Know the Etymology: 217
Place Name of the Day: Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Yaa-vil, Viyaa-vil, Iyak-kachchi

யாவில், வியாவில், இயக்கச்சி
Yāvil, Viyāvil, Iyakkacci

Yaa+vil, Viyaa+vil, Iyaa+kachchi

The pond in the locality of Yaa trees
The pond in the locality of Viyaa trees
The forest of Iyaa trees

Yaa A tree, favoured by elephants for fodder (Tamil, Changkam Diction, MTL); Hardwickia binata (Tamil, DED 5150); A tall tree identified with Aachchaa (Tamil)/ Anjan (Sanskrit)/ Yema or Yepi (Telugu); Yaa-vara地ai: Name in Eezham Tamil for a timber tree found growing in Vanni, equated to Wewarana in Sinhala, Alseodaphne semecarpifolia (Ceylon Government Ordinances on Forests, also see column on Vara地i).
Viyaa Also Viyaali: A tree that grows in salt marshes and coastal plains of the arid zone. It is normally found growing with another tree called Uyilai (Eezham Tamil usage in Mannaar; see column on Uyilangku値am).
Iyaa Probably Iyaakam: A variety of Kon池ai of the Cassia family (Madras Tamil Lexicon); Iyal-vaakai: Name of a timber tree in Eezham Tamil, identified as peltophorum pterocarpum (Ceylon Government Ordinances on Forests, revised in 1981); Iyal-poothi: A sticky plant growing in sandy beaches, also called Naay-vea値ai and Naay-ve値値ai (Cleome viscosa, MTL); Iyangku, Isangku: A plant, Mistletoe-berry thorn (Kathiraiver Pillai, MTL); Iyavai, Viyal: Jungle (Kathiraiver Pillai, MTL)
Kachchi From Kadchi: Forest, refuge, sleeping place for animals in a forest, bird痴 nest (Tamil, Changkam Diction); Sleeping place for people (Tamil, Lexicons); Kaksha: Lurking place, hiding place, forest and interior of a forest (Sanskrit); Kaa, Kaadu: Forest (Tamil, cognates in several Dravidian languages, DED 1418, 1438)
Vil Also Villu: Pond or small lake, shallow area where water accumulates; water resources that are usually natural in origin, round in shape and often found built with crescent-shaped bunds to use them in cultivation etc., (Eezham Tamil); Vila, Wila: Hole, pond, marsh, lake overgrown with lotuses (Sinhala). 1. Vil: Bow (Tamil, Malayalam, Gondi, Konda, Pengo, Manda, Kolami, Parji, DED 5422); Villu: Bow (Malayalam, DED 5422); Vilu, Villu: Bow (Telugu, DED 5422); Bil, Billu: Bow (Kannada, Tulu, DED 5422); Vilu: Bow (Kui, DED 5422); Bil: Bow (Brahui of Pakistan, DED 5422); Vil, Vili: Bow (Sinhala); Villai: round-shape, a patch (Tamil). See column on Vilpattu. 2. Bila: Cave, hole, pit, opening, aperture, hollow (Sanskrit); Cave, natural or artificial hollow in a rock (Sinhala); Billa: Also written Villa: Pit, hole, reservoir (Sanskrit); Pilam: Cave, cavern, hole, subterranean room or passage (Tamil, MTL); Pi値, Pi値a: (verb) to burst open, cut, split, gape (Tamil, DED 4194); Pi値avu: Cleft, crevice, gap (Tamil, DED 4194); Pizhaa: A bowl made of palm leaf (Tamil); Pa値値am: Shallow area, pit, hole, cavity, pond (Tamil, DED); Va値値am: Vessel, boat (Tamil, DED 5315); Pallama: Low place, hollow, valley (Sinhala) Pallala: Small lake, pond, tank (Sinhala)

Yaa is the name of a tree found mentioned in the Changkam Tamil classics.

The identity of the tree is uncertain today. The Dravidian etymological Dictionary, based on a research paper by P.L. Samy read at Second International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies, identifies the tree with Hardwickia binata.

Hardwickia binata is called in Telugu as Yema, Yepi or epi. Some references equate Hardwickia binata with Aachchaa in Tamil, which is probably a misnomer, as Aachchaa is usually identified with Shorea robusta.

