Tuesday, 15 July 2014

THE MOUNTAIN & RIVER NAMES OF THE URAL RANGE OF RUSSIA - A SPRINKLING OF SANSKRIT



Mount Yamantau is the highest mountain in the Southern Urals. Though the name means 'evil' mountain in the local Bashkir language, its name seems to be derived from Sanskrit 'yamya' (याम्य) which means 'southern'. It could also be named after the Vedic Lord Yama, who emerges as 'Jima' in the Iranian legends

In the book, 'On the Possible Location of the Holy Hara and Meru Mountain', the author S. Zharnikova states that, "...precisely in the watershed section of Northern Urals (Russia), to this day, there are many place names of intriguing similarity of Indo Iranian words: Harino, Harova, Harina Mountain, Harinskoye, Harinskaya, Harinovskaya: Mandara, Mandarova, Mandra; Ripino, Ripinka, Ripa (and Reipie Mountain). Just as interesting are the river names of still unknown origin: Indola, Indomanka, Sindosa, Varna, Striga, Svaga, Svalka, Hvarzenta, Harina, Pana, Kobra, Tora, Arza etc.

The author states that these 'Indo-Iranian' names are of 'unknown origin'. But each one of these names are words of the Sanskrit language and therefore easily explained, some of them are even mentioned as proper nouns in the Indian scriptures. The 18th and 19th century author often traced the names to the ancient Iranian language called Avestan but never ventured further back in history with the help of Sanskrit.

'Hari' (हरि) is Sanskrit for 'god' and 'harin' (हारिन्) means 'captivating'. God is referred to as 'hara' in Sanskrit in the sense as the one who 'captivates'. 


'Mandara' (मन्दार) means 'heaven'. 'Mandara' is the name of the mountain that appears in the 'Samudra Manthan' episode in the Hindu Puranas, where it was used as a churning rod to churn the ocean of milk. Vishnu's serpent, Vasuki, offered to serve as the rope pulled on one side by a team of asuras, and on the other, by a team of devas.


'Ropa' (रोप ) is Sanskrit for 'act of raising', and 'ropita' (रोपित) means 'that which is elevated' and therefore indicates a 'mountain'.

The river names are interesting too. First of all there is a 'Sindosa' river in the Urals and is obviously linked to the 'Sindh' of India. The 'Sindh' river or the Indus gets its name from Lord 'Indra'. In the Urals too, there exist river names such as Indola and Indomanka.

Then there are the 'Striga' and the 'Svaga'. They are at once a reminder of the River Ganga of India, or even of the Volga.. In Sanskrit 'ganga' means 'swift-goer'.

Russian historian and Linguist Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1890-1938), in his lectures at the University of Vienna, traced the origins of the name 'Volga' to the Slavic 'Jilga', which he said, in course of time changed to the name 'Volga'.

Roman Jakobson, Russian linguist and literary theorist, quoted Nikolai Trubetzkoy's research thus, "In primitive eastern Slavic, un-rounded front vowels changed into rounded back vowels before a tauto-syllabic 'l', so that 'jilga' must have changed to julga; the initial 'j' was lost before rounded vowels in eastern Slavic, and the initial u acquired an obligatory  'v'. Thus the form 'vulga' arose, and the short 'u' changed in the 12th–13th centuries into 'o'. So through a long series of changes Jilga became Volga". 


Jilga is a close cognate of the Sanskrit 'jalaga', 'jala' (जल) is water, 'ga' stems from the Sanskrit 'gam' (गम्) and indicates 'movement' - so that 'julga' means 'flowing water'.

The name of the river 'Pana' is explained by the Sanskrit 'pana' (पान) which means a 'drink'. The name 'Arza' is explained by the word 'aarsha' (आर्ष) which means 'speech of the sages'; in fact the Vedas are also known as 'Aarsha'. The name 'Tara' is explained by Sanskrit 'tara' (तर) which means 'fluid'.

The name Hvarzenta seems to be derived from the Sanskrit 'varasha' (वर्षा) meaning 'rain'. Another river in Russia by the name 'Varzina' seems to have the same etymological source. 

The present day river names may also have their source in Sanskrit.


 The present day river names of Eastern Europe.
Sukhona, Dvina, Vyatka, Kama and Pecchora
probably have Sanskrit roots.

According to the Max Vasmer's Etymological Dictionary, the name 'Sukhona' originates from Russian and most likely means "a river with a dry (hard) bottom". If the operative word here is 'dry', then 'Sukhona' derives from the Sanskrit 'shushka' (शुष्क) from which the Hindi word 'sukha' derives. Max Vasmer (186-1962) was a Russian born German linguist.

In his works, Max Vasmer stated that the toponym 'Dvina' clearly cannot stem from a language of the Ural region, its origin is unclear and may have possibly originated from an Indo-European root word which used to mean river or stream. The word may hence be related to the Sanskrit root word 'dhaav' (धाव्) which means 'to flow'.

The etymology of 'Vytaka' is completely unknown. In Sanskrit 'Vyatiga' (व्यतिगा) means 'pass by'. The Sanskrit origins of 'Kama' are well known and explains the name of the river Kama. Finally the name 'Pecchora'- in Sanskrit '
Picchora' (पिच्छोरा) means a 'pipe' and the Hindi 'picchakari' (water-gun) derives from 'picchora'.
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