Agastya legend and the Indus civilization (1986)

Agastya legend and the Indus civilization (1986)

• • • • RE PRI NT FR O M • JO URNAL OF TAMI L STUD IES No . 30 ,l)...

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No . 30


Aga stya Legend and the Indus Civi lization .

Iravatham Mah adevan



Agastya Legend and the Indus Civilization IRA VA THAM MAHADEVAN 1.


1.1 . It has generally been held that AJaslya lad the earliest Aryan settlement of South India a., d introduced Vedic Arya ni sm there. (Fo r the most recent and co mprehensive t reatment of this view. see G. S. Ghurye. 1977) . This th eory has however never been able to explain satisfactori ly how the Tami ls, proud possessors of an ancient culture of their o w n and a particulariy strong tradition of love for their lan guage, came to accept Agastya. a supposed Aryan intrude ras the founding father, not of the Brahmanical religion or cu llura in the South. but of their own Tamil language, lite rature and grammar. There is also no linguistic evidence to support the theory of colonization of the Tamil country by speakers of Indo-Aryan languages in pre~ historic ti mes. The interpretation of the Agastya legend in terms o f the Aryan acculturation of the South was mainly developed before the dis. covery of the Ind us ci>Jilization, considered by most scholars to be nonA ryan and probably Dravidian . linguistic research in recent years has also brought out th9 extent of the substratum influence of the North Dravidian la' guages on the Indo-Aryan f rom the Vedic times ( M . B. Emeneau 1954, 1956; T. Burrow 1958). It has now become possible to take a fresh look at the Agastya legend and attempt an alternative inte r pretation which would harmonise the two c)ra features of the legend which have hitherto remained irreconcilable. namely, the Northern origin of Agastya and his Southern apotheosis as the founder of Tami I language and gra mmar. It is proposed in the present pape r that the Agastya legend has preserved the memory of t he southern migration of groups of Dravidian speake rs displaced from the North after the advent of the Aryans into India and that it is possible to trace the ultimate origin of the legend to the Indus civilizatioT]. 1.2 The Agastya legend is very anc ient and appears even in the Rigveda (RV) . The story is later embellished by the addition of more details and anecdotes found in the t wo great traditions, namely the Northern tradition as represented main ly by the Mahabharata and the Aamayana and the Southern tradition of the early Tamil works. The Agas l ya legend is too w ell- known to be te-told in detail in this brief

Agastya Legend and the Indus Civilization


paper. sha ll be concerned here mainly with the three essential elements of the legend common to both the traditions namel y. (1) the name 'Agastya', (2) the signi f icance of the myth of miraculous birth from a pitcher, and (3) historicity of t he Southern migration of Agastya. 2.

Agastya in the Rigveda

2.1. Agaslya is the reputed author of 27 hymns in the Rigveda (RV.I.165-191) . He is also referred to in a few more hymns by other Rishi s (1.116, 1 17; VII. 33; VIII. 5; X.60). Agastya is mentioned by name 8 times in these hymns. He and other members of his family are also referred to as Mana, so n of Mana, Manya, Manya Mandarya or as the Manas. (Vedic Index). 2.2, Th e milaculous birth of Agastya along with Vasishtha in a pitcher in which Mitra and Varuna deposited their seed on see ing the celeslial nymph Urvasi is referred to in RV ( VII. 33). Agastya is hence known in later wo rks as Maitrava ru ni as Kumbhayon i and by other synonymous names meaning 'jar-born'. 23. The RV does not mention abou t Agastyas Southern mig ration, but does give some indication of hi s spec ial affi nity to the Non-Aryan people. In the famous hymn (RV.1. 179) of Agastya ' s dialogue w ith his wife Lopamudra, Agastya is described as 'the sage of mighty streng th. cherished by both Varnas tubhau I'aqlau) . Ghurye (1977:20) points out that "in the context of the Rigvedi c u sag;! reg arding the term 'Varn

Journa l of Tamil Studie s

26 3.

Agastva in the Northern Traditions

3.1. Agast ya of the Northern traditions as reco rded mainly in the Mahabharata an d t he Rl2maya(lQ is esentia liy an Indo-Arya n hero w hose mission was to subjugate th e Rakshasas in the South and make the land safe for Brahman colonists and the perfo rmance of Brahmanica l rites . The humbling of the VindhYD symbo lises the remova l of obstac les in the way of the Aryan advance into the South. The sto ry of Vatapi who was swa llowed and digested by Agestya is illu strative of the encirclemen t and assimilation of the Non-Aryan by the A rya ndam. Agastya even drank all the waters in the ocean so that the Kalevas who were killing off Brahmanical hermi ts and who were hidi ng on the ocean fl oo r cou ld be ex posed for exterminatio n by the Devas. Is thi s an allusion to the influence of Agastya sp reading to the South-East Asian Countri es?

