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Friday, 1 July 2022

THE HINDU CITY OF AMRIT THAT PHOENICIANS BUILT IN SYRIA

Phoenicia was an ancient civilization composed of independent city-states which lay along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea stretching through what is now Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel. The Phoenicians were known for their mighty ships. Phoenicia thrived as a maritime trader and manufacturing center from 1500 to 332 BCE. The Phoenicians were regarded highly for not only their skill in ship-building but also glass-making, the production of dyes, and in the manufacture of luxury and common goods. Above all they were astute traders.

The various names given to the Phoenicians, like Poeni by the Romans and Phoinike by the Greeks, resemble the Vedic terms such as Pani (पणि) meaning bargainer or trader, Paani (पाणि) meaning shop, Vani (वणी) and Vanik (वणिज्) both meaning bargainer and trader. Many scholars have identified the Vedic Panis with the Phoenicians because of the many similarities between them. Most have argued that the Paanis of the Rig Veda were none other than the Phoenicians.

In the 'Social History of Kamarupa' (1922), historian Nagendranath Vasu states," It is these Panis of the Vedic age who have passed as Phoenicians in the western civilized world. The ancient Greeks and Germans called them Fonic or Fenec and even Punic". E. Pococcke states in his India in Greece, "The Phoenicians originally dwelled in Afghanistan."

The Panis were Vedic Hindu traders who were wealthy but were regarded as irreverent and uncouth. The Panis did not recognize the priest-class as superior, nor did they pass on alms from their earnings to the priest-class as was the tradition. As a result they were regarded as miserly, lowly, rude of language, cow thieves and were referred to as 'mleccha-s' (म्लेच्छ) - the ignoble, as against the arya (आर्य) or the noble.

The Panis naturally therefore are not spoken of very highly in the Vedas though their skills are recognized. They were ultimately driven away from the Sapta-Sindhu region after a battle, and their defeat was at the hands of none other than Indra himself, who was recognized as the highest of the earliest Vedic gods. With time the word Pani distorted to Kani and became the endonym that the Phoenicians gave themselves. By the time the Panis appeared on the Mediterranean coast, they called themselves Kani, or Kanana, who were referred to as the Canann-ites. The name Cannan appears in the Bible. It was the name for the area of ancient Palestine west of river Jordon, the promised land of the Israelites. In western sources the name Cannan is traced to Hebrew Kenaan and means a 'pack'.

In this post we trace just a couple of the cities that the Vedic Panis built in the Mediterranean. Amrit and Tartous. Amrit is an ancient Phoenician site located on the Mediterranean coast of Syria. After the Phoenicians had settled the island of Arwad, a short distance offshore, the Phoenicians subsequently established a number of settlements on the mainland.

Arwad was mentioned as Irtu in the Annals of Thutmose III, at the Karnak Temple in Egypt. Thutmose III was the 6th King of Egypt's 18th Dynasty and reigned around 1430 BCE. Irtu eventually came to be known as Arvad, Arpad, and Arphad and then as Arwad. Irta (ईर्ते) is Sanskrit for 'elevate' and perhaps it was named so since an island is an 'elevation in the sea'.

Tartous and Amrit were two of the settlements located closest to the island of Arwad. Amrit, known to the Greeks as Marathos, is thought to have been used as a suburb or religious center. There are many theories regarding the etymology of Tartous, the most commonly accepted is that Tartous, ancient name Tortosa, got its name from the Greek Anti-Arados or Antarados or Anti-Aradus, meaning 'the town facing Arwad'. However, Arwad was known as Irtu in antiquity and Arwad is only a much later Arabic distortion of the original name Irtu. So that derivation of the name does not count.

Tartous is a port city and its ancient most known Phoenician name is Tartosa, the one given by the Vedic pani-s. Taratos may have to do with water or tara (तर), Sanskrit for 'tide' or 'swim across', tosha (तोष) trickle, and toja (तोज) water. To this day there is an ancient town known as Baniyas on the coast of Syria- the source of its name unknown but certainly linked to the Pani-s and the variations of their names including kani, vanik 
or banik . In the Rig Vedic tradition amrita is equated with a 'celestial drink of immortality' or the 'nectar of the gods'.

Arwad and Tartous remain occupied today, but Amrit was destroyed in the third century B.C. and only a few physical remains survive. Its ancient most name is said to be Marat (Phoenician: 𐤌𐤓𐤕, mrt), but since in the earliest form of Phoenician writing the vowels were not written, the word 𐤌𐤓𐤕 or mrt , may just as well have been a truncated form of Amrit rather than Marat- the interpretation given by mainstream researchers.

In their paper 'The spatial organization of the Phoenician city of Amrith (Syria)', authors Michel Al Maqdissi and Christophe Benech state, "The site is crossed by two rivers, a fact possibly linked to the religious tradition of Amrith in which the water has an important role. There is the Nahr el Amrith, which runs past the main temple (Ma’abed), and the Nahr el Kuble, not far from the place where the Syrian archaeological mission has discovered a second temple."

One of the most important excavations at Amrit was a Phoenician temple, commonly referred to the "ma'abed," . It is said that the temple was dedicated to the god Melqart of Tyre and Eshmun. One must first remember here that the ancient most name of the Phoenician city of Tyre was 'Sur'. The Pani-s, it must also be remembered, were considered both as 'mleccha-s' and perhaps liked to designate themselves as 'sura-s' rather than be equated with the 'asura-s as they were when they lived in the Sapta Sindhu during the Rig Vedic era. The Rig Veda states that the then highest god of the Sura-s Indra had himself driven the Pani-s out in a massive battle. The Pani-s perhaps equated themselves to the Sura-s.

The name Sur has survived in many forms since the Phoenician build the city of Sur, the Old Tyre. In the book A Description of the East and Some Other Countries', authors Robert Pococke, Hubert Francois Gravelot, and Charles Gringion state, "New Tyre is now called Sur, which is the ancient name of Tyre, and this having been the chief city of the whole country, possibly Syria might receive its name from Sur". It may therefore be inferred that Assyria, the older name of Syria, derives its name from asura.

The colonnaded temple, excavated between 1955 and 1957 at Amrit, consists of a large court cut out of rock surrounded by a covered portico. In the center of the court is a well-preserved cube-shaped covered area. What is of note is that the open-air courtyard around the cube-shaped structure was filled with the waters of a local, traditionally sacred spring. This unique feature of this site is true of all ancient Shiva temples of India.

