Know the Etymology: 173
Place Name of the Day: Thursday, 09 December 2010

Mudali-gedara, Muthaliyaar-kamam

முதலி கெதர, முதலியார் கமம்


The chieftain’s house and premises
The chieftain’s paddy fields

Muthali Head, chief (Tamil/ Malayalam, DED 4950); from the root Muthal: First, best, the foremost, chief, God, principal, capital, money yielding interest etc. (Tamil, Dravidian Etymological Dictionary 4950); Capital wealth (Tamil inscription, 768 CE, SII, xiv, 27, GTI); Modal, Modalu: Equivalent to Muthal (Kannada, DED 4950); Muthaliyaar: Chieftain, a member of the agricultural community of Tho’ndai Ma’ndala Vea’laa’lar, a member of the weaving guild of Chengkunthar or Kaikkoa’lar, a member of a Jaina community in Thanjavur district (Tamil, MTL); A surname of chieftain families, a title given to native chieftains recognized by colonial administrations (Eezham Tamil); Muthalika’l: Chieftain-generals (Tamil inscription 1139 CE, GTI); Folk deities of certain castes, perhaps the ancestor chiefs (Eezham Tamil folk usage); Muthalith-tharam: leadership of a village (Tamil inscription 1131 CE, SII xiv 226, GTI); Muthal-aa’li: The person who has put the capital, owner of an enterprise (Tamil); Mudala (singular), Mudal (plural): Money, coin, price (Sinhala); Mudali: Treasurer, cash keeper, chieftain, a surname of chieftain families (Sinhala); Mudaliyaar: Chieftain (Sinhala)
Kamam Paddy field (Eezham Tamil); Kampalai: Agricultural tract (Old Tamil, Thivaakaram Lexicon 5:89, DED 1237); Kampa’lar: Inhabitants of an agricultural tract (Old Tamil, Thivaakaram, 2:138, DED 1237); Kamath-thozhil: Cultivation (Eezham Tamil, MTL); Kamak-kaaran: Cultivator, owner of a cultivation land (Eezham Tamil, MTL); Kamam-pulam: Lands and fields (Eezham Tamil, MTL); Kama-vaaram: Share of the produce of land given in return for agricultural implements loaned for its cultivation (Eezham Tamil, MTL) Kamata (singular), Kamat (plural): Threshing floor of a paddy field (Sinhala); Kumbura (singular), Kumburu (plural): Paddy field (Sinhala); Kamam: Bounty, fullness (Old Tamil, Tholkaappiyam, Chol.355, Pingkalam Lexicon 7:470); Kama: Bounty, fullness (Changkam Tamil Diction, Ku’runthokai 158:3)
Gedara House with premises, home (Sinhala); Geya, Geha, Ge, Geaha: House (Sinhala); Ge: House (Dhivehi/ Maldivian); Geha: House (Pali/ Prakrit); Griha: House (Sanskrit); Dara: The earth (Sinhala); Dera’na: Earth, ground (Sinhala); Dhara’ni: The earth (Sanskrit); Tarai, Tha’rai: Land, earth (Tamil)

Mudali/ Mudaliyaar in Sinhala and Muthali/ Muthaliyaar in Tamil, both meaning the same, i.e., a chieftain, come from the word Muthal of Dravidian etymology (DED 4950).

The word Muthal has several shades of meaning in Tamil: First, the foremost, chief, the base, the original, God, principal, capital wealth, the money yielding interest etc.

The meaning ‘chief’ for the term Muthal, could be found in Tamil literature since Changkam times (Thirumurukaattuppadai 46; Aingku’runoo’ru 259). The meanings chieftain, village chief and chieftain-general, for the derivate Muthali could be noticed in the Chola inscriptions (see table).

The early examples for the word Muthal meaning, ‘capital wealth’ could be found in Thirukku’ral (45:9, Muthal ilaarkku oothiyam illai) and in Chilappathikaaram (9:14, Chilampu muthalaaka…). Inscriptional references for the usage are available since 8th century CE (see table).

Members of some major agrarian and mercantile guilds of Tamil Nadu, such as the Tho’ndai Ma’ndala Vea’laa’lar, Kaikkoa’lar or Chenkunthar and also a Tamil Jain community in Thanjavur use to have the title Muthaliyaar along with their names. This might have come from the capital wealth possessed by the members of the guild-communities. The Tamil term Muthalaa’li, for an owner or for the person who invested the capital, also comes from the capital shade of meaning for the word Muthal.

Mudal in Sinhala means money and Mudali means a treasurer or cash-keeper. Similar to the other shade of meaning in Tamil, Mudali also means a chieftain in Sinhala. It is also a family title in some Sinhala personal names (example: Athulath-mudali).

