Friday, November 26, 2010

Tamil Indus? - Korkay, Vanji, Tondi in the North-West and a ‘Bone-eating Camel’ in the Caṅkam Text

(Published in Journal of Tamil Studies, Vol.77, June 2010)



Can Caṅkam corpus, the ancient extant Dravidian literature, be a source to identify the language of the Indus script; a collateral evidence to estimate the ethno-linguistic composition of Indus Civilization? I seek to answer this question in affirmative. I have located a group of place names in the Indus –Harappan geographies (modern Pakistan and adjoining regions), which I choose to call as "Korkay, Vanji, Tondi Complex." This 'complex' contains perfect parallels to "Koṟkai-Vañci-Toṇṭi" and many other geographical names and anthroponyms attested in Cakam Tamil texts. I propose that these identical name-heritage complexes of the north-western geographies and the extreme south provide reliable markers for the probable migration of Dravidians following the collapse of Indus Valley Civilization. I call in the evidence of "bone-eating camel" described in Akanāṉūṟu as a testimony for the earlier presence of Dravidians in the north-western geographies (particularly Gujarat). And, I conclude that the Cakam corpus in part represents the 'carried forward memories' of a remote past, the coordinates of which can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization and late Harappan cultures and relevant geographies.

1. Introduction

1.1 Asko Parpola and Iravatham Mahadevan recognize the relevance of Old Tamil in the context of Indus Valley Civilization. Asko Parpola holds the Old Tamil traditions as a 'most important source in any attempt to decipher the Indus script based on the hypothesis of a Dravidian affinity for the Indus language' (Parpola 1994). According to Iravatham Mahadevan, "the Indus script is not merely Dravidian linguistically, but is also culturally much closer to Old Tamil polity than has been recognized so far." (Mahadevan, 2009)

1.2 However, both these proponents of Dravidian hypothesis qualify their above assessments with subtle reservations and preconditions. Iravatham Mahadevan treats 'the vast gap in space and time, something like 2000 years and 2000 miles' as a restricting factor that leads him to think that 'any direct relationship between the Indus Valley and the deep Dravidian south is unlikely' (Mahadevan's 1998 interview). Parpola is of the view that questions such as whether there was 'any historical relationship between the Tamil culture of the extreme south and the Indus Civilization of the northwest' existed and how did the Tamil culture arise and when and where did the Tamil language come from should be answered 'not only to legitimize the use of Old Tamil sources, but also in order to evaluate them better' (Parpola 1994)

1.3 On the other hand, there are voices that amount to downright rejection of the relevance of Tamil traditions. "The language codified in the Indus scripts cannot be Dravidian. Dravidian researchers rely on much later Tamil traditions, whose locus in historical times lay some two thousand kilometres from the Indus Valley", they say (Farmer, Sproat and Witzel 2004).

1.4 The presence of Brahui, a Dravidian language in Baluchistan, an Indus neighbourhood, by itself has failed to impress the detractors of Dravidian hypothesis. The 'great contrast'
between the 'highly developed city-civilization of Mohenjo-daro' and the' wandering tent-life
of the hill Brahuis' (Sir Denis Bray: 1934) makes the Brahui more of a problem than a solution. If the 'great contrast' is the problem for Brahui, the restricting factor for the use of Old Tamil is the 'great distance.' Unless a 'radically different' source material becomes available, as Parpola after decades of efforts concludes, "it looks most unlikely that the Indus script will ever be deciphered fully" (Parpola, 1994).

1.5 However, As new archaeological evidence that point to the common traits between the late Harappan Culture and the Iron Age Culture of the Tamils; potsherds with Indus like signs emerge in various parts of 'deep Dravidian south', there are indications that the 'vast gap in space and time' between late Harappan Culture and Old Tamil Culture and geographies bound to shrink.

1.6 Pending a convincing decipherment of the Indus script, the Dravidian authorship of the Indus Civilization has to be established through other fresh evidence. This would also mean to prove the physical presence of Dravidian speakers in the Indus-Harappan regions during relevant prehistoric times. And such proof shall come from within the Indus-Harappan geography or at least from the adjoining regions of late Harappan Cultures and should bear verifiable Dravidian markers. Reversely, some' exclusive' aspects of north-western geography shall also be traceable in the South Dravidian milieus which can be treated as a proof for the earlier presence of Dravidians in the geographies that could be linked to Indus –Harappan Civilization. And, that is the task.

1.7 I propose to accomplish this objective through a 'two -way check' by identifying some 'exclusive' Dravidian markers in the Indus-Harappan geography and also some 'exclusive' aspect of north-western geographies in the 'deep Dravidian South.' And, that is the offer.

2 Why Caṅkam texts can be a source material?

2.1 The Harappans are estimated to have numbered about one million and the Civilization did not suffer a sudden death; it gradually declined. Harappan traditions continued without a break, becoming transformed gradually into the various Late Harappan cultures. If so, what happened to those architects of one of the most advanced urban civilizations, the craftsmen and maritime traders? It is unlikely that they climbed up the high hills and became Brahuis or started hunting and food gathering in Central India. If the evidence for the Dravidian hypothesis has to be gathered from within the modern Dravidian milieus then the vestiges of late Harappan cultures shall be explored appropriately in a culture with an attested antiquity. Caṅkam texts represent the ancient extant Dravidian literature and there comes the prima facie case for the use of Old Tamil.

2.2 The chronology of Caṅkam literature is generally placed between the 3rd century BC and 1st century A.D and the Caṅkam texts provide a good deal of insight into the contours of Tamil prehistory. The entire corpus of Caṅkam literature cannot be treated as a 'running commentary' on the events of the Caṅkam age. Tolkāppiyam, the ancient extant Tamil grammar makes numerous mentions of earlier works. There are many names in Caṅkam texts which probably had become archaic by the time Caṅkam texts were compiled. As, M.A.Dorai Rangaswamy states: "It is the memory of the old traditions that could have been preserved if at all in these names. These names because of their distinction and difference may be looked upon as a vague memory of an ancient tribal organization" (Dorai Rangaswamy, 1947). By any reckon the contents of Caṅkam texts at least in part, dealt with a period prior to the Caṅkam age and to that extent a period closer to the collapse of Harappan civilization.

2.3 Caṅkam texts dealt with the geographies beyond the current geographical boundaries of modern Tamilnadu. Caṅkam texts refer to territories such as Tuḷu and Koṇkāṉam which were ruled by Tamil chieftains. Koṇkāṉam is identified with the areas adjoining Maharashtra. As the archeological evidence shows the definite spread of late Harappan cultures in Maharashtra, the Caṅkam texts by implication take us closer to the late Indus-Harappan cultures.

