Know the Etymology: 168
Place Name of the Day: Saturday, 20 November 2010




The hill of Thanthiri (Tinospora cordifolia) creepers.
The hill of a priest or shaman priest.

Thanthirakam Also Cheenthil: A creeper, Tinospora cordifolia of the Menispermacea family (Tamil, Madras Tamil Lexicon); Tantree: Also Rasakinda: A plant, Menispermum glabrum (Sinhala, Clough’s dictionary); Thanthiri: Priest, commander, minister (Tamil, cognate of Tantrin in Sanskrit, MTL); Priest (Malayalam); Tantraya: Treatise on mantras, mystic powers etc (Sinhala); Tandiramkaarayaa: Artful person (Sinhala)
Malai Hill, mountain (Tamil, Dravidian Etymological Dictionary 4742); Male: Sinhalicised form of Malai. See column on Ayiththiyamalai for etymological discussions.

Tinospora cordifolia
Cheenthil or Thanthiri creeper: Tinospora cordifolia [Photo courtesy:]

Tinospora cordifolia
Tinospora cordifolia: Cheenthil [Image courtesy:]
Thantree or Cheenthil is a widely used herb in South Asian medicine. The creeper is indigenous to the tropical regions of India, Burma and Ilangkai. Cheenthil is the common Tamil name for the creeper.

The medicinal properties of this plant reported are anti-diabetic, anti-periodic, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anti-oxidant, anti-allergic, anti-leprotic, anti-malarial, hepatoprotective, immunomodulatory and anti-neoplastic (Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 2003, pp 83-91).

Tanthiri also means a priest in Tamil and Malayalam. It could mean a shaman priest in Sinhala.

Malai is a common Tamil word for a hill or mountain. See Ayiththiyamalai for etymology.

Thanthiri-malai hill is in the deep jungles of Maavilaachchiya division of Anuradhapura district. It is also an extensive archaeological site. The area borders Vavuniyaa and Mannaar districts of the Northern Province. In Sinhala the place name is written as Tantirimale.

Some related place names:

Thanthiri-gama: The village of Tantree creepers or the village of the shaman priest; Ganewatta division, Kurunegala district

Thanthiriya: Thanthiri-yaaya: The expanse of Thanthiri creepers or the expanse of the shaman priest; Bandarawela division, Badulla district.

Thanthiri-mulla: The corner of Thanthiri vegetation, or the corner of the shaman priest; Panadura division, Kalutara district.

Sapu-thanthiri-kanda: The part of land belonging to the shaman priest Sapu-thanthiri; Katuwana division, Hambantota district (Sapu is the Sinhala equivalent of Sha’npakam or Champangki flower tree. Note that a historical personal name Che’npaka Perumaa’l for a prince from Kerala became Sapu-mal- Kumaraiyyaa in Sinhala)

High priests of certain temples are called Tantri in Kerala. Seen in the picture is Tantri Thazhamon Kandararu Maheswararu taking paddy spikes brought by devotees to a ritual at Sabarimalai Ayyappan temple. [Image courtesy: The Hindu, August 12, 2005]

First published: Saturday, 20 November 2010, 09:27

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