Saturday, 10 September 2016


One of the most frustrating issues with the Old Testament and the Bible is the unknown etymology and the unknown meanings of the names of protagonists as well as the names of the most important places, rivers and mountains that occur in these texts. Unlike the Vedic literature, where for the most part the meanings of names, their etymology and sources are crystal clear, the Old and the New Testaments provide no clear answers to such questions.

Says Edward Pococke in his book 'India in Greece' (1852) - "Let it be granted that the names given to mountains, rivers and towns have some meaning. Let it be granted that the language of the native name-givers will explain the meaning."

Why is it then that Aramaic, the original language of the Bible, is unable to explain the meaning of the names of the rivers and towns, places and protagonists. In fact why is that these words do not directly exist in the Aramaic dictionary at all. It is quite evident therefore that these names are distorted, having travelled into the language from foreign sources; the Aramaic writers merely recording the events of a distant land rather than the history of their native geographical arena. 

For example, the etymology of the name 'Eden' is unknown. The name Eden is equated with 'delightful place', only because in the Genesis Eden is described as a 'delightful place somewhere in the east'.

Traditionally, the favored derivation of the name 'Eden'
was from the Akkadian edinnuEdinnu is itself derived from a Sumerian word meaning 'plain' or 'steppe'. 
 In Sanskrit 'edhini' (एधिनि) simply means 'earth' - and probably best fits into the meaning of the verse. 

Genesis 2:10-12 states, "A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.” In spite of a lot of conjecture the meanings of the names Eden, Pishon and Havilah are unknown, so is their location. What is known is that there is no location in the vicinity of either Canaan or Mesopotamia which is the source of four river systems or even four rivers. Also there is no known place in Canaan or Mesopotamia that fits in with the paradisical beauty of Eden.

Because the Genesis states that Eden was somewhere in the east, many historians have looked towards the east for a site and civilization that fits the description in the Genesis in a more apt manner. 

In his book, the Antiquities of the Jews, Roman-Jewish scholar Flavius Josephus (37 - 100 AD) stated that the unidentified river Pishon was either the Indus river or the Ganges, while the Gihon was the Nile.

The researchers of the Asiatic Journal had a similar view. In Vol 8 of the Journal published in 1819 this matter is dealt with in detail in the context of the origins of the Chinese civilization. It states, "The river Indus which constitutes the western boundary of India within the Ganges, may probably answer to the Pison river which is said to encompass the whole land of Havilah, or India."

Again referring to the gold of the land the author states, "The gold-sand washed by rivers from the sides of mountains is likely to be the specimen of the metal first discovered in the primitive ages anterior to the art of working mines; and as the provisions of nature seem to have been pre-adjusted to the growth in the knowledge of mankind and the progress of invention, it is reasonable to suppose that the rivers of India, many of which in Sanscrit bear the epithet of golden-armed, were richer formerly in gold dust than they are now, though many of the streams from the Himalaya still afford it in some degree."

In her book 'Origins of Modern Witchcraft: The Evolution of a World Religion' author Ann Moura Aoumiel states, "In Genesis, the land of Havilah, where the gold is, through which the main river of Eden flows, is a reference that definitely fits the irrigated farmlands and the legendary wealth of the Indus Valley. One of the great Indus cities has a name evocative of the strange name (Havilah) used in the Bible - Harappa. India's rivers provide 90% of the total gold production in India today, so that just when the Genesis was written, these are rivers of gold. When we consider the theory of consonantal shift, called Grimm's Law (1819), with the softening of the consonants over time and the systematic changes in words moving from one language to another, the development of Havilah from Harappa is easy to see...".

However it is also true that Harappa's ancient name was not Harappa - and is probably a distortion of an ancient Sanskritical name such as 'Hara-Apa' ,i.e., 'Hara's river' or 'Hara-rupa' or 'having the form of Hara'. So the name Havilah must arise from some other name, which is discussed ahead.

Gihon, the second of the four Biblical rivers, that supposedly encompasses Ethiopia has been interpreted as the White Nile. But neither the White Nile, nor the Red sea encompasses Ethiopia. Ann Moura Auomiel states the Gihon is "more likely to have bordered Kashmir...". She further adds that when the Bible states that the Gihon encompassed the land of Cush, " was referring to the passes of the Kush", or the mountain passes of the Hindu-Kush range as they are called today. In Sanskrit 'Gahan' (गहन) means 'deep' or 'depth'.

The third river mentioned in the verse is the Hiddekel and is equated with the TigrisMatthew G. Easton,(1823–1894) a Scottish Presbyterian preacher states in Easton's Bible dictionary,"Hiddekel was called by the Accadians id Idikla; i.e., 'the river of Idikla', the third of the four rivers of Paradise (Gen. 2:14)." many writers have assumed that the Hiddekel is the Tigris which is linked to the word 'tiger' equated with 'rapid'. In any case the word 'tiger' is derived from the Sanskrit 'vyagra' also meaning 'tiger'.

