Telugu history

Raveen Satkurunathan tawady at YAHOO.COM
Thu Mar 16 19:31:42 UTC 2000

On , Bh. Krishnamurti <bhk at HD1.VSNL.NET.IN> wrote:

>And what about the naming pattern in Tamil Nadu--GaNesan, KaruNaanidhi,
>SaNmukam, etc. How old is this tradition? Most Tamil names, if you look at
>the electoral roles, are of Sanskrit origin as it is true of the other
>literary Dravidian languages. Nativizing Sanskrit names into Tamil, like
>neTunceZiyan, aaRmukam, etc. is a recent trend which has political origins
>and overtones.Post Independent Tamil naming conventions

Indian sub continental society irrespective of regional, religious differences
has had “at least” two vastly different naming conventions till post colonial
time period, one for a miniscule Sanskritized and Arabised elite and yet another
for a vast majority people underneath them. It is only after the emergence of
western educated elites and their social movements and modern nation states
that an awareness of Sanskritic, Arabic and Judeo-Christian cultural roots
penetrated many of  “downtrodden” people. Till that time they were and in some
instances still are lead by animist beliefs and village elders or shamans
associated with a tribal or insular “caste” way of life superimposed by a thin
veneer of Sanskritic or Turko-Persian Arabic culture. Their names reflected
local culture, regional features and non-Hindu deities.

Until three to four generations ago vast majority of South Indians except a tiny
Sanskritized and Arabised minority had a preponderance non-Sanskritic or
Prakrit and Arabic names. The commonly used “elements” of names irrespective of
religious affiliations among “native” Tamil speakers were the following.

Karupu, Kuppai, Vellai, Sudalai, Anna, Akka, Appa, Amma, Pichai, Palani, Thambi,
Peria, Sinna, Muthu etc.,

Other South Indian ethnic groups also used and still use similar cognates
including IE dominated Sri Lanka. With independence and the push by the
formerly “downtrodden” castes for social up liftmen and acceptance has made
them imitate as one-aspect of this rebellion names of their social elites. This
is true of even of the Tamil speaking Muslims of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka whose
Arabization started in earnest only after independence due to many social
conditions. Modern mass literacy schemes, mass media, social movements,
religious revivalism and regional “pride” movements also aided the tendency to
Sanskritize or Arabise names.

The transition to Sanskritized names is very evident in many names of modern
Tamils, Take for or example a typical Tamil name, Sinnapan Naresh. His father’s
name Sinnappan a purely a Tamil one where as his given name Naresh is Sanskrit
derived name. Very many Tamils carry such hybrid names without even realizing
the significance of it. In a typical non-Brahmin Tamil family where I started
this interesting research regarding Sanskritized names, one branch had had
Sanskritized or hybrid names for at least up to seven generations where as
another had it just for two generations. The clan, which had it only for two
generations were considered as upstarts and were “looked down” upon the rest of
the family members

As a reaction to this phenomenon some Tamils aided by the Dravidian Movement and
others such as Manipuris and indigenous Tripuris also influenced by nativist
tendencies have revived an effort to go back to their roots renouncing the
postcolonial so called “aberration”. But politically “aware” Tamils specially
in India instead of going back to the names of their grand parents and great
grand parents seem to prefer the names of Tamil aristocracy of the Cankam Tamil
(CT) period, because these ‘refined” names seems not have any “lower caste”
connotations. In my opinion even the CT names reflect a difference between the
urbane, aristocratic and culturally Indic urban elites and the common people
except the emphasis of the then elites was on being “refined Tamil” rather
than “Sanskrit” most probably due to Buddhist and Jaina influences. Refined
Tamil enabled them to differentiate them from the common people with "unrefined"
Tamil names such as listed above.

Interesting observation is that just before dawn of colonial period even the
Brahmins who were at the apex of the caste system had Tamil or hybrid
Tamil/Sanskrit names such as Appaiah Iyer. Many Vellalas who were just below the
Brahmins in the caste hierarchy also had Tamil names intermixed with Tamilized
Sanskrit names which was eventually aped by the other castes during the modern
times.  So the emphasis on purely Sanskritized names and its mirror the purely
Tamils names is a very modern concept with echoes in the distant CT past.

This would be an interesting subject for a “real” Indologist or Dravidiologist
to investigate.


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