Mangala- title for brahmin physicians

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sun Apr 29 14:20:29 EDT 2012

Dear Dr. Bhattacharya,

The type of euphemism you talk about does not match the Tamil epigraphic data. The Vaidya family members with the maGkala- title were uttaramantris and mahAsAmantas of the Pandiyan king. They had no need for such euphemistic titles. 


-----Original Message-----
From: Dipak Bhattacharya <dbhattacharya200498 at>
To: palaniappa <palaniappa at AOL.COM>; INDOLOGY <INDOLOGY at>
Sent: Sun, Apr 29, 2012 12:19 pm
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Mangala- title for brahmin physicians

Just a passing note.
In Bengal the erstwhile service providing castes, namely,barber, water carrier, milk supplier, washerman, weaver, fisherman and fishmonger, palanquin beareretc were called sat śūdras ‘goodśūdras.’ They were of high-castestatus. Some of them had special honorific titles. Barbers were called parā māṇik  meaningperhaps,‘bright jewel’. This was later sanskritized as prāmāṇik. Could the southern maṅgala be of such euphemisticorigin, that is to say meant an amelioration of some the then current harsh reality?The epithet maṅgalā  of the hymns to the fathers is of  course euphemistic. 
There are other examples of attempts at bypassing the cruel realities of life.


  From: Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan <palaniappa at AOL.COM>
 Sent: Sunday, 29 April 2012 9:52 PM
 Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Mangala- title for brahmin physicians

Dear Dr. Cox,

Thank you for your detailed post. In fact, my post was partly triggered by YS's article in his 'South India under the Cholas'. YS notes that "There is however nowhere any hint to say that the Vaidya family was a Brāhmaṇa family." While the names discussed by YS do not identify the maGkala- titleholders explicitly as brahmins, I am aware of inscriptions where it is very clear that brahmin physicians had maGkala- titles. In 2006 I sent the following information to a friend to be forwarded to YS and forgot about it. 

"The mangala title is found in connection with a brahmin who was also a medical specialist in the 15th century as in azakiyamaNavALa maGgalAdarayar putran zrInivAsan An2a zrIraGga garuDavAhana paTTar (EI 24, no. 13, pp. 90-101)"

I do not know if this information reached YS. So when YS's new book has repeated the views expressed in his 2001 article, I wanted to revisit the issue since I have also come across another brahmin physician of the 11th century with the maGkala title.

(Incidentally, according to EI, this garuDavAhana paTTar was the author of divyasUricarita. garuDavAhana bhaTTa/paNDita seems to have been a traditional name given to the descendants of the family who were physicians in charge of the hospital in zrIraGgam.)

So far, I have not come across the use of maGgala- title for physicians in north India.  My own hypothesis is that the title is of South Indian provenance because of the way bards, priests, and washermen were considered to engender auspiciousness and because of the priestly role of barbers. (For discussions related to barbers, see pp. 21-22 and 47 of This seems to have influenced the brahmins of the south too to emphasize their auspiciousness. Interestingly, the Vaidya family of Karavandapuram with the maGkala-titles (present day Kalakkadu in Tirunelveli district) is praised to have been well-versed in instrumental and vocal music too.



-----Original Message-----
From: Whitney Cox <wc3 at>
To: palaniappa <palaniappa at>
Sent: Sat, Apr 28, 2012 4:06 pm
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Mangala- title for brahmin physicians

Dear Dr. Palaniappan,

In his article "Sociological Aspects of the Personal Names and Titles" (in the new volume South India Under the Cholas, OUP 2012 pp. 49-53; the relevant part of which was previously published as "The Mangala title in Pandya Inscriptions" in Rajagopal, ed. Kaveri: Studies in Epigraphy, Archaeology, and History, Panpattu Veliittakam, Chennai 2001), Y. Subbarayalu has discussed the occurrence of these figures in a series of seventh and eight century Pāṇṭiya records.  Differing from K V. Raman who shares your interpretation of these figures as brahmans (citing "The History of the Pandyas (in Tamil) Madras, 1977"; the only reference I can find for a 1977 Tamil language publication by this scholar is his Tolliyal āyvukaḷ, Chennai: Cekar Patippakam), Y.S. suggests that these figures were members of the barber caste, as well as medical practitioners.  I do not have the epigraphical publications to hand as I write this, but he reports that they are identified as members of the vaidyakula, which Raman saw as a derived from Veda, and hence presumed them to be Brahmans. By contrast, Y.S. reports (I did not know this myself) that maṅkala/maṅkaliyan is a name for a member of the barber community (citing the Tamil Lexicon; the MTL also has "மங்கலவினைஞன் maṅkala-viṉaiñaṉ, n. < id. +. 1. Barber, as doing auspicious work"), a caste-title also apparently available in Telugu.  The connection between medicine and barbers is a natural one, as Y.S. points out (p. 52), "barbers were also rural physicians [and the] ladies of the barber community were used to be [sic] midwives in villages".  

This is something that was paralleled in Europe, where the surgical profession emerged from barbers' guilds, rather than from the university educated doctors of medicine (surgeons in Britain, for instance, are still routinely addressed as "Mr./Mrs." instead of "Dr.").  


Whitney Cox

On 27 April 2012 22:19, Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan <palaniappa at> wrote:

In Tamil inscriptions, one notices that brahmin physicians are given titles with the first component being maGkala- as in maGkalappEraraiyan2. Is there any  Sanskrit/Prakrit inscriptions or literary texts that show any physician in north India with the title maGgala-?

Thanks in advance

S. Palaniappan


Dr. Whitney Cox
Senior Lecturer in Sanskrit
Department of the Languages and Cultures of South Asia,
School of Oriental and African Studies
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG



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