Know the Etymology: 170
Place Name of the Day: Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Kaṭṭāṭi-vayal, Kaṭṭaḍi-kanda, Pēyāṭi-kūḻāṅ-kuḷam

கட்டாடி-வயல், கட்டடி₃-கந்த, பேயாடி-கூழாங்குளம்
Kaṭṭāḍi kanda


The paddy fields of a folk priest or the paddy fields of a member of the washermen community

The hill of an exorcist, sorcerer or devil-dancer

The tank of Kūḻā trees named after a devil-dancer; or the tank of Kūḻā trees where devil-dance is performed

Kaṭṭāṭiliterally meaning one who dances under the binding of a spell; 1. He who is temporarily possessed of a kind of divination for the purpose of uttering oracles; this is considered inferior to another form of oracle-telling, called Caṉṉatam; 2. Member of the washermen caste, many of the members are recognized for power of divination; 3. Chief of the washermen caste (Eezham Tamil, MTL, Winslow, Kathiraiver Pillai); Kaṭṭāṭiyār: temple priest (MTL supplementary cites Jaffna usage); priest of the temples of female deities (Tamil, Batticaloa usage, Kanthaiya, p. 120); Kaṭṭu: (verb) to tie, fasten, bind by spells; (noun) a tie, fastening (Tamil, DED 1147); (verb) to bind, tie, stop by magic, bewitch; (noun) bewitching (Kannada, DED 1147); (verb) to tie, bewitch (Telugu, DED 1147); (noun) oracle said through divining (Tamil, Caṅkam diction, Naṟṟiṇai, 288: 6-7); state of being possessed by a spell (Tamil, Tirumaṅkai-āḻvār, Ciṟiya Tirumaṭal, 20); Kaṭṭuc-collutal: speaking in a state of trance or in a state of being possessed by a deity (Tamil, Batticaloa usage, Kanthaiya, p. 121); Āṭu: (verb) to move, wave, swing, shake, dance, act, play, do (Tamil, DED 347); Āṭi: (noun) dancer (Tamil, DED 347);
Kaṭṭaḍi: also Kaṭṭāḍi, Kaṭṭāḍiyā: sorcerer, enchanter, magician, expeller of devils, devil-priest or devil dancer (Sinhala, Clough); "Yakẹdurā" (Sinhala, Sorata). See box on Kaṭṭāṭi in Tamil for etymology
Pēy devil, goblin, fiend, frenzy (Tamil, DED 4438); cognates in 11 Dravidian languages; Pē, Pē-em: (special verb, Uriccol) fear, scare (Tamil, Caṅkam diction, Kuṟuntokai, 87: 1); Pē-ey: devil or ghost recognized as a form of life (Tamil, Caṅkam diction, Kuṟuntokai, 283: 4-6); Pē: devil, demon, spirit, goblin; in the latter senses it chiefly refers to the manes of departed persons (Sinhala, Clough); "Prētayā, Maḷa tẹnẹttā, Paralova giya aya, Yakṣayā" (Sinhala, Sorata); Pēta: spirit, goblin, ghost, manes of a departed person (Sinhala, Clough); "Prēta" (Sinhala, Sorata)
Āṭi (noun) dancer (Tamil, DED 347); (verb) dancing (Tamil, Akanāṉūṟu, 301: 21, of DED 347); Āṭu: (verb) to move, wave, swing, shake, dance, act, play, do (Tamil, DED 347)
Vayal paddy field (Tamil, DED 5258). See other columns
Kanda mountain, hill, hillock, (Sinhala). See column 6
Kūḻā a tree (Tamil). See column 41
Kuḷam tank (Tamil). See other columns

A sorcerer, enchanter, magician, expeller of devils, devil-priest or devil dancer is called Kaṭṭāḍiyā in Sinhala, according to Clough. In giving the meaning for Kaṭṭaḍi or Kaṭṭāḍi, 'Yakedurā' is the term used by Sorata, which literally means, 'the master of spirits'. These are usage meanings in Sinhala. But the etymology could be better understood through Kaṭṭāṭi in Tamil.

Kaṭṭāṭi in Eezham Tamil primarily means a folk priest or shaman priest, whose rituals include telling oracles in a state of trance. The priest would be shaking and vigorously dancing while telling oracles. The words of the priest in this state are taken as words coming from the deity or spirit that has possessed him.

The phrase Kaṭṭāṭi comes from two components: Kaṭṭu meaning a spell or binding and Āṭi meaning a dancer. The phrase etymologically means a person who dances when bound by a spirit, or a person who dances for binding a spirit. See box on Kaṭṭāṭi for Tamil/ Dravidian etymology and usages of the terms Kaṭṭu and Āṭi, including their verb forms.