But looking at the names Eden and Heddekel, or Idikla through the Sanskrit lens, one finds that Eden and Idikla might be related. The Sanskrit 'edhini' (एधिनि) and 'idika' (इडिका) both mean 'earth' and are cognates of Eden and Idikla. 

The fourth river is the 'Phrath' and has been equated with the Euphrates.The Babylonians and Assyrians called Euphrates 'Su-Purattu'. Fausset's Bible dictionary states that in the word Euphrates, the first syllable Eu, is derived from the Sanskrit Su (सु) meaning 'good'. 

Edward Pococke states in his book 'India in Greece' that the name Euphrates is a distortion of 'Su-Bharata' which changed into 'Su-Purattu', hence the Babylonian and Assyrian name. 'Bharat' (भरत्) is the name of ancient Indian king after which India was named 'Bharata' (भारत). Bharata is known to have extended his empire into Central Asia right up to the Mediterranean.

Vedic author and scholor Vinay Vaidya states, " 'Euphrates' could be seen as 'avaprathas' (अवप्रथस्) of Sanskrit, 'ava' (अव) which means 'low', 'prathas' (प्रथस्) means flows, follows, moves. This is ...after careful treatment according to the Laws and rules of Sanskrit structure and grammar and in the light of Vedic support, with proper investigation."

Once again the author of the article "On the Origin of Chinese nation", published in Vol 8 of the Asiatic Journal states, "The country called Eden must mean some part of India celebrated as the garden of the world, situated amongst the finest rivers and abounding with everything rich and luxuriant." 

About the location of Havilah, Tse Tsan-tai (1872-1938) one of the earliest Chinese revolutionaries of the late Qing Dynasty wrote in his book named 'The Creation, the Garden of Eden and the Origin of the Chinese', published in 1914, that based on the geographical description in the Bible it is evident that the Garden of Eden was located in China and that Havilah was India. Here is a map from his book: 

Chines author Tese Tsan-tai identified Havilah as India , the rivers of Himalayas as the Biblical rivers and Eden some where in the Himalayas

Though India was never known as Havilah it was known as the land of Himalaya. If the four major river systems of the Himalaya are the rivers of the Bible, three can be identified as the Indus, Bramhaputra and the Ganges which all rise in the Himalaya. The Ganges and the Bramhaputra fall into the Bay of Bengal forming the largest delta in the word. The Indus falls into the Arabian Sea. The Indus, Bramhaputra and the Ganges, in a way surround the Indian peninsula as they fall into the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. For a little more about the river Pishon click here.
The land of Himalaya may be the 'Havilah' mentioned in the Bible.
The three river systems of Indus, Bramhaputra and the Ganges fall into the
 Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal which then surround the India Peninsula
to make the fourth water body.

Thus the Pishon that surrounds the land of Havilah or Himalaya, is the coming together of the waters of the three major river systems that arise in the Himalayas. The name Himalaya can very easily distort into Havilah if the 'm' consonant changes to 'v'. The Garden of Eden then is a paradisical region inthe Himalayas, probably Kailasha and Mansarover, now in China.

It is interesting that many of the modern languages have been traced back to Indo-European roots of Sanskrit, but history is not yet ready to address the religious heritage of various cultures around the world which too along with the languages are embedded in Vedic culture and language of Sanskrit.

Suggested Readings:
1. Origins of Modern Witchcraft: The Evoloution of a World Religion by Ann Moura Aoumiel
2. Heritage of Herappa Vol 1 by Lakshmi Chatterjee

3. Journal of Asiatic Researches Vol 8

Wednesday, 24 August 2016


In his book, the Antiquities of the Jews, Roman-Jewish scholar Flavius Josephus (37 - 100 AD),  in his description of the four rivers of the Bible, the Pishon, Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates, stated that the unidentified river Pishon was either the Indus river or the Ganges, while the Gihon was the Nile. 

Though it is often assumed that the Garden and Eden are the same place, many rabbis hold the view that the verse which states ,".. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden. From there it divided and became four major rivers" suggests that the garden and Eden are two different places.

The Genesis further states in Verse 2:11, "…The name of the first is Pishon, the one that winds through the whole land of Havilah, where the gold is. And the gold of that land is good. There is bdellium and the onyx stone. The name of the second river is Gihon, the one that winds through the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Hiddekel, the one that flows east of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Perat."

Josephus interpretation is quoted here, " Now the garden was watered by one river, which ran round about the whole earth, and was parted into four parts. And Phison, which denotes a multitude, running into India, makes its exit into the sea, and is by the Greeks called Ganges.... And Geon runs through Egypt, and denotes what arises from the east, which the Greeks call Nile".