2.4 There is a direct reference in the Caṅkam text, to the ancient migrations of Vēḷir from Tuvarai identified with modern Dwaraka region in Gujarat where Indus-Harappan culture once flourished. Thus, Caṅkam texts enable us get closer spatially and temporally to Indus and late Harappan cultures and there exists a strong prima facie case for considering Caṅkam Tamil texts as a potential source material in the context of locating the remnants of post-Harappan cultures in the current geographies of Dravidian speakers.

3 What is the relevance of Caṅkam Names in the context of Dravidian Hypothesis?

3.1 Place names could prove to be more ancient than the ancient most civilizations for place names preexisted the dawn of civilizations and have outlived their collapse. Place names survive the language and populations shifts and remain as a 'fossilized representation of an immemorial past' and can provide reliable markers for past migrations.

3.2. Scholars like Allchins, Sankalia, Parpola, I.Mahadevan and F.C. Southworth have used the toponymic evidence in the context of Dravidian hypothesis. Parpola Says: "Harappan Place Names could provide potential clue to the identification of Harappan language. (Parpola 1994) "According to I.Mahadevan, "the opening phrases of Indus texts are likely to contain place names"

3.3 If Dravidians once lived in Indus-Harappan regions, notwithstanding the collapse of the civilization some 3500 to 3800 years back, the tell-tale markers for their earlier presence can still be anticipated to remain fossilized in the form of place names in the very regions and if the Dravidians had moved into other regions following the collapse of the civilization they can be expected to have carried their Indus place names and reused them in their new locations. Even though the comparative toponyms of the 'deep Dravidian South' and the Indus-Harappan geographies (modern Pakistan) may contain identical remnants there will still be a problem in providing a time-tag to the migration of these names. In this context, the attested antiquity of names gain significance and the Caṅkam texts being the ancient extant Dravidian corpus the names attested in the corpus acquire legitimacy to be used in a study of this nature and objective.

3.4 Caṅkam literature is an Onomastic treasure trove. It is indeed a literature of names. Caṅkam Tamils had well-established naming conventions and names occupied a central stage in the collective consciousness of Caṅkam Tamils. There is evidence to show that the ancient Tamils reused their place names in their new locations as is evident in the case of place name 'Maturai'.

3.5 The 'litmus-test' to establish the Dravidian authorship of Indus Civilization would be to locate the place names of Indus- Harappan area (modern Pakistan) in Caṅkam texts or vice-versa.

4. "KVT Complex" in Indus-Harappan Regions

4.1 Place names Korkay, Gorkay (Afghansitan), Gorkai, Gorkhai, Vanji, Tondi, Matrai, Urai, Kudal Garh, and Koli of Pakistan probably represent the prehistoric footprints of the names of capital towns and ports of Caṅkam age.

4.2 Place names Ambar, Toti, Tonri, Ilam, Kachi, Kakai, Kanam, Kalar, Kong, Nalai, Neri, Pothi, Por, Malli, Mantoi, Moshe, Wallar, Wakai, Vani, Milai and Kandir of modern Pakistan have their exact replicas as place names in Caṅkam texts.

4.3 It is a common phenomenon that river names occur as toponyms. Place names Kawri, Porni and Poruns of Afghanistan and Kaweri Wala, Phornai, Puronai, Khariaro of Pakistan are comparable with the river names attested in Caṅkam texts. Korkai again is the name of a river in Pakistan. Pohru is the name of a tributary of Jhelum River in Pakistan and it evokes the memories of the name of the submerged river i.e 'Pakruli' attested in the Caṅkam texts.

4.4 Similarly, the toponyms Podineh, Parambu Darrahe and Awi (Afghanistan); Potiyan, Palani, Toti (Pakistan) are comparable with the ancient Tamil hills. The place name Potikeh of Iran where many other toponymic foot prints of ancient Tamil place names can be found remind us of Potikai mountain of Caṅkam texts.

4.5 Place names Karka, Wen, Kudam, Kutta, Sidha, Malai, Talai and Pongar wali of Pakistan invite valid comparison with the names of Tamil dialect regions referred to in ancient Tamil texts and commentaries.

4.6 Place names such as Malai, Kodu, Kunru, Warai, Mudi, Parai, Sunai, Enal, Kadu, Kanam, Pulai, Purai, Adawiy, Aru, Yaru, Kalani, Manal, Nilam, Nilai, Tarai, Teru, Manai, Tirai, Kalari, Palai, Suram and Kurumbai occur as mono-word place names in Indus-Harappan regions and beyond. These names are the exact parallels of generic terms assigned to various geographical features associated with different geo-physical regions referred to in the Cankam texts. place name generics such as Malai, Kodu, Warai, Kunru and so on as mentioned above occurring as mono-word place name without any prefix is indicative of antiquity and direction of name-flow.

5. Migrants from KVT Complex carried their place names as their personal names

5.1 Alexander Beider who has done an extensive study on Jewish surnames says that appellations based on place names are formed not from the name of locality where the person lives, but from the name of the locality from which he came. In the context of migrations out of Indus-Harappan area (identified as Meluhha in Sumerian texts), Asko Parpola informs about the migrants from Meluhha who had integrated in Mesopotamian society had carried the name Meluhha as not only a place name but also as personal name (Parpola 1994).

5.2 If we assume that the Dravidians of Indus- Harappan areas during the decline or after the collapse of the civilization migrated to other parts of India particularly towards Gujarat, Maharashtra and from there to southern India we can very well assume that they would have carried their existing place names as their place names in the new locations and also as their personal names. We have already seen the evidence of identical place names that are common to the KVT Complex of Indus-Harappan regions and Caṅkam texts. Then what about KVT place names becoming personal names? It seems they did.

6. Indus-Harappan Place names as ethnonyms and personal names in Caṅkam Texts

6.1 Place names Ayar, Marawar, Kalamar, Konkar, Andar, Kalai, Panar, Dhudian and Ariwala of Pakistan could be indicative of the exact names attested as tribe names in Caṅkam texts. It is relevant to recollect George R. Stewart's observation that 'many tribal names are certainly derived from place-names.' (Stewart 1975)

6.2 The place names such as Ceran, Seran, Seran Wali,Seral, Chola, Cholara landi, Pandi, Pandiar, Pandian Wala, Porai, Kotai, Udian, Udhiar, Kutwan Nala, Kutvar, Valudi, Killi, Chelian Wala, Maran, Karikalan, Garigal, Sibi, Kavera, Manak, Killi, Kalangai, Mandaran Wala etc., bear evidence to the suggestion that the genesis of the names of tribes, dynasties, surnames and personal names of Caṅkam kings can be traced to their toponymic origin in the north-western geographies.

