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The Aryan Tryst with the Dravidians - 2
|by Dr. V. Sankaran Nair|
Continued from Previous Page
Built vasthu-wise, invariably 99% of the traditional houses of Travancore are oriented towards the east. Apart from presenting the same look, the name of the living space bears the same appellation in all places. Poorvam means front as well as the east. Divasamukham means daybreak. Viewing the sun from the poomukham enabled one to calculate the effects of the changing positions of the sun, to carry out agricultural activities. This shows that poomukham might be a shortened form of poorvamukham, which captures the idea of eastern orientation. Poorvaangam means face or front. Muk(h)am in old Malayalam, means the front. A decorated wooden plank in front of the roof is mukhappalaka. This plank, a piece of art, a parting gift of the carpenter who built the house, will bear the date of the house.
The front structure of the house, the portico, is called poomukham. Seated on a ledge close to the wall, called thattupati, the kaaranavar of the house managed both the affairs of the house as well as the sprawling field, lying in front of the house, within range of eye-shot in the easterly direction. Thattupati, similar to chaarupati, is a reclining wooden seat as well as a plank fixed to the wall called kuthupati.
The prefix of the word poomukam, is poo. A flower, blossom is poo. The word vila, in kannivila and makaravila means crop of corn growing. What enters through the front, the portico, is crops, both kanni and makarappu. Fruit as well as crop is phalam. Ripeness is vila. To grow ripe is vilayuka. Pookkal is flowering, harvest season is poovu/ poopp.
A salver for presenting flowers is poothattam. The paddy fields in front of the traditional houses turn the earth into a salver of blossoming flower. During harvest seasons, the pollen of flowers that rust is poozhi. In old Malayalam Poomath is Bhumath, it is earth goddess, Bhumidevi. The crop ready for harvest called vilavu, is Mahalakshmi.
Pooval means a crop. In proverbs, poopp means sowing and reaping thrice. Kannippu (single crop); makarappu (double crop); metappu (triple crop) are the three kinds of crops. Pooka(va)l means entering. After rich life cycle of the paddy, enacted once or twice every year, the crop lying in front of the poomukham fills the barns of the house. This makes the presence of the Mahalakshmi felt at home.
Antiquity of the word Nangol
A time in each fortnight, unfavourable to sowing, is puzhukkaranam. The time of a constellation is naattutala. The auspicious time for sowing and planting is fixed according to nattunila /-vela. Based on the sun’s position in one constellation, the time suitable for planting, natutala is fixed. Thiruvaathira nattutala, in the beginning of Mithunam, is the best time for transplanting.
Nennol / nangol refer to a plough shaft, nanchil in Tamil. It also refers to muzhakkol, carpenter’s rod of 24 fingers (viral). Baiga, a tribe found in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand states of India, called a group of five stars, as the nangar (plough). The tenth constellation Regulus or magha (nangol) is in the shape of a plough and as such is called makam/nennol. Also called muzhakkol, this constellation, rising in Dhanu (sign of Saggitarius), an hour after sunset, indicates the time for treading the wheel previous to sowing. To clear a rice field of water preparatory to sowing is chakram chavittuka. The word kalappaichakram, in Tamil, denotes a diagram in astrology in the form of a plough to determine the best day for beginning the ploughing of the season. 
Thekkathu, a structure found on the southern side of the ancestral houses of south Travancore, are shrines dedicated to manes or family deities, who were invoked to inhabit them. Antler worship practised from time immemorial in some of these shrines, bears testimony to the belief that antlers were used as the original plough, which was subsequently replaced by wooden plough. Elsewhere, we have retrieved the original term of the word nangol as maankol. The Malayalam word for deer is maan. Maanthop is a garden where deer flourished. Maanthala refers to the head of the deer, the asterism Makayiram. The word ma in Malayalam means mrig, the deer, as well as paddy field. Kol and chil refer to horn. So, maankol (became nangol) and maanchil (became nanchil), meaning antler. Ma in Malayalam also means mother, knowledge, Lakshmi and prosperity. It indicates the beautiful deer. Ma also means measuring yard. This yardstick, an aasaarikkol is also called maanadandam or alavukol. This last meaning attributed to the word nangol is a bit enigmatic. Deciphering this aspect of the word nangol will help us understand our ancestors more accurately and retrieve the lost meaning of the word nangol.
