Hydronomy of Tamil rivers (Re: Again, SANSKRIT broadcasts)

Lakshmi Srinivas lsrinivas at YAHOO.COM
Sat Jul 8 09:07:14 EDT 2000

--- Periannan Chandrasekaran <perichandra at YAHOO.COM>
> --- Lakshmi Srinivas <lsrinivas at YAHOO.COM> wrote:
> >
> > Most rivers flowing in Tamilnadu do not seem to
> have
> > clear/convincing Tamil etymologies. Names like
> vaiyai,
> > koLLiTam are evidently phonetic Tamilization of
> alien
> > sounds.
> I am reminded of the conversation between Nanda
> Chandran and Kellner :-))

> Laxmi your considerations may be deemed equally
> atmospheric.

Mr Chandrasekaran,

If you are an expert on Udayana and his works, plse
contribute to the thread on Udayana. In any case I
don't see the propriety of commenting in this manner
on an unrelated  conversation between Kellner and

Now for the merits of your arguments:

> What exactly is the basis for suspecting that these
> hydronyms are
> of alien origin?

Because there aren't any etymologies in the scholarly
literature. Sure you had offered one or two but imho
none of them is convincing. At any rate not one of
them addresses *both* stem and affixes.

If I were to consider your proposed etymology for
noyyal, it still doesn't address the issue of the
suffix *al. This is typically an infinitive ending and
a  verbal noun forming suffix so I wonder what it's
doing in a river name.

> Given the classical nature of Tamil meanig that a
> whole lot of linguistic
> elements would have fallen out of favor over the
> millenia,

So all I understand from your "classical nature of
Tamil" is that there is a Tamil etymology but it is
hidden from you. Everyone should accept that in all
humility, is that it?

To me this argument sounds similar to that of
Hindutva-vadin's on the Vedic origin of everything in

> thse are alien wrt
> modern Tamil or caGkam era tamil?
> You at least have to show due diligence in asserting
> a priori that keDilam is
> atypical caGkam or post-Cagkam Tamil.

There is *no* convincing etymology for most of the
river names. Either you have to accept the possibility
of a sub-stratum element (standard procedure in the
case of hydronomy, toponymy etc) or show due diligence
and produce a convincing etymology.

There are other reasons why rivernames need not be of
Tamil origin some of which are indicated in my
previous post.

The territorial integrity of modern Tamilnadu is not
necessarily threatened just because Tamil is shown to
be an incursive language. Unless you have other
reasons for stoutly resisting the sub-stratum

> koLLiDam: What is alien about its phonetics? with
> the doubled retroflex and -am
> suffix,  it is as tamil as it gets.

Its semantic content is nil. That's why I had called
it phonetic Tamilization. Please read my previous post
with more care. I do hate repeating myself.

Btw koL + iTam should probably mean marketplace.
Surely a strange name for a river, wouldn't you think?

> My Tamil teacher
> said it was a corruption
> of
> the verbal noun "koLLaDam" = koL + aDam where koL =
> to hold, contain;

Did your teacher mention how many gallons it will
contain? Just joking.

Going forward, I'd urge you to put some of these
etymologies where the monkey put the nuts and stop and
think for yourself :-)

> -aDam is
> a verbal noun suffix which is out of active usage
> for constructing verbal
> nouns,

For your information,  "-aDam" is much more productive
as a suffix in everyday Telugu - used even today in
conversational language. All the Tamil instances are
vague, non-literary or straight away identifiable as
relatively late loans esp. from Telugu.

> though there are many words employing that suffix in
> use:
> kaTTaDam (kaTtu + aDam) = building, book binding;

Ta. kaTTaDam, kaTTiDam < Te. kaTTaDamu, kaTTiDamu (cf
> note that this word is often
> corrupted as kaTTiDam.
> oRRaDam  (oRRu + adam) = fomentation

Ta. oRRaDam < oRRu + -aDam ( colloquial usage cf. MTL)
However Te. ottu, ottaDamu (cf DED 859). This is
strengthened by another Ta. variant of oRRaDam viz.,
ottaNAm. It's a plain give away that it's a loan word.

> [some other examples not in currency:
> cetukkaDam = gem polishing

A highly specific term meaning inlay work in
jewellery. (Btw, it does not mean gem polishing). I
daresay this usage must have been imported along with
the artisans who must have come from Telugu country.

> karaVaDam = theft]

A more interesting word. Glossed by MTL as < Skt
karavaTa. The CilappatikAram does have this usage
i.e.,  for a treatise-name "karavaTanUl" (Cil, 16,
180, arumpatavurai). Also DED 1054, kharapaTa, "name
of the author of the cora-zAstra, otherwise called
karNIsuta" (Cf. MattavilAsaprahasana). A one-off word
with no other derivatives.

The probability that the suffix -aDam is of Tamil
origin is therefore rather low. But in any case I
don't think the iTam of KoLLiTAm has anything to with
the suffix -aDam.

So the river name koLLiTam is unexplained despite your
selection of above words (mostly Telugu loans).

I see in this a *conspiracy* to cede Trichy district
and Coleroon waters to Andhra Pradesh :-). In return
no doubt for Krishna waters which they are giving to
Madras on account of the karumpeNNai etymology :-)
> Not more absurd than the sthalapurANas spun around
> the Sanskritization of
> taNporunai as tAmraparuni :-))

But "guNDotarA, vaikai" is equally absurd although
I'll grant you that it's more picturesque than the
average Sanskrit concoction for a mere rivername.

Rest in a separate post.

Thanks and Warm Regards,


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