Know the Etymology: 138
Place Name of the Day: Tuesday, 06 October 2009

Agncha'nath-thaazhvu/ Agncha'nanthaazhvu

அஞ்சணத்தாழ்வு/ அஞ்சணந்தாழ்வு
Añcaṇattāḻvu / Añcaṇantāḻvu


The low-lying land of the Arab Muslim / West Asian trade guild Agnchuva’n’nam

Agncha’nam Probably from Agnchuva’n’nam: A West Asian or Arab Muslim trade guild that was operating in South and Southeast Asia in the medieval centuries and was issuing inscriptions in Tamil and Telugu (9th-13th centuries CE, Glossary of Tamil Inscriptions); Agnchuva’n’nap-pea’ru: An honour associated with the said trade guild (Tamil inscription c.1000 CE, GTI); Hagnjamana, Hagnjuman, Agnjuman: Trade guild, chamber of commerce (Persian); Anjuna: A coastal settlement of Arab traders in Goa, dating back to 12th century CE (Today’s Anjuna Beach).
Thaazhvu Also Thaazh, Thaa’l: A low-lying land, a common affix in Eezham Tamil place names; Thaazh: (adjective) low-lying (Changkam and modern Tamil); Thaazhvu, Thaazh-nilam: (noun) low-lying land (Thivaakaram 5:221 and Pingkalam 4:41 lexicons)

Anchuva’n’nam is the name of a medieval trade guild that was operating in the southern parts of India, island of Sri Lanka and in Southeast Asia.

The inscriptions of this trade guild, largely in Tamil and in a few instances in Telugu, are dated between 9th and 13th centuries CE.

From the inscriptions it is deduced that it was a trade guild of the people of West Asian origin, predominantly Arab Muslims.

The term Agnchuva’n’nam is considered to be the Tamilized form of Hagnjamana / Hagnjuman / Agnjuman, which in Persian and Arabic means trade guild or chamber of commerce.

In the opinion of Prof Y. Subbarayalu the guild identity seemed to have collectively included Arabs, Jews, Christians and Parsees of West Asian origin, but Arab Muslims figured more prominently than others.

They were operating in harmony with the local Saiva and Vaishnava guilds of that period (Indrapala, 2006, p325).

The earliest inscription in Tamil, referring to Agnchuva’n’nam, is dated to 849 CE and comes from Kerala, which was an early centre of Arab Muslim trade activities (Trivancore Archaeological Series, II, pp 67-68). Another Tamil inscription dated to c 1000 CE refers to the name of a member of this trade guild as Issooppu (Yusuf) I’rappaan (Epigraphia Indica III, p 11).

Such inscriptions evidence how Arab Muslim traders in southern parts of South Asia adopted Tamil as their language of communication right from early times.

The place name Anjuna in Goa, a coastal place known today as the tourist resort Anjuna Beach, is also said to have got its name from a settlement of Arab traders dating back to 12th century CE.

Evidence for the operations of the Anchva’n’nam trade guild in the island of Sri Lanka, comes from a Telugu inscription of Vishakapatnam dated to 12th century CE (Subbarayalu and Shanmugam 2002). The inscription refers to an Agnchuva’n’nam settlement in Maathoaddam (the ancient and medieval emporium at Maanthai in Mannaar).

West Asian influences in the kingdom of Jaffna are known by a variety of sources. According to Ibn Battuta, who visited the island in mid 14th century, the king of Jaffna was able to speak to him in Persian language. Some rare specimens of the genre of the Cheathu coins of the kingdom of Jaffna, bear legend in Arabic and Devanagari, readable as Rakum, which means money in Arabic (collections of Prof P. Pushparatnam of University of Jaffna).

Agncha’nath-thaazhvu in Jaffna was probably a settlement or a land belonging to the Agnchuva’n’nam trade guild in the suburbs of the medieval city of Nalloor, in the times of the Kingdom of Jaffna or even earlier.

According to historical records and literature, Muslims who had a settlement in Nalloor were evacuated to present day Choanaka-theru in Naavaan-thu’rai, during Dutch times.

Agncha’nath-thaazhvu is about one km southwest of Nalloor and was a vacant land for sometime. During the early part of 20th century Rev. Gnanapiragasar established a settlement here for people of lower echelons of the society and also built a church.

Thaazhvu or Thaazh / Thaa’l is a common affix in Tamil place names meaning a shallow land. It is a word of Changkam as well as modern Tamil usage.

“Nilam thaazh marungkin the’nkadal” (நிலம் தாழ் மருங்கின் தெண்கடல்: the sea at the side of sloping land, Natti’nai, 356:1). In the old Tamil lexicons, Thivaakaram and Pingkalam, Thaazh as well as Thaazhvu are synonyms of Pa’l’lam (low-lying land).

In Eezham Tamil place names it may come as a suffix as in the case of Agnchanath-thaazhvu or may come as a prefix as in the place name Thaazhvu-paadu in Mannaar.

Agncha’nath-thaazhvu is a locality within Jaffna city limits and it covers the stretch of Kasthooriyaar Road, between Naavalar Road junction and Neeraaviyadi junction. The name is often pronounced as Agncha’nanthaazhvu.

First published: Tuesday, 06 October 2009, 12:10

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