The cube shaped structure was surrounded by the
waters of a scared spring
The Phoenician temple of Amrit, Syria
near the Nahr el Amrit river

Inside the rectangular structure at the Water Spring
Temple of Amrit, Syria was housed
a deity wearing a lionskin. The area around the structure
held water fed by a water spring.
It was in all liklihood a Shiva Temple constructed by
the Rig Vedic Panis of India

In their book 'The Archaeology of Syria: From Complex Hunter-Gatherers to Early Urban Societies, authors Peter Mattheus, Maria Gerardus Akkermans, Peter M. M. G. Akkermans, and Glenn M. Schwartz state," Preeminent among the sites within the Arwad vicinity is Amrit noted for its impressive open-air temple ["Maabed"] the best preserved monumental structure from the Phoenician homeland."

Describing the water-temple site of Amrit, they further state," ...the extraordinary rock- cut structure consisted of a colonnaded portico enclosing a large rectangular basin.. A large ritual pit contained limestone votive statues.....depicting a young man wearing a lionskin and brandishing a club." Though the idol here is equated with the Phoenician god Malqaart, the attire is much like the Indic Shiva who wears lionskin and holds a trident, as of course is the layout of the Phoenician temple which corresponds to Indic Shiva temples where water plays an important part.
A reconstruction of the Water-spring Temple,
at Amrit, Syria. The cubic structure in the centre 
housed a deity dressed in a lionskin and was surrounded by water


The Indic Shiva wears lionskin
and holds a trident

Other examples of Phoenician Temples at Arwad, such as the one a few miles away from the main Phoenician Temple of Amrit, has led historians such as N.M. Billimoria and Nagendranath Vasu, to the conclusion that what we see in ancient Phoenician architecture are the images of gods from ancient India, including Rig Vedic deities and Shiva.

The Phoenicians were the Vedic Pani-s.
They built many cities on the Mediterranian Sea.
Here is a structure, perhaps a 'shivalinga', from
the Temple at Amrit in Syria

Archaeological site at Amrit, Syria

About the city of Tyre, who's ancient most name is Sur, and of which all names such as Syria and Assyria are variations, N. M. Billimoria states in the 'Panis of Rigveda', "It has not been ascertained when the Panis left India by sea and established the colony of Phoenicia along the coasts of Syria. From the account left by Herodotus, however, it is found that the very ancient capital of Phoenicia, the city of Tyre, was founded 2,300 years before him, i.e., 2,756 B.C. In these circumstances it may fairly be concluded that the Panis must have deserted the shores of India long before that date. From a consideration of the legend telling how Sargon I (about 3,800 B.C.) crossed the eastern sea, it will also appear that the Panis colonised themselves in Syria so long back as 5,717 years from now. And subsequently they gradually extended their sway as traders and rulers over Egypt and Asia Minor."

Suggested reading:


Friday, 22 April 2022

ANCIENT PURANIC PLACE NAMES OF KASHMIR, THE CHANGING OF THE COURSE OF RIVER JHELUM AND THE CREATION OF SOPORE

What's there in a name? Plenty. The much criticized author E. Pococke had presented in his book 'India in Greece' three postulates about the naming of a place in the context of the etymology of place names in Greece. He had stated,“ 1. Let it be granted that the names given to mountains, rivers, and towns, have some meaning. 2. Let it be granted that the language of the Name-givers expressed that meaning. 3. Let it be granted that the language of the Name-givers will explain that meaning.” It therefore derives that all place names in antiquity, at the time of their naming, had a meaning in the language of its time. Pococke then goes on to pose a question. He states, “As a Greek, let me translate Stympha, - I cannot, Dodona - I cannot, Cambunnei Montes - I cannot, Hellopes - I cannot, Aithices - I cannot, Bodon - I cannot, Chonia - I cannot, Crossaea - I cannot, Corinthes, Ossa, Acaranania - I cannot. Arcadia, Achai, Boeotia, Ellis, Larissa - I cannot... What then can I do?"

No critic of Pococke has been able to answer that question. Yet the reason is simple. If the name of a place holds no meaning it is a corruption of its original name.

Hundreds of Sanskrit place names have with time, and the Islamization of Kashmir, taken distorted forms and lost their meanings. Kashmir had up to the medieval times been a land of Vedic rishis. With its academic peethas and sacred sites it was a thriving centre of Shaivism. The Vedic and Puranic rishis of Kashmir bestowed upon India a vast array of Sanskrit treatises, literature and manuscripts. A host of Vedic-Puranic-Sanskrit place names of those times have existed till recent times and are well recorded.

The process of dissolution of these ancient place names had commenced with the advent of Islam in Kashmir in the 1200s and had accelerated during the reign of Sikander Butshikast a century and half later in the mid 13-14000s. This process rose and ebbed for many centuries. In the current times terrorism and violence rose significantly in the 1990s and resulted in the last exodus, in a chain of seven exoduses, of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley. The custodians of Kashmir's Vedic-Sanskritic past were finally gone. What the future has in store for Kashmir is unknown, but the present remains bloody and violent.

The Puranas say Kashmir was built by draining the waters from a lake called Satisara which occupied the land of Kashmir. Geologists too confirm that the land that came to be known as Kashmir was totally submerged under a lake some 50000 years back. However, their belief is that the water receded from the valley due to a tectonic shift. No matter what the facts are, the names recorded in the ancient texts tell us that there certainly was human involvement in the reclamation of the land of Kashmir.

The Nilmata Purana dates to a time when people still had a memory of the time when the water was drained out by the engineers of those times. There are some details of this operation in the Nilmata Purana such as that the draining of Satisara was carried out by piercing a mountain with the help of a tool shaped like a ploughshare.


Legend has it that it was Lord Vishnu who took the form of a boar, varaha in Sanskrit, to complete the task. As this marvel was being carried out, it is said that a host of gods took up their positions to witness the event from the vantage point on the peaks of the Naubandhana Tirtha, above lake Kramasaras, which is the present-day site of Kausarnaga.  Krama (क्रम)  Sanskrit for foot or step, alludes to Vishnu's footsteps,  and is a reference to Vishnu's presence here. The place where Vishnu pierced the mountain came to be known as Varahamoola (Baramulla). Varahamoola became the site of a tirtha known as Adi Varaha. Naubandhana  a name that occurs a few times in the Puranas - everytime it has a link to an engineering mission, such as in the Matsya Purana when Vishnu takes the avatar of a matsya, or a fish, and saves mankind from the great deluge. The water is said to have risen to the peaks of the Himalayas, Naubandana-s were the sites where the boats were anchored, nau (boat), bandhana (tie). The same is true of the draining of Satisara.

The word varaha (वराह is commonly translated as boar. Yaksa, the Sanskrit grammarian and etymologist from the 3rd Century BC, stated that 'varaha' has its root in the word 'vhr' meaning to uproot or 'tear up'. Boars are known for tearing and rooting, hence they are known as varaha. In the Varaha avatar Vishnu is known to have undertaken many feats, which required either digging deep, such as to excavate a linga, most likely some sort of a device,  which had appeared underground and required digging deep to reach it, or when he started the new eon after the time when mother-earth was taken to rasātalam (in the Ocean) and Vishnu released the earth above the waters by raising her with his teeth. The draining of the Satisara falls in the list of such projects undertaken in antiquity.

