Meanings of words evolve over a period of time from their initial usage to current usage. Original meanings may eventually become dim and hidden and hence, create confusion. This observation is applicable specifically to South Indian Dravidian words.
‘Pula’ and ‘ Pola’, proto- Dravidian words, used to mean pasturage to cultivation in Dravidian group of languages, bear testimony to development of newer shades of meanings, besides retaining their original meanings to some extent. In some cases, words are equated to people and their professions.
Comparative meanings are available in the works of linguists, such as Tulu Nighantu (Tulu Lexicon)-1997, Vol. 1 to 6, Rashtrakavi Govind Pai Sanshodhana Kendra, Udupi, Karnataka/India, Dravidian Etymological Dictionary by T. Burrow & M.B. Emeneau and other dictionaries in Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Kodagu, Toda, Badaga, Sri Lanka, etc. Let us study the meanings given by Tulu Lexicon (TL) and DED:
Pula (ಪುಲ) = 1.Field, pasturage, grazing, grazing land, suitable land. 2.Ground, place where child birth has taken place. Pulavadu (ಪುಲವಾಡ್) = Broad area or pasturage. (TL , p.2073, 2147-48). Pulam (=field, rice field), in Tamil and Malayalam. (Derivatives in Tamil: pulan, pullavu = arable land, pulampan = chief or lord of a maritime tract. Originally, pulampan was chief of a village in the maritime tract.) DED 4303.
Pullel (ಪುಲ್ಲೆಲ್) = Increase, abundance.
Poli (ಪೊಲಿ) = 1.Wealth in the form of crops, corn, etc., granary. 2. Interest given in the form of grains for grains borrowed.( An ancient practice of borrowing and returning food grains)
Polisappu (ಪೊಲಿಸಪ್ಪು) = The ancient custom of bringing home leaves [of Jack, mango, bamboo and tumbe ] ceremoniously along with the spike of corn annually on the first harvesting occasion.
(Tumbe is a kind of medicinal plant; white Dead Nettle – Phlomes indica, Linn. Labiatae – used as remedy for indigestion, rheumatism, sore, scabs, fainting, etc.).
Polsudi (ಪೊಲ್ಸುಡಿ) = A folk song sung during the time of bringing first harvested crop into a house ‘Poli, poli ‘ is chanted while bringing in new paddy. (cf: Post 206. Poli Poli. Aug 30, 2009).
Pullu (ಪುಲ್ಲು) = 1. Grass, rush . 2. Skin of a cock between feather & flesh. ‘Pul’ means grass in Tamil, Kannada, Tulu, Malayalam, Kota and Toda languages. In Tamil ‘pul’ also means plants of grass family like bamboo or palms (DED 4300). In Sinhalese, ‘pol’ means coconut palm. (cf: TamilNet).
Tolkapiam classifies plants into ‘pul’ and ‘maram’ : All those plants for which the exterior is harder than core are ‘pul’ and all those for which the core is harder than the exterior are ‘maram’ (Tholkaapiam 27: 86-87).
‘Pol’, meant ‘coconut’, in ancient Tulu also. Consider this word ‘Palembu’ (ಪಾಳೆಮ್ಬು). It means a spathe or pod of coconut flower.
( We would cut out the dried ‘palembu’ in the shape of a boat. With sails attached to it, we used play in shallow water of sea or else in ponds during our childhood days at native place.)
In Kannada, ‘pulle’ (>.hulle) represents a deer, an animal feeding on grass.
Pulle, pulya= dawn, early morning. Pulle, pullya, pullyakela, pullayakāla (Tulu). Equivalents: ‘pular’ (Tamil), ‘pularukka’ (Malayalam), ‘pola’ (Kodagu). DED 4305.
Pulli (ಪುಲ್ಲಿ) = 1.Outer leaf of a plant, filament of stamen (DED 256). 2. A grand-child.
Pille (Pulle): An offshoot from bulbous plants, like plantain; seedling of a paddy plant. (TL, P.2030-31). Phrase: ‘pulle puDavuni’ means sprouting of buds; in a paddy field, it is a picturesque and pleasing sight.
‘Pola’ (>.Hola)’ is a common Dravidian word in Tulu, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Kodagu, etc. ‘Poli’ is a derivative, connected to harvesting activities and it is extensively used in various Tulu phrases, such as :
‘Poli aapuni’ (ಪೊಲಿ ಆಪುನಿ; = attaining prosperity),
‘Poli echchi’ (ಪೊಲಿ ಎಚ್ಚಿ) = It is a style of measuring newly harvested paddy with the wish of one measure more, two measure more, etc. instead of straight counting one, two, three and so on),
‘Poli barpuni’ (ಪೊಲಿ ಬರ್ಪುಣಿ ) = Increasing agricultural wealth,
‘Poli pāDuni’ (ಪೊಲಿಪಾಡುಣಿ) = A magical cult of heaping and sprinkling ashes for safety from insects and thieves, et
In Tulu 'polampuni' meaning is 'to clean, wash, rinse. The term ‘poladavaru’ is applied to people of Gatti community.
‘Polanadu’ means a border or the ridges of rice fields in Malayalam. ‘Polanadu Kalian’ or ‘Mallan’ is a local deity there. (Gundert’s Malayalam Dictionary ,p.80 , quoted by Gustav Soloman Oppert in his book “On the Origin of Inhabitants of Bharatavarsa or India – The Dravidian”.)
‘Pola’ is an important festival of Maharashtra, related to starting of harvest operations. On this day cattle, especially bullocks, are worshipped. In Maharashtra and parts of southern India , bullocks are used for ploughing as against male water buffaloes in coastal tracts of India. They are bathed, colourfully decorated, and taken out in a procession with much fanfare to accompaniment of drum-beats and ‘lezhim’ (a jingling instrument made of wood, fitted iron chain full of metallic pieces). This produces a musical sound in the dance of rhythmic movements.
In south Indian languages like Kannada ‘pőli’ means naughty or sexy. The word may have strange origin in the antiquity, as we find when comparing with European equivalent word!
In Romania ‘pola’ means procreative organs like ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’ and hence an offensive swear-word. The procreation leads to increase in population. Similarly the Dravidian word ‘poli’, means increment, multiplication, thereby auspiciousness and prosperity. Linguists are finding influence of Dravidian languages in Mediterranean and European countries. It is curious to see how the wide meaning of ‘pula’. Romanian word ‘pola’ somehow has been narrowed down only to mean subjugation and procreation. Incidentally, there was a comment on our ‘Post-206: Poli, Poli’ from a Romanian or Russian reader, touching upon the vulgar aspect of the word pola and poli.
‘Pola’ is a popular proper name in Western countries. Pula or Pola is a maritime city of Istria (Austria), a littoral region ruled by Roman and Austro-Hungarian monarch and later on Italy and Germany. It is located in Adriatic Sea. It will be interesting to note that ‘pula’ has the meaning of ‘raft’, ‘to float’ or ‘ship’ (DED-4321). In Tulu ‘pulavini’ means to float. Compare this to ‘plava’ of Sanskrit.
Evolution of words
Human migration for trade and communication and flair for travelling through regions and countries around the Globe have contributed towards migration and exchange of words enriching languages. A loaned and assimilated word from one language to another undergoes change over a long period of time. So attaching definite or relevant meaning defies all explanations. We wish that the nationalistic sentiments, or plain chauvinism, which probably were absent in remote past, now should not play a spoil sport.
-Hosabettu Vishwanath .