Beluur and Belgaum

S Krishna mahadevasiva at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat May 2 01:35:00 UTC 1998

>Though right now I am not in the ideal place from which to answer, I
would, at first thought, rather be skeptical about the relatedness.

>If "Belur" in Karnataka is the city famous for the Hoysala temple, we
have to bear in mind that it is beeluuru and not bee.luuru / beeLuuru.
>Robert Zydenbos
>zydenbos at

In addition to the point made by Robert,I would like to express my
skepticism about "Belagaum" being related to Tamil "vEL".What I am not
questioning is the etymology;  my skepticism( as has happened earlier)
stems more from a historical angle.

  BEfore considering the derivation,it is neccessary to remember that
places in WEstern Karnataka were never part of the traditional Tamil
sphere of influence. While it MAY be true that there was a relationship
between the Tamils and the cAlukyas( questionable to some)
kannaDa/marAThI were always the spoken languages in this areas, never
Tamil. The traditional "tamizhakam" ended at tiruveGkaTam  as the
northern point and is bounded in the west by the Arabian sea i.e. modern
kEraLA. The only time that there may have been possible Tamil rule in
that area was when vAtApi was sacked and the idol of gaNEza brought down
to taJjAvUr.(Even here, vAtApi was far removed from where beLgaum is
located now). I therefore find it difficult to believe that the place
names could have been derived from a Tamil root when there is little
evidence to show Tamil influence in that area.

I realise that this area was called "vEL pulam" in tamil, but the very
fact that they called it "vEL pulam" and not a part of tamizhakam makes
me think that the area was outside the sphere of Tamil influence
( as a parallel, most of the northern languages could be described as
"vaTamozhi" thus indicating their non-locality w.r.t the Tamil country).

  I also find it strange to think that a Tamil root "vEL" would have
been added to a samskrt root like "grAma" to yield "vEL-
grAma". My experience has been that place names are in general derived
from just one language as opposed to alloying; in tamil nATu itself
there a no of places whose names use tamil words {i.e. tiruvArUr as
opposed to alloyed "zrIvArUr"( though zrI= tiru)} or in an odd case,
completely consists of samskrt words ( e.g. vEdAraNyam as opposed to
"vEda maRaikATu" or "tirumaRaiyAraNyam", the later two being alloyed
from Tamil and Samskrt). While there may be exceptions to the rule, I
believe that bELgaum is not one.

  I believe that the derivation may more historically inconsistent if
the kannaDa equivalent of "vEL" were used. I have been told( I'm not
sure) that the name "bELagAum" comes from the fact that the local
jasmines( marAThI  "bELA") were famous in that area and the name of the
village( i.e. marATHI "gAum")therefore became "bELAgAum".
While this may seem a case of "folk-etymology", I must point out that
from a history point of view, this derivation makes sense because
1. The town is next door to MahArASTra, the local population is more
maRATHI than kannaDa; infact the "mAhArASTra ekIkaraNa samiti" has been
trying to get "bELagaum" to join mahArASTra.
2. bELagaum seems to have come into prominence only after the 15th-16th
century when there was a lot of marATHI influence here, but
no tamil influence.

 While place-name derivations may be correct from an etymology point of
view, I believe that it is important to verify a given derivation
against history and sociology and then determine the validity of a given


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