The channel that carries the water from Baramulla out of the Kashmir valley was appropriately named Vitasta (वितष्ट), Sanskrit for 'carved' or 'hewn', a river that was carved out from its source at Verinag. The Nilmata Purana states, " Sankara himself named her as Vitasta. Because Hara had excavated with the spear or a carving or hewing device a ditch measuring one Vitasti, through which the good river – gone to the Nether World – had sprung out, so she was given the name Vitasta by Svayambhu. Then, O king, the people in all the countries heard that the goddess Sati, after assuming the form of a river, had appeared in Kas’mira." (NIlmata Purana 260-262). Vitasti (वितस्ति) is an ancient unit of measure and according to the Vayua Purana one vitasti was equal to 12 angulas (fingersand 64000 Vitastis make up for a single Yojana. If we consider a single Yojana to be 8 miles (~12.87km), one Vitasti would correspond to roughly 7.95 inches (~20.12cm). This corresponds to the present day unit called 'span'.

We refer to this river today by a relatively meaningless name Jhelum, incapable of adding any collateral to its history. Some sources say Jhelum is a corruption of 'jalam' (जलं ) or water. Folklore in neighboring areas of Jhelumabad says that Jhelum is a corruption of Jala (जल) water, and 'hima' (हिम) or snow referring to its path through the Himalayas, but the authenticity of such claims is questionable since this is not mentioned in any of the old texts..

As the water drained and the valley emerged, it left in its wake the remnants of Satisara in the form of thousands of smaller lakes, scattered through out its territory. When Kashmir became habitable, the indigenous Naga (नाग)  race became its first dwellers. Naga (नाग) is sanskrit for 'serpent'. The Nagas were described as a highly intelligent ancient race with serpentine features. Nila was the king of the nagas of Kashmir. The Nilmata Purana itself gets its name from Nila, the name of this Naga king. The ancient name of Verinag, the source of the Vitasta, was Nilanag, the spring of King Nila. Verinag is a later name which dates to the 1600s when new names were added by Muhammadan rulers.  

A few points of note here. First, serpent like intelligent races are known to have existed around the world and are no longer dismissed as myths by open minded alternate historians. The Mexican Indians call their shamans ‘nagals’, several Central American deities and culture-bearers are depicted as feathered serpents, there are Snake tribes among the North American Indians, and a gigantic Serpent Mound 420 metres long was constructed by the mound-building peoples of ancient Ohio. Obviously this reverence for the snake comes from perhaps the memory of a race with serpentine features and to dismiss them as myths is a slight on the intelligence of the ancients.

Second the word 'naga' has more than one meaning in Sanskrit. In the Sanskrit language there are 2000 root words, called dhatus or building blocks. One such dhatu is 'na' which means water, when it joins with 'ga' which means 'flow' or 'go', it forms naga, that which moves in water, hence naga means 'serpent' or a 'water spring'. The Kashmiri word 'nag' meaning 'spring' stems from Sanskrit. Not surprisingly the word 'naga' appears in the names of water bodies around the world. For more on this click here.

But now back to Vitasta. The Vitasta is known to have at least two more sources, apart from Verinag, the Panzeth Springs, ancient name Panchahasta, sometimes translated as five-hundred springs, but more likely has the meaning of 'shaped like five hands.' This spot was also called Vitastara, which corrupted to Vetavotur, but now goes by the name Wawathur. These are corruptions and have no meaning. The third point where the Vitasta emerged was at Narsasinhashrama. Narasimha is an avatara of Vishnu, and this avatara of Vishnu has to do with fine arts or the shilpashastra which includes the five principle hand (hasta) gestures of natyashastras- including siṃhamukha-hasta, tripataka-hasta, nrtta-hastas, vardhamāna hasta, and the anjali-hasta.

Of the thousands of lakes that sprang up after the draining of the Satisara, one of the most important was the Mahapadma (महापद्मा) or the 'giant lotus' lake! It goes by the name Wular today. The Wular which once extended to what is now known as the Mansabal lake, are both known even today for the abundance of lotuses. Hence the name Mahapadma, though the Nilmata states that a naga took on the name of Mahapadma and the lake is named after him, it just may be the other way round.

We now look at these names in greater detail:


Ancient names around the Mahapadma (Wular) lake


Wular: Neither the word Wular, nor its Kashmiri version Volur has any meaning. Wular or Volur is a distortion of one of the earlier names of the lake. The Wular was once also known as Ullola (उल्लोल), Sanskrit for 'with beautiful waves'. How poor and insipid is the name 'Wular' in comparison! The Wular, the largest fresh water lake in Asia until recently, was given to choppy waves during afternoons.

The present district of Wular corresponds to the ancient Holada. its etymology stems from holaka (होलाक)  'vapour-bath' referring to the mist over the lake. A corresponding word is 'holadhi', 'treasure of vapour' and falls in the same category. The Nilmata Purana also mentions two  towns Chandarpura and Visvagasvapura near the Mahapadma lake. These correspond to present day Chandar Gir (in Sonavari) and Viji Pora (also in Sonawari). The close by town of Khuyasrama too is an ancient Puranic site and now goes by the name Khurhama.

What is today known as Bandipura Nala that flows into the Wular was once known as Madhumati River. This name still survives and in despite resistance the Bandipura Nala is also sometimes referred to as Madhumati Nala. But how unfortunate that a river once known as Madhumati (मधुमती) or 'like honey', is referred to as a 'nala' or a 'drain'.

Baramulla: In the vicinity of the Mahapadma Lake was city of Varahamula, its name derived from, as mentioned above the Sanskrit Varāhamūla (वराहमूल), a combination of varaha (boar) and mūla (root or deep). According to the Nilmata Purana it was here that Sri Vishnu assumed the form of a boar and struck a mountain to make way for the the water of the Satisara to flow out.  This makes complete sense because whoever drained the water from Satisara would have to drain it out at Varahamula or Baramulla. It is here that the Vitatsa moves out of Kashmir valley. There is no other outlet. 

Varahamula is a very ancient place and the temple of Varaha here is repeatedly mentioned by  Kalhana in his Rajatarangini. Its sacred image was destroyed by Sikander Butshikast who ruled Kashmir between 1389-1413. Butshikast has to his credit the tag of having  destroyed innumerable temples including the ones at Parihaspura (City of Laughter), King Lalitaditya's capital.The town today is known as Paraspora, a corruption of its original name.

