pots, brahmin names, and potters

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Wed Dec 9 06:05:17 UTC 1998

Several Tamil inscriptions have intriguing names of brahmins who received
royal grants. The names contain words meaning pot, bowl or urn. These are not
very rare occurrences either. For instance, along with droNa/tONa, we find
maNTai/maNTa (manDa), tA_li, caTTi. Take for instance, the Pullur plates of
Nandivarman II lists the names of 108 brahmins. Of these there are seventeen
with names like caTTi zarman, tA_li zarman, maNTai zarman, tONa zarman. (That
the Tamil form tONa stands for doNa is clear from other inscriptions.)

caTTi (DEDR 2306), tA_li (DEDR 3182), maNTai (DEDR 4682) all refer to
different type of earthern vessels.

We should note that Pallavas claimed themselves to be brahmin descendants of
droNa born in a bucket/trough. As a result one can assume many brahmins could
have had droNa/tONa in their names. But, we also have the form tONamaNTa
zarman (<droNamaNTai zarman?). The brahmins are from a variety of gotras, such
as bhAradvAja, kauzika, gautama, kauNDinya, etc. Why would brahmins have words
referring to different kinds of earthern vessels in their names?

The Velurppalayam plates of Nandivarman III also refer to droNa by the name
kumbhasamudbhava. The Pallava origin from droNa is compared to that of agastya
from kumbha in another inscription. Pallavas claimed to be brahmins in the
role of kSatriyas. The epic droNa is of course similar to bhArgava rAma in
being born a brahmin but behaving as a kSatriya. I have in my earlier postings
pointed out the potter-priest-warrior connections.

It looks like the above names in inscriptions could be vestiges of
acknowledgment to the potter origin of many brahmins. Are there any such names
found in north Indian inscriptions? Thanks in advance.

S. Palaniappan

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