The leaves of Harwickia binata are excellent fodder for cattle. H. binata could withstand long draughts and thrives in tracts of dry climate and intense heat. It has drooping slender branches and exfoliating bark. The shoots of new leaves are reddish, turning into green with foliage conspicuous in summer. The timber, which is reddish brown with streaks of purple, is one of the hardest and heaviest.

References in Changkam classics let us know that Yaa is a tree of the arid tract. It could grow tall. Its branches are soft and bark is watery. Elephants favour its foliage and bark for food.

The earliest available Tamil grammatical work Tholkaappiyam chooses the tree-name Yaa, to explain a grammatical point in conjunctions of words.

Note the following citations from the Changkam Tamil classics and Tholkaappiyam:

* * *

添aanai odiththu u地du egnchiya yaa (Ku池unthokai 232)

யானை ஒடித்து உண்டு எஞ்சிய யா (குறுந்தொகை 232)

The remains of the Yaa (tree) after elephants snapping and eating it

添aa uyarnthu oamai neediya kaan idai aththam (Natti地ai: 198: 1-2)

யா உயர்ந்து ஓமை நீடிய கான் இடை அத்தம் (நற்றிணை: 198: 1-2)

The track in the middle of the forest where the Yaa grows high and Oamai (a short, horizontally branching bush-type tree identified with Salvadora persica) spreads as expanse

的ralai, uratkaal yaanai odiththu u地du egnchiya Yaa-a vari nizhal thugnchum (Ku池unthokai 232:5)

இரலை, உரற்கால் யானை ஒடித்து உண்டு எஞ்சிய யா-அ வரி நிழல் துஞ்சும் (குறுந்தொகை 232:5)

The stag would sleep under the line shade of the (empty branches) of the Yaa tree that remains after mortar-legged elephants snapping and eating (the foliage)

添aanaiinnaa veanil inthu地ai aara mu値ichinai yaa-aththup po値i pi値anthu ooddap pulampu veettiruntha nialmpaku vegnchuram (Akanaanoo池u 335)

யானைஇன்னா வேனில் இன்துணை ஆர முளிசினை யா-அத்துப் பொளி பிளந்து ஊட்டப் புலம்பு வீற்றிருந்த நிலம்பகு வெஞ்சுரம் (அகநானூறு 335)

The arid tract of cracked earth, where misery prevails during the unpleasant summer to the extent that the (male) elephant has to peel the bark of the dry branches of the Yaa tree to feed its female

添aa marak ki値aviyum pidaavun tha値aavum aamup peyarum mellezhuththu mikumea (Tholkaappiyam, Ezhuththu, 230)

யா மரக் கிளவியும் பிடாவுந் தளாவும் ஆமுப் பெயரும் மெல்லெழுத்து மிகுமே (தொல்காப்பியம், எழுத்து, 230)

The word Yaa for a tree and the words Pidaa and Tha値aa the three of them will be added with a soft consonant in combinations. Ex: Yaa-ang-koadu (the hill of Yaa trees) Yaa-am-poo (the flower of Yaa)

* * *

The place names Yaa-vil, Yaa-kkarai, Yaa-vaththai etc., found in Eezham Tamil, are clear evidences for the historical presence of the tree and its name in the island. But the botanical identification and equivalent Sinhala name are yet to be ascertained.

The term Yaa survives in Eezham Tamil in the name of another tree, Yaa-vara地ai, which is equated to Wewarana (W跏-wara地a or W跏-wara地i) in Sinhala and is botanically identified as Alseodaphne semecarpifolia by the Ceylon government ordinances on forests.

Yaa-vara地ai is a timber tree and the Yaa prefix is perhaps due to the similarity of the timber between Hardwickia binata and Alseodaphne semecarpifolia

* * *

The tree-name Viyaa or Viyaali found in the Eezham Tamil place names has no reference in the dictionaries or in botanical identifications, but a tree that grows in salt marshes and saline grasslands in the arid tracts of the North is commonly identified by that name, especially in the Mannaar dialect of Eezham Tamil.

Dr. A. Sosai of the Geography Department of the University of Jaffna, who comes from Vangkaalai in Mannaar, says that Viyaay is a fairly big tree of white bark and soft wood that is favoured for firewood.

It bears bunches of brown and white edible fruits of a strong smell. A kind of treacle called Viyaayam-paa地i is made from the fruits (note the phrase Viyaa-am-paa地i following the grammatical rule mentioned in Tholkaappiyam).