6.3 What is true of Royal names is equally true of clan names and personal names of the chieftains of Caṅkam texts as well. Place names Titian, Panni, Nalli, Kodan, Pari, Pittan, Pindan, Matti, Muwan, Kati, Udian in the Indus Harappan regions and other areas of modern Pakistan are indicative of the trend. Place names such as Adiyaman, Adiaman, Nedaman, Anni, Minzli, Velian and Pegan of Iran; Anji, Chatan, Atan of Afghanistan provide tell-tale markers for the trajectories of ancient migrations.

7. Migration of Gods

7.1 When a Civilization moves could gods be left behind? There are place names such as Korri, Korrai, Anang, Anangurai, Mayan, Mal, Perumal Kuhe, Seyan, Murugan Wala, Muruk, Vel, Welan, Kumaran Wali, Vendar, Sivan, Esan, Esar, Valli, Kamawel, Kurram, Sur, Suran in the region under focus remind us of the names of Tamil Pantheon of Gods.

7.3 Iravatham Mahadevan has interpreted Indus signs 47 and 48 as 'Muruku', the Tamil god (Mahadevan 1999). He cites archeological parallels found in the potsherds at Sanur, Mankudi in Kerala and at Muciri in Kerala bearing 'Muruku' like Indus signs to prove his point. Asko Parpola reads "...the sign of 'two intersecting circles' engraved on many Harappan bangles as s the Dravidian word muruku..." (Parpola 1994). In this context place names of Indus-Harappan geographies such as Murugan Wala, Murghan, Welan, Kumaran Wali, Kamawel that remind us of the names of god Murugan attested in Caṅkam texts are of significant relevance. The place names Palani, Tanike, Parang, Kunru, Sental of Pakistan; Chendi, Cholay, Podini Ghar, Podineh and Eraka of the neighboring Afghanistan that remind us of the abodes of Murukan attested in ancient Tamil texts further endorse the above view.

8. KVT Complex- not a mere coincidence

8.1 The KVT complexes of Indus-Harappan geographies and the Caṅkam Tamil texts cannot be a mere coincidence. The counts of identical names are too enormous to be ignored. There is a clear thematic coherence such as place names of significant importance, dynasty names, tribe names, royal names, names of chieftains, names of gods and so on. There has been a definite migration of names involving the geographies of these two KVT complexes. This leads us to some inevitable questions. How to prove the direction of this name transfers and how to give a date-line to these migrations and how to link these migrations to Indus-Harappan Civilization?

8.2 We are not sure about the importance of place names such as Korkai, Vanji, Tondi, Matrai etc., in the exact context of Indus Civilization. But, we are sure that these names enjoyed a great deal of reputation in the context of Caṅkam texts. In that sense, notwithstanding the direction and timeframe of these name- transfers we may hold, at this stage that place names that came to be celebrate exclusively in Caṅkam texts have survived till date in the Indus-Harappan geographies as well. Then how about finding something 'exclusive' to north-western geographies in Caṅkam text that could prove the physical presence of Dravidians in Gujarat that would provide the crucial link to bridge the 'vast gap in space and in time' between two KVT complexes?

9. The "Bone-Eating Camel" (Akanāṉūṟu 245)

9.1 The Caṅkam corpus does not give an impression of pālai or wasteland being seen as a naturally occurring ecology of Tamil land. In modern Tamil, expressions such as 'vaṟaṇṭa nilam', 'vāṉam
pārtta pūmi' etc are used to denote 'arid land'; 'rain-fed land' respectively. The expression 'pālai' is used to denote 'desert land' (like Thar Desert) but, pālai does not form part of southern geography. Because of this it required Iḷampūraṇar, the commentator for Tolkāppiyam, to explain that the landscape of the wasteland (with which the term pālai is associated) emerges when other landscapes whither under the heat of the burning sun and pālai is seen as a mixture of Mullai (forest) and Kuṟiñci (hilly) tracts, rather than as a mere sandy area

9.2 But, Tolkāppiyam (Marapiyal 18) and Akanāṉūṟu 245) hold a surprise for us by referring to Camel, an animal associated with deserts. In the context of prescribing appropriate generic terms that are traditionally used in poetry to denote the various baby-animals, Tolkāppiyam informs that the camel-calf is called 'kaṉṟu'. It is relevant to note that in the Tamil poetic conventions camel is not treated as a 'constituent element' (karupporuḷ) to the corresponding pālai landscape. That means pālai as a geographical unit was not referring to 'desert' like Thar Desert but 'desert like waste land' If so, what could be the rationale for Camel-calf being dealt with in Tolkāppiyam?

9.3 In Akanāṉūṟu (245) we not only come across camels in wild, desert like geo-setting but also find the description of starving camels desperately eating white- bones there. The poem comes under the conceptual unit of Palai (i.e desert land). The relevant lines read as follow:

"செல்சாத்தெறியும் பண்பில் வாழ்க்கை......ஆங்கண் குறும்பொறை யுணங்குந் ததர்வெள் ளென்பு கடுங்கால் ஒட்டகத் தலீகுபசி தீர்க்கும் கன்னெடுங் கவலைய கானம்"

9.4 In the above poem the poet talks about uncultured life in a rough and tough landscape where the caravans of traders are attacked and looted mercilessly. The poet talks in graphic details about the stony expanse where the starving camels eat the scattered white-bones (of perished animals) in desperate hunger. The poet even appellatively describes the anatomy of camel with an emphasis on its 'tough- leg' (kaṭuṅkāl oṭṭakam). This description adds to the understanding of the toughness of the terrain. The author of this poem is one Maṭurai Marutaṉ Iḷanākaṉār. As his name indicates he was a resident of Madurai. The question is how and where this poet from Madurai could have witnessed the scene of camel s eating white-bones in hunger in the backdrop of a stony expanse where traders were transporting their merchandise. We are not sure whether the traders were using the camels as beast of burden or the camels were seen in wild. Whatever the case, this leads us to following questions: Whether Camel, an herbivorous, will really eat bones and if so under what circumstance? The Camel-truth is as follow:

  • When a camel travels across the desert, food may be hard to find. If food is very scarce, a camel will eat anything--bones, fish, meat, leather, and even its owner's tent. ((
  • A camel can go 5-7 days with little or no food and water. Camels in the wild eat whatever they can find, including even leather, bones, seeds or dried leaves. (

9.5 It is clear that Camels do eat bone in the wild; not by choice but out of desperation when they go without food for days together. If so, how could a poet of Caṅkam age from a 'no-camel land' could closely observe the scene of camels eating bone and could provide a graphic picture in his poetry? This would mean that the "extended geography" of Caṅkam literature (not necessarily the actual physical geography of the Caṅkam age and its polity) included a desert region where camels ate scattered white bones in wild. The nearest desert to the Tamil country is in Gujarat, where Late Harappan and post-Harappan cultures once flourished. It is relevant to note that Gujarat along with Maharashtra is counted among five Dravidian lands (Pancha Dravida). This paradox of 'bone-eating camel' in the poetry compiled in the 'non-desert, non-Camel' Tamil geography can be reconciled only by recognizing the fact that the pre-Caṅkam past of the Tamils probably had a desert connection and the 'bone-eating Camel' and this desert -experience first became part of oral poetry and later became part of Caṅkam texts when the bardic oral literary traditions were given a formal poetic expression when Caṅkam texts were compiled.

