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Sunday, 12 September 2021

TULUM, MEXICO - AN ANCIENT TEMPLE OF LORD SHIVA

Popular websites such as Wikipedia state that the archaeological site of Tulum in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, is one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya. Wikipedia states that it was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, Tulum is today a popular site for tourists.

But many of the ancient most structures at Tulum are never talked or written about. Neither do we ever see photographs of these structures in the writings of any researcher or blogsites or websites of visitor to this archeological site. In fact, Mayan guides at these sites are instructed never to reveal any information they might have. What they state to the visitors is scripted.

However, researcher Bhagirath Joshi showcases a few ruined-structures from the Tulum site which he photographed in his travels. His conclusion, that he presents in his lecture at Sangam Talks, is that Tulum in deep antiquity was a Hindu site. The Mayans do have a memory of some names of Gods, which unknown to them are Vedic in origin but their memory about these names  is a bit fuzzy and vague.

Here are the pictures taken Bhagirath Joshi at Tulum and a video clip of an interview with a Mayan guide in Mexico:

The Shivalinga of Tolum, Mexico
In the western texts the name of the abode
of the Mayan God is called Xibalba, a variation of the
Sanskrit Shivalaya (शिवालय) which is
the name of Shiva's abode.abide 
Photo Courtesy: Bhagirathi Joshi, Sangam Talks

This above photo depicts the ruin of an ancient temple. This obelisk, according to Bagirath Joshi is a Shivalinga which is placed in a small structure which once must have been a temple where the devotees thronged. The temple structure has four doors, each of the doors is perfectly aligned to one of the four cardinal directions. There is a specific spot which Bagirath Joshi identifies as the spot where the worshippers made their offerings- just as they do in present day Hindu temples.

There was another outdoor Shivalinga in the temple arena which has been destroyed since then, though the base of the Shivalinga, the yoni-shaped pond still survives as evidence of the Vedic past of this structure.


The base of the Shivalinga or the Yoni at the Temple outdoorsThe The Shivalinga is destroyed-perhaps as a result of erosion with time. Photo Courtesy: Bhagirath Joshi, Sangam Talks

Bhagirath Joshi interviewed a native Mayan guide to gather more information about the site. He presented his findings which are available in the following video-clip. The guide revealed that the Mayans prayed to a God called Shivalva, which is a variation of the name Shiva, though in the western texts the name is spelt as  Xibalba. And it therefore confirms that the obelisk here at Tulum is a Shivalinga.


Other Sanskritic words that appear in the Mayan language, of which the guide had a memory, include purusha (man), purushoni (woman), akin to Sanskrit 'purusha' (पुरुष) man, and its feminine form purushani (पुरुषाणि).



The Tulum archeological site is best known for the temple of the Descending Gods. Bhagirath Joshi identifies the sculpture on the temple as that of Hanuman. This may appear as far fetched to many but not so if one where to bring in the fact that sites such as the Temple of  Copan in Honduras for example, too have engravings and artifacts of Vedic Gods, such as Hanuman.

The Temple of Descending God at Tulum,
Mexico, South America
Prof. Bhagirath Joshi identifies the flying God as Hanuman


The entrance at the Temple of the Descending God
seems to depict the engraving  of Hanuma
n

Mayan sites such as the temple of Copan in Honduras also have sculpture and engravings of Hanuman. He is known as Hun_Ahan in Mayan literature.

This Monkey-God of Mayan Civilization is known as
Hanu-Ahan in the Mayan Tradition.
The mace that he carries indicates
he is none other than Hanuman

The Mayan tradition has deep links with that of the Vedic tradition of India. First of all, in both the traditions the name Maya means illusion which is significant because in the Vedic tradition the name Maya indicates that the material realm is an illusion and the spiritual realm is the real world.

In 1888 Helena.P. Blavatsky stated in her book ‘The Secret Doctrine, “…the name of America may one day be found more closely related to Meru the sacred mount in the centre of the seven continents according to the Hindu tradition, than Americus Vespucius.” In the same book Blavatsky quotes Dr. Alexander Wilder (1823-1909), an American physician and Neoplatonist who in his writings had commented earlier, “It is most plausible that the state of Central America where we find the name Americ signifying (like the Hindu Meru we may add) great mountain, gave the continent its name.”

Their contention is not far fetched considering that the legend of Mt. Meru was not unknown in the Mezo-American and Mayan tradition of South America. In fact if we research Mayan culture we find that the legend of Mt. Meru is deeply seeped and entrenched in its culture and tradition. If one analyzes place names and deity names of Mayan and Aztec culture through the Sanskrit lens a whole new world of information emerges that establishes that the American links to the name Meru of the Vedic culture are far more deeply entwined than most people will be comfortable to accept.

The name of explorer Americus Vespucius as the source of the name America is widely popular but many doubts have been raised about its authenticity by serious scholars. For example, French geologist Jules Marcao (1824-1898), in his paper ‘The Naming of America’ had put forth the view that Americus Vespucius’s name in the oldest records is mentioned as Alberigo Vespucci and not Americus Vespucius. Marcao also states that his name-change to Americus from Alberigo happened only subsequent to his return to Europe from the Americas- after he had interacted with the native tribes who introduced him to the name Amerrique implying that the name Amerrique already existed much before the arrival of the European invaders into Mayan territories. Also places in Central and Latin America which were named after Spanish invaders, were conventionally done so in the family or surnames of the explorers, rather than their Christian names. Why then would the tradition be broken for one particular explorer. Though Vespucci had worked to make the name America known in Europe after he returned from his voyages the authenticity of Vespucci’s exploration records was found to be questionable because he had amalgamated the myths and legends of South America with a distortion of his own name.

As mentioned above Jules Marcou had put forth the view that the name America was brought back to Europe from the New World where the name had originated; and that Vespucci had changed his name from Alberico to Amerigo to reflect the name of his discovery.

In the late 1970s, in an essay written by Guyanan novelist and educator Jan Carew (1920-2012), titled ‘The Caribbean Writer and Exile’, Carew had stated, “Alberigo Vespucci, and I deliberately use his authentic Christian name …….. was undoubtedly a Florentine dilettante .… an extraordinarily clever one. Why would he otherwise have changed his Christian name after his voyages to the Americas?"

Jan Carew had cited Marcou in support of his argument. In an article published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1875, and later in his work published in the ‘Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution’ dated 1890, Marcou had mentioned that, “…in the archives of Toledo, a letter from Vespucci to the Cardinal dated December 9, 1508, is signed Amerrigo with the double 'r' as in the Indian Amerrique … and between 1508 and 1512, the year in which Vespucci died, at least two other signatures with the Christian name Amerrigo were recorded." The argument was that Alberigo Vespucci had gradually changed his own name to fit in with the name of this newly founded territory around the Amerrique chain in Central America. About Christopher Columbus’s travels to the Americas, Carew stated that they were largely fictions “characterized, with few exceptions, by romantic evasions of truth and voluminous omissions."

Carew summed up his view by making the statement that, “robbing peoples and countries of their indigenous names was one of the cruel games that colonizers played with the colonized…. To rob people or countries of their names is to set in motion a psychic disturbance which can in turn create a permanent crisis of identity. As if to underline this fact, the theft of an important place-name from the heartland of the Americas and the claim that it was a dilettante's Christian name robs the original name of its elemental meaning."

There is yet another reason for finding a simplistic explanation to the naming of America problematic for it completely ignores the fact that the Americas, especially South America, had a long history and a rich culture and it is this indigenous culture which must first be examined to look for the roots of the name America.

Second, a vast expanse of information about this indigenous south American culture emerges and is explained if the Rig Vedic links to this information is studied, which is why Blavatsky and Wilder had made the connection between Mt. Meru and the Ammerique mountains. The Christian missioners of Europe neither had the knowledge nor the inclination to study the Mayan and Aztec civilizations, let alone analyze links with the Rig Vedic civilization. In fact, their intention was the opposite. Their mission was to establish a Christian state in the New World. Their endeavor included eradication of the very traces of the ancient civilization of the Americas (which unfortunately they vastly succeeded in doing) rather than study its depth, and propagate information about its greatness and its links to other civilizations.

Apart from the legend of Mt. Meru itself, two other links to the Rig Vedic tradition emerge if one were to analyze the legends of Mayan and Aztac cultures. The first link refers to the gold fields of Amerrique mountains. To elaborate the above point, one may once again mention American-French geologist Jules Marcou (1824-1898) who in his paper, ‘The Naming of America’ had introduced to the world the name of Ramas, a native Indian tribe which belonged to the gold rich Nicaraguan district of Amerrique. According to Marcou, Amerrique had been visited by both Columbus and Vespucci in their quest for the riches of this region, greatly facilitated by the members of the Ramas tribe who lived in this region. Rama is the name of the Hindu god King, the protagonist of the Hindu epic, Ramayana which also carries the descriptions of Mt. Meru.

