please, I beg your apology as it was done unintentionally!

Shivalli is a place near Udupi, in the state of Karnataka in southern India. Shivalli has been long famous for its proximity to the Sri Krishna Temple, located in Udupi. Shivalli in fact, is a village between Udupi and Manipal. The town of Manipal was earlier under Shivalli grama (village) panchayat and later came under Udupi Municipality.

Shivalli takes its name from the words Shiva-Halli which means the town of Shiva. Udupi has two Shiva temples Chandramouleshwara temple and Anantheshwara temple near the famous Sri Krishna temple/ Krishna matha. Even today all swamiji’s of ashtamathas first enter these two Shiva temples in the same order before entering Krishna Matha on auspicious occasions. Another legend as suggests that Shivalli has an origin in the old Sanskrit name Shivaroopya (where roopya is silver, or ‘bolli’ in Tulu). In later years, it came to be known as Shivabolli, Shibbolli, Shivolli, and the present name, Shivalli.

The Brahmins who follow Dvaita philosophy founded by Vaishnava saint Sri Madhwacharya of Udupi are known as Shivalli Madhwa Brahmins.

The name helps to distinguish them from other Brahmins and indicates their origin in and around Shivalli. They are concentrated in the districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka, and Kasargod District in Kerala.

Shivalli Madhwa Brahmins speak Tulu language (with a strong influence of Sanskrit) that is slightly different from the Tulu spoken from other communities in this region. They are followers of the eight ashtamathas set up by Sri Madhwacharya. The Shivalli Madhwa Brahmin (brahmana) community has now spread all over the world. Shivalli Madhwa Brahmins are known for their hospitality, sharp intellect and good business acumen.

It is believed that Mayura Varma, the Kadamba King who ruled vast areas of Southern and Central India in the 4th Century A.D. brought Brahmins from Ahi Kshetra (or Ahichatra) and put them in-charge of various temples in Tulu Nadu.

The term Tulu Nadu is supposedly derived from the word Tula Bhara, (Tula= Weighing Scale, Bhara= Weight), a custom in this region wherein commodities are weighed against the weight of the concerned person.

Mayura Varma appointed Brahmins to manage the affairs of these 32 units. Ballalas (unit heads), Agnihotris (priests), Tantris, Sabhapathis (ministers), Pandiths (scholars), Gramanis (executives), Jannis (Temple trustees) etc were all appointed to run the administration of these units.

The Brahmins who first landed in Shivalli and then spread across 31 villages came to be known as Shivalli Brahmins or Tulu Brahmins. Brahmins who were appointed in the western Kootaka (or Kota) village came to be known as Kota Brahmins (Aithal, Hande, Hebbara, Herala, Holla, Karantha, Navada, Basri and Mayya are the nine renowned Kota Brahmin families). Kota Brahmins hail from Kundapur and surrounding areas of Udupi district in Karnataka. Originally, thought to have been brought to these places from northern India by Parashurama, they speak a Kannada different from the other dialects spoken in that region. Kota Brahmins are more specifically concentrated in villages of Kota, Saligrama and Koteshwara of Udupi Taluk. One of the famous Kota Brahmins is Dr.Shivarama Karantha (Jnanapeetha award winner) who hailed from Saligrama, of Udupi Taluk.

Shivalli Brahmins are pioneers of world famous Udupi hotels (Vegetarian restaurants) known for serving typical south Indian dishes and foods like idli, vada, dosa, shira and upma etc. This concept of restaurants is now copied by others all over the world. Shivalli Brahmins have unique style of serving and eating meals. The meal is served on plantain (banana) leaf usually squatting on clean floor. All dishes are served in a particular place, fashion, and the sequence and eaten by hand. The meal is wholesome and very elaborate in preparation, serving and eating.