So far, we were trying to canvass data, information and ideas to support Asko Parpola’s argument that the words phalam, nangol and mukham were words Sanskrit had borrowed from the Dravidian. Our discussion on this area of these words against the background of the traditional houses of Travancore has benefited the subject by retracing the past usages. This gave us much confidence to look at the word khalam that remains to be explored. It seems that it needs a big canvas stretcher to redraw several activities connected with harvest. Let us start with the process of bundling the sheaf of corn.
The act of reaping when the grains are ripe, earned the name koythu. A sheaf of corn is katta, kattai in Tamil. This word flourishes in Malayalam languages in usages like kattakettuka, kattayatikkuka, kattamethikkuka, kattachavittuka, kattayil puzhukuka. In a similar way, reapers, based on the modes of binding the sheaves of corn, named them each with separate appellations like: kaakkakkal, munkathiru, cherapiri, kathirilakkan, pettikkett, muram cheet, purakuvaalan, munkathirumodiram and the like. In a way the reapers made the bundling of katta an art. Both male and female labourers were engaged to lift sheaves to the threshing yard, very close to the house. A bundle or pack as of sheaves of corn, grass, straw, hay, paddy saplings etc. is katta. The floor where the reapers laid sheaves (katta) is called ‘Kattakkalam. ‘Kattayum thalayil vachu kalam chetharuthu’, ‘kattaykku thaalpiti panayamo?’ are important proverbs. Paddy left behind when sheaf of corn is removed from the pile for threshing is kattati.
Kalam: the threshing yard
Malanaattil makamethi kalamellam methi nirthi, is a popular Malayalam rhyme, which means “Makam arrived in Kerala; treading out grains stopped in all the threshing areas.” The location of these houses was in the immediate vicinity of paddy fields, fed by rain, where dry culture was practised. Paddy was cultivated during the south-east monsoon and harvested in September. In these houses, the birth of rice was celebrated on the makam asterism, in the month of Kanni (Aug-Sept.). The kalam mentioned in this rhyme is the kalakkottil/ kalappura, the ground levelled for threshing and for spreading grains etc., for drying. Lying in the southwest, at the feet of Vastu Purush, with Nirti (Lord of Demons) as the ruling God, this farmhouse has a barn. During harvest, this farmhouse used to reverberate with kalappaattu, the song or ballad of the threshing floor. Bhadrakali is the presiding deity of the kalam.
Figuratively, harvest season is a time of plenty. The paddy when ripe, is harvested, either the sheaf of the corn alone or along with straws. This act is called koyyuka. The reaper with a sickle cut the sheaves of corn and the corn thus reaped is then lifted and carried in bundle, to the house yard, called kattakkalam.
In the traditional houses, the word kalam occurs in many contexts. Atikolli is a variety of paddy. Only when it is beaten forcefully the grain will fall off from the sheaf. Treading out grain is methi. A threshing rod is methimaram. Sheaves of corn are thrashed on a wooden plank to separate the paddy from the hay. Putharikkol, a threshing flail, is an agricultural tool used for threshing to separate grains from their husks. It is also called adikol. In northern Malayalam a threshing floor is called atikkalam/ methikkalam.
A rice grain is nenmani and a bundle of paddy is nelpothi. A heap of grain, a maund of rice is thollu and a conical heap is koompaaram. Using a kind of basket made of fibre, called nellppatt, paddy from the threshing floor is carried to granary for preservation. Paddy, spread on a kind of mat made of reed called nelpaya, is gathered, with the help of an implement called nellunikki.
There are two kinds of granaries: one for storing the seed and the other for storing grain meant for routine domestic purposes. Vittara is a place where seed is preserved. Paddy meant for sowing seeds is kept in the udambara, the karanavar’s bed cum granary, housed at the mukappu, on the south east corner of the house. Udambara is also known as kattu/ kattil pathayam. It means a cot used as a pathayam, found in currency in south Travancore only. On Medam 10th annually, the first ploughing/ sowing is celebrated. Seed for this ceremony is taken from the udambara. The process started on this day will end with the celebration of the birth of rice on Kanni Makam, for which 7 seeds are chosen from the grain dropping from sheaves of corn, called kattattalamani on the pathway between the field and the kalam. This ritual adoring rice as the goddess on that day is the culmination of feeling of devotion to rice field from the time of the ploughing and sowing ceremony held on Medam 10th to the time of reaping.
