Ulu or Ululation is the sound produced by throated "OOO' sound combined with moving the tongue rapidly sideways. This is done only by women (I think). Its done in Bengal (India), Morroco (Africa) and some other (African?) locations. In Bengal and Morocco its auspicious for marriage and devotion. Possibly Arabia as well?

What's the connection? How did it migrate from Africa to Bengal?

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    I think your Google search didn't work because in English it's usually called ululation (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ululation)
    – two sheds
    Jan 24 '15 at 16:22
  • @twosheds thanks. Maybe I just got the term wrong? I'll wait a while before editing though. In any case I'm very interested to know how this custom traveled across continents. Also I was almost certain that in Bengal the tongue is moved sideways and not back and forth as per wikipedia.
    – Rajib
    Jan 24 '15 at 16:32
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    Oral tradition? Dec 30 '15 at 15:59

Ululation is of such ancient origins, likely in Sumer, that it would be difficult to trace its diffusion to other cultures.

For example, a Sumerian proverb written down 4,000 years ago reads:

(What characterizes) the carpenter is the chisel

(What characterizes) the reed weaver is the basket

The blacksmith (is known to) make tiny sides

(What characterizes) the professional singer is ua alala

In other Sumerian texts, phonetically similar terms could be used to indicate joy or woe, just as ululation does in modern cultures. For example, joy:

alliliamma--in the house--ulili! Pour out for him beer there, pour out for him wine there there Oh sukkal, pour out wine there for your lord!

and woe:

He said alala when he broke the punting-pole

Ululation had already diffused widely by around 3,000 years ago. The ancient Egyptians ululated, as did the ancient Greeks who called it ololugê. Ululí-ululú is Sanskrit for 'howling' and ulult is "an outcry indicative of prosperity." Hebrew has terms like layalel and yelalah that indicate lamentation. All of these terms predate the Latin ululāre, from which the English and Romance terms for ululation come form.

As for the Indian subcontinent, Wikipedia indicates that ululation is "widely practiced in eastern parts of India," as well as some southern regions and West Bengal. The Sanskrit ululí-ululú is similar to the modern Bengali term ulu-uli, the modern Oriya term Hulahuli, and the modern Assamese term uruli.

My source for all of this is a 2008 dissertation, "Ululation in Levantine Society", by Jennifer Jacobs. Her review of the literature suggests that very little has been written about ululation, at least not in English. So I'm doubtful how much more information can be dug up on the migration of ululation from Sumer to Bengal (again, at least not in English) since that migration likely happened so long ago.


This ululation called as குலவை "Kulavai" in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sri Lanka.This is done only by women the time of new birth and marriage and all personal and devotional festivals except funeral.

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    To help answer the question, what's the history of this ululation in these locations?
    – Steve Bird
    Dec 27 '18 at 10:20

Bengalis practise Ululation during warship and marriage, worshipping lord Laxmi , offering Ululation is considered holy thing. Its difficult to conclude if this practise migrated from Sumerian or this went from India to other parts , where civilization was moderately advance to adopt positive practises . I believe Ululation create very high energy fields related to Spiritual believe and practise .

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