Know the Etymology: 48
Place Name of the Day: Friday, 09 June 2017


Mā-tara, Kaḷu-tara, Pāna-dura

மா[த்]தர, களு[த்]தர, பானதுர
Mā-tara, Kaḷu-tara, Pāna-dura

Mā+tara
Kaḷu+tara
Pāna+dura


The great or big seaport

The seaport at the mouth of the dark-watered river (Kaḷu-gaňga)

The stony seaport


Tara seaport, harbour, "Toṭupala, Tīrtthaya" (Sinhala, Sorata in the main entry and appendix of his dictionary cites the examples, Kaḷutara, Mātara and Bentara; "Kalutara Mātara yanādiyehi; Bentara, Kaḷutara yanādinhi"); Tura: = Tara (Sinhala, as in the old form Mātura for today's Mātara noted in colonial writings; 1813-1814, Samuel Newell, "What a Field is here for Missionary Exertions"); Tuṟai: seaport, harbour (Tamil, DED 3370). See column 45 for etymology and related place names in Tamil
Dura probably meaning seaport or harbour in the context of the place name Pāna-dura (See box on Tara above and column 45)
(adjective) great, large, "Mahat" (Sinhala, Clough, Sorata); (noun) greatness (Tamil, DED 4786, Kuṟuntokai, 36: 1); (verb) be great (Tamil, Cuntarar, 7: 75: 10); (special verb, Uriccol) great, big, surpassing, high, heavy (Tamil, Naṟṟiṇai, 14: 7; 212: 8; Akanāṉūṟu, 61: 12; Puṟanāṉūṟu, 131: 1; Mullaippāṭṭu, 87); great (Malayalam, DED 4786); great, big (Kannada, DED 4786); Māl: greatness, great man (Tamil. DED 4786); Māy: very big (Gondi, DED 4786); Mayali: big (Gondi, DED 4786); Mahat, Mahānt: great, large, big, huge (Sanskrit, Rig Vedic, Monior Williams, CDIAL 9946); In Sanskrit the root is traced to Mah: great (Monier Williams, CDIAL 9946)
Kaḷu in the context of the place name from Kaḷu-gaňga: the river of dark waters (Sinhala, the port is located at the mouth of this river). See other columns for Kaḷu and Gaňga
Pāna from Pāṇa, Pahaṇa, Pahana: stone in general, "Pāṣāṇa" (Sinhala, Sorata); Pāsāṇa: stone, rock (Pali, CDIAL 8138); Pāṣāṇa: stone (Sanskrit, CDIAL 8138); this meaning is seen only when Pāna comes as prefix in place names; as suffix it seems to be a variation of Pana, meaning place.


The Sinhala place name component Tara, as in Mātara, Kaḷutara etc., means a seaport or harbour, notes Sorata.

Mā-pā-paṭana (meaning the big-place port town; Paṭṭiṉam: maritime town, Tamil, DED 3868) was the neighbourhood of Mātara, Sorata notes further.

Mātura is the old form of Mātara as found in colonial writings. Tura/ Tara therefore, seems to be a cognate of Tuṟai in Tamil/ Dravidian (DED 3370), meaning a seaport of harbour. See column 45 on Tuṟai-related Tamil place names.

The component Dura has many shades of meanings in Sinhala, which are discussed in another column. But in the context of the place name Pāna-dura, it is very likely that Dura means a seaport and is a variation of Tura/ Tara in Sinhala and Tuṟai in Tamil.

Pāṇa, meaning stone in Sinhala, corresponds to Pāṣāṇa meaning the same in Sanskrit. The word is used in this meaning only in some prefixes of Sinhala place names. As suffix the word is a variation of Pana, meaning place (see column 220)

The etymology of Mā meaning great, big etc. in Tamil and Sinhala could be explained through both Dravidian and Indo-Aryan (DED 4786, CDIAL 9946). The direct cognate in word-form is seen in southern Dravidian and the usage is seen since Caṅkam times (see box).

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Mā-tara heads a division and district of its own name in the Southern Province.

Kaḷu-tara heads a division and district of its own name in the Western Province.

Pāna-dura is a divisional headquarters in Kaḷutara district.

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Some related place names:

Pāna: (as prefix)

Pāna-bokka: Yatinuwara, Kandy

Pāna-mulla: Beliatta, Hambantota

Pānama: Lahugala, Ampara

Pāna-vẹva: Bingiriya, Kurunegala

Pānava: Bamunukotuwa, Kurunegala

Pāna-kaḍuva: Bamunukotuwa, Kurunegala

Pāna-gamuva: Rideegama, Kurunegala; Mawanella, Kegalle

Pānakāva: Galigamuwa, Kegalle

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Revised: Friday, 09 June 2017, 18:30

First published: Sunday, 05 August 2007, 01:00

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