9.6 If so, is there any other literary evidence or a potential clue that could suggest a connection between Tamils of Caṅkam age or their ancestors to the areas now form part of modern Gujarat? Answer to this is available in Puṟanāṉūṟu 201

10 Vēḷir Migration from north-western geographies (Puṟanāṉūṟu 201)

10.1 Kapilar, a prominent poet of Caṅkam age addresses a Vēḷir ruler reminding him of his remote ancestors who once ruled a place called Tuvarai.

"நீயே, வடபால் முனிவன் தடவினுள் தோன்றிச்

செம்பு புனைந்தியற்றிய சேணெடும் புரிசை

உவரா ஈகைத் துவரை யாண்டு நாற்பத் தொன்பது

வழிமுறை வந்த வேளிருள் வேளே"

"Oh Vēḷir among the Vēḷir! you are descended through forty-nine generations of the lineage of unwearying liberality which arising out of the water-pitcher of the Northern Sage, ruled over Tuvarai surrounded by long and soaring walls made of bronze" he says.

10.2 The above legend is again recalled by Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar in his commentary on Tolkāppiyam. Commentators have identified Tuvarai with Tuvarāpati and Iravatham Mahadevan identifies Tuvarai with Dvārakā in Gujarat
and 'Northern Sage' with Akattiyar, the Tamil sage. (Mahadevan, 2009)

10.3 Thus the Caṅkam text not only provide evidence to the fact that the bone-eating camels were part of the prehistoric geographies of the Tamils (pre-Caṅkam Tamils) but also provide information locating the remote ancestors of Vēḷirs of Caṅkam age in late Harappan regions (modern Gujarat), the geographies of the bone-eating camels.

11 Toponymic evidence for a 'Dravidian Gujarat'

11.1 The Remnants of Dravidian name- heritage in the toponymy of Gujarat can be traced in multiple ways.

  • Dravidian place name suffix occurring as a mono-word place name: Malai, Palli, Padi
  • Exactly matching or showing close resemblance to the place names attested in Caṅkam texts: Virai, Por, Mankudi, Pali, Thuvar,Kachchh, Kural, Kurala, Bakrol, Pattan, Kadiyali

  • Place names that can be connected to Vēḷir legend referred to in Akam.201: Meru, Agatiya, Thuvar, Velala, Velpura, Velari, Vindh, Kaveriya, Potiya.
  • Place names that resemble the names of Tamil dialect areas mentioned by commentators: Malai, Panri, Kuda, Vena
  • Place name that matches current place name in Tamilnadu: Eral, Mankudi

12 Toponymic evidence for a 'Dravidian Maharashtra'

12.1 There are 71 place names in Maharashtra with 'Palli' as suffix. Kurumpalli, Singampalli, Arkapalli, Chirepalli and Tekampalli can be cited as few examples. As many as 119 place names with 'Ur' as suffix can be identified which include names such as Karur, Anjur, Manur, Penur, Anur, Yelur, Alur, Kallur, Telur, Illur, Sellur, Malur, Madur, Badur and so on.

12.1 Besides, there are place names such as Karkudi, Torankudi, Cholai, Malai, Mahalkadu, Chakadu, Manurwadi, Yelwadi, Kandarwadi, Tamalwadi, Telengwadi, Tandalwadi, Cheravali, Tekavali, Kudavali, Narivali, Kudavali, Vayal, Neri, Shivaneri, Atpadi, Karpadi, Parainar (Parainad), Italnar (Italnad), Akkarpatti, Sundarpatti and many such place names that occur in Maharashtra confirm that place names in Maharashtra, where archeological evidence for late Harappan culture has been found , provide the essential link between the late Harappan cultures and the Dravidian south.

13 How these name transfers can be connected to IVC?

13.1 The names such as Korkai, Vanji, Tondi and many other names that are common to north-western geographies (Indus-Harappan regions of modern Pakistan and adjoining areas) and Caṅkam Tamil texts are not attested in Indo-Aryan literature and thus came to be inherited, owned up and repeatedly used only by the Tamil speakers. As these names are found in the Indus-Harappan regions questions arises as to how and when these names travelled from one region to the other? Opinion may differ when it comes to the direction of these name transfers. But, that cannot take away the importance of these names being common to both the regions and its relevance in identifying the language of the Indus script.

13.2 The names of KVT have not been attested in Vedic texts. If these name transfers due to a large scale migration of people had taken place during historic periods the event as well these names would not have escaped being mentioned in the indo-Aryan literature. In the deep Dravidian south, the compilation of Caṅkam texts can be anticipated to have been preceded by a long period of oral tradition. This is evident from the fact that many of these names were archaic when Caṅkam texts were compiled. The very attestation of these names in the Caṅkam texts and the fact that some of the personal names of Caṅkam texts which occur as place names in north-western geographies also occur in the early inscriptions in Tamilnadu provide a minimum guaranteed antiquity to these name transfers.

13.3 Caṅkam texts and Tamil traditions have clues to early migrations. There is reference to Vēḷir migration from Tuvarai (identified with modern Gujarat) in ancient times. The knowledge about the bone- eating camels which probably reached Caṅkam poetry through oral bardic minstrel poetry stands witness to the journey of names, in other words the journey of a civilization.

13.4 Besides, the place names of many archaeological sites in south India with Indus markers and evidence for Neolithic and other prehistoric settlements are traceable in the north-western toponomies i.e Indus Valley and beyond. Place names such as Sanur, Arikeh, Virai (Iran); Tondi, Gorkai, Tiruth, Kallur, Porewarai, Warigan, Mankudi (Gujarat in India) can be cited as examples. These names suggest a sort of an indicative and tentative 'archaeological context' to these name transfers from the north-western geographies. This also underscores the need for studying the directions and trajectories of past migrations in the relevant contexts of spread of farm cultures, irrigation and other technologies from the pre-Indus times and till the spread of post-Harappan cultures.

14. Conclusion

14.1 Based on these comparative Onomastic evidence and other inputs available from the Caṅkam texts we may conclude that Caṅkam texts can be a legitimate source material to identify the language of Indus script. KVT complex that is common to north-western geographies and Caṅkam text not only link the 'deep Dravidian south' to the geographies of Indus-Harappan Civilization but also gives significant clues to understand the trajectories of ancient Tamil migrations and by implication to the locus of Tamil prehistory and their probable origins. Caṅkam corpus may not provide a "Rosetta Stone" for deciphering the Indus texts but it promises to be a meaningful touch- stone to test the validity of the 'Dravidian Hypothesis.'


