Thursday, October 22, 2009

210. Palli

Some of the words have multiple meanings that introduce a degree of uncertainity and indecisiveness as to their originally intended exact meaning when encountered in the form of place names. The multiple meanings inherited by some of these words may have originated from divergent proto-language sources during the course of evolution, leading to perpetuation of dissimilar meanings for similar sounding words. Let us look into the word ‘palli’ for an illustration of this observation.
Palli (pronounced as paLLi or palli in different regions) is a common place name indicator in southern India. Madanapalli, Tiruchirapalli, Bellampalli, etc places suggest the prevalence of this word among Dravidian ancestors. However, the word is not geographically exclusive to southern India. We find place names ending with palli Sindhi and Baluchistan village names in Pakistan (Palli-Mas, Goth-Palli etc), Afghanistan and also in northern Africa and Mediterranean region. Palli is also the name of a settlement in Voru, Estonia. Palli an Israeli male surname. Palli is also name of a Sindhi tribe in Pakistan.Data from Vanniyars suggest that the South Indian royal group of Pallavas were also formerly referred to as Pallis.In mideval Kannada ‘palli’ became ‘halli’, while ‘palle’ and ‘palliya’ variants also exists in Andhra Pradesh.. In Maharastra and Gujarat, modified -valli suffix also exists.
It is suggestive of flow of the ancient words along with human migrants and possibly that traces the relics of history of past settlement and migration paths of Dravidian language speakers in the antiquity. The word could have been originated in ancient Sumerian environs and passed on to other regions along with ancient human migrants.
Palli in Karavali
Palli is a rocky village in Karkal Taluk, Udupi district. It is a continuation of the granite rock belt extending in the surrounding villages of Sooda, Nitte, Kalya, Kukkundur and Kawdoor. There are no major water bodies (palla=water pond) in this Palli village. Therefore this Palli is derived from Palla or water body. On the other hand, the abundant granitic, rocky outcrops in the village remind us of the word Palli (3) as also explained in Tamilnet and derived from the ancient rock-cut beds of Jain period. However, detailed historical studies may be required to confirm existence of any ancient Jain rock cut bed structures in the granites of Palli village, Karkal taluk. Now, since the granites of the region being quarried extensively for winning building material, chances of finding ancient archeological structures are also quite remote.

There are some more 'Palli's in Udupi region. Perampalli near Manipal, Parampalli near Kota,Varamballi near Brahmavara, Nayampalli near Udupi, Bairampalli and Nellampalli near Herga and so on.
Perampalli ( peram+palli) =A large village.There are villages called Perampalli in Tamilanadu also suggesting that it is an old Dravidian place name.
Parampalli (Param+palli) = An old ('para' or 'pala') village. Possibly, Parampalli, possibly, is a later modification of original place name Peramapalli. And it appears that the place name Varamballi is possibly a Sanskritized version of the word Peramaplli or the Parampalli.
Most of these Pallis in Udupi district could be of Buddhist or Jain heritage as most of these are located beside rivers and there are no large Palla (ponds) in any of these villages.
Comparatively, the villages having a suffix of 'palli' are rare in Dakshina Kannada district. Kandathapalli near Bolur in Mangalore city is suggestive of a Mosque ('Palli') located in an agricultural field ('kanDa'). Nidpalli ('niD' or 'neD'=to plant) in Puttur Taluk is suggestive of an ancient agriculture based village.
Palimar, Pallimar
Palimar village located to the southeast of Padubidri town is sometimes pronounced as 'Phalimar' or ‘Pallimar’ also. The word Pali-mār would mean sisters (‘pali’) agricultural field(‘mār’). However, there are no known legends in the village that connect to any of sister’s agricultural property. Therefore we can conclude that the original name possibly was ‘Pallimar’ instead of Palimar as usually pronounced at present.
Palli-mār means agricultural field(mār) located beside a Palli, where the word ‘palli’ possibly represented an ancient Buddhist (or even Jain) temple.

