Exploring some of the old Tulu words can be an interesting pastime that helps us to delineate some of the fine but obscure strings of our heritage and evolution.In this post we shall explore the word 'Chakana'.
The origin of name 'Chakana' is also worth exploring. 'Chakana' in Tulu and Kannada languages means 'provider of tangy dish to frequenters to native toddy pub (known as 'gadang' in Tulu)'. This word was in popular use up to the middle of twentieth century. Tulu Lexicon (Vol.3, page 1216) gives the meaning of 'chakana/chakani' as a side dish (apetiser) that complements while drinking toddy. What I had seen and tasted is only spicy fish curry, prepared in a small room, adjoining the main toddy shop. Here, the special dishes were crab and mollusc curries. In earlier days, varieties of toddy were stored in caskets and served in small earthen pots of specific volume called 'mutties' in Tulu. Toddy was also relished with cured and dried and fried 'Nangu' fish. 'Nangu' is a squint-eyed flat marine fish with bottom white and top black skins. It was lively and hurly-burly place (as against the present day dingy hut serving sub-standard quality of toddy).
I feel, the word 'chakana/chakna' relates to Hindi/Urdu language. It means 'to taste' or 'try the taste'. This word must have been originated in battle-field retiring tents in olden days where 'madhu-madira, condiments and vanita (dancing girls) ruled the roost, as means of entertainment to lessen fatigue of battle.
Kannada Vidwan and Teacher of Vidyadayinee School in Suratkal (Late) Mairpadi Venkata Acharya (of Kulai) wrote a learned essay on 'Chakana' in 1970-80's in one of the Deepavali special issue of a periodical. I do not recollect the contents except that this word was used in Kannada literature of yore. If any reader could lay his hand on it, he can share the information with us.
There is a place called 'Chakan' in Pune District of Maharashtra on Pune-Nashik Highway. It is an agrarian area, providing onions, vegetables and horticulture products to Pune City. It was a historical place with a fort, ruled successively by Chieftains of Vijayanagara Empire, Moghuls, Bahamani Sultans and the British. Hence this place was used as garrison. How it got this name is left to sheer conjecture. It was a sleepy agrarian village until it was converted as industrial area. Now it is buzzing with engineering and automobile industries and is destined to have an international airport for Pune.
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