In his book Atlantis the Final Solution: A Scientific History of Humanity, author Zia Abbas states, " ... the most important point about the above verse is that it tells that in Havilah, onyx stone was found, onyx is a marble like stone which is only found in present day Pakistan ... Also the Indian subcontinent ...has been known for thousands of years, as a place where good quality gold is found. Many invaders and conquerors had only attacked India for the gold...". 

On the Indus, close to Haripur in present day Pakistan, stands a town by the name Havelian which some say may be the Havilah that the Genesis refers to. The bdellium mentioned in the verse is the guggul tree which grows commonly in the Indian sub-continent.

Steven J. Gold states in his book 'Yoga and Judaism', "...There's an opinion that the one (river) called Pishon, was the Ganges. These are not far-out New Age interpretations, this is coming from traditional Jewish commentators. The Pishon/Ganges surrounded the land of Havilah, believed to be a reference to India. Another fascinating description in the same section referring to the Pishon/Ganges and Havilah/India, refers to Havilah as land of good gold, 'bedolach' and 'shoham' stone. Jumping ahead to Exodus .....  there is a lot of detail about the vestments of the High priests. Part of the vestments was a breast plate.... There were many items on the breast plate including stones representing each of the twelve tribes, and a stone for every letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The same shoham stones mentioned as coming from the land of Havilah/India in Genesis were included on the breast plate and the two shoulder straps attached to it...".

The priest's breast plate was not only ornamental,  it was functional. It served as an oracle and would spell out the answers that the priest could gauge by studying the manner in which the Indian shoham stones on the breast plate would light up.

Steven Gold links the word 'shoham' to the Sanskrit 'soham' and links it to the soham mantra which means , "That I am,  I am that." He says, "Shoham certainly sounds like soham.  In fact in Biblical Hebrew, the same consonants would be used for the two words, with the only difference being the placement of a dot above the first letter... ".

The Abarim Publications site, which has published thousands of articles on Bible study from all kinds of angles but mostly from a scientific point of view states, "Many enthusiasts have wondered where the Garden of Eden might have been located, and since the Bible mentions that two of its rivers were the mighty Tigris of Assyria and Euphrates of Babylon (Genesis 2:14), it was at some point concluded that Paradise must have been in Mesopotamia. But this assumption is obviously based on an error, because one of the other two Paradisal rivers (even the first or oldest two) flows through Africa, namely the Gihon, which flows around the whole land of Cush, which is Nubia (Genesis 2:13). The fourth (or rather the first or oldest) is the Pishon, which flows around Havilah. Where Havilah might have been is unclear, but the Pishon may very well have been the Indus River".

There is no known etymology of Pishon, though in Hebrew the name Pishon could be derived from פוש (push) meaning to spring about or to be scattered. In Sanskrit the closest cognates are Ishan (इषन्) meaning 'pouring out'. The name Pishon is interpreted as "the great effusion", the river is described as a "reminder of God's abounding grace". In Sanskrit, a cognate of Pishon is 'poshin' (पोषिन्) which means 'nurturing' which is the equivalent of 'God's abounding grace'.

About the location of Havilah, Tse Tsan-tai (1872-1938) one of the earliest Chinese revolutionaries of the late Qing Dynasty wrote in his book named 'The Creation, the Garden of Eden and the Origin of the Chinese', published in 1914 that based on the geographical description in the Bible it is evident that the Garden of Eden was located in China and that Havilah was India. Here is a map from his book: .

According to Chinese scholar Tse Tsan-tai the land of Havilah is India

And there is much truth in what Tse Tsan-tai claimed.                                                                                          ...... continued here.

Suggested Readings:
1. Judaism and Yoga by Steven J. Gold
2. Abarim Publications

Tuesday, 2 August 2016


On a map of ancient Israel (then called Caanan),  the existence of a Biblical town by the name Beth-Jeshimoth, which appears as Beth-Jeshibeth in other sources raises the question of the nature of the links between the Indian and Caananitecivilizations.

The name Jeshimoth is translated as 'Place of deserts'. It is described in the Old Testament as the last camping site of the Israelites before they crossed the river Jordon near the North East end of the Dead Sea also referred to as the Salt Sea. The camp-site extended up to a place called 

The word Beth means 'house' or 'dwelling' in Hebrew. But there is much debate on meanings of the names of sacred towns such as Bethlehem. Known as Bayt Lahm in Arabic the name literally means 'House of Meat'. In Hebrew the town is known as Bet Lehem which means 'House of Bread'.

Bethlehem is a sacred site.The Hebrew Bible identifies Bethlehem as the city of David. The New Testament identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus. Therefore, 'House of Bread' or 'House of Meat' does not do the name Bethlehem much justice. 

A historical reference to Bethlehem appears in the Amarna Letters (c.1400 BC) where Bethlehem is known as Bit-Lahmi . The proximity of the name Bethlehem to Bit-Lahmi indicates that this was a settlement of the Canaanites, a pre-Jewish people who lived in Israel. 