3.2. Ghurye (1977 :17) afte r col latin g the Western (MM .) and the Eastern (Ram.) tradition s of th e North identifies three Agastyas belonging to d ifferent epochs. name ly, (1)

The Nahush-humbler Agastya who lived sixty generations earlie r to Rama ;


The Ocean-drinking Agastya (who is th e h usb3n d of Lopamudra) w ho lived on e or two generations before Bhagiratha;


The Vatapi -d igester Aga stya who lived two generations before Rama.

or three

3.3. According to Ghurye, it is the third of his Agas tyas who stopped the growth of t h~ Vindhya and opened t he route to the South, as II va la's dominion was evidently in the South. However, as I shall mention presently, th e So uthern traditions are radically different from t he Northern ones and th e Tamil Agastya had his own characteristics which se t him apart fr om all th e Northern Agastyas identified above. It is also obv iou s that the currently-he!d view of the Aryanising role of Agastya is .. Imost wholly derived from the Northern sources and ha rd ly takes into account the Tamil tradition s. 4.

Agastya in th e Southern Traditions


4.1 . Referen ces to Agastya in earl y Tamil works have been coll ected together i n the essay on 'Akattiyar' by. R. Ragh ava Iyengar (1941) . Th e secondary sources available in English are noticed and succ in ctly sum ma rised by Ghurye (1977:57) . While the Tamil Agastya shares the basic myths of hi s Northern counta rpart, namely miraculous

Agastya legend and the Indus Civilization


birth in a pitcher and Southern mirgation from the North across the Vind hya, he is given a very d ifferent role by the Tamil tradit ion. Here Agastya is so total ly identified w ith the Tamil language that he is termed Tami l muoi ('Tamil sage ' ) and the Tami1 language is named after him as Agastyam. Agastya received the Tamil langua ge from Siva (o r Skanda) and gave it to the world . The Tami l Buddhi sts clai med that Agastya learnt Tam il from Ava lo kite§vara (ViracoJiyam by Buddhamitra). Agastya wrote the f irst Tamil g rammar called Akaftiyam (not extant now). His gram mar deal t with three aspects of Tamil li terature, namely prose, poetry and drama. He had twelve disciples including the illustrious Tolkappiyar (whose gramma r Tolkl1ppiyam is now the oldest extan t work in Tamil). Agastya's prestige as a Tamil scholar was so immense that for centu ri es many WOrks on ast ro logy and medi · cine written by others were fathered on h im. Even tod ay Tamilnadu has the largest number of Siva templ es dedicated to the 'Lord of Agastya' (Agastye§vara), a feature almost unique to Tamil n&du, as noted by Ghurye (P . 72). According to most competent scholars it is from South India that the Aga sty a cult was ca rried to t he South·East Asian cou ntri es. 4.2 , The references to the Agastya legend in the early Tamil works are reviewed by R. Raghava Iyengar (1941) who concludes that Agastya, the Tamil Mu!!i, cannot be identified with any of the Northern Agastyas known to the Vedas and the tw o epics. He points out that, apart from the chronologica l impossibility of positing a si ngle Agastya for all ages, neither the Rl1maYfll;Za nor the Mahabltarata mention Agastya's proficiency in Tami l (the dominant theme in the Tamil tradi· tion) though t he epics know of the Pandya country and Agastya's association with the Pandya kings. 5.

