Babbarya- The deity who brought prosperity to Jains and Muslims
copy rights reserved (C)Dr Lakshmi G Prasad
Among Tulu speakers and Jains, Babbarya is an important deity. And there is a famous story on how he came to be worshipped.
A Muslim, Babbarya’s father Madava Sulikalla Byari was a salt trader while his mother was a Jain. Dr Amrithsomeshwar, a scholar, has claimed that the word 'Madava' could be a corruption of the word 'Mohammed'.
One day, as Madava Byari is selling salt and spices near the sea shore, a huge tide washes away his shop, forcing him to sell his wares by moving from place to place.
During his journey, Madava Byari enters a region known as Malaya and encounters a Jain family comprising seven brothers and a younger sister.
The brothers greet Madava Byari and inform him of their sister’s tragic predicament. The brothers tell Babbarya that the person who marries their sister will die on the night of the marriage. But the brothers are tempted into making an offer. They tell Madava that if he marries their sister, he would get half their kingdom.
Madava Byari agrees to the condition. Later, he builds a statue out of rice and places the statue next to the woman.(C)Dr Lakshmi G Prasad
At midnight, two serpents emerge out of the woman’s nostrils and bite the statue. Seizing the moment, Madava Byari kills the serpents with his sword. With the problem taken care of, as per the deal, the brothers keep their end of the bargain by giving half their kingdom and also their sister in marriage. But Madava Byari refuses to marry. It is said that spurned woman took bath in the divine lake of Lord Chandranatha and became pregnant.
Later, she gives a birth to a baby boy and names him “Babbarya”, while among Muslims he is known as Bappa. Soon, a rivalry ensues among Muslims and Jain community. Both communities look to the moon for an answer.
Accordingly, Jains say they would migrate if they see moon on a new moon day (amavasye) while Muslims say they would start worshipping the moon if they sight the moon on new moon day.
On sighting the moon that day, the Jain community quits the village while Muslims start worshipping the moon.
When community members ask Babbarya on his next course of action, he says, “You keep moving forward. I’ll follow you and I’ll come back with a boon from Lord”. It is said that Babbarya later built a ship and sailed away but died in a disaster at sea.
In other versions, Madava Byari marries the brothers’ sister and names his wife as Bolya Beebi Fathima. It is said that when Beebi Fathima was about t give birth, the baby boy inside her turned into a bee and came out from his mother’s right breast.
The boy is blessed with supernatural power. Jealous of his might, boys tease Babbarya saying, “Baby born to the prostitute is good and seed of the jackfruit is good”.
In this version as well, Babbarya comes to the Malaya country. Seeing a white tree, Babbarya decides to build a ship out of it. As a result, he invites the finest carpenters who build him a great ship. It is also said that fishermen helped Babbarya in cutting the trees.
Before setting sail, Babbarya tells his parents, “Up to this day I was your son in this world, but it’s time for me to leave this world and embrace the spiritual.”
When his ship reaches Mooloora Kariya, the ship is hit by a hailstorm, which forces Babbarya to reach for the shore.(C)Dr Lakshmi G Prasad
It is said that people of Mooloor could see him but could not reach Babbarya. Later, he thanks everyone and gives a boon to a resident named Ponga Baidya.
But the powers of the boon stop working when Ponga Baidya shares it with his wife. An enraged Babbarya punishes him by dropping him in water but relents when Ponga Baidya’s wife promises to construct a daivasthanam under his name.
Later, worshippers build a daivasthanam with a dwajasthambam. Babbarya appears and says that he is Lord Nagabrahmha Ullaya Babbarya. I went to Ankola and took lingavatara, then moved to Nileshwara and took Neelakanta avatar, he says.
Babbarya is worshipped by Jains and is one of the famous deities of Tulunad.
It is said that, Babbarya might have perished in a storm or may have killed by pirates.
copy rights reserved (C) Dr Lakshmi G Prasad
Dr Lakshmi G Prasad is a well-known Tulu folklorist. The author holds PG degrees in Kannada, Sanskrit, and Hindi as well as doctorates from Hampi Kannada University and Dravidian University. Currently, she teaches Kannada at Government PU College in Nelamangala.
Article published in Bfirst.in