Go Goa

Poolside 1 BHK Apartment in Resort

Siolim, Goa, India
Serene Siolim- Gateway to the pristine beaches of North Goa at Tropical Dreams Resort with Lush green surroundings Ground Floor across the biggest swimming pool in Goa is furnished with SplitAC Ref...
Vacation Rentals in Siolim
Hinduism is the Only Dharma in this multiverse comprising of Science & Quantum Physics.

Josh Schrei helped me understand G-O-D (Generator-Operator-Destroyer) concept of the divine that is so pervasive in the Vedic tradition/experience. Quantum Theology by Diarmuid O'Murchu and Josh Schrei article compliments the spiritual implications of the new physics. Thanks so much Josh Schrei.

Started this blogger in 2006 & pageviews of over 0.622 Million speak of the popularity.

Dhanyabad from Anil Kumar Cheeta

Pages

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Proper Names – 2 (Discourse 17) by Shrii P R Sarkar

Proper Names – 2 (Discourse 17) by Shrii P R Sarkar
-Varna Vijinana

9 October 1983, Calcutta



Up until this point we have been discussing the naming of places and things. A boy named Ádiyta has just danced kaośikii for us. What is the meaning of the name Áditya? In old Sanskrit the word áditya means “one who collects what is due to them”. After the death of a living being their quinquelemental existence – that is, solid, liquid, luminous, aerial, ethereal – these five factors collect what is due to them. The stars, planets, atoms and molecules, these luminaries and particles are an aggregate of twelve factors. Since each one of them collects what is due to them they are called “the twelve ádityas”.



Now this garland of rajaniigandhá [tuberose] that you see here – how did this flower get its name? Rabindranath has written in one of his poems: rájár kánane phut́eche vakul-párul-rajaniigandhá [vakul, párul and rajaniigandhá flowers have blossomed in the king’s garden]. However during the time in history depicted in this poem, that is, during the time of Magadh’s King Bimbisar, there was no such rajaniigandhá flower in India. It was only four hundred and fifty years ago that the Portuguese first brought the rajaniigandhá from Mexico and planted it in the garden of their Bandel church. The original home of this flower was Central American Mexico. Its English name is “tuberose”. Like the shuili flower, the tuberose is full of fragrant pollen. During the day the breeze becomes light in the heat of the sun. As a result it cannot easily carry the fragrant pollen of the rajaniigandhá. But during the night the breeze becomes strong and easily carries the scent; for this reason the tuberose brought by the Portuguese was given the name rajaniigandhá [literally: night-scent] in Bengali. One can also smell the rajaniigandhá during cloudy days and solar eclipses.



Anyhow, last week I was talking about the names of places. The giving of Sanskrit names is not only confined to India; in many countries outside India the giving of names shows the influence of Sanskrit. At one time the Sanskrit language was used throughout the vast region extending from southern Russia all the way to Suvarńadviipa. The southern region of Russia – what is today Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan – used to be called Shákadviipa. And the combined name of India and Afghanistan at that time was Jambudviipa, You must have heard the mantra jambudviipe bháratakhańd́e. Of course at that time Afghanistan was part of India. The name for Burma and all of southeast Asia was Suvarńadviipa. Sanskrit is still used to speak with the king of Thailand, however it is pronounced differently. For example, in Thailand ja is pronounced like d́a and ńa is pronounced like d́ha, and ya and ya [with dot] are both pronounced like ya [ja]. The name of the kingdom of Kamboja is pronounced nowadays Kambod́iyá by the people. At that time the kingdom of Kamboja was much larger than the present-day Cambodia. At one time there was a huge Shiva temple there called Ounkárabhat́t́a. Its modern name is Ounkár Bhát́. Now the temple has been practically ruined.



When I was in Thailand my driver’s name was Krśd́had́ás; that is, his real name was Krśńadás. But since ńa is pronounced like d́ha in the Thai style of pronunciation, if you asked the driver’s name he would reply Krśd́had́ás.



One also sees the influence of Sanskrit pronunciation in Indonesia. One famous city in Indonesia is Jakarta. Its Sanskrit name in the past was Yogyakarttá. Thus, according to the style of pronunciation there, it became Yogayákarttá, Jakarta for short.



The Sanskrit name for the land we now call Java is Yavadviipa. Its capital was Vátávipura. The modern name Batavia comes from this Vátávipura. When the Dutch [olandáj] came to India in the last part of the Mughal era, they brought a variety of lemon with them from Vátáviipura which they first planted in the present-day city of Chinsura [Cuncŕo].(1) The Dutch had a factory in Chinsura and they christened the city “Chinsura”. The modern Dutch pronunciation was syánsurá and in Bengali it became cuncuŕá, cuncŕo in spoken Bengali. When I was staying in Holland I spoke with a few scholars about Cuncŕo and I found that none of them were conversant with Cuncŕo. One of them said: “I have never heard anything in the history about Cuncŕo but the word cuncŕo is from our language.” I have seen a place in Cuncŕo called “Dutch Villa”.



The Dutch imported into this country a type of legume from Yavadviipa similar to peas [karáishunt́i]. In Calcutta Bengali we call mat́arshunt́i [peas] karáishunt́i. Although they are not as good as regular peas for making dál, they are quite tasty when eaten fresh in the pod. At one time the village people of Hooghly District used to love to eat these pods with puffed rice. They used to cultivate them as well. They named them oŕandá shunt́i (that is, “Dutch peas”). They look somewhat like regular peas.



The Batavia lemon [pomelo] that I was talking about is a well-known name in Bengal nowadays. It does not have any true Sanskrit name, however the Sanskrit name for the somewhat smaller, sweet and sour lemon that was already common in this country was mahálauṋga. Nowadays the mahálauṋga has gotten lost in the crowd of Batavia lemons. The Sanskrit name of the lemon that is a little smaller than the mahálauṋga and a little elongated, and which was already in this country is jambiira; its modern popular name is jámir or jámerii or jamburá. The jambiira did not come from outside India. It has also gotten lost nowadays in the crowd of Batavia lemons. Keep in mind that although the Batavia lemon came to this country from Java, it is native to all of Southeast Asia, that is, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines (this country’s Sanskrit name is Mahárliká or Mahárliińá). The Sanskrit name of the sweet and juicy lemon called maosambii in Urdu and sharvatii in Bengali is shiitanimbu; it is smaller than the jambiira and quite plentiful in this country. Nowadays the name maosambii is more common in Bengali, however it would not be right to forget the Bengali name, sharvatii nebu. This sharvatii nebu belongs to the nebu family, not the kamalá family. Nebu in English is “lemon”; in Sanskrit it is nimbu; in Hindi niimbu; in Angika nemu; and in Bengali nebu – some people mistakenly say lebu. Kamalá in English is “orange”. In Sanskrit it is kamalá or nágarauṋga, in Urdu náráungi, in Marathi sántará and in Bengali kamalá. The main difference between the nebu family (sharvatii or sweet lemon, jambiira, mahálauṋga, Batavi or lemon pomelo, páti, kágjii, etc.) and the kamalá family (orange – Sanskrit nágarauṋga group) is that the rind of the nebu is not easily removed. It is cut with a knife or chopper. But the skin of the kamalá family (Sylheti kamalá, Assam kamalá, Meghalay kamalá, Darjeeling kamalá, Nagpuri kamalá or Khokákamalá, gonŕá nebu, gonŕá kamalá, etc.) is easily peeled and the sections inside come apart. The keno nebu, quite common nowadays, is a mix between the lemon and orange families. In those days India was producing less sugar so it used to be imported from Batavia in Indonesia. Hence the colloquial name for sugar [cini] among the people became bát́á cini (during our young days bát́á cini and Barishal’s bálám rice were very common in Calcutta).



It is said in the Thai folk tales that Rarh’s crown prince, Sahasrarabáhu, defeated Thailand and gave it the name Shyámadesha. The land is very green and lush so the name Shyámadesha [verdant land] is both fitting and beautiful. He established a vast empire in Southeast Asia. At that time the capital of Rarh was Siḿhapur. The former name of the place called Siuṋgur in present-day Hooghly District was Siḿhapur. The crown prince, Sahasrarabáhu, founded a city in Southeast Asia and named it after Rarh’s Siḿhapur; its modern name is Singapore. Just as the British established another city called London after going to America, the same kind of thing has happened many times. There are cities and towns in many places with the same name.



