Etymology of Skt. rAma (part 1 of 2)

Periannan Chandrasekaran perichandra at YAHOO.COM
Tue May 4 15:57:14 UTC 1999

Skt. rAma's derivation from Tamil roots - part 1 of 2
Periannan Chandrasekaran
perichandra at

It appears that  Skt. is "rAm" must also mean "black"
given that almost all names for viSNu mean "the dark one".
The  most commonly cited meaning for "rAm" is "handsome" even though
the most commonly cited attribute of rAma is his dark skin.

I submit that Skt. rAm is derived from a family of Dravidian or Tamil
 meaning Ta. irA, Ta. irum all meaning black or dark.

There are two components to the word "rAm": the "rA" and the "m" sound.
Ta. irA, iravu, irum all mean  darkness, night.

"iruL niRa munnIr vaLaiiya ulakattu" (t.muruku: 293)
-->"in the world surrounded by the black ocean"

Ta. "mA"  also means "dark".
A few sample reference for the one involving the "m" sound:
The names for viSNu themselves are good examples.
The most common names for viSNu in CT are from that "mA" root:
"mAyOn2", (tolkAppiyam: "mAyOn2 mEya kATu uRai ulakam")
 "mAl"    (paripAtal: 3: "iru kai mAal" )
mAmai = dark complexion.
"titalai alkul en mAmaik kavin2" (kuRuntokai)

"irum kaN veL yATTu ezil maRi .." (paripATal:5:62)
-->"the white goat with black eyes"

"irum piTi kuLirppa vici" (tirumurukARRuppaTai:300+)
-->"blowing [to dry] the black female elephant"

As to association of black skin tone wih beauty, classical Tamil
text is replete with them; take any akam poetry and you have them
occuring almost formulaically; one such combination is the
"mAmaik kavin2" = "the beautiful dark complexion".
And are there any references where the same word meaning black also
means beauty etc. One example is: "kArikai".
(it is well known that Ta. karu, kAr = black.)

In a single anthology paripATal, the word kArikai itself
occurs in the senses of:
kArikai = beautiful woman; beauty, beautiful:
kAri = tirumAl:

"ceGkaN kAri.." (paripATal: 3.81)
-->"...Oh the Dark God [vISNu] with red eyes..."

kArikai = beautiful woman
"..kArikai kaNTOrkkut
tammOTu niRkumO neJcu" (paripATal tiraTTu:4)
-->"..Can anyone that eyes the pretty woman be able to keep their

"kArikaiyAkat tan2 kaNNI tiruttin2AL" (paripATal: 12.91)
-->"...corrected her head band *beautifully*"

"kArikai matu oruvarin2 oruvar kaNNil kavarpu uRa" (pari:11.68)
-->"...they sip the intoxication of beauty from each other"
--------------[continued in part 2]


Do You Yahoo!?
Get your free address at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list