This point is further established in the writings of Jonathan Cohen in his research paper ‘The naming of America: Fragments we have Shored against Ourselves’ which was published in 2014. Cohen says that for both the explorers, Columbus and Vespucci, the words Amerrique and gold had become synonymous. The object of Columbus’s travel and later explorers to the Ammerique region was finding the gold mines at the foot of this mountain range, especially at Veragua, Carambaru and Cariai and the native Americans had led Christopher Columbus and later explorers to the gold mines on the River Mico in Veragua. Columbus had stated in his narration, “It is the custom in this territory of Veragua to bury the chief men with all the gold they possess.”, thus establishing his interest in the gold rich land of Ammerique.

That brings us to Blavatsky’s contention that the name America and its source word Amerrique may have more to do with Mt. Meru than anything else. In the Rig Veda the heavenly summit of Mt. Meru is described as filled with gold. At times it is described as a mountain of gold. The Sanskrit word ‘marut’ (मरुत् ) meaning ‘gold’ is itself intertwined with the name of the Rig Vedic golden mountain ‘Meru’. It is therefore not surprising that the gold filled mountains of Hondurus bear the name Amerrique. One may therefore even attribute the etymology of the word Amerrique to the word Meru and marut. As Marcou has remarked, “.. it is possible that the name Amerrique was then spoken of as a tribe of Indians, and a country rich in gold, for it is the only gold area of that part of the coast of Hondurus.”

Carew, on the other hand, inadvertently took a different route to the Sanskritic link to the name Amerrique. To define the elemental meaning of Amerique, Carew had quoted Marcou’s correspondence with Augustus Le Plongeon, an anthropologist, who had studied the Mayan culture in Yucatan. Le Plongeon in his correspondence with Marcou had stated, "The name America or Amerrique in the Mayan language means, a country of perpetually strong wind, or the Land of the Wind, and sometimes the suffix '-ique' and '-ika' can mean not only wind or air but also a spirit that breathes, life itself."

Interestingly Vedic scriptures add collateral to Carew’s interpretation. First, there is ‘Maarutta’ (मारुत), the Rig Vedic ‘god of Wind’. His name derives from the Sanskrit word for ‘breath’ and ‘wind’ which again is ‘marutta’ (मारुत), thus establishing the connect to the Mayan meaning of the name Amerrique. It also establishes a connect between Sanskrit and Mayan languages. Thirdly, it indicates that an exchange or interaction existed between the Mayans and the Hindus which was strong enough for scriptural texts and legends to have travelled into the Mayan land. It also indicates that the Mayans were familiar not only with the Hindu concept of Mt. Meru but also with Rig Vedic God of Wind.

There is a lot more evidence still available to provide proof of a Vedic Indic link with the Mayans in spite of the intentional destruction of, and distortion brought in, to the Mayan culture by the Spanish invaders. Surprisingly, in spite of the destruction of evidence by the invaders and erosion brought on by time, what we have today is still potent enough to establish the Rig Vedic-Mayan connection. Here is a look at the remnants of that evidence.

Martin Myrick states in his book ‘The Book of the Last Trumpet Vol 3’, “In the Mayan Bible, the Popul Voh, the story of the creation of mankind by gods, centres around the World Mountain, Paxil. In the beginning, the Mayan Gods raised up the earth as a mountain which lay below the Cosmic Waters, drawing comparison to the rising of Mt. Meru by Hindu Gods & Mt. Mashu by Sumerian gods.” The second syllable of ‘paxil’ that is ‘xil’ maybe decoded with the Sanskrit ‘shila’ which means ‘stone’ or ‘rock’ or ‘mountain’ and appears in many Meso-American names such as Yaxcillan. For more about the Sanskrit connect to the name Yaxcillan click here.

In popular texts Meru is a mountain of gold that stands in the centre of the universe. It is so high that it reaches the heavens and the pole star shines directly above it. In the Hindu tradition, the name Mt. Meru is no ordinary mountain. Quite often Meru represents the middle-point of the axis or spine of the earth, one end of the axis is known as Sumeru, the other end as Kumeru. In Sanskrit, 'meru' also has the meaning 'spine'.

From this scriptural root of the name of Meru we can also easily see how the Rig Veda made its way around the world. Traces of the name Meru are seen in all ancient cultures of the world. Here is a listing:

Sumer, the ancient Central Asian civilization is named after the Meru mountain. In Greece, are located the To-Maros mountains. In his book ‘India in Greece’ author E. Pococke argued that Tomaros is a corruption of the name Sumeru. On the Tomaros are situated the people of Cassiopaei. The Cassiopaei, he said, are the Cashyapa or Kashyapa tribe of Kashmir who had migrated from y-Elumyo-tis or the land of the river Yelum or Jhelum. Mt. Tomaros lies in the southwestern Ioannina region of the Pindus mountain range of Greece. Pococke traces the name 'Pindus' to the 'Pandava' clan of the great Sanskrit epic of ancient India, the Mahabharata.

Meroe is an ancient city on the east bank of the Nile in Sudan extending into present day Ethiopia. This city was the capital of the Kingdom of Cush from 530 BC to AD 350. Pococke made the connection of Meroe with Meru and stated, "Meroe was indebted for its civilisation to India." Tanzania too has a mountain by the name of Mt. Meru, the second highest peak after Mt. Kiliminjaro.

According to the mythology of the Greeks, Bacchus was born from the thigh of 'Jupiter'. In Greek the word for thigh is 'meros' and hence Pocoke stated that from this arose the confusion that Bacchus was born from the 'meros' or thigh of Jupiter. Pococke clarified that Bacchus's legend appeared from the Hindu legend of Mt. Sumeru. The 's' often changes to 't' in Greek, hence the Sanskrit 'Sumeru' that corrupted into 'Sumeros' ultimately changed to Tomaros'.

An even older form of this name can be found in the ancient name for Egypt, Mera or To-mera or Tomaras, loosely translated to mean “of the Pyramid” or ‘Land of Meru’.

In Assyria, Mt. Hermon was known as 'Sinieru' which again is a corruption of Sumeru. In Turkmenistan was located the ancient city of Merv. Merv was a major oasis-city located on the historical Silk Route, near today's city of Mary in Turkmenistan. In ancient Persian texts (that is Avestan texts), Merv is mentioned as Mouru , which is a distortion of the Sanskrit Meru the original name of the first city built on this site. The remnants of the most ancient sacred site of Merv still exist at 'Gonur Tepe'.

When early British settlers, started arriving in Gympie, the site of the ancient Gympie pyramid in Australia in 1858, they recorded the name of Gympie as 'Meru'ndai'. This name was in usage with the aboriginal Australian 'elders' who were known as the 'ngtja guru'.

It is therefore not surprising that Meru like temples exist in Chichen Itza, Palenque, and Tikal in Guatemala and in other parts of Central and South America.

Other scriptural links between the Mayan civilization and the Rig Vedic civilization also exist. The Mayans had a concept of a double headed turtle-god who had appeared at the dawn of creation and was known as the great Divine Lord. It was from the cracked shell of the double-headed turtle that the Mayan Maize God emerged. The maize God who is the source of fertility is also the central World Tree, an axial symbol equivalent to Mt. Meru.

In the Hindu mythology, Mt. Mandara, a spur of Mt. Meru was torn out at the time of the churning of the oceans, and was used as a churning stick. It was steadied at the bottom of the ocean by Lord Vishnu on his back in his incarnation as a tortoise or turtle called Kurma. In the Meso-American tradition it is the World Tree that rests on the back of the turtle. For more on Vedic-Indic links to Mayan sites of Yaxha, Uxmal in Mexico and Ketumala in Belize click here, here and here.

When the first Spanish chroniclers arrived with the conquistador Pizaro, the Inca explained that Tiahuanaco had been constructed by a race of giants called Huaris before Chamak-pacha, the “period of darkness,” and was already in ruins before their civilization began. They said these giants had been created by Viracocha, also known as Kukulkan to the Maya and Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs, and Amaru to the Peruvians, a god who came from the heavens. Once again the name Amaru is a distorted form of Meru. For the Sanskrit-Indic links to the name Viracocha click here.

Further Readings:
1. Hun-Ahan – Ancient American Hanuman & the Sign of the Wind-God –
2. History & Culture (brannonparker.com)
COPAN MAYAN RUINS: REVIEWING STAND facing the WEST COURT at the Base of TEMPLE 11. COPAN HOWLER MONKEY GOD and MAYAN CONCH SHELLS. 1984 Photo by Peter Wendelken. - a photo on Flickriver

Sunday, 5 September 2021

PARVATI, THE GODDESS OF MT. FUJI, JAPAN

Historically Hinduism has played a significant role in the evolution of the  Japanese culture. Out of the 'Seven Gods of Fortune', four deities originated as Hindu deities: Benzaitensama (Sarasvati), Bishamon (Vaisravana/Kubera), Daikokuten (Mahakala/Shiva), and Kichijoten (Lakshmi).          