Shivalli Brahmin males have to undergo Brahmopadesham (Upanayana in Tulu) when they turn seven years old. It is a ceremony where young boys are initiated into Vedic studies (in ancient times, but the ceremony takes place even today). The key ritual during the Upanayana is that of putting a Janivaara or sacred thread across the left shoulder of the boy. The Janivaara consists of three threads made of cotton. The boy once initiated, is called a Dwija or twice born and is expected to perform japa or sandhyavandana at least twice daily. Shivalli Madhwa Brahmins also follow the upakarma ceremony where the Janivaara is changed and mudradharana is done. Mudradharana is a ritual where the signs of Lord Vishnu’s symbols (Mudra) like conch (Shanka), wheel (Chakra) are etched on bodies. This is done by placing hot metal moulds of these symbols mainly on hand and stomach.

There are no equivalent ceremonies for Shivalli Brahmin girls. In fact, although North Indian Brahmin women take part significantly in the ritualistic process of Hinduism, Shivalli Brahmin women have no important role in these ceremonies. They have no rite of passage into adult society other than the rather dubious role in a marriage arranged by their parents. The reason for the marked difference between women’s role in Brahmin culture amongst other groups (which is quite limited in itself) and the Shivalli Brahmins has been a source of much debate. It is currently thought that the lowly role amongst the latter was due to an attempt at maintaining line purity by the first Shivalli Brahmin men who migrated to the South and married local (non-Brahmin) fisher women.

The Shivalli Madhwa Brahmins have rituals from birth to death at every stage of their life. Some claim the traditions and rituals followed by Shivalli Madhwa Brahmins have scientific reasons to them worthy of research.


Present day marriages of Shivalli Madhwa Brahmins are a three day ceremony, sometimes condensed to a single day due to the fast pace of today’s life. The three day marriage starts with Naandi (literally meaning start). During Naandi, taking place at the groom’s and bride’s homes separately, but at the same time, a ceremony is performed where the bride and groom have coconut oil and turmeric applied to them and are bathed in hot water followed by other rituals. Marriage (madimae in Tulu) takes place at a temple, hall or auditorium followed by lunch. All the ceremonies are held as per horoscopes of bride and groom at a particular time called muhurtha. Generally the day after marriage, a ceremony called as the Bigara Authana (a sort of reception) is held at the groom’s place and consists of Satyanarayana Puja and other rituals followed by lunch. The Bigara Authana is an equivalent of the marriage reception.


Shivalli Brahmins celebrate all major Hindu festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, Navaratri, Sankranti, Madhwanavami, Janmashtami, Ugadi, Ramanavami, Hanuman Jayanthi etc. They also believe in Nagaradhane and rituals of Bhuta Kola.


Every Shivalli Brahmin belongs to a particular Gotra. Gotra can be roughly said to be a clan. The Gotra are names of great sages or rishi’s of Hindu Religion. Hence Gotra indicates to which a Brahmin belongs to. Marriage is not allowed between bride and groom if both belong to same Gotra (Sagotra in Tulu). This might be to avoid same blood group marriage, as it is believed in old days, people of same Gotra belonged to the same family. Gotras are as follows;

  • Atri
  • Bhargava
  • Jamadagni
  • Vishwamitra
  • Bharadwaja
  • Vashishta
  • Aangirasa
  • Kashyapa
  • Koundanya
  • Harista


Restricted Diet

Shivalli people are expected to avoid eating the following vegetables and fruits in addition to avoiding non-vegetarian food completely.

  • Tomato
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Potato (Sweet Potato or Kelang is allowed)
  • Papaya
  • Egg plant (A variety of Egg plant called as the Mattu Gulla, available around Udupi, is allowed)
  • French Beans (Cluster Beans or Alasande is permitted)
  • Carrot
  • Beet root
  • Pine apple
  • Radish
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Drum sticks
  • Bottle Gourd

Today, these restrictions are mostly followed only in the Ashta matha’s and some temples of South Canara. These vegetables and fruits are not considered to be origin of Parashurama Kshetra and are Tamasic foods.


There are nearly 500 surnames. The family houses of Shivalli Brahmins had a direct bearing of 32 villages. Family names of Shivalli Brahmins itself is a fantastic story. The Shivalli community which lived in a compact geographical area of 100 km width and 120 km length, has more than 500 family names to its credit. Most of the family names have direct relationship with their respective names of their geographical location.


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