In his book 'The uttermost part of the Earth: a Guide to places in the Bible', Richard R Losch traces the name Bit Lahmi  of the Amarna Letters to Lachmo, the Akkadian god of fertility. The Akkadian (Mesopotamian region) civilization flourished around 3000 BC. Lachomo, the Akkadian God was worshiped by the Canaanites as Lachma. They also worshipped Goddess Lachama as his wife. 

About 1000 years before the Hebrews arrived in Israel, the Cannanites erected a temple to worship the god on the hill now known as the Hill of the Nativity in the town of Beit Lachama. Beit Lachama was fertile and had a good water supply. When the Jews came in they would naturally not worship the Caanan god Lachma and the distortion of interpretations began.  

William F. Albright, an American archaeologist  and Biblical Scholar states in his research that, to the Cannaites Beit Lachma meant 'Temple of the God Lakhmu', which later distorted to 'House of Bread' in Hebrew & Aramaic and to 'House of Meat' in Arabic. The etymology of Lakhmu and why the God had that name is unknown. His female counterpart was known as Lachama.

There are two Vedic Gods or figures that have names close to Cannanite God Lachmu and Goddess Lachama. In the Indian scriptures two well known names are - 1. the Goddess Laksmi (लक्ष्मी) - the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and 2. the brother of Sri Rama whose name was Lakshmana (लक्ष्मण). 'Lakshmi' (लक्ष्मी) in Sanskrit means 'wealth', 'fortune' or a 'mark'. 'Lakshman' (लक्ष्मण) means 'lucky' or 'fortunate'.

If the Canaanite name Beit Lachma is linked in anyway to Lakshmana or Lakshmi, then it is possible that the word Jeshibeth may be somehow be related to Joshimath. As the Hebrew 'beth', so the Sanskrit 'math' (मठ्). Both mean dwelling. In fact the equivalent of Sanskrit 'math' is 'sacred dwelling'. 

This may sound unconvincing at first, but the ancient map of Israel also has the following Sanskritic names on it: Rivers Kishon and Narabata, the towns of Ramah and Ramathiam and Kanah, the town of Jamnia on a river and the Jamnia Harbour and so on..

Caanan is referred to in the Amarna Letters as 'Kinahhu', while other sources of the Egyptian New Kingdom mention numerous military campaigns conducted in a place called 'Ka-na-na' - all these ancient names are cognates to the name 'Kanha' (कान्हा) - the name of Sri Krishna who was also known as 'Kanan' (कानन) and 'Kishen' (किशन). The existence of a river Jamnia in Caanan, the name a close cognate of Yamuna or the Jamuna therefore is no surprise. 

On the map of  Caananite Israel, is the river Jamnia,
a Jamnia town and a Jamnia Harbour.

On the map of Israel are the towns of  Narbata on River Narbata,
the towns of Tirathana, Rathamin and Mahanayim. There
is a Gitta too. 
One of the largest rivers in Israel, is known as the Kishon (also called Kishen).The Kishon flows in the region known as Phoenicia. In the same province are located the towns of 'Ramah' and 'Kanah'. Then there is the town of 'Ramathiam' in the province of Judea - and yet another town by the name of 'Ramah' in Judea which is different from the one located in Phoenicia.  See map at the bottom.

Edward Pococke, in his book 'India in Greece' states that the Cannanites were the people of Kanha, or Krishna, the Vedic God, who after the devastation of the Mahabharata war moved westwards from India. There is much authenticity in this argument and the Jewish Encyclopedia attests to this fact.

The posture of a Cannnite (pre Jewish Israel) God seated on the left
shows a close link to Indian sculpture.

Cannanite Goddess of Fertility -
There is much confusion about
the names (God) Lachma and its female
form (Goddess)  Lachama.

The Cannanite Goddess Astrate
depicted here with snakes in her hands

and skulls under her feet,
much like the Vedic Goddess Kali.

Here is a Canaanite Goddess
wearing a 'tilak' on her forehead.

The 'Sea of Galilee' is also known as Kinneret or Lake Gennesaret. In Sanskrit, 'sara' (सर) means 'lake', 'sarat' (सरत्) means 'flowing', and 'sarita' (सरित्) means 'river'. The word 'ghanasara' (घनसार) means 'water' - the 'ghana' here indicating 'deep' or 'immense' amount of water.

The Jewish Encyclopedia, referring to the writing of Clearchus of Soli, who was the disciple of Aristotle and wrote extensively around 320 BC on eastern cultures, states that Aristotle was of the view that the Hebrews were descendants of the Indian philosophers.

