[INDOLOGY] Dravidian etymologies for 'makara', viṭaṅkar etc.

Suresh Kolichala suresh.kolichala at gmail.com
Sat Jan 24 08:22:15 EST 2015


Ganesan sent a message on the *ctamil *list asking me to elaborate on why I
think his etymologies are fanciful. Since his questions were limited to the
etymologies proposed for the words *viṭaṅkar *and *iṭaṅkar**, *I will limit
my response to his assertions on these words. The following excerpts from
his paper discusses the word *viṭaṅkar:*

The god Śiva in Tamil bhakti texts of the first millennium, is extolled as
either nakkar or viṭaṅkar indicating Śiva’s nudity and his virile lingam in
particular. [page 4].
[...]

The last and very important Tamil name for gharial is viṭaṅkar/iṭaṅkar. In
old Tamil texts, viṭai refers to the virile male of animals - bovids,
caprids, antelopes, elephants. It is a verbal noun from viṭai- 'to enlarge,
to thicken, to stiffen up, to stand with pride’. In the Marutam landscape,
the rich landlord enjoying prostitutes is called as viṭalai, viṭaṉ. In
Tamil, viṭai- > viṭaṅku- "to be erect (as lingam), male beauty,
masculinity, virility, fertile." Compare viṭai:viṭaṅku with verb pairs like
(i) maṭai: maṭaṅku ‘water embankment, to block’, (ii) kiṭai: kiṭaṅku
‘animal shed, godown’, (iii) malai:malaṅku ‘to be confused’, (iv) tirai:
tiraṅku ‘screen’, (v) iṇai: iṇaṅku ‘to join’, (vi) picai: picaṅku ‘to
knead’ etc., Śiva is called in Tamil bhakti poems like Tevaram as viṭaṅkar,
and a lingam (usually emerald) is kept near Somaskanda in viṭaṅkar temples
which is worshipped with reverence as viṭaṅkar [15]. viṭaṅkar, standing for
either male organ (lingam) or gharial snout, gives rise to Tamil names for
gharial, viṭaṅkar (> iṭaṅkar). This word is borrowed into Sanskrit as a
loan from Dravidian: viṭhaṅka ’ person of dissolute habits, voluptuary’
(Cf. viṭalai in Sangam poems). In Tamil, iṭakkar ‘indecent words; terms
denoting things or actions too obscene to be uttered in good society’;
iṭakkar-aṭakkal ‘ euphemism to use indirect expressions to avoid words
relating to sex’, iṭakkar:iṭaṅkar ‘pot’ obviously from the protuberance on
the male gharial snout, iṭaṅkar ‘narrow path’ are derivable from viṭaṅkar
with the loss of word-initial v-. [page 7].


I can almost label every sentence in the above excerpts as questionable.
Let us examine them one by one:

The god Śiva in Tamil bhakti texts of the first millennium, is extolled as
either nakkar or viṭaṅkar indicating Śiva’s nudity and his virile lingam in
particular.

1. In Ganesan's entire paper, he has not referred to the DEDR entry
for *viṭaṅkar
*and he hasn't attempted to prove or disprove why the meaning of 'beauty'
found in various Dravidian languages under this entry is incorrect. Since
*nakkar* means nude, he asserts *viṭaṅkar* must also indicate nudity. Here
is DEDR entry 5472:

DEDR entry 5472
    *Tamil*
        *viṭaṅku* beauty, gallantry;
        *viṭaṅkaṉ* person of beauteous form;
        *veṭippu* splendour.
    *Malayalam*
        *veṭippu* cleanness, neatness, elegance.
    *Kannada*
        *beḍaṅgu, beḍagu* novelty, beauty, elegance, grace, fineness,
pleasantness, showiness, ostentatiousness;
        *beḍagi* a showy woman, coquette.
    *Tulu*
        *beḍaṅgů, beḍagů* coquetry, affectation, haughtiness;
        *beḍage* a charming man;
        *biḍugu* coquette.
    *Telugu*
        *beḍaṅgu, beḍãgu* beauty, handsomeness, fineness, prettiness,
grace, elegance, strength; beautiful, elegant, large, great, strong;
        *beḍãgutanamu* beauty, strength;
        *beḍãgu, beḍãgāru* to be beautiful; ?
        *viṅgaḍamu* beautiful.

He lists Rajeshwari Ghose's work on the Tyagaraja Cult in the references,
but he doesn't refer to or disucss her conclusions on the word *viṭaṅkar. * On
page 35, Ghose concludes: "a) The term V*iṭaṅkar *was used by several
writers to denote a processional image b) From the references to his
sitting in the Tevaciriya mantapam, issuing orders etc., it seems likely
that the reference is to an anthropomorphic figure and not an aniconic
one." Nowhere does she indicate that the term V*iṭaṅkar *has anything
to do with
Siva's nudity or his virile lingam.

Furthermore, the Sanskrit usage of  the words *viṭaṅka* in meaning of
pretty, and *viḍaṅga*  for clever, and corresponding Assamese word
*biriṅga* ʻbeautifulʼ do not show any connotation of nudity or relationship
with lingam.

