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Saurashtra language

Integrated Sourashtra Organisation
for Learning & Research
( I S O L R )
36, Vasuki Street, Ganapathy Nagar, Madurai, Tamilnadu.
Ph: 0425 267 7036

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Sourashtra)

Spoken in
Tamil Nadu (India)

Total speakers
310,000 (1997)
Language family
Western Indo-Aryan
Writing system
Saurashtra script, Tamil script, Latin, Devanagari script
Language codes
ISO 639-1
ISO 639-2

ISO 639-3

Sourashtra or "Sourashtras" refers to a community of people who had their original homes in Gujarat and presently settled in Madurai, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam, Ammayappan, Dindugal, Salem and other places of Tamilnadu. The origin of the name date backs to the time when the ancestors of theses people inhabited the kingdom of Sourashtra in Gujarat State[1]. The Tamil name by which these people is known in Southern India is Patnūlkarar, that is silk-thread workers or weavers who speak "Pattunuli" or "Khatri", a dialect of Gujarati[2].

The details about Sourashtra community is discussed by A.J. Saunders[3].
Sourashtra, also known as Palkar. Sowrashtra, Saurashtram, is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in parts of the Southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu. The Ethnologies puts the number of speakers at 510,000 (1997 IMA), although the actual number could be double this figure or even more.

Sourashtram is classified under Indo-European Family – Aryan Sub Family -Indo-Aryan Branch – Inner Sub Branch Central Group-and pending some authoritative work, is tentatively grouped under Gujarati according to Linguistic Survey of India. vide Census of India 1961 Volume I INDIA Part II-

C (ii) Language Tables p.ccxvii,published by The Manager of Publications, Civil Lines, Delhi, 1967.

"Saurāshtra is, through and through, an Indo-Aryan language. Sourāshtran publications are sufficient proof that it is an adequate medium for literary expression" vide The Saurashtrans of South India, By Dr.H.N.Randle, Plate VIII, published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London October, 1944.

"sou" in Hindi means 100 and "rashtra" refers to region so in general Sourashtra refers to a province of 100 regions. Another meaning for Sourashtram is WEALTHY KINGDOM.[citation needed]That is why Mohamed Gaznavi invaded Saurashtra and looted Somanath Temple and carried away the treasures.[citation needed]
[edit] Geographical Distribution

The speakers of the Saurashtra language, known as Saurashtrians, maintain a predominant presence in Madurai, a city, also known as 'Temple City' in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. Though official figures are hard to come by, it is believed that the Saurashtra population is anywhere between one-fourth and one-fifth of the city's total population. They are also present in significant numbers in Dindigul, Periyakulam, Paramakudi, Erode, Palani, kancheepuram, Rajapalayam, Nilakottai, Salem, Namakkal,[Trichy]],Pudukkottai, Kumbakonam, Thiruvarur, Ayyampettai, Ammapettai,Dharasuram,Thirubhuvanam,Ammayappan, Walaja, Arni, Tiruvannamalai, Palayamkottai, Krishnapuram, Veeravanallur,Vellanguli Tirunelveli and Kottar in Nagercoil. Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh is said to house several Saurashtrian families, known as Pattusali or Saurastrian Brahmins in local parlance.

At the period of English rule, more than 100 princely states combied as 'UNITED STATE OF SAURASHTRA'. In later both Maharashtra and Gujarat states and some part of Madyapradesh state called STATE OF SAURASHTRA. After Independence the State of Sourashtra divided as Maharashtra and Gujarat. The alternate name of Sourashtra is PALKAR which means 'PEOPLE OF DESERT'. The people of Desert region of West India called paLkar migrated to Tamil Nadu for various reasons. The Somnath of Gujarat state and nearby Rain-shadow area and Thar desert called 'THAR PARKAR' are the etimology of the word 'palkar' which shows and gives the migration reason also. A sizable number is also found in Chennai (formerly Madras), Bangalore, and other parts of India, but this presence is largely due to small-scale migrations in the last few decades from one of the aforesaid traditional Saurashtrian settlements.
Now hundreds of families have migrated to USA, UK, Arab Countries like Dubai, and East Asian Countries Malaysia, Singapore etc.
Saurashtra marriages

There will be two separate hall for bride and groom, On the morning of the wedding day, the groom goes to bride's hall with dhoti and umbrella for a ritual called kasiyatra(it is represent by the language is oduvam) wherein he is intercepted by the parents of the bride and his feet is washed by the girl's parents on a silver plate. After this ritual, the groom moves to the marriage hall for the all-important sacred thread tying (mangal sutra) which marks the culmination of bachelorhood and entering into married life. This is followed by lunch to all the invitees. In the evening a reception is arranged wherein the bride and bridegroom sit/stand on a podium. All the invitees greet the newlywed couples. This is followed by dinner.


