vaTakalai and ten2kalai (1)

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Fri Jun 11 04:22:03 UTC 1999

In earlier discussions, Lakshmi Srinivas related the terms vaTakalai and 
ten2kalai to the geographical distribution of the two zrI vaiSNavite sects. 
My research shows that any correlation of the terms with the geographic 
distribution of these sects within South India is purely coincidental.  The 
original meanings of vaTakalai and ten2kalai are very clear from their 
long-established usage which can be continually traced from AzvAr's times to 
16th century AD.

"kalai" has several meanings in Tamil. But "type" or "category" is not one of 
them according to the Tamil Lexicon. The relevant meaning of kalai in 
vaTakalai/ten2kalai is that of an utterance (by the tongue) as can be seen in 
the following usage by different AzvArs given below.

nalagkaLAya naRkalaikaL
nAvilum navin2RilEn2...                            (tiruccantaviruttam 90)

nA iyal kalaikaL enkO                               (tiruvAymozi 3.4.2)

I had said earlier, the usage can refer to the languages,  Sanskrit and 
Tamil, or the texts in those languages. Although the texts and the languages 
in which they are created are different entities, in terms of historical 
usage, one can find some instances where they are differentiated and other 
instances where they are not. The following line means "those whose 
language/utterance shines with kalai". 

kalai ilagku moziyALar ......   (periya tirumozi 8.1.1). 

If one wants to know what type of texts could be indicated by "kalai", 
consider the following line

irukku ilagku tirumozi vAy eN tOL IcaRku  ... (periya tirumozi 6.6. 8)

Thus texts like rigvedic mantras can be referred to by "kalai". 

However, either of 'language' or  'text' can be taken as a metonymical 
reference to the other. Consider the following lines of kulacEkara AzvAr.

amararkaLtam talaivan2ai am tamiz in2pap 
pAvin2ai a vaTamoziyai................                   (perumAL tirumozi 4)

Here kRSNa is praised as "blissful verses in Tamil" and "northern language 
(Sanskrit)". Obviously vaTamozi, literally meaning "northern language", 
refers to "verses in the northern language (Sanskrit)".

By such a metonymical usage, we also find vaTacol (northern word or language, 
Sanskrit) and tamizOcai (Tamil sound) being considered equivalent in the 
following verse.

 tamizOcai vaTacol Akit
ticai nAn2kum Ayt tigkaL JAyiRu Aki... (tiruneTuntANTakam 4)

Thus mozi, col, and kalai are all used synonymously in combination with vaTa 
or ten2.

S. Palaniappan

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