Thursday, August 4, 2011

Digging into Name Archaeology

In ancient times, there was no Facebook, remember? So you never got updates like: ‘Dude, I just composed the Rig Veda!’ There was no Twitter either. Otherwise Sita would have surely tweeted: Saw Ravan. He is 10 times worse than the movie!

It was an unimaginable era without essential accoutrements like iPods, iPads, Google, Paper and Electricity. They didn’t even have a pen drive for god’s sake! No wonder, transfer of knowledge was the biggest challenge faced by prehistoric men and women.

The only lasting way to pass on culture and religion was by bequeathing names to things, rivers, hills, forests, villages, festivals, stars, gods, and people. That’s why names can serve as verbal fossils that can reveal the historic secrets of yore.

Let me demonstrate how by focusing on some fascinating toponyms (place names). Let’s begin with Europe’s second longest river – The Danube. I am kinda convinced that Danube must have derived its name from Danu, the Vedic goddess of primordial waters. I have reasons to believe so, as a lot of water bodies in Europe, seem to have a Sanskrit root. Caspian Sea for example, seems a phonetic offspring of Kashyapi Sagar.

Cut to Georgia in Eurasia. They have an Indian sounding plateau called Javakheti that is home to six alpine lakes. One of which is Paravani. Those who know their Hindu Mythology, may remember that Lord Karthikeya’s peacock is named Paravani!

Now jump to Ukraine. You’ll see many cities bearing very Indic names. The most striking one being Vysheneve - doesn’t that sound like Vaishnav? Shift focus to Latvia. The largest resort city there is Jurmala. 8 kilometers away is Sloka. Doesn’t that ring a bell? Zip over to Serbia. You’ll be shocked to know they have a town called Indija (pronounced India) that’s been in existence since 1496!

So what does all this tell-tale evidence amount to? Well, contrary to conventional wisdom, it looks like Europe owes its origins to Ancient Indians. And how did we arrive at this mother of an assertion? By just scratching the surface of name archaeology!

Conclusion: Know your names. Know your history.