Though there is little historical evidence available to support the argument that the Saurashtrians lived in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat in Western India, folklore, and recent linguistic and genetic researches have been able to establish, that this region was indeed once the habitat of the Saurashtrians. However, their language has more similarities with Marathi and Konkani, both Indo-Aryan languages of Western India, than it does with Modern Gujarati, the language of present-day Gujarat. Linguists have been able to explain why it is so: Both Saurashtra and Gujarati branched off from a common parent, and have since taken completely different paths to modernity. Gujarati came under the influence of Hindi, Persian, and Arabic, whereas Saurashtra, taking off from Gujarat before it had made any Muslim contact, was influenced by Marathi, Konkani, Kannada, Telugu, and finally, Tamil. It has been acknowledged that Persian and Arabic have had only limited influence on Marathi and Konkani, and this is why they still retain a good amount of vocabulary and grammar derived from Sanskrit, as compared to other daughter languages of Sanskrit. It is possible that the vocabulary and grammar shared between Modern Saurashtra and Marathi is what was originally derived from Sanskrit.

The southward flight of the Saurashtrians seems to have been triggered by the frequent Muslim invasions of their homeland and the instability caused by it. No details are available whether it was a mass migration and when it took place. They found safe haven in the Vijayanagar Kingdom, with its capital at Hampi in present-day Karnataka, which was then expanding southwards. Weaving being their traditional occupation, they were able to win the attention of the Emperor and were soon elevated to the position of royal weavers. Telugu and Kannada were the court languages, though other languages such as Sanskrit and Tamil were also in use. It was during this period that Saurashtra started absorbing Telugu and Kannada words into its lexicon.

Vijayanagar rulers had the practice of appointing Governors, known as Nayaks, to manage far-flung regions of the empire. When Madurai and Thanjavur were annexed to the empire, Governors were appointed to administer the new territories. A part of the Saurashtra community may have moved to Madurai and Thanjavur at the time to serve the Governors.

The Vijayanagar empire collapsed after more than two centuries of rule, in 1565, after the Sultans of Deccan Confederacy won the battle of Talikota, thus opening up southern India for Muslim conquest. Soon afterwards, the Governors of Madurai and Thanjavur declared themselves the new rulers of the respective territories.

The Saurashtrians had to migrate again since they no longer enjoyed the royal patronage they were used to, and so, once again, were on the move. As there were Saurashtrians already present in Madurai and Thanjavur, it was only natural that they migrated further south to join their folks living there. The language would undergo one last alteration, this time influenced by Tamil, to bring it to its modern form. To this day, Saurashtrians are densely populated around the Royal Palace of Thirumalai Nayak, the greatest of the Nayak Rulers that ruled Madurai. There are good number of people staying in Mumbai(Maharashtra) in a place called Cheeta Camp and also in other parts of the city.

It is important to note that the Marathi-speaking community in Thanjavur should not be mistaken for Saurashtrians. The Marathi community arrived in Thanjavur during King Serfoji's reign and they are culturally and linguistically distinct from Saurashtrians.

The greatest of the Nayak Rulers had great liking for silk wears and as the Saurashtrians were specialists in the weaving trade, they were invited by the King for weaving special silk clothings for the palace dwellers and that is how they settled around the palace of Thirumalai Nayak.

Sourashtra Vijayaaptham

Sourashtra Vijayaaptham denotes the era of Sourashtra Migration. It commences from Tamil Calendar Chitrai 1st. It is derived from subtracting 1312 from the Gregorian Calendar year. It is 697 from 14 April 2009 to 13 April 2010. It is not known how the Era started. But currently it is stated in the Almanac Panchangam and people are using it.

Writing System

The language has had its own script for centuries,the earliest one available from 1880. Dr. H.N. Randle has written an article 'An Indo-Aryan Language of South India—Saurashtra Bhasha' in the Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies (BSOAS) 11 Part 1 p. 104-121 and Part II p. 310-327 (1943-46)Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African Studies.

This language is not taught in schools and hence had been confined to being merely a spoken language.But many great works like Bhagavath Gita and Tirukkural were translated into Sourashtram.