The modern Baramulla, or Varmul as it is called in Kashmiri, or Varahamula-ksetra or Varaha-ksetra, in the ancient days, was a suburb of Huviskapura , modern Ushkur also called Ushkara. Huviskapura  dwindled to a mere village with time. It is a village that Hiuen Tisang, the Chinese writer and explorer had spent some nights at. Ushkara is the point till the Vitasta is navigable after which it enters its mountainous course and becomes unnavigable. The name Huvishka stems from the Sanskrit root word 'vishka' (
विष्क), Sanskrit for 'bolt of a door'. Vitasta could not be navigated beyond this point. Hence the name.  meaningless. 

Sopore: Sopore lies close to where the Vitasta (Jhelum) exits the Kashmir Valley near the Mahapadma (Wular) lake and flows towards Baramulla, Khadniyar and the ancient sacred town of Gingal. The ancient name of Sopore was Suyyapur. Historical accounts in Kalhana’s epic Rajatarangini composed in 1150 AD mentions a landslide in the second half of the ninth century that blocked the flow of the Jhelum downstream from Varahamoola. Rising waters restrained by this natural dam eventually flooded the Kashmir Valley, not only in the Wular area but all the way up to Vijeshwara (present name Bij Behara), near Anantnag. 

The flood waters were abated by breaching the landslide dam by King Avantivarman’s engineer Suyya. Suyya who is attributed with the design and completion of numerous drainage and irrigation schemes in Medieval Kashmir some of which can be still identified, undertook the mammoth task of draining out the water. The details of this whole operation is given in Kalhana's Rajatarangini are given at the end of the post.*

It is said that the city of Sopor (Suyyapur) was named after Suyya. But this appears to be a slight twist of the truth.
 Suyyapur was built on the land reclaimed after the flood water of Vitasta was released by rebuilding the dam and regulating the water. Suya (सूय) is a Sanskrit root word meaning 'extract', 'restrict', 'bind', or 'regulate'. These words relate to the actions taken to restrain the Vitasta. Hence, the town came to be known as Suyapur or Suyyapur (सूयपुर). The engineer came to be referred as Suyya after his engineering feat. 

So where was this engineering feat undertaken by Suyya? M.A. Stein traces the spot. Stein states, "Close to the western end of Baramulla a rocky ridge with a precipitous slope runs down into the river bed....At this point there stood till last year (1897) an old ruined gateway known to the people as Drang or 'watch-station'....Through the structure I had seen....there can be little doubt that it marked the ancient 'gate' of Varahamula.....About two and a half miles below 'Drang' the hill sides recede slightly, leaving room for a small village called 'Naran Thal'. Near it stands a little temple with a spring close by which is visited by pilgrims and is probably identical with the Narayanasthana of Nilmata (Purana)." This spot is where the river takes a two way diversion forming an island. This is  where the Eco Park has come up today obliterating any memory of Narayansthana or the water springs there and replacing them with cafes and tourist huts.

Adds Stein, "About a mile below this point and close to the village of Khadniyar, the river turns sharply round a steep and narrow spur projecting into the valley from the northwest...The road crosses the spur by a deep and narrow cut, known as Dyargul. Kalhana's Chronicle knows this curious cutting as Yakshadhara, 'the demon's cleft'. According to the tradition there recorded the operation by Suyya, Avantiramana's engineer, lowered the level op the Vitasta, extended to this point of the river bed."


 It was at the spot that was named Yakshadhara (demon's cleft)
that Suyya, King Avantiraman's engineer performed his engineering feat.
Suyya (सूय) is Sanskrit for extract, bind, direct or regulate.
Hence, the engineer came to be known by the name 'Suyya'.

Yakshadar later came to be known as Dyaregul and the stream flowing at Yakshadara is now called Sheen nallah. That 'sheen' is Kashmiri for 'snow' is well known, its less common knowledge that 'sheen' (शीन) is Sanskrit for 'ice'.  The name Khadniyar too is a corruption of Sanskrit Khadda (खद्दा) means a 'gorge'. Two miles below this area is the town of Zehenpur or Zehempur, and was in ancient times a sacred site. So was Gingal and ruins of ancient temples still existed during the times of Stein. Further ahead on this route is the town of Boliasa, the Baliasaka of Rajatarangini. The corrupted forms of the above names have no meanings.

In his exploration, Stein had always hoped to discover the western entrance to the Kashmir valley from Muzzafarabad, known as Udhabanda in antiquity. He says in antiquity the path from Udhabanda lay along the right bank of the Vitasta, hence the crossing of the river could be completely avoided when traveling to the valley.  Uda (उद) is water,  'bandh' (बन्ध ) is to 'tie' or 'control'.

The higher ground of the Kashmir Valley which consists of peculiar plateaus. Though they are now known as 'karewas', a word which stems from Persian, they were until recently known by their Kashmiri term udar which originates from Sanskrit uddara, the root word of which is the 'uddhR' (उद्धृ) meaning raised up, and for example one may note, appears in the name of a village Damodar Udar.

There are scores of other place names which now bear distortions of their earlier names of which some are listed below. Each one of these too has a story to tell and will be the subject of later posts:

1. Kishtwar - Kashtavata (काष्ठवाट)-city of wood
2. Badravah- Bhadravasaka (भद्रवासक)- splendid abode
3. Chamba - Campa (कम्प) - Vibrate a reference to a flowing river
4. Ballavar- Vallapura 
5. Agror- Urasa
6. Karnau- Karnaha
7. Drava tract- Duranda
8.  Sardi- Sharada
9. Darad- Daraddesa/Daratpuri
10 Leh - Lohh
11. Kamraz-Kramarajya and Maraj - Madhav Rajya. 
Note: Since ancient times the Kashmir valley  was drawn into 2 parts. The part north of Srinagar was called Madhvrajys, and the part south of it was Kramarajya.

13 Pandrethan- Puranadhi-sthana
14. Banihal             - Banasala
15. Bichlari River    - Visalata River
16. Bahramgala     - Bhairavgala
17.  Kritshom          - Kriti-asrama         
18. Drang                - Karkota Dranga
19. Konsarnag         - Krama-sara
20. Rahjauri         -  Raja Puri
21. Pusiana        - Pusia-nanda
22.Bahram gala     -Bhairav Gala
23. Kakodhar        -Karkota dhara
24. Chambar         -Sabambara
25. Uskur              -Huska Pura
26. Naran That     -Narayan Pura
27. Khadniyar     - Yakshadhara
28. Dvarbidi        - Dvaravati
29. Uskur            -Huskapura
30. Pir Panjal Range - Panchala Dharmath
31. Jhelum river- Vitasta
32. Chenab River- Chandrabhaga
33. Poonch - Parnotsa

Most of these names are mentioned in the chronicles of Kalhana with an explanation of how the places got these names. Unsurprisngly, Kalhana who wrote the Rajatarangine (The Chronology of the Kings) himself gets his name from the work he did, Kala (काल) time or chronology, and ahaana (आहणा) composition, he composed a book on the chronology of the kings. Kalhana simply means 'historian'. This is a name he earned for himself. Just like Suyya. 

