Know the Etymology: 44
Place Name of the Day: Wednesday, 07 June 2017


Periya-kaḷam, Kaḷa-pūmi

பெரியகளம், களபூமி
Periya-kaḷam, Kaḷa-pūmi

Periya+kaḷam
Kaḷa+pūmi


The big open-land or paddy field

The open land, paddy field tract, or the threshing floor of the paddy field tract


Kaḷam place, open space, threshing floor, battlefield (Tamil, DED 1376); cognates in 18 Dravidian languages; Kaḷaṉ: = Kaḷam (Tamil, DED 1376); agricultural tract (Tamil, Tivākaram, 11: 271); Kaḷamar: inhabitants of an agricultural tract (Tamil, MTL; literally meaning people of the threshing floor; Naṟṟiṇai, 125: 9); Kaḻaṉi: paddy field (Tamil, Kuṟuntokai, 8: 1); Khala: threshing floor (Sanskrit, CDIAL 3834); granary, earth, soil, place, site (Sanskrit, Monior Williams); Kala: threshing floor, "Kamata" (Sinhala, Clough, Sorata); Kala-viṭi, Kala-viṭu: threshing floor, "Kamata" (Sinhala, Sorata)
Kaḷa (adjective); 1. From Kaḷam: (See box on Kaḷam); 2. Probably from Kaḷar: saline soil, alkaline earth (Tamil, DED 1359, Akanāṉūṟu, 74: 7); muddy ground (Tamil, Tirukkuṟaḷ, 50: 10); see related place name Kaḷa-vaṭṭai
Periya large, great (Tamil, DED 4411); Peru, Perum, Pēr: great (Tamil, DED 4411); cognates in 19 Dravidian languages
Pūmi the Earth (Tamil, Cilappatikāram, 6: 16-17); land, landed property (Tamil, inscription 550 CE, TASSI, 1958-59, pp. 41-83); Pū, Pūmi: the earth, land (Tamil, Tivākaram, 5: 12; Piṅkalam, 4: 30-31); Bhūmi: earth, ground (Sanskrit, Rig Vedic, Pali, Prakrit, CDIAL 9557); Bim: landed property, ground (Sinhala, Clough); = Bhūmiya: the earth, land, place, site in general (Sinhala, Sorata);


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Kaḷam meaning a place, open space, threshing floor, battlefield etc., is listed as Dravidian and it has cognates in 19 Dravidian languages (DED 1376). The term is seen in Tamil usage since Caṅkam times. Sanskrit also has a term, Khala, of Rig Vedic usage to mean a threshing floor. Kala means a threshing floor in Sinhala.

In Tamil, besides the other meanings listed above, Kaḷam/ Kaḷaṉ meaning an agricultural tract could be seen in Tivākaram. The form Kaḷamar is seen in Caṅkam diction for people of the agricultural tract.

The word Pūmi in Tamil, meaning the Earth, land, landed property etc., comes from Bhūmi in Indo-Āryan. Usage in Tamil is seen since post-Caṅkam times.

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Periya-kaḷam is the Tamil name of the largest of the islands in the Batticaloa lagoon, which is also called Buffalo Island (Batticaloa OIS). The entire alkaline island is a paddy field. A thin margin along the coast is marshy grassland.

Kaḷa-pūmi is one of the traditional divisions of Kārai-tīvu (Kārainagar) island of Jaffna district. The residential part of this division is on the fringe of the main paddy field tract of the island. Kaḷa-pūmiyār is the identity of a section of agricultural community in the island.

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Some related place names:

Kaḻa-veṭṭit-tiṭal: Kandavalai, Kilinochchi. Tiṭal: high ground plain; Kaḷa-veṭṭi: threshing floor (Eezham Tamil)

Kaḷa-vaṭṭai: Poratheevuppattu, Batticaloa. Vaṭṭai: paddy field, see column 49; Kaḷa in this context may mean an alkaline stretch

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Revised: Wednesday, 07 June 2017, 18:30

First published: Monday, 30 July 2007, 01:00

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