Agastya and the V ej ir migrat ion :

5.1. There is another notable difference between the Northern and the Southern traditions in the t rea tmen t of the Ag 3stya legend. W hile the Agastya of t he North ern traditions is an indefi ni te figure without a hi storical con text, as pointed by Parg i ter (1922), Agastya is desc ribed in the Tamil tradition as the leade r of the Southern migratio n of the we ll· known V~ l ir clan and thus comes with in the reach of a definite hi storica l tradition . The earliest reference in Tami l literature to the Agastya legend and the Southern mig ration of a Northern people is found in verse 201 Of Puran l1{lu[u (a com,:ifation of 400 poems dated at the beginning of the Christian Era , but conta in ing much older traditions). In this poem, the


Journal of Tamil Studies

poet Kapila r addresses Ir ungovel, a Vel Ch ieftain. and'desc ribes him as having been descended ' through fortynine generations' from the V!lir who arose 'from the pitcher of a Northern sage' and ruled ove r 'Tu vara;' (DVli.raki). The 'Northern sage ' is not named in the poem, but may be identified with Agastya f rom the reference tEl the pitcher. his co nstan t accompan iment in sculptu ral rep resentations. A pa rallel legend is mentioned in th e early Tam il epic Ma(lim €kalaj (c.5 cent.A.D.) about the origin o f the river Kaveri 'from the pitcher of Akattiyan. the 'immortal sage' .This is an allus ion to th e in troduc ti on of irrigation by the

veliT. 5.2. Anot her version of the legend on the Southern migration of the v! li r from DVi raka under the leadership of Agastya is narrated by Naccinarkkiniyar in his commentary On Tolkappiyam (payiram; Poru(.34). According to this legend the gods cong regated on the Mount Meru as a result of whic h the earth tilted, lowering the Meru and raisi ng the Southern quarter . Th e gods thereupon decided that Aga stya was th e best person to remedy this si tu ation and requested him to proceed to the South. Agastya agreed and, on his way, visited 'Tuvarapati' (D varakii) and led the d escenda nt s of 'Ne\u-mu \iMal) oal' (Vishnu or Krishna) includ ing 'eightee n kings, eighteen families of the Vi tir and the Aruva.!ar' to the South, where th ey settled down 'clearing the forests and cultivating the land' . The sage himsel f finally settled down on the Potiyi l hill. 5.3, The Ve! ir constituted a large and powerful ruling class in the early historical Tamil soc iety. The frequent phrase l'enlarMum ve(irMl1l11 ( ' the Kings and the Chieftains') in the Cankam poems (e .g, Palir, 30, 49.75,88) indicates the high position occupied by the Velir in the Tami l polity next on ly to the three great crowned kings. The V6! ir ruled the smaller principalities as Chiefta ins and a Iso served at the court o f the crowned Kings as nobles, Min isters and Generals. It is mentioned (Nacc inarkkiniyar on Tal. Plir attil)ai. 79) that the Ve l ir had the right to give their daughters in marriage to the Royal princes. The V~lir chiefs known as Valials were famous for their lib erality and patronage of Tamil poets. The Valir of the Ca l'lkam Age, the V!!lr of the med ieval period, and the Vij!ii!ar. the grea t mass of Tami l peasantry down to the modern t imes. all seem to belong to the same stock . Naccinarkk iniyar (Tal.. Poru !., 34) mentions that the VeIl1lar we re men at th e command of the venr, and div ides them into two c lasses, namely those who owned the land and those who actually cultiv ated it . The


Agastya Legend and t he Indus Civilization attachment 01 t he ve~i!a r to the land is so proverbial that the word for agriculture in Tam il is 1'€(tJ{1mai (abstract noun fo rmed from vetal. The· folklore of the Tamil Vl!!!!ar st il l preserves the trad it ion that they are· Gangeyas ('Children of the Ganga river').

5.4. In a classic monograph considered a landm ark in Tamit historical studi es, M. Raghava Iyenga r (1913) brought together for the fir st time literary references, inscriptional data and the evidence of place names to show that the V!~ir traditions of miraculous birth from a pitcher, descent from the Yadavas and Southern migratio n from thebanks o f the Ganga or from Dvllrak/i were ancient and widely shared by many of the Dravidian dynasties including the Cha lukyas and the Hoysalas. Thu s. M. Rag hava Iyengar's work enlarg ed the scope of the Tamil tradition into a wider Dravidian tradit ion which itse lf was lin!
Contrast between North ern and Southern Tra dit ions :

6.1. The notable differences between the North ern (Indo. Aryan), and the Southern ( Dravidian-Tamil) traditions relating to the Agastya. legend can now b e set forth in the form of a Table; Agastya Legend Northern ( Indo- Aryan) Traditions

Southern (Dravidian- Tamil) Traditio ns


Migrate s from North to South Clears thp. fores ts Promotes agriculture and irrigation Leade r of the valir clan Th e greatest expone nt of Tamil Lang uage; author of the earliest Tamil gramma r

2. 3.

4. 5.


