nAraNa_n, the tamil word for nArAyaNa (was: Vishnu)

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 13 07:27:27 UTC 2000

>Parallel to the kAr-/kAL- pair, nAL-/nAr- (='black') is used in
>forming the name "nAraNa_n" = skt. nArAyaNa.

Pardon my poor acquaintance with Tamil, but could you please
explain how nAL-/nAr- means black? I can think of numerous words
where kari-/kAr-/kALa- indicates black, but no words where nAL-
or nAr- is black, except perhaps the word nArAyaNa itself! So,
can you give other examples of nAL-/nAr-, instead of just saying
that it is parallel to kAL-/kAr-?

>Note that "aNa" is the Dravidian word as in mAyaNa, father of sAyaNa

What does this -aNa suffix mean? Is it also the same -aNa in the
word puraaNa, used in the same maNimekalai verse you quoted?

>as in mAyaNa, sAyaNa,  and mAyaNa, sAyaNa, nAraNa are names of the god

For the name sAyaNa, see M. B. Emeneau; K. Kushalappa Gowda. 1974.
"The etymology of the name Sayana." JAOS 94: 210-212. Reprinted
in _Sanskrit Studies of M. B. Emeneau_, pp. 151-153. Edited by B.
A. van Nooten (Thanks to Prof. Aklujkar for sending this reference
two years ago).

There is no connection with nAraNa/nArAyaNa in this etymology. Is
Emeneau quite mistaken, or isn't he "mainstream" enough, in your
book? Also, how does mAyaNa become a name of nArAyaNa?

>[Will write in the future more on the Dravidian custom of naming the
>child something with a lowly thing so as 'to cheat the gods', and
>tamil kAy-/cAy- and the skt. zayana from k => z observed from Vedic

The word is sAyaNa, not zAyaNa. Do also explain z => s, after the
word goes from k/c to z, when going from Tamil to Sanskrit.

As for sAyaNa being the eldest surviving child, named in order
to 'cheat the gods', then mAdhava could not have been his elder
brother, no?

>Vishnu-Narayana is Krishna 'black' and K. as well as Raama and
>Varaha being black is more than coincidence. Maal is considered both
>black and beautiful in Tamil tradition. When the poetess ANTAL sings

While one hardly needs sthUNA-nikhanana-nyAya to agree that Vishnu
and Krishna and Rama are black, note the following -

narasimha, at least as important as (or perhaps more important
than) varAha, as one worthy of worship - not black.

vAmana and parazurAma - not particularly described as black
anywhere in the texts, to my knowledge.

buddha - the co-opted incarnation, not said to be black.

saMkarshaNa - the "third" rAma, twin-god with kRshNa-vAsudeva,
at least in the early history of Bhagavata and Pancaratra, and
often an incarnation, in both Tamil and Sanskrit Vaishna texts.
Not black again. Indeed, veLLaiccAmi and veLLaiyan. Add colour
coding like kari, veLLai and paccai for Vasudeva, Samkarshana
and Pradyumna in paripATal. See Lakshmi Srinivas's post -

kalki - the one to come in future, fair-skinned, riding on a
white steed.

And for the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, gauranga = fair-skinned!

Apparently, the mAyOn can take many forms and colours, using mAyA.
Didn't kRshNa say something about bhrama, in his discourse to his
cousin, friend and disciple, arjuna?!!

>There were attempts to interpolate this new rasam into Bharata's
>naaTya shaastra shlokam. Abhinavagupta's  11th century innovation is
>the new shaanta rasam which was linked to high religious experience.

zAnta-rasa and abhinavagupta are v. peripheral to this whole
thing, but now that you have brought a Kashmiri in, why isn't
the suffix -aNa in nAraNa/nArAyaNa akin to that in the names of
Kashmiri poets, kalhaNa and bilhaNa? After all, badarikAzrama,
the hermitage of the ancient sages, nara and nArAyaNa, is close
enough to Kashmir. At least much closer than to Tamil Nadu.
Also, nArAyaNa at Badrinath is often described as white, and
the mountain itself equated with nArAyaNa. It is hard to think
of a snow-capped Himalayan peak as black in colour.

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