[INDOLOGY] lighting lamps and cooking meat in north Indian tradition

palaniappa at aol.com palaniappa at aol.com
Sun Mar 9 07:18:07 UTC 2014

Dear George,
In Akam. 64.5-6, wehave "neykaṉi nōṉkāḻ veṉvēl" and in Akam. 123.9, we have"neykaṉi neṭuvēl". There 'ney' is mentioned explicitly. But inAkam 113.15, the noun 'ney' is left out. I would be interested inseeing the variants, if any, in the manuscripts.
Kali.115.7 mentionsthe girls of the pastoral community applying butter to the hair on someoccasions at least.  Otherwise wefind Kuṟu. 312.6 and Kuṟi. 107 in which woman and man of the mountain regionapplying oil to the hair. So does Puṟ. 279.9. In Akam 177.4, I would interpret 'ney' as oil.
As for the word 'neymmiti',I suggest that the word stands for oil-cake commonly known as piṇṇākkuin Tamil, glossed by Tamil Lexicon as 'oil-cake made of the residue of oilseeds'. The word itself could be from neymmikuti > neymmīti interpretedas 'residue after oil'. The change of -mīti > -miti could bedue to metrical reasons. The commentators' explanations are not convincing whenthey say the food balls are trampled on. Oil-cake seems to be a common fooditem for horses. See http://www.elsenburg.com/info/els/063/063e.html. 

-----Original Message-----
From: George Hart <glhart at berkeley.edu>
To: Palaniappa <Palaniappa at aol.com>
Sent: Tue, Mar 4, 2014 1:19 pm
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] lighting lamps and cooking meat in north Indian tradition

Dear Palaniappan,

In Akam 113, line 15, we have kaṉaiyirum curuṇai kaṇi kāḻ neṭu vēl, which seems to mean “long spear with a heavy (dense) ferrule and oiled shaft.”  It is notable that kaṉi is used for “oiled,” though of course that doesn’t mean they didn’t use ghee.  I’m also a bit puzzled by horses eating paddy mixed with ghee (Akam 400) — you’d think they would not have exactly thrived.  There’s also Akam 177.4, where “ney” is used to oil a woman’s hair — have you ever heard of this?  George

On Feb 22, 2014, at 7:10 AM, Palaniappa at aol.com wrote:

Dear Indologists,

When one reads the glosses provided by traditional and modern commentators of Classical Tamil texts, one would come away with the impression that except in the coastal areas, people cooked meat in ghee, and lit lamps with ghee. Although in medieval times ghee from cow's milk and goat's milk were used to light lamps in temples, I do not think most people used ghee to light lamps. After all, in Tamil we call castor oil as viḷakkeṇṇai (lamp oil) and coconut oil as veḷicceṇṇai (brightness oil). Similarly, for frying and deep-frying meat items, the commentators leave the term 'ney' unexplained giving the impression that they were cooked in ghee. As expected translators of the poems, translate all these instances as meat items have been cooked in ghee!  (One would also see all the spears and arrows in the armory being smeared with ghee too!) According to a culinary expert, traditionally meat items are cooked in oil in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. 

I would appreciate if someone can provide information on what Indo-Aryan texts say about the different uses of ghee and oil for cooking and lighting.

Thanks in advance


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