Know the Etymology: 229
Place Name of the Day: Friday, 09 November 2012


Choanaka-theru, Yoanaka-pura

சோனக தெரு
யோனக புர

Cōṉaka Teru
Yōṉaka Pura


Choanaka+theru
Yoanaka+pura


The Moor street or Muslim street/ the Muslim enclave

The Muslim village or settlement


Choanakar Moors, Muslims (Tamil, Eezham Tamil, MTL); Yavanar: Originally Ionian Greeks and then Greeks in general, Romans, Arabs, Moors, West Asians and Muslims including local Muslims; Yavana > Yoana > Chona; Yavanar: People from Mediterranean countries, especially Greeks and Romans who came in ships via the Red Sea (Tamil, Akanaanoo池u, 149:9; Perumpaa地aattuppadai: 316-317); People skilled in carpentry, architecture (Tamil, Ma地imeakalai, 19:108); Craftsmen (Tamil, Thivaakara Nika地du 2:41); Metal workers (Tamil, Pingkalam lexicon 5:63); Artists (Tamil, Choodaama地i Nika地du, 11:245); Choanakar: Early occurrences of the form of word are found in Tamil inscriptions of early 11th century CE (SII ii 64, 93, 95) and in Kamparaamaaya地am of 12 century CE (Chunthara-kaa地dam 110).
Yoanaka Muslim (Sinhala, place names); Yonaa: Disrespectful word for a Moorman, barbarian in general (Sinhala); Yonnu: Plural of Yonaa (Sinhala); Yon: Yavana of Arabia (Sinhala); Yoanan: Plural of Yon (Sinhala)
Theru Also, Theruvam, Theruvu: Street, highway, public road (Tamil, DED 3422); Teru: Street, bazaar street, a weaver village (Malayalam, DED 3422); Way (Kuwi Belari, DED 3422); Teruvu: Way, road, path (Telugu, DED 3422); Theruppu: Street, neighbourhood (Eezham Tamil place name)
Pura City, town, market town, any large village or collection of houses, house or cluster of houses walled in (Sinhala); A favoured suffix found in the place names of modern villages or colonies created under settlement schemes (Sinhala); Puram, Puri: Town, fort, temple, village, capital city, cultivation village (Tamil); Puram: A suffix much favoured in the names of modern villages or colonies that emerged with new identities or created under settlement schemes (Eezham Tamil); Puricai: Wall, fort wall (Tamil, Changkam diction, Natti地ai 287: 1-2); Pura: Town or city (Pali); Poor: A rampart, wall, stronghold, fortress, castle, city, town, also a town of Dasyus the Vedic people encountered (Vedic Sanskrit); Pura: A fortress, castle, city, town, small market town in contrast to a cluster of houses or village, a house, abode (Sanskrit); Purandaraa: Puram-daraa: Indra, the destroyer of strongholds or forts/ cities of Dasyus (Vedic Sanskrit).


Choanakar and Yoanaka, generally referring to Muslims respectively in Tamil and Sinhala of today, are etymologically connected words.

They are related to the word Yavana, which originally meant the Greeks and later the Grecco-Romans and other peoples of the Mediterranean cum Red Sea regions, including the Arabs, Jews and Syrian Christians.

The word Yavana is said to have come from the identity of the Ionians of the ancient Greek country. The identity was applied to the Greeks who came to India with Alexander in the 4th century BCE and to the Bactrian Greeks or Indo-Greeks who had their kingdoms in the Northwest of South Asia, until the early centuries of the Common Era.

The Prakrit form of the word was Yona, as could be seen in the Besnagar Garuda Pillar Inscription of Heliodorus, found near Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh in India. The inscription is dated to c. 150 BCE.

In the context of the southern-most part of South Asia, recognition of the identity of the Yavana people was connected to maritime contacts with the Mediterranean and Red Sea regions, where the Greeks since 4th century BCE and the Romans since 1st century BCE had established a hub.

Hence in Tamil, the term Yavanar was largely connected to the identity of all the peoples of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

While references to the Yavanas, their trade goods and their settlements are found recorded in the ancient Tamil literature since the Changkam times, and the trade surplus enjoyed by the Tamil country is found mentioned in the Roman records, the reciprocal reach of Tamil to the Mediterranean and to the Persian Gulf is now attested by the discovery of Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions of the dawn of the Common Era in the Mediterranean coast of Egypt and in Oman.

Besides being traders in wares of fine craftsmanship, the Yavanas settled in the Tamil country were bodyguards in the service of kings, metal workers, craftsmen, architects, carpenters and painters, as could be seen from the literary references. There is also a reference in the Changkam literature to an instance of capture and plunder of the Yavanas by a Chera king.

