Mangala- title for brahmin physicians

Whitney Cox wc3 at SOAS.AC.UK
Sat Apr 28 21:06:41 UTC 2012

Dear Dr. Palaniappan,

In his article "Sociological Aspects of the Personal Names and Titles" (in
the new volume South India Under the Cholas, OUP 2012 pp. 49-53; the
relevant part of which was previously published as "The Mangala title in
Pandya Inscriptions" in Rajagopal, ed. Kaveri: Studies in Epigraphy,
Archaeology, and History, Panpattu Veliittakam, Chennai 2001), Y.
Subbarayalu has discussed the occurrence of these figures in a series of
seventh and eight century Pāṇṭiya records.  Differing from K V. Raman who
shares your interpretation of these figures as brahmans (citing "The
History of the Pandyas (in Tamil) Madras, 1977"; the only reference I can
find for a 1977 Tamil language publication by this scholar is his Tolliyal
āyvukaḷ, Chennai: Cekar Patippakam), Y.S. suggests that these figures were
members of the barber caste, as well as medical practitioners.  I do not
have the epigraphical publications to hand as I write this, but he reports
that they are identified as members of the vaidyakula, which Raman saw as a
derived from Veda, and hence presumed them to be Brahmans. By contrast,
Y.S. reports (I did not know this myself) that maṅkala/maṅkaliyan is a name
for a member of the barber community (citing the Tamil Lexicon; the MTL
also has "மங்கலவினைஞன் maṅkala-viṉaiñaṉ, *n*. < id. +. 1. Barber, as doing
auspicious work"), a caste-title also apparently available in Telugu.  The
connection between medicine and barbers is a natural one, as Y.S. points
out (p. 52), "barbers were also rural physicians [and the] ladies of the
barber community were used to be [sic] midwives in villages".

This is something that was paralleled in Europe, where the surgical
profession emerged from barbers' guilds, rather than from the university
educated doctors of medicine (surgeons in Britain, for instance, are still
routinely addressed as "Mr./Mrs." instead of "Dr.").


Whitney Cox

On 27 April 2012 22:19, Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan <palaniappa at> wrote:

> In Tamil inscriptions, one notices that brahmin physicians are given
> titles with the first component being maGkala- as in maGkalappEraraiyan2.
> Is there any  Sanskrit/Prakrit inscriptions or literary texts that show any
> physician in north India with the title maGgala-?
>  Thanks in advance
>  Regards,
> S. Palaniappan


Dr. Whitney Cox
Senior Lecturer in Sanskrit
Department of the Languages and Cultures of South Asia,
School of Oriental and African Studies
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG

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