Palli 1, Pallava
The word ‘palli’ possibly originated as a human settlement by the side of a ‘palla’ (natural lake or pond). In inland regions away from natural streams the water ponds were the exclusive source of water for irrigation and domestic consumption. Thus villages, towns and temples were built by the side of large perennial water bodies. The word ‘Pallava’ also means the same: palla+va =an area or settlement by the side of a palla (pond). The word ‘Pallava’ was the name of a famous south Indian dynasty.
Palla, an unit
In inland regions away from the rivers and streams, in the earlier days of civilization, the ‘palla’ (water pond) was the exclusive source of irrigation. Like the ‘pola’(=agricultural field) that represented ‘poli’(=prosperity),in those days, the ‘palla’(water pond) eventually stood for the quantity or measure of grains produced. Thus the ‘palla’ became a volumetric measuring unit (made of wooden or metal vessel) for 100 seers of rice. In some areas (especially Kannada) the word was modified into ‘balla’.
The relevant word ‘palla’ also meant a heap of cooked rice during ceremonial mass feedings. The traditional Tulu words ‘pallada kotya’(=a room or cubicle where cooked rice for serving is stored) and ‘palla puje’(=the worship of ceremonial cooked rice) were customarily derived in these lines.
Pali, Palli 2
Palli2 or the second source of meaning for the word palli probably came as variant of the word pāli.
Pāli is also a place name in Western Rajasthan. The word Pāli apparently holds the key to the origin of the word Palli2.
The word Palli2 was used to designate ancient Buddhist shrines in southern India and Srilanka. Later the name was also extended to Jain temples and Christian churches. Further in Kerala and southern parts of Tulunadu, it represents Muslim shrines. The application of the word Palli2 for shrines appears to have changed during the passage of time.
Tamilnet records that the word Palli was adapted to represent Buddhist and subsequently Muslim shrines. Tamilnet explains that the word Palli was derived from the word ‘palla’ (depression) which was used to bury the dead bodies in the past. The word Pali was said to have been applied to Buddhist shrines these were repositories of dead bodies or relicts thereof.
However we feel that the origin of the Palli as a shrine was derived from another route.
Pali 2 =Older
Pāli was the ancient Indian language adopted by Buddhists to communicate and preach. The usage of the word Palli for Buddhist Chaitya might have been actually a modification of the word Pāli used by Buddhists. The meaning of the word Pāli is said to be line or text.

However it also should be considered that the word is related to another ancient Prakrit word pala/ para/ pali that is also preserved in Tulu till today. The word ‘pala’ (or its variant para) means old, mature or senior. Note the related and derived words for comparison: The word pali means elder sister. ‘Palaye’ (or ‘paraye’) represents elder brother. ‘Paratt’ (or ‘palatt’ ) means the old. ‘Parabe’ and ‘parabu’ represent an old man and an old woman respectively. ’ParakaTT ‘means old and torn (cloth).
A variant of the word ‘Pala’ was ‘Pela’ or Jack-fruit (and tree), the oldest fruit known in the subcontinent. It has been suggested in earlier posts that the word Pala was adapted into Sanskrit to represent fruits in general.
Thus the word Pāli could have been adapted to represent an older language and tradition. Similarly it appears that the word Pāli was also applied to represent older generation of shrines of Buddhist origin. Historical data suggests that the Buddhist temples and Chaityas were the forerunners of Hindu temples and architecture.
The name of the Southeast Asian island Bali is a simple variant of the word Pāli..
Tamilnet explains that the word ‘palli’ also means a rock-cut bed used by early Jain monks. It also suggests that the word ‘palli’ meant a sleeping area, before being adopted as a village.
Apparently the word palla meant a sleeping or resting place in the older Prakrit/ Pali languages. The derived word ‘pallanga’ means a bed. Similarly, ‘pallenki’(Tulu) or ‘pallaki’ means a mane where a person can relax comfortably while being carried by two to four servants during early days. These words suggest that ‘palli’ derived from Prakrit source was a relaxing or sleeping area to begin with.
The word ‘palli’ (pronounced with soft ‘l’) also means common household lizard.
Thus the ancient word ‘palli’ preserved in the Dravidian languages at present carries several meanings, such as: 1. Habitation beside a pond or water source. 2. A relaxing area or comfort zone (in contrast with zone of wilderness or business) and 3. A Shrine: Buddhist, Jain, Islamic or Christian.4. A common lizard.
Of these meanings, the word Palli as a habitation indicator can be considered as an very ancient root word that originated in the early civilizations of Mediterranean-Sumerian environs. Kawdoor Narayana Shetty (see comment section below),for example, rightly points out that the affinity between the Dravidian word 'palli'(village) and the Greek word 'polis'(city). It seems that both these words originated from a common root word (ancient Sumerian?) that meant civilized area.