With the advent of Islam in the 7th century CE, and with the rise of Arabs in seafaring, the Yavana identity seem to have predominantly gone to the Arabs. Islam was known in the ancient Tamil country from its very inception and the Yavana identity has also become the identity of Muslims.

The morphological change from Yavana/ Yona into Choanaka in Tamil seems to have gained currency around the beginning of the 11th century CE, as this was the time the form Choanaka appears in the Tamil inscriptions.

Interestingly, in the earliest available evidence dated to 1014 CE, the Choanaka individual mentioned in the inscription had a Tamil name 鼎haavoor Paragnchoathi (Paragnchoathi of the village Chaavoor), attesting to the extent of naturalisation of the Choanakas in the use of Tamil language.

The term Paragnchoathi (the Tamilised form of the Sanskrit Param-jyoti), apart from its use in the native religious texts to stand for the supreme God, literally means The Supreme Light a phrase acceptable to Islam.

The earliest literary use of the word Choanakar appears in Kamparaamaaya地am of 12th century CE. The first lexicon to have an entry for the form of the word is Choodaama地i Nika地du of 13th century CE. This lexicon equates the word Choanakar with Yavanar.

The Sinhala word forms, Yon and Yonaa, and their plural forms Yoanan and Yonnu, have also derived from the same Yavana and its Prakrit form Yona. But the social status of the identity, especially for Yonaa/ Yonnu in Sinhala is not respectful, as noted by Cough痴 Sinhala胞nglish dictionary of 19th century. The identity is better accommodated in status in Tamil sociolinguistics. See the usage examples below.

Choanaka and Yoanaka for the identity of Muslim settlements are actually given by others and not by the concerned people. The identity of Moor for Muslims in the island was introduced by the European colonial rulers, as the Moroccans or the Northwest Africans had set the identity of Muslims to the minds of the Renaissance and Post-Renaissance West Europeans.

In recent times, the Muslims in the island have opted for a new set of place names, to assert to their residential identity in the Tamil as well as Sinhala provinces:

Majeeth-puram (Ampaa池ai), Ameer Ali-puram (Ampaa池ai), Uthumaa-puram (Ampaa池ai), Musthapaa-puram (Ampaa池ai), Hijraa-puram (Mullaiththeevu, Mannaar)), Jinnaa-puram (Trincomalee) are some examples in Tamil, while Rifai-pura (Polonnaruwa), Al-hilal-pura (Polonnaruwa), Akbar-pura (Polonnaruwa), Hijrapura (Kandy) are some examples in Sinhala.

* * *


References to Yavanar in Changkam Tamil literature, from c.300 BCE onwards:

添avanar thantha vinai maa地 nan kalam (Akanaanoo池u 149:9)

யவனர் தந்த வினை மாண் நன் கலம் (அகநானூறு 149:9)

The good ware, great in craft, brought by the Yavanas



添avanar oathima vi値akku (Perumpaa地aattuppadai (316-7)

யவனர் ஓதிம விளக்கு (பெரும்பாணாற்றுப்படை, 316-7)

The swan-shaped oil-lamp of the Yavanas

[This type of lamp, seen in archaeological finds, is referred to as the Roman Lamp. This could be held in hand. Shaped like a swan, the wick is on the beak and the handle is on the tail. The body of the swan is the hold for oil, poured through a lid on the top].



添avanar iyattiya vinai maa地 paavai
Kai eanthu ai akal ni池aiya ney chorinthu
Paroo-uththiri ko値eeip kuroo-uththalai nimir eri
(Nedunalvaadai 101-103)

யவனர் இயற்றிய வினை மாண் பாவை
கை ஏந்து ஐ அகல் நிறைய நெய் சொரிந்து
பரூஉத்திரி கொளீஇப் குரூஉத்தலை நிமிர் எரி
(நெடுநல்வாடை 101-103)

The rising red flame of the thick wick, fixed to the admirable lamp-bowl poured in full with oil and held in the hands of the female image made with great craftsmanship by the Yavanas [the reference comes in the context of a lamp in a queen痴 quarters].



哲ayan il van chol yavanarp pi地iththu
Ney thalaip peythu kai pit ko値ee-i
Aruvilai nankalam vayiramodu ko地du
Peruvi池al moothoorth thanthu (Pathi'r'ruppaththu 2: 8-11, Imayavarampan Nedugnchearalaathan)

நயன் இல் வன் சொல் யவனர்ப் பிணித்து
நெய் தலைப் பெய்து கை பிற் கொளீஇ
அருவிலை நன்கலம் வயிரமொடு கொண்டு
பெருவிறல் மூதூர்த் தந்து (பதிற்றுப்பத்து 2: 8-11, இமயவரம்பன் நெடுஞ்சேரலாதன்)

[The Chera king Imayavarampan Nedugnchearalaathan who] captured the unsophisticated and harsh-worded Yavanas, poured oil on to their heads, tied their hands behind, obtained valuable ornaments along with diamonds, and gave them to the people of his valorous, old, countryside.



