Know the Etymology: 347
Place Name of the Day: Friday, 23 May 2014


Gurugala-ælla, Guru-goda

கு3ருக3ல எ[æ]ல்ல, கு3ருகொ33
Gurugala Ælla, Gurugoḍa

Guru+gala+ælla
Guru+goda


The rapid in the red-chalk (terrain or hill)

The red-chalk bank or hill


Guru: 1 (noun) Mixture of red chalk (Sinhala); Gurugala: Red chalk, red orpiment (a mineral used as dye), gold (Sinhala); Gairika: Red chalk (Sanskrit, CDIAL 4254); Kuruvinda: Ruby (Sanskrit, CDIAL 3328); Kuruti: Blood, red colour (Tamil, DED 1788); Coloured red water (Kannada, DED 1788); Kurudi: Red liquid prepared by mixing turmeric and lime used for auspicious purposes (Kannada, DED 1788); Kuru: Colour (Tamil, Changkam Diction, Aingku'runoo'ru, 24: 8); Kuraal: Tawny (red-brown) colour (Tamil, DED 1776)
Guru: 2 (adjective) Heavy, weighty, great, large, difficult, arduous, (Sinhala); Guru: Heavy (Sanskrit, CDIAL 4209)
Guru: 3 (adjective) Eminent, best, excellent (Sinhala); Kuru: (noun) Brilliancy, lustre, effulgence; (verb) To glisten (Tamil, DED 1782); Kurumai: Lustre, brightness (Tamil, DED 1782)
Ælla Waterfall, rapid (Sinhala); Chala: Splash (Sanskrit, CDIAL 5002 compares this with Ælla in Sinhala); Aal: Water, flood (Tamil, DED 384); Aalam: Water, ocean, rain (Tamil, DED 384); Ollai, Olle: Rapidity (Tamil, DED 1008); Oliyal: River (Tamil, DED 999); Olivu: Flowing (Malayalam, DED 999); Olu: Water-current (Malayalam DED 999); Oali: A spring (Malayalam, DED 999); Uli: Waterfall (Irula, DED 999); Oli: Waterfall (Kuruba, DED 999); Oyl: Waterfall (Kota, DED 999); Oluku: To over flow, gush out (Telugu, DED 999); Oli, Oalam: Sound, noise, roar, (Tamil, DED 996); Aali: To make a noise, roar (Tamil, DED 386); Aalippu: Great noise, uproar (Tamil, DED 386); Alampal: A loud noise (Tamil, DED 245); Alai: Wave (Tamil, DED 240)


The word Guru in Sinhala has many meanings. The shades of meanings that are applicable to the context of toponyms are: (as noun) red chalk, and (as adjective) large and best or eminent.

As almost all Guru-related place names are noticed in the red-chalk/ laterite region of the island, the meaning red-chalk seems be the appropriate one in the context of the Sinhala place names.

Guru, literally meaning red-chalk, stands for iron mixed calcium deposits and laterite that widely mark the landscape in the central and southwest parts of the island.

Guru-gala is a related word in Sinhala that specifically refers to red chalk, red colour producing minerals and gold.

Gairika is a cognate in Sanskrit meaning the same, i.e., red chalk, and Kuruvinda in Sanskrit means ruby that is red in colour (CDIAL, 4254, 3328).

As red colour seems to be the basic meaning of the word Guru, the Dravidian parallels, Kuruthi for red colour, blood, red liquid of the mixture of lime and turmeric (Tamil, Kannada, DED 1788) are also relevant in explaining the etymology.

Kuru in Changkam Tamil literary usage means colour and another word Kuraal in Tamil means tawny (red-brown) colour (DED 1776).

* * *


Kuruthi meaning red colour:

“Chea-ey kun'ram kuruthip poovin kulaik kaanthaddea” (Ku'runthokai, 1: 3-4)

“சேஎய் குன்றம் குருதிப் பூவின் குலைக் காந்தட்டே” (குறுந்தொகை, 1: 3-4)

The hill of (the red coloured god) Murukan is full of the red flower bunches of Kaantha'l (Gloriosa superba)


Kuru meaning colour:

“Kuroo-uch chuval kadu maan” (Natti'nai, 149: 6)

“குரூஉச் சுவல் கடு மான்” (நற்றிணை, 149: 6)

The horse of colourful mane


“Kuravanum noayum ni'ramum paaramum arasanum kuru enalaakum” (Pingkala Nika'ndu, 10: 370)

“குரவனும் நோயும் நிறமும் பாரமும் அரசனும் குரு எனலாகும்” (பிங்கல நிகண்டு, 10: 370)

Teacher, disease (of the pox or blister type), colour, heaviness and king are termed as Kuru


