Home Columns Anantha Narayan What Tamil owes Hindi

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    A silly debate has reared its unseemly head, once again. There’s talk of language war if Hindi is used as the official language of communication. The Touchy Tamilian has woken up from deep slumber and is now hyper active on social media advocating the need for eternal vigilance against imposition. This is perhaps the right moment to record the scintillating contribution of the North Indian lingo to the Tamil milieu.

    Let’s start with churidars, the default ethnic office wear for women in Tamil Nadu. If you didn’t know, churidar is a Hindi word that alludes to the ‘bangle like’ wrinkle formation one can spot around the ankle area when one wears the attire. Several culinary delights served by your neighbourhood Saravana Bhavan owe their origins to the world’s fourth most spoken language: be it the puri (meaning ‘filled’ or ‘puffed’), pulao (from the root word for ‘ball of rice’), paneer (cheese), paratha (cooked dough), chapati (flattened out), rasmalai (juicy cream), kesari (saffron) or beeda paan (feather leaf). Even Saravana Bhavan is an etymological derivative of the Hindi words Shravan (the 22nd nakshatra) and bhavan (home).

    Kollywood stars Kamal Haasan (happy lotus), Rajinikant (tuberose flower), Ajith (invincible), Vijay (victory), Arya (noble), Dhanush (bow), Trisha (desire) and Nayantara (starry-eyed) wouldn’t have got their names had it not been for the munificence of Hindi.
    Now, before you jump at me for mixing up Sanskrit and Hindi, allow me to point out that a large chunk of the vocabulary of Hindi is borrowed from two sources—Sanskrit and Urdu. So whether it’s Vishwaroopam or Biryani, the attribution should be to that much-reviled boli from the cow belt.

    Purists would be amazed to know that Tamil and Hindi share at least 1,000 words in common. All thanks to Hindi’s big daddy, Sanskrit. Some quick words that spring to mind are: anyayam (unfair), seemai (boundary), aarambham (beginning), amavasai (no moon day), kavidhai (poetry), kadhai (story), natakam (drama), nayakan (hero), udayam (rise), and sooryian (sun). Ironically, when you club the last two words, you get the election symbol of the anti-Hindi DMK.

    Thankfully, the silent majority in Tamil Nadu is fully aware of the immense contribution of Hindi to our culture. Which is probably why the Kuppans and Suppans are happy jiving to Saroja, saamaan nikalo!

    Have more loanwords from up north? Share it saar with anantha@albertdali.com.

    -Anantha Narayan

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