Along with the Japanese equivalents of Sarasvati and Lakshmi mentioned above, the Japanese Goddess Sengen, also called Ko-no-Hana Saknya, can also be regarded as the equivalent of Goddess Parvati, for she too like Parvati is the Goddess of Mountains, more specifically, she is the deity of Mt. Fuji, the sacred volcano mountain of Japan.

There are many shrines in Japan dedicated to Goddess Ko-na-hana Saknya. In particular, a shrine at the foot of Mt. Fuji located at Fujiyoshida is significant in the Hindu context, for the customs practiced here by her followers in antiquity, as we will see in the post ahead, provide us with enough evidence that she is none other than Parvati.

Up until the 17th century, it was a popular custom for the Japanese to undertake a pilgrimage to Mt. Fuji at least once in their lifetimes. If followers were unable to make the pilgrimage on their own, it was a custom to select representatives who would make the pilgrimage in their stead. In the 17th century, when this custom was very widespread, many ashrama like accommodations had come up in the town of Fujiyoshida, which lay on the path between Edo (present day Tokyo) and Mt. Fuji. One of the remaining residences of those times located on this track, is known as the Oshi Residence. It still exists today and serves as a museum which showcases this faith and its customs followed in antiquity.

Unsurprisingly, the Japanese customs of those times are akin closely to the Hindu customs of India. For example, the pilgrims would walk long distances visiting shrines on the path, taking holy baths in springs and streams on the way to cleanse themselves, before embarking on their final ascent to holy peaks.

The most striking example of this commonality is that of the customs of the Mt. Fuji pilgrimage. The pilgrims' journey would begin at the Sengen Temple in Fujiyoshida, which today is a part of the Oshi premises, which as mentioned above, in times gone by, hosted a large number of pilgrims. The shrine is the traditional starting point  for climbing Mt. Fuji. During the Edo period, 1603-1867, followers would begin their ascent of Mt. Fuji from a small gate located at the back of the shrine.

Before their climb to the holy Mt. Fuji, shamans and priests would purify the pilgrims at the Fujiyoshida shrine, as well as pray for their good health and safety. Inside the premise is placed an old sculpture of the deity  Ko-No-Hanna which was the first spot of prayers for the pilgrims.

The Konohana Sengen Temple where
Goddess Konohana Sengen is enshrined.
She is the deity of Mt. Fuji or Fujiyama.

There the pilgrims would bathe at the spring water of the Wakutama pond. The Watukama pond also fed a nearby stream and was considered sacred by the pilgrims. The sanctity of the springs and the pond stems from the fact that they are fed by the melting snow of Mt. Fuji itself. The water travels underground and it is said that it takes about 15 years for the water to reach the Watukama pond.

The Wakutama pond is fed by spring water emanating from Mt. Fuji which feeds a stream where the pilgrims took a holy dip to cleanse themselves before their ascent to Mt. Fuji.

The Oshi residence, much like the ashrams of India, had an altar, which still exists today, and where the deity of Mt. Fuji, that is Goddess Fuji Konn-Hana is enshrined. It was at this alter that the climbers of Mt. Fuji would pray before they embarked on the ascent to Mt. Fuji. 

But not before visiting another holy spot. The Pilgrims after the holy bath and prayers at the Fujiyashoda proceeded to a shrine called Matsumoa Sengen Jinja, which is located at, what is today known as Kawaguchiko Field Centre. Here, there is located a concealed tunnel leading up to a cave.

Entrance to the tunnel that
leads to the cave at Sengen Shrine.
Picture Courtesy: NHK World, Japan

It was a ritual to crawl through this narrow dark tunnel to arrive at what was known as the Mother's womb, perhaps the equivalent of the 'garbha griha' of the Hindus. It was here that the Goddess Sengen is enshrined.

A narrow tunnel through which the pilgrims crawled
to reach the cave.
Picture Courtesy: NHK World, Japan

Passing through the tunnel was regarded by the pilgrims as a process which signified their spiritual rebirth. At the cave they would seek the blessings from the enshrined deity, Goddess Sengen, the deity of Mt. Fujiyama. 

Goddess Sengen, the equivalent of Goddess Parvati
of the Vedic pantheon of India, is enshrined at the cave.
Picture courtesy: NHK World, Japan

The belief was that passing through the tunnel represented a purification process whereby the pilgrim was spiritually reborn, and was now ready to make the ascent to Mt. Fuji. The tunnel at Sengen  itself has rib like formations, which were formed in antiquity by a volcanic eruption from Mt. Fuji when the lava engulfed an entire forest creating a strange web of caverns. It was for this reason that people believed that these cave represented the insides of the human body, passing through it cleansed them, and prepared then for them to  climb to Mt. Fuji. 

The cavern at the end of a tunnel where the above mentioned deity is seated is  about 20 m deep. The cavern is known as "Mother' womb', tainai-meguri in Japanese, much like the Sanskrit 'Garbha Griha' in India. This Garbha Griha of the Goddess of Fuji has no lights and pilgrims must pass through it with the help of candle-light. At the end of the tunnel one also sees a little light shining on a stone sphere, which pilgrims used to circumambulate thrice before making a wish. The painting relief below depicts the entire journey.

This painting relief shows the pilgrims crawling through tunnels
to reach the cavern where the goddess was enshrined. Picture
courtesy: NHK World, Japan

At the summit, on the north side of Mt. Fuji, there is a smaller shrine known as Fujiyoshida Sengen which is dedicated to the same goddess. This was the final place where the pilgrims would pray before their descent from Mt. Fuji.

The same traditions were and are still are followed by the Hindus in India. For example at the Vasnoi Devi Temple in the Trikuta Hills of the union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. See video below:


Sunday, 4 July 2021

THE GEOGRAPHY OF AFRICA IN THE PURANAS IS CORRECT. HERE'S WHY.

There is much debate on the accuracy of world geography presented in the Puranas. Scholars often find Puranic geography puzzling, for sometimes this geography seems to pertain to the real world, at other times to a mystical realm. It is in this context that in his book 'Foundations of Indian Culture' Sri Aurobindo had stated, "The so-called fantastic geography of the Puranas, as we are expressly told in the Puranas themselves, are a rich poetic figure, a symbolic geography of the inner psychical universe." Since the geography of the Puranas is first and foremost the description of a mystical world, it is for this reason that it does not quite fit the map of the earthly world. 

Having stated that however, it is beyond doubt that the ancients, in their endevour to recreate this mystical world here on earth, had incorporated many of the Puranic and Vedic names not only into the geography of India, but also that of the world. What is fascinating is that these names still survive in many parts of the world besides India, especially in Africa, which is represented by two names in the Puranas,  Kushadwipa and Ilavrata. An analysis of these Vedic-Puranic names that have survived on the map of Africa are presented in this post in the context of the following: 

i. A controversy that arose regarding a map of the Nile and Lake Victoria and other parts of the great lakes region of Africa, prepared from the information collated from the Puranas by British Indologist Lt. Francis Wilford (1761-1822) with the help of a Hindu Pandit of India who's name unfortunately was never recorded. This map was presented to the Asiatic Society of Bengal by Wilford and was published as a paper in their journal.

ii.  
British scholars Lt. Francis Wilford who had prepared the map of the Nile from Puranic sources in 1790s, and explorer James Hanning Speke who discovered the source of the Nile with the help of Wilford's map in 1858, both acknowledged the use of Puranic scriptures in their researches. However, the Royal Geographical Society of United Kingdom that had funded Speke's expedition discredited Wilford's research and refused to acknowledge Wilford's contribution. About Speke they stated that he was not fully aware that Wilford, who had already passed away in 1822, had accepted that his Pandit was a fraud. This post examines this controversy.

iii. This post includes a detailed presentation of the self-evident and obvious truths about the geography of Kushadwipa or Africa as contained in the Puranas.

iv. This post also presents a discussion on the scores of other Sanskrit names on the map of Africa which were which were not presented by Wilford. 

1. The Controversy:
i. As early as in the 1790s Lt. Colonel Francis Wilford (1761-1822), an Indologist, an Orientalist and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of United Kingdom, who had spent four decades in India had prepared a map of the source and the path of the River Nile based on Hindu scriptures with the help of  scholars and one pandit in particular who claimed they were well acquainted with the geography of ancient Egypt and the path of  the Nile.  The map and the paper were published in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal.



Lt. Francis Wilford prepared a map of the Great Lakes Area of Africa from the information contained in the Puranas

A controversy later arose and it was stated that the Pandit had in fact gathered the material from the contemporary baniya traders who had travelled to Africa, as well as from the researches of Wilford himself, rather than from the ancient knowledge contained in the Puranas and other scriptures of India.

