Etymology of 'tanU'

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Sat Jul 12 05:11:33 UTC 1997

In a message dated 97-07-11 20:28:13 EDT, mahadevasiva at (S
Krishna) writes:

<< S.Palaniappan writes:
  >Though there is no clear Indo-Europeanetymology for this word, it is 
 >hard to imagine the Indo-Iranianists acceptingit as a loan from 
 >Dravidian. And it would be unreasonable to expect Dravidianists to 
 >concede it as a borrowing from Indo-Aryan. The possibility
 >of classing it as an accidental resemblence seems to be precluded by 
 >thecloseness in form and meaning.    -----------------------------
 --------------------------------- >>
For the sake of record, it is Southworth's statement I was quoting. It was
not my own.

As for some of the other points, there have been other words borrowed from
north India. I think 'jungle' is from Hindi. I am sure there are other words.
I think there is a book which lists all the words like this. I have forgotten
the title.

As for 'nAranja' , one source where you might find a discussion on this is
Caldwell's A comparative grammar of Dravidian languages. A more recent
discussion on plants and grains is in the same book which has Southworth's
article. I do not remember the author. I think it was Colin P. Masica.
Southworth also discusses other words related to animals, plants etc. 

As for Hebrew tuki, I think there is  a discussion of that in a book on Jews
of Kerala by A. N. Parasuraman. I think the conclusion was not based on
Indian sources but Hebrew sources where they describe importing of materials
from other countries for building the temple in Jerusalem.  

I agree that there is always a possibility of chance resemblance. There is
also cases where onomatopoea causes resemblance. There are also words like
ma, amma, which are widely prevalent.

But in the present case, my theory is based on semantic similarity in a
number of related words which militates against chance. For instance,

Tamil/Dravidian                                 Sanskrit/Indo-Aryan
pA - root  meaning 'to extend' etc.      tan- root meaning 'to extend'
pA/pan2uval - warp                            tantu/tantra - warp
pA/pan2uval - text                             tantra - text
pAvai - figurine, female, goddess        tanu - body, person, used in Tantric

Finally, today I found the use of 'tanu' to describe the stretching/spreading
of dUrvA grass in Yajur Veda while the stem of the same grass (called
'aRukai'  in Tamil) is called 'pAvai' derived from 'pA' . For comparison, I
am giving below what I had mentioned earlier in my posting regarding the
'aRukai' grass as well as Yajur Vedic material/translation/discussion of
Griffith regarding dUrva grass.

A significant thing about �pAvai� in its connection with �aRukai� is that as
a plant, �aRukai� is known for its nature to extend as a creeper, take root,
again extend in different directions and take root, and so on. Thus, �aRukai�
which is used in many rituals, is a fitting model to describe the �mobility�
and �localization� aspects of Tamil/Dravidian religion as well as the
spreading of cults. 

The botanical name for �aRukai� is Cynodon dactylon (DED 1176) which in
Sanskrit is called �dUrvA� (See Manfred Mayrhofer�s Kurzgefasstes
etymologissches Worterbuch des Altindischen). Not surprisingly, the spreading
nature of the �dUrvA� grass is described in Yajur Veda�s Vajasaneyi saMhita
(XIII.20-21) in Griffith�s translation as follows.

"kANDAtkANDAtprarohantI paruSaHparuSaspari |
evA no dUrVe pra tanu sahasreNa zatena  ||

Upspringing from thine every joint, upspringing from each knot of thine,
Thus with a thousand, dUrvA! With a hundred do thou stretch us out.

On the porus brick he lays a dUrvA brick, that is dUrvA or dUb grass, with
roots and tops, to form a layer. This creeping grass spreads rapidly,
throwing out perpetually new branchlets. He recites two texts. Do thou
stretch us out: or, Lengthen out our line (of descendants)

yA zatena pratanoSi sahasreNa virohasi |
tasyAste devISTake vidhema haviSA vayam ||

Thou, spreading with a hundred, thou that branchest with a thousand shoots, -
Thee, such, with our oblation will we worship, O celestial Brick."

Thus both Dravidian and IA see the same ��extending/stretching� feature in
the aRukai/dUrvA grass. What we see in Dravidian is a noun �pAvai� derived
from the verbal root �pA�. In IA, we see the verb �tanu� derived from the
root �tan�. 

These are two many coincidences to be considered as accidental similarities.
(As Gardner said, I see a pattern.) There is a common world view here but
represented in two different languages. The root pA gives rise to the meaning
'metre' and 'song' and from that is derived the word 'pATu', cognates of
which are found in all the Dravidian groups of languages. This means the root
itself can be traced to the proto-Dravidian stage. 

Incidentally, it was during this research, I discovered (or rediscovered) the
correct meaning of the word 'pan2uval' as 'warp' in some contexts in CT. Even
Tamil Lexicon failed to identify it correctly. Only last month, when I had an
opportunity to check the nighantu 'tivAkaram' of 8/9th century CE, I found
that explicitly equated 'pan2uval' and 'tantu'. Because, the compilers of the
Lexicon glossed the word as 'toused cotton' or simply as 'thread', many
modern commentators erroneously interpreted some CT poems. At least in that
aspect, my recognition of the common world view helped in the understanding
of a Tamil term. My insight was triggered by my reading of a translation of
 a RV hymn. In the same fashion, I think a better understanding will result
on the Sanskrit side regarding 'tanu' also. However, I am fully aware of the
politics or socio-linguistic attitudes of several scholars. And it is for the
objective persons to decide which is logical and which is not.  After all,
remember India's motto is 'Truth alone will triumph' !.


S. Palaniappan 

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