Let us move to his text on page 7:

In old Tamil texts, viṭai refers to the virile male of animals - bovids,
caprids, antelopes, elephants.


Tamil Lexicon thinks that the word *viṭai* used in the meaning of bull and
other male animals may be related to *vṛṣa. *Ganesan hasn't discussed or
discarded such connection at all. Please note that the *ṣ* ~ *ṭ*
correspondence is common in Sanskrit and Tamil words. For example, *viṣaya*
~ *viṭaiyam*.

It is a verbal noun from viṭai- 'to enlarge, to thicken, to stiffen up, to
stand with pride’.


Tamil Lexicon doesn't list this as the primary meaning at all. The primary
meaning of *viṭu*- to leave, quit, part with is found in several Dravidian
languages [DEDR 5393]. The meaning of "stiff" for *viṭai* is not found in
other Dravidian languages. If I may speculate, I think, the supplementary
meaning Ganesan gives is perhaps related to *viṯ-/*viṟ- [DEDR 5439] (
*viṟaippu* numbness, stiffness, to grow stiff as from cold, become numb,
shiver as from cold;). *ṯ* > *ṭ* is not uncommon in the Dravidian
languages.

Almost throughout the paper, I kept saying to myself "Tamil is not
Proto-Dravidian, Tamil is not Proto-Dravidian!". You cannot reconstruct a
Dravidian root without comparative evidence from other
languages, preferably based on the data found two different subgroups. This
paper can be rejected purely on that basis.

 In Tamil, viṭai- > viṭaṅku- "to be erect (as lingam), male beauty,
masculinity, virility, fertile." Compare viṭai:viṭaṅku with verb pairs like
(i) maṭai: maṭaṅku ‘water embankment, to block’, (ii) kiṭai: kiṭaṅku
‘animal shed, godown’, (iii) malai:malaṅku ‘to be confused’, (iv) tirai:
tiraṅku ‘screen’, (v) iṇai: iṇaṅku ‘to join’, (vi) picai: picaṅku ‘to
knead’ etc.


Addition of the formative suffix -ku is well known in the Dravidian
languages (see Krishnamurti 1997), but without establishing that *viṭai*
has anything to do with lingam, this equation falls flat on its face.

Śiva is called in Tamil bhakti poems like Tevaram as viṭaṅkar, and a lingam
(usually emerald) is kept near Somaskanda in viṭaṅkar temples which is
worshipped with reverence as viṭaṅkar [15].


Here Ganesan refers to Rajeshwari Ghose's book [15], but it is clear that
Ganesan hasn't read her conclusions or purposefully avoids mentioning them.
She clearly states that V*iṭaṅkar* is likely a reference to an
anthropomorphic figure and not an aniconic one. She further states that
"the present-day association of the term V*iṭaṅka- *with the *li**ṅ**ga* of
precious stone has a close parallel in the nataraja of chindambaram, where
a linga made of crystal called the Candramaulisvara occupies a similar
ritual status."

viṭaṅkar, standing for either male organ (lingam) or gharial snout, gives
rise to Tamil names for gharial, viṭaṅkar (> iṭaṅkar).


This is big semantic leap without any justification. *viṭaṅkar* cannot
stand for a gharial snout. *viṭaṅkar* is clearly a honorific form of
*viṭaṅka**ṉ. *The -*ar* suffix in the Dravidian languages is a human plural
suffix (also used as honorific affix), and cannot be used for non-human
gharial. Therefore, *viṭaṅkar > iṭaṅkar *is entirely untenable.

This word is borrowed into Sanskrit as a loan from Dravidian: viṭhaṅka ’
person of dissolute habits, voluptuary’ (Cf. viṭalai in Sangam poems).


Just an opinion and speculation.

In Tamil, iṭakkar ‘indecent words; terms denoting things or actions too
obscene to be uttered in good society’.

*iṭakkar* has something to do with *iṭakku* 'Rude, saucy, disrespectful'
[DEDR 433], which, I think, is missing a Telugu cognate *ṭekku*. Prima
facie, the words related to *viṭ-a-ṅku- 'beauty' and **iṭ-a-kku* 'Rude' appear
to be derived from entirely different, unrelated etymons, and should be
treated as such until there is substantial convincing evidence. Even if
they are related, it doesn't say anything about the word *iṭaṅkar *in the
meaning of crocodile or gharial.

In summary, other than wild speculation and wishful thinking, Ganesan
hasn't presented any convincing evidence to make a connection between the snout
of gharial and phallic linga of Siva. I think much of Ganesan's confusion
stems from the fact that *nakkar* 'nude person, Siva' in Tamil (*nakka*- <
Skt. *nagna *'nude'), is confusingly similar to Sanskrit *nakra* 'crocodile'.
The word *nagna* 'nude, naked' clearly has cognates in other Indo-European
languages (Old Persian **nagna*-, Greek *gymnos*, Latin *nudus*, Lithuanian
*nuogas*, Old Church Slavonic *nagu*-, Russian *nagoi*, Old Irish *nocht*,
Welsh *noeth* "bare, naked") whereas *nakra* 'crocodile' appears to be
limited to the languages of Indian linguistic area.

Regards,
Suresh.
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