Wilford had been persuaded to admit in early 1800s that he had been duped by the Pandit and no references were really found by the Pandit in the Puranas about the source of the Nile. However, John Hanning Speke, the explorer who is credited with having discovered the source of the Nile in 1858, nevertheless wrote in 1863, more than six decades after the controversy first arose, that Wilford's map had indeed gone a long way in helping discover the source of the Nile.

Hanning stated in his 'Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile' published in 1863,"Colonel Rigby now gave me a most interesting paper, with a map attached to it, about the Nile, and the Mountains of the Moon. It was written by Lieutenant Wilford, prepared from the Puranas of the ancient Hindus. As it exemplifies, to a certain extent, the supposition I formerly arrived at concerning the Mountains of the Moon being associated with the country of the Moon, I would fain draw the attention of the reader of my travels to the Volume of the Asiatic Researches in which it was published." Henning was referring to the Mountains of the Moon situated near lake Victoria, now known as the Mahale Mountains, which Wilford had stated was known as Chandrasthana (चन्द्रस्थान), Sanskrit for 'mountains of the moon', in the scriptures of India.

Speke, further stated in his journal, "It is remarkable that the Hindus have christened the source of the Nile as Amara, which is the name of a country at the north eastern corner of the Victoria Nyanza lake. This I think shows clearly that the ancient Hindus must have had some kind of communication with both the northern and southern ends of the Victorian Nyanza."

2. The U-Turn
i. So why had the controversy arisen in early 1800s. Present day Indic scholar Rajiv Melhotra in his U-Turn Theory states, "It is common place for Westerners to appropriate Indic ideas through a process where the westerner first whole-heartedly learns the Indic tradition; then decontextualizes it by repackaging the knowledge gained from India from within his/her own culture. The next thing you know is that s/he claims these ideas or the knowledge was always an integral part of Western culture. Some, but not all, also start demonizing the Indic source."

This is exactly what had happened in the case of the preparation of the map of the Nile from Puranic sources. From the literature of the Journal of Asiatic Researches of Bengal it is evident that the British scholars, including Wilford for example, first completely immersed and drowned themselves into Hindu books, epics, scriptures and languages and also acknowledged doing so in their published papers.
Lt. Wilford also employed a pandit to research all Puranic sources to collect information about Kushadwipa (Africa) and published his work. Before publishing the map in the prestigious Journal of Asiatic Researches, it can easily be assumed that Wilford, an experienced researcher had examined the credibility of the Pandit's research.

But inevitably the U-Turn happened, though Wilford himself was not not part of it. After the work was done, and Wilford's paper and map was published, the Royal Geographical Society of United Kingdom stepped in and removed the Hindu context and contribution.  Wilford was attacked by scholars, discredited to a large extent, and made to give the statement that the Pandit had been unable to produce any authentic literature from the Puranas, and whatever he had produced was fraudulent.

Once the Hindu context had been removed, it was time to re-contextualize the Puranic knowledge in a fresh package. It was stated that information about the source of the Nile was arrived at from estimates made from travels of earlier British explorers and their research.

However, Wilford was an experienced researcher, not an amateur. He knew the authenticity of his sources, therefore he did not entirely take away either the contribution of the Pandit or the Puranas to his writings. For that he paid a price. His credibility was not allowed to restore ever again. He passed away in 1822.

3. Geography of Africa contained in the Puranas:
Wilford had spent 40 years in India studying Indian scriptures. What he has gathered was that the Puranic knowledge that the Hindu pandits possessed was really quite common place and no great research was required in collating this information. Today this may come across as implausible, therefore it becomes mandatory to discuss the proof. And, here it is:

i. Africa is replete with Indic and Sanskritic names such as Meru, Mandara, Sangama, Sankara, Ganga, Abhijata, Kashi, Sagara, Seeta, Sara, etc. These names can also be easily confirmed on present day map of Africa. The co-ordinates for many of these places are given at appropriate places as we progress.

At this point one must wonder about the antecedents and history of the people who in antiquity had christened these places with Sanskritic and Hindu names, for these names display that the ones who named them not only had an understanding of Sanskrit but also knowledge of the entire Vedic-Puranic tradition and culture. They must therefore be assumed to have lived during the times of the Vedic-Puranic civilization in India and at a time when its influence had already reached the African shores if the Out-of-India theory is accepted. It must be clarified here that the Puranic names that appear in Africa, also appear in India, and in other parts of the world, especially South America. The history of the world is hidden in the identity of the people who had mapped the world with such names, which will be discussed later.

ii. First a look at Lt. Francis Wilford's work regarding the source of the Nile is essential. Wilford was criticized by various scholars such as British historian Christopher Bayly (1945-2015), of having used 'cruder means of linguistic correlation'. This accusation is examined in the following paragraphs.

The name Amara:
According to Wilford's Pandit the name of the region and the lake where the Nile originates was a place called Amara. So it is pertinent to ask whether Amara is mentioned in any of the Hindu texts, and if so, where in Kushadwipa or Africa is Amara located.

According to the Parakhyatantra, Chapter 5.66, Amara is located on the slope of Mt. Meru. According to Varaha Purana too, Amara, the city of Indra, is located on the slope of Mt. Meru and for this reason says the Varaha Purana Mt. Meru is also known as Amaradri, or Amara Adri, Sanskrit for 'Mountain of Amara'. On the map of Kushadwipa, that is present day Africa, Mt. Meru is situated in Tanzania at -3.239481, 36.746846. There is no linguistic ambiguity here. Meru of Puranas has the same name as Mt. Meru of Tanzania.

The same is true of Amara. The region located east of Lake Victoria, known as Mara in the 2020s, was recorded as Amara about two-hundred years back by Speke himself. On the current map Amara region is located around the co-ordinates -1.768381, 34.524419, east of Lake Victoria in Tanzania.

At this point it may be stated that Amara (अमर) is a Sanskrit word which means 'immortal'. Is there any proof that this name appeared in Africa exactly as it did in the Hindu scriptures. As mentioned above, John Hanning Speke, the discoverer of the source of the Nile himself, states in his Journal of the Discovery of the Nile, "Of far more interest were the results of a conversation I had with another of Kamrasi's servant's, a man from Amara, as it threw some light upon certain statements made by Mr. Leon of the people of Amara....". So we know from Speke's record that the name Amara existed and referred to an area in the vicinity of lake Victoria near the source of the Nile.

What was of interest to Speke about the people of Amara in 1858 was to find out whether any of them had any links to Christianity. What he found instead was the people of Amara seemed to have some links with Hindu rituals and customs. He wrote, "When killing a cow they kneel down in an attitude of prayer, with both hands held together, palm upward, and utter 'zu' a word the meaning of which he did not know."

The name Amara, has changed to Mara only sometime since 1858. Till then it came to us exactly as it is mentioned in Hindu texts. The above negates to a large extent the charge that Bayly had made against Wilford. 

The name Amara also appears once again as Amhara, situated to the north of the great lakes area, Amhara is a dominant region of Ethiopia. The people of Amhara are one of the largest ethnic groups of Ethiopia. They are the descendants of an ancient Semitic group that mingled with the indigenous people of the Kingdom of Cush, and eventually built the kingdom of Aksum in Ethiopia. According to the Puranas, Africa was known as Kushadwipa, or the Island (continent) of Kusha on which Mt. Meru was situated and where the river Chitra or Krishna, identified as the Blue Nile by Wilford, flowed. Cush and Kusha are cognates. No great difference in the names especially since the Sanskrit Kusha is pronounced as Kush and not as KushA.

Amhara in Ethiopia and Mara in Tanzania both are ancient sites
inhabited by the Amara people. Amara in Kushadwipa
was the city of Lord Indra according to the Puranas

The Amhara people say that they get their name  from the name of their province Amhara, located around lake Tana, which was once known as Tsana, and which is situated north of the great lakes area, at the headwaters of the Blue Nile. The Varaha Purana sheds some light on the geography of the area around the region of Amara.  Some of the lake names in the area close to Mt. Meru in the Chandrasthan area as per Varaha Purana include lake Manasa, which is the most important of them . Both the names, Tsana (Lake Tana) and Nyassa (Lake Victoria), appear to be distortions of perhaps what was once their older name, Manasa of the Puranas. The name Manasa appears in the Puranic geography as one of the lakes that lay in the vicinity of Mt. Meru.

The name Cush too has Indic links. According to the Table of Nations in the Book of Genesis, Ham was the second son of Noah and the father of Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan. According to Genesis 5.32 states that Noah was the father of Ham, Shem and Japeth. Many of these names are cognates of Indic scriptural names such as Ram, Shyam, Kush and Kannan. Again the capital of Kingdom of Cush was Meroe, a variation of the name Meru. The city of Meroe, or Meru, fell to the Aksumites in 4th century AD after having been the capital of Kingdom of Cush since 590 BC. 