‘Patikkattutangi patinjaattiyolam’ is an expression in Sivapuranam which means ‘through the whole house, from the eastern entrance.’ These traditional houses have many granaries housed in several corners of the house. Some granaries can be found above head, in the ceilings, some are found underground. Most of them are positioned in different rooms, following vasthu principles.
Nellara, treated as ponnara is the main room for storing paddy. A building to store paddy is nelpura or pattayappura. A granary and storehouse is called kottara. Kalavara (storehouse/ pantry) and atukkala (kitchen) are called kottara.
Paddy as an avayavi
‘Umi kuthuka’ is a proverb. What are split out are umi- husk, chaff and bran. Limb of the body, member, and part is avayavam. Fractions and units constitute the body called avayavi. Having all the limbs or parts/ subdivisions is avayavi. It is the whole thing. If coconut is an avayavi, husk, kernel, shell are its avayavangal. In the case of paddy, husk and rice corn are its limbs-- avayavangal. Three husks and two rice corns constitute 5 paddy, according to Ganitha Sastra. The paddy with husk is protected. With husk, it can be deposited in a granary. But to turn it as an item for food, it has to be husked. It can be husked after boiling or without boiling. Then it is pounded to remove the husk. Now the rice is ready to cook. These three stages of the rice require labours. For boiling, drying, husking and cooking a battalion of labourers, preferably women, were required. Apart from a variety of methods used for husking 'paddy,' there were mechanisms, from time immemorial, made either of wood or stone.
Rice is the staple food of the people. A family, holding paddy in its barn, had to husk some measure of paddy to meet the needs of everyday consumption. These days raw rice is obtained by milling paddy. But in olden days, the paddy was processed into rice using sieves, mortars of wood or stone and wooden pestles.
In northern Kerala, the place where paddy is pounded is called nelluttumkuta. For the mortar shed/ pounding shed, the Malayalam word is uralppura, ulaikkurat in Tamil. This outhouse where corn is husked / pounded, is variously known as urakkalam, ura(l)ppura, ulakkode, uralkode, uralthalam, uralkkuzhi, (nellu)kuthupura, kalappad, kalappura which is positioned in vayucone according to vasthu vidya. Kalappad, kalappura are the granaries attached with the threshing floor. It is a farm house, a barn.
Pounding paddy to remove the husk and make rice is known as nellu kuth as well as kottanam. To deprive rice of its husk is also called tarakkuka. In places like Vettathunad, the process to make tread out the corn is nellu tholikka. That which is husked as grain is tholikkuka.
Nellumi, the husk of the paddy, is separated by pounding to produce well-cleaned rice grain called arikkaamp. To remove the husk of the paddy is tholikka. The grain thus released, the husked rice is (nell)ari.
The mortar- ural
The Sanskrit word ulukhala refers to a wooden mortar for pounding or grinding things. A branch of the fig tree is also known by this word; khala is threshing floor. A mortar, made out of either wood thatiural or stone kallural is for beating rice, pounding grain to unhusk. Having mouth at the upper side earned ural the name udukalam. After placing paddy from above, it is beaten or pounded with a pestle, to produce rice grain fit for food.
The word ural, ulukhalam in Sanskrit, is believed to be a loaned word from Dravida. Some scholars believed that the word ulakka is derived from the Sanskrit word ulukhalam.’ The very word ulukhalam might be a loaned word from Dravida. Some scholars derive this word from ural+kkai(?) with the meaning to break open.
Popcorn made from paddy is nelpori, nenmalar. Ancient Malayalam word avil means rice bruised and dried. Malayalam derivates: avekka is to beat rice. Flattened rice, obtained from fried paddy by pestling it is aval, in Tamil and Malayalam; avai (-pp-,-tt-) is to pound in a mortar, crush, cuff, prod; avaiyal is well-husked rice.
