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.