Several kinds of birds feed on its fruits and especially the Chidduk-kuruvi (House Sparrow, Passer indicus) is closely associated with the tree, says Dr. Sosai.

A writer S.A. Uthayan, in his recent novel based on life in Mannaar (Loamiyaa, 2008), notes the presence of Viyaali trees along with Uyilai in the scrub jungles and their use for firewood.

The component Viyaa standing for a tree in contexts of Eezham Tamil place names could also be confirmed by another place name Viyaavadik-ku値am (Viyaa-adi-ku値am) in Musali, Mannaar, which specifically means, 稚he tank in the locality of Viyaa trees.

* * *

Iyaa is another tree name of confusing identity, found in the Eezham Tamil place names. According to Madras Tamil Lexicon, Iyaakam is a tree of Cassia family equated with Kon池ai.

The Ceylon government ordinances on forests note Iyaa-vaakai as a Tamil name of a forest timber tree identified with Peltophorum pterocarpum (the Vaakai of bright yellow flowers commonly planted nowadays in parks and along roadsides).

The Tamil dictionary of Kathirver Pillai from Jaffna equates Iyangku with the plant Isangku (Mistletoe-berry thorn).

* * *

Kachchi is a unique component found in the Eezham Tamil place names and in the recently Sinhalicised Tamil place names of the island.

Kachchi derives from the old Tamil word Kadchi that means a forest.

The other meanings for the word in old Tamil are, refuge, sleeping place for animals in a forest, bird痴 nest, sleeping place for people and encampment at a war front. The modern meaning of the word Kadchi, i.e., faction, party or political party seems to have come from the last meaning mentioned above related to camps in a battlefield.

A word Kaksha in Sanskrit diction has the shades of meaning, a lurking place, hiding place, forest and interior of a forest. Kaccha in Pali is a marshland. However, the root word Kaa, meaning a forest is listed as a word of Dravidian etymology (DED 1418, 1438).

The usage of the word Kachchi in the Eezham Tamil place names being primarily related to the meaning forest could be seen in the examples given at the end of this column.

See the following examples for the usage of the word Kadchi and its shades of meaning in old Tamil:

* * *

Kadchi as forest:

溺a地i varaik kadchi mada mayil aalum (Aingku池unoo池u 250)

மணி வரைக் கட்சி மட மயில் ஆலும் (ஐங்குறுநூறு 250)

The forest of the blue mountain where young peacocks dance

Kadchi as refuge in forest:

天edchik kaanaththu veadduvar aaddak kadchik kaa地aak kadamaa nal ea池u (Pu池anaanoo池u 202: 1-2)

வெட்சிக் கானத்து வேட்டுவர் ஆட்டக் கட்சிக் காணாக் கடமா நல் ஏறு (புறநானூறு 202: 1-2)

The stag doesn稚 find its refuge when the hunters chase it in the forest on a seizing operation

Kadchi as sleeping place of forest animals:

摘l padu pozhuthin inanthalai mayangkik kadchi kaa地aak kada maan nal ea池u (Pu池anaanoo池u 157: 9-10)

எல் படு பொழுதின் இனந்தலை மயங்கிக் கட்சி காணாக் கட மான் நல் ஏறு (புறநானூறு 157: 9-10)

The stag that is lost from its herd at the sunset time doesn稚 find the sleeping place

Kadchi as nest of birds:

鄭n池ilpedaiyoduoangkuchinaik kadchiyil pirinthoar kaiya池a naralum na値値en yaamaththu (Ku池unthokai 160: 1-4)

அன்றில்பெடையொடுஓங்குசினைக் கட்சியில் பிரிந்தோர் கையற நரலும் நள்ளென் யாமத்து (குறுந்தொகை 160: 1-4)

The mid of night, when the An池il bird and its female (the Indian nightingale which is never separated from its mate), in its nest in the high branches sound to the helpless dismay of a separated lover

Kadchi as sleeping place for people:

鼎haddakam, paayal, pa値値i..kadchiyea..manithar paalaam (Choodaama地i Lexicon 5:58)

சட்டகம், பாயல், பள்ளி..கட்சியே..மனிதர் பாலாம் (சூடாமணி நிகண்டு 5:58)

Chaddakam, paayal, pa値値i, kadchi etc mean (sleeping place) for humans

Kadchi as encampment of a side in a battlefield:

撤段rar naadduk kadchiyum karanthaiyum paazhpada (Chilappathikaaram 12: 23:3)

பிறர் நாட்டுக் கட்சியும் கரந்தையும் பாழ்பட (சிலப்பதிகாரம் 12: 23:3)

Ruining the battlefield camps and the retrieving mission of the country of others

* * *

Vil, Villu in Eezham Tamil and Vila in Sinhala, meaning natural ponds and occurring in thousands of place names, are among the most popular place name components in the island.