Migra tes from No rth to South Kills the Rakshasas Promotes Vedic Aryan ism Leader of Brahman colonists Ind o· Aryan or Sansk rit Speaker (implicit in the claim of Northern extraction and Aryan leade rship) Has no d efin ite histo rica l context.

Li nked to the Ind ian , hi storica l tradi· lion of (a) Vantar·Va) ir-Ve!illar hierarchy of Tamil Cail kam Polity (b) Drav idian ru ling classes claiming descent from a pitcher (c) Yadavas. and (through them) the A ndha-Kuru-Vrishni-Bhoja tribes of the Mahabharata Age,


Journal of Tamil Studies

6.2. The compar ision betwee n th e twa trad it ions shows that the 'Northe rn tradition is basically a'"J"i istorical, and is nothing more than a co ll ecti on of inc red ible f ab les and myth s dim ly remembered from a very remote past w ith which th ose who recorded the tradition had los t living contact . On t he contra ry the Sou thern tradition rings mu ch truer ·and appears to be a down to earth account of a h istorica l event, name ly the mass mig ration to th e South of the velir who are identified as part of a li ving tradit ion at the time of the cailkam polity described in the ea rliest Tamil w o rks. 6.3. Th e f act of Agastya 's leadersh ip o f the Ve]jr clan rul es out the 'possibility that he was eve n in or ig in an Indo-Arya n speaker. The Ve! ir- Ve!Ar-VC"!i !ii jar groups co nst itu ted the ru lin g and the land-own ing class es in the Ta mil country sin ce the beg innin g of re corded history and b etray no trace whatever of an Indo-Arya n lingui stic ancestry. The 'Tamil Society had of course come under the rel igiou s and cuttural influ ences of the North even before the beginning of th e Cankam Age, 'but had maintained its lin gu ist ic ident ity. From what we now know of the lin gui st ic prehistory of Ind ia, it is more plausible to assume that the Yadavas were the Aryanised descendants of an original No n-Ary an people than to consid er the Tami l Ve lir as the later offsho ot of the lndoAryan speak ing Yadavas. Th e Agastya legend itse lf can be re-interpreted as Non- Aryan and Dravidian even in origin and pertaining to th e ,preNedic Proto-historica l period in the North.


7 . The JAR Sign:


7.1. The most im po rtant clue linking t he Agastya legend with the -Indu s Civilization is the pi ctograp hic JAR Sign in th e Indus texts. (I. M ahadevan, 1977, Sign List, No. 342). Hu nt er ( 1934:55) suggested that the shape of the sign resembled a vase or a jar with two handles, the upper horizo ntal elements representing th e lips of th e vase, the 'I owe r its hand les. He compared the variant shapes of th ~ sign with -ear ly Sumerian and Eg ypti an pictographic sign s (Ibid. p. 201, no.l) The Finnish scho lars who identified the sig n as a 'sh ip ' have since w ithdrawn their suggest}on (A. Parpola 1974). Th e Soviet sc holars {Yu. V. Knorozov 1965, 1970) have proposed that the sign represents

Agastya legend and the Indus Civilization


the asvattha tree on the basis of a comparison of the sign with the representation of the tree in some of the pictorial motifs depicted on sea ls (e.g. Sea l No. 2430). I have not however come across any va rian t shape in the inscriptions to justify this comparison. Recently B.B.La l ( 1975, 1978) has made an exhaustive survey of the origina l material and. on th e basis of new evidence provided by some of the inscribed potsherds fr om Kalibangan. ha s proved that the shape of this sign is in at llikelihood derived from that of a goblet or a vase. 7.2 . Th e JAR sign is by far the most frequent sig n in the Indus Script, OCCUrring 1395 times in 2906 texts and accouflting for about 10' percent of the total sign -occurrences. The sign occurs mostly at the end of the texts (971 times) (Mahadevan 1977 : Tables). Analysis has shown that the sign is affixed to single signs or well -defined signgroups which appear by t hemselves to be complete w ords (Hunter 1934:59). The almost consta nt terminal position of the sign has led most scholars to the conclusion that it must be a post-fixed determinative or an inflexional case -endi ng or a grammatica l suffix of some sort. As the sign is the most common ending on the seal-texts which most probably contain persona l names and titles, it is generally considered to be associated with personal names as a nomina l suffix of some type. 7.3. None of the attempts to fix the phonetic va l ue of the sign has received general acceptance. It is my view that the almost invariant position of the sign as a terminal element shows that it is not merely a phonetic syllable but has so me se mantic or grammatical function. The Soviet view (Knorozov 1965 • 58) that it is a case · ending .. most probably the genitive or the oblique, does not appear to bg correct as the sign occurs (1) doubled in one instance (seal No . 9901); (2) as a comp lete text (in a recently discoverd unpublished button sea l from Daimabad) and (3) as the ini tial element in compound signs (Sign list Nos. 15 and 394) . Taking note of these facts I have withd rawn my own ea rli er suggestion (1970) that the sig n represents' 'the masculine singu lar p ronomina l termination'. I now co nsider th at the sign is most probably used in an id eog raphic sense to denote the cl ass of persons to whose names it is found suffixed. 7.4. The symbolism o f the 'jar' is closely associated in I ndian relig ious tradition with priestly ritual. This association must be very anc ient as the miraculous birth of Vasishtha and Aga stya from

