Are the gods literate?

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 1 17:07:17 UTC 1999

Part of the etymology of karN by Dr. S. Palaniappan, 18 Mar 1998
Am I right in understanding that the IE etymology is not very
satisfactory? Before I post the following in Indology, I want to get your

There is a Dravidian root kaN- meaning to incise, pierce, cut. The
words related to this root are given in DED 979. (I do not have DEDR.)
Ta. kaNai arrow; kaNicci battle-axe, pick-axe, goad, Ka. kaNe, gaNa
arrow, Tu. kaNe quill of a porcupine; gane' arrow, Go (L) kaNI arrow,
Kur. kannA arrow with an iron point, Malto kani barb of an arrow.
Since all branches of Dravidian are represented here, the root should
go back to Proto Dravidian.

There is another set of words with the root kaN- meaning "to become
cylindrical or globular"as in Ta. kaNai cylindrical or globular shape,
kaNu joint in a bamboo, kaNukkAl  ankle, kaNaikkAl shin, kaNaiyam
club; Ma. kaNa roller of mills, the cylindrical wood of an oil
press, Ko. kaN joint of bamboo, To. koN joint of bamboo or cane, Ka.
kaN joint in reeds, gaNalu knuckle of the fingers, joint or knot in
cane or reed, gaNike knot or joint, kaNe, kaNi heavy wooden roller
which stands upright in the mortar of an oil- mill, Te. kanu, kannu
joint in cane or reed, Kur. khann place on bamboo or cane where side
shoot was cut away.

Moreover, the word kaN- is used as a verb also, especially in the
compound kaNNezuttu meaning incised letters. In my opinion, it is this
root which is found in the Tamil word kaNakku meaning text as well as
accounts/mathematics, etc. Till now many have held kaNakku is derived
from Sanskrit. Compare gaNaka one who reckons , arithmetician MBh. ii
, 206 ; xv , 417 ; a calculator of nativities , astrologer VS. xxx ,
20 R. i , 12 , 7 Katha1s. ; m. pl.N. of a collection of 8 stars
VarBr2S. xi , 25 ; (%{I})f. the wife of an astrologer
Pa1n2. 4-1 , 48 Ka1s3. ; (%{ikA}) f. a harlot , courtezan Mn. iv
Ya1jn5. i , 161 MBh. xiii Mr2icch. &c. ; = %{gaNikA7rikA} q.v. L. ;
counting , enumerating W. ; apprehension W. However, based on the
Dravidian information presented here, Sanskrit kaRN seems to be based
on Dravidian kaN with an r inserted before N. According to Kuiper,
"In Sanskrit the tendency to 'naturalize' an unconditioned N by
inserting an r or R has been common in many periods."
(Aryans in the Rig Veda, p.70)

With an enunciative 'a' after 'r' one will get "karaNa" meaning a man
of a mixed class (the son of an outcast Kshatriya Mn. x , 22 ; or the
son of a S3u1dra woman by a Vais3ya Ya1jn5. i , 92 ; or the son of a
Vais3ya woman by a Kshatriya MBh. i , 2446 ; 4521 ; the occupation of
this class is writing , accounts &c.) a writer, scribe W. I think
Dravidian kaN- can explain kaRN and karaNa better than the IE
explanation. You should also note that incising palm leaf is a South
Indian custom as opposed to writing with ink found in north. Thus
Sanskrit karaNa scribe cannot be related to Sanskrit kaRN.

What is the IE view of the etymology for gaNaka arithmatician and
karaNa scribe, accountant?

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