We have seen that words, denoting name or action, come into usage every now and then with specific meaning or significance. Some of them become inscrutable with the passage of time. It is a leap in dark attempting to decipher or interpretsuch words. This is very much true in the case of place names.
Ambagilu, which is located between Kalyanpur (See Note) and Udupi (town entry point) is an example to be studied.
Enigma of Ambagilu
It seems to be an easy and plain word but there is something curious about it. Every time when I cross Ambagilu or Ambagalu, the curious name provokes me to find out its exact meaning. It rhymes with Mumbagilu (Front door) or Himbagilu (Back door) in Kannada. The Tulu Lexicon (Page 29)splits the word as “Am? + Bakilu” and gives a generalized meaning as ‘Main entrance (of a colony, residential area, etc’) or ‘Spacious veranda in front of a house’. Both in Tulu (Bakilu) and Kannada (Bagilu) letters ‘k’ and ‘g’ are interchangeable. Bakil/Bagilu means ‘door or entrance’ (Skt. Dwara).
A.Manner’s “Tulu-English Dictionary” also gives the meaning of ‘Ambakilu’ as (1) a kind of veranda, (2) an outer gate or door.
What is then the meaning ‘Am (ಅಂ)’, pronounced as ‘um’ in umbrella?
Am = Water
‘Am’ means water, perhaps a shortened word of ‘Ambu’. Consider words like:
‘Ambi’ = Boat, ‘Ambiga’ = Boatman.
‘Ambalike/Lambalike = Daughter of water, i.e. the Goddess who sprang out from water.
‘Ambhrani’, a powerful mother Goddess, who was not a Vedic Goddess in the beginning. Vedic Hyms of Eight-stanza, known as ‘Vagambhrani (Vak+Ambhrani) Sukta’ entered Rigveda on later period of it. She is akin toPrimordial Mother Aditi, comparable to ‘Amman’ of Nile Civilization and ‘Aphrodite’ of Mediterranean and Saraswati, Goddess of Speech - all Mother Goddesses of Jalatatva (Water element principle) as opposed to Agnitatva (Principle of Fire of Vedic people).
‘Amara’ = (in paddy field), a dividing hump or bund or a ditch or small canal for water outflow from paddy field (TL-133).
Am + bagilu – a sea Port?
Ambakilu/Ambagilu means a place where the river meets sea. This bids me to think that Ambagilu must have been an earlier location of estuary of River Swarna as against the present estuary at Kodi Bengre-Hoode-Kemmannu where now River Seeta too joins before debauching to Arabian Sea. All the west-flowing rivers originate from Sahyadri Range, i.e. Western Ghats.Most of the rivers were navigable for marine trade in olden days. R. Seeta originates from Agumbe Ghat, western part of Shimoga district and is famous for rapids boating sport these days.
It is also worth pondering whether it could be R. Udyavara many many years before. The last (recorded) shifting of river courses to southwards in West coasts took place around 1887 (See Posts on different names of Mangalore and Kordel).
Synonyms of Ambakilu
The following culling from Tulu Lexicon and Dravidian Etymological Dictionary (DED) would adduce that ‘Ambakilu’ is an estuary in the unknown past and not associated with any tribe ‘Am’, as we are tempted to argue.
Aruveda Bakilu = (1) The place where river joins sea, (2) The entrance to a harbour Aruvebagilu > Aribagilu > Alubakil > Ambakil.
Aruve Saysira = (1) Marine Department, (2) Sea Customs.
Aruve Sayira Katte = Custom House (all TL-162).
AaNa = (1) The entrance to a harbour, (2) sea which is not deep (TL-233). See Note on Kalianpur.*
In fishing profession, this gives rise to phrases like:
ANagu popuni/kulluni: Fishing in shallow waters,
ANevera barpinni/ANevunu = Boats coming to shore after fishing.
Ta: Ari (Entry 278, page 26) Place where the lagoon joins sea. Arivay = Sand-bank at the mouth of a river or harbour.
Arivi = inlet to a backwater, mouth of a river.
Ma: Ari bar = River mouth
Ka: Arave = mouth of a river in which tide ebbs and flows, bar.
Tu: Aluve = mouth of a river, harbour
B-K: Ana = the entrance to a harbour
Kor (M) Alubagalu = mouth of a river
Te: Ana = Bank or a dam
Eponym or Ethnonym Angle
Alternatively, it could be considered whether there was a clan/tribe called Am/Amba or not. But suffix ‘Bakilu’ does not permit us to think that it is a settlement of so called ‘Am’ people.
Place names suggest geographical features throughout West Coast [Eg. Uran (New Mumbai), Arne, Verne, ANav, Aluvaye (Kerala), Barakur (Udupi District) and so on]. All the above words indicate to topographical and geographical features near water bodies.The reason for the specific element ‘Am’ is now lost and hence the difficulty in understanding. The generic part ‘Bakilu’ means ‘entrance’ is very clear. However, our interpretation is not a last word. Assenting voice (from knowledgeable quarters) helps in further exploring and setting at rest the ‘Riddle of Ambagilu’.
*Note on Kalyanapur
This place name has also undergone change on arrival of Europeans for marine trade and on introduction of Christianity. The old name was and should be, in all practical sense, “Kalia+an+pura” as we find its cognates in Maharashtra, eg. Kalyan (Kali+an), a hinter land marine trade port on River Ulhas, a wide and deep navigable river in olden days. But before journeying onward to drain into Arabian Sea near Bhayandar-Vasai the Main Riverbranches outitself near Kalwa (Kal+wa) and hastens its joining Arabian Sea through Thane Lagoon (now called as Thane Creek). ‘Kal/Kalia’ refers to rocky region, ‘an’ river bank or harbour and ‘wa’ means place/area. Kalina, a marshy land of Mithi River, becomes ‘Koli Kalyan’ on conversion of Koli people to Christianity.
-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune