Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Place Names Of Indian Origin In South East Asia

There are many place names in South East Asia which have Indian origins. 
And the names are still in use. Some have retained their pristine pure form. But others have changed in forms. 

These names can be found in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, and to a lesser extent, in Phillipines and Malaya.
Many of the places in the above countries have modern names. But they had ancient names which were of Indian origin. 

Kedah was ancient Kadaaram. It was also known as Kataaha and Kaalzagam. A hundred and fifty years ago, it was under the suzerainty of Thailand. At that time it was called Saipuri. Pahang was IndraPura. 
Perlis is IndraKayangan.
Sabah was Indra Sabah.
Perak was GangaNagara.
Penang was Pulau Pertama.

Bangkok has a very long Sanskrit name which is used in official functions. Very very long name, actually. 

"Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit"

What does it mean?

"The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn."

For many male tourists, it is the City Of Angels alright. 

And some of the names are still in use. Some have retained their pristine pure form. But others have changed in forms. 

Phillipines was Lingapura. It is still known as Likkam in Tagalog language. Phillipines is named after a Spanish King - Phillip. 
It was under Spanish rule until 1910. When it gained independance, they wanted to call it Likkam. But changed their minds because they thought the original word has also a 
different meaning which they did not like. 
Borneo Island was Varuna Dvipa. 
Singapore is very obvious.
Malacca was named after the Nelli tree which is called Aamalaka in Sanskrit, and in Malay it is known as Malaka.

Sunday, May 29, 2011



One of the greatest Tamil warrior/leaders was Commandant Khan Shahib alias Mohammed Yusof Khan. Commonly known with dread and terror to the Tamils as Kummandhaan Kaan Saab. From very humble origins, he rose up to become the Supreme Commandant of the combined East India Company/Arcot Nawab armies and also the Subedhar of Nellore. He subdued many Palayakarars and rajas and destroyed several palayams. 
He had a change of heart and became an enemy to the Company/Arcot Nawab alliance. 
He wanted to create an independant country of Tamilnadu.
There were several wars fought between them. Finally Khan Shahib shut himself up within the Fort of Madurai and resisted the alliance. 
The alliance laid seige to the Madurai Kottai. 
But it would not not fall. 
The alliance diverted the rivers of Vaigai and Kirudhamalai. No food and other supplies could go insde the fort. Even if there was no food, the people fought on subsisting on Betel leaves. So the allliance destroyed all the betel plantations for fifty miles around.
The hungry people started eating cats and dogs. 
But in spite of all this hunger, the fort did not fall.
Finally, Khan Shahib was caught by his own subordinates who had been bribed, when he was performing his evening prayers. And they tied him up with his own turban and then later bound him in heavy chains and delivered him to the British.
So we cant always say that hunger alone will subdue a people.

But eight hundred years ago, there was a lord in Spain called Lord Roderiguez who was the greatest warrior and leader at that time. He was nicknamed El Cid by the Arabs who were his one-time enemies. El Cid means 'The Leader'. Like Der Fuehrer, Il Duchey, Nethaji, etc.
Once, he laid seige to the fortress town of Valenzia. But the people of Valenzia did not surrender. El Cid used bombardment and heavy showers of arrows. And no supplies went to the fort. In due course, people were dying of hunger. 
El Cid knew that the people were hungry and dying. He also knew that they would rather die.
So he tried another ruse.
He arraigned all his Trebuchets, Catapults and anything that could hurl heavy loads near the walls. He loaded their baskets with loaves of bread, water casks, wine casks, fruits and then shot them across the walls into the fort. 

He also proclaimed that all the people will be spared and promised unlimited supply 
of food and water to them.
The people reacted to this. 
They caught the governor of the fort and then threw him out over the walls. Then they opened the doors for El Cid.
There is a saying, " Bomb them with butter".

Sunday, May 22, 2011



Tamil Culture is very rich with numerous traditions. 
Every village, town, and city have them. 
Every caste, sub-caste, sept, gothra, kudi, etc., also have them.
Some are common; some are rare and some are unique.
Some weeks ago,  I wrote about something known as 'iLavatta Kal'. This was in relation to the thread on 'Sandow'. 
'ILavatta kal' is a spherical, smooth, granite ball of varying size. 
Usually it is about 1 mulzam in diameter, i.e., 18 -21 inches. Some of them are 24 inches. 

Any young man who wants to test his strength, carries the stone up, and lifts it to his shoulder, and throws it behind over his shoulder. 
Thats why its known as 'iLavatta kal'.
In villages which are inhabited by martial communities, a young man who takes a bride in that village is made to lift the stone. 
Hence it is otherwise known as 'MappiLLai Kal' also.

There are certain techniques in carrying the stone.

Some villages hold competitions in stone-lifting. 

Things are made difficult for the competition. 
The stone, which is already very smooth, is smeared  liberally with castor oil - (viLakkeNNey). 
To make the castor oil more slippery and thicker, some ingredients are added. 
Off handedly I can think of one such concoction. 

They burn ricestalk straw. Before it turns to ashes, the fire is put out. The remaining residue is charred straw. This is powdered and made into soot. This soot is very fine and 
This is mixed with castor oil and made into a paste. 
This concoction is known as 'masagu'. 

The stone is liberally smeared with this.
The young men try to carry this slippery stone ball.
This is one ball which any man will be proud to carry.
Especially after polishing the ball.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


        This is one of the early Durgai figures. 
This statue is found in a very ancient temple in a place called Thondi. Thondi was aport city with a very busy harbour. It lies in the same latitude as Ta Kua Pa in Thailand. Ta Kua Pa was a very important port city with colonies of Tamil merchants. 
The ships would make use of the monsoon winds and sail straight to Nicobar and then to Ta Kua Pa. From Nicobar the ships can go to Akshaya - the present day Acchey. Or to Kedah. 
The temple is very very near the sea shore. It is unusual to build a temple so very near the sea. 
Geographical changes had evidently taken place during these millenia.

You can see many early Durgais with lovely lively expressions. It is all Middle Pandya Era. Thats the time that the Pandyas took sculptures and carvings to new heights. They were the masters of miniaturisation and other artistic wonders which would seem impossible at present. Stone polishing was also very well-developed.
The figure belongs to the Early Pandya Era which would be 7th to 10th centuries.
The statue could be around 7th or 8th century. Or earlier.

As you notice it is weather-beaten and is worn out due to exposure to elements of nature.

But still you can see the 'Life' in the eyes and face of the figure. 
Notice that the Durga is wearing a 'bra'. This is an ancient form also.

The important things to be noted here would be the dress. The ornamental mekalai or belt; then the knotted cloth around the waist. Also note the bow-tie knot at the sides.
The krita makutam - crown is also different from what we find usually. 
Since the figure is in a place which used to be a very bustling port city of the Pandyas, I sometimes suspect if it has any South East Asian influences or Chalukyan influences. 
Another noteworthy thing - the style and the fashion. 
That 'low-hip suprapubic' has come back again.