Kuraal meaning tawny or red-brown colour:

“Kooval kuraal aan” (Ku'runthokai, 224: 3-5)

“கூவல் குரால் ஆன்” (குறுந்தொகை, 224: 3-5)

The tawny coloured cow (fallen) in the well


“Kapilam kuraal ni'ram” (Thivaakara Nika'ndu, 8: 51)

“கபிலம் குரால் நிறம்” (திவாகர நிகண்டு, 8: 51)

Tawny is Kuraal colour




* * *


Another meaning for Guru in Sinhala, related to heavy, large, great, arduous etc., is a cognate of Guru meaning heavy in Sanskrit/ Indo-Aryan (CDIAL 4209). Kuru meaning heavy could also be found in Changkam Tamil usage (Pu'ranaanoo'ru, 32: 9)

A further meaning best, excellent etc., found in Sinhala for the word Guru is related to Tamil/ Dravidian Kuru/ Kurumai, meaning brilliancy, lustre etc. (DED 1782).

A phrase like Guru-bævila found in the Sinhala place names is perhaps related to a medicinal plant Sida humilis. As Bævila means the medicinal plant, Guru-bævila may mean the best variety of that plant. Another possibility is that Bævila in this context is a changed form of Bæwula meaning a hilly ground. In such a possibility the phrase means a red chalk hill. Yet another possibility is Bævila's connection with Bibila/ Bibula, meaning a spring of water.

Another phrase or word Maguru found in the Sinhala place names is probably Maguraa (a river fish), as there is a place name Maguru-mas-vila.

* * *


CDIAL 5002 traces Ælla, meaning a rapid or waterfall in Sinhala to Chala meaning a splash in Sanskrit. But more convincing cognates could be found in Dravidian: Aal meaning water and flood (Tamil); Olle meaning rapidity (Tamil); Aali meaning to make a roaring noise (Tamil); Alai meaning wave (Tamil); Olivu meaning flowing and Oli meaning water current (Malayalam); and Oli, Uli meaning a waterfall (Kuruba and Irula). See table and also see column on Ællagoda

* * *


Gurugala-ælla is a small village near Walapane in Kandy district. A stream flowing as a rapid through the place disembogues into Randenigala reservoir. The place is also called Guru-galle-ælla

Guru-goda as place name is found in Horana division of Kalutara district and in Ehetuwewa division of Kurunegala district.

* * *


Some related place names:

Guru-wala: The forest in the red chalk area; or the big forest; or the difficult forest; Dombe division, Gampaha district; Angunakolapelessa division, Hambantota district

Guru-deniya: The red-chalk rising side of the valley; KFG&G Korale, Kandy district

Guru-gama: The village in the red-chalk area; Yatinuwara division, Kandy district

Guru-kele: The forest in the red chalk area; Doluwa division, Kandy district

Guru-wela: The paddy fields in the red chalk terrain; Laggala-Pallegama division, Matale district

Gurussa: Guru+ussa: The red chalk height (high ground, hill range); Ibbagamuwa division, Kurunegala district

Guru-mada: The paddy fields in the red chalk land; Rideegama division, Kurunegala district. Mada-bima: muddy land or paddy fields (Sinhala). The place has terraced paddy fields on a red chalk hillock.

Guru-thalaawa: The grassland in the red chalk terrain; Welimada division, Badulla district

Guru-hela: The red-chalk marshland; Siyambalanduwa division, Moneragala district; Moneragala division, Moneragala district

Guru-bebila: The spring in the red-chalk land; or Guru-bævila (the place of a medicinal plant); or Guru-bæwula (the red chalk hill); Ambanganga Korale division, Matale district

Guru-bevila-gama: The village of Gurubævila, a medicinal plant; or the village in the red-chalk hill; or the village having a spring in the red chalk land; Ratnapura division, Ratnapura district. Bævila: a medicinal plant, Sida humilis (Sinhala); Bæwula: hilly ground (Sinhala); Bibila: spring or fountain of water (Sinhala)

Guru-bevila: The (place of) Gurubævila, a medicinal plant; or the red chalk hill; or the (place having a) spring in the red chalk land; Imbulpe division, Ratnapura district

Ma-guru-goda: The big red-chalk bank/ hill; or the bank of (to catch) Maguraa fish; Elapatha division, Ratnapura district. Ma: big (Sinhala); Maguraa: a river fish or freshwater fish (Sinhala)

Maguru-mas-vila: The pond or lake of Maguraa fish; Walallavita division, Kalutara district. Maguraa: a river fish or freshwater fish (Sinhala); Mas: fish (Sinhala)

First published: Friday, 23 May 2014, 07:52

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