Bhartiya History

Reexamining history from a Hindu perspective and exposing the colonial distortion of their Vedic heritage that fails to recognize the spiritual root of Indic civilization.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Sanskrit in English

By Sudhakar Raje

In South-East Asia the influence of Sanskrit was so strong that it can be seen not only in old inscriptions but also in Sanskrit names for people and places that are still in use, such as in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma. In the Middle-East, the present homeland of fundamentalist Islam Sanskrit had an undeniable presence.

Once upon a time, millenniums ago, the whole world was Hindu. As the mist of antiquity are dispelled, layer by layer, by unceasing research in such diverse disciplines as Archaeology, Mythology, Cosmology, Geology, Linguistics and so on, the truth emerges that from the very dawn of human civilization Arya/Hindu influence pervaded the world from East to West.

Worldwide Hindu Civilization

The most obvious evidence of this global Hindu history is of course the idols and icons of various deities of the Hindu pantheon that have been found almost all over the world. Some Hindu deities, like Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu and Durga, have a truly global presence. The worship of the Vedic Sun God was a popular religion in the Roman Empire, Egypt, and all over the Middle-East. As for the western hemisphere, the history of Hindu culture in the Americas is both hoary and extensive.

Worldwide Sanskrit
For this worldwide spread of Hindu religion and culture, Hindu philosophy and science, the one vehicle was the Sanskrit language. Prof Avinash Chandra writes in his book Rigvedic India, that emigrants from India settled in various parts of Asia and Europe in ancient times. This resulted in Sanskrit influence on local languages. Arnold Toynbee’s book Mankind and Mother Earth contains a map showing Sanskrit speaking nomads to the south-east of the Caspian Sea. When even nomads moving between Asia and Europe spoke Sanskrit, it is certain that the language was used by householders and educational institutions of Asia and Europe in those times.

In South-East Asia the influence of Sanskrit was so strong that it can be seen not only in old inscriptions but also in Sanskrit names for people and places that are still in use, such as in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma. In the Middle-East, the present homeland of fundamentalist Islam that stretches from Afghanistan to Arabia and extends to Egypt, Sanskrit had an undeniable presence. Sanskrit used to be spoken in the Hindu kingdom of Kabul, and a thousand years ago there was a Sanskrit university here. In Iran, the Zoroastrian scripture is written in the Avestan language, which is just a phonetic variation of Sanskrit.

Vedic Ancestry
As for Europe, in his monumental work The Story of Civilization Will Durant calls Sanskrit “the mother of Indo-European languages”. In the light of recent research by Indian scholars it would be nearer the truth to say that Sanskrit is not only the mother of Indian languages but the mother of European languages as well. In fact, this research strongly suggests that they have Vedic ancestry.

The Rig Veda contains the description of a great battle called Dasharajnya, the “Battle of Ten Kings”, which is the world’s oldest recorded battle. It was fought between the Tritsu King Sudasa on the one hand and a confederacy of ten peoples or clans on the other. These ten peoples were Pakhta, Bhalana, Alina, Shiva, Vishanin, Simyu, Bhrigu, Prithu and Parshu. Collectively they had two group names—Anu and Druhyu. The Druhyu king defeated in this battle was named Angara,. His successor, King Gandhara, migrated to the North-West with his clan and gave his name to the Gandhara country. The Puranas, which are the historical companion texts of the Rig Veda, clearly state that major sections of these Druhyus emigrated to distant lands to the North. Those among them who spread to Europe came to be known as Celts, and the language they spoke came to be called Celtic. During the last some centuries before the Christian era Celtic was spoken over a wide area of Europe from Spain to Britain. These ancient Celts were originally the Druids, who in turn were identifiable with the Druhyus.

The languages the peoples that fought the Dasharajnya war spoke had split into two broad groups, called Satem and Kentum, in the original Vedic/Indian homeland itself, the Anu speaking the Satem dialects and the Druhyu the Kentum ones, With the westward spread of the Druhyus the latter evolved into proto-proto-Indo-European languages, some of which became extinct, like Latin, while others developed into extant, spoken languages, including English.

