SANSKRIT LINKS TO ANCIENT RIVER NAMES OF TURKEY

The Sakarya is the third longest river in Turkey. It runs through what in ancient times was known as Phrgyia, located in what was then known as Asia Minor, of which it was considered one of the principal rivers.

The river's name appeared in different forms in the writings of Pliny, Strabo and Herodotus, very Sanskritic in essence but with a touch of Greek; such as Sagraphos, Sangaris, or Sagaris, indicating that the names were purely Sanskrit with a meaning to begin with, but as time passed the meaning was forgotten and the pronunciation took on the nuances of the contemporary local languages of the time. 

The Sakarya river had its source on what was then known as Mount Adoreus, near the town of Sangia in Phrygia, not far from the Galatian frontier. It flowed in a very tortuous course through Bithynia into the Sea of Euxine. Its principal tributaries were the Alander, Bathy, Thymbres, and Gallus. Efforts to decode these names with the help of Greek and other Indo-European languages have given some results but most of these explanations are conjecture largely due to lack of any cultural or historical support to the arguments.

However, unlike the other Indo-European languages, a decode with the help of Sanskrit not only sheds light on these names but also extends a historical and cultural context to the decode. The most interesting of the names from the Sanskritic and Indic point of view is the river name Sagaris. Sagara (सागर) is Sanskrit for sea or a huge body of water such as a lake and appears in the names of seas or rivers and even in the names of mountains in the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia and Europe. Examples include the Zagros mountain range, extending from Iran and Iraq into Turkey, its name a distortion of the word Sagara, named after a seafarer tribe, probably the Sagartians, who had entered the mountain area of Iran from the nearby sea or sagara - namely the Hind Mahasagar which encompasses the Arabian Sea. A different contention is presented by Stephanus Byzantinus (6th century AD), who was the author of a geographical dictionary entitled 'Ethnica'. He postulated that there was a peninsula in the Caspian Sea called 'Sagartia' and that the Sagartians moved south from Sagrtia to what later came to be known as Zagros mountains.



In any case Sagara is a sanskrit word with no meaning in other Indo-European languages. It was therefore inferred that the same name was given to the river as to the Zagros mountains by these tribes as they moved inland from Iran towards Turkey.

The location of the source of river Sagaris, or Sakarya as it is more commonly now known, goes by the name Pokut Yaylasi or Bayat Yaylasi; its ancient name being Mt. Adoreus, the name explained by the Sanskrit 'adri' (अद्रि) meaning 'stone', 'rock' or 'mountain'. The river flows from the region of Phrigia into Bithynia and then finally falls into the Black Sea which was once known as the Euxine.

About the name Euxine, and the roots of many other ancient names that occur in the Greek civilization, of which Asia Minor or Anatolia as the Greeks called it, was a part, author E. Pococke had many interesting observations to make which he recorded in his book 'India in Greece'.

The land mass known as Anatolia, roughly occupies the area covered by present day Turkey. The word Anatolia or Anadolu in Turkish means “the land where the sun rises". Three seas border Turkey - Pontus Euxinus (Black Sea) on north, Aigaios Pelagos (Aegean Sea) on west, Thalassa (Mediterranean Sea) on south. There is an inner sea called Propontis (or the sea of Marmara) on the northwest. These seas were named so by the Hellenes or the Pre-Greeks, who along with their even more ancient forefathers- the Pelasgis, were the forefathers of the Greek civilization.

We digress here a bit to add a note on the Pelasgis. E. Pococke, states in his book 'India in Greece' (published in 1852), that the Pelasgis were a race that had left India and moved westward taking with them the arts, culture and language of their homeland. Pococke traces their ancestors to the state of Magadh also known as Pelasa or Pelasha. He traces the name Macedonia to Megadh. Magadh was the kingdom of the emperor Ashoka who was known to have sent Buddhist monks to many parts of Central Asia and Europe. Many of them were healers and were known as thervada, from Sanskrit 'stahvir' (स्थविर) meaning 'elder'. Thervada appeared later in other European languages as therapy and therapeutic.

Pococke was not the only one who held the view that the Pelasgis belonged to Pelasha in Magadh in India. In his book, 'A Grammar of the Hebrew Hieroglyphs Applied to the Sacred Scriptures' author Reverend Thomas Richard Brown, Vicar of Southwick, 1840, states, "Here again we have, in true probability, the etymology from the Sanscrit". He says, "पलाशं palasham is the ancient name of Behar in India and पलाशखंड Palshkhanda, is the district of Behar, so named from the Palasha tree growing there in great abundance."

But back to the name Euxine. Pococke traces the name Euxinus to the Rajputs of India and to Sanskrit. First the derivation of the word Hellenic, the name by which the Greeks called their civilization. Pococke states, "The land of Hellas, a name so dear to civilisation and the arts, was so called from the magnificent range of heights situated in Beloochistan, styled after the 'Hela' mountains, which sent forth the first progenitors of Greece....". Hela is the name of a mountain range in Baluchistan and still goes by the same name.

According to Pococke, Aswa was the title of a renowned tribe of Rajpoot warriors who were the most extensive of the north-western worshippers of the sun. Their chiefs were denominated Aswapas. They were dextrous horsemen and got their name from Ashva (अश्व) Sanskrit for horse.

