The city of Saratoga in New York is known for its mineral springs. Its name ‘Saratoga’ is believed to be a corruption of a Native American word in Mowahk language meaning ‘water springs’. However, to people who are familiar with a bit of Sanskrit, the native names in this region seem uncannily familiar.

Here is the reason. First ‘sara’ (सर) means ‘spring’ or ‘brook’ in Sanskrit and is used in the names of towns or villages which are located on or around a spring. The most known of such city is ‘Amritsara’ – amrit nectar, sara ‘spring’.

A cognate of ‘Saratoga’ is ‘Saratoja’. Sara (सर) as mentioned above is ‘spring’ or ‘brook’, toja (तोज) means ‘water. Saratoja (सर-तोज) therefore means Springwater in Sanskrit – the same as it does in Mowahk. Another cognate of Saratoga is Saratosha which translates as ‘spring of joy’, where tosha (तोष) means ‘joy’.

Wood Creek in Central New York State flows westward from the city of Rome, New York to Oneida Lake. Its waters flow ultimately to Lake Ontario, which is the easternmost of the five Great Lakes. Wood Creek is less than 32 km long, but has great historical importance. Wood Creek was a crucial, fragile link in the main 18th and early 19th century waterway connecting the Atlantic seaboard of North America and its interior beyond the Appalachian Mountains. It is also known as Ka-ne-go-dic but its most ancient known name is Os-sa-ra-gas or Osaragas. The Sanskrit sara once again appears in this name.

It is sometimes said that Saratoga is a distortion of ‘Se-rach-ta-gue’ which means ‘the hillside country of the quiet river.’ In Sanskrit ‘Saruch’ (सरुच्) means magnificent, ‘tad’ (ताड) is mountain, ‘go’ (गो) is water. ‘Shakura’ (शकुर) is quiet.  ‘Serach-ta-gue’ may itself have been derived from a combination of these Sanskrit words.

Calistoga, California has an accidental connection to Saratoga. Calistoga got its name when the publisher of the first English language newspaper in California, millionaire Samuel Brannan fascinated by Calistoga’s natural hot springs, purchased more than 2,000 acres of land with the intent to develop a spa reminiscent of Saratoga Springs in New York. Intending to state “I’ll make this place the Saratoga of California,” he accidentally transposed the words and said, “I will make this place the Calistoga of Sarifornia”. Thus the place names Saratoga and Calistoga indirectly have the same origins.

Calistoga has an accidental
connection to Saratoga. ‘Sara’ (सर) Sanskrit for
‘spring’, and ‘toja’ (तोज) meaning ‘water’

Click here for a bit on ‘Sanskrit Names of Florida Towns’.

Suggested Readings:
1. Aboriginal Place Names of New York


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