In Para 10.1, I have followed the translation of the relevant lines of Puṟanāṉūṟu 201 by I.Mahadevan (2009).


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Parpola, Asko.1994. Deciphering the Indus Script. Cambridge University Press.

Parpola, Asko. 2005. Paper read at the 50th ICES Tokyo Session on 19 May 2005 in Tokyo.

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Stewart, R.George.1975. Names on the Globe. Oxford University Press, New York.

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Tolkāppiyam- Poruḷatikāram- - Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar Urai. 1983. Chennai: Tirunelvēli Teṉṉintiya Caiva Cittānta Nūṟpatippuk Kaḻakam.

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"Journey of a Civilization"- Presentation

Monday, September 20, 2010

Remnants of Dravidian Name-Heritage in Indus Valley and Beyond

World Classical tamil conference, coimbatore, 2010

Remnants of Dravidian Name-Heritage in Indus Valley and Beyond

The Journey of Names


24 June, 2010

Using comparative Onomastic tools this paper gathers new evidence to validate the "Dravidian Hypothesis" on the language of Indus Valley Civilization. The study does a 'two-way check' and traces the remnants of Dravidian Name-Heritage in the toponyms of North-Western geographies and locates the vestiges of a probable Indus links in the Onomastic corpus of Cankam literature and in the ethno-geographical designations of the contemporary Tamils as well.


0.1 In this paper I advance a mass of Onomastic evidence to say that the toponymic corpuses of countries north-west of India, apart from showing remarkable oneness with many contemporary place names of Tamilnadu, contain numerous place names that remind us of the names of territories, prominent places, hills, rivers, ports and battlefields; names of tribes, clans, kings and chieftains attested in Caṅkam Tamil texts. Besides, based on comparative Onomastic evidences, I propose that the markers for probable Indus connections still remain embedded in the toponymic and ethnonymic glossaries of contemporary Tamils and to prove this point I present a case study of koṅku vēlālar, a Tamil peasant caste, tracing the probable genesis of their territorial names, kāṇi village names and kūṭṭam (clan) names to the north-western geographies.

0.2 Let me testify. I was indeed, awe-struck with disbelief, when I first came across Karikalan, Adiyaman,Pittan, Korran, Tittan, Titian, Korkay, Vanji, Tondi, Attawail etc., as place names in the north-western geographies. It required many years of further research and case studies before I could convince myself about the efficacy of this evidence and decide about sharing the findings in public domain for consideration.

The Issue

1.1 The 'Dravidian Hypothesis' is considered by far the most plausible of all prevailing theories on the language of Indus Valley Civilization (IVC). From the days of John Marshall to this date, various scholars of diverse disciplines ((S.K Chatterji, Piero Meriggi, J.H.Heras, Yuri Knorozov, Kamil.V.Zvelebil, I.Mahadevan, F.C.Southworth, D.Mc Alpin, W.A.Fairservis, Asko Parpola) have added value to this position. (For detailed account, see Asko Parpola 1994, Dilip K. Chakrabarti 2008) I.Mahadevan even concludes that "the Indus script is not merely Dravidian linguistically, but is also culturally much closer to Old Tamil polity than has been recognized so far."

1.2 There are suggestions that connect the Dravidian speakers of Southern India to the regions North West of India. (K.A.Nilakanta Sastri, T. Burrow, Gilbert Slater, Lahovari, Kamil V. Zvelebil). Burrow cites Dravidian words in the Rig-Veda to claim that at one time, the Punjab and adjacent areas were occupied by Dravidian speaking people. Kamil.V.Zvelebil who labels the Dravidians as 'mountain people' and 'a highlander folk' locates them "sitting, sometimes round 4000 B.C., in the rugged mountainous areas of North-Eastern Iran" and estimates them to have "played an important even a leading role in the ethno linguistic composition of the Indus Valley Peoples."

1.3 Asko Parpola considers the place-names of the Harappan area as 'one more potential sources of clues to identifying the Harappan language.' However as I. Mahadevan puts it; the 'vast gap in time and space' is that inhibits suggestions to any direct link between the IVC and the Dravidian speakers of Southern India. Following the above leads and using the Onomastic tools, I seek to advance fresh evidence that I believe, would bridge this 'gap' and simultaneously probe Zvelebil's statement on Dravidians "sitting …in the rugged mountainous areas of North-Eastern Iran."

1.4 Place names are potential witness to history and linguistic pre-history of a region and provide reliable markers for past migrations. The efficacy of Onomastics in mapping past migrations has a proven track record across cultures. For this study, I have used two types of toponymic materials, first one a data base consisting of 1.26 million contemporary place names of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. The second one is an Onomastic glossary, compiled from Caṅkam Tamil texts, consisting of toponyms, ethnonyms such as tribe names, clan names and personal names of kings, chieftains and poets.

1.6 Being the ancient extant Dravidian literature that refers to the geographies beyond the current Tamil boundaries, particularly on the west coast, the Caṅkam corpus offers a 'mezzanine view' to get closer to IVC spatially and temporally and provides a bench-mark for assessing the antiquity of 'name-transfers.'

1.7 For the sake of convenience, I note the countries north-west of India, mentioned above, as IVB (i.e. Indus Valley and Beyond). I use the term 'Dravidian' strictly in the linguistic sense without any racial or ethnic connotation.

The Evidence

Dravidian Glossonyms as Place Names in IVB

2.1 In IVB, there are place names such as Tamileh, Teleng, Karunad, Todah, Badagh, Kota, Tulu, Kodagi, Kui, Gondi, Kond, Koya, Penga, Manda, Kolamu, Naik, Pargi, Gadbah, Kuruk, Malar, Kisan and Brahui and these names at once remind us of the glossonyms of almost all languages and dialects of Dravidian family. The place name Brahui occurs in the very area where Brahui language is spoken. All these names barring Brahui may not make the sense of 'Dravidian glossonyms' in their current locations; yet provide a prima facie case for further investigation.

Identical Toponyms of Tamilnadu and IVB

2.2 The place names Ambal, Alur, Amur, Arani, Arasur, Asoor, Asur, Avur, Ayal, Ayyur, Badur, Emam, Harur, Hosur, Injar, Kanjur, Kallur, Kalur, Kandur, Kanjur, Kinar, Kodur, Kolur, Kondur, Korkai, Kumani, Kundah, Kuram, Kuruchi, Landai, Manathal, Manathi, Manur, Mashar, Mohur, Muttal, Nagal, Nagoor, Nalli, Palur, Pasar, Pasur, Polur, Ramalai, Segal, Salur, Selur, Sembar, Senji, Shandan, Solani, Taniyal, Tanur, Thalli, Thandarai, Tirur, Tondi, Tular and Ural. It is relevant to note that place names such as Amur, Avur, Ayyur, Mohur, Kallur, Korkai, Nalli and Tondi recall the exact place names attested in Caṅkam texts.