We have already mentioned that the Sanskrit name for the southern part of Russia was Shákadviipa. The Greek name for Shákadviipa was Sacdonia. “Alexander” is also a Greek name. Its Arabic equivalent is Sikándár. There is a port in Egypt named Sikandria. Its Greek as well as European name is also Alexandria. Alexandria was home to the historically renowned library. The poet Satyen Datta has written these lines about the scholar Acharya Harinath Dey, master of many languages:



Yácche puŕe desher garva smashán shudhu hacche álá

Yacche puŕe nútan kare sekendriyár granthashálá



[The pride of the country is burning/the grave is illuminated/it is burning anew/Sekendria’s library]



The people of Shákadviipa were followers of the Árśa religion [religion of the Rśis]. Since they were unwilling to embrace Islam during the age of the spread of Islam, they left that country and took shelter in India. In Indian society they became known as the Shákadviipii Brahmans. They mostly kept themselves busy studying astrology and Ayurveda. They used to wear loose pyjama pants with a jacket on their upper body and a Fez cap. Although they were followers of the Rśis they did not always follow the Vedic customs in their sacrifices and rituals. Furthermore, they were worshippers of the sun god. So the images of the sun god they worshipped that are found in the different sun god temples are also dressed in loose pyjama pants with a Fez cap on the head and a rosary in the hands, what we call jápámálá in Bengali. Thus it is said that it is more of a non-Hindu sun god. This kind of sun god temple is found in several places in India. There is a famous temple of this type in Gaya District (present-day Aurangabad District). Today the sun god temple at Końárk is in ruins and its idol has vanished.



The Shákadviipii Brahmans spread (prasár) Ayurveda throughout northern India.(2) In Bengal, however, there was little use of Ayurveda; mainly the Vaedyaka system was in vogue. In contrast to Ayurveda, the Vaedyaka treatises provided for the dissection of corpses; that is, the Bengali physicians did not limit themselves to the Ayurvedic theories. They paid attention to the practical side also. Later on, the demonic dogmas of the Shákadviipii Brahmans in north India extended their limiting influence over the physicians as well and slowly the Vaedyaka practitioners abandoned the dissection of cadavers. When Shrii Madhusudhan Gupta began practising western medicine during British rule the caste injunction against touching dead bodies made him a social outcaste.



A large portion of Bengal is watery land. In the areas where big rivers flow, those rivers take a bend at certain places and as a result eddies are created at the bottom of the river near the bend [vánk].(3) Such places are dangerous for boats or ships. There was one such eddy in the Jalangi River where it takes a bend [vánk] (Sanskrit vakra → vaḿka → vánká) near Krishnanagar. At that time one used to go by water down the Jalangi River from Calcutta to where it met the Padma River and from there to Dhaka. The steamers used to take special care when they neared this eddy. The settlement that sprang up near this eddy [ghurńii] was named Ghurńii. Three places, this Ghurńii, Goyári and Krishnanagar, developed collectively into the cultural centre of Bengal at the time, Krishnanagar. During the reign of Maharaja Krishnachandra some sealing-wax artisans were brought from Birbhum’s Ilambazaar to reside in this Ghurńii. They were the forefathers of Krishnanagar’s renowned modern-day clay sculptors.



The Bengali name for this whirlpool or eddy at the bottom of the water is daha, so when one hears the word daha in the name of any village or town one can know that there is or was a large river nearby that town or village and that it has or had a daha or eddy in it.



There was one such eddy in the Mahánandá River also. There are two rivers mentioned in the Atharvaveda called the Paránandá and the Aparánandá. These two rivers joined near Kiśańganj and thereafter became known as the Mahánandá. When the king of the Malla Kśatriyas occupied this region it was renamed the Máldah. In other words, the kingdom of the Mallas and the nearby Mahánand daha were combined to make the name Máldah. Similarly, in Rajshahi District you find Sardaha. Cákadá in Nadia comes from Cakradaha. At one time the Bhagiirathii River used to flow past Cákdá. Nowadays the Bhagiirathii has moved more to the west.



The Saraswati River passed by Mogra to the west of the Bhagiirathii and the Yamuna passed by Kalyani. The lands of these three rivers, the Bhagiirathii, Saraswati and Yamuna, is a triveńii [confluence of three streams] – an open triveńii or open stream. In other words, the three rivers flow off in three different directions. The triveńii at Prayág near Allahabad is a closed triveńii or closed stream because there the three streams coming from different directions unite.



The open stream of the Yamuna merges into the Ichámatii. At that time the Vidyádharii River used to emerge from the southern outlet of the Yamuna in midcourse; today it flows into the Bay of Bengal after passing the eastern outskirts of Calcutta, south past Canning, then joining with the Bhagiirathii’s tributary, the Piyálii, where they assume the name Mátlá and thereafter pass through the Sundarbans. The British planned to build the port of Canning on the banks of the Mátlá but the Mátlá is no longer actually a river. It is an ordinary estuary [kháŕii]. An estuary is also called a “backwater” in spoken English. Although in Bengali and Oriya kháŕii means “estuary” or “backwater”, in Urdu it means “bay”. For example, the Bay of Bengal is báuṋgál ki kháŕii in Urdu. So seeing that the proposed Canning port was ruined by the flooding of the Mátlá, the plans for the Canning port were scrapped. The Vidyádharii that flows from this southern outlet used to change its course practically every year. Later the area turned into a salty swamp so the British named it the Salt Lake area. This area was full of trees and plants that favoured salty soil. There was a jungle of gol, báin, hintál, mangosteen and mangrove. The salty seawater inundated the area during floodtide and made it even more frightening. There were a number of eddies. Packs of jackals used to roam there in broad daylight. The people used to call the entire area Shiyáldaha [jackal eddy].



When the British occupied this country Calcutta was part of the northern outskirts of the Sundarbans. In order to save Calcutta from the Maratha invasions they dug a canal to the northeast which was known as the Maratha Ditch. Mr. Tolley joined this Maratha Ditch to the Ádigauṋgá. In olden times the Ádigauṋgá was the original Ganges river and it used to flow past Báruipur’s Maháprabhu D́áuṋgá towards Chatrashál. Maháprabhu, on his way to Shyámpur, would keep the Bhagiirathii on his right at Khaŕdá, then rest for a little while at the modern Maháprabhu D́áuṋgá in Báruipur, and then cross the Ganges near Chatrashál. From Shyámpur he would take the Gopiivallabhapur road to Puri. This part of the canal was named after Mr. Tolley and part of the Ádigauṋgá as well; it was known as T́alii nálá [Tolley Canal]. It was an unhealthy saltwater area full of mosquito-infested jungle and undergrowth. Farming was not very successful there. Afterwards, when a new settlement was founded there it was named Tolleyganj. It cannot take pride in its antiquity like Behálá and Baŕiśá can.



If you take a look at a map of Bengal you will see innumerable estuaries to the south by the Bay of Bengal. They are full of saltwater and are home to ferocious crocodiles. These ferocious crocodiles are called “crocodile gangelitis” in English. They are not the alligator variety of crocodile. Although the alligator variety of crocodile lives in various regions from the tropic of Cancer to the equator to the tropic of Capricorn, their primary home is the Amazon River-basin in Brazil. In other words they are not gangelitis but rather amazonika. At one time there were great numbers of this crocodile gangelitis variety of crocodile on the shoals of the Rupanarayan River-basin near Shyámpur, Báganán, Genyokháli, etc., especially during wintertime.(4) During the middle of the day in winter they would lie on the river shoals with their mouths gaping open and small birds would enter their mouths to pick out the pieces of meat stuck to their teeth and eat them. There was an unwritten alliance of mutual self-interest and doing each other a good turn between the birds and the crocodiles. The crocodiles used to get their teeth cleaned and the birds found their food there. The crocodile would not close his mouth while the birds were in it.



At that time the Rupanarayan was a huge river. During the rainy season it was full of ilish (hilsa) fish and during the winter it was full of tapse.(5) The word ilish means “glossy” or “glittering”. In spoken Bengali it is called ilshá or ilshe in some places. The word is derived from Prákrta. If the ilish loses its taste then it is called viilish [vi-ilish – without ilish]. When the ilish would get separated from the main river and end up in someone’s pond or pool due to flooding of the sea or of the Ganges then they would grow large in size, no doubt, but they would be less tasty because the amount of oil would decrease. This kind of ilish was commonly known as viilish.



The British took three settlements from the nawab for 2700 rupees when they came to this country for the first time – Kalighat, Sutanuti and Govindapur. Sutanuti was a village of weavers to the north.(6) Their trade involved sutá [thread] and nut́i [“bobbin” in English] so naturally the name of the village become Sutanut́i. What is now south-central Calcutta, from Dalhousie Square to the southern outskirts of the fort’s field, was Govindapur.(7) The name Govindapur probably comes from the name of the zamindar Govindaram Basu. Kalighat was to the south of Govindapur.