Titus Flavius Josephus was a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer, who was born in Jerusalem. In his works, Josephus quotes the writings of Clearchus of Soli. He relates the story of a dialogue between Aristole and a Jewish scholar. He quotes Clearchus thus, "In his first book on Sleep he relates of Aristotle, his master, that he had a discourse with a Jew; and his own account was that what this Jew said merited admiration...... To speak of the race first, the man was a Jew by birth and came from Cœlesyria [Palestine]. These Jews are derived from the philosophers of India. In India the philosophers call themselves Kalani, and in Syria Jews, taking their name from the country they inhabit ... the name of their capital is rather difficult to pronounce: they call it Jerusalem". For more on this click here.

Godfrey Higgins states in his book 'Anacalpysis', "Megasthenes, who was sent to India by Seleucus Nicator, about 300 years before Christ, and whose accounts are every day acquiring additional credit, says that the Jews 'were an Indian tribe called Kalani...".

Look for the River Kishon just north of Mt. Carmel and many towns named Ramah.

Suggested Readings:
1. Who was Abraham? 
2. The Phoenicians - Global Navigators
3. Encyclopedia of Ancient Dieties
4. Jewish Encyclopedia
5. The Cottage Bible - Volume 2 edited by Thomas Williams
6. A Study in Oriental History by Fredrick Carl Eiselen

Sunday, 10 July 2016


A commonly accepted source of the name Senegal is 'sunu gaal' meaning 'our canoe' in the local Wolof language. It is said that the name resulted from a miscommunication between the 15th-century Portuguese sailors and Wolof fishermen. But Senegal - the name, predates 15th century.

A strong challenge to the above theory is that 'Senegal' derives from 'Singhanah', a city described by the Arab historian al-Bakri in 1068. In his map the town of Singhanah is shown to be located by the mouth of the Senegal River, the city straddling both banks of the river Senegal. (The map belongs to a time when it was believed that the river Senegal was connected to Niger). 

Western Nile (Senegal-Niger River) according to al-Bakri (1068). Al-Bakri (c. 1014–1094) was an Andalusian Muslim geographer and historian.

But then what does 'Singhanah' mean! Edward Pococke states in his book 'India in Greece', " Let it be granted that the names given to rivers, mountains and towns have a meaning, let it be granted that the language of the name-givers expressed that meaning, let it be granted that the language of the name-giver will explain that meaning...". So who named the town on al-Bakri's map Singhanah, in what language, and what meaning did it have in that language. There are no answers to any of these questions.

Surprisingly, many of the names on al-Bakri's map are Sanskritic. Ghanah and Singhanah have possibly Sanskrit origins. There are many cognates to these words in Sanskrit. Ghana (घन ) means 'complete', 'profound' , 'compact' or 'fortunate'. Sanghanah (सङ्घना) means 'condensation of water'. 

Sangha (सङ्घ) means 'union' or 'association' and is linked to Buddhism - an association of monks is known as 'sangha'. Edward Pococke was of the view that Buddhist monks and Buddhists who had left India in droves around 2000 years back, carried their culture and language with them, travelled across Western Asia, Europe and Africa, and had a compelling influence on the local inhabitants and tribes. Buddhist settlements had sprung up in many parts of Europe and Africa which explains Indian-Sanskritic-Buddhists names in these parts of the world. Examples - there is the town of Bihar in Hungary, Gaya in Nigeria, another Gaya - in Niger, a Trikala in Greece, a Sangam in Sierra Leone; the towns of Kanika- Yamina- Gangu- Calimana on the river Niger and so on.... 

Western Nile (Senegal-Niger River) according to Muhammad al-Idrisi (1154) was a Muslim geographer, cartographer and Egyptologist who lived in Palermo, Sicily at the court of King Roger II. Muhammed al-Idrisi was born in Ceuta, then belonging to the Moroccan Almoravids.

Any of the names in the al-Idrisi's map above can be exact Sanskrit words with a mild tweaking, but that is not the intent. The question still remains what exactly do the names mean in the local language. The fact remains that these names have no meaning without considerable tweaking in the Wolof and Mande group of languages either. 

But Sanskrit can explain some of these names without any tweaking. Sama-khanda which appears on both the maps above, has the meaning of 'even land'; another town on the river is named Ghanah (घन), Sanskrit for 'thick' or 'cloud', alternatively 'ghaNa' (गण) or 'tribe' etc.

The argument is not that the names have a meaning in Sanskrit. The question is why do these names not have a meaning in the local languages.

The Senegal was also known as the 'Sanaga'. There is  another river in Africa (in Cameroon) known as the 'Sanaga'. Two rivers, Djerem River and Lom River unite to make this river. As stated above 'Sangha' is Sanskrit for 'union'. Djerem, a cognate of 'jharim' means 'river' in Sanskrit. 

Thursday, 16 June 2016


In 'The New London Universal Gazetteer, Or Alphabetical Geography of the World' (1826), Jedidiah Morse* listed the name Sangama, a river in Africa. He stated simply without much detail, "Sangama - A river of Africa which falls into the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Formosa". Cape Formosa is located in the territories of Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau on the north-western coast of Africa.

*Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826) was a notable geographer whose textbooks became a staple for students in the United States. He was the father of telegraphy pioneer and painter Samuel F. B. Morse, and his textbooks earned him the sobriquet of "father of American geography."

 Jedidiah Morse listed the name 'Sangama' in
 'The New London Universal Gazetteer,
Or Alphabetical Geography of the World' (1826)

Historiographer to the British crown, James Playfair (1738-1819), had in the year 1814 detailed the geography of the rivers of Nigeria in the Sixth Volume of 'System of Geography - Ancient and Modern'. About the geography of Sierra Leone western coast and what was then called Cape Formosa he wrote, "From the mouth of the Forcado river, a flat and wooded coast reaches southwards upward of 50 leagues to Cape Formosa. It is intersected by many rivers the principal of which are Ramos, or Zamos, and Dodo. Cape Formosa is a low point of land shaded with trees, the view of which from the sea is delightful. A few leagues northward are the village and river of Sangama." 

In the satellite pictures of today, Sangama appears as Sengama and is situated on a river by the same name in Sierra Leone, close to Grand Cape Mount in Liberia.

Sengama  town on Sengama River in Sierra Leone
as it falls into the Atlantic.

The river is also sometimes referred to as the Sangana. Here is a satellite picture from 2005 of the region that was at the time called Cape Formosa, first by the Portuguese and later when it was explored by the British.

Cape Formosa and Sangana (Sangama) river.

Sangama appears once again in Africa, there is a town by the name Sangama in Nigeria, 3600 km away from the Sangama that Jedidiah Morse had written about. 

Sangama town in Nigeria

Sangama is located in the Rivers State, one of the 36 states of Nigeria. The state has innumerable rivers, which fall into the Atlantic Ocean. The name Sangama has no meaning in the local languages. Its closest cognate is 'sangam' (सङ्गम्), a Sanskrit word meaning 'meeting' especially in the context of 'meeting of rivers'. 

A 1000 km away on the northern end of Nigeria is the city of Gaya - historically it served as an important terminus of a migratory corridor through which there was an influx of immigrating peoples especially from Eastern Sudan and the Middle East. 

900 km away westward is another Gaya, this one is right on the banks of the River Niger. There are many Indic names that occur on the river Niger such as the towns of Yamina, Gangu, Kanika and Kalimana.  

Gaya (left) on the River Niger in the country by the same name, and
900 km away Gaya in Nigeria.

Kanika, Yamina, Gangu, Calimana
Scottish Explorer Mungo Park's map of survey of River Niger
 (Exploration in the years 1795 - 1805)

Suggested Links:

1. Atlantic Navigator (1854) By Anonym Anonym
2. The New London University Gazeetteer by Jediadiah Morse
3. System of Geography: Ancient and Modern by James Playfair

Friday, 10 June 2016


In a letter written by Zachary Macaulay, dated 6th April 1815, addressed to Lord Hobart, then one of British Government's Principal Secretary's of State, on the subject regarding the means of establishing commercial intercourse between the Western coast of Africa and the river Niger, Macaulay identifies the source of the river Niger at a place called Sankari, a place that the British had not yet been able to access because of the un-navigable waters of the Niger.

Zachary Macaulay was a statistician, one of the founders of London University and of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, an antislavery activist, and Governor of Sierra Leone (from 1794 to 1799), the British colony for freed slaves.

Macaulay states in this letter, "... the direct distance from Cape Mesurado to Sankari, the supposed source of the Niger, is about 300 miles. If the River Mesurado be really navigable by boats to the extent which is commonly reported, it would considerably diminish that distance, but it is to be observed that there is perhaps no part of Africa less known that which lies between Cape Mesurado and Sankari....". 
The coordinates of Sankari were given roughly at 10° N, 6° W in the records of the time. 

He then speaks of the River Sierra Leone and states, "... The only channel of communication which remains to be
particularly considered, is the river Sierra Leone. This river is navigable about 50 miles above the company's settlement to a place called Port Logo. The distance from Port Logo to Teembo is about 120 miles and from Teembo to Sankari, the supposed source of the Niger, about 250: in all about 370 miles."

The town of Sankari, sometimes referred to as Sankara, was also referred to by another British explorer, Major Dixon Denham (1786-1828) w
ho wrote in his 'Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa', "Before sunrise the tents were struck and we were in motion... Barca Gana who commanded the sheikh's people .... was a native of a town called Sankara." He further adds, " ... As I have before said the morning of the 18th saw me riding by the side of Barca Gana, in full march for Mandara....".

So we have Shiva's other name, Sankara, as the name of the source of one of the largest rivers of Africa, close to a place called Mandara which happens to be a 200 km mountai
n range extending from the coordinate 9.3°N 12.8°  to (11.0°N 13.9°E. (The source of Niger is today placed at 9.5° N, 10° W, not too far from Sankari.) 

