Leiden plates, other inscriptions, and potters

Palaniappa Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sun Apr 26 04:52:25 UTC 1998

In a message dated 98-04-25 23:01:16 EDT, you write:

<< Prof Frykenberg mentions the origin of the word "velama"
 as:(not an exact quote): "There were a group of brigands who stole an
 earring( telugu "kamma") belonging to a royal family because of which
 they were chased by the retainers of the royal family. Some of the
 retainers returned before the earring could be retrieved because
 of the strenuous chase as a result of which they were called "velama"
 ( from telugu "venuka" literally back; to return) while the retainers
 who pursued the brigands and finally retrieved the earring came to be
 called "kamma"( as in the community by the same name). This story
 therefore posits martial origins for both the "velama" and the "kamma"

   My question is : IS this theory( given by Dr Frykenberg) the
 standard/accepted derivation for the name of the "velama" community? If
 so, ( and in view of the fact that velamas think of themselves as
 warriors  rather than agriculturists) wouldn't this contradict the
 theory of a relationship between the tamil veLLalAs and the telugu
 velama community?>>

DEDR 5507 lists Ta. veLLALan2, vELALan2, veLLAzan2 man of the VELaLa caste;
fem. veLLALacci, veLLAzacci; veLLANmai veLLAmai cultivation; vELANmai
agriculture, husbandry.....Te. velama name of a caste, man of this caste;
(DCV) agriculture; (Inscr.) vElANDu a cultivator; affix to the names of
cultivator caste in Tamilnad. Cf. 5545 Ta. vEL.

To me the velama-kamma story seems to be based on folk etymology.

<< Could you please clarify as to which ZAlivahana is being refered to
 here? There was a boy who is supposed to have killed a king vikramAditya
 of ujjayinI; this story is mentioned (to the best of my knowledge) in
 connection with the "vEtalapamchavimshatikA".

   The other zAlivAhana is supposed to lived in vidarbhA and obtained his
 name from the fact that he rode on the branch of a "zAlI" tree,
 proclaiming it to be his "vAhana". This zAlivAhana had a minister
 by name guNADhya who is  considered the probable author of the
 "br*hatkathA". He also did defeat a number of kings, one of whose name
 was probably vikramAditya.( which seems to have been a very common name
 in that period). I would therefore like to know as to which zAlivAhana
 is being refered to.... >>

The zalivahana story I remember is of a potter who makes clay soldiers, gives
them life and sends them to battle King Vikramaditya. In fact, I have been
trying to get more details of the story.

I have to search for Iravatham Mahadevan's paper on the vELirs. The reference
I have readily available in this regard is "History of South India, Vol. 1:
Ancient Period" by P. N. Chopra, T. K. Ravindran, and N. Subramanian. They
say, "The Sakas overthrew the king of Ujjain but a few years later
Gardabhilla's son who was a refugee in the court of Pradishtana (i.e., of the
Satavahanas) returned to Ujjain to avenge the defeat and murder of his father.
He succeeded, drove out the Sakas, put himself in power in Ujjain and started
an era in 57B.C. to commemorate these valorous deeds. He eventually became the
famous Vikramaditya of Hindu legend. The legend is too hazy to make anything
strictly historical of it. It is possible that Vikramaditya was really a
Satavahana i.e., the son of Satavahana viceroy in Ujjain appointed to that
office in the heyday of Andhra imperialism. This would account for the other
legend which is a sequel to this and which speaks about the defeat of
Vikramaditya by Salivahana, a potter from the western Deccan. The word
Salivahana is suspiciously similar to Satavahana and perhaps the association
with a potter was a sequel to the corruption of Satavahana into Salivahana.
This Salivahana is said to have defeated Vikramaditya and an era seems to have
been founded in A.D. 77, i.e., 134 years after the Vikrama era. The precise
chronology of these events is not clear but surprisingly a Vikrama era of 57
B.C. and a Salivahana era of 77 are still popular and tenaciously remembered."
p. 22-23

Western Deccan is  called vELpulam in Tamil. I have read somewhere that the
names Belur and Belgaum are related to "vEL". Unfortunately, I do not remember
where I read it and I do not know how widely it is accepted.


S. Palaniappan

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