It has been said that Sutanuti was principally a weavers’ settlement. The old textile merchants of Calcutta used to live in the area between Sutanuti and Govindapur. Now it is known as Baŕabájár. Actually its old Bengali name was Buŕá Bájár – from the local name Buŕo Shiva. The place was probably under the ownership of Baŕiśá’s Sávarńa Choudurees. They were the forefathers of Baŕabájár’s merchants. The area beginning where Sutanuti touches the bank of the Ganges straight south until the bank of the Ganges to the west of Kalighat was the home of the fisherman community, or jelepáŕá. This jelepáŕá was divided into three localities – Sutanuti, Govindapur and Kalighat. We should keep in mind that this does not mean that the city of Calcutta was formed from only Sutanuti, Govindapur and Kalighat. Calcutta was founded over a vast area to the north and east of these three villages comprising mainly another twenty-seven villages and secondarily thirty-five villages. The villages of Pat́old́áuṋgá, D́ihi, Hentáli (Entally), Citrapur (Chitpur), Hogalkunŕe, Pat́uyápáŕá, Bágmárii, Mogalbágán, Beleghát́á, Táltalá, and so on, all became part of Calcutta as well. The neighbourhoods of Garáńahát́á, Áhirit́olá, Mohanbágán, Hartukibágán, Hálsibágán, Hát́kholá, Kumárt́ulii, Shobhábájár, etc. were incorporated later on, however they are not very new either.



Kalighat was a small, temple-centred village to the south. A few Brahman families and Pat́uyá [painter-caste] families lived there. These Pat́uyás were the artists responsible for the renowned Kalighat canvases. It was Jamini Raiṋjan Ray, a resident of Bankura’s Beletoŕ, who recognized the excellence of these Kalighat canvases. There is no written history in existence that tells how old these Kalighat canvases are but the Pat́uyás were living there at the beginning of the Pathan era. They came from the Arambag and Ghatal areas. In those days the people of Bengal used to buy paintings along with other things when they went to market. There used to be an especially brisk trade in the paintings of different Hindu gods and goddesses. The women who worshipped Lakshmi year-round used to do it with paintings. When Durgapuja began during the Pathan era only the zamindars used to make idols for their worship. The middle class people who used to celebrate Durgapuja at home would use paintings. Those who could not afford to buy paintings would celebrate it with earthen pots. Even as recently as one hundred years ago Saraswati puja used to be performed chiefly with earthen pots. The performance of Saraswati puja with idols was introduced later on with inspiration from the British.



The temple at Kalighat has been ruined and rebuilt many times. Ultimately a large temple was constructed by the Sávarńa Choudurees. Some Rarhi class Kushárii Brahmans from the Jagannathpur area of Jessore came to Jelepáŕá’s central area and began living along the banks of the Ganges. They were the forefathers of the renowned Tagore families of Jorasanko and Pathureghata. The fishermen used to call them T́hákur out of respect and so they became famous as T́hákurs (Tagore).



At that time the Kayasthas used to live in the Govindapur area. Later, when the Maratha cavalry invaded Rarh, the wealthy Kayasthas of Murshidabad, Birbhum and Dumka districts left and sought shelter with the Datta zamindars of Bhagalpur District’s Dattavat́i, the Ghosh families of Campánagar, and the Ghosh zamindars of Jhauyákut́hi. They began to live in hundreds of villages in Bhagalpur and Monghyr districts. Descendants of the Rarhi Kayasthas bearing the surnames Ghosh, Mitra, Datta, Das and Singha still live there. They went there with their own Rarhi class Brahman priests as well. During the invasion of the Maratha cavalry the wealthy Kayasthas of the Bankura, Hooghly, Howrah and Burdwan areas sought safe shelter in British Calcutta, the city of officialdom and business. However, for whatever reason, they did not take up residence in Govindapur. They went to Hát́kholá, Shobhábájár, Shyámbájár, Shyámpukur, Kambulit́olá, Kumurt́ulii, Chitpur, and so on.



After the fall of Saptagrám port the Suvarńa baniks and Gandha baniks there left mostly for Cuncŕo, and secondarily for various cities on the banks of the Bhagiirathii. When the British built up their business interests in Calcutta many of Cuncŕo’s Suvarńa baniks moved there. They started living in the city’s western district by the bank of the Bhagiirathii river. In those days Calcutta’s trade moved principally along the Bhagiirathii. One famous personage of Cuncŕo at that time was Gaorii Sen. He was famous throughout the land for his wealth, his generous heart and his liberality. People still say, “If you need money, Gaorii Sen will give it to you”. These fisher-folk, Piráli Brahmans, Kayasthas, weavers, textile merchants and Suvarńa baniks were the old residents of Calcutta.



With the exception of the Piráli Brahmans, many of the other Brahmans who had come to Calcutta at the beginning left for the great, Brahman-predominant village of Bálii in Howrah District after the hanging of Maharaja Nandakumar.(8) Since a Brahman had been hanged in Calcutta they left that place for the western bank of the Ganges (“Gauṋgár pashcim kúl varańasii samatul” [the west bank of the Ganges is parallel to Varanasi]); that is, they went to Rarh and began living there. Afterwards, although they would still go to Calcutta for work purposes, they would not touch food or water while they were there, nor would they spend the night. They would go in the early morning and return back in the evening.



There was a dense forest between Govindapur and Kalighat. No one dared travel that path alone, even in broad daylight, what to speak of at night. When they would go to perform Kali puja in the Kali temple they would travel in groups of forty or fifty persons and take their staffs and cudgels with them. Otherwise they would be killed by highwaymen. It is said that the highwaymen used to kill people in broad daylight and hang them from trees. The ashram of Caoraungii Bábá was in the Govindapur area (the Náth yogi Caoraungiináth). Caoraungii Bábá was pained to see the distress of the pilgrims so he had his disciples carve out a road through the jungle to Kalighat. For a long time this road was known as Caoraungii Bábá’s road. I cannot understand why those who have completely or partially changed the name of this road have done so. Dharmaráj T́hakur’s place was a little to the east of Caoraungii Bábá’s ashram. Dharmaráj was another name for Buddha. The worship of Dharmaráj or Dharmat́hákur began in Bengal towards the end of the Pál era. There is a Dharmarájtalá or Dharmatalá in Howrah’s Shálikhá also, as there is in Calcutta.(9) I also do not understand why the historical name Dharmatalá Street in Calcutta has been changed nowadays to Lenin Sarani. I am unaware of any kind of connection that the noble Lenin had with this part of Calcutta. Would it not have been possible to name a new or non-historical street or park after him? At the end of the Buddhist era in Bengal the Buddhist followers of Dharmaráj flourished alongside the Nath cult. It is very likely that the Caŕak puja [worship] also began at this time.(10) There were and are many Caŕakd́áuṋgás in our Calcutta. I am waiting for the auspicious day when the name Caŕakd́áuṋgá will also be changed.



I was talking about the Dharmaráj puja. Dharmaráj puja was common to some extent in central Bengal and throughout Rarh. In Birbhum and Bankura, Dharmaráj was regarded as the non-Brahman-worshipped Shiva right from the beginning. In certain parts of eastern Rarh and central Bengal, Dharmaráj acquired the appellation Buŕo Shiva. In many villages and towns of this region there is a Buŕo Shivatalá as well as a Dharmarájtalá. The difference was that the majority of the worshippers of Dharmaráj were non-Brahmans, that is, people belonging to the [[Ját Bengalees]], chiefly Kaevarta and Sadgopa. They were generally known by the name Deváḿshi. The worshippers of Buŕo Shiva, however, were predominantly Buddhist Brahmans with the surname Cakravartii. In subsequent times, this Buŕo Shiva’s Buddhist colour changed and he was transformed into Paoranic Shiva.



Due to the pressure of the increasing population in northern Calcutta, a famous local person, Bhavani Prasad Bandopadhyaya, cut down the jungle to the southeast and established a new village there (there is some difference of opinion regarding this). The Bhawanipur area was built in his name. At that time the ancient Padmapukur of Bhawanipur already had a long history. The poet Hemchandra Bandopadhyaya used to live on Padmapukur Road towards the end of his life. You may be familiar with the invitation that he wrote to his son-in-law:



Tapta tapta tapse mách garam garam luci

Ája máḿsa bándhá kapi álu kuci kuci

Shiiter dine esab yadi khábe thábá thábá



[Hot tapse fish and hot lucis/ goat’s meat, cauliflower and potato chips/if you would eat handfuls of all this on a winter’s day/ then come soon, my good man, to such and such number Padmapukur]



The poet Hemchandra Bandopadhyaya became famous for his Vitrasaḿhár Kávya. One mistake of poet Hemchandra’s has nowadays infected the majority of the Indian languages. He used the word káyá to rhyme with cháyá. There is no such word as káyá in Sanskrit. The word is káya (derived from the verbal root ci + ghaiṋ). Although the word káyá is a mistake, it is used extensively nowadays.



