Wednesday, 15 August 2012


The Chemung River and its three tributaries (the Tioga, Canisteo and Conhocton Rivers) flow through New York and Pennsylvania. The Chemung then merges into the Susquehanna River.

The name 'Chemung' is derived from the Iroquois Native American language in which "Chemung" is the word for “a horn” or an “antler.” In Sanskrit a close cognate of "Chemung" is 'Shrunga' (शृङ्ग) which means horn.

The Lenape Native Americans of Delaware called the Chemung River by a different name - they called it the 'Cononogue' River, which had a meaning similar to 'horn'. And in Sanskrit, a cognate of 'Conouge' is 'Kunakha' (कुनख) and means "sharp-clawed" or "sharp-horned".

Lets look at the tributaries of the Chemung. One tributary is the Conhocton River. Its Native American name was 'Ga-ha-to' which means "Wood in the Water". A close cognate of 'Ga-ha-to' in Sanskrit that means wood is 'Gahana' (गहन) pronounced Ga-ha-na. In fact 'Gahana' also means deep or depth in Sanskrit which could be in reference to the water. Woody-Water!

The other tributory is Caniesto, The name of the river comes from a Native American word which is believed to mean "head of water". It could be related to the Sanskrit 'Kanistha' (कनिष्ठ) which means 'smallest, youngest or lowest'. The Caniesto is the lower (southern most) of the tributaries that flow into the Chemung River.

A third tributory is the Tioga. To the Native Americans it meant "the water gateway" or "at the forks". In Sanskrit though, its cognate Tri-yoga (त्रि-योग) means 'the meeting of the three', which most aptly describes the confluence of the three rivers.

The Seneca (language) name for 'Tioga' is 'Diondaga' - 'dio' probably a corruption of Sanskrit 'triy' (त्रिया) meaning three, and ndaga, corruption of Sanskrit 'nadi' (नदी) meaning river.

Not convinced?

Here's what John H. Brubaker, in his book - 'Down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake' writes about Tioga. He says, "Tioga may mean the meeting of the waters or forks of a river". This geographical region called the Tioga Point is shaped like the letter "A" with the pointed end of the letter "A" facing southward.

In the same book, Brubaker refers to a quote by Louise Murray, a historian of the Athens region in Pennsylvania, where he explains the geography of the Tioga region this way, "Now the streams flow almost together, then suddenly spread out again, forming the peculiar peninsula, just about the confluence, long ago called Tioga."

Confluence? Tioga?? Tioga just has to be derived from the Sanskrit 'Tri-Yoga' (त्रि- योग), the joining of the three river bodies.

In India and the Vedic Culture, the confluence of three rivers is considered to be auspicious. In that sense 'Tri-Yoga' would be considered as auspicious as 'Sangam' (सङ्गम्) - the confluence point of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the now invisible Saraswati - the waters of 
which gave birth to the Indus Valley Civilization in India!

Concidentally (or not), near the Tioga Point, about 4 miles away, there is a lake called Sagamore Lake. A distortion of 'Sangam', which if translated from Sanskrit, would mean "Confluence Lake"? Quite possible. Also "Sagar" means Ocean or Sea or Marine in Sanskrit.

Is this all a coincidence? You decide!

Links: Down the Sesquehana to the Chespeake by John H Brubaker

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