Kaṭṭāṭiyār or Kaṭṭāṭi is also an honorable way of addressing or referring to a washerman in Eezham Tamil. This may have come because of the traditional recognition of the laundering community of its power of telling oracles, or may have come from other meanings for Kaṭṭu and Āṭi (Kaṭṭu: dam or structure at a pond etc., used by launderers; Āṭi: a person doing). Examples could be seen in some other community names also as in Ceṅ-kuntar, who were once guild-soldiers and weavers (Ceṅ-kuntam means a lance as well as the shaft in a weaving loom).

Kaṭṭāṭi in Eezham Tamil and Kaṭṭaḍi/ Kaṭṭāḍi/ Kaṭṭāḍiyā in Sinhala are word-forms seen mainly in the island. MTL appendix lists Kaṭṭāṭi meaning a temple priest as Jaffna usage. Kaṭṭāṭi in Batticaloa usage means a priest serving temples of female deities, notes V. C. Kanthaiya.

However, Kaṭṭu meaning binding/ possession by spirits or deities, and also meaning an oracle, are usages in Tamil seen from the times of early literature. The usages and verb forms are found in Kannada and Telugu also.

* * *

Kaṭṭu meaning telling oracle:

“அன்னை செம் முது பெண்டிரொடு நெல் முன் நிறீஇ கட்டின் கேட்கும் ஆயின்” (நற்றிணை, 288: 6-7)

"Aṉṉai cem mutu peṇṭiroṭu nel muṉ niṟī-ī kaṭṭiṉ kēṭkum āyiṉ" (Naṟṟiṇai, 288: 6-7)

The mother [who is anxious about her daughter's loss of glow] would try to hear (find out the reason) through the oracle of the good-old women [professional oracle-tellers] who do the divining by paddy grains kept in front of them [spread on a small winnow]

Kaṭṭu meaning trance or state of being possessed by a spell:

“கட்டுவிச்சி கட்டேறி சீர் ஆர் சுளகில் சில நெல் பிடித்து” (திருமங்கை-ஆழ்வார், சிறிய திருமடல், 20)

"Kaṭṭuvicci kaṭṭēṟic cīr ār cuḷakil cila nel piṭittu" (Tirumaṅkai-āḻvār, Ciṟiya Tirumaṭal, 20)

The female oracle-teller (Kaṭṭuvicci) would be possessed of a spell (Kaṭṭu-ēṟi) and would place a few grains of paddy in [her] special winnow [meant for the purpose of divining]

* * *

Pēy is a common word in Tamil, meaning a devil, ghost, spirit or a form of existence of a person after death etc. It also means frenzy. Sinhala has a cognate Pē.

In old Tamil, the root Pē was used as a special verb (Uriccol) meaning to fear or to scare. Pēy is listed as a word of Dravidian etymology (DED 4438).

Pēyāṭi is a phrase similar to Kaṭṭāṭi, but in general understanding it is considered inferior to Kaṭṭāṭi, since Pēy stands for evil spirits and Kaṭṭu incorporates deities and benevolent spirits as well.

* * *

Pē as special verb meaning 'fear-giving':

"மன்ற மராஅத்த பேஎம் முதிர் கடவுள் கொடியோர்த் தெறூஉம் என்ப" (குறுந்தொகை, 87: 1-2)

"Maṉṟa marā-atta pē-em mutir kaṭavuḷ kuṭiyōrt teṟū-um enpa" (Kuṟuntokai, 87: 1-2)

The deity that is veteran in giving fear and residing in the Kaṭampa tree of the public hall of the village is said to punish evil people.

Pē-ey meaning a spirit that possesses a person:

"பேஎய்க் கொளீஇயள் இவள் எனப்படுதல் நோதக்கன்றே" (குறுந்தொகை, 263: 4-6)

"Pē-eyk koḷī-iyaḷ ivaḷ enappaḍutal nōtakkaṉṟē" (Kuṟuntokai, 263: 4-6)

It is hurting to hear (from the exorcist) that this girl has been possessed by a Pē-ey spirit [the ritual of the exorcist is useless since the real reason is something else]

* * *

Kaṭṭāṭi-vayal is a place near Iluppaikkaṭavai in Manthai West division of Mannar district (One Inch sheet).

Kaṭṭāḍi-kanda is in Imbulpe division of Ratnapura district.

Pēyāṭi-kūḻāṅ-kuḷam is a village noted in the former Kiḻakku-mūlai South of Vavuniya district (British Records 1817-1839, Aruna Selladurai, p. 104). The prefix differentiates the place from other Kūḻāṅ-kuḷams in the same district.

* * *

Some related place names:


Pēyaṉ-kuḷam: Madu, Mannar; Koralaippattu, Batticaloa

Revised: Tuesday, 14 March 2017, 02:40

First published: Sunday, 28 November 2010, 17:04

Previous columns:


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