Know the Etymology: 16
Place Name of the Day: Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Pācaiyūr, Pācik-kuḻam, Pāsiyā-vẹva, Paḻam-pāci

பாசையூர், பாசிக்-குளம், பாசியா-வெ[æ]வ, பழம்பாசி
Pācaiyūr, Pācik-kuḻam, Pāsiyā-vẹva, Paḻam-pāci


The fishing village

The mossy tank or the tank for fishing

The tank of a kind of floating aquatic plant or the tank for fishing

The tank or place of Paḻampāci moss or herb; or the tank that was formerly leased for fishing

Pāci1 fishery (Tamil, MTL, inscription, 1042 CE, SII, v, 726); fish (Tamil, MTL, inscription, 1369 CE, IPS 459); Varuṇa, the sea god (Tamil, MTL cites Jaffna Dictionary); Pāci-paṟṟu: income coming by fishing (Tamil, inscription, 1042 CE, SII, v, 726); Pācu-valai: fishing right (Tamil, 1646 CE, iv, p. 152-160); Pācik-kuttakai: fishing lease (Tamil, MTL); Pācit-tīrvai, Pāci-vari: tax paid for the privilege of fishing (Tamil, MTL); Pācip-pāṭṭam: tax on fishing (Tamil, MTL); Pāci-vilai: price of fish (Tamil, MTL); in these shades of meaning Pāci probably comes from fishing net; Pācam: cord, noose, snare, fetter (Tamil, MTL, early usage example, Naṟṟiṇai, 12: 2); Pāśa: noose, snare, cord, fetter (Sanskrit, Rig Vedic, CDIAL 8133); Pāsī: rope, fetter (Sanskrit, CDIAL 8113); in iconography, the sea god Varuṇa holds a noose in his hand
Pāci2 that which is green, moss, lichen, seaweed, mouldiness, (Tamil, DED 3821, early usage example, Kuṟuntokai, 399: 1-2); Pai: (verb) to become green (Tamil, 3821); Paca, Pacu: (verb) to be green (Tamil, DED 3821); Pacumai: (noun) greenness (Tamil, DED 3821); Pāsi: green slime on stagnant water, duckweed, mouldiness, lichen (Kannada, DED 3821); cognates in 16 Dravidian languages (DED 3821); Pāsi: a floating, grass-like, aquatic plant growing in stagnant water, Vallisneria octandra; "Diyasevel" (spoken Sinhala, Sorata, Clough)
Pāsiyā from Pāsi: a floating, grass-like, aquatic plant growing in stagnant water, Vallisneria octandra; "Diyasevel" (spoken Sinhala, Sorata, Clough); see Pāci 2 for etymology
Paḻampāci 1. A kind of aquatic moss identified with Koṭṭaip-pāci (Tamil, MTL): Paci-vēr: the floating roots of the aquatic plant Koṭṭaip-pāci (Tamil, Caṅkam diction, Porunarāṟṟuppaṭai, 153; in this poem the Pāci-roots are compared to dirty threads coming out of a tattered clothe); also see Pāsi in Sinhala under box on Pāsiyā and box on Pāci 2); Paḻampāci 2: a soft woolly herb Vetuppaṭakki, Bæhrueria irrusta, Ballota disticha, Anisomeles malabarica (Tamil, MTL); Paḻampāci 3: Tamil synonym of the plant Bẹvila in Sinhala, Sida cordata (National Red List 2012, Colombo); Paḷampāci 4: Paḻam+pāci: could mean a tank that was formerly leased for fishing (Tamil, see Pāci 1)

Pāci meaning fishery, fish, income from fishing etc., doesn't have literary usage in Tamil, but the usage is often noticed in inscriptions dating from c. 11 century CE and in old administrative records.

Pāci in the above shades of meanings seems to have come from Pācam, commonly meaning a cord, noose, snare or fetter, but perhaps attributed as a professional term to mean fishing nets.

Pācam, in the meaning of a cord or rope, was in use in Caṅkam Tamil diction also (Naṟṟiṇai, 12: 2), but the word corresponds to Pāśa of Rig Vedic Sanskrit/ Indo-Aryan etymology (CDIAL 8133). The sea god Varuṇa is called Pāci (Jaffna Dictionary cited by MTL) and in iconography the deity is usually depicted with a noose in his hand.

For the toponymic usage of Pāci in Eezham Tamil, in the meaning of fishing, as in Pācaiyūr, a parallel that could be cited in Tamil Nadu is Pācip-paṭṭiṉam near Toṇṭi on the opposite coast of Jaffna.