The Sanskrit link to the names Niger and Nigeria were already discussed in a previous post the gist of which is posted here. In his writings, Ptolemy (90-168 AD), a Greco-Egyptian writer, mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet mentioned two rivers in the desert of NIger, one by the name 'Gir' and farther south, the 'Ni-Gir'. Roman historian, Suetonius (69-122 AD) wrote that the name 'gir' originates from 'gher', which in the Bereber language, spoken in Morocco and Algeria, means 

But it is obvious that the word 'gir' or 
'gher' are both distortions of the same Sanskrit word that appears in the names of many rivers and water-bodies around the word. The word is 'jhara' (झर), and appears in the names of the river 'Jordon' in the country by the same name, the 'Jari' which is the northern tributary of the River Amazon, River Jara in Melbourne, the Jara River (a tributary of the Susita River) in Romania, and Lake Jara in New Mexico - not to mention many more in India and Nepal. In Sanskrit the word 'jhara' (झर) is a 'waterfall' or any 'water body', and 'jhari' (झरी) means 'river'.

One of the ancient names of Niger is 'Joliba' which it is said translates as the great river, ba meaning great in the local tradition, and 'joli' means 'river;  but then 'joli' is the same as the Sanskrit 'jala' (जल) meaning 'water'. It may be stated here that one of the ancient names of Volga was 'Jilaga'. Here too the 'jila' may be a distortion of 'jala'. For more about the Volga click here.

In his book Oriental Fragments, Edward Moor (1771-1848) lists the names of rivers and towns that many European explorers had mentioned in their travelogues about Africa. The names include Jonakakonda, Tendikonda, Kootakunda, Barraconda, Seesekund, Tandacunda, Fatteconda and Mauraconda and many many more.  He then identifies and equates them with towns bearing the same names in southern parts of India. 
To read more about these names click here.

Of these names Edward Moor says, "With a little of this licence, and it may be and is allowed to others, as well as to distressed etymologists, let us try to turn Park's names into Hindi. Jonakakonda is Janeka-kunda or the hill of Janeka..". There are many such examples including Kootakunda. The Sanskrit 'kUta' (कूट) means 'dwelling' or a fort, 'kuta' (कुट) means 'mountain'. 'Kunda' is  Sanskrit for 'pool'  and Telegu for 'mountain'. 'Khanda' (खण्ड) means 'part' or 'section' or 'piece'. 

He adds, "Now let me ask any oriental reader if he can peruse these names of places without fancying them taken from some map of India, instead of Africa? Many .... are actually names of Indian places ; and most of them could be easily traced to their several sources in the languages of India, by any one moderately skilled therein. It may be doubted if all France, Germany, Russia, England, and Italy, could furnish so many places with Indian names, as may be gathered from Park's short journeyings in Africa; and from his necessarily meagre map. Very many of these names, be it remembered, and of those which follow, occur in the depths of central Africa ; where, until lately, neither Hindu nor English man was ever seen, or perhaps heard of. Can any one, with a knowledge of East Indian dialects, read them, and deny, or doubt, that a race once inhabited those regions, with whom some of those dialects were current?"

He concludes, "...That the interior, and remote Africans, have to a great geographical extent, been Hindus, I am, from these premises, disposed to suggest : and I expect,
when we shall become better acquainted with those
little known regions, to find my view confirmed by the discovery of Hindu remains, in architecture, excavations, sculptures, inscriptions, or some equally unequivocal evidence, in addition to that of names; Something similar, though not at once so striking and convincing, to what has recently been developed in the interior of Java; and what farther researches may bring to light on Celebes, Borneo, Luconia ; and others of the vast, remote, and little known of the eastern isles — regions as vast and as little known as Africa....".

"I must indulge in a quotation of a passage by my lamented friend Major Rennell, in the conclusion of his account of the map prefixed to Mungo Park's (Mungo Park was the first western explorer to have charted the course of the Niger) last work: — "The hospitality shown by these good people (interior Africans, especially the Mandingo tribe,) to Mr. Park, a destitute and forlorn stranger, raises them very high in the scale of humanity; and I know of no better title to confer on them than that of the Hindus of Africa."

The River Niger is intriguing for an eastern mind. It has towns with names such Yamina, Ganga and Gaya strewn across it. But since their meanings are lost to the local inhabitants,  these, names are slowly vanishing from the map as well, just as the history behind the occurrence of these Sanskritic names on the Niger has long vanished.

