I was looking through Dravidian etymological dictionary to find some Dravidian root words and to my surprise there was no true root word for Lion (except for Yali,ali which I would discuss later in this post).
Ok first what is root word?
The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family (root is then called base word), which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents.
This post is in search of the Tamil lion. The question here is do we have true Tamil root word for Lion???
First let us go through a list of words used in Tamil Literature for Lion
Now we can separate this into groups,
First would be most commonly used words- Tamilized version of Simha
Second most commonly word group would be derivative of Pakrit word Hari
Hari>Ari – golden yellow, Hari in saksrit means lion
Ari+ma – Animal in golden yellow . (Root word Ari in Tamil means cut,itching – Ari in Arima is derivative of Indo Aryan root word Hari)
வாளரி vāḷ-ari -> Strong/powerful lion
கோளரி kōḷ-ari-> Strong/powerful lion
Other group of words used for lion is reference to Lion being king of forest, ko-. king
கோவிலங்கு kō-vilaṅku -> king animal
முன்னம் muṉṉam –> Chief animal
Most of the words are used to showcase its ferociousness and power/strength
கோண்மா kōṇ-mā -> Powerful/predatory animal
கடுமான் kaṭu-māṉ – strong/powerful/ferocious animal
கொடும்புலி koṭu-m-puli- strong/powerful/ferocious animal
வட்புலி vaṭ-puli – strong/powerful tiger
வயப்புலி vaya-p-puli – strong/powerful tiger
வயமா vaya-mā – strong/poweful animal
வன்மான் vaṉ-māṉ – strong/powerful animal
மறப்புலி maṟa-p-puli – strong/powerful/ferocious tiger
மாபுலி mā-puli – great/strong tiger
ஆளி āḷi – lion – āḷi also means one who rules
Now lets go to other words used to denote lion,
தெரிமா terimā – could be either animal which investigates or animal which has powerful vision
மடங்கல் maṭaṅkal –
Matanku means – to be in control or subdue > Matankal – one who controls–> yama –> animal which has control/or destructive animal
Now lets come to the last category:
யாளி yāḷi is a mythical animal with lion face with tusks. This term is also used to denote lions
பூட்கை pūṭkai – is used to denote yāḷi, elephants and lions.
From the analysis except for yāḷi no other Dravidian root word is specifically used for lion. Yali is also primarly used as mythical animal with lion face. This show that Dravidian language chain does not have root word for lion but has 3 root words for tiger which could mean ancient Dravidians might have not encountered lion.
Epilogue – March 2020
Going by the latest studies if we believe Indus Valley Scripts were proto Dravidian, we have added proof to this post. See below two images. One is image of Mesopotamian hero Gilgamesh killing two lions as described in his epic (the oldest available EPIC). Similar image is found in Indus Valley, where most scholars believe it was imported story with local customization and others both versions have an earlier common ancestor story of man vs wild. But in either case, Indus valley image has tigers instead of lions. In fact, none of the available Indus valley tablets have lion and only feature tiger. This shows Harappan or Proto Dravidian people never encountered lion and hence there is no definitive root word for Lion in Dravidian languages.
Early Indian – Tony Joseph