In Bengal there are many places named Gáchá, Gáchi, Gachiyá (Geche). We should know what the origin is of the Bengali word gách [plant, tree]. The Sanskrit synonym for gách is vrkśa. Be that as it may, the Bengali word gách does not come from the Sanskrit word vrkśa. In other words, gách is not originally a Sanskrit word. The word gách comes from the Mágadhii Prákrta word gratsa. Gratsa means “that which does not move”. Gratsa → gaccha in Demi-Mágadhii → gacchá in old Bengali → gách in modern Bengali. There is a twelve hundred year old Bengali poem:



Oggar bhattá rambháa pattá

Gáikka ghittá dugdha sajattá

Nália gacchá muallá macchá

Diijjai kantá kháe puńyavantá



It means: “Hot rice served on a ripe banana leaf, with cow’s ghee and boiled thick milk, nálte greens and maoralá fish. The lovely wife is serving and the virtuous husband is eating.” It is worth pointing out that the tastes of the Bengalees have not changed much in twelve hundred years with regards to food.



Have you noticed one other thing? When fish is mentioned here then it must be understood that if the author is from Vauṋga-D́abák then by fish they mean fish curry with the fish mashed in its juices. If they are from Calcutta then they mean a fish soup with ground cumin, pepper and green coriander leaf. But if they are from Rarh then they are certainly referring to a sour fish broth prepared with tamarind because when the people of Rarh get mature fish they cook it sour. People from Calcutta take fish soup and people from Vauṋga-D́abák eat fish curry.



However in such an excellent food-list there is no mention made of dál. If so then what about Rarh’s intoxicating black gram! What about Nadia’s thrilling golden mung! What about Barishal’s masoor dal [lentils] with chilli paste! What is going on here? Did the people of Bengal not eat pulse? Perhaps in the olden days the Bengali people ate pulse and perhaps not, but there is no mention of it in the literature. In Bengali literature these words are even attributed to Shiva:



Shák nái, shukto nái, vyaiṋjanao jadi nái

Cáulo báŕanta, tabe phyán-bhát cái



[If there are no greens or bitter soup or curry either/and a deficit of [uncooked] rice then give me watery rice]



Here also there is no mention of dál. The first mention of pulse in Bengali literature comes much later at the beginning of the Pathan era. The Bengalees of that time used to prepare mug-sháuli with mung dál. Modern ladies who cook are unfamiliar with the way mug-sháuli was actually prepared. But I would guess that it was prepared by boiling the whole mung in milk after removing the husk and then frying it in a little ghee with cloves, sugar and cassia leaf. Mugkhańd́a used to be prepared in those days in a similar way. The consumption of mung burfi as a sweet had probably not become common yet. Suri’s artisans began making Suri’s renowned morabbá approximately four hundred years ago.(11) The local preparation of mung burfi probably dates back to that time as well. At that time Suri was only a large village in Birbhum comprised mainly of learned Brahmans. The vital centre of Birbhum during that era was the now nearly extinct Rájnagar.



Let us return to the subject of pulse. Whether or not it was used in old Bengal, there is little doubt that pulse was not a favourite food of the people. However greens [shák] – gacchá in the Bengali of that time – were certainly a favourite. Gimá shák, titá shák, heleiṋcá shák (hiiṋce shák in Calcutta Bengali), etc. were popular foods. Some of the names of these different greens are Sanskrit-derived and some are native Bengali. Nat́e shák (tańd́uleraka in Sanskrit; this green grows spontaneously in putrid water from washing rice, thus the name tańd́uleraka) and d́euṋgo d́áṋt́á (that d́ánt́á which is cultivated in d́áuṋgá [elevated] land) are native Bengali words. Nálte Shák (Sanskrit nálitá. The name of Mymensing District’s Nálitábáŕi village means “where nálte shák can be found in abundance”), punko (Sanskrit puńyaká – the famous sweet greens of Burdwan), hiiṋce (heleiṋcá in Rarh, hilamociká in Sanskrit), betho shák (vásttuka in Sansksrit), kalmii (Sanskrit kalambii), puni (in Sanskrit putiká, potakii, upadiiká, amrtavallarii; in Vedic: potakyupadiiká svátu mánavamrtavallarii), pálaḿ (pálaunkyá in Sanskrit), shushnii (shikhii in Sanskrit), thánakuni (bráhmii in Sanskrit), etc. are all Sanskrit-derived words. Some people believe that pálaḿ shák [spinach] may have originally come from outside India but that is not correct. Pálaḿ shák is native to India. It is mentioned in old Sanskrit. In the Ayurveda it has been said:



Pálaunkya madhurá svádu shleśmalá hitakárińii

Viśt́ambhińii madashvása-pittarakta-viśápahá



That is, “Spinach is sweet and tasty, increases the mucus element to some extent, has a beneficial effect on the body, removes constipation, relieves heart disease, is a remedy for bilious blood and counteracts poison.” The Hindi word pálak and the Angika word pálakii come from the word pálaunkyá. There is no relationship, however, between the word pálaḿ and Faridpur District’s famous Pálaun village. At one time the people of this village in southern Vikrampur were very hospitable, or extremely pálankári [caring], so the name of the village became Pálaunkyá which in turn became Pálaun later on. Anyhow we can see that shák is not something insignificant. One can compose an entire literature based on greens, however our subject of discussion here is the word gacchá.



The modern Bengali word gách comes from the old Bengali word gacchá. Many people think that the word gách comes from the word gratsa and that gratsa means “that whose nature is to move”, but this idea cannot be accepted because when are plants ever mobile? It becomes a kind of oxymoron. It is as if it wore an anklet on its wrist, a bracelet on its ankle and a nose-ring in its ear. This reminds me of a response Kabir once gave, although it is not actually inverted in this way.



Caltii ko sab gárii kahe jvaltii dudhko khoyá

Raungiiko náraungii kahe yah Kaviir ká donhá



Gáŕii means “that which has been planted”. How can we call something that moves on wheels a gáŕii and how can we say that thick boiled milk which is so enticing to the tongue is khoyá, that is, spoiled.(12) But we do indeed say khoyá-kśiir [condensed milk]. And that fruit which is such a beautiful bright colour should be called ráungii but instead we call it ná-raungii (in Urdu oranges are called náráungii).



The old Sanskrit for “orange” is nágarauṋga. From this comes the word náráuṋgii even though the orange is a Mediterranean fruit; that is, it is native to Europe. Nevertheless the English word “orange” is neither originally English nor European. Its origin is this Urdu word náráuṋgii. Ekt́i náráuṋgii in English is “a narangi”. With the passage of time the “n” became displaced. “A narangi” became “an orangi” and through distortion “an orangi” became “an orange”. Similarly “an apkin” became “a napkin” through displacement of the “n”. A gámchá used to be called “an apkin” in old English, not “a napkin”. Its family member, the word “apron”, is still in good health; it has not become “napron”. There are many examples of such changes on this earth, not only in the spelling of words.



In certain compositions it can be seen that the outer meaning is not the same as the inner meaning. For example, twelve hundred years ago some poetry was written in twilight language. At that time the inner essence of spirituality was not openly stated. For example, in one place Kabir has said kambal varśe bhiuṋge páńi. Here kambal does not mean “a wool blanket”. One of the many names for water is kambalam. Thus in this case kambal varśe means “shower of water”, that is, water is seeping from the eyes. And in bhiuṋge páńi, páńi does not mean “water” but rather “palm”. The spiritual aspirant is seated as usual meditating on God and the flow of tears from their eyes is wetting their palms. Many poems were written in this twilight language in the old Bengali of twelve hundred years ago.



T́álata ghar mor náhi paŕiveshii

Hánŕita bhát nái niti áveshii

Eveun saḿsár baŕa hil jáa

Duhila dudhuki veḿt́e sámáa



Its outer meaning is: “My house is on a hillock and I have no neighbours. There is no rice in my pot so I have to fast daily. My family is growing like that of a frog. Can the milk that has been milked from a cow go back into her teat?” Its real meaning is something else altogether. Similarly, there is another poem written in twilight language.



