Saturday, July 12, 2014

341. Pagoda: an early Indian word

A Pagoda represents a multi-storied, turret like or pyramidal tower like structure mostly of Buddhist or Hindu origin. In China, Japan and South East Asia, the pagodas represent Buddhist temples.  It has been proposed that the word pagoda travelled to China and Japan along with tenets of Buddhism that spread to those countries during the early centuries of the Common Era. The word is   equivalent to the word ‘temple’. In many parts of ancient India including Tulunadu the ‘Pagoda’ was the name of the currency in use in early days. The word is said to be of Indian origin even though several obscure explanations have been proposed in this regard.

One proposal suggests that it is derived from the Persian word Butkada which means the temple of idols. There has been a suggestion in the Wiki pages that the Portuguese word Pagode is derved from the Persian word Butkada. Whether the Portuguese word Pagode was derived from the Persian word Butkada or Portuguese picked up the word pagode directly from pagoda from their Indian connections is not clear.However the Persian word in the context, Butkada is quite interesting.
Early pagodas also known as Chaityas (Chitte in Tulunadu) were constructed to preserve the mortal remains of Buddha and his disciples. The turret like (or sometimes globular) structures preserving the remains of the dead were also known as Stoopa or doopa (derived into: doope, as known commonly in Tulunadu).
The prefix būt in the Persian word Butkada reminds us of bootha (or Buta), the Spirit of the dead. Similarly, the suffix kada reminds of the Kata the early Koraga word for representation of God or divine stone. The Persian word Butkada is explained as Temple of idols. The equation of the word būt or bhoot (the spirit of the dead) with idols envisages the ancient cults of worshipping the dead in the form of idols in ancient Persia also.
Besides relating 'Kada' to 'Kata' (natural object, say a stone, tree, or a place of pyre, for identifying the Spirit of the dead for worship), it seems that 'kada' could have been a corrupted form of ''kala' (=an open field or plot). The term kala was also used by Arab traders after seeing a lot small shrines or temples along the Western coast, which is then picked up by Portuguese and afterwards by other European traders. 'Kala' also means a small shrine, akin to  'Maada or Kaimaada' for the dead.  'Kaliyata' means an annual celebration for worshipping that Divine Spirit

Origin of the word: Pagoda
There has been a suggestion that the word is influenced by the Prakrit word Bhagodi which means divinity or divine structure.
An ancient Munda word Phagu has remained till today on account of the popular Phagu festival commonly associated with Munda tribes. The meaning of the word phagu is not clear even though traditionally it was also the name of the first month in the calendar years among ancient Indian communities as we find from the vestiges of ancient cults preserved in Tulunadu (Post 338). 
There are a large number of place names in Bihar, Chattisgarh ,Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Orissa, Punjab, Rajastan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttar Khand and West Bengal that begin with the prefix of phag which in turn suggests the distribution and survival of the ancient term in larger part of  India. Similarly we can find numerous place names beginning with the prefix of bhag also.
It appears that the Munda word phag or phagu is an ancient variant of the latter Prakrit/ Sanskrit word bhag.
The pa >ba (or pha >bha) consonant transitions along the history are quite common in Indian languages. Thus the ancient Indian word phag or phagu must have become bhag with along course of passage of time. The word bhag in Indian culture represents divinity or creation or a product of creation. On one hand words like Bhagvan (=God), Bhagvati (=Goddess) have been derived from the root bhag. On the other hand, bhag also meant female organ responsible for creation of life (or organ of reproduction, to be precise). The River Ganga is also known as Bhagirati or the divine flow. Bhagamandala in Kodagu is the divine place of origin of River Kaveri. Bhagwadi hamlet in Barkur, is famous for  Mahisamardini Temple. Thus, the term 'bhag' also means embodiment of 'divine qualities' (eg. Bhagawanta, Bhagamalini, Bhagavati, etc.). Bhagambila is an ancient hamlet near Kotekar in Mangalore Taluk.

The Prakrit word bhagoda, being bhag+oda, derived from Munda language roots, thus represents a divine structure, wherein oda (ora) means a house. Further, bhagodi being derived from bhagoda means divine in Prakrit language.

The suffix Oda at present generally means a boat in Tulu, Tamil Telugu and other related languages. However, it seems the word had other shades of meanings earlier in the history, such as a structure, a construction, an idol or a coin.

Pagoda: shades of meaning
Hobson Jobson Dictionary attributes a set of three meanings for the word pagoda: (a) a temple (b) an idol and (c) a coin. Since the three meanings are interlinked, it seems that the term pagoda during the early history originally meant (a) a divine structure/construction (b) a divine sculpture or idol and (c) a divine/gold coin bearing the image of a God or Goddess. The gold (sometimes silver) coins carrying the image of then popular deities such as Varaha (Panjurli in Tulunadu), or double fishes (Pandya and Alupa emblem which also turned out to be the insignia of Fish incarnation (Matsyavatar) of Lord Vishnu)

Thus, the term pagoda appears to be an ancient Indian term (of Munda or pre Munda origin) and meant a divine structure or representation or entity.. Since Spirit worship was the order of the day in those times the pagoda represented a spirit shrine or structure intended and designed to preserve mortal remains of the dead.The term pagoda must have been in wide usage in India during the early centuries of the Common Era when tenets of Buddhism were spread to the China and Japan. 

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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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