Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake, located in Siberia, is 400 miles long and extends from its northern tip down to South-Eastern Siberia, just north of the Mongolian border. Its waters are said to be crystal clear. The lake is 25 million years old, making it the oldest known existing freshwater lake. From the southern end of Lake Baikal flows out the Angara River.The fault zone on which Lake Baikal exists is seismically active, there are many hot springs in the area, and earthquakes are frequent.
|Lake Baikal and the River Angara
Lake Baikal. Its name is traced to the Turik languages and is said to mean ‘rich lake’. However, the Sanskrit translation of its name is more appropriate. In Sanskrit ‘Bha’ (भा) means ‘lustre’, ‘shine’ or ‘splendor’. ‘Kula’ (कूल) means ‘lake’, ‘pond’ or ‘pool’. ‘Baikal’ then translates as ‘Shining Lake’ – a reference to its crystal clear waters.
There are other possibilities. Baikal is the largest fresh water lake in the world extending 400 miles from one tip to the other. In Sanskrit, ‘bashkal’ (बाष्कल) means ‘great’ or ‘large’ which is appropriate given the size of the lake. There is a Vedic connection too. Bashkal was the name of one of the Rig Vedic sages.*
From the southern tip of Lake Baikal flows the Angara River. This is an interesting name. In Sanskrit ‘Angara’ (आङ्गार) means ‘heated’ or ‘warm’ or ‘hot coal’. This is curious since the waters of Lake Baikal are icy. However, the upper stretch of the Angara River is lined with thermal springs spewing hot water, steam and minerals. The temperature of the water at Angarakan-Sartinsky Spring located on the left shore of the Upper Angara is about 36-40 degrees Celsius; at Asindinsky spring – located in the Upper Angara river valley, Yanchuy river mouth – the temperature of the spring water goes up to 50 degrees Celsius, at Dzelindinsky springs in Upper Angara river valley, Dzelinda river mouth, 32-44 degrees Celsius, and at Delun-Uransky spring – Upper Angara river valley, Niro stream mouth, up to 35°C.
There are many many more hot water mineral springs in this region. With so many thermal water springs spewing hot water and minerals into the Angara River Valley, the name Angara, meaning ‘hot’, is not surprising, – not surprising only if one were to assume that Sanskrit was once spoken in this region. (The details of the information about the Hot water Springs has been taken from here).
As an aside, here is an interesting piece from the research done by Lt. Col. James Tod. Lt. Col James Tod, the Political Agent of the East India Company, who was stationed in India in the latter part of the eighteenth century, befriended the Maharaja of Jaisalmer, and gained access to the ancient annals of Rajasthan and western India, that the Maharaja’s family possessed. James Tod researched the ancient literature and summarized his findings in ‘Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan’, which is now regarded as one of major work that the British produced during their reign in India.
What James Tod wrote reveals interesting bit of information about ancient India and Siberia. In his study of the ancient tribes of India Tod found that the ‘Yadhu Tribe’, of whom Shri Krishna was the most prominent member, and his three sons, spread the Yadhu empire westward and also up North from India. One of the cities that was set up by them was known as Bajrapur, (probably Vajrapur), just across the Altai Mountain Range in Southern Siberia!
1. Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan by Lt. Col. James Todd
2. *For more on the Rig Vedic Sage Bashkal click on The Bharadvaja’s in Ancient India by Thaneswar Sarmah.