Concurrent Suffixes and Prefixes

2.3 IVB toponyms contain suffix elements that remind us of Caṅkam Tamil place name suffixes such as ūr,nāṭu,
il, āṟu, vāyil, kāṭu, cēri, turai, kuṉṟu, talai, paḷḷi, pākkam, kāṉam, paṭappai, kōḻi, poṟai, ciṟai, vāi, nakar, kūṟṟam, kai, pēri, pēr, pāram, maṇi, varai, and malai . Similarly, prefixes that remind the Caṅkam place name prefixes such as aralai, ār, cikkaṟ, kurā, āl, vākai, vēl, ukāi, kaṭial, ṉocci, muḷḷi, cilampu, takaṭu, alai, kōval and aṭṭa etc., are also used in IVB toponyms.

Generic Names of Caṅkam Geography as Toponyms of IVB

2.4 The place names Kurinj, Kurinch, Mullai Koh, Marud, Marundam, Neytal and Palai of IVB are comparable with the generic names of physical-climatic regions (tiṇai) of Caṅkam Tamil geography namely kuṟiñci, mullai, marutam, neytal and pālai.

2.5 The place names such as Malai, Malay, Kodu, Kodur, Kunru, Warai, Kal, Mudi, Parai, Vidar, Sunai, Enal; Kadu, Kanam, Tandal, Colay, Patappeh, Pulai, Pulay, Purai, Adawiy, Kanal; Aru, Yaru, Turai, Eri, Karai, Kalani, Manal, Wandala, Punam; Munnir, Alakar,Kalari, Alai; Palai, Suram and Kurumbai of IVB are comparable with the generic names associated with the physical-climatic regions of Caṅkam Tamil landscape. Besides, toponyms Nilam, Nilai, Kalam, Tarai, Titai, Teru, Manai, Kadai, Vali are comparable with the exact terms attested in Caṅkam texts that provide the sense of 'place.'

Specific Names of Caṅkam Territories and Places and IVB toponyms

2.6 The place names Ambar, Korkai, Tondi, Tonri, Totti, Ilam, Kachi, Kakkai, Kanam, Kadavud, Kalar, Kolli, Kongu, Kodai, Kodi, Koli, Selli, Nalai, Neri, Padali, Param, Palai, Pali, Puli, Pothi, Por, Malli, Mantai, Mosi, Vanci, Vallar, Vakai, Vani, Virai, Kari, Tulu, Milai and Vanni are the exact parallels of place names attested in Caṅkam texts. Besides, Caṅkam place names araṅkam, kaṇṭīram, kavīram, kurālam, mārōkkam, caiyam, naviram, māntaram, mutiram and toṇṭakam can be derived by adding 'am' ending to the place names Arang, Kandir, Kavir, Kural, Marokh, Chai, Navir, Mantar, Mudirah and Tondak of IVB. Toponyms kuṟukkai and kutirai of Caṅkam texts are derivable from Kuruk and Kutir of IVB.

2.6 Names of capital towns, battle fields, ports, and places associated with various kings, chieftains and poets attested in Caṅkam texts occur as place names in IVB. Toponyms such as Vanji, Tondi, Urai, Matrai, Gudal, Korkay, Attawail, Khodakaram, Talai, Alankhan, Kalumalhan, Kariyar, Amur, Wakai, Neri, Kolli and Pali can be cited as few examples.

Caṅkam Oronyms and Hydronyms in IVB toponymy

2.6 The IVB toponyms Potikeh, Poti , Podineh, Podini Ghar, Podin , Palani , Ayir Kuhe , Avi, Navir, Parambu Darrahe , Kutir, Kutiru , and Toti evoke the names of various hills attested in Caṅkam texts.

2.7 Pohru is the name of a tributary of Jhelum River in Pakistan where Pakhral and Pakrud occur as toponyms. In the adjoining Himalayan region of Garhwal in Uttarakhand (in India) Bakroli occurs as a toponym where we come across Kumari also as a place name. These names are comparable with paḵruḷi and kumari the 'lost river and mountain' of Tamils attested in ancient Tamil texts. Besides, toponyms Poruns, Porni, Wainai, Waigal, Kavir, Kaweri Wala, Kavari, Kariyar and Seyareh are comparable with similar hydronyms of Caṅkam. The significance Bakroli and Kumari being toponyms in the Indus-Harappan neighbourhoods cannot be missed.

Names of Tamil dialect regions in IVB

2.8 Place names Pongan, Pongarwali, Oliani, Pandi, Kutta, Kudah, Kudam, Karka, Wen, Puli, Pandrio Wah, Malai, Arva, Talai, Sidha and Puna at once remind us of the 'twelve lands of Tamil regional dialects' enumerated in ancient Tamil texts and commentaries.

Relics of IVB Toponyms in Caṅkam Anthroponomy

2.9 The place names Ayar, Kalamar, Marawar, Kowalow, Govalan, Eyin, Kalai, Widala, Kanav, Mili, Iday and Potu remind us of tribe names such as āyar,kaḷamar, maṟavar, kōvalar, eyiṉar, viṭalai, kāṉavar, miḷi, iṭayar and potuvar attested in Caṅkam texts. Besides, place names such as Konkar, Kosar, Andar, Malavan, Malayer, Kuraveh, Avi are comparable with the territorial clan names such as koṅkar, kōcar, aṇṭar, maḻavar, malayar, kuṟavar and
āviyar of Caṅkam texts.

cēra, cōḻa and pāṇṭiyā names in IVB

2.9 The place names Cheran, Ceran, Seran, Serar, Seral, Cheral, Cheranman Deh, Cheramakan, Chola, Pandian Wali, Pandi, Pandiar at once remind us of Tamil dynasties namely cēra, cōḻa and pāṇṭiyās.
Besides, IVB toponyms such as Porai, Kotai, Udian,Udhiar, Adan, Kutvar, Kutva, Killi, Valavar, Valudi, Chelian Wali and Maran are comparable with the titles of Tamil Royals.

Names of Caṅkam Kings as Place names in IVB

2.10 Karikalan, Karikala and Garikal are place names in countries such as Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Apart from Karikalan, place names such as Sibi, Kavera, Manak, Chengan, Chelkeli, Kalangai, Andevan, Mandar, Mandaran, Marban, Marivan, Maran Kirri, Makirri, Kuaichina remind us of the names of Caṅkam kings namely cipi, kavēraṉ, maṇak kiḷḷi, ceṅkaṇāṇ, cēlkeḻu, kaḷaṅkāy kaṇṇi, antuvaṉ, māntaraṉ, mārpaṉ, mārivaṇ, māṟaṉkīrti and kāyciṉa vaḻuti.