Pococke says that the Greek River Asopus gets its name from this Aswa tribe because it was on the banks of Asopus that the Aswas settled after they migrated here. He states that from their land in Beluchistan, this clan, descending from the Amu or Oxu boldly encountered the Macedonians. These were the chiefs who founded a kingdom there and gave an enduring name to the Euxine. They called the land Hela-desh and the river Asopus. "They were the chiefs of the Oxus, and their kingdom was that of the Oox-ina, a compound derived from Ooxus, and ina, a king". Later the Greeks derived the word Euxinos or Euxine from Ooxina.

In his book ,'Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan', Col. James Tod had earlier upheld the same view, " The Aswas were chiefly of the Hindoo race; yet a branch of the Suryas also bore this designation. It appears to indicate their celebrity as horsemen. All of them worshipped the horse, which they sacrificed to the sun. This grand rite, the Aswamedha, on the festival of the winter solstice, would alone go far to exemplify their common Scythic origin with the Getic Sacse, authorising the inference of Pinkerton, that a grand Scythic nation extended from the Caspian to the Ganges.'

Quoting Col. James Tod, Pococke states, "The Aswamedha was practised on the Ganges and Sarjoo (Saryu) by the Solar Princes, twelve hundred years before Christ, as by the Getes in the time of Cyrus; 'deeming it right,' says Herodotus, 'to offer the swiftest of created, to the chief of uncreated beings :' and this worship and sacrifice of the horse, has been handed down to the Rajpoot of the present day. The milk-white steed was supposed to be the organ of the gods, from whose neighing they calculated future event. The Greek "Oxus" should be properly "Ooksha," so called from OoJcsha, an ox; which, as the reader will perceive, is at once very fair English and Sanscrit."

Hence both Pococke and James Tod came to the same conclusion, the Rajput warrior tribes spread from Rajpootana or Rajasthan and Heli in Baloochistan migrated through Central Asia crossing the river Amu or Oxus and carried the language and names from the Orient to Anatolia. Infact the earliest inhabitants of Anatolia, mentioned in the Akkadian tablets dating to roughly 2500 BC, were the Hittites, who called their land Assuwa, and Aswiya. It is also from this horsemen tribe of Ashwas that the Asian continent gets its name.

It is in this context one may look at the names of the tributaries of Sakarya or Sagaris. Of the four tributaries of the Sakarya, the name of the first one called Alander, is sometimes said to have been derived from Persian al meaning red or yellow and is translated as red or yellow river, however it may also be decoded with Sanskrit where 'alin' means a carrier vessel and 'der' may be a distortion of 'dhara' meaning flowing water, similar to 'alinjara' meaning a water carrying vessel.

In his book, Origines, or Remarks on the Origin of Several Empires, States and Cities (1829), the author Sir William Drummond states, " Various rivers in India had their termination in anda and inda. Ptolemy mentions Manda, Binda, Tindys. The Ganges, before it joins the Baghirathi is called Alacnanda." Now that is true. The termination अन्ध or andha means water in Sanskrit. Though of Alaknanda it may be said that the word terminates in nanda and not anda, there are rivers such as Kalindi that fit the bill of what Drummond inferred.

As far as Alander is concerned, the name may in reality refer to the Anatolian plateau, it being a tableland and the source of the river Alander. 'Alinda' (अलिन्द) in Sanskrit means highland, tableland or plateau.


The second tributary is known as Bathy, its name it is said may derive from Proto Indo European *gwehdh meaning 'to sink or submerge'. Etymological dictionaries state that a close cognate of PIE *gwehdh is the Sanskrit 'gadha' (गाढ़) meaning 'deep or profound or intense', which in any case is the only existent Indo-European language that explains the meaning well. However, the Sanskrit Vahati (वहति) meaning flow describes the name Bathy better than the PIE *gwehdh especially because there are other rivers in Europe with similar names such as the Vah river in Slovakia.


In Sanskrit 'vahini'* (वाहिनी) means 'river' or a 'river channel'. 'Vaha' ( वाह ) as mentioned above means 'to flow' but it also means 'to carry'. It is from here that the word 'vahana' (वाहन), meaning 'transportation cart or car', is derived. It is also the word from where the English 'vehicle' is derived. However, English dictionaries trace the word 'vehicle' to Proto Indo European 'wegh', which is taken to mean 'to carry'. In Sanskrit 'vega' (वेग) means 'momentum' or 'velocity'.

The third tributary is the Gallus, its name as per Britannica Encyclopedia is said to derive from Latin Galli meaning priests or temple attendants or wandering mendicants of ancient Asiatic deity Cybele. She was born a hermaphrodite and her name Cybele may therefore well be a distortion of the Sanskrit 'Kliba' meaning 'eunuch'. As per Grimms Law the sound 'k' can interchange with 'g' , to result in Galli from Kliba. The Galli were indeed eunuchs attired in female garb with long hair fragrant with ointment. The river name Gallus may also be explained by the Sanskrit 'galati' meaning 'oozing' or 'melted' which is closer in context to the name of a river.

The fourth tributary is the Thymbres and probably derives its name from the same sources as the Thames and many other rivers with similar names. It is generally accepted that the Thames derives its name from Celtic Temesas. The name may have meant dark and can be compared to many other cognates such as the Russian Temho, Lithuanian Tamasi 'dark', Latvian Tumsa 'darkness', and Sanskrit 'Tamas' (तमस्), 'dark' or 'Sagaris darkness'.

Suggested Reading
1. The Origines or Remarks on the Origin of Several Empires, States and Cities  by Sir William Drummond (1829)
SANSKRIT LINKS TO ANCIENT RIVER NAMES OF TURKEY SANSKRIT LINKS TO ANCIENT RIVER NAMES OF TURKEY Reviewed by AVinash on April 04, 2020 Rating: 5

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