Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The universality of Sanskrit

The universality of Sanskrit
By Sudhakar Raje

About 70 purely Sanskrit words have also been included in the Concise Oxford Dictionary with the same meaning. Additionally, there are more than 80 prefixes/suffixes in English that are Sanskrit-based. These are used to form at least one thousand words given in COD. The Sanskrit-based prefix “over” is used in 170 English words according to the Navneet Advanced Dictionary, and in 270, according to COD.

Concerted and continuing research in various fields of scholarship like archaeology, mythology, linguistics, history of religion and so on has conclusively proved that Hindu civilisation had once pervaded the whole ancient world. And as the one vehicle for the worldwide spread of Hindu religion and culture, Hindu science and art, Hindu medicine and mathematics was the Sanskrit language, it also spread internationally. Right from Rigvedic times Sanskrit-speaking emigrants from India had settled in various parts of Asia and Europe, eventually reaching even the so-called New World, the Americas, millenniums ago. This resulted in Sanskrit influence on the local languages of the contemporary world. Conversely, Sanskrit became, in a way, the language of the world.

Credible Claim
Is this much too sweeping a claim to be credible, or does it have a basis in fact? In search of an honest answer to this question this writer waded through about 60 sources, including around 30 standard works in various aspects of ancient history plus more than a dozen dictionaries. On collating the collected information language-wise as well as region-wise he found that the claim of Sanskrit having been the whole ancient world´s language can certainly be sustained, albeit in varying degrees.

This writer found that words based on, or derived from, Sanskrit are present, in one form or another, in 80 languages of the world, from the Far East to the Far West.

Among them four languages, for obvious reasons, need to be mentioned separately—English, Greek, Latin and Arabic.

The English language has a Vedic ancestry. In the aftermath of the Rigvedic Dasharajnya war, the Druhyu community, which had taken part in it and had been defeated, migrated westward, eventually reaching parts of Western Europe. There “Druhyu” became “Druid”, and the Druids later came to be called Celts. Their language was Celtic, which was spoken in large parts of Western Europe, including Britain, during the centuries preceding the Christian era. Modern lexicographers of English admit that some Celtic languages are still spoken in Britain, though they maintain that English falls in the “Germanic”, and not “Celtic”, branch of “Proto-Indo-European” languages. Suffice it to say here that no credible evidence exists of an Indo-European language or language-group.

So far as current English is concerned, according to Dr N.R.Waradpande one-fourth of the total English vocabulary is Sanskritic. Webster´s, the world´s biggest (18-volume) English dictionary, is said to have as many as 40,000 words described as “akin to Sanskrit”. Even in the “Concise” edition of the Oxford Dictionary this writer identified around 400 Sanskrit-based words. About 70 purely Sanskrit words have also been included in the Concise Oxford Dictionary with the same meaning. Additionally, there are more than 80 prefixes/suffixes in English that are Sanskrit-based. These are used to form at least one thousand words given in COD. The Sanskrit-based prefix “over” is used in 170 English words, according to the Navneet Advanced Dictionary, and in 270, according to COD. In the case of the Sanskrit-derived prefix “non” COD says the number of English words using it is “unlimited”. Many Sanskrit-based prefixes are also used in half a dozen languages like Greek, Latin, French and Gothic.

According to the Mahabharat, the descendents of ancient king Yayati´s son Turvasu were called the Yavanas. From Yavana originated the name Ionia. Ionia is a region in Asia Minor, and there is evidence showing that Vedic peoples migrated to Asia Minor after they established themselves in Iran. As Asian Minor is contiguous to Iran the Iranians seemed to have owed their language and culture to a two-fold influence—Indian and Iranian. Greeks from the north-west also came to Ionia, but his was after Vedic influence was well-established and the Ionian Greeks were linguistically and culturally absorbed by the Vedics from India.

The most ancient Greek work, Homer´s Illiad (about 900 to 800 BC) is in the Ionian language, which is influenced by the language of Turvasu, that is Sanskrit, and Avestan, the language of the Zoroastrian scriptures, which is only a phonetic variant of Sanskrit. This Ionian Sanskritic language was the mother of the Greek language.

This writer has identified about 100 Greek words in COD that are derived from Sanskrit. In addition, as mentioned earlier, many Greek prefixes are also Sanskrit-based.

Some Greek words not only have a Sanskrit derivation, they also have a Hindu history. A couple of examples:

Allopathy: Allopathy is an allied development as a branch of ancient Indian medicine, which prevailed in Europe and other parts of the world till about the end of the 18th century. The Greek prefix allos means “other”. So “allo-pathy” is borrowed from “the other”, that is, from the ancient Indian system of medicine—Ayurveda.

Indigo: The English word “Indigo” is derived from the Greek word Indigon, which means “from India”. Proof exits that Indigo was made and used to dye cloth in ancient India.

Prometheus: According to Greek mythology Prometheus was the first fire-giver. He is Pra-manth of the Rig Veda. In the Greek language Prometheus means “fore-sight”. The Vedic Atharvan fire was conceived in the brain (intellect) and actually produced by rubbing (manthana) together two hard substances.

