The Arrow Sign in the Indus Script  3

The Arrow Sign in the Indus Script 3

Unicorn Seal, Harappa, found 1998There has been a controversy among Dravidianists whether the two-way gender distinction as in Old Telugu (masculine/non-masculine) or the three-way distinction as in Tamil (masculine/feminine/neuter) represents the original situation in Dravidian. It is however now well settled that in this respect Old Telugu represents the Proto-Dravidian pattern and that the separate feminine gender was a later development (K.V. Zvelebil, Dravidian Linguistics: An Introduction, 1990: p.20). It may also be noted in passing that the resemblance between the suffix -am in Old Kannada and Tamil and the Sanskrit neuter suffix -am is purely a coincidence as proved by the different form of the re- constructed Dravidian suffix * -(a)mp(u).

A few examples of the earliest inscriptional occurrences of the suffix -(a)mbu/- (a)bu in Old Telugu are listed below (cited by K.M. Sastri: ibid.):

(1) Nagabu : Prob. name of a stone-mason. On a granite pillar in the Amaravati Stupa. Dated variously between 2nd cent. B.C.E. and 2nd cent. CE
(2) samvatsarambul : 'in the year'. In Cikulla Plates (ca. 6th cent. CE).
(3) pandumbu : 'ten measures'. In a stone inscription (ca. 7th cent. CE).

It is somewhat surprising that none of the published lists of Old Telugu words culled from inscriptions include those found in the earliest stone inscriptions of the Pallavas from the Tamil country. I append below a list of the titles in Old Telugu (with the suffixes -(a)mpu/-(a)mbu) sported by Mahendravarman I (ca. 600-630 CE) in his stone inscriptions at Kanchipuram, Pallavaram and Tiruchirapalli (T.V. Mahalingam, Pallava Inscriptions,1988, Nos. 21, 28 & 34):

Kurrambu, Curmbu, Vamkambu (Kanchipuram).

Nivambu, Nilvuleneyyambu, Vampu, Vamkampu, Kathumpu, Pasarambu, Katunterambu, Nayambu, Cumbu (Pallavaram).

Nilvuleneyambu, Nivambu, Nayambu, Vambu, Katuntarambu, Karumbu, Kurrambu, Calambu, Kilambu (Tiruchirapalli).