Know the Etymology: 103
Place Name of the Day: Tuesday, 22 July 2008




The wild expanse

Vellai A variation of Vallai: Forest (Pingkalam Lexicon); Big forest, expanse of forest (Pingkalam and Choodaama'ni Lexicons); A rising ground, landscape comparatively higher than the adjacent areas, mound (Thivaakaram Lexicon); Val: (noun) Jungle, wood, thicket, grass; (adjective): wild, savage (Sinhala); Vala, Valaan: forest, jungle (Sinhala); Van-pulam (Val+pulam): Wild land, the jungle tracts, the wild hilly tracts (Changkam Tamil Diction); Van-paal, Van-paar (Val+paal / paar): The forest tract, barren ground, a hard rising ground (Changkam Tamil Diction); Van: Strong, hard, cruel; Val > Van: In adjective and combimation forms Val becomes Van. (Winslow); Valliyam: Tiger (because it is wild and strong; Changkam Diction)
Ve'li Open land, expanse (from the root Ve'l for light, clearness etc in the Changkam Diction); (Verb forms): To be open or public, be vacant, empty; (Noun): Outside, open space, plain, space, intervening space, gap, room, openness, plainness (Tamil, Dravidian Etymological Dictionary 5498); Open field, notoriety, outside (Malayalam, DED 5498); Vedda-ve'li: Open plain (Tamil, DED 5475). Also see Valagnchiyan Ve'li and Makizhavedduvaan for etymological discussions.

The prefix Vellaa is an adjective form and seems to be a variation of the terms Vallai in standard Tamil and Val in Sinhala, meaning 'wild'.

In fact, the place names Vellaa-ve'li in Batticaloa district and Vallai-ve'li in Jaffna district may mean the same: wild, open tract of land.

The term Vellaa also has to be compared with another place name Vellai, for an open and wild tract of land in Neduntheevu (Delft).

Old Tamil lexicons Pingkalam and Choodaama'ni equate the word Vallai with forest (Kaadu) and expanse of forest (Perung-kaadu, Perung-kaan). A rising ground (Meadu) is another relevant shade of meaning found in the Thivaakaram lexicon. The other meanings, forest fortification, circle and swiftness, are not relevant to the context.

Val, often written in Roman alphabet as Wal, is a popular word in Sinhala, used as a noun as well as an adjective. It means jungle, wood, thicket and grass as noun, and as adjective means wild or savage. It also stands for tail (Vaal in Tamil), but this is not relevant to the place name.

There is a long list of Sinhala words and phrases, having the prefix Val, especially related to wild species of flora and fauna.

The words Vala (Wala) and Valaan (Walaan), derivates of Val, also mean forest or jungle in Sinhala.

The Tamil word Vallai for forest, which is seen in the lexicons dating from 10th century CE, is not found used in the Changkam literature. But the root for both the Tamil and Sinhala terms, i.e., Val, is widely found in the Changkam diction, displaying shades of meaning, the forest tract of land, hilly tract of land, wild land, barren land, hard land, a rising land etc.

There are also some words and phrases in the Changkam diction with the prefix Val, indicating the meaning, wild. The term Val, in combinations of such phrases becomes Van. (Winslow).

    Val-pulam > Vanpulam: Wild land, pasturing land etc., especially of jungle or hilly tracts (Perumpaa'naattuppadai 205, Pathittuppaththu 75:8)

    Val-paal > Vanpaal: The forest tract of land or pasturing land (Mullai-nilam, Pu'ranaanoo'ru, 384:4); Barren land, desert land (Thirukku'ra'l 78)

    Also note early Tamil words such as Val-uzhuvai (tiger), Valliyam (tiger) and Val-u'li (wild boar, Val-ooraa in Sinhala).

The root Val, which primarily stood for hardness, strength etc, was also used for hard, wild landscapes and for wild life in the Changkam usage.