During the colonial times of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British, the native chiefs of both the Tamils and the Sinhalese, were given with the title Muthaliyaar/ Mudaliyaar.

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Kamam is a very popular Eezham Tamil word for a paddy field. There are also many derivates of the word, such as Kamak-kaaran, Kamath-thozhil, Kamam-pulam, Kama-vaaram etc in Eezham Tamil. They are not found in the usages of Tamil Nadu. They are not found in Sinhala either, except for the word Kamata, which means the threshing floor of a paddy field.

The Eezham Tamil word Kamam seems to be related an old Tamil term, Kampalai for a paddy field (Thivaakaram lexicon, 5: 89). People of an agricultural tract of land were known as Kampa’lar. Both Kampalai and Kampa’lar are listed as belonging to Dravidian etymology (DED 1237).

Kamam and Kampalai are probably from the root Kam/ Kama, which meant bounty or fullness in Changkam Tamil diction.

The Sinhala word Kumbura/ Kumburu for paddy field is possibly a cognate of Kampalai in Old Tamil (L/ R interchange and A/ U interchange).

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Gedara is a common Sinhala word for home or for a house with premises.

The word is a combination of two components, Ge and Dara.

Ge, Geha, Geya, Geaha, all mean a house in Sinhala. The words are cognates of Griha in Sanskrit and Geha in Pali/ Prakrit, meaning a house.

The component Dara means the earth in Sinhala. Another related word Dera’na in Sinhala means, earth, ground etc. They are cognates of Dhara’ni in Sanskrit, meaning the earth. Tharai and Tha’rai are cognates in Tamil, meaning land, earth etc. In the context of Gedara, Dara means the premises of a house.

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Mudali-gedara is a village in the Mulatiyana division of Matara district.

Muthaliyaar-kamam is a village in Maanthai West division of Mannaar district.

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Some related place names:

Muthaliyaar/ Mudali:

Muthaliyaar-kamam: The paddy fields of a Muthaliyaar; Manthai West div., Mannaar dt.

Muthaliyaar-ku’lam: The tank of a Muthaliyaar; Vengkala-cheddi-ku’lam div., Vavuniyaa dt.; Trincomalee Town div., Trincomalee dt.

Mudali-watta: The orchard/ garden with residence of a Mudali; Yatinuwara div., Kandy dt.


Parangki-kamam: The paddy fields of a person of Portuguese or Dutch origin; Maanthai West, Mannaar

Pa’l’la-kamam: The paddy files in the lower ground; Naanaaddaan, Mannaar

Chi’ru-kamam: The small stretch of paddy fields; Naanaaddaan, Mannaar

Chinna-kamam: The smaller stretch of paddy fields; Naanaaddaan, Mannaar

Puthu-kamam: The new stretch of paddy fields; Mannaar Town, Mannaar

Pazhaya-kamam: The old stretch of paddy fields; Ka’ndaava’lai, Ki’linochchi


Gala-gedara: The stone house/ the house on a rocky hill; Padukka, Colombo; Thumbane, Kandy; Nikaweretiya, Kurunegala; Katupotha, Kurunegala; Maspotha, Kurunegala; Kuliyapitiya, Kurunegala

Pore-gedara: The old house; Padukka, Colombo

Heeralu-gedara: The house of the one who came out of Budhhist monkhood; Divulapitiya, Gampaha

Thuduwe-gedara: The house at the promontory/ the house at the sandbar projection; Wattala, Gampaha

Goda-gedara: The house on the bank/ the house on the mound or hill; Gampaha, Gampaha

Kande-gedara: The house on the hill; Matale, Matale

Watte-gedara: The garden-house/ the house in the orchard; Deraniyagala, Kegalle; Aranayaka, Kegalle; Minuwangoda, Gampaha

Pattala-gedara: The workshop house/ the forge; Attanagala, Gampaha (Padda’rai, Paddadai: The forge, workshop, Tamil; Pattade: workshop, Kannada, DED 3865)

Kumbure-gedara: The house on the paddy fields; Harispattuwa, Kandy

Wela-gedara: The house on the paddy fields; Attanagalla, Gampaha

Wala-gedara: The forest house; Udunuwara, Kandy; Balanitiya, Galle

Aa’ndi-gedara: The house of a Saiva religious mendicant; Ku’liyaapitiya, Kurunegala

Hetti-gedara: The house of a member of the merchant community; Wariyapola, Kurunegala; Maspotha, Kurunegala

Kadawala-gedara: The house at the locality for passing through/ the house at the boundary to pass through; Panduwasnuwara, Kurunegala

Palle-gedara: The house on the lower ground; Elapatha, Ratnapura

First published: Thursday, 09 December 2010, 02:45

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