*The following is a description of Suyya's  Vitasta operation as chronicled in Kalhana's Rajatarangini in the words of Prof M.A. Stein:

Quoting from this treatise M.A Stein states, "The operations commenced in Kramarajya at the locality called Yakshadhara where large rocks which had rolled down from the mountains lining both river banks, obstructed the Vitasta. By removing the obstructing rocks the level of the river was lowered. Then a stone-dam was constructed across the bed of the river, and the latter thus blocked up completely for seven days. During this time the river-bed was cleared at the bottom, and stone walls constructed to protect it against rocks which might roll down. The dam was then removed, and the river flowed forth with increased rapidity through the cleared passage. What follows in Kalhana’s account is so matter-of-fact and so accurate in topographical points, that a presumption is raised as to the previous statements also resting, partially at least, on historical facts."

He further states, "Wherever inundation breaches were known to occur in times of flood, new beds were constructed for the river. One of these changes in the river-bed affected the confluence of the Vitasta and Sindhu, and this is specially explained to us in verses 97-100. The topographical indications here given by Kalhana are so detailed and exact that they enabled me to trace with great probability what I believe to have been the main course of the Vitasta before Suyya’s regulation.

"These have shown that while the new confluence which Kalhana knew in his own time, is identical with the present junction opposite Shadipur, the old one lay about two miles to the south-east of it, between the village of Trigani and the Paraspur plateau The latter is the site of the great ruins of Parihasapura... Trigam marks the position of the ancient Trigrami and a short distance south of it stands the temple ruin which I identify with the shrine of Visnu Vainiyavamin. 

'Kalhana mentions this temple as the point near which “ the two rivers, the Sindhu and Vitasta, formerly met flowing to the left and right of Trigrami, respectively. Standing on the raised ground before the ruin and turning towards Shadipur, we have on our left a narrow swamp about a quarter of a mile broad which runs north-east in the direction of Trigam. In this swamp and a shallow Nala continuing it towards Shadipur, we can yet recognize the old bed of the Sindhu. On the right we have the Badrihal Nala which divides the alluvial plateau of Trigam and Paraspor. This Nala is clearly marked as an old river-bed by the formation of its banks and is still known as such to the villagers of the neighbourhood.....

"By forcing the Vitasta to pass north oof Trigam instead of south of it, the reclamation of the marshes south of the Volur lake must have been greatly facilitated."

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

SANSKRIT ORIGINS OF THE NAME KASHMIR

Kalhana's Rajatarangine establishes that Kashmir was once a premier centre of Sanskrit scholarship. Sanskrit was the chosen language of communication, literature and culture in ancient Kashmir and remained so till it began to erode with the advent of foreign Mohammaden invaders.

Etymology of the name Kashmir:

In his book 'Ancient Geography of Kashmir', M.A. Stein states, "The name, Kasmira in its original Sanskrit form, has been used as the sole designation of the country throughout its known history. It has uniformly been applied both by the inhabitants and by foreigners. We can trace back its continued use through an unbroken chain of documents for more than twenty-three centuries, while the name itself undoubtedly is far more ancient. Yet notwithstanding this long history the current form of the name down to the present day has changed but slightly in the country itself and scarcely at all outside it."

However Stein was of the view that linguistic science can furnish no clue to the origin of the name Kashmir, nor even analyze its formation'.  But this is not true. The Nilmata Purana very clearly presents the development and the construction of an abode along with hermitages of the gods in the land the builders called Kashmira It also describes the details of the etymology of the 
name.

Legend says Kashmir was originally a lake the details of which are related at great length in the Nllamata Purana. According to this earliest traditional account the lake called Satisaras, ‘the lake of Sati/Durga' occupied the place of Kashmir from the beginning of the Kalpa. In the period of the seventh Manu the demon Jalodbhava (‘ water-horn ’) who resided in this lake, caused great distress to all neighbouring countries by his devastations. Rishi Kasyapa, the father of all Nagas, while engaged in a pilgrimage to the Tirthas in the north of India, heard of the cause of this distress from his son Nila, the king of the Kashmlr Nagas. The sage promised to vanquish the evil-doer and proceeded to Brahma to seek his help for the purpose. His prayer was granted and the whole host of gods started for Satisaras and took up their position on the lofty peaks of the Nauhandhana Tirtha above the lake Kramasaras . The demon who was invincible in his own element, refused to come forth from the lake. Visnu thereupon called upon his brother Balabhadra to drain the lake who pierced the mountains with his weapon, the ploughshare. When the lake had become dry, Jalodbhava was attacked by Visnu and after a fierce combat was slain. Kashyapa then settled the land of Kashmir. The gods took up their abodes in it as well as the Nagas, while the various goddesses adorned the land in the shape of rivers. 

About the construction of the hermitages in Kashmir Verse 186-187 of the Nilmata Purana states, "To the north of that which is proclaimed as Visnupada in Kramasara, Brahma – the best of the gods – himself erected a hermitage. The venerable sage Kasyapa constructed a hermitage in the western half." The lake Kramasara gets its name from Sanskrit 'krama' or step, 'sara' is lake, hence Kramasara means (Vishnu's Step lake. 'Vishnupada has the same meaning, 'pada' is foot, the place where Vishnu placed his footsteps.

Kramasara is identified as the present day Kausar Nag, its name a distortion of its original name Kramasara, located in the Pir Panjal Range at coordinates 33 degrees N, 74.7688 East, about 50 km south of Srinagar. 

Kasyapa is one of the Prajapati's. Bramha had created 21 Prajapatis, as the 'creators of the world'. Kashyapa was one of them. According to the Nilmata Purana Verse 226, "Prajapati is called Ka, and Kasyapa is also Prajapati. Built by him this country will be called Kas’mira." Since 'k' () represents water in Sanskrit and 'Mir' (मीर) is Sanskrit for 'lake', 'ocean' or 'sea', Kashmir simply means 'water-lake'.

Verse 227 states, "Because water called Ka was taken out by Balarama (the plough-wielder) from this country, so this will be called Kas’mira in this world."

The Sanskrit 'Kasmira' took the form 'Kasvira' in Buddhist Prakrit texts. Ptolemy recorded the name Kaspira in his Greek writings.

By the time of Kalhana, the author of the treatise 'Rajatarangini' in 1150 AD the language of communication had changed into an Apabharmsa dialect of Sanskrit. The process of erosion of the original Sanskrit accelerated with the advent of the invaders and the Apabharmsa dialect gradually developed into Kashmiri. Many of the place names changed but are still recognizable.

Stein's Map of Ancient Kashmir. For an enlarged view of the same map scroll down to the bottom of the post.


