In Sanskrit ‘Nabh’ (नभ) means ‘sky’, ‘atmosphere’ or ‘cloud’. ‘Nabhas’ (नभस्) means ‘sun’, ‘mist’, ‘sky’ and ‘ether’ (‘ether’ as the 5th element of nature, the other four being air, fire, earth and water)*.

It is said that the English ‘nebula’ derives from the Latin ‘nebula’ which means ‘mist, fog, smoke, or vapour’. The Latin ‘nebula’ is said to be derived from Proto-Indo-European ‘nebh’ meaning cloud. But, then ‘nebh’ is just a distorted version of the Sanskrit ‘nabh’ (नभ).

Nebulae are enormous clouds of dust and gas occupying the space

And, there are many derivatives of ‘nabh’ (नभ) in Sanskrit. For example, ‘nabhas’ (नभस्) means ‘sun’. ‘Nabhya’ (नभ्य) means ‘cloudy’. And ‘nAbh’ (नाभ्) means ‘spring’.

Apart from ‘nabh’, there are at least 25 other words for ‘sky’ in the Sanskrit language, which include ‘Aakash’ (आकाश), Ambar (अम्बर), Gagan (गगन), Vrijan (वृजन), Divya (दिव्य), Antariksha (अन्तरिक्ष), Bahul (बहुल), Go (गो), Sairika (सैरिक), Paru (परु), Suma (सूम), Uma (ऊम), Dyu (द्य), Viha (विह), etc.

*Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Ether are the Vedic ‘Pancha-tatva’ (Five Essentials)- a concept that was introduced into Western thought from the Vedic texts by Aristotle and later emerged as the word ‘Quintessence’ (‘Quinta’ meaning ‘five’ and ‘essence’ meaning ‘crux’).


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