Suggested readings: 
1. The story of the Niger
2. Celebrated Travels and Travellers, by Jules Verne
3. Mt. Kesha
4. Journal of an Expedition to Explore the course and the termination of the Niger by Richard. Lander and John Lander
5. The Northern Star or Yorkshire Magazine: Conjectures Concerning the River Niger
6. The Jouranla of a Mission to the Niger by Mungo Park
7. The London Encyclopedia: Niger

Thursday, 19 May 2016


So how close are Sanskrit - the Rig Vedic language of India, and Avestan - the ancient language of Iran and the mother of Persian.

In his book 'Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture', the author Douglas Q. Adams states, "The close similarity of the earliest attested Indo-Iranian languages is clearly evident if we extract several lines from the Avestan hymn to the Iranian god Mitra, and provide it with an inter-linear translation in the language of the Rigveda of ancient India....".

A page from 'Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture by Douglas Adams

Here is a look at Avestan hymn that Douglas Adams is referring to. The Avestan hymn says: "tem amavantem yazatem, surem damohu scviatem, mitram yazai zaotrabayo". It the same as the Sanskrit "tam amavantam yajatam, suram dhamasu savistham, mitram yajai hotrabyah" with a few phonological changes. It means , "this powerful deity, strong among the strongest, Mitra, I offer my libations to...". The Iranian god Mitra is the same as the Rig Vedic god Mitra.

Says Douglas Adams, "'.... Linguistics remark that the similarity between Iranian and Indic is not only one of grammar and general lexicon but even the references to the means of ritual offering in the two languages derive from a common ancestor which speaks for a common cultural background. This common background is also reflected in the sharing of names for rivers and common deities, albeit some of the earlier deities common to both were demonized in the later religious reforms of Zaratustera...".

For example, the Greeks called what is today known as Mazandaran in Iran by the name Hyrcania - a distortion of its earlier name 'Verkana'. The name Verkana is recorded in the inscription of Behistun, dated somewhere between 522 - 468 BC.

The word 'Verkana' is itself a distortion of the Sanskrit 'Vrka' (वृक) which means 'wolf'. The Sanskrit 'Vrka' distorts in Avestan (ancient language of Iran) to 'vehrko', also meaning 'wolf'. Therefore Hyrcania is translated as 'Wolfland'.

But why did the name Verkana change to Mazandaran. And what does Mazandaran mean? The etymology of Mazandaran is traced to Persian mazandaran, literally 'the gate or the valley of the giants'. Persian itself derives from Avestan. In Avestan the word for giant is 'mazainya'. Now Avestan is phonologically very close to Sanskrit and can be easily decoded with it. 'Maza' is a distortion of Sanskrit 'maha' which means huge, large or giant. The Persian 'dara' meaning 'door' is the same as the Sanskrit 'dwar
' with a dropped syllable, also meaning 'door'.

Hence what was once known as 'Verkana', the land where the wolves roa
med, at some point saw the advent of an organized culture, the influence of the Vedic gods, such as Mitra, Varuna and Indra, saw its name change to the more ancient form of Mazendaran.

Thomas Burrow, in his book 'The Indo Aryans' stated that the name Mazandaran contained the name of Indra, he said that 'daran' was a distortion of 'Indra' and that since Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian god is actually 'Asura Mitra', the first part of the name Mazandaran refers to Zoroastrian god Mitra who is the same as the Vedic god Mitra and that the second part of the word had more to do Indra, 
rather than 'dara' or 'door'.

This point has been debated much. Any which way it is fairly clear that at some point Indians descended on what is today known as Iran along with their Indic culture. W
hat is of note is that even before this wave, Sanskrit 'vrika' was already known in Iran, suggesting that the language was universal.

Nevertheless the Indic culture as a part of the Mittani rush, reached Mesopotamia. Burrow states in his book 'The Indo Aryans' that though some Indians moved to Mesopotamia along with the Mittani, a group stayed back in Iran or were already well established in Iran. He was of the view that the many sites with Sanskrit names especially of mountains, rivers and lakes of Iran attest to this fact. More than cities and kingdoms and cities, the mountains, rivers and lakes tend to retain in their ancient names.

The Zagros Mountains for example gets its name from a group of people who came from the sea into Iran. They called themselves  'Sagara' (सागर) or 'sea'. Zagros is distorted 'Sagara'.  That name is undisputabaly Indian. Burrow also says that Lake Urmia, the largest lake in Iran, is named after Sanskrit 'urmi' (ऊर्मि) or 'wave'. This lake has had many names of which the most ancient is Urmia, which translates as 'puddle' in Assyrian. 

Amongst the sites in Iran which seems to have Indic influence is Kurangun, most likely dedicated to Vishnu. Then there is the Ramsar spring. The name says it all. Click here for more details on Kurangun and here for a bit more on Ramsar.

Suggested Links:
1. Encyclopedia of Indo European Culture by Douglas Q. Adams 
2, The Sanskrit Language by Thoms Burrow
3. The Avestan Dictionary
Handbook of classical antiquity: by Richard Nelson Frye
5. A Textbook of Urdu: In the Roman Script by J. Williat