Dulii duhi pit́há dharańa ná jáa

Rukher tenttulii kumbhiire kháia



Its outer meaning is: “So much milk was gotten by milking a turtle that it could not be carried on one’s back, and a crocodile is eating the tamarind on the tree.” Needless to say, its inner meaning is different. The rukh here comes from the Sanskrit word vrkśa. Sanskrit vrkśa → rikśa → rukśa → rukh. Generally, whenever r is joined to a consonant in Sanskrit then in Mágadhii Prákrta it is taken as if the r were not there. For example, nrtya becomes nacca, vrddha becomes vad́hd́ha → vud́d́ha → buŕá → buŕo. If there is only r then it becomes i in the Yajurvedic style. In the Atharvavedic style it becomes u. For example, rśi becomes isi and rju becomes uju. In the aforementioned verse it would have been more correct had vrkśa been changed into vakśa but since the pronunciation of antahstha va is vowel-like, vrkśa in the Atharvavedic style becomes rukśa and from that comes the old Bengali rukh. Of course there are exceptions also. For example, the Sanskrit vakśa becomes bukka in Prákrta and from that buk in modern Bengali. The name of the place where Lord Buddha initiated his first five disciples was Sárauṋganáth; nowadays it has become Sárnath. The sages made a deer park in this Sárauṋganáth so the place was renamed Rśipattana Mrgadáva in Sanskrit which became Isipattan Migdáb in Prákrta.



Anyhow we were talking about the names Gách, Gáchá, Gáchiyá, Geche, Gáchi and so on. The name of a place where there is more than one gách [tree] is gratsii in Prákrta, gacchia in Demi-Prákrta, gáchi or gáchiyá in old Bengali, and gáchi or geche in modern Bengali, for example, Belgáchiyá (Calcutta), Kalágáchiyá (Dhaka), Bámungáchi (Howrah), Kánkuŕgáchi (24 Paraganas), Sántarágáchi, and so on. To indicate more than one or also a specific one, the words gáchi, gáchá, chaŕá are used in Bengali, for example, hárgáchit́á or háte tule dáo [put the necklace in his hand]. Here both hárgáchá and hárcháŕá can be used. Similarly, the word gáchá is found in village names. For example, Muŕágáchá (Nadia), Muktágáchá (Mymensing) – where there is a collection of things as valuable as pearls or fit to be welcomed like a pearl, or a golden opportunity for speaking. Gáchi is also added to place-names in the languages of Bihar such as Nagpuri, Maethilii, Angika, etc. In other words gáchi is also used there to mean “a collection of gách”, for example, Ráńiigáchi (Rátu, Ranchi), Mańigáchi (Mithila), and so on.



A small king who is subservient to a great king is called sámantarájá in Sanskrit. Sámanta rájá → sánotta ráá → sántaráyá in Prákrta → sántará in modern Bengali. There are many people in southern Bengal with the surname Sántará. None of them are kings any longer but they continue to use the surname. The name of a settlement built around a Sámantarájá’s garden [bágáń] (that is, where there are many gách [plant]) is Sántarágáchi. Sámantarája gratsii → sánottaráa gacchia → sántarágáchi. Thus the spelling is Sántarágáchi; Sátrágáchi is a mistaken spelling.



In fact, the words gáchi, gáchá, gáchiyá were commonly used before the Farsi derived words bág, bágán, bágicá, etc. were imported into this country. In other words, people used to call an area with a Bel tree garden “Belgáchiyá”.



There are many villages or places in Bengal as well as in many other parts of India called D́ahari. In old Bengali the word d́ahar was used to mean “street” or “road”. D́ahar is an Austric word. Betho shák [a type of greens] is found by the side of the road; that is, it is found by the side of the d́ahar so its name is bethuyád́ahari.(13) Since buffalo graze by the ponds on both sides of the road their name is mahiśád́ahari.



Nowadays we scarcely ever use the word d́ahar. It is used a little in some parts of Bihar. We have abandoned the use of the word d́ahar and accepted the Farsi word rastá in its place. We have not accepted the Farsi word ráha straight out; it has had to travel a winding road before being accepted. For example, ráhá-kharac means “expenses for moving along the road”. Someone travelling by road is called ráhii in Hindustani and a travelling companion is called hamráhii. The descendants of those government officials in Bengal during the Middle Ages who were responsible for supervising the roads (that is, they worked in the Public Works Department) still use the surname Ráhá today. Although the word ráhii is not used much in Bengali, it has been in use for nearly seven hundred years. Of course, the Sanskrit-derived word ráhi means rádhiká → ráhiá → ráhi → rái.



Shyám rúp dhari áj eseche marańa

Práńapákhii ár máne ná

Cal ráhi cal marań yamunáy



[Death has come today in the form of Krśńa; the bird of life refuses to linger any more. Let us go, Radha, and plunge in the river of death.]



From Rádhikágaiṋja comes Ráigaiṋja which we mistakenly pronounce Ráygainj. Another example of the use of the word rái is:



Nava ghana cikan káal

Rái ki báseni bhála

Tái rádhár rúper bháinte gumor

Bujhi káṋcá soná mákhli gáy



[Is it true that Radha has not liked the dark clouds of the early rains? Is it true that you have covered your body with a golden hue just to put Radha to shame?]



When Mahaprabhu came to personally deliver his spiritual teachings during the time of Nawab Hussain Shah, he began his work at Rámkeli (Rámkeli is a place in Malda District). As a result quite a few place-names related to Rádhá-Krśńa could be found in this region in subsequent times, for example, Káliyácak, Káligaiṋja, Ráigaiṋja, Rádhikápur, etc.



One can also find many places in Bengal with the name “Báthán”. Báthán means “where cattle are raised extensively”. Let us say that in some place there are a lot of cattle or buffalo being raised. Such places have been named Gorubáthán, Mahiśabáthán, etc.



At one time there was a very large village in the far north of Magadh. The name of the village was Kusumpur. The famed Indian scientist of the middles ages, Áryabhat́t́a, was from Kusumpur. After Kusumpur was destroyed Pataliputra was built on the same spot. Pataliputra was destroyed in the floods of the Ganges and Shon rivers, and time and again it was rebuilt.



Girivraja or Rajagiri was the capital of Magadh during the time of Bimbisar and before that as well. The place called Rajgir nowadays is the same Girivraja or Rajagiri of that era. Many people think that the word rájgir comes from the word rájagrha but it does not. The Sanskrit word grha became the word ghar through distortion. If the name of that place had been Rájagrha then its modern form would have been Rájghar. Actually Rájgir comes from Rájagiri (Royal Mountain). Rájagiri is surrounded by mountains; for that reason its name has become Girivraja or Rájagiri.



Magadh never had a city by the name of Rájagrha. The giri has become gir through corruption so the city’s present-day name is Rájgir. Similarly, Mudgagiri was the name of a giri or mountain that looked like mung (mudga → muunga → muḿg → mug), or else the name of a place which was like a mudgar (“club” in English). The name of this place in Angadesh underwent change and became Monghyr. In the Pathan era its distorted name became Mungher. Monghyr was the last capital of Bengal during the Mughal era. Its nawab was Mirkássim. The fort from those days and the arsenal bazaar originally made for muskets and canons still exist in Monghyr. There is a Kasimbazaar named after the nawab as well as the Kaŕeyá parade grounds for military parades. There are rest houses called Sarái here and there in the city for travellers. At that time travellers’ lodges were called sarái in Farsi. In the Indian languages they were called cat́i. Long-distance travellers would rest there. In some places the kings or nawabs made arrangements to provide food and in some places there were almshouses. In some places rice, pulse, salt and wood were stored there and the travellers would cook their own food. Sophiyásarái and Púravsarái were near Monghyr and Lakśmiisarái was a little further away. Burdwan was also the capital of Bengal at one time. Nai-sarái was near Burdwan. At one time Patna was the capital of Bihar Province during the reign of Akbar.(14) Núrsarái and Sohsarái were near Patna and Láheriyásarái was in north Bihar. Earlier I said that sarái is called cat́i in the Indian languages. There are still many villages today along the roads to pilgrimage spots with the name Cat́i, such as Durgácat́i and Niirasácat́i (old Manbhum District, modern Dhanbad District).



