Sugarcane (kan2n2al)

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed May 19 10:51:00 UTC 1999

Another point which has always surprised me is the mention
of the sea in connection with kAzhi (=cIkAzhi)
To-day there is at least a 20km distance from there to the coast
but Tevaram says things like:
"nalam koL muttum maNiyum aNiyum tiraL Otam
  kalaGkaL tan2n2il koNTu karai cEr kalik kAzhi" [2-59(1)]
<<in K. of great bustle where the ships that sail
  on the accumulated waves, reach the shore with beautiful pearls,
  other precious stones and ornaments>> (VMS, transl.)
Was the sea closer to the town at that time (7th century)
  or is it poetic exageration?

Geology does not inform that sea moved out 20km creating
new land. Probably, in these instances, it may merely refer to
neighborhood of cIkAzi, like the modern Metropolitan area of Chennai.

Let us look at the phrases describing kAzi (K.) in
the Tevaram decad with *karunal paravai kamaz k.*

Tev. 1.34.1 'kaTal Ar puTai cUz' - K. surrounded by the
sea. (Is *kaTal* backwaters here?)
Tev. 1.34.2 'karai Ar pun2al' - K. surrounded by banks
of water. (Is pun2al(water) refer to the sea or bayous?)
Tev. 1.34.3 'kaTi Ar pozil cUz' - K. surrounded by the
*fragrance* emiting gardens.
Tev. 1.34.4 'kaLi Ar pozil cUz' - K. surrounded by the
joyful/delightful gardens.
Tev. 1.34.5 'kan2i Ar pozil cUz' - K. surrounded by
fruit tree gardens.
Tev. 1.34.6 - has No reference to sea(kaTal) or garden(pozil).
Tev. 1.34.7 'karu Ar pozil cUz' - K. sorrounded by
dark dense gardens
Tev. 1.34.8 'curakkum pun2al cUz' - K. surrounded by
water springs (possibly because of the sea's seepage)
Tev. 1.34.9 'karunal paravai cUz' -
a) Traditional explanation: K. surrounded by black, good
sea emmitting nice *fragrance*.
b) if kan2n2al < karunal, then the meaning would be:
"K. surrounded by sugarcane fields emitting smell".
Tev. 1.34.10 'kamazntu Ar pozil cUz' - K. surrounded by
*fragrance* emitting gardens.
Tev. 1.34.11 'kalam Ar kaTal cUz' - K. surrounded by
the sea with many vessels.

Coming back to *karunal paravai kamaz kAzi*,
V. M. Subramaniya Ayyar translates this as
"good and blue sea issues its fragrance".
This is problematic in that "sea
issuing fragrance" is generally not known.
On the other hand, when sugarcanes are in bloom
or when jaggery is made in makeshift mills
often in the canefields, a fragrance issues forth.
This is recognized from Sangam era poets down to
present day. Eg.,

"kAr karumpin2 *kamaz* Alai" - paTTin2appAlai (a CT text)
"karumpu aTu kaLamar Alaik *kamaz* naRum pukaiyO!" - periyapurANam

Tevaram saints sing of fragrant gardens on the seashore
of kAzi at times;
1) 'kaTi *kamaz* cOlai culavu kaTal nAkaik kArONan2E!' - Tev. 4.103.1
kaTi= fragrance, cOlai = garden, NagapaTTinam is always
on the sea shore.
2) 'kaTalvarai Otam malku kAzi, kAn2al pAn2al kamaz kazi' Tev. 2.84.11
Here, kAn2al (groves on the seashore of K.) and pAn2al (agricultural
tract) are issuing their fragrance right in K. itself.
Sung by the same TiruJaan2acampantar.

Hence, plausibly *karunal paravai kamaz kAzi* can be
translated as K. surrounded by sugarcane fields.

Compare karunal, kan2n2al pair with the well-known
a) nerunal, nen2n2al (=yesterday)
b) perumAn2, pemmAn2 (='big man')
c) cerumAn2, cemmAn2 (=leather worker, cf. ceruppu)
d) porumal, pommal (=plumness).

`karunal' (> kan2n2al) is formed from `karu'. The most
commonly word for sugarcane, 'karumpu' seems to come from
'karu' also. Ancient sugarcane was black, this is indicated
in PaTTin2appAlai (kArk karumpin2 - paT. 8); The ending
"al" in kan2n2al is by the same process that can be observed
in words like i) allal (affliction) ii) in2n2al (trouble)
iii) min2n2al (lightning).

N. Ganesan

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