Etymology could possibly be traced to two sets of diction found in Dravidian and Indo-Aryan.

Bila in Sanskrit and Sinhala, and the Tamil derivative Pilam, mean a cavity on earth. This could possibly tally with a geographical attribute of the natural ponds and marshes that are called Vil/ Villu/ Vila in the island. Note that in Sanskrit diction, Billa, also written as Villa, means a pit, hole or reservoir (Monier-Williams).

However, in tracing etymology, there is a parallel word in Tamil/ Dravidian too (DED 4194), found with both verb and noun forms: Pi値/ Pi値a (to split open, gape) and Pi値avu (cavity). Related words of Dravidian origin such as Pa値値am in Tamil and Pallama, Pallala in Sinhala also mean a shallow area as well as a pond.

Another etymological connection could be traced to the Dravidian term Vil for a bow, found in Tamil, Sinhala and in almost all Dravidian languages (DED 5422). A Tamil derivative Villai means a round patch.

One who is familiar with the geographical attributes of the Vil type of ponds in the island could see the metonymical connections of the word Vil, meaning a pond, with the term Vil meaning a bow. (See the table above and also the column on Vilpattu).

Metonymy (Aaku-peyar in Tamil) is a name or word, which by long usage, is secondarily applied to denote something connected with the thing originally denoted by it.

The natural ponds, termed as Vil, are usually patches of water in shallow area, often found with a bow-like bund constructed to preserve water and use them in cultivation. A bund standing for the pond or tank could also be seen in other usages such as Eari, Mu池ippu, Kaddu, etc.

* * *

Yaa-vil (the natural pond of yaa trees) is a locality in Aanaikkoaddai village in Jaffna district. There is a pond and a Periyathampiraan shrine at this location. The place name Yaa-vil is also found in other localities of the peninsula.

Viyaa-vil (the pond of Viyaa trees) is a locality in the southwest of the Kaarainakar Island in the Jaffna district. There is an Aiyanaar temple at this place. According to historiography of the palm-leaf manuscripts of the family of the temple priests of the Kaarainakar Sivan temple, the original Aiyanaar temple at this place was constructed in the times of the Kingdom of Jaffna, which was destroyed by the Portuguese. The place name Viyaa-vil is also found in other localities of the peninsula. One such is found between Oore値u and Achche値u in the Valikaamam North division of Jaffna district.

Iyak-kachchi (the jungle of Iyaa trees) is a place located in the Jaffna Peninsula, in the Pachchilaippa値値i division of the Ki値inochchi district. Another probable meaning for the place is 奏he jungle of Iyakkas (Yakshs or spirits). There is a shrine of Val-iyakkan (the mighty Yaksha) worshipped by the Paraiyar community located at this place.

* * *

Some related place names:


Yaa-karai: The bank of Yaa trees; Vadamaraadchi South West division, Jaffna district

Yaa-vaththai: Also Yaar-vaththai: The grove of Yaa trees; Koappaay, Valikaamam East division, Jaffna district

* * *


Viyaavadik-ku値am: The tank in the locality of Viyaa trees; Musali division, Mannaar district

Viyaathik-ku値am: The tank of Viyaa trees; Musali division, Mannaar district

Viyaayadip-pa'n'nai: Viyaay-adi-pa'n'nai: The farm in the locality of Viyaay trees. This is a place in the Mannaar Island, located around 2 km south of Peasaalai (One Inch Sheet)

* * *


Iyattaalai: The hamlet of Iyaa trees: Vara地i, Thenmaraadchi division, Jaffna district

Iyakkadapaay: Iyaa-kadavaip-paay: The expanse of the pass having Iyaa trees; Chuzhipuram, Valikaamam West, Jaffna district