* * *

Pāci meaning income from fishing:

"குளத்தில் பாசி பற்றுக் கொண்டு" (Tamil inscription, 1042 CE, SII, v, 726)

"Kuḷattil pāci paṟṟuk koṇṭu" (Tamil inscription, 1042 CE, SII, v, 726)

Getting the income from fishing in the tank

Pāci meaning fish:

"குளங்களில் நீரும் பாசியும்" (Tamil inscription, 1369 CE, IPS, 459)

"Kuḷaṅkaḷil nīrum pāciyum" (Tamil inscription, 1369 CE, IPS, 459)

The water and fish in the tanks

* * *

Pāci in its most common usage in Tamil/ Dravidian means aquatic moss. The word of this meaning is related to the verbs, Paca and Pacu, meaning, 'to be green' and is related to the noun Pacumai, meaning greenness (DED 3821). Spoken Sinhala has a cognate Pāsi, meaning a kind of floating, grass-like, stagnant-water plant that is also called Diyasevel (Sorata).

When Pāci comes in place names related to water bodies, the meaning could either be moss, aquatic weed etc., or fishery in such bodies.

Paḻam-pāci as a phrase in Tamil means a kind of floating aquatic plant identified with Koṭṭaip-pāci (MTL). In the usage Pāci-vēr in Caṅkam Tamil diction (Porunarāṟṟuppaṭai 153), Pāci means Koṭṭaip-pāci according to old commentators. Paḻam-pāci also means a woolly herb, Vetuppaṭakki, and a plant identified in Sinhala as Bẹvila (MTL, National Red List 2012). Paḻam-pāci coming as a place name in Vaṉṉi could be interpreted in different meanings.

* * *

Pāci meaning aquatic moss:

"ஊர் உண் கேணி உண் துறைத் தொக்க பாசி அற்றே பசலை - காதலர் தொடுவுழித் தொடுவுழி நீங்கி விடுவுழி விடுவுழிப் பரத்தலானே" (குறுந்தொகை, 399)

"Ūr uṇ kēṇi uṇ tuṟait tokka pāci aṟṟē pacalai -kātalar toṭuvuḻit toṭuviḻi nīṅki viṭuvuḻi viṭuvuḻip parattalānē" (Kuṟuntokai, 399)

(What she said): The paleness that comes in my complexion is like the moss that floats at the water-collecting spot of the drinking-water tank. It goes away every time my lover touches me and spreads back every time he leaves me

* * *

Pācaiyūr is a fishing harbour settlement in Jaffna city, Jaffna district.

Pācik-kuḷam: is a tank and place near Umanakari in Nanaddan division of Mannar district.

Pāsiyā-vẹva is a tank and place in Hingurakgoda division of Polonnaruwa district.

Paḻam-pāci is a place in Oddusuddan division of Mullaiththeevu district.

* * *

Some related place names:


Pācik-kuṭā: The bay or sea arm for fishing; or the bay or sea arm found with seaweed; Valaichchenai, Batticaloa

Pāci-mōṭṭai: The deep natural pond found with moss; or the deep natural pond for fishing; near Rācamaṭu, Nanaddan, Mannar

Pācit-teṉṟal: a coastal place found with a tank near Koṇṭacci Bay in Musali, Mannar. The spelling and meaning are uncertain. According to locals the tank is always found with moss. But the suffix Teṉṟal has no explanation to suit the context. There is a probability that it is Pācit-teṇṭal: place of tax collection for fishing

* * *

Notes on Pācaiyūr:

Deity Varuna
Varuna holding a noose (Pācam). A sculpture of C. 10th century CE.
Varuna seated on Makara. Note the noose on his left side. C. 10th century CE, Orissa.
The noose or net was one of the emblems of the clans of a major coastal community, collectively known as Karaiyār (Karāva in Sinhala).

It should be noted that Varuṇa-kulam (the clan of Varuṇa) is one of the identities of the community along with Kuru-kulam (the clan of Kuru). The neighbouring settlement of Pācaiyūr is called Kurunakar (the town of the Kurukula people). Both together are known as Karaiyūr (the coastal village).

One more emblem of the chieftains of the coastal clans was Makara (shark), another attribute associated with Varuṇa. The cult of worshipping the backbone of shark (Curā in Tamil) is recorded in Chaṅkam Tamil literature (Paṭṭiṉappālai).

In Sanskrit traditions, the Rig Vedic deity Varuṇa is the guardian of one of the cardinal directions. In the Tamil tradition of post-Chaṅkam times, Varuṇan became the presiding deity of the sea and littoral land called Neytal-nilam (Tolkāppiyam).

Varuṇakulacūriyam and Kurukulacūriyam were titles for sections of the coastal community, both in Eezham Tamil and in Sinhala.

Revised: Tuesday, 20 December 2016, 18:39

First published: Thursday, 28 June 2007, 01:00

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