In reality, the multiple senses the word palli conveys essentially reflect the interesting facets of socio-cultural interaction and evolution the people and the languages have undergone.

With -Hosabettu Vishwanath


  1. Kawdoor Narayana ShettyOctober 26, 2009 at 12:28 AM

    There is a village called "paLLi" near Kawdoor village on the road connecting Nire-Bailur and Udipi (via moDu BeLLe).
    "Polis" in old Greek means city-state. The famous "Acropolis" near Athen (Capital of Greece)means above the city where many old temples on a hill can be found. Some of these temples are older than 2438 years.
    There are many place names ending with "poli" in Italy too, like Napoli (Naples city), Empoli, Tripol, Agropoli etc. Tripoli is also capital of Libya on Mediterrenian sea.
    Our tuluva "Poli poli" wish may be stands for "multiple" (or Poly)

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Books for Reference

  • A Comparative Study of Tulu Dialects By Dr. Padmanabha Kekunnaya. Govinda Pai Reserach Centre, UDupi. 1994
  • Koti Chennaya: Janapadiya Adhyayana. By Dr. Vamana Nandavar. Hemanshu Prakashana ,Mangalore.2001.
  • Male kudiyaru. Dr B. A.Viveka Rai and D.Yadupathi Gowda, Mangalore University,1996.
  • Mogaveera Samskriti By Venkataraja Punimchattaya. Karnataka Sahitya Academy.1993.
  • Mugeraru:Jananga Janapada Adhyayana. By Dr Abhaya Kumar Kaukradi.Kannada & Culture Directorate,Bangalore & Karnataka Tulu Academy, Mangalore,1997.
  • Puttubalakeya Pad-danagalu. Ed: Dr B.A.Viveka Rai,Yadupati Gowda and Rajashri, Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Tulu Peeta. Mangalore University.2004
  • Se'erige. Ed:Dr K.Chinnapa Gowda.Madipu Prakashana,Mangalagangotri,2000.
  • Studies in Tuluva History and Dr P Gururaja Bhat (1975).Milagres College,Kallinapur,Udupi.
  • Taulava Sanskriti by Dr.B.A.Viveka Rai, Sahyadri Prakashana,Mysore 1977
  • TuLu naaDu-nuDi By Dr.PalthaDi Ramakrishna Achar, Puttur.
  • TuLu NighanTu. (Editor in Chief: Dr U.P.Upadhyaya, Govinda Pai Research Centre,Udupi. Six volumes. 1988 to 1997
  • Tulu Patero-A Philology & Grammar of Tulu Language by Budhananda Shivalli.2004.Mandira Prakashana Mangalore. p.317. (The book is in Tulu Language using Kannada script)
  • TuLunadina ShasanagaLa Sanskritika Adhyayana. By Shaila T. Verma (2002) Jnanodaya Prakashana,Bangalore, p.304.(Kannada)
  • Tuluvala Baliyendre. Compiled by N.A.Sheenappa Hegde,Polali,Sri Devi Prakashana,Parkala,1929/1999

A Coastal estuary

A Coastal estuary
Holegadde near Honavar,Uttara Kannada dist, Karnataka

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