The Greeks called what is today known as Mazandaran in Iran by the name Hyrcania – a distortion of its earlier name ‘Verkana’. The name Verkana is recorded in the inscription of Behistun, dated somewhere between 522 – 468 BC.
The word ‘Verkana’ is a distortion of the Sanskrit ‘Vrka’ (वृक) which means ‘wolf’. The Sanskrit ‘Vrka’ distorts in Avestan (ancient language of Iran) to ‘vehrko’, also meaning ‘wolf’, and therefore Hyrcania is translated as ‘Wolfland’.
The original name of Behistun was Bagistana, a distortion of the Sanskrit ‘Baghvan-sthana’ (भगवन् स्थान) meaning the ‘Place of God’. Though Bagistan is known as the place where God dwells, the Behistun inscription (located in Kermenshah Province) is nothing but a list of 23 principalities that King Darius (his actual name was Darayavaus) of Persia ruled. What is interesting are the names of these 23 principalities and those of their rulers who had fought and lost in battle to King Darius.
Here is a look at the name ‘Darayavaus’. In Avestan this name is said to mean ‘one who holds firm the good’. In Sanskrit ‘dharay (धारय) means ‘holding’ and ‘bahu’ (बहु) means ‘abundance’ . ‘Vahu’ in Avestan is said to mean ‘good’. Given the closeness of Avestan and Sanskrit, his name probably was a distortion of the Sanskrit ‘Dharmaraya’ – dharma meaning ‘righteousness’ or ‘goodness’ and ‘ahraya’ (अह्रय) meaning ‘abundant’.
The Sanskrit Dharaya-Ahraya (धारय – अह्रय) definitely makes sense as ‘holding-abundance’ but is an unlikely name.
Just as the Avestan language is derived from Sanskrit, so are the names of the kings and princes and place names. The 23 principalities of the kingdom of Darius included Persia, Elam, Babylonia, Assyria, Arabia, Egypt, Sardis, Ionia, Media, Armenia, Cappadocia, Parthia, Drangiana, Aria, Chorasmia, Bactria, Sogdiana, Gandara, Scythia, Sattagydia, Arachosia, Maka and ‘those located by the sea’: in all, 23.
Here is a look at some of the names through the Sanskrit lens:
1. The name ‘Persia’ derives from ‘Parasa’ which is what Persia was known in the Indian region then. ‘Parasa’ (पारस) is Sanskrit as ‘beyond’ or ‘across the boundary’.
2. ‘Elam’ was once known as ‘Susa’ (शूष) which means ‘strength’ or ‘vigour’ in Sanskrit.
3. The name Babylon is derived from Akkadian ‘Bab-ilani’ meaning ‘the gate of the gods.’ Akkadian was according to the ancient Indian records the language of the Asuras. In India, Babylon was known by its Sanskrit name Baveru (बावेरु) and details of trade with Baveru exist in Indian annals. For example, in ‘Baveru Jataka’ we come across a merchant who carried an Indian peacock to Baveru. It says, ‘Yada cha sara sampanno moro Baverum-agata’.
4. Assyria was known as ‘Asura’ in Akkadian – the language of the Asuras. In Sanskrit, ‘Asura’ (असुर) means ‘demon’. The indigenous inhabitants of the Indian region called themselves ‘Sura’ (सुर) which means ‘divine’. In return, the Asuras equated the word ‘Sura’ (also known as ‘Devas’) with ‘demon’.
5. Arabia gets its name from the Sanskrit ‘Aravan’ (अर्वन्) meaning ‘horse’.
6. Egypt – The link between India and Egypt is well established. To read what scholars from around the world have to say about the two civilizations click here.
German Egyptologist, Heinrich Karl Brugsch, had this to say,”We have a right to more than suspect that India, 8000 years ago, sent a colony of emigrants who carried their arts and high civilization into what is now known as Egypt.” The Egyptians came, according to their records, from a mysterious land (now known to lie on the shores of the Indian Ocean).”
To be continued….
1. Baveru Jataka