Isavup-piddi: The high grounds of Iyaa trees; Thunnaalai; Vadamaraadchi North East division, Jaffna district

* * *


Uppuk-kachchi-madu: The pond in the salt-marsh forest; Moothoor, Trincomalee district. The place is a salt-marsh forest

Kachcha-theevu: The jungle-island; Delft division, Jaffna district

Kachchappaay: The jungle stretch; Chuthumalai, Valikaamam South West division, Jaffna district (Balasundaram p211)

Kachchaay: The jungle stretch; Thenmaraadchi division, Jaffna district

Kachchaar-ve値i: The expanse of jungle; Pachchilaippa値値i division, Ki値inochchi district

Dead trees
A forest patch of dead trees at Vilpattu Reserved Forest [Courtesy: Official Website of Sri Lanka Tourism, France]
Kottuk-kachchiya: Sinhalicised from of Kodduk-kachchi: The jungle of dead trees standing as hollow trunks; Aanamaduwa (Aanai-madu) division, Puththa値am district. Such jungle patches are commonly seen in the island. Koddu: hollow wood (DED 2059)

Koddaang-kachchi: The jungle of dead trees standing as hollow trunks; Ea池aavoor-pattu division, Batticaloa district

Kachchak-kaduwa: Sinhalicised form of Kachchak-kadavai: The jungle pass or the jungle to pass through; Madampe division, Puththa値am district

Kachchirawa: Probably a Sinhalicised place name connected to jungle; Nattandiya division, Puththa値am district

Vaddak-kachchi: Vaddaik-kachchi: The jungle having a cultivation patch; or the jungle meant for making cultivation fields; Karaichchi division, Ki値inochchi district; there is another Vaddak-kachchi at Karaveddi in Vadamaraadchi South West division, Jaffna district

Batu-kachchiya: Sinhalicised form of Vaddaik-kachchi: The jungle having a cultivation patch; or the jungle meant for making cultivation fields; Kantha値aay division, Trincomalee district

Wedi-kachchiya: Sinhalicised form of Vaddaik-kachchi: The jungle having a cultivation patch; or the jungle meant for making cultivation fields; Medirigriya division, Polonnaruwa district

W誥a-kachchi wewa: The tank of the cultivation patch in the jungle; Medirigriya division, Polonnaruwa district. Vaddai in Eezham Tamil, meaning a paddy field patch, usually fenced in a newly cleared area and the Sinhala word W誥a meaning an enclosure of any kind are cognates of Dravidian etymology (DED 5313)

First published: Wednesday, 27 June 2012, 00:47

Previous columns:


Latest 15 Reports
22.06.18 13:20   Photo
Colombo's TID wants to interrogate Tamil journalist from Batticaloa
21.06.18 16:24   Photo
Jaffna Tamil fishers mobilise against southern poaching, expose conduct of SL police
20.06.18 11:52  
Wigneswaran's secretary accuses SL Presidential Secretariat of dodging land release in North
19.06.18 18:33   Photo
SL military stationed in 6,275 acres of public and private lands in Vaakarai, Batticaloa
18.06.18 23:05  
Occupying SL Police in Jaffna again blamed for dodging action on criminal policemen
17.06.18 23:51   Photo
SL policemen fire to kill Tamil man at Church premises in Mallaakam, Jaffna
16.06.18 20:31  
US naval, seismic partnerships with genocidal Sri Lanka bring miseries to Eezham Tamils in Trincomalee
15.06.18 21:07   Photo
Swiss ruling, a precedent-setting victory for Right of Self-Determination oriented freedom fighters
14.06.18 20:03  
Only an international investigation would establish truth on enforced disappeared
13.06.18 22:37   Photo
Colombo schemes Sinhala military-led industrialisation of KKS exploiting geopolitics
12.06.18 19:49   Photo
Mannaar mass grave could be from early 1990s, shocking details emerge
11.06.18 14:38  
Sirisena yet to revoke Gazette notification of Colombo's seizure of Champoor lands
10.06.18 19:14  
Tamil families caught in dilemma of transferring lands in Seruvila, Trincomalee
09.06.18 19:04  
SL military attempts to rout out Tamil shop owners in Ampaa'rai village
08.06.18 18:17  
131 Sinhala Buddhist installations crop up in North after 2009: NPC
Find this article at: