Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Agriculture in South India - 2a

In my previous post on this topic I discussed the non-Indian vegetables in our food that appeared in the last five hundred years. The list I found was included in an article written by a Malayali Christian (which I have lost). One of the contentious items in the list was 'gourds'. From my other readings, I thought they were mainly Indian.

Now a new study[1] says all plants belonging to the family Cucurbitaceae, like cucumbers, melons and pumpkins originated in India (or from the foothills of Himalayas). I'm not clear whether that means all present day species of this family are native to India. Consider the case of pumpkin.

The Kannada name for pumpkin is 'chini kayi'. The etymology of 'chini' is puzzling as far as I am concerned. Since it's also called sweet pumpkin and chini in Hindi means 'sugar', it appears the name was derived from a north Indian name for that squash. But its Hindi name is 'kaddu'. So, from where did this name come? Why did Kannadigas name it using a Hindi adjective? Is this a legacy of some of the old Prakrit migrations?

I wonder whether 'chini' here actually means 'from China'. The Tamil name is 'parangi kayi'. 'Parangi/Farangi' in Kannada/Tulu means 'foreign/foreigner' (I suppose European). I wonder whether that's an indication of non-native origin of this vegetable.

1. Indian Origins of Pumpkins and Cucumbers confirmed


Anonymous said...

In Tamil also Parangi refers to foreigners... In Tamilnadu there are places which stats with "Parangi" like...
Parangipettai - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parangipettai

Parangi Malai(St Thomas Mt, Chennai)

Manjun Teruvan said...

Thank you! I suppose pumpkin is non-Indian though the Kannada name Chini kayi is bit odd. It appears the vegetable is native to the Americas, thus, must have been brought by the Portuguese.