On Agastya and Aryanization-3

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Fri Oct 2 02:21:28 EDT 1998

kOtu cannot be a Tamil word, because the meaning "fault" does not apply to the
tirumantiram verse. So we have a borrowed and nativized word. It looks like
the words kOti and kOtu stand for Sanskrit words kvAthi and kvatha. According
to Monier-Williams, kvAthi refers to Agastya (fr. kvatha, 'boiling pot', cf.
kumbha-janman). The cluster kvA- and kva- can become kO- in Tamil analogous to
Skt. svAti > Ta. cOti, and Skt. svastika > Ta. cOttikam. Of course -th- > -t-
as in Skt. tithi > Ta. titi. The word-final -a in Sanskrit can become tamil -u
as in Skt. soma >  Ta. cOmu.

This Sanskrit-Tamil equivalence seems to suggest that Agastya is associated
with kOtukulam, the potter community. ziva, as kOtukulavan2, is also
associated with the potter community. The Tirumantiram verse quoted also
offers clues supporting this identification. The relevant line reads,

"kOtu kulattoTum kUTTik kuzaittan2ar"

The verses in tirumantiram often have esoteric tantric meanings apart from
their apparent meanings. Here let us consider the surface meanings alone.
kUTTu means to unite, join, combine, mix, etc., and kuzai means to mix as
powder with liquid, to gather in a lump, etc. These actions have a special
significance with respect to pottery where the potter prepares the lump of
clay by mixing different component materials and water. In fact, the potter's
technical term for the lump of clay is "kUTTu".

The connection of potter's wheel with Creation is prevalent in many cultures.
It is definitely there in zaiva/tantra concepts. In the zaiva siddhAnta text,
civaJAna cittiyAr cupakkam, ziva is equated to potter, his zakti to the
potter's wheel, and mAyA to the clay and the universe to the pots. Discussing
the worship of potter's wheel by various castes in north India, Baidyanath
Saraswati says, "In Tantra literature, we find a few esoteric rites connected
with the potter's wheel which also aim at the attainment of vigour…One may
perhaps try to link wheel-worship with the rites of fertility promotion. When
the wheel is loaded with a lump of clay at the centre, it symbolically
represents the lingam (phallus) as well as  the yoni (female genital passage)-
both very popular symbols of phallism. The manifestation of Siva as the god of
reproduction or generative power may, therefore, have some relation with the
worship of the potter's wheel." (Pottery-Making Cultures and Indian
Civilization, pp.88-89)

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