Monday, March 9, 2009

Origin of the word “Thoppukkaranam”.

The term ‘ThoppukkaraNam’ (தோப்புக்கரணம்) seems odd with a mix of Tamil and Sanskrit.

Karanam is a Sanskrit term for ear.

Then what is “thOppu” (தோப்பு) ?

It is not a Sanskrit word, nor a Tamil word bearing some connection to ear or the act of Thoppukkaranam.

This made me to look into the probable ways in which this term could have come into usage.

The word ‘thOppu’ looks irrelevant here. It has no connection to ear or hearing or the act of thoppukkaranam.

We can also think of Thoppu, thoppi etc, but they can not be interpreted with the above meanings as there is no authentication from Tamil texts or Tamil lexicon.

When I was searching through the dictionaries and Nigandu, I came across a term ‘thodu’ (தொடு) meaning ‘thOdu’ (தோடு) – the ear stud!

‘Thodu’ is an ornament worn in the ears and sounds similar to ‘தொடி’ (bangle) worn in the hands.

Thodu means ‘thuLaitthal’ (துளைத்தல்). (piercing)

The ear stud is known as ‘thOdu’ because it is worn by making a thuLai (துளை) in the ear.

துளைக்கப்பட்டு அணிவதால் , அது தோடு .

The exact place where the piercing is made is the bottom of the ear lobe that we hold for doing thoppukkaranam.

ThOdu is considered to an auspicious ornament worn in the ear.

Lord Shiva is ‘thOdudaiya seviyan’ (தோடுடைய செவியன்)..

Speaking on what constitutes auspiciousness, Pramacharyal of Kanchi once quoted this expression that even Shiva was seen all the time with the thOdu.

Therefore thOdu should not be removed at any time.

The only time womenfolk remove it is when they take oil bath. But soon after oil bath, they have to wear it.

It is important like the kumkum and mangal sutra that can not be removed.

So said ParamacharyaL.

The Choodamani nigandu meaning of ThOdu is ‘தடாங்கம் ’.

This term is derived from ‘thadaavuthal’ (தடாவுதல்).

Thadaavuthal means curved.

This ornament is a curved one clinging to the ear.

The part of the ear where it is worn is a ‘தொகுதி ’ or a place having some group of internal energy flows (nadi).

I say this because thOdu also means thoguthi (தொகுதி ).

In chapter 6-158 of Silappadhikaram, it is mentioned “தோடு கொள் மருங்கு

Here the thOdu is interpreted as “thoguthi” or group.

The thOdu was worn by all men and women in those days.

The ear piercing was one of the samskaaras done to both boys and girls soon after birth.

The thodu that is worn must be something that gently pulls the ear..

Almost all paintings and statues showing men and women in those days

show elongated ear lobes – made so by wearing ear ornaments.

The ear lobe is pulled by the ornaments.

This is similar to the pulling done manually in ThOppukkaranam.

From all this it is possible to assume that people could have actually meant

‘Thottu’ karanam (தோட்டுக்கரணம் ) – meaning

the part of the ear where the thOdu is worn or

the part of the ear which is pierced (துளைத்தல் )

தோட்டுக்கரணம் could mean holding that part of the ear where the ear ornament or thOdu is worn.

This could have become

தோப்புக்கரணம் in due course.

Related post:-


ramone said...

Good analysis! This makes the best sense of all the posts so far. This definitely makes way more sense than those who claim that it has something to do with the Arabic language word 'Tauba'.

Neither is Arabic older than Tamil or Sanskrit - not even by a long shot but also Thoppukkaranam is practiced almost only in South India - mainly in Tamil Nadu. This is more proof positive than even the roots of the word.

Dr Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks ramone,

It is news to me that thoppukkaranam was linked to Arabic. The word is Tamil. 'Karna' (ear) of Sanskrit becomes 'Karanam' in Tamil. I only analyzed how it got a prefix 'thoppu'.

குருநாதன் ரமணி said...

The phrase 'thoppukkaraNam', as far as I know, is derived from the Sanskrit phrase 'dorbiH karaNam'. While 'karaNam' refers to the ears, 'dorbiH' is probably from 'dorvahava' meaning 'the fore and upper arms'. In doing 'dorbiH karaNam', we hold our ears by the alternate forearms, crossing them under our chin.

There are at least two legends connected with 'dorbiH karaNam': one is ViShNu doing it before Ganesha to get his sudarshana chakra that the latter playfully put in his mouth; and the other is Gajamukaasura extracting this punishment from Indra every morning--check these links:

Anonymous said...

Actually it is [b]dorbiH karaNam[/b]

Anonymous said...

These Westerners are at it again!! Please see this video to see how they go ga-ga about our own "thoppukaranam" carefully avoiding all references to our culture and traditions


Unknown said...

இந்த தோப்புக்கரணம் எனக்கு எப்பொழுது அறிமுகம் ஆனதென்றால் நான் என் சிறுவயதில் என் அக்கா நடத்தும் டியுஷனுக்கு சென்று படிப்பேன். அந்த டியிஷனுக்கு நான் தாமதமாக சென்றுவிட்டால் எனது அக்கா என்னை தோப்புக்கரணம் போடச்சொல்வார்கள். டியுஷனுக்கு தாமதமாக வருவது நாம் செய்யும் தவறு. அந்தத் தவறுக்குத் தண்டனையாக நாம் போடும் இந்தக் கரணம் ஏன் தப்புக்கரணம் என்று அழைக்கப்பட்டு பிறகு தோப்புக்கரணமாக மாறியிருக்கக்கூடாது?

Dr Jayasree Saranathan said...

Mani megalai Madam,

Let me reply in English for the benefit of other readers who are mostly non-Tamils. You say that it could have been 'Thappu karanam' - as a punishment for a mistake (thappu) done. Thappu could have become thoppu. But what is karanam? What is its meaning? How do you relate Karanam with Thappu? If Karanam is taken to mean karna - ear, is it 'wrong ear'? Is that implied by that punishment?

There is another meaning for Karanam. It means activity (both in Tamil and Sanskrit). Karanam is a common word in Tamil and Sanskrit. The word upakaranam, has karanam which means an apparatus to do some activity. If we take the meaning of karanam in Thoppukaranam, as an activity, then also it fits with the explanation I have given for Thoppu.

I also came across a word 'ThoppaNam' (தொப்பணம்) in Tamil dictionary to mean Thoppukaranam. Thoppu (தொப்பு) seems to be the word with which the action of pulling is done. Thoppi is the word for the flower bud of Areca tree (paakku tree). It looks like a curved ear lobe. Perhaps ear lobe was compared with this bud giving the name thoppi to ear (in Tamil). So it could have been Thoppi Karanam - an activity done to the ear!