Saturday, November 07, 2015

Possible origins of words Ganga, Goa, and Nagaland

once in a while in our life we get an opportunity to discover hidden jems. Such an opportunity is often fraught with a risk of being wrong as well because one could land on coincidental occurrence and not find any meaningful connection. I hope what I am going to explain is one such jem.


I think I found origin of 3 Indian names. These are Ganga, Goa, and Naga.


I know what you are thinking? “I know meaning of these words, what have you really discovered?


Let me give a background. I was reading the book Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter. The book is about hidden influences about names, labels, symbols and other things in our lives.


In this book, Adam Alter discusses an aboriginal tribe language in Australia known as Guugu Yimithirr. This language does not have words for left, right, behind, and in front, but instead it has words for North, East, South, and West. But what is interesting is names for these directions. Indians might be able to spot the connections of these words after reading the following text.


“In the early 1970s, anthropologist John Haviland discovered an unusual feature of the language spoken by the Guugu Yimithirr people of far north Queensland, in north-eastern Australia. The language had no words for directions like "left", "right", "in front of", or "behind", but instead the Guugu Yimithirr relied on the cardinal directions gungga (north), jiba (south), naga (east), and guwa (west).”


So the word for north in Guugu Yimithirr is Gungga which is quite close to Ganga and could actually be the same because pronunciation of Ganga in Hindi is close to Gungga. So you might ask what that’s got to do with the River Ganges? Gungga could mean a river that starts in the North? I don’t know if another association would have any meaning. The word gunung in Malay language means mountain. Could that be translated to the word Ganga or Gungga over the period of time? Then that word could mean a river that starts in the mountain? It is more plausible to connect a Malay language word to Indian context than Guugu Yimithirr a language of people situated across oceans thousands of miles away. But before we conclude, let’s look at other words.


The word for East in Guugu Yimithirr is Naga. Now is it just a coincidence that Nagaland is towards east of India? My cursory investigation on Google about the word Naga did not get me closer than this. The word Naga is associated with people of mountains, people associated with Nag (a Sanskrit word for snakes), or free men. I am more inclined to choose East, but I did not find any reference for that in my search.


The word for West in Guugu Yimithirr is Guwa. So there is another India centric or let’s call Delhi centric thought. How is it that Goa and Guwa are almost identical in Hindi or may be Sanskrit and Goa is towards west of India? In this case as well, my search on Google did not lead me to any meaning of Goa as being in the west. Meaning of Goa is most likely to be region of Caos (gomanta  in Hindi) as this Wikipedia page about the History of Goa suggests


The word for south in Guugu Yimithirr is Jiba. I could not find any place or river or mountain in south India similar to jiba, but I will keep searching.


So I wonder how come Guugu Yimithirr a language of People in Australia has words that are similar to 3 places in India? Is there a prehistoric connection? Before I conclude, I want to point out that we should not  assume these connections already exist, but I am only suggesting a possibility. There is a difference between a proof and a hypothesis.



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