Assunepachla, Assinnisink and Assunepachala are three Native American Villages in the New York-Pennsylvania region. Are the names derived from Sanskrit?

In Sanskrit, Pasya (पाष्य), Shila (शिला), Ashan (अशन्), Ashna (अश्न), Pashi (पाशी), Shan (शाण) and Pashan (पाषाण), all mean ‘stone’. These words in their exact form as mentioned above, or in a corrupted or distorted form, are found in many Native American place-names.

One name is Assunepachla. This is the name of a former Delaware-tribe village. George P. Donehoo, in his book ‘Indian (Native American) Villages and Place Names in Pennsylvania’ writes, “Assunepachla is a probable corruption of ‘achsun’ or ‘asun’ meaning stone, and ‘pachsajeek’ meaning ‘valley’.” He translates Assunepachla as ‘Stone Valley’. 

What is remarkable is that though ‘Achsun’ and ‘asun’ are Delaware words, they are phonetically very close to the Sanskrit ‘ashan’ (अशन्) and ‘ashna’ (अश्न) – both of which also mean ‘stone’. So, the ‘Assune’ in Assunepachla has the same meaning in both the languages. The second syllable ‘pachala’ (पाचल) means ‘fire’ or ‘wood’ in Sanskrit. If the second word is derived from ‘pachala’, the meaning of Assunepachla becomes ‘Stone-Fire’ or ‘Stone-Wood’.

However, it is the word ‘Panchala’ (पाञ्चाल) that is more meaningful in the Vedic context. ‘Panchala’ is the name of a kingdom in the great Vedic epic – the Mahabharata. ‘Panchali’ is the daughter of the king of Panchala. She is also the wife of Arjuna,one of the protagonists of the epic Mahabharata. ‘Panchala’ is also the name of one of the most ancient tribes of India that predate the Mahabharata and are considered as one of the five original tribes of the world. Whether or not the tribes of America had origins in India will be debated forever, but words of Sanskrit origin do seem to have traveled into Native American language(s).

‘Assinni’, in the name Assinnisink, too maybe a distortion of Sanskrit ‘Ashan’ or ‘Ashna’ which are the cognates of Delaware ‘achsun’ or ‘asun’. Stephen A. Runkle, Consulting Engineer, Susquehanna River Basin Commission who has researched Native American place names translates ‘Assinnisink’ as ‘Place of Stones’ or ‘Where the stones are Gathered’. In Sanskrit the word ‘Sam’ (सम्) means to ‘put together’ or ‘add together’. It is also the root word of the English words ‘sum’, ‘summation’ and ‘assimilate’. The same could be true of the second syllable ‘sink’ in the word ‘Assinisink’. It would then have the exact same meaning ‘Stone-Gather’ in Sanskrit, as it does in Delaware.

Geographically, Assinnisink Village in New York lies at the confluence of the River Tioga, [probably a corruption of the Sanskrit Tri-yoga, (त्रि-योग)] and River Canisteo, [also a corruption of Sanskrit, Kanistha (कनिष्ठ)]. For more details about the Sanskrit connection to the names ‘Tioga’ and ‘Canisteo’, click here .

Wappasening Creek is a 20 mile long tributary of the Susquehanna River in New York and Pennsylvania. Wappasening has been translated as ‘Place of White Stones’ from Delaware dialect. The closest Sanskrit cognates of ‘Wappa’ meaning white are ‘Vasa’ (वसा) and ‘Shweta’ (श्वेत). (For the Sanskrit connection to the name Susquehanna click here). ‘Asening’ again is probably a corruption of the Sanskrit ‘ashan’ or the Delaware ‘aschun’.

It is interesting that the Delaware names of villages and rivers are not only cognates of Sanskrit names, it is even more interesting that the meaning of the words are also uncannily similar.


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