Bibliotheca Classica, a dictionary of all the principle names and terms in literature, history, topography, geography and mythology compiled by John Lempriere, and published in 1842 by Collins and Keenes in New York says on page 91 that the ancient name of Delphi where the most famous oracle, though not the oldest in Greece was located, was ‘Pythos‘. It describes Delphi thus – “Delphi, more anciently Pytho, now Castri, was the largest town in Phocis, and in some respects the most remarkable in Greece.” 

The Oracle of Pytho or Delphi with Mt. Parnassus in the
 background. Helena Blavatsky traced the name Parnassus to

‘Parapanisus’ a distortion of ‘Paru’ meaning ‘mountain’. ‘Paru’ 

was the Avestan name of Hindukush range of India. The Avestan ‘Paru’

is derived from Sanskrit ‘paru’ (परु), also meaning ‘mountain’.

The Delphic oracle was established in the 8th century BC.The priestess at the temple was known as ‘pythia‘. In 362 CE the Oracle stated that the god would no longer speak there, although some think that the pythia (priestess) was bribed by Christians to do so. Emperor Theodosius officially closed the temple in 393 CE.

Greek sources say that the name ‘Pytho‘ is derived from the Greek verb ‘pythein‘, meaning ‘to rot’ and link it to the myth that the decomposed body of the monstrous serpent ‘Python’, who was slain by Apollo at this site, gave the place its name. But this description of the name ‘Pytho’ does the sacred site no justice. Some sources equate the names ‘pytho’ and ‘delphi’ with the Vedic ‘yoni‘.

The Sanskrit de-code of the name ‘Pytho’ sheds far more light on what the site was and its function. Within the context of its Sanskrit meaning ‘Pytho’ was a site of learning where the highest knowledge that existed in the world was delivered as oracles in the verse form. 

‘Pytho’ gets its name from the Sanskrit ‘peeth’ (पीठ), meaning ‘seat of learning’. A link with India and Sanskrit may appear as a wanton stretch of imagination but when one finds names such as ‘Dassereti‘, ‘Parthini‘, ‘Parthos‘, ‘Pindus‘, ‘Rhamnous‘, ‘Sitia‘ and ‘Gitanae‘ on the map of ancient Greece, it makes one wonder.

The ancient name of Delphi was ‘Pytho’
which originates from the Sanskrit ‘peeth‘ (पीठ)
meaning ‘seat of learning‘.

Centres of learning in Vedic India were known as ‘peeth’. The most famous ‘peeth’ in India was the Sharda Peeth located in Kashmir. The earliest temple on this site belonged to an era when Kashmir was still known as ‘Sharda-desh’. Sharda is another name of the Vedic ‘goddess of learning ‘Saraswati’. As the name reveals, Sharda Peeth was a celebrated centre of learning where the Sanskrit scholars and Kashmiri pandits imparted the Vedic knowledge to students and devotees.

His name indicates that Pythagoras, the Greek scholar, therefore was probably just a ‘guru‘ at one of the ‘pytho’ or ‘peeth’ in Greece. The ‘Pytho’ of Greece shared some of the features with the Sharda Peeth of Kashmir. One of the most striking one is that both are located on water springs that emanated volcanic gases and vapours, though at a slow controlled pace. In Kashmir the gases were simply used for energy and cooking purposes by the residing scholars and devotees. In Greece at Pythos, the intoxicating effect that the slow inhalation of these gases induced, took on a supernatural interpretation – the ‘pythia’ or the priestess would often be in a trance like state when she addressed the attendees at the Oracles which the local population believed had a super-natural cause. But the truth is different.Click here to watch a clip by National Geographic on the effect of the vapours and the gases at Pythos (Delphi) and its interpretation in ancient times.

Old Greek sources record that the oracle verse recitation by the ‘pythia often sounded as gibberish to most and later was converted to a prose form. Others say that the recitations of the ‘pythia’ were perfectly intelligible.  It may well have been that the early chants or recitations were Vedic at a time when they were still understood and with time as persecution of paganism began and the meaning of the original chants began to fade from memory, the verses were simplifies and given a prose form.

The ruins of the Sharda Peeth on the
River Kishenganga in Kashmir.
The ‘Peeth’ was a famous centre of learning
in ancient India.

The Sharda ‘Peeth’ in Kashmir, like the ‘Pytho’

in Greece was located on a spring emanating

gases and vapour.

The temple at Pythos was also the site of the ‘Omphalos’ that the Greek’s believed denoted the ‘navel of the world’.

The ‘Om-Phalos’ of Pythos bears a close 

resemblance to the ‘Shiva lingas‘ of India.

The name ‘Om-Phalos’ is reminder of 

Om-kaar, another name of Lord Shiva

A copy of the ancient ‘Omphalos’ which was once placed inside the Temple of Apollo at Pythos in Greece is now displayed at the Museum of Delphi.

The Om-Phalos of Temple of Apollo.
Now displayed at the Delphi Museum

As an aside, here is a look at the etymology of the word ‘oracle’. ‘Oracle’ derives from ‘orator’ meaning ‘one who pleads or argues for a cause’  from Latin ‘orare’ said to originate from PIE root ‘or’ which means ‘to pronounce a ritual formula’. But then PIE is an engineered language which never existed, so for the earliest known source of ‘orare’ one must turn to the  Sanskrit root word ‘aar’ (आर्) which means ‘to praise’. Hindus today use the word ‘aarti’ (आरती) which is now translated as ‘prayer’ but means ‘praise’.

Unless one really wants to believe that the Oracle of Pythos (now called Delphi) was named after the decomposed rot of a dead serpent, a serious study of the work of some scholars (like Col. James Tod, Edward Pococke, Sir William Jones, Helena Blavatsky etc.), who up until now are regarded at best representatives of alternative history only because it does not suit the thought processes or indeed the biases of mainstream historians, must be undertaken. It is true that their work has not been cross-examined and substantiated, but neither are the myths that are concocted and produced as collateral evidence for what is accepted as mainstream history.

Suggested Links:
1. Bibliotheca Classica by J. Lempriere
2 The Delphi Sanctuary
3. Sharda Peeth, Kashmir


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