And an even earlier culture, known as Nabha, who in great antiquity had established the Empire of Cush, had their capital in Kerma. It was in its vicinity that Meroe came up later. Again Nabha and Kerma (or Karma) are Sanskritic names.


Kerma and Meroe are ancient places names
in Sudan and have Puranic links

Though many of the names, such as those mentioned above, have come to us in their original form, some leeway must be given to the fact that the Puranic names as well as the information contained in the scriptures of India are millennia old and would have distorted with time. With that argument in place we now look at the current map of Africa, as well as delve deeper into Puranas and other Hindu texts to further investigate the validity of Bayly's criticism of what he termed as 'Wilford's faulty correlation' of African names to Vedas, Puranas and to Sanskrit.

This Bing map shows the names Meru, Mara,
Sagara and Ganga on the map of Tanzania. 

One can begin with some more information about the name Amara. According to the Puranas, Amara is the name of a deity presiding over Ganga Sagara. Also, according to Saivagamas, a collection of all knowledge that has come to us from Lord Shiva, Ganga Sagara is one of the places hosting a svayambhulinga or 'self appearing obelisk', one of the most sacred of lingas, a symbol of the Vedic god Shiva. If for a moment Lake Victoria is equated with Ganga Sagara, Amara becomes the presiding deity of lake Victoria, which can then add scriptural weight to the name Amara.

But how can one ever equate Lake Victoria with Ganga Sagara. That appears a bit far fetched. But is it really? The Nile rises from lake Victoria near Jinja, which lies in the region of Iganga of Uganda. In the vicinity of Lake Victoria, in the Amara region, near Nansimo and Nambaza Hill, lies the town of Genge. Iganga and Genge are just one syllable away from the word Ganga. The word 'ganga' also appears in place names such as Seeta Namuganga, which too lies in the Iganga area. In ancient African languages the word 'ganga' is said to mean 'container'. But since these names often occur near waterbodies, 'water container' appears to be a more appropriate name for these waterbodies.

It is evident then that the name Ganga was not unknown in ancient Tanzania and Uganda. In fact, the etymology of the name Uganda, where 'U' stands for land, means 'land of Ganda'. The etymology of 'ganda' is is unknown and in all likelihood is a distortion of Ganga.

The second part of the combination name Gangasagara is seen in the name of Lake Sagara of Tanzania. Sagara (सागर) is Sanskrit for 'sea', and is a word used quite often in the names of large lakes. 

Other similar names that appear on the African map includes Usagara, the name of a city in the Tanga region of  Tanzania, on the coast of Indian Ocean. The city gets its name from Sanskrit Sagara, 'sea' or 'ocean'. A  second Usagara town lies near another water body, Lake Victoria itself. There is yet another town called Usagari which lies in the Tabora region of Tanzania. Then there is a lake by the name Sagara to the east of Lake Tanganyika. It is evident therefore that the name 'sagara' was not unknown either. This further dislodges Bayly's criticism of Wilford.

Usagara, Usagari and Amboseli on the map of Tanzania

Lake Sagara, Tanzania

v. The argument can still be made that the above are but a few examples of Indic-Puranic-Vedic influence in Africa and can surely only be a coincidence. Besides, Mara/Amara is 350 km away from Mt. Meru, and is not exactly situated on the slope of Meru, as stated by the Puranas.  
Even though Indic scholars state that Puranic names were used in christening places only to recreate an approximation of the mystical world, it is still important to analyze the names that occur on the 350 km track between Mt. Meru and Amara (Mara) region.

The names Meru, Mandara, Arusha and Kshira:
The Puranas say that the earthly representation of the cosmic Mt. Meru, lies at the centre of the earth in this material world. Mt. Meru of Tanzania perhaps became the most appropriate candidate for this name, for it lies close to the equator and was once the highest peak near the equator. The name of the Tanzanian region in which Meru lies is Arusha. The highest peak on Mt. Meru in Tanzania is known as Ngurdoto. Both these names have Puranic links.

Researcher Mukundchandra Raval states in his book 'The Mount Meru', "It is interesting to note that the name of the highest peak of Mount Meru is Ngurudoto. Guru Data is one of the three sons of Seer Atri and Ansuya. Guru Datta is always found at the top peak of any mountain wherever he has his abode. His abode is on the highest peak of the Mount Girnar in Gujarat and Mount Abu in Rajasthan. Likewise his abode is Ngurudoto on the highest peak of Mount Meru." Raval also adds that Arusha is a distortion of the name Usha. This is supported by the fact that a river Usa or Usha still flows near Mt. Meru into the Great Rift Valley. Usha (उषा) is Sanskrit for 'morning'. There is also a lake by the name Amboseli in its vicinity, 'amba' is a noun is Sanskrit and has the meaning of 'mother' and 'water' both; 'seli' appears to be a distortion of 'sara', Sanskrit for 'lake'.

In the Indic tradition Usha is the daughter of the demon king Banusura who had once undertaken a severe penance to win the blessings of Lord Shiva and asked that as a boon Shiva guard Banusura's city of Sonapuri. The name Sonapuri, which means 'City of Gold' may have distorted to Sanapuri and then to Sanawari. Sanawari is located at -3.350694, 36.700138 in Arusha, just south of Mt. Meru in Tanzania.

Many other names add weight to the argument that the entire region of Meru in Tanzania was indeed named by a people of Vedic-Puranic tradition. To the east of Sanawari lies Kibvesi and to the south of Kibvesi lies Kimandolu. Further south are located the towns of Komolo and Makutapora. All these names are so Sanskritic in nuance that they hardly need any explanation, except perhaps Kibvesi. Sanawari is Sonavari or meadow of gold, Kimandolu is Kamandalu the pot that Shiva and other ascetics carry in their hands, bearing either water or amrita, the elixir of life. Komolo is Kamala, Sanskrit for lotus, and Makutapora is a reference to Shiva's mukuta (मुकुट) or crown which is really his hair tied in a topknot in which he binds and holds the river Ganga. Pora is pura which means town. Mandera appears to be a variation of Mandara. An analysis of these name which appears further adds a whole new dimension to the extent of Indic influence in Africa.

Sanskritic-Puranic names such as Makutapora, Komolo, Arusha and Mandera appear in the vicinity of
Mt. Meru in Tanzania.

The above leads us to the next obvious question that is, though the name Mandera appears to be a distortion of Mandara, Puranic texts will hold more significance if a mountain by the name Mt. Mandara can be traced somewhere in Tanzania. for the Puranic Mt. Mandara is the most important mountain, second only to Mt. Meru.

In Chapter 77 Verse 9 of the Varaha Purana, it is stated that to the east of Mt. Meru lies Mt. Mandara. Vishnu Purana adds, "In the middle of Illavrata (Africa) stands the mountain Meru which is composed of gold, and precious stones, the abode of gods. The four mountains Mandara, Sungandha, Vipula, and the Suparava serve as buttresses to support this Meru."

So where is Mt. Mandara that serves as one of the buttresses that supports Mt. Meru! Because the story of Mt. Mandara and Mt. Meru is tied together, and since both are mentioned in the Puranas to be located near the centre of the earth, and are also stated to be in Kushadwipa or Illavrata (both are Puranic names for Africa), it follows that the two mountains should appear in the vicinity of one another. 

The closest mountain of note located near Mt. Meru in Tanzania is Kiliminjaro. And though in Africa today Kiliminjaro is more prominent in its sway on the imagination of people, it must be noted that about 8000 years ago Mt. Meru was taller than Mt. Kiliminjaro, before it lost its height and most of its mass in a volcanic eruption. 

Information from the Puranas, and a German map from the 1800s, reveals to us the history of Kiliminjaro and its link with Mandara, which is hidden in plain sight.

We begin with a discussion about the name Kiliminjaro. 'Kilimin' means hill in Swahili, 
 however, a little more research reveals that Kilimin is a distortion of the Sanskrit 'giri' (गिरि) meaning hill or mountain, and this will be discussed later with evidence. 

The second part of the word, Najoro, has been debated to mean amongst many other, 'shining' in Swahili, 'njare' or 'bird', 'jyaro' or 'caravan' etc. in various languages of Africa.

In Tureg, a native language of Nigeria,  'Najaro' is regarded as a variation of 'geren'- which means 'water', 'river' and 'water body' or 'waterfall'. Hence the river name Niger, which it is stated is a variation of Tureg 'geren' or water . However, the Tureg 'geren'  too, is in its most ancient form, is of Sanskrit origin. 'Jhara' (झर) is Sanskrit for 'waterfall'. The Sanskrit meaning of Kililimanjaro is therefore 'Mountain of Waterfalls'. So how does the Tureg 'geren' (water) or the Sanskrit 'jhara' (waterfall) fit into the name Kilimanjaro which is mountain and not a waterbody?