Along with Greek, Vedic Asia Minor was also the cradle of Latin. Probably as a result of the break-up of the Vedic Hittite empire in Mesopotamia, a people later known as Etruscans first appeared in the Etruria region of Italy around 900 BC, from where, during succeeding centuries, they spread to other Italian areas including Latium, the birth-place of Latin. Later, because of the political dominance of the Roman Empire, Latin became the common language for centuries. This in turn spread Sanskrit roots to languages of Europe.

This writer has identified 130 Latin words in the COD that have a Sanskrit base. Also, as pointed out previously, a number of Latin prefixes are derived from Sanskrit.

There is a clear presence of Sanskrit in the Arabic language, albeit in Arabicised forms. This writer has identified 40 such words.

Dr Waradpande says there would be more Sanskrit words in Arabic than in English. In his opinion, there is a close connection between Arabic and Zend, the language of Avesta, which signifies that Arabic should contain more Sanskrit words than English does, as Zend/Avestan is only a phonetic variant of Sanskrit.

Other Languages
Now about the other languages of the world. This writer divided the words he identified into the following global regions: South East, Far East, Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, North America. Then in each region he subdivided the languages into two broad categories—old and current. On so doing, his findings were as follows:

South East
Current languages: Indonesian (number of words 2), Burmese (3), Balinese (4), Javanese (5), Malaysian (16), Thai (51).

Old languages: Busang (Borneo) (5), Lava (Laos) (10).

Far East
Current languages: Mongolian (3), Japanese (8), Chinese (10).

Old languages: Tagalog (Philippines) (2), Maori (New Zealand) (16).

Middle East
Current languages: Pushtu (Afghanistan) (1), Hebrew (4), Khowari (Afghan region) (15), Kafiri (North Afghanistan) (18), Persian (38).

Old languages: Aramaic (Mesopotamia), Assyrian, Babylonian, Mitanni (Mesopotamia) (1 each), Akkadian (Mesopotamia), Khwarezmian (Iran) (2 each), Sumerian (3), Kashshi (Mesopotamia) (4), Hittite (Mesopotamia) (9), Avesta (18).

Central Asia
Current languages: Armenian (1), Khotanese (2), Tibetan (2).

Old languages: Tungus (Siberia), Phrygian (Asia Minor), (1 each), Tocharian (Region north of Black Sea) (3), Parya (Oxus region) (68), Niya Prakrit (Chinese Turkestan) (71).

Current languages: Swanili (East Africa), Amharic (Ethiopia) (2 each).

Old languages: Yoruba (Nigeria) (1), Egyptian (5).

Current languages: Basque (France/ Spain border region), Finnish (Finland) (1 each), Albanian, Lettic (Baltic country Latvia), Maltese (Mediterranean island Malta), Polynesian (Pacific island group), Portuguese (2 each), Danish (Denmark), Rumanian (4 each), Czech, Polish (Poland) (5 each), Dutch (Holland), Lithuanian (Baltic country Lithuania) (6 each), Norse (Norway) (7), Irish (9), Spanish (12), Romany (Roma gypsies of Europe) (23), German (33), Italian, Russian (34 each), French (46).

Old languages: Cornish (Celtic language of Cornwall in Britain), Gaulish (France), Umbrian (Italian region) (1 each), Welsh (Celtic language of Wales in Britain) (4), Gaelic (Scotland) (5), Gothic (Western Europe) (14).

South America
Old languages: Nahautl (1), Qechua (36).

North America
Old languages: Iroquois (1), O´odham (2).

Names of persons, peoples, deities, rivers, mountains, regions and even whole countries that were derived from Sanskrit (some of which are still in use) can also be found all over the world. This writer has identified the following numbers of such names:

South East (92), Far East (24), Middle East (130), Central Asia (15), Africa (22), Europe (58), South America (24), North America (21).

These numerically meagre identifications in this article are clearly inadequate for qualifying it as serious research. However, even this preliminary collation of available information does indicate the global presence of Sanskrit—at times just a trace, at times quite clear. So perhaps some Sanskritists and linguists could team up to establish beyond doubt the truth of a quote with which the writer would like to conclude:

“Sanskrit was the original language of the earth.”

(Quoted in Indian antiquities, Vol. IV; Ed. Thomas Maurice)
(Digest of Sanskrit Abroad! An International Glossary of Sanskrit-based Words in 80 Languages around the World, compiled and edited by the author, and currently under print.)


Blogger MoinKhan said...

1- Manu=Ma(mahan)+Nu(Noah)= Nuh (in Arabic)
2- Hawwavati=Hawwa (in Arabic)
3- Saraswati= Sara (in Arabic)
4- Ahmet= Ahmed (in Arabic)
5- Mahamed= Mohammed (in Arabic)
6- Becca= Becca (in Arabic)
7- Vishnu= Vish (world)+nu (goto 1)
8-Brahma= Abrahm (in Arabic)(put last letter in the first)
9- Ma= am (in arabic)
10- Pa= ap=ab (in arabic)

9:36 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

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7:55 PM  

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