Journal at Tamil Studies

thern d ynasties includ ing the Vi!lir. the Pall avas and the Chalukyas claimed mirac ulous descen t from vessels. I may al so point out that the prevalence o f the j ar myth among p riests as well as princes is ev idence that it may be derived from a priest-ru le r tradition antedating the division of four Va rn as in the Aryan social o rder.

7. 5. On the basis of the con siderations summarised above. I have s ugge s ted (1979) that the JAR sig n is a pictog ram depicting a sac rific ial vessel used in priestly ri tu al and employed as an ideogram su ffi xed to names to denote the concept of a pries t. In later times the j ar sym· 'bolism continued to be associated with the priestty and rulin g c lasses .a nd gave rise to the myth of the miraculou s birth fr om a jar .

7 .6.

A t an earli er st age of my stud y of th e Ind us Script, I attempted to discove r th e phonetic value of the JAR sign by the te chni q ue of homonymy (Mah adevan 1970). I now believe that si nce the JAR sign was used ideographically to denote a pri es t, it is not necessa ry that the words for 'priest' and 'Jar' we re homopho nes in the Harappan language. Strictly speaking, an ideogram, by d efiniti on, cannot be phoneti cised, as it is intended to convey the mea ning direc tly. Howeve r it may be pointed out that the most ancient word for ' pri es t' in Dravidi an was probably ·vil, derived f rom the root, vel 'to pra y, to beseech' (OED . 4548) or 'to perform a sacrifice' (OED . 456 1) . It appears tha t th e word vel ca me to mean 'a petty ruler, chief' (OED . 4 562) even by the time of the can kam .Age, ev idently as a result of the semantic shift from 'priest-ruler' to 'ruler' .


If the JAR sign stands for ·vet, 'priest" it is connected to the

Agast ya legend in th ree ways, na mely: (a) As a pictograph symbo li sing the 'j ar myth' associated with Ag astya; (b) As an id eo graph represe nting Ag astya as the 'Priest' (lIil); (c) As a confi rm atio n of the h istor ical connection of Agastya with the Vil lir .


The PALACE Sign :


8.1 . It is possible to identify some of the signs of th e Indus Script as place names (Mahadevan 1981). We know from later histo rical inscriptions, especial ly in th e Dravid ian languages, that place names ·generally precede personal names. Many of the Indus seal-texts begin

Ag astya Legend and t he Indus Civiliz ation


with one or t he othe r of a f ew sta nd ard open ing fo rmula or phrases w hic h appear to be regu larly placed before names . but w hich are too few and too un iversa l to be part of persona l names. Hence these opening phrases are like ly to contain p lace names. This supposit ion receives f urther conf ir mation from the use of sma ll super· script suff i xes im med iate ly afte r the p ltlce signs. and f unct ioning like grammatica l ~attic l es. Since however the same opening signs are found at :il! majo r Harappan sites. t hey cannot be identified with the name of any part icula r Harappan city. The place signs must then refer to some impo rtan t p lace or institution p resent in each Harappan city. for exa mple, palace, temple , etc. 8.2. One of the most frequent sings in the Indus Script (sign No. 267) is a pictogram which appears to depict a 'house' within an 'enclosure' and with a large 'coUrlyard' in front. As the i llust ration shows, this sign appears to be very clOse ill shape to the Egyptian ideogram or det erminative with the maaning 'castle, mansion, palace temp le Or tomb' . (Gardiner 1973, Sign list No. O. 6).


