Venkatraman Iyer venkatraman_iyer at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 9 18:01:04 UTC 2000

Dr. S. Palaniappan wrote:
I would like to note the following discussion by Asko Parpola in his
"The Pre-Vedic Indian Background of the S'rauta Rituals" in "Agni:
The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar" ed. by Frits Staal.

Discussing the etymology of the word kinnara, he says, "The second
part of the compound could be the Proto-Dravidian root Jaral, naral,
naraku, etc., meaning "to sound, make noise, hum (as many voices),
grumble, groan, roar," which is attested in all branches of Dravidian
from Tamil to Malto (DED 2365). In Tamil we have from this root
naralvu 'sounding, roaring, high pitch, vibrating sound of a lute',
and narampu 'the string of the harp (yAz)' (also 'the particular tune
appropriate to the string' and 'stringed instrument'), which is
attested very many times in Old Tamil texts, including the most
ancient one (tolkAppiyam, ez.33; akam 109.2; see also Subrahmanian
1966, 479, and Tamil Lexicon, s.v.). Another possibility is the
Proto-Dravidian word Jarampu, narampu 'nerve, sinew, vein' (DED +
DEDS + DEN no. 2364, attested from Tamil to Malto), from which we
have forms like Kannada naravu, nara, Tulu nara, Telugu naramu,
Kolami naram, Gondi naral, naram. Sinews have been used as bow and
harp strings, and so the former item seems to be derived from the

He also derives the Old Babylonian word "kinnArum"  from this
Dravidian nara.

Considering Narada's association with music, I would ask IE/IA experts
if the name cannot be derived from Dravidian nar-.

I agree. NArada in the epics probably represents a characterization
of the PaaNar, the bards in sangam poems.The paaNan bards, perhaps
the archetype for nArada, can be seen in the 100s of kOvai
prabandhams. Typically, paaNan arrives at the heroine's home as a
messenger for the husband who returned from prostitutes. Sometimes,
he will be scolded by Her for the kalakam he creates, She throws
stones at him, his yAzh(veena) gourd gets punctured,....

In Indology list, it was announced about Prof. Parpola's kinnara
paper. I was looking for it in the Deshpande/Bronkhorst
"Aryan/Non-Aryan" volume (HOS), but could not find it. Did
Prof. Parpola publish this elsewhere?

V. Iyer


October 25-27, 1996
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Asko Parpola (University of Helsinki)

At the Fourth World Sanskrit Conference held in Weimar in 1979 I
presented a paper on this very same theme, and a one-page abstract was
published in the proceedings. A more extended outline of the argument
was included in a paper that came out four years later with the
title "The pre-Vedic Indian background of the Zrauta rituals" (pp.
41-75 in: Frits Staal ed., Agni: The Vedic ritual of the fire altar,
vol. II, Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1983). I am returning to
this subject for three reasons. Firstly, the documentation of those
earlier outlines is defective; secondly, my contentions have escaped
the notice of scholars writing on kiMpuruSa / kinnara (cf.
M. Mayrhofter, Etymologisches Woerterbuch des Altindoarischen  I,
Heidelberg 1992, p. 348; and A. Wayman's paper on kinnara read at
the meeting of the AOS in 1994); and thirdly, some striking new
material pertinent to this topic has come to light in the meantime.
I have also continued my work on the prehistory of early Indian
religions, which I find necessary for understanding the
mixture of early Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, as represented by these words.
         The structure of the paper is as follows:
1. The meaning of kiMpuruSa and kinnara in classical Sanskrit,
Prakrit and Neo-Indo-Aryan.
2. The meaning of kiMpuruSa in Vedic texts.
3. The ritual context of Vedic kiMpuruSa and its Proto-Aryan
4. Etymology of kiMpuruSa and kinnara: Proto-Dravidian *kinnaram and
its occurrence in the Near East (Semitic *kinnAru) since the last
quarter of the third millennium BC --- if accepted, this is by far
the earliest attestation of any Dravidian word.
5.  Hypotheses concerning the contexts of *kinnaram in the
Harappan / Dravidian religion.

Get Your Private, Free Email at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list