Names of Caṅkam Chieftains as Place Names in IVB

2.11 Kapilar, the Caṅkam poet, links the ancestors of vēḷir, the Chieftains of Caṅkam Age to Tuvarai, identified with Dwaraka in West India. Place names such as Adiyaman, Adiaman, Nedaman, Anji, Titan, Titian, Panni, Nalli, Killi, Pegan, Kodan, Pari, Pittan, Korran, Pindan, Matti, Muwan, Anni, Minzli, Kiran, Andevan, Andwam, Alise, Kati, Velian, Udian and Atan of IVB are the exact parallels of names of Caṅkam chieftains atiyamāṉ neṭumāṉ añci, ṭittaṉ, tiṭiyaṉ, paṉṉi, nalli, kiḷḷi, pēkaṉ, kōṭaṉ, pāri, piṭṭaṉ koṟṟaṉ, piṇṭaṉ, matti, mūvaṉ, aṉṉi, miñili, kīraṉ, antuvaṉ, aḻici, kaṭṭi, veḷiyaṉ, utiyaṉ, and ātaṉ respectively. Similarly, the chieftain names ṭōṉṟikkō, kaṇṭīrakkō,
viccikkō, ēṟaikkōṉ, kaḷvar kōmāṉ, āvikkōmāṉ, ampar kiḻāṉ and
malli kiḻāṉ can be obtained by adding kō, kōṉ, kōmāṉ and kiḻāṉ to place names Tonri, Kandir, Wichli, Aerai, Kalvar, Avi, Ampar and Malli respectively.

Place name parallels for Agastiya and kaṇṇaki legends

2.12 The legend of Agastiya, the Tamil muṉi (sage) has a significant relevance in the context of southward migrations, for Caṅkam texts connect the sage to the migration of vēḷir and aruvāḷar to ancient Tamil country. The place names Aghast, Aghastev, Merui, Meru Chak, Duvarki, Duwarayj, Windiyah, Vel, Ariwala, Kavari, Kaweri Wala, Potikeh, Potiyan and Poti of IVB provides a thematic template for reconstructing the genesis of Agastiya legend. Similarly, the place names Kannyaki, Govalan, Madavai, Machat, Machchat, Chelian Wala, Kutva, Kutvar, Elang , Pumbakar, Bukhar, and Vanji of IVB read together would account for almost all the lead names and places i.e kaṇṇaki, kōvalaṉ, mātavi, mācāttuvāṉ, ceḻiyaṉ, kuṭṭuvaṉ, iḷaṅkō, pūmpukār and vañci associated with first Tamil epic cilappatikāram.

Tamil Theonyms as IVB Toponyms

2.15 The IVB place names such as Mayan, Mayavar, Mal, Perumal Kuhe, Mal Kuhe, Seyan, Muruk, Murugan Wala, Murghan, Murgu Wali, Vel, Velu, Vellan, Welan, Kumaran Wali, Vendar, Siv, Sivan, Shivan, Esan, Esar, Valli, Korri, Korrai, Korrami, Anang, Anangurai, Kamawel, Kaman, Kurram, Kurran Manda, Sur, Suran etc., remind us of almost all theonyms connected to ancient Tamil pantheon. Besides, the place names such as Palani, Podini Ghar, Avi, Eraka, Yerak, Sent, Sental, Chendi, Cendi, Alaiwi, Alaiwah, Parangu, Parang, Kunru, Colay , Tanike and Tani remind us of Tamil god murukaṉ 's abodes attested in Caṅkam texts and in subsequent literature namely āvi naṉkuṭi (identified with potiṉi and paḻaṉi), ērakam, alaivāy or centī, paraṅkuṉṟu, paḻamutircōlai and taṇikai.

koṅku vēḷāḷar and their probable Indus connection

2.18 Traditional accounts place koṅku vēḷāar (KV) as migrants in their current location; the name Koṅku and many other toponyms and clan names of Koṅku population have an attested antiquity traceable to Caṅkam texts and early inscriptions; the concept of kūṭṭam (clan organization) is still well preserved by KV and the choice of KV for this case study is prompted by these factors. And, this could be true of many other Tamil communities as well.

2.19 Kong and Konguiyeh are place names in Pakistan and Iran respectively. Besides, toponyms Arai, Kovank, Mann, Kavaik, Kavash, Chemba, Tanak, Talaiyeh, Gilangan, Tataia, Padi, Araia, Kurumbai, Kurumb, Palana, Varak, Mulazai, Kangeh, Turan, Anda, Mana, Gavadeh, Uruk, Waiyanwali, Tanakkot, Valakvand, Kanjik and Wangara recall the territorial names of KV ethno- geography.

2.20 kāṇi villages (foundational settlements) have a significant place in the settlement history of KV. Place names Kalankani, Manur, Mulachi, Atani, Tolur, Palani, Tusi, Aliyar, Korrai, Kokkali, Kathyari, Katheli, Punna, Kotur, Kuhal, Vidar, Monjan Kuhe, Monjar, Totali, Pattal, Mangal, Pappin, Tidiman, Navan, Nawani River, Vizhnan, Kalyan and Kalyana of IVB remind us of exact or similar names of kāṇi villages of various clans of KV.

2.21 The IVB place names Andevan, Andwam, Adhi, Adakar, Alaku, Alagan, Avan, Adar, Odalan, Kannar, Sengani, Sengan, Ceran, Pandiar, Billan, Adai, Avalan, Manian, Madai, Muthan, Mulan, Meti, Vani, Turan, Kalvi, Kaman, Kadai, Kari, Kodian, Korran, Govan, Chekan, Sekan, Nagan, Nilan, Padari, Unnahar, Osai, Kamban, Kavalan, Karai, Kirai, Kolli, Kotar, Soman, Tatai, Nandar, Narai, Nerian, Pasai, Vendar, Velian, Antai Ghar, Injar, Oluk Kuhe, Kulai, Kooreh, Sembar, Ceda Kuhe, Panay, Auriyeh, Puchanigi, Pusar, Periyu, Bonan, Bonneh, Maila, Malavan, Vanak, Vileh, Tanacoy, Thoda, Pawala, Uriani, Kanak, Kawur, Kungi, Khommar, Korak, Sathan, Chelian Wala, Toiyan Tangi, Neytal, Panakham, Panaka, Venai, Payram, Padumi, Kalanjar, Kuylar, Kondarun, Kolayir, Chanak, Chellan Kuhe, Soluk and Nirani show exact oneness with or resemblance to the clan names (kūṭṭam) of KV.