Kalhana's Rajtarngini provides us with a sound basis for the historical geography of Kashmir. In his book 'Ancient Geography of Kashmir', Professor M.A. Stein, a scholar of the Asiatic Society of India and the Principal at the Madrashah College of Calcutta, states, " Kalhana's local names can on the whole safely be taken as the genuine designations of the localities originally given to them. We have ample evidence to show that Sanskrit was the official and sole literary language of the country, not only in Kalhana's own time but also in those earlier periods from which the records used by him may have dated. This official use of Sanskrit was known to have continued in Kasmlr even in Muhammadan times. It assures at once that the vast majority of village and town names must from the beginning have been given in Sanskrit. A detailed examination of Kalihana’s local names will easily demonstrate, on the one hand that these names are of genuinely Sanskrit formation, and on the other, that their modern Kasmiri representation are derived from them by a regular process of phonetic conversion. We look in vain among this class of old local names for any which would allow a foreign, i.e. non- Aryan origin and might be suspected of having only subsequently been pressed into a Sanskritic garb.

As Sanskrit was used as the language of all official records for many centuries previous to Kalhana’s time, the Sanskrit names originally intended for great mass of inhabited places could be preserved in official documents anyhow without any difficulty or break of tradition. And from such document most of Kalhana’s notices of places were undoubtedly derived, directly or indirectly."

In the 1890s M.A. Stein collated a list of place names of Kashmir and matched them with their original as listed by Kalhana in Rajatarangini. Here are a few examples, though there are many more:

Kashmiri names- Original Sanskrit Name
1. Amarnath         - Amreshvara
2. Banihal             - Banasala
3. Bichlari River    - Visalata River
4. Bahramgala     - Bhairavgala
5. Kritshom          - Kriti-asrama         
6. Baramula           -Varahamula
7. Chambar           - Sabambara
8. Drang                - Karkota Dranga
9. Konsarnag         - Krama-sara
10. Rahjauri         -  Raja Puri
11. Pusiana        - Pusia-nanda
12.Bahram gala     -Bhairav Gala
13. Kakodhar        -Karkota dhara
14. Chambar         -Sabambara
15. Uskur              -Huska Pura
16. Naran That     -Narayan Pura
17. Khadniyar     - Yakshadhara
18. Dvarbidi        - Dvaravati
19. Uskur            -Huskapura
20. Pir Panjal Range - Panchala Dharmath
21. Jhelum river- Vitasta
22. Chenab River- Chandrabhaga
23. Poonch - Parnotsa
The complete list of ancient placenames of Kashmir will appear in the following post.

About the name Banihal Stein states, "It takes its modem name from a village at the south foot of the pass which itself is mentioned in Kalhana's Chronicle by the name of BanasAla. The castle of Banasala was in Kalhana’s own time the scene of a memorable siege (a.d, 1130) in which the pretender Bhikaaoara was captured and killed. Coming from the Cinab Valley he had entered Visalita, the hill district immediately south of the Banihal Pass with the view to an invasion of Kasmir." The word Visalita is today preserved in its distorted form as the name of river Bichlari located near Monu Manaat Nadi, Nachleni and Hingni. It is also nearby Sagan and Makrota.

About 8 miles straight to the west of Kramasara, now Konsernag, the range is crossed by a pass, over 14000 feet high, now called Sidau and sometimes Budil. In its original form Sidau was Siddhapatha. To the west of Siddhapatha lie two mountain passes Rupri and Darhal which one crosses to reach Rajauri, the Rajapuri of past. Near the Darhal Pass lies Nandana Sar, the Nandana Naga of Nilmata Purana. Five miles north of Nandana Sar lies the lowest point of the Pir Panjal Range, the valley of the Rimbiara river, once known as Ramanayatavi. And it is from this name that another river of Jammu Kashmir gets its name. The name of river Tawi on which Jammu is located, is atruncated form of the Ramanyatavi of antiquity.


The name Pir Panjal, of course derives from Pir Panchala. Panchala is a Mahabharatan name, the land to which Draupadi belonged. The first part of the name, that is Pir, meaning sage or fakir, is a direct translation of 'deva'. The Chronicles of Srivara record the name of the Pir Panjal Pass as 'Panchal Deva'.  Panchal changed to Panjal and 'pir' was inserted in the name as a direct translation of 'deva' during the Mohammaden times. Today 'pir' in this region has taken on the meaning of a 'mountain pass'. 

Stein's Map of Ancient Kashmir- Enlarged. Scroll down and across for detailed view:



Suggested readings:


Friday, 25 February 2022

SANSKRITIC-PURANIC SOURCE OF TAJIK AND UZBEK PLACE NAMES

Samarkand, located on the ancient Silk route between China and Europe, is a city in southeastern Uzbekistan and among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia. Several theories propose that it was founded between the 8th and 7th centuries BCE.

By the time of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, founded by 
Cyrus the Great in 550 BC, Samarkand was the capital of the Sogdian satrapy, which territorially corresponds to present day province of Samarkand and Bukhara in Uzbekistan and Sugdh in Tajikistan. Prior to the times of Cyrus the Great, the city was known as Maracanda or Marakanda. This information was recorded by the Greek historian Lucius Flavius Arrianus (better known as Arrian born in 87 CE) in his book Indike. Arrian stated that at the time when the city was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BCE the name MarAkanda was well known. 

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979) States, "From the fourth century B.C. to the sixth century A.D., the site was occupied by the city of Maracanda, the capital of Sogdia-na, which later became part of the Turkic Kaganate".

The Free Online Dictionary by Farlex states, "Built on the site of Afrosiab, which dated from the 3d or 4th millennium B.C., Samarkand was known to the ancient Greeks as Marakanda; ruins of the old settlement remain north of the present city." Afrosiab is the oldest part and the ruined site of ancient Samarkand.

At some point the name changed from Markanda to Samarkand, and a new meaning was attributed to its name - 
the Sogdian samar, "stone, rock" and kand, "fort, town. However, this is incorrect. Samarkand is a distortion of its original name Marakanda
. This is not surprising given that the ancient most Iranian Civilizations right up to the times of Sogdia established in 600 BC and located between Amu River and the Syr River had very deep Indic links, if not their very source in the Indian civilization.  The history of these links is preserved in ancient Sanskritic place names of Uzbekistan, Tajiksitan and Iran as mentioned in the Purana texts of India as well as in Sogdian art and artifacts. 

The details of the geography of this region appears in two or three Puranas including the Vayu Purana and the Markendeya Purana which is one of the oldest of all Puranas.  Markandeya was the name of an ancient rishi in the Vedic-Puranic tradition and his name is deeply associated with that of Lord Shiva. And it is perhaps also the the source of the name Maracanda of Uzbekistan. 