溺aththikai va値ai-iya ma池iththu veengku che池ivu udai
Meyppai pukka veruvarum thoattaththu
Valipu地ai yaakkai vanka地 yavanar
Pulith thodar vidda punai maa地 nal il
Thiruma地i vi値akkam kaaddi thi地gnaa地
Ezhini vaangkiya eer a池aip pa値値iyu値
Udampin uraikkum uraiyaa naavin
Padampuku mileachchar uzhaiyar aaka (Mullaippaaddu 59-66)

மத்திகை வளைஇய மறித்து வீங்கு செறிவு உடை
மெய்ப்பை புக்க வெருவரும் தோற்றத்து
வலிபுணை யாக்கை வன்கண் யவனர்
புலித் தொடர் விட்ட புனை மாண் நல் இல்
திருமணி விளக்கம் காட்டி திண்ஞாண்
எழினி வாங்கிய ஈர் அறைப் பள்ளியுள்
உடம்பின் உரைக்கும் உரையா நாவின்
படம்புகு மிலேச்சர் உழையர் ஆக (முல்லைப்பாட்டு 59-66)

The admirably constructed fine war-camp of the king, protected by tiger-chains laid by whip-wielding, fearsome looking, sturdy built, scary-eyed Yavanas, who are in armours or jackets that are thick, tight and bulging: In this tent of sturdy-roped canvasses or curtains that reveal the light of the royal lamp inside, the armoured Mileachchas of dumb tongue who express only by their body gestures are the intimate ones of the king.

[Note the differentiation between the identity of Yavanas and Mileachchas in the bodyguard service of the Tamil king. While the Yavanas were the Mediterranean people, the Mileachchas seem to be the people of the region of the Persian Gulf]

* * *


References to Yavanar found in later literature:

鄭vanthik kollarum yavanath thachcharum (Ma地imeakalai 19:108, c. 5th century CE)

அவந்திக் கொல்லரும் யவனத் தச்சரும் (மணிமேகலை 19:108, c. 5th century CE)

The ironsmiths or metal workers from Avanthi (Central India) and carpenters or architects from Yavanam (Mediterranean region)



鄭impathin iraddi yavanach-cheariyum (Perungkathai 82:8, c. 9th century CE)

ஐம்பதின் இரட்டி யவனச் சேரியும் (பெருங்கதை 82:8, c. 9th century CE)

The street or settlement of the Yavanas having a hundred of them



添avanap paadi aadavar thalaimakan (Perungkathai 66:168)

யவனப் பாடி ஆடவர் தலைமகன் (பெருங்கதை 66:168)

The chief of the settlement of the Yavanas



添avana paadaiyil ezhuththu ava値 kattana値 (Perungkathai 118: 60-1)

யவன பாடையில் எழுத்து அவள் கற்றனள் (பெருங்கதை 118: 60-1)

She learnt writing in the language of the Yavanas



* * *


References to Yavanar/ Choanakar in the early Tamil lexicons:

適ammiyar, yavanar, kollarka地地aa値ar peyar ena a池aivar (Thivaakara Nika地du 2:41, c. 8th century CE)

கம்மியர், யவனர், கொல்லர்கண்ணாளர் பெயர் என அறைவர் (திவாகர நிகண்டு 2:41, c. 8th century CE)

Kammiyar, Yavanar, Kollar, are said as the names for Ka地地aa値ar



適ammiyar, yavanar, oaviyar, viththakar, kammaa値ar, thapathiyar pothuppeyar kaddurai (Pingkala Nika地du 5:63, c. 10th century CE)

கம்மியர், யவனர், ஓவியர், வித்தகர், கம்மாளர், தபதியர், பொதுப்பெயர் கட்டுரை (பிங்கல நிகண்டு 5:63, c. 10th century CE)

Kammiyar, Yavanar, Oaviyar, Viththakar, Kammaa値ar and Thapathiyar [Sthapathi] are synonyms



添avanar, choanakar, ka地地aa値ar, chiththirakaarar enpa (Choodaama地i Nika地du 11:245, c. 13th century CE)

யவனர், சோனகர், கண்ணாளர், சித்திரகாரர் என்ப (சூடாமணி நிகண்டு 11:245, c. 13th century CE)

Yavanar, Choanakar and Ka地地aa値ar are painters.