So we were talking about Mudgagiri, which was the last capital of Bengal during the era of the Nawabs and the second capital of Anga in olden times. At that time the Raśt́rakut’s were a dominant force in west India. They took possession of Monghyr for a short time and they also designated it as their second capital. This was most probably during the time of Mahendra Pal. Monghyr’s history dates back to the Mahábhárata when Karna was the king of Angadesh. Angadesh’s main capital then was Campaknagar (present-day Campánagar near Náthnagar). Although there is no connection between the historical Karna and Monghyr’s historically famous Karńacúŕá palace, the hillock on which the palace is situated is named after Maharaja Karna. During the time of the Pal kings Bengal’s impenetrable fort was on the south side of the Ganges. The fall of Monghyr speeded the fall of the Pal kings and opened the doors for the Pathan invasion. As a result the historically renowned Vikramshila University located to the east of Monghyr near Bhagalpur was destroyed (Bhagalpur’s nearby Antichak village).



With so much going for it, why compare the mountain to mung d́ál? As far as we can tell this mung d́ál was the favourite pulse of the people in east Bengal. Golden mung has been cultivated in the clayey soil of central Bengal for a very long time; it is incomparable in taste, smell and sentiency. However there is no way of knowing if the mung mentioned in the Bengali literature of the middle ages is the śát́há variety of golden mung or some other variety of mung because in the Rarh region ghoŕá mung or gheso mung is cultivated more than golden mung. They grow well even in infertile soil.



Mung is a pulse of the tropical and equatorial regions. Like lentils and peas it does not like the cold weather so it is noteworthy that while there are English synonyms for masur and mat́ar (“lentil” and “pea” respectively), there is no proper English synonym for mung. It has been grouped in the gram family. For example, mung is called “green gram”; biri kalái or máś kalái (in Calcutta we say biuli) is black gram; kurthii kalái or kulattha kalái is “horse gram”; cholá is “Bengal gram” (buńt́ika or cańaka in Sanskritbut́ in Rarh and Bihar; rahilá in Bhojpuri; cańá in Hindi; harbaŕá in Marathi). The British first came into contact with cholá on both banks of Burdwan District’s Kunur River (it begins in the Budbud jungle and merges in the Ajay near Kográm) so they named it “Bengal gram”. Many people mistakenly use the word “gram” alone for cholá. “Gram” is the name of a family so if one says “gram” it refers to all grams – biri kalái, mung, cholá, etc. One should use the English synonym “Bengal gram” for cholá.



Actually [ásale], the common Bengali word cholá is Farsi. And most interestingly, the word ásal [real, actual] is also a Farsi word, and so is nakal [imitation, counterfeit]. Now bal má tárá d́áŕái kothá [Tell mother, where do we stand?]. Without Farsi there is hardly any scope for moving even a single step. There is no proper English synonym for aŕhar d́ál but in Sanskrit it is kandula. In southern Oriya and in Telegu (Sarkar region Telegu) it is called kandul.



A little while ago we were discussing Kusumpur. Girivraja or Rájagiri was the capital of Magadh during the time of Bimbisar, that is, during Buddha’s time. It suffered from a lack of water so there was a need for a plentiful water supply in the capital. Once the Buddha stood at the place where the Ganges and Shon rivers meet and said that if the capital were there it would be advantageous in every respect. Among the disciples of the Buddha present was a merchant by the name of Pataliputra. At that time there was a synthesis between the matrilineal and patrilineal systems with respect to giving names. The mother’s name was Rúpasári so the son was named Sáriputta. The mother’s name was Mahámaodgalii (Mahámaggali) so her son was named Mahámaodagallan Arahań (Mahámaggallan). Similarly his mother’s name was Pat́alii so he was named Pat́aliiputra. This Pataliputra took on the responsibility of building a city at that spot so the city was named Pataliputra after him. Kusumpur was destroyed and Pataliputra was built in its place. Time and again the Shon changed its course and time and again Pataliputra was destroyed. When one Pataliputra disappeared another was founded on top of it. As a result of this constant reconstruction the name of this city which was so often broken and rebuilt became Patná or Pat́ná.(15) In Bengali and Marathi we write Pát́ná (Pát́ńá in Marathi) but in the local language, Magahii, it is written Pat́ná. The spelling Pat́ná is more correct than Pát́ná or Pát́ńá it seems to me.



The flooding of the Shon River is even more destructive than that of the Ganges. This great river takes birth in the Baghelkhandi region of Madhya Pradesh and flows past the borders of the former kingdoms of Kashi and Magadh until it merges in the Ganges. Its waters are golden-coloured like the son [flax] flower; thus its name is the “Shon”. Although according to Hindi grammar most rivers are feminine, the Shon is masculine. For example, Gauṋgá vahatii hae [the Ganges flows] but shon vahatá hae.



As with Patna there were or are other cities in India which have sprung from the ruins of former cities, for example, Masaliipattanam, Shriirauṋgapattanam, Bhavániipát́ná and Siḿhalapát́an (a small village near Siuṋgur in Hooghly District). At one time the village of Siḿhalapát́an, situated at the confluence of two small rivers, was a port in Rarh. It was from this port that the crown prince of Rarh, Vijay Siḿha, started his journey towards Siḿhala (its name was Lauṋka at the time).



In olden times rivers used to be named after their special characteristics. For example, the river whose waters were as clear as the eyes of a kapota, or dove, was named Kapotákśa [dove-eyes]. The river whose eyes were like a peacock’s was called Mayúrákśii. That river that had fire [dáma] in its belly [udara] was called Dámodar. Since there was charcoal or coal deposits beneath the Damodar the fire-related word dáma was used. The cruel river which causes terrible harm to a community through sudden flooding is named Kasái (butcher). Nowadays this terrible, cruel-natured Kasái River has been dressed up as a woman of leisure in a Benares sari and given the name Kaḿsávatii. One should bear in mind that there is no relationship between this river and kánsá [bell-metal]. Moreover, the Sanskrit for kánsá is kaḿsya or bharańa, not kaḿsa or kaḿsá.



The river which takes birth in Midnapore and whose waters are comparatively black is called Káliyághái (Keleghái). This Keleghái River merges in the Kánsái River a little downstream from Midnapore. After joining together their combined flow has been given the name Haldii. This Haldii River flows into the Bhagiirathii a little upstream from the mouth of the Bhagiirathii. The small village called Haldiyá that stood at that time at the place where these two rivers meet is not connected in any way with diyá or dviipa. The village was named Haldiyá because it was situated on the banks of the Haldii River.



Villages are oftentimes named after their qualities. There are many snakes in the villages and market centres of Bengal and there are a great many cobras in Rarh. Their name in Rarhi Bengali is kharis. That village which has a great number of snakes is called Sarpalehaná (Birbhum). Similarly, in Manbhum District there is Mańihárá, in Bankura District there is Mukut́mańipur, and so on.



Formerly people used to be given names signifying manliness. Nowadays there is a tendency towards giving sweet names. Formerly, girls’ names used to have six or seven syllables, for example, Viirendramohinii, Shatadalavásinii, and so forth. Thereafter they became shortened to around four syllables, for example, Viińápáńii, Saodámińii, etc. Later on it became three syllables and nowadays two, for example, Viińá, Riińá, Rtá, and so on. Since the very long names of former times present difficulty when calling people a tendency arose to give nicknames. A woman whose name was Kirańashashii used to be called Kenná. Today short names are the custom so there is no longer much need for nicknames. As names keep getting shorter, perhaps one day they will become one syllable. However there are not many one-syllable names in our storeroom. Several come to mind – Áh, Uh, Ki, Chi, Thuh, Ca, Khá. I hope that in the future many meaningful one-syllable words will be created in the world’s different languages; then no one will laugh if these kinds of names are given.



When many are taken together to make a single whole then it is a guccha [bunch]. This guccha is called chaŕá in Bengali. What is spread about [chaŕiye deoyá] is also called chaŕá. Rural girls sprinkle [chaŕá dey] cow dung water in the threshold of the courtyard. Many guccha or chaŕá together make one kándi or kándi (the words chaŕá and kándi are pure native Bengali words), for example, a kándi of bananas, a kándi of palm fruit, a kándi of coconuts, a kándi of betel, etc. There are many chaŕá in one kándi of bananas. Many villages forming a bunch in this way are also called chaŕá, in north Bengal it is called guŕi, for example, Lakśmiichaŕá, Durlabhchaŕá, Kaláchaŕá, and so on. As with chaŕá, villages are also given the name Kándi or Kándi for the very same reason, for example, Chátinákándi, Kándi, Jemokándi (Murshidabad), Pátharkándi (former Sylhet District), Háilákándi (Kachar District), etc.