About Mt. Mandara the Vishnu Purana states in Chapter 122, "The root 'manda' means water and since it (the mountain) scatters water, it is called Mandara'." Hence, both these names, Kili-manjaro or Mt. mandara or have the same meaning in Tureg and Sanskrit. 

But why would Kiliminjaro be named 'Mountain of Scattering water'. It is in all likelihood a reference to the many rivers that emanate from Kilimanjaro including the Masanga, Mrusanga, Karanga, Nanga, Mongoro, Engere Den, Ngomberi, Tarakia, Garagua and Sere. These names too are of Sanskrit origin as we shall see later. 

Without an understanding of the Indic tradition, the argument that Kilimanjaro and Mandara are the same name, may not be acceptable to all. For the skeptics therefore a different proof may be presented. The biggest evidence for the claim that Mt. Mandara of Puranas is Kilimanjaro comes to us from a German Map of Zanzibar and German East Africa dated  circa 1890. In the map which appears below, the German name for Kiliminjaro appears as Kilimi-Ndscharo. Right below is the name Kimawenzi, and below that we see the name Marangu. And finally, to the south of Marangu, appears the name Mandara! The Puranic name Mandara survives to this day in the name of the Mandara region where Mt. Kiliminjaro is situated.


A German map from 1890 marks the region
just south of Kiliminjaro as Mandara

And there is even more Puranic proof. Kiliminjaro is a three peaked mountain. In Hindu Cosmology, the devas (deities) and the asuras (malevolent divine beings), worked together to churn the Kshira Sagara (Ocean of Milk) to extract amrita, the nectar of immortal life. Vishnu's serpent Vasuki was used as the churning string, and Mt. Mandara, one of the four supporting buttresses of Mt. Meru, was used as the churning pole. 

It is expected therefore that other Puranic names linked to this Puranic legend also appear in the vicinity of Mt. Mandara, which has been identified as Mt. Kilimanjaro. And indeed it does. One of the three peaks of the Kilimanjaro is known as Mt. Shira . Mt. Shira in all likelihood is a minute variation of the original name Kshira, - the 'Ocean of Milk' of the Puranas.


Today the name Mandara appears within
the  three-coned  Kiliminjaro  (Kilila-Ndscharo) Mountain system
marked on this 1890s German Map of Tanzania.


The name Mandara appears in the vicinity of  Mt. Mawenzi.
The name Mandara is hidden in plain sight in variation of the name Kilimanjaro such as Kilimandjaro.



Does the name Mandara survive in other place names of Africa? We find that such was the cultural importance of the name Mandara that its name has survived in the names of hills and national parks, cities and tribes of Africa. Mandara is the name of a 200 km mountain range extending from the coordinate 9.3°N 12.8° to 11.0°N 13.9°E along the Cameroon-Niger border. Incidentally, the name Cameroon may itself be a distortion of the name Ka-Meru - the names Meru and Mandara often occur in places of close vicinity. The name of the Mandinka tribe of Gambia is also a derivation of the name Mandara. The name Mandara also appears in place names in Kenya.

The above information establishes that the areas around the 350 km tract between Mt. Meru and Amara are replete with Indic-Vedic-Puranic names in their original form or with some explainable distortions, thus dislodging Bayly's contention that Wilford had correlated African names without using any sophisticated tools of interpretation. 

The name Somagiri and Chandrasthan:
We now proceed to other names that appear on Wilford's map. The most important of these are the names Chandrasthan and Mt. Somagiri. Somagiri is a combination name and translates as 'Mountain of the Moon', soma (सोम) moon, giri (गिरि) mountain.  Lt. Wilford in his Puranic map had marked the southern most tip of lake Amara as Somagiri.

Speke also makes a mention about the location of Somagiri in his journal. He states, "We find in its (Africa's) centre a high group of hills surrounding the head of the Tanganyika Lake, composed chiefly of argidaceous sandstones, which I suppose to be the Lunse Montes of Ptolemy, or the Soma Giri of the ancient Hindus." These mountains are today known as the Mahale mountains. The etymology of the name Mahale is discussed ahead.

Lake Amara is an elongated shaped lake, much greater in length as compared to its breadth.  Lt. Wilford had placed Chandrasthan (चन्द्रस्थान) or 'Place of the Moon' parallel to the Great lakes region on his map. Chandrasthan or 'Place of the Moon' is perhaps named so, because the lake is shaped like a half-moon. The entire region parallel to Lake Tanganyika is lined with places named after moon, 'Soma' (सोम) or Chandra (चन्द्र), two words for 'moon' in Sanskrit.

On the current map of Tanzania, midway from north to south, on the eastern bank of Lake Victoria, lies Mount Homa. In many languages the 'S' often distorts to the sound 'H', thus, in this case, it is obvious that the original 'Soma' has changed to 'Homa'. This is a common distortion and appears in names such as 'Hindu' derived from 'Sindhu', or the Avestan 'Hoama', which too derives from Sanskrit 'Soma'. 

Mt. Homa was in all likelihood the Soma-Giri of Lt. Wilford, even though Mt. Homa does not appear on the southern most tip of the Great lakes as Wilford had identified. However, in the vicinity of Mt. Homa, names such as Ruma and Suna also appear, which all perhaps are a variations of the name Soma. And once again along the banks of Lake Victoria, the name Musoma also appears. 

Mt. Homa is located on the banks of Lake Victoria.
Its name in all likelihood is a distortion of the name Soma and
maybe identified as Soma-giri of the Puranas.

However, since Wilford located Somagiri at the southern most point of Lake Amara, it becomes imperative to analyze names that appear on the southern tip of lake Victoria, at the southern most point of Lake Tanganyika, as well as those that occur at the southernmost point of the the entire great lakes area of Africa, which is the southern end of Lake Malawi in Mozambique.


The Great Lakes area  extends from Lake Victoria in
the north to Lake Malawi in the south. This area is shaped
like a half moon and was known as
Chandrasthan in the Purana literature.


A significant name in the context of Chandrasthan, or the region of the 'Mountain of the Moon', is the name 'Shashi' (शशि) which is another Sanskrit name for 'moon'. Here in a 1949 map of  East Africa, the place name Shashi is clearly marked on the eastern bank of Lake Victoria. 

Place name Shashi on the eastern bank of Lake Victoria.
Shashi is Sanskrit for 'moon' and was a place name
identified as Chandasthan on Wilford's map.


The name Shashi also exists on the west bank of Lake Victoria, as a place name in the Northern Province of Ruwanda and is situated close to the arc of the half-moon shaped great lakes region.

Shashi in Northern Province of Rwanda.
Shashi falls in the region marked as Chandrasthan,
or 'Place of the Moon' by Wilford. Shashi is Sanskrit for 'moon'.
Shashi is also the name of Lord Shiva

As we scan areas south of Mount Homa, we find Kasama located at the tip of Lake Tanganyika. This name appears to be a variation of Soma, with an added syllable 'Ka' at the beginning of the word. On the tip of Tanganyika, one also sees the appearance of the name Sumba, which may be Soma with an addition of the 'b' sound.

A name of interest that adds some more cultural collateral to the argument that not only is Chandrasthan a place of the moon, it is also a place where one sees the name of Shiva emerge frequently. One such name is Kalambo, a river that flows through the Mbala region close to Kasama where it enters lake Tanganyika. Kalambo is a variation of Kalambh meaning either 'Dark Water' or 'Flow of Time', both are words related to the name of Lord Shiva, who is also called Mahabala. 
The name Mbala appears to be a truncated form of Mahabala.

Shiva is also called Mahakala, Lord of Time. He is also the lord of the moon and is known as Somnath who's jata or 'top knot of hair' also called 'mukata' is adorned with a half moon. Makuta is therefore related to the name 'Makautapora' of the Arusha region of Tanzania mentioned above.  None of these names in isolation would perhaps result in the possibility of arriving at any conclusion, but he presence of all these names in one region of  Chandrasthana indicates that there was a system and theme which was at work here.

Wilford had also mentioned another place on his map, by the name Rupavati, which he said was located at the southern tip of Lake Amara. As we move southward, we find on the coast of Lake Malawi, two variations of the name Rupavati, one in the name of river Rupashe, and the other in the place name, Rupase.


Variation of the name RupaVati that Wilford had demarcated
 at the southern end of Lake Amara appears as Rupase at the southern tip of Laka Malawi.