(A: Egyptian;




Ideograms f or Palace B: Ka libangan; C & 0 : A ll major sites)

8.3. The PALACE ideogrdm is the fourth most freq uent sign in the Indus Sc ript (376 times) Clnd is by far the most frequen t opening sign in the texts, occ uring 298 times initially. The posi tion and t he f rquency of the sign suggest that it represents an impo rtant co ncept in the Ha rapp an polity. It is therefore interesting to find evidence to equate the sign with pa lace or temple or more generally wi th the pa lace-templec itede l complex const ituti ng the seat of authority in the Harappa n polity . We can thus inte rpret t he sea l-texts commenc ing with this sign as re ferring to officials or l unctionarie s acting in the name o f the p alace Itemp le. 8.4. Identity of the In dus and the Egyptian idtwgrams far palacel temple suggests another paralle l. It is we ll k nown tha t the tit le 'Pharaoh' of the ancient Egyptian ru lers lite ral ly meant '( Great) House ' frompr 'house' (Ga rdiner 1973.75) . Since the Indus seals also seem to

-5 -

Journal of Tamil Studies


re fer to a 'palace' rather than to a ' king'. we can look for a parallel Dravidian expression deriving the concept of the Tulership from the institution of t he palace. Consider the follo w ing entries in OED. 8 : aka-In

house. place, inside


within. in the house


master of the house, household er.

Kathiraiver PiJla i's Tamil Dicti onary (191 8; 198 1 reprint) lists t hree meanings for akalti thus : aka lti:

(1) Akattiya MU/ljv0r1 (Agastya) (2)

U(ljrukkiral'o'1 (Insid er')

(3) Orumaram ('Agasti g randiflora ')

a.5 . Th e PALACE ideogram is almost invariably followed b y a sma ll superscript suffix cons is tin g of two short parallel strokes raised above the line (Sign No . 99). Thi s is the second most frequ en t si gn in the Indu s Script C649 times) and appears to b e a grammatical suffix The suffi x is very probably th e oblique case-ending C*-tI in Dr. ). Thus

th e most frequent opening pair of signs in the Indu s tex ts



corresponds to Dr . · aka-tlCu) mEla ning 'inside (t he Hous e)'. o r *aka-tlf'on e w ho is in side (the House)'. Th ese expressio ns probably co nnoted the ruling class of the Hara ppan polity w ith it s powe r centre or se at o f authority 'inside ' the ' House ' (the palace . temple - citad el compleX) p resent in every la rge Harappa n c ity. In COurse o f time ·akatli probably beca me a clan ti tle p assing into IA . as the loan w ords agas ri/agastya'. There is no sa ti sfa cto ry etymology for agasti in IA. One can also point out to a p arall el phonologica l development in IA. ago st; (the tree 'agasti grandillota') w hich is almost ce rtain ly bor ro wed from Dr. akatti with the same mea ning (OED .6).

,. 0" B.6.

It is re markable that the most frequent open ing pair of signs

and the most frequentfinal sign


accounting for

almost one-fifth of the to tal sig n-occurrences in the Indus Texts. correspond to Dr , . aka·tI ......... 1'I1{ meaning 'of the Hou se (palace!

Agastya legend and the Indus Civilization


temple } : (so and so). ( the) priest" and suggesting the Dr. historical names Akattiyag and t he Ve;ir and also visuall y depicting a j ar recalling the jar myth. 'g.


9.1. In one of my earlier papers (1972 ) I have suggested that Dr. words and the assoc iated ideograms current in the Indus Civiliza· 1ion co uld have surfaced in the IA . as loan w ords/ loan translations and as associated symbols. Such borrowings could be identifi ed by the abse nce 01 co nvincing IA. etymology for t he words and the arbitrariness
9.3. G,(llflpati in the R V and late r is a title or honorific w hich mea ns literall y 'househo lder' or ' ma ster of the house' (Ved ic Index ). However, in ac tual usage , especi ally in Pi li (gahapat i) , t he term con noted the Vai§ya caste, and is in p l ac~s used eve n in a pejorati ve se nse • .b y those of the higher castes. In the Buddhist Jatakas, the t itl e is said to have denoted the lower land·owning nobi li ty and the rich middle class who formed a spec ial class and ran k. The word is also of freq uen t ·occurrense in Sanskri t and Prakrit li te rature of the Jainas, w here it denoted big land·owners as distinguished from ,the humble art isa n class. In Ceylon too the word has become specialised to denote the Va isya caste (90vi). In the ea rly Brl hmt inscri ptions of Ceylon, gahapali, gapali and gapiti are the titles of seve ral of t he donors, all derived from SkI. g!hapa li (pa ranavitan a 1970). The word seems to haVe been ultimately reborro wed in Dr. as it appea rs in old Tam il in the form kavizj w ith the meaning s 'anc ient title bestowed on V O!! 1I.~a r by t he Pandya kings, a mini ster' etc, ( Tam il l ex icon) . (I have modified my ·earlie r view that Ta . k:Jvili is to be derived from ka, 'to bea r the burden

