Smoking, seasoning, and cooking in Dravidian

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sun May 31 22:33:56 UTC 1998

In the Dravidian concept of seasoning, i.e., adding spices was tantamount to
smoking. This is revealed by the words used to describe both processes. For
instance, both seasoning and smoking were referred to by the term "pukai" in
classical Tamil.  Consider the text below.

pulavu nARRatta pain taTi
pU nARRatta pukai koLIi Un2 tuvai
kaRi cORu uNTu ���.                             ( puRanAn2Uru 14.12-14)

This can be translated as "having eaten the rice and mashed meat curry made by
causing the raw flesh-smelling meat piece to take on seasoning with spreading
(good) smell".

Here the term used for seasoning is "pukai". DEDR 4235 shows "Ta. pukai smoke,
mist, vapour, steam; (-v-, -nt-) to smoke emit vapor or steam; (-pp-, -tt-)
�to cause to smoke�;.... pukAr �mist, fog, haze�.....Te, poga �smoke, fume�;
pogayu, povayu �to smoke�; pogucu, pogacu, pogapu �to season with spices�;
pogapu, pogupu, pOpu �seasoning�." (DEDR has missed to include the meaning
seasoning for the Tamil entry.) Thus Tamil and Telugu both have this meaning.
As I have mentioned earlier in one of my postings, the nature of the smoke is
to spread. (The root "puk-" means "to spread".) One of the results of
seasoning is a good smell, which also spreads.

In the following description of Madurai, it is described as a city where "the
fatty meat piece is heated with its fat melting, and items fried in clarified
butter are making noise with the seasoning smoke spreading to resemble rain

niNam Un2 cuTTu urukku amaiya
ney kan2intu vaRai Arppa
kurUuk kuyp pukai mazai maGkulin2
parantu.............                                            (maturaikkAJci 755-758)

In this poem, the word for seasoning is "kuy". DEDR 1760 lists Ta. kuy
seasoning with spices, spicy seasoned curry. Te. kUra a vegetable, garden-
stuff or curry-stuff. Kol. (Br.) kucce curry. Nk. kucce cooked
vegetables...Go. (Tr.) kusrI dal, i.e., cooked pulse....Kui kUsa edible
leaves, greens, vegetables, herbs, addition to curry. Kuwi (S.) kuca curry..."

The noise resulting from the addition of seasoning is described in a post-
Classical text as given below.

kuJcaram ayA uyirttu an2aiya kuy kamaz
am cuvai aTicilai amarntu uNTArkaL tAm                  (cIvakacintAmaNi 2941.1-2)

We can infer the process of adding seasoning from this. When seasonings like,
mustard, black gram, cumin seeds are fried in fat -hot oil or clarified
butter- and added to a sauce or mashed curry, the water in the relatively
colder sauce or curry is vaporized and rises as fumes. There is also an
accompanying noise. This noise is compared to the an elephant letting out a
deep breath (sighing).

In the examples shown above, "kuy" is used as a noun. The following line from
a CT text indicates that "kuy" functions as a verb too.

kuykural malinta kozum tuvai aTicil                     ( puRanAn2Uru 250.1)

This is translated as "the rich mashed food (made with) a lot of seasoning

Obviously, here kuy means "to season". But is that its original meaning? I do
not think so. One set of  meanings given for "kuy" by Tamil Lexicon is "burnt
odors, incense, odorous smoke". In fact, the original meaning of  "kuy" is
embedded in the word "kuyin" (DEDR 1765) meaning "cloud". A comparison of the
word "kuyin" meaning "cloud" and the lines "kurUuk kuyppukai mazai magkulin2
parantu�" indicates that the original meaning of the root "kuy" is also "to
smoke" same as "pukai".

That the basic meaning of "kuy" is smoking is also indicated by related words
in other Dravidian languages. The recent finding that the alternation of
radical u>o is possible even without the presence of any derivative vowel "a"
(See DEDR 4281   Ta. puy, poy - to be pulled out), allows us to link Tamil
"kuy" with central and north Dravidian words such as the following.

DEDR 2226 KonDa gOyi smoke (of kitchen). Pe. koy smoke; kOd- (kOtt-) to smoke
(intr.); kOt- (kOtt-) id. (trans.), burn incense. ?Pa. gUJ- to smoke; gUJi,
gUJjkud smoke. ? Go. (W. Ph.) kusso smoke; (SR. Ch. Mu.) kosso, (Mu. Ma.)
kosoy, (G.) kosoyi soot; (Tr.) kossO soot on bottom of cooking-pot (Voc. 954).
?Kui kuhula smoke. Although DEDR does not show them, Kurukh kuhkuhrnA meaning
"to rise up in clouds (said only of smoke and dust)", kuhRa�Ana "to apply
smoke to, to fumigate", kuilA "charcoal" (Source: An Oraon-English
Dictionary); and Malto kuhe "mist fog" (Source: Malto-Hindi-English
Dictionary) also seem to be related "to kuy".

It is probable that with a metaphorical extension of smoking, the same word
has come to be used for seasoning as well as cooking because these processes
create either smoke or smoke-like vapors.

S. Palaniappan

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