Post No. 10,820

Date uploaded in London – –    7  APRIL  2022        

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‘ PALLI’ is found in Tamil literature from the oldest Tamil book Tolkappiam to the latest book.

It is mostly used in school names where Pallik Kuudam meant a school.

It is also found in town names as a suffix. Tiruchirapalli (previously Trichinopoly) is the well -known example.

Nowadays mosque name boards have the word Palli Vaasal to mean a mosque.

Palli arai is used for bed room even now in Hindu temples. Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswar Temple Palli Arai Deepa Aaradhana is one of the famous bedroom events, celebrated every night when Lord Sundareswar enters his wife Goddess Meenakshi’s bed room.

(Forty five years ago I went to the temple with my dad to see the memorable event almost every week during a particular period)

In Tamil Nadu it is associated with historical places where Jain monks lived.

But looking at the wisdom library website (given below) it looks like a Sanskrit word.

Palli chandam meant the donated land or town to the Jain ascetics. One of the oldest copper plates discovered in Tamil Nadu known as Pallankoil Copper plates mentioned the Palli chandam given to Vajranandhi Kuravar (Guru) in 550 CE. This 1500 year old inscription has the suffix Chandam after Palli. In Tamil, ‘SA’ as initial letter of any word is banned by Tolkappiar. For this reason, I call it a Sanskrit word.

In Kannada language, Tamil SA is changed to HA. So we find a lot of Karnataka towns ending with Halli.

Tamil has three special “L” sounding letters. With medial ‘L’ we have a palli for lizard; also found in Kannada.

In 2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature it is used for a place, a palace, or Jain/ Buddhist living place or a funeral ceremony or place.


Dr R P Sethupillai has given some thought over this term and the following is what he said in his book:

“The word Palli was originally used in the general sense of place

E.g.Idai palli /central place, Madaippalli denotes kitchen, now restricted to the kitchen attached to the temples and charitable foundations.

Madai = cooked rice, palli = place

The Buddhists and the Jains employed the term palli to denote their holy places. The monasteries of the Jaina monks and the hermitages of the Jaina ascetics were known as Maatavar palli and Aravor palli.

Ref. Silapaadikaram, Indra viza line 179

Aasiivakar palli was the monastery of the Aajiivakar sect of the Jains. As Buddhism and Jainism were missionary religions, the learned monks and ascetics were mainly engaged in expounding the principles of their faith to their disciples in the monasteries. Thus palli was not merely a place for practising religious austerities but was also a theological seminary. It is probable that the education imparted in these seminaries included a course of instruction in grammar, logic and literature, as an exact knowledge of the language and a correct method of exposition were essential for the propagation of religion. Thus the term palli came to signify a seat of learning.

The decline of Jain ism in South India led to the abolition of the monasteries. But the thirst for knowledge and the respect for learning created by the pallis survived them. The excitement caused by the struggle between Jainism and Hinduism for supremacy and the flush of victory scored by the latter gave an impetus to the study of Hindu scriptures and theology. Enthusiastic pupils waited at the door of the learned men with a view to pay their respects and receive instruction. The house of the learned men thus became the school and the kudam- verandah, of his residence was regularly and habitually used as the place of instruction, the school came to be called pallikkudam. There the master used to sit on a pial- earthen dais– known as Thinnai, and impart instruction to the pupils who sat at his feet. As the pial was the Kuudam. seat of learning the school received the name Thinnaip pallikkuudam.

Thus it will be seen that the modern school, which mainly confines itself to secular education, had its origin in the theological seminaries of the religions which have ceased to be a living force in this country.

Palli as the name of a place of worship or prayer has acquired a new lease of life by its adoption by Islam. The Muhammadan mosque in the Tami country is commonly called Palli vaasal.



My Comments

By and large Sethu Pillai’s write up is correct. But he gives the impression tht the education started with the Jains and that stuck to School (Pallikkudam) in modern Tamil. He may be wrong. The Hindu teaching schools, known as Gurukulam is at least 3000 year old; Upanishads and earlier scriptures have got enough evidence. More over even Lonlon based Sri Lankans use Paata Saalai for Tamil schools. Now this word is restricted Veda Pata Saala in Tamil Nadu. But in those schools, six secular subjects were also taught.

If we do list the words in  chronological order, then we may come to a proper conclusion. Pallivaasal must be the latest addition in this list. In Kerala even Christian Churches used this term for ‘church’ according to a foot note provided my Mr R P S Pillai.


Sanskrit dictionary

Pallī (पल्ली) refers to a name-ending for place-names mentioned in the Gupta inscriptions (reigned from 3rd century CE). The suffix—palli, pallī, pallaka or its diminutive pallikā is derived from √ pal to go, to move. It means a small village, (esp.) a settlement of wild tribes (e.g. Triśira-pallī = Trichinopoly). Pallī has been used as meaning a den of thieves in the Uttarādhyanasūtra and other Jain canonical texts, the earliest portions of which are assigned to about 300 B.C.

Pallī is changed into:

  1. bal, Āśāpallī, Yessabal
  2. poli, as Triśirapallī (= Trishṇāpallī), Trichinopoly
  3. oli, as Ahalyapallī, Ahiroli (also Ahiāri).


Palli (पल्लि) or Pallī (पल्ली).—f.

1) A small village; पल्लीघोषान् समृद्धांश्च बहुगोकुलसंकुलान् (pallīghoān samddhāśca bahugokulasakulān) (apaśyat) Mb.12.325.2; also a settlement of wild tribes.

2) A hut.

3) A house, station.

4) A city or town (at the end of names of towns); as त्रिशिर- पल्ली (triśira- pallī) (Trichinopoly).

5) A house-lizard.

6) A creeping-plant.

Derivable forms: palli (पल्लिः).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Palli (पल्लि).—f.

(-lli) 1. A small village. 2. Any village. 3. A house. 4. A number of houses. 5. Any place or station. 6. A house-lizard: see palla.

Palli can also be spelled as Pallī (पल्ली).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Cappeller Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Palli (पल्लि).—[feminine] a small village, [especially] a settlement of wild tribes.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

1) Pallī (पल्ली):—[from palla > pall] a f. See below.

2) Palli (पल्लि):—[from pall] a f. a small village, ([especially]) a settlement of wild tribes, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

3) [v.s. …] a hut, house, [ib.]

4) Pallī (पल्ली):—[from pall] b f. a small village etc. (= palli), [Kathāsaritsāgara]

5) [v.s. …] a hut, house, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

6) [v.s. …] a city ([especially] ifc., in Name of towns e.g. triśira-p, = Trichinopoly)

7) [v.s. …] a [particular] measure of grain, [Kātyāyana-śrauta-sūtra [Scholiast or Commentator]]

8) [v.s. …] a small house-lizard, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

9) Palli (पल्लि):—b pallī See under √pall.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Yates Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Palli (पल्लि):—(lli) 2. f. A small village; a house; a place; a house lizard.

Source: DDSA: Paia-sadda-mahannavo; a comprehensive Prakrit Hindi dictionary (S)

Palli (पल्लि) in the Sanskrit language is related to the Prakrit word: Palli.


tags-    Palli, Halli, Tamil, Kannada, Sanskrit, Jain Monks, Ascetics, School

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