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Old 21st December 2020, 12:13 AM   #38
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 135

Nuhun, Amuk Murugul. I do agree that to understand something, the language must also be understood. So I'm inclined to go further.

The reason I asked the question about the connection between Sunda and tarum (indigo) is because it is often taken to be self-evident that Sunda culture and lands have long been associated with tarum. As you mention, the river Citarum and the 5th century kingdom of Tarumanagara bear this name, and tarum means indigo in Sundanese today and likely also meant indigo in the local language in the time of Purnawarman

However I've personally only seen fairly modern sources that use the indigo colour to symbolise something Sundanese (let's say 18th century onwards) - and I seem to have trouble locating any sources that indicate the plant, dye or colour being of any symbolic relevance or even as a commodity of note. I am well aware too that we are talking about knowledges and facts pertaining to a Nusantara culture here and so historicity gives way to changing narrative and folkloric belief. Folklore, the passage of time as well as the obvious the meaning of "tarum" has perhaps lent weight to the symbolism of indigo and its connection to Sunda. But historicity in this case provides a richer understanding of the history and etymology behind the tarum in Tarumanagara or Citarum.

For this, Robert Wessing's (2011) Tarumanagara: What's in a name? (Journal of South East Asian Studies, 42:2, pp.325-327) provides a very well argued alternative for the origins of "tarum. Here are some interesting points:

-- There is no evidence to suggest that indigo as a commodity was particularly noteworthy by either Tarumanagara or to the places they exported their commodities to.

-- Tarum is not a word that exists in Sanskrit, but it probably corresponds to the tamil tarumam, which is dharma in Sanskrit. Tarumanagara then likely means something more like The State of Dharma, or Dharma Country. Wessing supports this argument through explaining that Purnawarman's court and city may have been deliberately built to be flanked by canals which were named Candrabagha and Gomati, which are sacred rivers on the Indian subcontinent.

-- Just as Candrabagha and Gomati were the names of existing rivers on the subcontinent, so too is the name "Tarum" in South India (e.g. Tarumapuram, Tarumaputtiran, Tarumaraja). It was likely that the Taruma inclusion was brought over by Tamil Hindu migrants who occupied positions of influence in Tarumanagara.

-- The understanding that the inclusion of the word tarum in Citarum or Tarumanagara originated from the word for indigo is coincidental. The word probably did mean indigo in the local language in 5th century. Indigo was known to grow freely on the banks of the Citarum, and so the double-meaning was accepted and applied.
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