[Among the Tamil lexicons, Choodaama地i of the 13th century CE is the first to give the form Choanakar and to equate it with Yavanar.]

* * *


Early evidence from a Prakrit inscription for the word 添ona specifically meaning a Greek, c. 150 BCE:

泥evadevasa Va[sude]vasa Garudadhvajo ayam
karito i[a] Heliodorena bhaga-
vatena Diyasa putrena Takhasilakena
Yona dutena agatena maharajasa
Amtalikitasa upa[m]ta samkasam-rano
Kasiput[r]asa [Bh]agabhadrasa tratarasa
vasena [chatu]dasena rajena vadhamanasa (Besnagar Garuda Pillar Inscription of Heliodorus, c. 150 BCE)

This Garuda standard of Vasudeva, the God of Gods, was erected here by the devotee Heliodoros, the son of Dion, a man of Taxila (Takhasila) and sent as Greek ambassador by the great king Antialkidas to king Bhagabhadra, the saviour son of Kasi (princess of Benares), in the 14th year of his reign.

[Heliodoros, the Greek ambassador (Yona Duta) of the inscription was a devotee (bhagavata) of Vasudeva (Vishnu).]

* * *


Early references to Choanakar in Tamil inscriptions and literature:

迭aajavidyaadharap peruntheruvil irukkum choanakan chaavoor paragnchoathi (1014 CE, South Indian Inscriptions, vol. II, 64, 95)

ராஜவித்3யாத4ரப் பெருந்தெருவில் இருக்கும் சோனகன் சாவூர் பரஞ்சோதி (1014 CE, South Indian Inscriptions, vol. II, 64, 95)

The Choanakan by the name Chaavoor Paragnchothi who lives in the grand street called Raajavidyaadharan.

[Paragnchoathi is a Tamil name, Tamilised from the Sanskrit, Param-jyoti, meaning The Supreme Light]



鼎hoanakach chidukkin koodu on'rit kaddiya maa地ikkam onpathum (1014 CE. South Indian Inscriptions, vol. II, 93)

சோனகச் சிடுக்கின் கூடு ஒன்றிற் கட்டிய மாணிக்கம் ஒன்பதும் (1014 CE. South Indian Inscriptions, vol. II, 93)

The nine rubies fixed in the case of a women痴 ornament called Chidukku made in the Choanaka style



適alingka meezhang kadaarang kedavung thelingkagn choanakagn cheenaka muthalaaya vithi mu池ai thikazha.. (1242 CE, SII, vol. viii, 404)

கலிங்க மீழங் கடாரங் கெடவுங் தெலிங்கஞ் சோனகஞ் சீனக முதலாய விதி முறை திகழ.. (1242 CE, SII, vol. viii, 404)

The countries Kalingkam (Orissa), Eezham (Island of Sri Lanka) and Kadaaram (Isthmus part of Malaya) to perish and Thelingkam (Andhra), Choanakam, China etc., to behave in the proper way


鼎hoalaiyil, thuvasar illil, choanakar manaiyil (Kamparaamaaya地am, Chunthara Kaa地dam, 2: 110)

சோலையில், துவசர் இல்லில், சோனகர் மனையில் (கம்பராமாயணம், சுந்தர காண்டம், 2: 110)

In the grove, toddy venders houses and in the residences of Choanakar

* * *


Choanaka-theru is the Muslim enclave of Jaffna city

Dickwella Muslim Yoanaka-pura is a village in the Dickwella division of Matara district.

Etymological discussions on Theru and Pura/ Puram suffixes of the two place names under discussion will be taken up in the subsequent columns.

* * *


Some related place names:

Choanaka:

Choanaka-piddi: The high ground locality of the Choanakas; Maanthai West division, Mannaar district

Choanaka Nedung-ku値am: The large reservoir of the Choanakas or the Choanaka part of the village named after the large reservoir; Musali division, Mannaar district

Choanaka-vaadi: The settlement of Choanakas; Trincomalee Town and Gravets division, Trincomalee district

* * *


Theru:

Naduth-theru: The middle-street; Kaarainakar Island, Jaffna district

Kadaith-theru: The bazaar-street; Karaithu池aippattu division, Mullaiththeevu district

Cheanaith-theru: The street through the slash-and-burn cultivation fields; Ma地munaippattu division, Batticaloa district

Perun-theru: The grand-street; Trincomalee Town and Gravets, Trincomalee district

Padda地ath-theru: The city-street; Trincomalee Town and Gravets, Trincomalee district

First published: Friday, 09 November 2012, 18:40

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