Akam 113

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sun Sep 19 01:36:08 UTC 2010

Dear Indologists,

In the Classical Tamil poem Akanāṉūṟu (Akam) 113, consider the following line.

 eḻāap pāṇaṉ nal nāṭṭu umpar (Akam. 113.17)

The word 'eḻāa' has been interpreted by the commentators variously as meaning 'not attacking those fleeing the battle' or 'not fleeing from the battle'. I think what we seem to have here is a negative adjectival participial form of the causative 'eḻu' 'to make music, to play the lute', offering a simple and direct meaning of 'not making music'. The poet is cleverly using the same device we find in vēḷāp pārppāṉ (Akam.24.1) where vēḷā 'non-sacrificing' is used in a similar fashion. Thus Pāṇaṉ, the king or chieftain, is a pāṇaṉ who does not make music. Thus the poet signifies the dynastic name which later came to be called 'bāṇa'. We also find such usages involving homonyms such as porunar (porāap porunar 'non-fighting porunar') in Classical tamil texts. 

If this is correct, then what we have here is an indication that the earlier form of the dynastic name 'bāṇa' was most probably 'pāṇaṉ'. Such voicing of initial voiceless consonants could have arisen as in DEDR 4124 Ta. pāṉai Te. bāṉa or as a result of re-interpretation of the word 'pāṇa-' found in the compound Perumpāṇa- (as in Perumpāṇappāṭi, the region lying across the Tamil-Telugu border land) the Sanskrit equivalent of which would be Bṛhadbāṇa which is found in the Tālagunda pillar inscription of 5th century CE (EI 8, p.32). The voiced pronunciation of 'p' as 'b' after the nasal 'm' could have given rise to such interpretation. (There does not seem to be a Telugu cognate of DEDR 4068 Ta. pāṇaṉ). 

The Bāṇa dynasty later claimed an origin from the puranic asura Mahābali through his son Bāṇa. This connection is also indicated in the Maṇimēkalai 19.54. (Does any other Indian dynasty claim descent from Bali?)

A question arises as to whether 'Bāṇa' could not be the original and that the Tamil text simply devoiced 'b' to 'p'. If 'b' were the original, the Tamil form would usually end up being 'v' as indeed Cilappatikāram 6.54 referring to the puranic 'Bāṇa' as 'Vāṇaṉ' shows. The Cengam herostones of 6th century refer to the Bāṇa king as 'Perumpāṇṇaraicar'. From 7th century, the form ''Vāṇakō Araicaru' is seen more and more but 'we also see 'Perumpāṇatiyaraicar' in the 8th century. Thus if the word-initial sound is 'b', it seems to be rendered by Tamil 'v', while medial 'b' is rendered as Tamil 'p' since medially original Tamil 'p' would also sound as  'b'. In such a scenario, the name 'pāṇaṉ' in Akam. 113 with an initial 'p' instead of 'v' should most probably indicate that the original form was 'pāṇaṉ'. 

If that is correct, then we have the sound variation p-* > b- > v- in the names attested over time.

A related discussion is found in Iravatham Mahadevan's "Early Tamil Epigraphy," p. 629. However, Dr. E. Subbarayalu feels that 'pāṇarāṣṭra' mentioned in "Lokavibhāga' may be different from Perumpāṇappāṭi.

I would appreciate comments from the Indologists.

Thanks in advance.


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