Friday, 22 April 2022


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


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 

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


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 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. (
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. (

Thursday, 18 November 2021


The Sanskrit word 'sara' (सर) meaning lake or pond and sometimes even sea is seen in names of ancient cities and towns around the world. It appears repeatedly in names of water bodies as well as towns and settlements in Estonia.

Examples include Kurressare  a coastal city in western Estonia.  It lies close to Sur Laht, a bay area in Harjumma province of Estonia. Then there is the Estonian Island of Osumussare. Both the words, Ssare and Sur are variations of the Sanskrit 'sara' (सर) meaning 'lake'. Many lake cities and towns around the world  bear the suffix 'sara' or some variation of it in their names. 

Osmussare, Estonia

Sara is not the only  Sanskrit word that appears in names of cities and water bodies in Estonia. West of Kurressare lies a coastal city  called Mandjala, jala (जल) is Sanskrit for water. Jala appears in names such as Vaskjala, Hakjala and Koljala and Laimjala town located on river Kaugi. Both Koljala and Laimjala lie in the Saare county. 

Vaskjala, Estonia

Then there is 'kula' (कूल), Sanskrit for 'river'.  Some miles away on the same coastline lies the city of  Ansekula, kula is a word that appears on riverside or seaside towns, of not only India but many far of places such as Florida in the United states where the  coastline is lined with town names which contain the word kula, distorted to Cola or kulla,- such as Pensacola or Wakulla Springs or Apachicola! 

But back to Estonia. In Estonia other sea-side or coastal towns with the suffix kula include Metskula, Launakula Randkula, Vanakula, SuurNaamkula, Perakula, Udikulaid, Reekula, and Asukula town located on river Aula.

Another interesting name is Someru Kula, and even though the closest cognate 'seeme' in Estonian means seed, the Sanskrit meaning 'beautiful mountain' is more apt, especially because of the proximity of Estonia to legend says Sumeru was located close to or on the North Pole. In antiquity the ice cap of the Arctic Circle must have extended right up to Scandanavia.  The Puranas describe these places as the  land of Brahma in who's land a day and night was one year long - a reference to the Arctic 'six months of light and six months of darkness' myth. 

Estonian map displays many Ramayanic names including that of Rama, Kusha, Lava etc. Then there are other Indic names such as Maha and Indra, Raja and Rani.

Present day map of Estonia shows
the location of towns named after Rama also knows as Raghu,
Luva and Meru and other names such as Raja, Rani, Maha and Indra of the Indic tradition

Not too far from Raamatukaru lie the towns of Kusalapuu
and Lavamaa. Kuslapuu appears to be a distortion of Kushapur or
Kashalpur. Both names are Ramayanic. Lavamaa is perhaps
named after Lava, the twin brother of Kush

The word jhari (झरी) or 'jhara' (झर) , Sanskrit for any waterbody, including a lake or a pond or a stream too appears frequently in different forms on the map of Estonia. In Estonian too jarv has the meaning of lake and appears in names such as Kalina jarv, Rummu Karjaar, Jarvkandi etc.

Kalina Jarv, Estonia

About 1800 km away in Romania lies the town of Sita

Sunday, 12 September 2021


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.
Photo Courtesy: Bhagirath 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 outdoors. 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

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 (
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

"India was the motherland of our race and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages. India was the mother of our philosophy, of much of our mathematics, of the ideals embodied in Chrstianity...of self government and democracy. In many ways Mother India is the mother of us all." - Will Durant, American Historian (1885-1981).

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