The Sanskrit-Puranic  origins of the name Maracanda does not occur in isolation. Professor Syed Muzafer Ali had done an extensive study on the existence of ancient  Indic-Sanskritic-Puranic place names in Tajikstan, Uzbekistan and the entire middle eastern track the result of which was presented in his book 'Geography of the Puranas' published in 1966. He revealed that Puranic names existed on the map of this region till medieval times, some appear on the map of the region even today. Here is a list of these names as compiled by Prof. Ali. 

     Puranic name                Medieval name
1. Alya Kurd                       Al-Kurz 
2. Gomanusya                    Gonaridh
3. Janga                             Janga Kath
4. Kapotaka                       Murghab 
5. Karuncha                      Karun
6. Krasnamgammani        Karatagh
7. Punjka                          Karatagh 
8. Kuta Kamb                    Kala Khumb 
9. Karmbhava                   Karmina
10. Kuca                            Kuza (Panjdeb)
11.  Krsnapada                 Kabadiam on the Kafirnigan River
12. Kumudabhan              Khvar, Khuz 
13. Kala                            Rasht Kala
14. Kisinikapada Bhaumika 
                                        Basin of Kashka Darya
15.  Madhauriya             Madhz 
16. Mohanga                  Mashan 
17. Madhyachal Kutka   Madya Mijkut 
18. Matha Kasika           Kushka Basin 
19. Sunkasa                   Sunka
20. Surecaka                  Sarakhs 
21. Saravana                  Sarvan 
22. Vanasguj                  Viasagird, near Kafirnigan town 
23. Yalatha                    Yulatan, near Merv


In his book Professor Syed M. Ali states, "It is said that Samarkand was founded in about 3000 BC. Sogdiana can therefore, be reckoned among the most ancient sites of human settlement. The spatial relationship of Sogdiana with the two major ranges Nib and Sveta and with the adjoining region Bactria...leads us to the conclusion that the Ramanaka Varsa of the Puranas is the Sogdiana of the ancient times. It may be that the name Rometan (a district of Bokhara) is a reminder of the Puranic name of Sogdiana, i.e. Ramanaka or Romanaka or Ramyaka."   Today  Rometan is also known as Ramitan.

The Ramanaka Varsha of the Puranas appears on current maps as
Rometan or Rometin in Bukhara district (Map: Syed Muzafer Ali)

The name Kapinjala of the Puranas now appears as
Kuramin on current maps (Map:Syed Muzafer Ali)

Indic influence is also seen in Sogdian art. Sogdian art flourished in the settled areas of the Zeravshan (Northern Tajikstan) and Kashkadarya (south-east Uzbekistan) valleys, as well as in Ustrushana north of the Turkestan mountain range. The Encyclopedia Iranica states, "At Panjikant, a very large number of wall paintings have been found, which are supplemented by discoveries at Varaksa, Samarkand, and Sahrestan. Three genres are known: divine, with very elaborate representations of the many Sogdian gods, which borrow many features from the Indian iconographic tradition; heroic, with cycles of epic combat, including Rostam but also other heroes of whom all knowledge is lost; and lastly fables, with images from the Panchatantra (Marshak and Raspopova, 1987; idem, 1990; Marshak, 2002)."

Five Hindu gods were known to have been worshipped in Sogdiana including Brahma as Zrav
an,  Indra as Abdab and Shiva as Veshparkar, as well as Narayana and Vaishravana.  Azarpay is of the view that what we see in these paintings is a result of the influence of the Vedic and Buddhist cultures, but the Sanskrit etymology of ancient place names in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan reveal that the Indic-Vedic culture extended right into Tajikstan and Uzbekistan and was in fact well entrenched in this entire area extending from India well into the rest of Asia in all directions.

One of the best known murals of the Sogdians is that of their god Veshparkar. The Sogdians worshipped Lord Shiva as Veshparkar, and so engrained was the lore of Shiva was in the Sogdian culture that it lasted well after Buddhism came and vanished from this region.

A mural of Lord Shiva, with a crescent in the top-knot, from Panjikent.


A mural of Sogdian God Veshparkar and his consort from Penjikant.
Lord Shiva was worshipped as Veshparkar
during the reign of the Sogdians in Bactria


Uzbek archaeologist R. H. Suleymanov in his writings has drawn many Indian parallels in ancient cults of Sogdiana such as funeral rites similar to the Vedic tradition or the cult of fire worship called Mithraism similar to Vedic fire rituals.

Other Sogdian places that have  names that have their etymological source in Sanskrit include Khiva, also pronounced as Xiva in Uzbek, and Xiveh in Persian and is associated with Lord Shiva. Another place name is Kanka situated about 4 km south of Angren River, a tributary of the Syr Darya. The Puranas mention the town of Kanka situtaed in the Kanaka mountains. The name Kanka seems to have its etymological source in Sanskrit 'kanaka' ( कनक ) gold. According to S.M. Ali, "The Kanaka mountain is obviously the Darwaz range which has been famous, since ancient times, for large formations of gold-bearing conglomerates. Even today the flourishing gold mining industry of Tajikistan is located near Kahu-Khumb which lies on the southern slopes of the range."  

The Soghdian civilization arose in the land that lay between Amu Darya and Syr Darya. In classical antiquity, the river was known as the Oxus and its name is a clear  derivative of Vakhsh, the name of the largest tributary of the river. The name is obviously derived from its more ancient Vedic Sanskrit name, the Vakṣu (वक्षु). The Brahmanda Purana refers to the river as Chaksu.

In Vayu Purana, the region between the Amu Darya (Oxus River) and the Syr Darya Jaxartes River) was known as Kumuda-dvipa. Just as the name Oxus derives from the Sanskrit Vakshu, the name Jaxartes derives from the Sanskrit name Yakshu (यक्षु). The Avestan texts too refer to the River Jaxartes as Yaksha-arte. Also, the name Kumuda (dvipa) changes from Sanskrit to Komedes in the Greek and Latin texts.

States S.M. Ali, "The Kum
uda mountain is the Ak-Tan Rangan Tau range which lies between the Kafirnigan river and the Vaksu river. It is tempting to associate Kumud will the Greek term 'Kumedai', a Saka tribe which, according to Ptolemy, inhabited the mountainous tract which undoubtedly corresponds to the term Kumedh. Yaqubi and Ibn-Rusta refer to a locality of which the name may be restored as Kumedh. Yaqui says that Munk was the frontier towards the lands of the Turks, towards the locality called Rasht, Kumedh and Bamir (Pamir). Ibn Rusta certainly places the Kumedh downstream of Rashtd (Upper Vaksh valley). The author of Hindud-al-Alam says Kafirnigan river rises from the limits of the Kumji. ln fact, in the early medieval period Kumedh signified the mountainous region of Jitym Tau-Rangan Tau between the Vaksh and the Kafirnigan rivers inhabited by the Kumji Turks and formed as a sort of buffer state between the Chaganian and the Khuttal, two important principalities of the upper Oxus basin. Thus it would not be unreasonable to presume that by the Kumud  mountain the Puranas probably mean the mountain of Kumedha, i.e, the ridges between the Vakhsbab and Kafirnigan rivers."