It is now a Literary Language. Sahitya Akademi has recognized this language by conferring Bhasha Samman awards to Sourashtra Scholars.

Most Saurashtrians are bilingual in their mother tongue and Tamil and are more comfortable using their second language for all practical written communication though of late, some of them started writing in Sourashtram using Sourashtra script.

There is an ongoing debate within the Saurashtra community regarding the use of the Script for Sourashtra Language right from 1920 when a resolution was passed to adopt Devanagari Script for Sourashtra Language. Though some of the books were printed in Devanagari script, it failed to register the growth of the language.

But in practice because of lack of printing facilities, books are continued to be printed in Tamil Script with diacritic marks with superscript number for the consonants ka, ca, Ta, ta and pa and adding a colon to na:, ma:, ra:, and la: for aspirated forms, which are peculiar to Sourashtra Language.

For writing Sourashtram using Devanagari Script, we require seven additional symbols to denote the short vowels 'e' and 'o' and four symbols for aspirated forms viz. nha, mha, rha and lha. We also require one more symbol to mark the sound of 'half yakara' which is peculiar to Sourashtra language.

The books printed in Devanagari Script were discarded because they did not represent the sounds properly.

The Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, Allahabad by his letter No.123/5/1/62/1559 dated Novembewr 21, 1964 Communicated to Sourashtra Vidya Peetam, Madurai that the State Government were of the view that as only one book in Sourashtra Language had so far been submitted by Sourashtra Vidya Peetam for scrutiny, there was no point in examining the merits of only one book specially when the question regarding the usage of script - Hindi or Sourashtram, was still unsettled, and that the question of text books in Sourashtram might well lie over till a large number of books is available for scrutiny and for being prescribed as text books in Schools.

The Leaders in the Community could not realize the importance of teaching of Mother tongue in schools and did not evince interest in production of Text books in Sourashtram for class use.

Of late in internet, many sourashtra yahoo groups in their website use roman script for Sourashtra language.

Now Sourashtra font is available in Computer and this enabled the supporters of Sourashtra Script to print books in its own script. An Electronic Journal, printed in Sourashtra Script, VISHWA SOURASHTRAM has been started http://sourashtra.info Another website http://palkarblogs.com is available for practicing Sourashtra Script.

One Journal Bhashabhimani is published from Madurai, in Sourashtra Script.


Each of the traditional Saurashtrian settlements has its own dialect. Since there is not a central linguistic body governing the rules, and establishing what is standard and what is not, each dialect speaker considers his own the standard form. Because people were not used to write their language, proper study of the dialect variations were not undertaken. Recently only an awareness has arisen and people are slowly practicing written Sourashtram.

Dictionaries have been compiled, but dialect variations are not properly noted.

Saurashtra-English Dictionary by Uchida Norihiko is available.

Saurashtra-Tamil-English Dictionary one by K.R.Sethuraman and

T.V.Kubendran are available. English-Saurashtra Dictionary is being compiled.

Similarly variation in syntax is also to be studied and a book is to be published for better understanding one's speech.

The earliest Sourashtra Book printed in Sourashtra Script available now is SOURASHTRANADHI by Pandit Lakshmanachariyar (1880).

T.M.Rama Rai is the doyen of the development of Sourashtra Script and Literature.He published many books in Sourashtra Script and wrote Grammar and Text books in Sourashtram.

A website is available to practice writing in Sourashtram. Visit http://www.palkarblogs.com
An E-Journal by name VISHWA SOURASHTRAM was released on 28 May 2009. Visit http://www.sourashtra.info

Those who want to study and do research on Sourashtra Language can go through the following books.

1. Pandit Lakshmanachariyar, Sourashtranadhi,
Published by the Author, pp. 1-32 (1880).

2. Rama Rai, T.M., Sourashtra Niti Sambhu,
Published by the Author, pp. 1-48, (1900)

3. Rama Rai, T.M., Sourashtra Primer,
Published by the Author, pp. 1-47, (1899)

4. Rama Rai, T.M., Sourashtra Second Book,
Published by the Author, pp 1–84, (1903).

5. Rama Rai, T.M., First Catechism of Sourashtra Grammar,
Published by: the Author, pp. 1-48, (1905).

6. Rama Rai, T.M., Sourashtra Nandi Nighantu,
Published by the Author, pp. 1-32, (1908).

7. Venkatachala Sarma, T.S., Sandhyavandana Bodhini,
Published by Sourashtra Vidhya Bodhana Sala, Madura. pp. 1-19, (1915).