There is no relation between the names Kándi and Kánthi. The name Kánthi comes from kánthika, which means “shawl” [cádar] or “covering”. The word cádar, however, is Farsi. In Urdu cádar is feminine, that is, merii cádar rather than merá cádar. Since the British pronunciation of Murshidabad District’s Kándi and Midnapore’s Kánthi are extremely similar they used to use the word “Contai” for Kánthi. There are two hidden reasons behind the giving of the name Kánthi. One is the famous Kánthi textile industry – clothes or coverings. At one time Kánthi’s woven cloth was exported outside India. The second reason is the fame of Kánthi’s erudition (erudition is a covering). At one time Kánthi was one of the centres for the cultivation of knowledge. A good number of Sanskrit Pandits used to live there. Even though the Sanskrit pandits are now few in number, Kánthi has not completely lost its lustre.



After the government records were taken out from Leguyá, Kánthi expanded. Now the city is more developed than other district cities in many matters. In those days many district cities did not have a college but Kánthi had one. I know many elderly people in Orissa who learned to read and write in Kánthi college. Among the five districts in Orissa at that time (Cuttack, Puri, Baleshwar, Sambalpur, and Aungul-Khondamahal), only Cuttack had Ravenshaw College, so Kánthi’s educational importance must indeed be recognized.



I and many of my friends were forced to go to college in Calcutta due to the scarcity of colleges in the provinces of Bihar and Orissa at that time. Kánthi’s Sanskritic and cultural importance cannot be denied. It would not be bad if a Sanskrit university could be established there. It is my firm opinion that the poet Kalidas was a resident of this Kánthi region. The all-round development of Kánthi would afford many opportunities and conveniences. I would like to direct the attention of the concerned people there.



It would be very good if a railway line were extended from Haldiyá to Dántan via Kánthi-Diighá. This would bring a new day’s glow to the city of Kánthi and at the same time would foster the development of Haldiyá port. The sandy town of Diighá would become a favourite of the people and south Midnapore would be bathed in a new light. Not only that, it would enable the local fisher-folk, banana farmers, betel farmers and flower farmers to expect a proper return for their commodities. If arokedia variety trees (Japanese tamarisk) are planted by the ocean their lustrous growth would also help matters by providing protection against ocean storms because this kind of tree has the capacity to serve as an obstacle to cyclones. It would be even better if a type of marine drive were built along the ocean from Haldiyá to the mouth of the Suvarnarekha River. This would not only prove attractive to travellers, but would also foster the development of smaller and larger trade centres and towns on the roadside. It would promote the economic prosperity of the local people. Many sea-dependent industries should be developed in the region lying between Kánthi and Junput́. A small port should also be developed near Kánthi at the mouth of the Rasulpur River. Since it can take advantage of natural conveniences, the port would not entail much expenditure.



The area below any large tree is called talá or talii. Many places also have names that include talá or talii, for example, Nimtalá, Keoŕátalá, Táltalá (Calcutta), Ágartalá (Tripura), Bádámtalá, etc. Some examples of talii are Ámtalii, Kultalii, and Phultalii. If a particular place is used for some particular thing or particular work then in that case talá is used. Talii, however, is not used in such cases. Some examples are: Cańd́iitalá (Hooghly), Káliitalá, Paiṋcánantalá (Chandannagar), Mácántalá (Bankura), Poŕámátalá (Navadviipa), Śaśt́hiitalá (Krishnanagar), Buŕo Shivatalá (Chandannagar), etc. Besides this many places have a Hát́talá and a Rathtalá.



If large numbers of a certain thing or certain tree are found spread over an extended area in a certain place then the village’s name is formed by adding vanii after the name of the tree or thing, for example, Ásánvanii, Paláshvanii, Shálvanii (Midnapore), Madhuvanii (Mithila), etc.



If new people make a settlement or are newly established in a place then those places have the name Vasán attached to the end of the name, for example, Rájávasán, Nawábvasán, Mukundavasán, and Nuyávasán. Many people mistakenly say Nayávasán but this is incorrect. “New” is nuyá or noyá in southern Rarh and north Orissa. Nayá is a Hindi word. Nayá-related words in the Bihar languages include nayká or navká. Nowadays many people mistakenly call the town of Noyágrám in Midnapore District “Nayágrám”.



When the British turned Mayurbhanj, Tripura, Coochbihar, etc. into native kingdoms or feudatory kingdoms or vassal kingdoms in accordance with their subsidiary alliance, they summarily included significant portions of them in British India. The concerning kings were considered thereafter as the zamindars of those areas and they used to deposit their land revenue in the collectory. They were not considered native kings in those regions but instead became zamindars. In the remaining portions of their lands they were considered native kings.



The British left the mountainous eastern portion of Tripura in the hands of the Maharaja. In that region the Maharaja of Tripura was a native king and he had his capital there. The densely populated, fertile areas in the west of his kingdom were incorporated into British India. In this way they formed the Brahmanbaria Subdivision from part of the former Kingdom of Tripura and part of the former Sylhet District; along with that they formed British Tripura or Tipperah out of Chandpur and the Comilla district headquarters. Since this British Tripura or Tipperah District was densely populated there was no need to colonize it anew but the Maharaja of Tripura remained the zamindar of a substantial part of this district. He used to deposit the land revenue in the Comilla collectory. He remained the native king in the remaining portion, which was part of Tripura. The spoken Bengali of the Kingdom of Tripura is Sylheti Bengali in the north and Noyákháli Bengali in the south, which is a blending of Chittagong Bengali and Sylheti Bengali.



Similarly, the British incorporated a vast region from the former kingdom of Coochbihar (its former name was also Kámtápur) into British Bengal. They only left eight thánás (Coochbihar, Máthábháuṋgá, Dinhát́á, Shiitalkuci, Haldibáŕi, Mekhligainj, Sitái, Tuphángainj) under the control of the Maharaja. Rangpur District of the then Province of Bengal was formed out of the areas that the British took control of. Since this region was also more or less densely populated there was no need to make many new land leases. But in the northern part of this region, private lands, or in a few cases leased lands, were appropriated for numerous tea plantations without paying loss compensation, or paying compensation in name only. Since the eastern part of Rangpur District was less populated, many farmers were brought in from outside and land tenures were drawn up. After Rangpur District grew very big it was divided into three parts. The name of the southern portion remained Rangpur. The north was made into a new district, Jalpaiguri, and the northeast portion became Northeast Rangpur District. When the Province of Assam was created in 1912 this Northeast Rangpur District was incorporated into it. Rangpur remained in Bengal Province and Northeast Rangpur was made part of Assam Province. Being somewhat incompatible, northeast Rangpur’s name was changed to Goyalpara. Dhubŕi was made the district headquarters. The spoken language of Dhubŕi is Rangpuri Bengali. The spoken language of Coochbihar and Jalpaiguri is also Rangpuri Bengali, however in different parts of the two districts different branches of Rangpuri Bengali are prevalent.



The mountainous regions in the western part of the Kingdom of Mayurbhanj were allowed to remain in the hands of the maharaja and the relatively level regions to the east were incorporated into British Bengal. The maharaja of this region became a zamindar of the British. His land revenue used to be deposited in the collectory at Midnapore. In the remaining areas he remained a native king. The capital of the kingdom was Báripadá. The portion that was incorporated into British Bengal was somewhat sparsely populated at that time. There was a small jungle but no mountains to speak of. The British brought in new tenants so the region became known as Nuyávasán, that is, “where tenants have been newly installed”. The spoken language of the western and southern parts of Mayurbhanj is northern Oriya and the spoken language of the northeast part is Kerá Bengali.



This Kerá Bengali is a blending of Oriya and Bengali. Many people are aware of the fact that the Oriya and Bengali languages are extremely close neighbours. Their history is also the same to a great extent. The social functions and customs of their communities as well as their anthropological identities are nearly the same. It is impossible to completely separate the two, thus it is meaningless to work up a sweat trying to decide whether this Kerá Bengali mixture is a dialect of Bengali or a dialect of Oriya. No matter what the leaders or the philologists say, I would say that since this dialect is equally related to both Bengali and Oriya the people there can claim either Bengali or Oriya as their mother tongue as they wish. It is only natural that they should do as suits them best.



Another native kingdom situated in the far west of Bengal was Seráikelá. The spoken language of the southern portion of this kingdom (the south bank of the Saiṋjay River) is Kerá Bengali. The spoken language of the northern part (the areas of Ádityapur, Gámáriyá, Sini, Kándrá, etc.) is Rarhi Bengali. There is scarcely any difference between it and the spoken language of Bankura.