This shade of usage perhaps belonged to a common stratum for Changkam Tamil and the formative stages of Sinhala. The usage, which formed derivates such as Vallai found in the Tamil lexicons, disappeared in modern Tamil, but is found widely in the Sinhala language and in a few Eezham Tamil place names.

A comparative cognate in Sanskrit is perhaps, Bala, but it is not found used in Sanskrit in the sense to mean wild, wilderness etc.

Two words that can be considered in this context for comparison are Vallura (a field, thicket, or wilderness; a place destitute of water) and Valloora (dried flesh, hog's flesh, an uncultivated field, a desert, a thicket). These words are found only in the lexicons of Sanskrit, but not in its literary usage (Monier Williams).

The said words are also found more or less with the same shades of meaning in the Tamil and Sinhala lexicons and dictionaries, but whether they were in actual usage couldn't be ascertained.

Kathiraiver Pillai's Tamil dictionary gives an additional meaning, paddy fields, for the word Valluram.

There is also a probability for Vellaa, the prefix of the place name Vella-ve'li, for having connections with the word Vela in Sinhala (a cognate of Vi'lai in Tamil) for paddy fields. (See, Bandarawela).

However, on the strength of similar place names found in both Tamil and Sinhala, the meaning 'wild expanse' seems to be more appropriate.

Vellaa-ve'li today is largely a paddy field area. It could have been a forest in the past.

Vellaa-ve'li is a GS area in the Poaratheevuppattu division of Batticaloa district.

Some Related Place Names:

Ponies of Delft
The ponies of the wild stretch of Vellai, Neduntheevu (Delft) [Photo courtesy: KS Balachandran, blogspot]
Vellai: The wild expanse or the pasturing tract. This is a large tract of open wild land in the Neduntheevu Island (Delft) of the Jaffna district, known for wild breeding of ponies.

Vellan: The thicket. This is a name of a locality in Karaveddi of Jaffna district.

Vel-vil: The pond of the thicket. This is a locality in Changkaanai of Jaffna district.

Vallai-ve'li: The wild expanse or the jungle of mangroves and pasturing lands. This is an open tract of land linking Valikaamam and Vadamaraadchi, across Tho'ndaimaanaa'ru Lagoon. Traversing the stretch was much feared in the past for robbers and ghosts.

Val-veddi: The wild expanse. This is place having two GS areas Vadamaraadchi South West (Karaveddi) division of Jaffna district.

Val-veddi-thu'rai: The port of the wild expanse or the port of the open, hard, rising ground. This is a densely populated place of five GS areas in Vadammaardchi North (Point Pedro) division of Jaffna district.

Vallan: The jungle or thicket or wild pasture land. This is a locality in Pungkudutheevu in the Islands division of Jaffna district.

Wal, wala and walaan are found as components in a large number of Sinhala place names. A few examples are given here:

Wal-pola: The jungle market. This is a GS area in the Attanagala division of Gampaha district. The name is found for many other places.

Walana: The jungle or thicket. This is a GS area in Panadura division of Kalutara district. The name is found in many other places.

Walana-goda: The forest hill or a wild rising land. This is a GS area in Katana division of Gampaha district.

Siyambala-walana: The Tamarind forest. This is a GS area in Pannala division of Kurnegala district. Many place names beginning with plant names end with this suffix.

Thalgas-wala: The palmyra palm forest. This is a GS area in Nagoda division of Galle district.

Kokaa-wala: The thicket or jungle of cranes. This is a GS area in Baddegama division of Galle district.

Naa-wala: The forest of Naa trees. This is a GS area in Yakkalamulla division of Galle district.

Wellan-giriya: The forest hill. This is a GS area in Kaduwela division of Colombo district.

Wella-waaya: The wild expanse. This is a divisional headquartes in the Badulla district.

Landscape of Vellaaveli
Landscape of Vellaave'li, Batticaloa district [Satellite image courtesy: Google Earth]
Landscape of Vallaive'li
Landscape of Vallaive'li, Jaffna district [Satellite image courtesy: Google Earth]

First published: Tuesday, 22 July 2008, 08:19

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