Journal of Tamil Studies


of office" Thus g'fhapati. in spite of a good IA . etymology seems really to be a loan translalion of the Non-Aryan title ·, 'master of the House'. 9,4. The following chart will clarify the cou rse of borrowings. suggested here:

·aka-tl-i ('he of the H ouse)

Ear ly Dr.




grhapal i


(loan IT .)

(loan It.)

(l oan word)






gallapat; (PI Ii ) gapili (Old Sinhala) kaviti (Tamilj


Old Ta.




Section I:

Agastya Legend 1958 "Sanskrit and the Pre-Aryan Tribes and Languages." The Bul/eJin 0/ the Rama-





of Culture

(Reprinted in collecled papers 011 Dravidian Linguistics, Annamalai Un iversity, 196B .)


1954 "Linguistic Prehistory of ' India," Procee-

dings of the American Philosophical Sociely Vol. 98 P. 2B2 (Reprinted in Collected Papers, Annamalai University, 1967.) 1956 "India As a [ Linguist ic Area," Language, Vol. 32, P. 3 (Reprinted in Collected' Papers, 1967).


1977 Indian

Acculturation: Agastya and Skanda, Popular Prakas han, Bombay.


" Vedic Index of Names and 1912 Vol s., Reprint 1967)


1922 Ancient India (Reprint 1962)



Subjects (2

Histori cal


Varal i\ ru (in Tamil), 3rd ed. 1964·

RAGHAVA IYENGAR,R.1941 Tamil Vara li!: u (in Tamil), Annamalai, University (Reprinf 1978) Sectio n II


The Indus Civilizat ion


1961 ! A Dravidian Etymological Dictionary ( OED) Oxford University.

1973 Egyptioll University.






Agastya Legend and the Indus Civilization


The Script of Harappa alld Mohelljodaro and ilS co /meclion lI'ith other scripts, London.


Tamil Moli Akarati (in Tamil Reprint 1981 .)




The characte ristics of the Language of tho Proto· Indian Inscription s, Preliminary '

Report of the Illvesrigalion of tire Proto· In diall Texts (in Ru ssian) tr. Zide, A.R.K. & Zvelebil, K. V., The Soviet Decipherment of the Indus Valley Script, 1976



Classification of Proia Indian Blocks,. Pro!O- Indica: 1970 (in Russian), tr. Pande H.C., Ed . Field, H. 1973.


The Indus Script: Some observations based on Archaelogy, JRAS, 1975, No .2,

P. 173. 1978

On tire most frequently lIsed sign in the Indus Script, Institute of Advanced Study, Simla.



"Dravidian Parallels in Proto-Indian Script," Journal of Tamil Studies Vo LII, No. 1. p. 157.


Study of the Indus Script through 8i· Lingual Parallels, Proc('edillgs of the [JAil·

India Conference of Dravidian Linguistics. Sri Venkateswara University; (Reprinted in Ancien! Clfies oj the indlls, ed. Posseh l G.L. Delhi, 1979.) 1977


" Th e Indus Script: Texts, Concordance· and Tabl es,"Memoirs o f the ArChaeological Survey of India, No. 77, New Delh i . " Termina l Ideograms in the Indus Script"'

Ploceedillgs of the Seminar On Harappan Archaeology, Sri naga r (In press.) 198 1

"Place signs in the Indu s Script, Proceed· ings 0/ the V II/terna/iolla/ Conference. Seminar o/Tamil Studies, Madurai; Vol, I, PP. 2:91 -107.




"Early Brahmi Inscriptions, Inscriptions of Ceylon (Vo U ), Archaeo log ica l Survey of Ceylon, Colombo.



" Interpreting the Indus Sc ript- I", Fifty years of Harappan Stl/dies (Mortimer Whee ler Memorial Volume) Delhi (in Pre ss)