2.22 The name antuvaṉ is attested in Caṅkam texts as personal name of a cērā king and a chieftain. While tirupparaṅkuṉṟam inscription mentions of antuvaṉ; we come across names such as antuvaṉ,
āntai, cāttantai, paṇṇaṉ, kaṇṇaṉ,maṇiyaṉ, vaṇṇakkaṉ in āṟuṉāṭṭārmalai inscriptions, aṟacalūrmalai inscription and in koṭumaṇal potshreds.

Dravidian Place Names in Maharashtra and Gujarat: The "Name-Bridge"

2.22 These identical names do not exist as unconnected islands. The evidence for connecting links is available in the toponymic corpuses of areas that fall in between. In Maharashtra, we come across numerous place names with Dravidian suffixes such as palli, ur, veli, cheri, patti, kuppam, padi, neri, vayal, vani (wani), vali and wadi. Toponym kaḷḷūr, attested in Caṅkam texts is currently used in Pakistan, Maharashtra and all the four southern States. Manur is common to Pakistan, Maharashtra and three Southern States namely Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In Gujarat, place names with suffixes such as Palli, Mal, Pati, Seri and Vali are in use; 'Malai' is a mono-word place name in Gujarat.

Evaluation of Evidence

3.1 While assessing the evidentiary value of these identical names we need to take the following points into consideration. 1. Names exist even in the most primitive societies. Names pre-existed the emergence and have outlived the decline and fall of civilizations. 2. The causative relationship between the migration of people and migration of names is a known fact. 3. Super-imposition of anthroponomical data on toponymic data is justified for there is close association and contributory relationship between these two sets of names. 4. In using the place name evidence to investigate the linguistic affiliation of IVC we are following an existing track. 5. The identical place names referred to in this paper cannot be mere coincidences for they form definite thematic clusters; show coherence. 6. There is spatial contiguity in these occurrences as evident from the toponyms of Gujarat and Maharashtra. 7. There is temporal contiguity in the form of attestations in Caṅkam texts followed by an uninterrupted continuity in usage in ancient potsherds, early inscriptions, medieval literature and the current usage. 8. In the ancient Tamil texts, there are references to displacements, migrations and 'lost homelands.' 9. Using the temporal benchmark of Caṅkam attestation we can estimate the antiquity of these name transfers that clearly situate the Dravidian language speakers in general and specifically the ancestors of Caṅkam Tamils in the north-western geographies particularly in the countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and this is likely to have a consequential say in assessing the validity of 'Dravidian Hypothesis' on IVC.


3.2 Let me file a few caveats. These toponyms may have different 'meaning' or 'folk-etymologies' in their current locations in IVB. But, it does not dilute the merit in our argument. Finding the 'correct etymology' in any case is not the objective of this paper and the 'etymological traps' are better avoided. Even if we take the identical place names as mere 'identical sequence of vowels and consonants', they still merit serious consideration.

3.3 Opinion may vary with reference to the origin and direction of these name transfers. I have dealt with this issue in an elaborate manner in the full version of my paper. Notwithstanding the possibilities of different readings of these evidences, we can say that these identical names clearly situate the Dravidian-speakers in the 'cross junctions' of the Indus-Harappa areas. Place names cannot be a standalone evidence to give a definite time-line for these name transfers. Caṅkam attestations can provide a bench-mark. However, Archaeology and other allied fields will have a substantial role to play in this.

3.5 By adducing this evidence, we are not shifting the location of all the Caṅkam events to other geographies nor we are suggesting that Caṅkam kings and chieftains had a 'non-stop journey' from north-western geographies, but, certainly I intend to propose that the genesis of names of Caṅkam kings and chieftains can be traced to IVB toponyms which they probably inherited as their patronyms indicative of an ancestral association with those geographies. The question is how remote was that association and about its consequential impact on IVC.

3.6 At this stage, let me recall M.A Dorai Rangaswamy, who did an extensive study of the surnames of Caṅkam Age. He said: "It is the memory of the old traditions that could have been preserved if at all in these names. These names because of their distinction and difference may be looked upon as a vague memory of an ancient tribal organization."


4.1 The "Dravidian Hypothesis" can be verified from both the ends. While the remnants of probable Dravidian past are traceable in the toponyms of north western geographies, the markers for the Indus links are readable in the Caṅkam texts and the legacy is still preserved in the ethnonyms and toponyms of contemporary Tamils. It seems that a concurrent and contextual reading of toponyms of the north-western geographies, Onomastic corpus of Caṅkam texts, toponyms and ethnonyms of contemporary Tamils may hold the 'key' to understanding the linguistic composition of IVC as well as the obscure pages of the prehistory of Caṅkam Tamils.


Notes and References :

[1] This paper is an abridged version of my detailed study on the subject. Due to restriction on the size of the article I could not include the Maps and Tables with geo-coordinate details.

[1] Parpola, Asko, Deciphering the Indus Script, 1994, Cambridge University Press, Chakravarti D.K, Battle for ancient India.

[1] Mahadevan, Iravatham, Vestiges of Indus Civilization in Old Tamil, Tamilnadu History Congress 2009 (pre-print of lecture).

[1] Parpola, Asko, op.cit

[1] I have referred to Caṅkam Tamil texts in original. References to various Caṅkam names and terms quoted in this paper can be obtained in Lehmann Thomas & Malten Thomas, A Word Index for Cankam Literature, Madras: Institute of Asian Studies, 1993.

[1] Puṟanāṉūṟu 9:8-11, cilappatikāram 11:18-20

[1] Puṟanāṉūṟu, 201, u.vē.cāminātāiyar, 1985, puṟanāṉūṟu mūlamum uraiyum, tamiḻp palkakaikkaḻakam, tañcāvūr.

[1] Purananuru 201: 8-12

[1] For details on koṅku vēḷāḷar, Rasu. Ce, koṅku vēḷāḷar ceppēṭu paṭṭayaṅkaḷ, koṅku āyvu maiyam, Erode, 2007, koṅku vēḷāḷar kalveṭṭum kāṇip pāṭalkaḷum, koṅku āyvu maiyam, Erode, 2007; Nataracan Nal. Turan, , koṅku vēḷāḷar varalāṟu, Pallavi Patippakam, Erode, 2006 may be referred to.

[1] Apart from the caṅkam reference to the ‘lost river and mountain’, iṟaiyaṉār akapporuḷurai gives an account on the ancient displacements on account of natural calamities and establishment of first, second and third tamiḻc caṅkams by pāṇṭiyā kings.

[1] Dorai Rangaswamy, The surnames of the Cankam age literary & tribal, University of Madras, 1947-48: p.106