How Manipal Got Its Name

December 5, 2013 at 9:15 AMDec (Musings, Slice Of Life)

“Money-Pal” – that is how a senior friend has been referring to the small town in coastal Karnataka- Manipal- which is home to Manipal University, Syndicate Bank. Home to many including me too.

The breaking of the name Manipal into Money- Pal is not a recent invention. Not even originally of my friend. It has been in prevalence from several years.  As a pun it is interesting. As a pun it is a stroke of genius. It also suits the place to a great extent. It says something about the place, like every name of place does. If the place was to be named today even then it would be named Manipal, as derived from Money + Pal, it appears.

While thinking of this suddenly the question comes up as to how did the town get this name- Manipal after all, which makes way and suits the pun too!

Historian Dr. P. Gururaj Bhatt argued that Manipal may have been in the olden days occupied by a tribe of hill people called ‘maaNis’. There is no evidence to prove this though.

Manipal Lake Photo: Sandeep Kamath

Manipal Lake
Photo: Sandeep Kamath

Many, even I for a long time, believed that Manipal derives its name from maNNa paLLa. In Tulu paLLa means a pond and here it refers to vast pond below Manipal Junior College. maNNa means made out of  maNNu (Kannada) to mean soil/ mud. So the breaking of Manipal into maNNa paLLa means ‘mud pond’ or a pond noted for ‘clay soil.’  This claim may have some basis as the pond in Manipal has been the source of clay supply for tile industries in the vicinity.

But the mixing of a Kannada (maNNu/a) and a Tulu word (paLLa) for a name seems a bit strange and makes room for suspicion to believe if the root of Manipal is “maNNa paLLa.”

Dr. R.K. Manipal whose Doctoral thesis was on the place names and their emergence says Manipal is formed from ‘maaNey’ and paLLa’ perhaps an evolution from maaNey + paLLa which may mean an elevated hill and a natural pond or tank.

According  to Narkala Marappa Shetty an expert in Tulu names, the word ‘maaNye’ itself comes from ‘ma’ meaning big and ‘ane’ meaning hill in Tulu . The ‘maaney’ here suggests elevated topography. This trend in seen in the rest of the Tulu speaking region areas like MankiManiManaiManipuraManinjiManibottu etc all which apparently have features that justify the ‘maanye’ part of their names.

This assertion about Manipal roots however seem to be the most probable. If the place names around Tulu Nadu are examined most of them are formed to describe the geological features. This would probably be a reference to the unique relation of the people with nature. The lack of hero worship resulted in these names with geographical names rather than with names derived from kings, rulers and local heroes, opines Dr. R.K. Manipal.

From maaNey paLLa to Manipal to the pun Money-Pal, we have traveled a long distance, a long distance from nature. Even if we consider maNNa paLLa , etched in the popular psyche, as the origin even then we have come far. Far from maNNu i.e. soil.

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