More about Kshira and Kshirasagara:
The name Shira mentioned above appears once again in the vicinity of the southern end of  Lake Malawi. In his paper, 'Shire, Shurwa, Nyasa', author T. Price states, "As the backbone of the land of Egypt is the River Nile, the backbone of the land of Malawi, is another continuous strip of water.....". This strip of water that Price is referring to is the River Shire - its name derived from the native words 'chire' which as per Livingstone's record means 'vertical banks'. However the Sanskrit 'shira' means 'milky white' or 'milk' and may be a reference to the milky white waters of the river Shire. The natives have no memory of Puranic  legend of Kshiasagar or the 'Churning of the Milky Ocean' mentioned above, and can therefore in no way be confirmed.

More evidence about Puranic links in the records of David Livingstone:
It is remarkable that Scottish Explorer and Missionary David Livingstone had recorded the following about Lake Malawi in his 'Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa'. He states, "One of the gentlemen present, Senhor Candido, had visited a lake 45 days to the N.N.W. of Tete, which is probably the Lake Maravi of geographers, as in going thither they pass through the people of that name. The inhabitants of its southern coast are named Shiva; those on the north, Mujao; and they call the lake Nyanja or Nyanje, which simply means a large water, or bed of a large river. A high mountain stands in the middle of it, called Murombo or Murombola, which is inhabited by people who have much cattle. He stated that he crossed the Nyanja at a narrow part... From the southern extremity of the lake two rivers issue forth: one, named after itself, the Nyanja, which passes into the sea on the east coast under another name; and the Shire, which flows into the Zambesi a little below Senna. The Shire is named Shirwa at its point of departure from the lake, and Senhor Candido was informed, when there, that the lake was simply an expansion of the River Nyanja, which comes from the north and encircles the mountain Murombo, the meaning of which is junction or union, in reference to the water having parted at its northern extremity, and united again at its southern."

In this one paragraph, Livingstone records the name Maravi, the original form of the name Malawi, and  the mountain name Murombo. All indications are that both these names are distortions of the name Meru. The reason is that just as the Puranic names Meru, Mandara and Kshira are clustered together in the Arusha area in northern Tanzania, we find that the same theme repeats in the Lake Malawi region of the country of Malawi. The  Puranic name Meru is hidden in a distorted form in the names Maravi and Murombo, and Kshira in the name of river Shire. Here too they are clustered together. The name Mandara appears as Madrara on lake Malawi. Of course the natives had their own explanations to these names, but none could offer the cultural backdrop that the Puranas and the other Indic scriptures offer to the names that exist in this whole region.

Another place of interest is Magomero, located at 15° 36' 0" South, 35° 15' 0" East in Southern Malawi. The name Magomero seems to contain the name Meru because there is some evidence that the villagers of this region associated the name Meru with hills and mountains from their memory of an earlier people.  In his book 'Magomero: Portrait of an African Village', published in 1987, author Landeg White stated, "In the middle of the village between the road and the river is a bald hill, a dome of polished gneiss about 35 metes high. Some of the villages call it Magomero, but the older men know that this name, in the language of the people who lived here before them, is usually given to a dome twice as high 2 km to the northwest. Asked about their own hill they shrug their shoulders, until one of them dredges from his memory the name Nanyungwi." This book is a historical portrait of a village in the southern region of Malawi from 1859 to the present day. Magomero is a place on which many of the principal concerns of Africa’s historians are focused – beginning with the slave trade, Christian missions and their impact, colonialism and ethnicity, the rise of nationalism, and so forth.

In the Puranic tradition Meru is always associated with mountains and it is evident from Landeg's statement that the name Magomero was associated by an earlier race of Malawians that lived in the Magomero area with hills and mountains and that only later generations had no memory of any details. This is true of other parts of Africa too. The capital of the Cushite kingdom of Ethiopia Meroe was also replete with ancient ruins of pyramid structures -a memory of the Puranic Meru.

Another waterbody south of lake Malawi or Maravi, now known as lake Chilwa, who's name is recorded as Lake Shirwo in maps of antiquity gives more evidence of Puranic links. 

In the following map of Lake Malawi also known as Nyassa, other Sanskritic names that appear in Puranas such as Paribhadra and Pariyatra, appear in a variant form of Paritala. Interestingly Wilford had marked Paribhadra at the north of Lake Amara, Paribhadra, which means  'elevated all around'. Paritala means 'lower surface, or low lying' and an 1897 map marks Paritala close to the southern end of Amara. Interestingly Paribhadra is another name for the Mandara tree. In this 1897 map, just as the name Mandara appears on the eastern coast of lake Maravi in the form of Madrara, the name Amara also appears in an extended form as Amaramba.

An 1897 map of Lake Malawi shows the Shire river and  Lake Shirwa,
both the names a distortion of Sanskrit Kshira,
the name Mandara as Madrara, and
other Sanskritic names such as Paritala
and Amara-amba


In the vicinity of the largest city of Malawi, Blantyre, in Southern Malawi, lies another town with a purely Sanskrit name, as depicted in the map below. It is the ancient town of Mandala at co-ordinates 15° 47' 0" South, 34° 59' 0" East. What is fascinating with all the Sanskrit names of Africa is that they are not just words that one can find in a Sanskrit dictionary, these names have a deep link with the Vedic-Puranic culture and have profound meanings.

Just like Meru and Mandara, Shiva and Kshira, have a deep significance to the Indic civilization, Mandala, which translates as 'circular enclosure', also refers to the Earth, Cosmos, etc., and has a deep link to Vedic Astronomy, Mathematics and Geometry. It appears in the Rigveda as the name of the sections of the work, and Vedic rituals use mandalas such as the Navagraha mandala to this day.

Not too far away from Mandala lies the town of Manase. This name is significant for one of the most prominent lake names in all of the Puranas is the Manasa lake. Manase lies close to two rivers, the Mudi which flows through the town of Mandala, and river Naperi, both of which fall into the river Shire, perhaps Shira.

River Shire, Lake Shirwa, the town of Mandala, and Magomero on an 1885 map of Malawi

Running north-northeast along the west shore of Lake Malawi are located the Viphya Mountains. This name appears to be a variation of the name Vindhya. According to the Varaha Purana, Vindhya was one of the seven holy mountain chains. The deity of Mt. Vindhya is served by Kubera, who in the Vedic pantheon is the god of wealth.

There is another Puranic legend about a battle between Mt. Meru and the Vindhya mountain which too was located south of Meru, it rose so high that it blocked the sun from reaching Meru, however on the request of  Rishi Agastya, Vindhya agreed to lower itself so the sun could reach Meru. The significance of this legend is difficult to tell, except that these names appear together in the Puranas and in the geography of Tanzania and Malawi.

But now back to Lake Victoria or Lake Amara of the Puranas. The highest elevation point near lake Victoria is Bugiri Point. Giri, as stated above, is Sanskrit for mountain. The name Bugiri does not appear in isolation. There are many mountain names in Tanzania which contain the Sanskrit word 'giri in some form or the other, such as:

1 . Mt. Losiminguri (-4.227086, 34.536748),
2. Mt. Ol Lotigeli (-2.970763, 37.022442),
3. Mt. Kangiri (-4.050119, 34.885925 ),
4. Mt. Mungori (-4.019525, 34.830307 ),
5. Mt. Kisingisi (-4.310168, 34.535145),
6. Mt. Kinangilu (-4.227086, 34.536748 ).

An analysis of the names of rivers flowing from Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru also reveal that their origins are purely Sanskrit.

For example from Mt. Kiliminjaro rise the following rivers:
i. The Masanga, Mrusanga, Karanga and the Nanga which like the Ganga bear the suffix ga (गा), meaning 'to go' or 'flow'. Also the word 'sanga' (सङ्घ) that appears in the names Masanga and Mrusanga, is Sanskrit for 'combined' or 'together'. The river Congo itself was once known as the Sangha and today has a tributary that bears the same name.

ii. River Mongoro. This name includes the root word 'jhara' or 'gara' meaning 'waterfall' and 'fluid' respectively which appears as 'goro' in the name. 'Gara' should not be confused with the 'giri' which appears  in mountain names discussed above.

iii. River Engere Den includes the root 'jhara' (झर) in the form 'gere'. A tweaking of this name would render Engere Den into 'Jharadana' or 'abundant water' which has another equivalent elsewhere in the name of river Jordon.

iv. The Ngomberi and Umbwe rivers, their names include the root 'ambh' (अम्भ्) meaning water or fluid. In their Sanskritic form the names may have once read as Ambavari and Ambhve. There is a lake by the name Amboseli as mentioned above.

v. River Tarakia. Tara is Sanskrit for star. Since Sanskrit 'tara' has nothing to do with water, it may be ignored. What is of note though is that the Tarakia flows into the Musangiro where once again the root 'gara' (गर) appears as 'giro'.

vi. River Garagua. The root 'gara' (
गर) appears as the prefix here.

vii. River Engare Rongai. The root 'gara' appears as 'gare'.

viii. River Sere. Here the Sanskrit root 'sara' (
सर) meaning lake or waterbody appears in the name of the river.

ix. Many other Sanskrit root words also appear in names in the Kiliminjaro and Mt. Meru vicinity, though sparingly, but these are significant because they are seen in innumerable river and mountain names elsewhere in the broader area of the African continent. These root words include variations of 'gana' (घन) meaning dense or deep which appears in the name of rivers Makogani and Njugini, variations of Sanskrit 'varI' (वरी) water, vAri (वारि) water pot or 'vari' (वरि) 'stream' appear in various forms in the names of rivers Nagomberi and Weru Weru.