This is borne out by a study of the etymology of English words. For instance, the words in the Concise Oxford Dictionary (COD) are stated to have generally Latin roots and frequently Greek roots. As a matter of fact, in numerous such cases the evolved English word or the Latin/Greek root has such a striking resemblance to a Sanskrit word, both phonetically and in respect of meaning, as to clearly suggest that the root of the given root is Sanskrit. This writer has identified hundreds of such words in COD. In addition, there are at least a thousand words in this dictionary where the prefix or suffix is derived from Sanskrit. COD also lists about 70 purely Sanskrit words as part of the English vocabulary.

Dr N.R.Waradpande is currently engaged in compiling a full-fledged dictionary of Sanskrit-based English words, and he is confident of identifying 10,000 such words. What is remarkable, Webster’s, the world’s biggest (18-volume) English dictionary, is said to have as many as 40,000 words described as “akin to Sanskrit”. In fact, says Warandpande, one-fourth of the total English vocabulary is Sanskritic.

Interesting Background
Some English words not only have a Sanskrit etymology but also a Hindu history. A few such examples are given here:

Abba: This word has not only a Sanskrit origin but also a Hindu history. Abba means ‘father’, and is derived from Sanskrit Appa—ap, ‘water’ + pa, ‘to drink’. There is a Hindu ritual to offer water to the father after his death, which he is supposed to drink. So Appa, ‘drinker of water’, means ‘father’.

Allopathy: Allopathy is an allied development as a branch of ancient Indian medicine, which prevailed in Europe and other parts of the world till about the end of the 18th century. Allo means ‘a learned borrowing’ from the Greek word allos, meaning “other”. So ‘Allo-pathy’ is borrowed from ‘the other’, that is from the ancient Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda.

Bane: The English word ‘bane’, meaning ‘a curse’, has an interesting Hindu mythological background. Ancient king Prithu-Vainya was considered the original Arya king, because he started the practice of agriculture. He is thus honoured as the founder of the Arya (‘agricultural’) civilization. ‘Vainya’ means ‘son of Vena’. King Vena, however, was a tyrant, and was described as a curse on Dharma. So ‘bane’, derived from ‘Vena’, means a curse.

Brahmin: A curious example of how not only a Sanskrit term but even the Hindu concept underlying it has become established in the English language is provided by the word ‘Brahmin’. In his magnum opus Kane and Abel best-selling British novelist William Archer frequently uses this term to denote a particular class of people or its style of speech or accent. According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary ‘Brahmin’ means “a socially or culturally superior person”.

Elephant: The word ‘elephant’ is an interesting combination of Sanskrit and Arabic roots. It has three components, al-ibha-danta. Al is Arabic for ‘the’, while ibha and danta are Sanskrit, meaning ‘elephant’ and ‘tooth’. The English word ‘ivory’, meaning ‘elephant’s tusk’, has a related etymology. The Hebrew word ‘habbin’ is derived from ‘ibha’, as also the Egyptian word ‘abu’. This becomes ‘ebut’ in Etruscan and ‘eboreum’ in Latin, finally becoming ‘ivory’ in English.

Indigo: The English word ‘Indigo’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Indikon’, which means ‘from India’. Proof exists that Indigo was made and used to dye cloth in ancient India.

Non: The English (and also French and Latin) prefix ‘non’ is derived from the Sanskrit word na/no, meaning ‘no’. Navneet Advanced Dictionary (English-English-Marathi) has given about 550 English words using this Sanskrit-derived prefix. Concise Oxford Dictionary says the number of English words using this prefix is “unlimited”.

Over: The English prefix ‘over-’ is derived from the Sanskrit term upari, meaning ‘above’/ ‘upon’, excessive’/ ‘extra’. Navneet Advanced Dictionary has given a list of about 170 words using it. Concise Oxford Dictionary contains about 270 English words formed with this prefix.


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