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Tulu is a language mainly spoken in Coastal Karnataka and part of northern Kerala. Tulu is one of the Dravidian languages like Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu , but is less developed compared to its sister languages.
The coastal city of Mangalore in Karnataka, is the main center of Tulu people. It is spoken by different castes and subcastes of Hindus, Jains and Christians of this region, which is also known as Tulunadu. Tulunadu is a beautiful hilly region.
Though Tulu has an ancient script, it is generally referred to as a language without script. This is because, the script is totally unknown among its own people. It has been known only among the Tulu brahmins, who mainly used it for maintaining the Sanskrit Mantras (hymns used in Hindu religious ceremonies), in Astrology and in medicinal reference books, in which these brahmins where revered in the entire west-coast of India. However, recent researches have revealed that, Tulu has got a number of ancient books with scholarly written literature, all of them written in this -currently almost extinct -Tulu script. But currently, a few periodicals published in Tulu language and books written now and then in Tulu - all use Kannada script (though it is not suitable for certain peculiar pronunciations of Tulu).
One more notable thing about this poor sister of Dravidian Language family, is that, even though it is now confined to just 2-3 districts, it has a number of dialects. These dialects are mainly regional and also based on castes and subcastes of Tulu speaking Hindus. One of these dialects spoken by the Tulu brahmins called Shivalli brahmins (and also spoken by Sthanika brahmins), is the one which is mainly used for all the literary works found in the language.
It may be worth noting here that, most of these ancient Tulu literary works have been located and published by a single man -Venkataraja Puninchathaya of Kasaragod, . This quite interesting language has got a very rich vocabulary for expressing the rural coastal life of the Tulu people. This has been proved by the voluminous Tulu Encyclopedia published in eight volumes from Udupi.
Tulu people have got their own unique culture, art, traditions and rituals. Bhoota Kola, Yakshagana and Nagaradhane are a few examples.
The Tulu people are learned, highly entrepreneurial and cultured. This area has been declared as Fully Literate and the area always stands first in the general board exam results. Tulu people are contributing in all the fields and are spread all over the country and abroad.
History and present situation
Historically, Tulunadu was ruled by only some small rulers who ruled under one or other great dynasty of Kannada kings. Because of this historical reason, Tulu people recognise themselves as Kannadigas only and contributed a lot for the development of Kannada language. Tulu is not a medium of teaching and administration even in a 100% Tulu village and Kannada has occupied that place. Now a days, Tulu is studied only at Post-graduate level in the Mangalore University.