[INDOLOGY] Identififying Ceylonese toponym Cauraga(s)hing

Jan Filipský filipsky at orient.cas.cz
Sun Nov 3 13:17:11 EST 2019

Dear Patrick (if I may),

and all helpful contriburing colleagues, thank you for your insights. During my personal visit to Mahiyangana and the Dumbara valley area long time ago I have experienced a situation similar to that described by Robert Knox, but cannot recall the exact location. If we are ready to accept the supposition that „c“ stands for the palatal affricate, the botanical name of a tree caura gas (aka hora gaha, Dipterocarpus zeylanicus) occurs; but we should also take into account Dániel Balogh’s objection that „Knox would surely have pronounced 'c' as the phoneme k“ as evidenced in his Sinhalese vocabulary (JRASCB, No. 47, 1896). 

Both my student and myself are extremely grateful and keen to hear further details, if any. Unfortunately, we are unable to consult the Sinhalese translation Eda hela diva : Robat Noks ge Lankadvipaya pilibanda etihasika vistaraya nam Ingrisi granthaye Simhala anuvadaya by David Karunaratna (Kolamba 2016) or the second edition of Knox’s Historical Relation edited by J.H.O. Paulusz whose notes may show the way out of the „heavy fog“ (dum + bara).

Best regards, 

Jan Filipsky


From: Olivelle, J P [mailto:jpo at austin.utexas.edu] 
Sent: Sunday, November 03, 2019 4:16 PM
To: Jan Filipskı <filipsky at orient.cas.cz>
Cc: indology at list.indology.info
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Identififying Ceylonese toponym Cauraga(s)hing


Dear Jan:


Even though I know Sinhalese, I was unable to crack the term, which is probably mangled. So I asked Gananath and Ranjini Obeyesekere, who work in this period. This is what Ranjini said:


The location is possibly  in the region bordering the Mahiyangane hills that divide the Dumbara valley area ( the wetter Kandy side of the mountains)  from the East Coast dry heat.  Perhaps this is the name of a village located on the border around the area where he was held ..

The word was probably Caura gas hinna.  There are many places which have the suffix -- gas hinna.. Caura  gas may be a kind of tree after which the area was named. I do not know of that tree.  The nearest I can think of was 

Karuvala gas --  the ebony tree named ; karuvala' 


So, caura is probably some kind of tree; Ranjini suggests “karuvala” ebony. The term “gas” is tree in Sinhala, and we often add that to the name of the specific tree: so, pol gas is coconut tree.


The term hinna probably refers to the place (I have asked for the exact meaning of the term, and will let you know when I get a response). 




Patrick Olivelle




On Nov 1, 2019, at 5:44 AM, Jan Filipský via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info <mailto:indology at list.indology.info> > wrote:


Dear All,

A student of mine is trying to identify the Ceylonese/Sri Lankan toponym „Cauragashing“ mentioned by the British sailor Robert Knox in his book An Historical Relation of Ceylon (1681), p. 4. According to the author, it is a mountain „about the middle of the land“ obviously separating the Wet and Dry zones of the island he had personally visited, describing his experience as follows: „as oftentimes I have seen, being on the one side of a Mountain called Cauragas hing, rainy and wet weather, and as soon as I came on the other, dry, and so exceeding hot, that I could scarcely walk on the ground, being, as the manner there is, barefoot.“

One may infer that Knox refers to the Central (Kandyan) highlands, playing the role of a major watershed, a natural geographic divide; if so, could anybody explain the local name Cauraga(s)hing? If one may venture a speculation, couldn’t it refer to the whole mass of the highlands where the rebels (sinh. caura, cora) go to (sinh. ga) – perhaps, in haste (sinh. hingu)? Sincere apologies to all knowledgeable colleagues for unsubstantiated fantasizing and many thanks for elucidating.

With best regards,

Jan Filipsky, Praha



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