Grain of rice without husk is ari, which is of two varieties. The unboiled rice’ formed one. This raw rice is pachhari. Boiled in water to certain temperature and time, over wooden fire, the paddy is dried in the sun and parboiled rice, puzhukkalari is obtained. While the former is meant for lunch, the latter is preferred to offering worship and oblations. Drying is unakkal. Rice not boiled in the husk, before husking is unakkalari. Unboiled paddy is unangellu. Boiled rice unakkalari, is unbranned rice. Hand-pounded rice is (kaik)kuthari). Rice prepared from the unbranded rice is unakkalarichoru/ kottanachoru. Unbranned rice and rice not properly dried is kottanathari.
Rice from the paddy, harvested in the previous year, is called pazhayari. Lords and superiors were fond of rice made of pazhayari. ‘Illathu pazhayariyundengil chennetathum pazhayari’ is a well-known proverb. Paddy used by inferiors while speaking to high caste people of the paddy used by them is nelppathiru.
Boiled rice is unaru. Rice merely husked, not well beaten is tholippanari/ velippicha nellu. It means chaff of paddy. (Cooked) unbranned rice is kottanam. Pounding or husking paddy, husking in such a manner as the bran is not lost.
Bray with a pestle for removing the bran is avaykkuka. It is to crush, press, thump in a mortar. While doing so, the blackish rice fallen around the ural are called karutha ari/ katta(na)ri. Tarangazhi/ tarangari include the broken grains of rice spilling from the mortar while husking. Rice obtained from paddy not properly boiled, rice not sufficiently boiled, is kattari.
To husk or pound rice etc is taranguka. To pound or remove the husk from corns by gently bruising with the pestle, depriving rice of its husk is tarakk/ tarakkuka. That which is husked is tholippan. Rice merely husked, not well beaten is tholippanari. Remaining grits of rice while pounding or husking is also tarakkalari. Grits of rice etc is also called tarakk. Tarakkari is unangalari. Rice from unboiled paddy grains is tarakkalari.
Gleaning grains left out in the field, threshing ground or pounding yard is uncham. Livelihood by gleaning or gathering of abandoned grains is unchavritti. Grain rejected by winnowing is mannala, also called vannala, pannala, vannila. There are two kinds of vannala, one is half empty and the other is empty paddy. A kind of gruel, prepared from grain fermented by laying on the stack, is the food for the great hunting day on the 10th Tulam. In Ernakulam and Cochin blackish rice which tastes bitter is called as mannilari.
Boiling and bubbling is pongal. To rise, as out of the water is ponguka. Both rice and the rising sun are cited as examples. The swelling of grain in boiling is pokkaaram. Worshipping sun-god, goddess, etc with offering of rice, boiled with jaggery, ghee, etc is pongala. On every 10th Medam, a pongala is held at one’s own field to appease the Sun god to bless with prompt rain and proper climate. In a way, adukkala, yet another kalam, is only a pongalppura, where food for daily consumption of the household members is cooked.
A kitchenette is a room equipped with hearth, the fireplace, called adupp for preparing meals. While the state of being well cooked or baked is paakam, pacha(na)m is cooking. And the place of cooking, pakasthanam is adukkala. Kitchendom, the domain of women, is a place to aduka, which means to cook and boil.
Kalam, a place for specific purpose or activity, covers a threshing floor, playfield, stage, a floor decorated with figures of deities with powders of various colours as part of ‘tantric rituals’, war field, etc. The threshing yard, only one of the several meanings of the word kalam, is variously called as atikkalam/ methikkalam/ kattakkalam. Apart from that, the cooking yards too have the word kalam as a suffix in adukkala. Pounding yard called urakkalam is yet another word with kalam as a suffix. The Tulu word 'bara-kala' stands for a place in the household for pounding paddy to get rice in the olden days. It is a borrowed word from Malayalam.
Men attended to ploughing, sowing and digging, since ancient times. Women, on the other hand, were engaged in planting, reaping and threshing, besides hulling, beating rice, pounding pepper, and cooking food. Threshing sheaf of corn is avahananam. It also means husking.
