Know the Etymology: 180
Place Name of the Day: Thursday, 13 January 2011

Kudumpi Malai, Kudimbi Kanda

குடும்பி மலை, குடிம்பி கந்த
Kuḍimbi kanda


The hill having a summit resembling a traditional hair-knot on the head
The hill having a pointed top
The hill having a crown-like top

Kudumpi Eezham Tamil form of Kudumi: 1.A traditional hairdo of men in the form of a bun or knot either on the top of the head or on the sides; 2.Summit or peak of a mountain; 3.Crown; 4.Crown of the head; 5.Crest or comb of a bird, mane of a horse; 6.Tip, end; 7.Knob of door etc (Tamil, Madras Tamil Lexicon, Glossary of Historical Tamil Literature, Dravidian Etymological Dictionary 2049); Kudimbiya: Comb or crest of a fowl, tuft of hair (Sinhala, Colough’s Dictionary); Kutuma, Kutumma: Bird’s crest, lock of hair worn as caste distinction, narrow point (Malayalam, DED 2049); Ko’ndai: Tuft, dressing of hair in large coil on the head, crest of bird (Tamil, DED 2081); Konde: (singular); Kondaa, Konda: (plural) Bunch or knot in which the Sinhalese tie up their hair (Sinhala, Clough’s Dictionary); Ko’nta: Tuft of hair (Malayalam, DED 2081).
Malai Mountain, hill (Tamil, DED 4742); Mala, Male: Mountain, hill (Sinhala place names). See column on Aayiththiyamalai for etymological discussion.
Kanda Hill (Sinhala); Khandha: Mass, heap (Pali/ Prakrit); Kanthu: Pillar (Tamil, Changkam diction, Pu’ranaanoo’ru 52); Kantham: A reference to the Pothikai Hill in Thirunelvely district of Tamil Nadu (MTL). Also see column on Kattaadi Kanda.

Kudumpimalai in the Koa'ralaippattu division of Batticaloa district [Image courtesy: Asitha Gamalath,]

Tara Kurukka'lmadam
Note the hairdo of the c. 8th century CE image of Tara found at Kurukka’l Madam, Batticaloa, and now in the display of British Museum, London [Image courtesy: Mike Peel,]
Terracotta Tamil Nadu
Depiction of horse with ‘kudumpi’ in the folk art of Tamil Nadu [Terracotta from Thirumayam, Tamil Nadu. Image courtesy: Vaidehi Photo,]
Kudumpi is the Eezham Tamil form of the Tamil word Kudumi of Dravidian etymology (DED 2049), which commonly means the traditional hairdo of men in the form of a coiled knot either on top of the head or on the sides.

But in old literary usages the word had several shades of meaning such as summit or peak of a mountain, crown, crest or comb of a bird and tipped end of something.

Note the following examples for some of the different shades of meaning for the word Kudumi in old Tamil:

“நம் ஊர்ப் பார்பனக் குறுமகப் போலத் தாமும் குடுமித் தலைய மன்ற நெடுமலை நாடன் ஊர்ந்த மாவே” (ஐங்குறுநூறு, 21:2)

“Nam oorp paarpanak ku’rumakap poalath thaamum Kudumith thalaiya man’ra nedumalai naadan oorntha maavea”

(The top hair of the horses the lover from the hill country charioting looked like the hair-knot of the Brahmin children of our village; Aingku’runoo’ru, 21:2)

The Brahmin children used to have a hair-knot either on the top of the head or on the front of the head, which were called Uchchik-kudumi and Mun-kudumi respectively. The top hair of a horse that falls on its forehead was also tied into a tuft or a cone as could be seen in the examples of temple sculpture and folklore.

