Jordan gets its name from River Jordan. The origin of the name ‘Jordan’ is generally traced to the ancient Semitic word ‘Arda’. ‘Arda’ in turn comes from the Hebrew ‘Yorad’ which is derived from the Aramaic ‘Yarden’ or ‘Jarden’ meaning ‘down-flowing’ or ‘that which descends’. 

Lets go a step further and check out the Sanskrit connection. In Sanskrit, the verb in the context for ‘flowing down’ is ‘jharat’ (झरत्) and the root word is ‘jhara’ (झर) which means ‘sprinkling’ or ‘waterfall’ and is used to describe water bodies or rivers etc. There are rivers all over the world which have names close to the ‘jhara’ sound such as 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, or Lake Jara in New Mexico – not to mention many more in India and Nepal.

Now lets look at the Temple of Petra in Jordan. Petra in Ma’an, is the home of Jordans most ancient race – the Nabateans. Petra is a complete city carved in a mountain – its rocks are mostly red or pink in hue. Many have put forth the view that the Temple of Petra is a Temple of Shiva owing to the carved Shiva Linga in the mountain. 

The Shiva-Linga of Petra Temple, Jordan.

Lord Shiva is a Vedic God

It is said that the name Petra derives from the Greek word ‘pietra’ which means ‘stone’ a reference to the rocky landscape of the area. But it is highly likely that the Greek ‘pietra’ is a distorted form of the Sanskrit ‘prastar’ (प्रस्तर) which means ‘rock’ . In her blog Jayshree Saranathan states that there is a Tamil link too – ‘paarai’ is the Tamil word for stone and that might itself be linked in some way to the Sanskrit ‘prastar’.

The Bible, the Egyptian campaign accounts and the Amarna Tablets refer to Petra with names such as ‘Sela’, ‘Seir’ and ‘Pel’.

‘Shila’ (शिला), a close cognate of ‘Sela’ too means ‘rock’, ‘mountain’ or ‘rocky-mountain’ in Sanskrit. Even the word ‘pal’ (पल) is linked to ‘stone’ an occurs in Sanskrit as ‘upala’ (उपल) or as ‘shonapal’ (शोणोपल) which means ‘red-stone’ – thus explaining the name ‘Pel’ from the ancient texts.

The Biblical Manuscript or the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ say that the original name of Petra was ‘Rekim’ or ‘Rekem’. The name ‘Rekem’ was inscribed on the Petra temple passage wall – the passage wall was called the Siq or Sic. This inscription ‘Rekem’ was visible until a couple of decades back when a bridge was built over the passage-wall such that sadly, the inscription is no longer visible.

In any case, it is interesting to note that a close Sanskrit cognate of ‘Rekim’, the Sanskrit ‘Recin’, pronounced Rechin (रेचिन्), means red-powder and describes the hue and colour of the temple.

It is known that the original Aramaic texts say that the oldest known name of Petra is Rekem-Geya which is very interesting. It translates as ‘Red-Gaya’ from Sanskrit. Gaya is an ancient Vedic-Hindu pilgrimage site in Bihar in India. Ancient Indian tribes that migrated West from Bihar (then called Magadh) right up to Greece are known to have built temples en-route and given them Vedic names. To read more about the link of Gaya to Greece click here.

Temple of  Petra
Also called Rekem-Geya
or Rekem-Gaya

The Petra Temple area was full of water springs. There are several springs in the Petra area even today. The Siq or Sic* is a complex geological feature that has many places where water could enter the Petra Temple. In Sanskrit ‘Sic’ (सिच्) means to soak or irrigate.

It is Moses who is credited with extracting water from below the red rocky arid area that is called Petra today. Until then, say the Aramaic texts, the site of Rekem-Geya was known as ‘kadesh’. ‘Kadesh’ or ‘Ku-desh’ (कुदेश) in Sanskrit means ‘Bad-Land’ or ‘Inhospitable Land’.

In some texts the region is also known as Barnia-Kudesh. ‘Bhurni’ (भूर्णि) in Sanskrit means ‘desert’ or ‘distant’. ‘Kudesh’ as mentioned above means ‘inhospitable’.

Now lets look at the most ancient known settlers of Petra. The name of the tribe was ‘Nabha’ and are referred to as the Nabateans. In Sanskrit the word ‘Nabha’ (नभ) means the ‘Sky’. A cognate of ‘Petra’ is ‘patra’ (पतर) – [the ‘t’ here is pronounced as in ‘path’] and means ‘flying’. Finally, there is another cognate of ‘Petra’ which is the Sanskrit ‘PaTra’ (पटर) – [the ‘t’ pronounced as in the English ‘pet’], which means ‘ray of light’. The ‘sky’, ‘ray’ and ‘flying’ connection to the word ‘Nabha’ and ‘Petra’ may be of interest to those who have explained ancient world history by linking it to the ‘gods who visited the world from the sky’.

It is also interesting that the Hindu scripture Ramayana mentions a multi-storied temple, built by celestial architect Vishwakarma, far away from India, in the western direction. It is difficult to pin point where this multi-storied building might be located, but the fact that one of the highest mountain peaks in Jordon, which is a few kilometres away from Petra, is known as ‘Jabal Ram’ does make one wonder.

Jabal Ram Peak at the centre,
the second highest point in Jordan
The area around is called Wadi-Rum. Rum is also
pronounced as Ram

Suggested Links:
1. “Is Petra an Ancient Shiva Temple”?: Click Here
2. ‘Paadal Petra Shiva Sthalams’ of India: Click Here

3. From Bharata to India: Chrysee the Golden by M.K. Aggarwal


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