Suggested Readings: 


Saturday, 8 January 2022

SALISBURY. WHAT THE SANSKRIT ETYMOLOGY OF THE NAME REVEALS

Salisbury is an ancient town located in the Wiltshire county of England. It is situated nine miles south of the iconic prehistoric stone circle Stonehenge, which stands on the grassland of Salisbury Plain. The town is steeped in history and is known to have been inhabited since 3000 BC. It sits on the confluence of five rivers, Nadder, Wylyle (pronounced Whylee), Bourne and the Ebble, all of which flow into the river Avon at Salisbury, which then travels south to Christchurch where it falls into the sea.

Salisbury derives its name from Old Sarum, the site of the original town of Salisbury,  located about 5 km away from present day Salisbury. Old Sarum, located on the Avon river, is also the site of an old Hill Fort, which was variously occupied by Romans, Saxons and Normans since 3000 BC.

At various times in history apart from Sarum, names such as Searoburg, and Sarisberie have emerged for towns in this area- these names a variation of an even older name, now forgotten. Though many theories exist, none of them satisfactorily explain the etymology of these names or the meaning of their names.

Sometimes their etymologies are traced to Latin, Roman and Middle English. For example, the form 'Sarum' it is said, is a Latinization of Sar, a medieval abbreviation for Middle English Sarisberie. The name Salisbury, which was first recorded around the year 900 as Searoburg, is considered a partial translation of the earlier Roman Celtic name Sorbiodūnum. The Brittonic suffix -dūnon, meaning 'fortress', a reference to the fort that stood at Old Sarum, was later replaced by its Old English equivalent -burg. It is generally accepted that the first part of the name, that is Searo or Sorbio, is of obscure origin.

But what is altogether ignored is the fact that the meanings of the various versions of these names can easily be explained by Sanskrit. In the name Sarum, Sanskritic influence cannot be ruled out at all. One can draw this inference from the fact that ancient, and even current towns and cities in India, located near lakes and rivers, often have compound names, with 'sara' as the suffix in their names, such as in the name Amritsara.

Salisbury is located on the confluence of 5 rivers. Therefore, the etymology of the names Sarum and Salisbury must have a connection with 'water'. It seems improbable that the name of these towns would have emerged from any other feature of this land. 'Sara' (सर) is Sanskrit for lake, sari (सरि) is cascade or waterfall. And this perhaps explains the name name Sarum.

The present name Salisbury seems to be a corruption of the medieval Latin and Norman forms of the name Salisbury, such as the Sarisburie that appeared in the Domesday Book, a manuscript record of the "Great Survey" of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. Sarisburie is a quite obviously a distortion of Sara and 'puri' (पुरि), 'City of Springs', if one were to look at it through the Sanskrit lens, though western sources often interpret 'burie', 'borough', 'burg' as 'town', 'dwelling' or 'city' but link its etymology from Prto-Germanic 'burg' meaning 'fort' which seems to be a variation of the Sanskrit 'durg' (दुर्ग) or 'fort'.

About the suffix -dunon in the town's Roman Celtic name Sorbiodunum, it is said that 'dunon' refers to the fortress that stood at Old Sarum. But the name most likely predates the construction of the fortress. It is common practice to give ancient names new meanings to make the names relevant when the older meaning of the names are forgotten.

Britain abounds in place names 'dun', or 'don' or 'down' as the initial, final, or sole names of places. Western scholars have made the observation that the names 'dun', 'don' or 'down' were extensively connected to 'hilly' or 'mountainous' regions. However they were unable to pin-point the source of these words to any Sanskrit root word. It is likely though that these words have more to do with the Sanskrit word for 'valley' which is either 'dari' (दरी) or 'droni' (द्रोणि) rather than any Sanskrit word for 'hill' or 'mountain'. Salisbury lies in a valley and therefore it is quite likely that the suffix dunum in Sorbiodunam is explained by the Sanskrit 'droni'.

The Rivers of Salisbury: The names of the five rivers mentioned above can be easily decoded with some Proto-Indo European languages, but the names are best explained by Sanskrit.

For example, Avon derives its name from Celtic abona or 'river' from the root *ab which is the same as the Sanskrit apa (अप्) or water.

2. Ebble is also a variation Osbourne etymology 'abona', and has its root in Celtic *ab and Sanskrit 'apa'.

3. Bourne meaning small stream has its root in Old English brunna, burna "brook, stream," from Proto-Germanic *brunnoz "spring, fountain" (source also of Old High German brunno, Old Norse brunnr, Old Frisian burna, German Brunnen "fountain," Gothis brunna "well"), ultimately from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn." All the words mentioned here seem to be a distortion of the Sanskrit 'purni' which has the meaning of 'stream' and 'flood' in Sanskrit. 'Purni' takes the form 'purna' which appears commonly in the names of rivers such as the river Purna, a tributary of Godavari.

4. Nadder appears to be a distortion of Sanskrit 'Nadi' (नदी) or river, though western sources says that Nadder, is an earlier form of the word adder which derives from Old English (West Saxon) næddre (Mercian nedre, Northumbrian nedra), "a snake; the Serpent in the Garden of Eden," from Proto-Germanic *naethro "a snake" (source also of Old Norse naðra, Middle Dutch nadre, Old High German natra, German Natter, Gothic nadrs), from PIE root *nētr- "snake" (source also of Latin natrix "water snake" (the sense is probably by folk-association with nare "to swim"); Old Irish nathir, Welsh neidr "snake, serpent"), which are all cognates of Sanskrit 'naga' which has the meaning of 'snake'.

5. Whylee or Whyly is probably a Celtic word and has the meaning of 'tricky' though it is not quite apt for a river name. The closest cognate in Sanskrit is 'vari' (वरी ) or 'river' though there is no reason to consider vari as the source of Whyly.

Other early names of Salisbury include Searoburh, Searobyrig, and Searesbyrig, which western sources claim are translations of indigenous Brittonic name with the Old English suffixes -burh and -byrig, denoting fortresses or their adjacent settlements but as stated above all these words have their source ultimately in either the Sanskrit 'puri' or 'durg'. Western sources give no clear explanation for the first part of the names Searoburh, Searobyrig, Searesbyrig or of the word 'Sarum.

Further Readings:
1. Old Sarum, England. (ancient-wisdom.com)
2.Celtic place-names in Aberdeenshire : with a vocabulary of Gaelic words not in dictionaries ; the meaning and etymology of the Gaelic names of places in Aberdeenshire ; written for the Committee of the Carnegie Trust : Milne, John, 1831-1915 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
3. Ancient Celtic History, Origin and Culture - World History Encyclopedia
4. Old Sarum, England. (ancient-wisdom.com)

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