Sanskrit names that occur in the rivers flowing from Mt. Meru of  include:

i. Embakasi, Kiambu, Nambair and Samburu where we see the root ambh (अम्भ्), meaning liquid,

ii. River Bogoria, where we see 'gara' (गर) appear as 'goria', and River Engare Goria where we see the Sanskrit 'gara' appear as 'gare', Tarangire National Park, where once again the 'gara' appears as 'gire', etc, etc.

iii. The root word 'sara' (सर ) meaning lake appears in the name Kwansari which is located at -3.24 Latitude, 36.37 Longitude. The example of Amboseli, a distortion of Ambosari, was already mentioned above.

iv. Then there is Lake Abhijatha, sometimes spelled as Abhijatta which at once is a reminder of Abhijita, the name of a lunar asterism. Then there is Kibera in Kenya and Kibero in Uganda, a distortion perhaps of the Puranic and Ramayanic name Kubera. It appears as 

More about Lake Tanganyika:
A look at the names of the rivers that feed Tanganyika, or flow out of it, and also of the names of mountains that rise in its vicinity, and their analysis through the Sanskrit language lens, a tool that is inevitably used by epigraphists to decode ancient inscriptions and undeciphered languages, can help reconstruct what might have been the hidden past of the region unraveling a small part of the philosophical, cultural and historical nature of Tanzania.

The analysis of the river names flowing in and out of Tanganyika reveals the same list of Sanskrit root words, 'ambh' (liquid), 'ga' (flow), sangama (confluence) and 'kumbh (water carrier) which exist in the names of rivers emanating from Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru of Tanzania discussed in an earlier post. Rivers flowing in and out of Tanganyika include:

i River Malagarasi -its name includes the root word 'gara' (गर) 'water-pitcher' or 'wetting'; Kalambo has the root 'ambha' (अम्भ) 'fluid', and Lukunga has the suffix 'ga' (गा) move, or flow.

ii. The massive inflow of water from the many rivers entering this gigantic lake must have surely in the eyes of the ancients appeared as a sangama (सङ्गं) of sort, a collection point for water that, via the Lukuga river, ultimately drains into the river Congo. In fact, Speke's fellow explorer Richard Francis Burton, in his research and interaction with the locals came to the same conclusion. He states in his book 'The Lake Regions of Central Equatorial Africa' Vol 2, page 234, "The African name for the central lake is Tanganyika, signifying an anastomosis, or a meeting place."

iii. Another point of note is that Congo itself derives its name from the Proto-Bantu root word for 'meeting', - *cangan, which is the same as the Sanskrit 'sangha' (संघ) meaning 'meeting'. The conclusion, Tanga and Congo derive their names from the same word and it is the Sanskrit root 'sangha', in its distorted or changed form, that joins with some causative suffix to form the name Tanganyika. One possibility of what its original name might have been is sangamita; which means 'brought together', the other is sanghanika which means a 'collective' - in this case 'a confluence of water'. The river Congo, the Sangha of old, today itself has a tributary by the name of Sangha.

The names Sangha and Sangama in present day Africa:
The word 'sangha' or 'sanga' is seen in different forms in the names of many present day towns and coastal villages on the Tanganyika and appears in names such as Isanga, Chisanga, Isinga and Isonga.

The name 'Sangama' appears in other parts of Africa too. For example, the city of Mopti in Mali, which is the place where the River Bani meets the River Niger, was known as Sangama in antiquity which is significant. There is one more Sangama in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, the place where the Niger falls into the Atlantic Ocean. In other words, there are at least two known Sangama(s) on the river Niger.

Another Sanskrit root word that occurs repeatedly in the names of waterbodies or names of coastal places in Tanzania, is 'ambh' (अम्भ्) or 'fluid'. Hence, around the Tanganyika lake we have Burembara, Kamba, Kasombo, Mwatembo, Kinwakambe, Mutambale and Kalamba.

The Sangama and Kumbha of Tanzania:
In the Vedic tradition Sangham (संघम) 'a confluence of two or more rivers', is a sacred place where a holy-dip in its water is believed to wash away all the sins. Taking a holy dip at a sangham is a ritual in India that emerged in antiquity and is still observed today, especially at sites such as the Triveni Sangama, the meeting point of the Ganga, Yamuna and sub-terrenean Saraswati.

This is perhaps equally true of the Tanganyika in Tanzania, for midway between the boundary of lake Tanganyika and lake Rukwa, which is fed by 17 rivers and lies about 150 km to the east of Tanganyika, a place called Sangama (-8.501058, 32.234396).

Lake Tanganyika on the left and Lake Rukwa. 
Sangama is the area between the southern tips of the two lakes.


Lake Tanganyika is located to the west and the coordiantes of its southern most tip lies at -8.769760, 31.161836, Lake Rukwa lies to the east and its southern most tip is located at -8.501836, 32.908662. Sangama lies at (-8.501058, 32.234396).

With 17 rivers feeding Lake Rukwa, and Tanganyika, the second largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, Sangama of Tanzania then, might have been in antiquity when the lakes were even larger in size and hence also closer in distance, the meeting point of the two lakes and their feeding rivers. That is what the name suggests. 

There is some evidence that his Sangama of Tanzania might have been regarded by the ancients a sacred place, a site for congregations of pilgrims, coming in year after year for their holy baths. Parts of the Mahale Mountains or the 'Mountains of the Moon' as Ptolemy refered to them is located at the eastern end of the Tanganyika lake, were held sacred by at least some of the tribes in antiquity. This can be derived from the fact that the Tongwe people in ancient times made an annual pilgrimage to Mt. Nkungwe, the highest peak of the Mahale Mountains, as a mark of respect to the spirits that they believed resided there. 

This was followed by a holy dip in the waters of lake Tanganyika before returning. This is interesting from yet another point of view, for in Sanskrit, though the name 'Mahalaya' means a 'temple' or 'monastery' it also refers to the day that marks the end of a fortnight, called the Pitrupaksha, when it is believed that the departed souls return to stay with their families. On this day, in India, people gather on the banks of holy rivers or river confluences, sangama as they are called, to make their offerings and to take a holy dip in their waters. The same tradition seems to have existed once in Tanzania.

Little surprise then that we also see a town with the name Cumba (-3.556178, 29.376447 ) on the mid-eastern coast of Tanganyika lake. That name has its own tale to tell. Kumbha (कुम्भ) is the name given to the holy bath in India which takes place at the Sangama of the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers. It takes place every year, but the holiest Kumbh takes place once every 12 years when Jupiter enters the sign Aquarius, the water-bearer sign. Aquarius is known as Kumbha in Vedic tradition. That is where the holy bath gets its name.


Cumba and Ganga located east of Lake Tanganyika

The Kashi and Ganga of Lake Tanganyika:
To add to this Tanzanian lore, there are towns by the names Cashi and Ganga on the coast of Lake Tanganyika. In India Kashi is the name of the holiest of all cities, a city of Shiva located on the Ganga.

So, are their any place-names in the vicinity of Tanganyika with links to the name Shiva. Just south of Lake Tanganyika is Siwalinganze. Off the western tip of Tanganyika is the area named Sumbu and the Sumbu National Park. On the southern tip of Lake Mweru lies Kashiobwe in Congo. A little to the northwest of Kashiobwe, on the banks of Lake Mweru is the town of Kashikishi. Then there is the lake named Sarunga at coordinates -6.090729, 35.240074, its name is just one letter away from the word Saranga, another name of Lord Shiva. Sumbu is cognate of Shambu, and Kashiobwe and Kashikishi both contain the name Kashi. Of course this can all be passed off as coincidence, but then as many scholars have observed, outside of India, Africa is the place where Sanskritic names appear in the largest number, and there must be a logical reason for it, which must be investigated. 

Suggested Readings:

1. SHIRE, SHIRWA, AND NYASA on JSTOR
2. Journal of the discovery of the source of the Nile : Speke, John Hanning, 1827-1864 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
3.Calmet's Dictionary of the Holy Bible: With the Biblical Fragments - Augustin Calmet, Charles Taylor - Google Books
4. Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa by David Livingstone
5. Mahale Mountains National Park - Expert Travel Planners (theexperttravelplanners.com)

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