Saturday, 27 April 2013


It is said that the River Yarra was called Birrarung by the Wurundjeri people who occupied the Yarra Valley. Upon the arrival of the Europeans in Victoria it was given the name 'Yarra Yarra' in 1835,in the mistaken belief that this was the aboriginal name for the river.

John Wedge of the Port Phillip Association had this to say about the name 'Yarra', "On arriving in sight of the river, the two natives who were with me, pointing to the river, called out, 'Yarra Yarra', which at the time I imagined to be its name ; but I afterwards learnt that the words were what they used to designate a waterfall, as they afterwards gave the same designation to a small fall in the river Werribee, as we crossed it on our way back to 'Indented Head'."

It is interesting that the aboriginal word for 'waterfall' is 'yarra'. For in Sanskrit the word for waterfall is 'Jhara' (झर). 'Yarra' seems to be a distortion of the word 'Jhara', especially because a very close cognate of 'jhara' also appears in aboriginal names such as 'Purit-jarra. The distortion of 'jhara' also appears as 'jarpa' in the name Puntujarpa. The exact word 'jhara' appears in the name 'K
altukat-jara' as 'jara' which is the aboriginal name for River Docker.

'Puritajarra', an ancient aboriginal site lies close to the only permanent water in the Cleland Hills, near the eastern boundary of the Western Desert.
 Researchers have described the 'Puntujarpa' rock-shelter as a form of ‘oasis’, due to water bodies in this area. All these place names indicate their importance to the aboriginal settlements in ancient times due to the availability of water in an area which is essentially a desert, thus   establishing the fact that 'jara', 'jarpa', 'jarra' and 'yarra' are distortions of the Sanskrit 'jhara' meaning  'water-fall' or 'water-body'.

Suggested Links:
1. The Sanskrit Connection - Uru Civilization, Australia
2. Australian Place Names - The Sanskrit Connection

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