A Vijay TV programme for ‘Winning One Crore’ on Monday, anchored by Prakash Raj and participated by Kamal Haasan, both celebrities of Indian cinema, said the famous Tamil Nadu food preparation Chaampaar (Sambar) got its name from the Maratha ruler Shahuji at Thanjavur, who invented the recipe and named it after Sambhaji, son of the Maratha king Shivaji. Chaampaar (Sambar) got the name as it is prepared by making Champaaram (ground paste of spices) and the use of the word Champaaram is found in Tamil inscriptions predating Shahuji or Sambhaji, Eezham Tamil academic circles told TamilNet, citing inscriptions and the usage of the words Champal in Eezham Tamil and Sambol in Sinhala for the paste made of spices together with coconut.
A Tamil inscription of 1530 CE, evidences the use of the word Champaaram, in the sense of meaning a dish of rice accompanying other rice dishes or spice ingredients with which a dish of vegetable rice is cooked:
“அமுதுபடி கறியமுது பல சம்பாரம் நெய்யமுதுள்ப்பட தளிகை ஒன்றுக்கு பணம் ஒன்றாக,” (South Indian Inscriptions, IV, 503, 1530 CE)
“Amuthupadi ka’riyamuthu pala champaaram neyyamuthu’lppada tha’likai on’rukku pa’nam on’raaka,” (South Indian Inscriptions, IV, 503, 1530 CE)
“Cooked rice offerings, including Curry-rice (pepper rice or vegetable rice), many types of spiced rice (pala-Champaaram) and ghee-rice, at the rate of one Pa’nam (a denomination of money) per one portion.”
“Ka’riyamuthu pala champaaram,” as a compound phrase could also mean vegetable rice prepared with many spices.
* * *
Thanjavur came under the rule of the Marathas only after 1675 CE.
A myth associating Chaampaar with the Maratha rulers of Thanjavur has recently crept into some web encyclopaedias and cookery literature, Eezham Tamil academics said, adding the following note of the etymology of the word:
‘Champaaram araiththal’ is a common phrase that could be heard in the folk usage of Tamil Nadu in the sense of meaning the preparation of the paste of many spices that is dissolved in making Chaampaar (Sambar).
The word Chaampu as a verb in Tamil means reducing anything, from which the noun Chaampal (ashes) has come (Dravidian Etymological Dictionary 2453). L and R commonly interchange in Tamil and in many other languages.
Champaaram generally means the spices that are reduced by grinding and used in the preparation of food (Madras Tamil Lexicon).
In Eezham Tamil usage, Champal means a paste or ground salad of spices and scrapped coconut. Sambol in Sinhala means the same. The same word is used in the Malay of Malaysia and Indonesia too, to mean a paste of spices served with rice.
Many other food items such as Pulaav and Baath, popular in Hindi and other Indian languages, have Tamil/ Dravidian etymology.
Pulavuch-choa’ru is a meat-rice preparation enjoyed by Changkam Tamils, and Pulavu, meaning meat, fish etc., is word of Tamil/ Dravidian etymology (DED 4552). Patham, meaning cooked rice, is another word of Tamil/ Dravidian etymology (DED 3907).
The dish Curry that recently made a big controversy in Singapore got its name from the Tamil/ Dravidian word Ka’ri (DED 1391), originally meaning pepper, meat (raw or boiled) or vegetables (raw or boiled).