8. Rengayyar, N.A.S., Sourashtra Sulu Kriya Vallari,
Published by the Author, pp. 1-10, (1916).
9. Saunders, Albert J., The Sourashtra Community in Madura, South India,
The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 32, No. 5, pp. 787-799, (1927).

10. Gramophone records of the languages and dialects of the Madras Presidency,
Text Passages published by Government Museum, Madras, India, (1927).

11. Randle, H.N., Saurashtra Bhasha – An Indo-Aryan language of South India,
Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies, Part I, pp. 104-121, (1943).
12. Randle, H.N., Saurashtra Bhasha – An Indo-Aryan language of South India,
Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies, Part II, pp. 310-327, (1946).

13. Randle, H.N., The Saurashtrans of South India,
Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, London, (1944).

14. Dringer David, The Alphabet – A key to the history of mankind, (1948).

15. Ramanandam, O.K., Sri Ramarai Sourashtra Vachakamu,
Published by: Sri Ramarai Patasala, Madurai, India, pp. 1-64, (1961).

16. Gopalakrishnan, M.A., A brief study of The Saurashtra Community in the Madras State,
Published by:The Institution of Traditional Cultures, Madras, India, pp. 1-43, (1966).

17. Census of India 1961 Vol.I INDIA Part II –C (ii) Language Tables ,
Published by the Manager of Publications, Civil Lines, Delhi, pp. CCXLIV + 554, (1967).

18. Pandit, P.B., India as a Sociolinguistic Area,
Presented at the Dr. P.D. Gune Memorial Lecture,
Published by: University of Pune, Pune, India, pp. 92, (1972).

19. Dave, I.R., The Saurashtrians in South India – their Language, Literature and Culture, Published by: Saurashtra University, Rajkot, India, pp. 312, (1976).

20. Catalogue of the Saurashtra Books in the India Office Library, London, (1979).

21. Rama Rai, T.M., Ramarai Ramayanu – Sourashtra Vachana Ramayanam,
Edited by: T.V. Kubendran, R.A. Mohanram,
Published by: Sreshta Sourashtra Sahitya Sabha, Madurai, Part I, pp. 88, (1979).

22. Rama Rai, T.M., Ramarai Ramayanu – Sourashtra Vachana Ramayanam,
Edited by: T.V. Kubendran, R.A. Mohanram,
Published by: Sreshta Sourashtra Sahitya Sabha, Madurai, Part II pp. 1-124, (1980).

23. Kubendran, T.V., Sourashtra Dictionary - Sourashtra-Tamil-English,
Published by Bhashabhimani, Sourashtra Literary Monthly Journal,
99-B, West Masi Street, Madurai-625001.(June 2008) VIII+228+p50+p30+p6

24. Sethuraman, K.R., Sethuraman Trilingual Saurashtra Dictionary
Published by Mrs.K.S.Meera, Raj Prabha Apartment,
New #138, Old # 61-D, Vanniar Street, Choolaimedu,
Chennai-600094. (January 2003) p. 418

25. R. BHASKARA NARAYANAN, " Veda paLamayana Sourashtra"
A short history of Sourashtra people.
139/150, II Agraharam, Salem- 636 001.

26. R.Bhaskara Narayanan, " Samskrita Sourashtra Pada Ikyam"
A comparison of words between Samskrit and Sourashtra.
139/150, II Agraharam, Salem- 636 001.

27. J.S. Venkatavarma, Sourashtra Charitra Sangraham (Madura, 1915)
Gazetter of the Madura District (Madras, 1914), I, 74, 110.

28. "The Sourashtra Community in Madura, South India", Albert James Saunders, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 32, No. 5 (Mar. 1927) PP. 787-799,

29. Dr. T.R.Damodaran, Life and Contribution of Venkataramana Bhagavathar, 2009

30. Dr. T.R.Damodaran, Sri Natana Gopala Nayaki Sawamigal Sangeerthanaiglal – Sourashtri and Tamil.1999

31. Dr. T.R.Damodaran, Srimat Venkataramana Bhagavathars’ Swara &Kirthanas – 70 With life Sketch. 1994

32. Dr. T.R.Damodaran, Seshayyangar Keerthanaigal, Pub. By TMSSM Library, Tanjore 1982

33. Dr. T.R.Damodaran, Sri Natana Gopala Nayaki Sawamigal Swara & keerthanaigal – Sourashtri and Tamil.1996

34. Sourashtra Sangamam A monthly Research Journal on Sourashtralogy, May – 1, 2010