If a village has a well-known pond [pukur] or large tank [diighi] then it may also be named after that, for example, Tálpukur, Táldiighi (Táldiighi → Táldihi → Táldi), T́ungidiighi, Tapandiighi,(16) Bilvapuśkarińii (Belpukur – Nadia), Bámunpukur (Bráhmań-puśkarińii – Nadia), Pátrasáyer (Bankura), Ráńiibándh (Bankura), Rájbándh (Burdwan), Ságardiighi (Murshidabad), Dattapukur (24 Paraganas), etc.



There is a living history behind the names given to the earth’s different villages and towns. If the screen that hides that history is removed then the history of not only the town but indeed that of the people as well becomes unveiled. If the history of the names of the villages and towns of the countries that do not have a written history is discovered then the history of those countries will also come to light. The Indian people have shown a certain apathy towards history since very ancient times; thus they have comparatively little written history. Stone inscriptions, copper inscriptions and coins offer very little help in assessing history, so if there is a proper and heartfelt effort to discover the history behind the names given to towns and villages then that history can be newly prepared. The greater portion of the history that is taught nowadays in the schools and colleges will then have to be mercilessly discarded.



Footnotes



(1) In English they also used to be called “Hollanders”. This “Hollanders” became pronounced olandáj in Bengali.



(2) Many people mistakenly write prasáratá. Pra – sr + ghaiṋ = prasára. The word is a qualitative noun. The suffix tá [ness] cannot be added to it so the word prasáratá is wrong from head to toe. It is better that it not be used.



(3) In Kishanganj Subdivision there is one such place named Diighalvánk. The name indicates what sort of a place it is. I have heard many educated gentlemen pronounce the name “D́igál Bank”.



(4) Genyokháli’s old name was Jiivankháli or Jáhnaviikháli. It was most likely named after the queen of Mahiśádal, Jáhnaviidevii. In order to save Mahiśádal from the Maratha navy, Jáhnaviidevii brought a skilled Portuguese naval force from Bandel or Bonadel (in Portuguese this means “beautiful village”) and lodged them on her estates in the village of Mirjápur. The successors of those Portuguese have nowadays mixed with the Bengali Christians. Arrangements were made for a marriage between a boy named Sunil Kumar and a girl named Saodáminii.



(5) This fish was called tapasvii fish in Sanskrit because in front of its mouth it has something that looked like a beard. From this comes the Bengali tapse fish.



(6) There is some difference of opinion regarding this. According to some people an extra few hundred rupees had to be given as a landlord’s fee.



(7) The modern name of Dalhousie square is B. B. D. Bag. Here also we have a distortion of history. Would it not have been better to construct something new in the name of the three heroes for which B. B. D. Bag has been named? Lord Dalhousie was a symbol of British imperialism. Still he cannot be erased from the history of India. We pronounce the word “Dalhousie” but its correct English pronunciation is d́álúzii, as if it were spelled “Dal-oozee”.



(8) In order to facilitate boat traffic the British excavated a linking canal from the Bhagiirathii at Bálii village to the Saraswati River. Due to the digging of this canal, the northern part of Bálii was cut off from the rest of the village. Later, when Hooghly District was partitioned and a new Howrah District was created, the original Bálii village was included within the newly-created Howrah District and the separated Otorpáŕá village remained in Hooghly District.



(9) Some people mistakenly write Shálkiyá or Shálke. This marshland [háoŕa] area was mainly known by the name of Háoŕá [Howrah]. There were huge banyan trees in the elevated [d́áuṋgá] areas of these swamps. One of these very ancient banyan trees is now in the Shivpur botanical gardens. It is probably the oldest banyan tree in India. I have mentioned probably for this reason that there is one of these same ancient banyan trees near Nadia District’s Bágcijjamasedpur. Great numbers of shálikh birds used to live in these banyan trees in the swamps, hence the name Shálikhá or Shálkhe.



(10) The worship of Shiva on the last day of the Bengali year. – Trans.



(11) [Shivapurii → Shivaorii → Shiurii. Sa and ŕa are used by mistake. Its English name is “Suri”.



(12) The colloquial meaning of gáŕii is “vehicle”. –Trans.



(13) Its Sanskrit name is vásttuka. Very often betho shák grows spontaneously during the winter in potato fields. This gritty, glittering-leafed green is a favourite food of the people. Indeed, Mahaprabhu Caetanyadeva used to love to eat this green. Saciidevii fed Mahaprabhu a curry of this green in Shantipur.



(14) The real name of the city of Patna is Bánkipur. During the Mughal era the capital of Bihar Province was a few miles to the east in Ázimábád. Ázimábád’s present-day name is Patna City. The city was named Ázimábád after the commander-in-chief Ázim-ush-shán.



(15) The word patna comes from pattana which means “settlement” in Sanskrit. –Trans.



(16) Tapan – in west Dinajpur it is said that King Danujmardan Dev, formerly known as Divyoka, after whom Dinajpur was named, dug this diighi and used to do tarpana [ritual offering to ancestors] in its waters. The name Tapan comes from this tarpańa.



Shrii P R Sarkar

Varńa Vijinána









Proper Names

Anyhow, last week I was talking about the names of places. The giving of Sanskrit names is not only confined to India; in many countries outside India the giving of names shows the influence of Sanskrit. At one time the Sanskrit language was used throughout the vast region extending from southern Russia all the way to Suvarńadviipa. The southern region of Russia – what is today Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan – used to be called Shákadviipa. And the combined name of India and Afghanistan at that time was Jambudviipa, You must have heard the mantra jambudviipe bháratakhańd́e. Of course at that time Afghanistan was part of India. The name for Burma and all of southeast Asia was Suvarńadviipa. Sanskrit is still used to speak with the king of Thailand, however it is pronounced differently. For example, in Thailand ja is pronounced like d́a and ńa is pronounced like d́ha, and ya and ya [with dot] are both pronounced like ya [ja]. The name of the kingdom of Kamboja is pronounced nowadays Kambod́iyá by the people. At that time the kingdom of Kamboja was much larger than the present-day Cambodia. At one time there was a huge Shiva temple there called Ounkárabhat́t́a (Angkor Wat). Its modern name is Ounkár Bhát́. Now the temple has been practically ruined.

When I was in Thailand my driver’s name was Krśd́had́ás; that is, his real name was Krśńadás. But since ńa is pronounced like d́ha in the Thai style of pronunciation, if you asked the driver’s name he would reply Krśd́had́ás.

One also sees the influence of Sanskrit pronunciation in Indonesia. One famous city in Indonesia is Jakarta. Its Sanskrit name in the past was Yogyakarttá. Thus, according to the style of pronunciation there, it became Yogayákarttá, Jakarta for short.

The Sanskrit name for the land we now call Java is Yavadviipa. Its capital was Vátávipura. The modern name Batavia comes from this Vátávipura. When the Dutch [olandáj] came to India in the last part of the Mughal era, they brought a variety of lemon with them from Vátáviipura which they first planted in the present-day city of Chinsura [Cuncŕo].(1) The Dutch had a factory in Chinsura and they christened the city “Chinsura”. The modern Dutch pronunciation was syánsurá and in Bengali it became cuncuŕá, cuncŕo in spoken Bengali. When I was staying in Holland I spoke with a few scholars about Cuncŕo and I found that none of them were conversant with Cuncŕo. One of them said: “I have never heard anything in the history about Cuncŕo but the word cuncŕo is from our language.” I have seen a place in Cuncŕo called “Dutch Villa”.

It is said in the Thai folk tales that Rarh’s crown prince, Sahasrarabáhu, defeated Thailand and gave it the name Shyámadesha. The land is very green and lush so the name Shyámadesha [verdant land] is both fitting and beautiful. He established a vast empire in Southeast Asia. At that time the capital of Rarh was Siḿhapur. The former name of the place called Siuṋgur in present-day Hooghly District was Siḿhapur. The crown prince, Sahasrarabáhu, founded a city in Southeast Asia and named it after Rarh’s Siḿhapur; its modern name is Singapore. Just as the British established another city called London after going to America, the same kind of thing has happened many times. There are cities and towns in many places with the same name.

There is a living history behind the names given to the earth’s different villages and towns. If the screen that hides that history is removed then the history of not only the town but indeed that of the people as well becomes unveiled. If the history of the names of the villages and towns of the countries that do not have a written history is discovered then the history of those countries will also come to light. The Indian people have shown a certain apathy towards history since very ancient times; thus they have comparatively little written history. Stone inscriptions, copper inscriptions and coins offer very little help in assessing history, so if there is a proper and heartfelt effort to discover the history behind the names given to towns and villages then that history can be newly prepared. The greater portion of the history that is taught nowadays in the schools and colleges will then have to be mercilessly discarded.

Shrii P R Sarkar
Varna Vijinana

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts

Loading...

Search This Blog