Regular labour, preferably female labour, is employed to husk and then polish the rice obtained by pounding. Using sieves, mortars and wooden pestles, the paddy is processed into rice. While standing around the mortar for pounding rice soaked in water, women sing rhythmically with their pounding. Placing rice in the mortar’s hole and pounding it with a heavy pestle, physically a demanding work was considered as drudgery. But we see in their midst, children participating in it, with much chivalry. Husking rice is considered as one of the hardest jobs in ancestral homes.
Wages given for ploughing and husking paddy is kattukuli and kuthucooly respectively. A woman who husks paddy for wages is kottanakkari. Her piece of work, a backbreaking toil covering long hours is paid by a measure (seer) of rice wages. Uralkkuzhi is servant’s room. The usage, nellukuthum koodayil aakka, mentioned in Tacholippattu, means to degrade the servant’s room. Those who find no other ways to pass through the span of life, earn their livelihood from pounding paddy for others. This sense is enshrined in the phrase uralidichu kazhikka.
Often the word ulakka is indicative of contempt, disgust etc. ‘Base of ulakka’ is ‘trifling’- a rustic usage. Ulakkamaadan is bulky stout man. This stout man is a useless fellow, a good-for-nothing fellow. The profession of pounding was considered as hard work.
The phrase kottanam kuthuka means experience poverty. ‘Pottanum pottanum koodumbol kottanam kovanamaa kum,’ is an old saying. If the rice has been harvested by hand or by a semi-automated process, threshing is completed by flailing the stalks by hand or by using a mechanized thresher.
The pounding-house attached to all traditional houses and the domestic labour of preparing rice by hand- pounding practised in yesteryears, have all but disappeared and rice mills with hullers have taken over their place. Pestle and mortar, as old as the Indus valley civilization, were in use till a few decades ago. These things of the past are now found only in museums. Now the women are relived from the drudgery of pounding rice.
Pouring oil on a burned out lamp
History tells us how agriculture changed Homo sapiens from a rare to an abundant species. As they practised agriculture, the Dravidians as a people ceased to be nomadic and settled. When they met the Aryans who were still nomadic and new to agriculture, they transmitted their knowledge of agriculture to them. Accustomed to fine crops and superior farming with a fertile soil, the Dravidians had a system of agriculture they inherited from their forefathers and lived in peace with their ancient contact with soil.
We saw that along with the eclipse of the pounding profession the growth of cities started devouring paddy fields one by one. When one revisits the place where a traditional house existed, he will admit the sea change that has come to the area. Rice cultivation in this situation has become like pouring oil on a burned out lamp. Illuminating the words that were in currency enabled us to shed light on a bond established by two people in the ancient world. The beating of time heard in these words that have taken refuge in the museum, holds hope for more findings.
As Emeneau says, "If the Rig-Vedic examples, or any of them, are accepted, this is evidence for the presence of Dravidian speakers as far toward the northwest as the Punjab, ie., the upper Indus Valley, in the first centuries (Emeneau, 1954). 
Based on linguistic evidence, Kuiper projects the vast majority of the Rgvedic loan words as belonging to the spheres of domestic and agricultural life. They belonged not only to the popular speech but also to the specific language of an agrarian population. “The fact that the Aryans felt the necessity of borrowing words from another language and specially in certain sphere demonstrates the Aryan ignorance of these articles and their use. The fact that they were borrowed from another language, where they were probably found ready-made, indicates that the population which used the other language/s had developed the use of these articles along with the techniques in agricultural and other spheres. Thus, although the direct evidence in the form of plough or share is not found in archeological data, ample indirect evidence of various stages in the process of agricultural production as developed by the pre-Aryan population can be gathered.” 
Asko Parpola’s statement on Aryan borrowings of Dravidian words is the motivation for studying the agricultural practices staged in the erstwhile traditional houses of Travancore. As almost all words listed as loanwords are spoken in these houses, the mission is achieved. It is stated that archeological evidence of the plough or share was found lacking. The interpretation of the word nangol and the retrieval of its lost meaning and its original form show that the origin of rice cultivation is in the south of India. There is a slight hint on the origin of the word paddy from pati, the word for monthly allowances. It is stated that the presence of Dravidians was felt “as far toward the northwest as the Punjab, i.e., the upper Indus Valley, in the first centuries.”
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