Have you ever wondered about the origin or significance of some of the odd sounding place names in the burgeoning city of Bengaluru? Bengaluru (or Bangalore), originally built by Kempegowda in the year ca.1537 CE, is presently the capital of Karnataka, where Kannada is the official State language; however, you can find several local place names within Bangalore that cannot easily be explained by Kannada pundits or lexicons. Vyalikaval (Vaiyalikaval) is one such place name within Bengaluru. The significance of this place name is that the cosmopolitan nature of Bengaluru dates back to a period not less than two millennia.
Normally pronounced as Vaiyāli-kāval, this particular area is located between Malleshwaram (Originally Mallapura village) and Sadashivanagar (named after freedom fighter Karnad Sadashiva Rao) Extensions in the Northwest part of Bangalore. The suffix ‘kāval’ refers to areas reserved as sylvan zones or protected forests during the historical regime of kings and chieftains. However the word ‘vaiyali’ appears unintelligible in general. Some have tried to explain it as a Kannada version of Tamil word ‘yali’, a mythical animal figurine displayed in temple sculptures in the form of half-lion-half elephant. The mythical ’Yali‘ is generally known as ‘Shārdūla’ in Kannada-Tulu areas.
|Google map of Vayalikaval, Bangalore.|
However, the term ‘Vaiyali’ can be traced to an immigrant tribal community that settled in parts of ancient Bengaluru and spread in parts of Tamilnadu and Kerala during or before the early years of Common Era. The ancient tribe of Vayali was of Afghan origin and they used to speak a kind of Paisachi language now extinct in Southern India.
Waynad is the name of a popular town and district in Kerala. Like the mysterious Vaiyali-kaval, the place name Waynad also begins with the unusual prefix ‘Wai’. The word Wai normally can be mistaken for ‘Vāyu’ the equivalent Sanskrit word for the air or the wind.
Vai or Vaiyal tribes
Vaiyalikaval or Waynad are not the only places that bear the signature of ancient Vai or Vaiyal tribes. There are numerous villages and settlements spread across the Southern India that bear the name of Vai or Vaiyal people. In Kerala, besides Wayanād, several villages and towns like Vaikom (Kottayam dt), Vaithiri (Wayanad dt), Vayalar and Vyttila (Ernakulam dt), Vailattur (Mallapuram dt), Vaipur (Pathanamthitta dt), and Vylathur (Thrissur dt) have preserved the prefix of the ancient Vai tribes. In Tamilnadu, numerous villages and towns such as: Vayalakkavoor (Uthiramerur dt), Vaipoor and Valayakkaranai (Kundrathur dt), Vayalur (Tirukkalukundram dt), Vayalur(Minjur dt), Voyalanallur (Poonamallee dt), Veialoor (Keerapalyam dt), Vayalamoor (Panagipettai dt), Vaiyangudi (Manglur dt),Vayalur (Kilpennattur dt), Vaividanthangal (Pudupalyam dt), Vayalathur (Vembakam dt), Vaikundam (Mac Choultry dt), Vayalappatti (Mohanur dt), Voipadi (Chennimalai dt), Vaithianathanpettai (Tiruvaiyaru dt), Vaimedu (Vedaranyam dt), Vaipur (Tiruvarur dt), Vayalore (Kodavasal dt), Vaiyampatti (Vaiyampatti dt), Vaiganallur (Kulithalai dt), Vayalaur (Krishna-rayapuram dt), Vayalur (Madurai west), Vaiyapuripatti (Singamapunari dt) still carry the tag of the extinct ancient Vai tribes. In Maharastra, Wai , Vaijapur etc places bear the signatures of these ancient Vai (or Wai) tribes.
Vai or Vaiyala were an ancient tribe speaking a kind of Paisachi language. Waiyala or waiyali has been considered as a variant of Paisachi languages. Grierson (1906) has described Wai-Ala as one of the Dardic-Kafir languages belonging to class of modern Paisachi languages. Waigala is a town in Nuristan, Afghanistan. Hence ,it is also known as Waigali; and other alternate names for the language in Afghanistan are Wai, Waigala, Waigalii, Waygali, Waigeli, Kalasha-Ala, Chima-Nishei, Suki and Zhonjigali etc.
The Vai tribes migrated to India from the northwest direction. The Northwest is known as Vāyuvya in Sanskrit. It seems the Sanskrit word for the Wind God ‘Vāyu’ and the Northwest direction, ‘Vāyuvya’ have been named after the Vai tribes that came from the NW direction.
The suffix ‘-Ala’ in Paisachi languages of Northwestern Indian subcontinent such as Wai-Ala, Kalasa- Ala etc remind us of the Al suffix in Tulu-Kannada place names such as Kodiyala Kadiyali, Madivala, Ilawala, Horeyala, etc. These Tulu Kannada place names apparently have been coined while Paisachi- Prakrit was the common language in southern India during the early years of Common Era.
Immigration of Paisacha speakers
The Paisachi languages have been considered as extinct languages that originated in NW part of Indian subcontinent and spread to rest of India Before Christ and during early centuries of Common Era. Even though any disdained these as languages of devils (pisāchi= devil), it seems the term has been totally misrepresented as the word ‘pai-sa-chi’ essentially means languages of the Pai tribes. All over Southern India including parts of Tulunadu, have place names that suggest existence of Pai-sa-chi speakers, possibly before the advent of Common Era. The Paisachi languages in the NW Indian subcontinent had several variants like Vaiyala, Basgali, Pasai, Sina, Kalasa, Kashmiri, Garwi etc of which some of the variants also survived in the southern Indian villages in the antiquity, as a result of migration of relevant human tribes, before the dominance of Dravidian languages. This aspect is evident from the elaborate list of Paisacha- Vaiyala and other related place names in Southern India. Grierson (1906) proposed that with passage of time Paisachi language evolved into Sauraseni and Maharastri Prakrit language forms.
|Grierson map(1906) showing distribution of of Paisacha languages of North-western Indian subcontinent.|
Several Afghan place names like Kalasa, Hunza-nagar etc have apparently been replicated in parts of Karnataka like Kalasa (Chikmagalur dt), Huncha (Shimoga dt) suggesting that these were the ancient settlements of immigrant communities from Northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. Similarly, place names Sindhanur (Raichur dt), Sindhudurga (Maharastra), and surname Sindhya remind us signatures of Sindh and Sindhi culture. Maiya was one of the Paisachi- Prakrit tribes and their language; likewise, the surname ‘Maiya’ or ‘Mayya’ surviving in present Tulunadu could have been a vestige of immigrant ancient Maiya tribes from the Northwest. The suffix –gāli in many of the place names such as Parthagāli, Poorigāli, is a Paisachi word meaning valley.
We have described in Older Posts the significance of the Tulu word ‘pirāk’ (=ancient) that is derived from the ancient place name Pirak, now in Pakistan.
We can see that a number of ancient place names have survived vagaries of time and tides and still serve as marker clues to the ancient migrations that affected this land in the bygone pages of the forgotten history.
George Abraham Grierson (1906). The Pisaca languages of the North-western India. Royal Asiatic Society, London. Online source: http://www.archive.org/stream/pisacalanguageso00grie/pisacalanguageso00grie_djvu.txt