“குடுமி… ஆண்மயிர் என்ப” (திவாகரம், 2:212)

“Kudumi… Aa’nmayir enpa”

(Kudumi is the name of a man’s hair, Thivaakaram lexicon 2:212)

“மழை சூழ் குடுமிப் பொதியில் குன்றத்து” (மணிமேகலை, 20:22)

“Mazhai choozh kudumip pothiyil kun’raththu”

(In the Pothikai hill where rain clouds surround the summit; Ma’nimeakalai, 20:22)

“குடுமிக் கோழி நெடுநகர் இயம்பும்” (குறுந்தொகை, 234:4)

“Kudumik koazhi nedunakar iyampum”

(The crested rooster will wake the city, Ku’runthokai 234:4)

“குடுமிக் கூர்ங்கல் விரல் நுதி சிதைக்கும்” (அகநானூறு, 5:13-14)

“Kudumik koorngkal viral nuthi chithaikkum”

(The sharply pointed stones on the way would tear one’s tips of toes, Akanaanoo’ru, 5:13-14)

“பாண்டியன் முது குடுமிப் பெருவழுதி”

“Paa’ndiyan muthu kudumip peruvazhuthi”

(One of the kings mentioned in the Changkam literature whose name means the Paa’ndiyan king Vazhuthi who wears an ancient crown)

* * *

Kutuma and Kutumma are the Malayalam cognates of Kudumi.

Kudimbiya is the Sinhala cognate of Kudumi (old Tamil) and Kudumpi (Eezham Tamil). Note the affinities between the Sinhala and Eezham Tamil word formations.

Kudimbiya in Sinhala means comb or crest of a fowl and tuft of hair (Colough’s Dictionary). In word combinations in Sinhala, Kudimbiya will become Kudimbi.

Another related word of the same shades of meaning, etymologically shared by Tamil and Sinhala, is Ko’ndai/ Ko’nde (DED 2081, see table).

Kudumpi-malai is a 712 feet high rocky hill in the Batticaloa district of the Eastern Province and a mere look at the hill with its peculiar crest would convince anyone about what is meant by that Eezham Tamil place name.

Inviting comparison, there is a Sinhala place name Kudimbi-kanda for a 900 feet high hill in the Kegalle district of Sabaragamuwa Province.

Malai (DED 4742) in Tamil and Mala/ Male in many Sinhala place names mean a hill. Kanda, probably of Prakrit etymology, found used in Sinhala and rarely used in Tamil, also means a hill. See columns on Aayiththiya-malai and Kattaadi Kanda for etymological discussions.

Kudumiyaa Malai
Kudumiyaa-malai, a rocky hill of historical importance having early inscriptions and a cave temple, located in the Puthukkoaddai district of Tamil Nadu [Image courtesy:]

A striking parallel to Kudumpi-malai and Kudimbi Kanda is Kudumiyaa-malai, which is the name of a historical rocky hill in the Puthukkoaddai district of Tamil Nadu.

Baron's Cap, 1-inch
Kudumpimalai marked as Baron’s Cap in the Brtish made One Inch Map, revised in 1972 [Image Courtesy: Sri Lanka Survey Department]
Baron's Cap, Metric
Kudumpimalai marked as Baron’s Cap as well as Kudumbimalai in the 1: 50,000 sheet prepared in the 1980s [Image courtesy: Sri Lanka Survey Department]
During colonial times the English rendered a new name Barron’s Cap for Kudumpi-malai in Batticaloa, which got into the maps prepared by them.

Some recent occupiers, translating the English rendering into Sinhala, gave a name Thoppi-gala to Kudumpi-malai. Thoppiya/ Thoppi in modern Sinhala and Tamil mean a hat, and Gala (Kal in Tamil) mean a rocky hill.

The word Thoppi meaning cap or hat is neither Sinhala nor Tamil. The word probably came through the Portuguese Topo, Tope, Topete etc related to Top in English, or the Portuguese might have got it from Hindustani topi, meaning a helmet or hat (see the entry Topee in the Hobson-Jobson dictionary of Anglo-Indian words).

* * *

Kudumpi-malai is a 712 feet high hill located in the Koara’laippattu division of Batticaloa district, bordering Polonnaruwa district. The adjacent hamlet and the forest reserve of the locality are also called by that name.

Kudimbi Kanda is roughly a 900 feet high hill, located west of Galapitamada in the Ruwanwella division of Kegalle district.

First published: Thursday, 13 January 2011, 23:38

Previous columns:


Latest 15 Reports
Find this article at: