English etymological dictionaries such as the Webster’s Dictionary trace the origin of the word ‘god’ to Old Frisian ‘Du’, which it is said emerged from Proto Germanic* word ‘guthan’ – originally from Sanskrit ‘huta’ (हूत) which is the equivalent of ‘that which is invoked’. 

(Note: The Germanic people were an ethno-linguistic group of people generally considered less civilized than Celtic group of people that included the Gauls* and the Druids. The Frisians belonged to the physically hardened but less refined Germanic group of tribes.Old Frisian language is the most closely related language to Old English.) 

*On an aside, the name Gaul is derived from the Germanic term walha or foreigner which can be traced via its Proto-Germanic form walhiska, ultimately to the Sanskrit ‘videshi’ (विदेशी) meaning ‘foreigner’. The same root resulted in names such as ‘Welsh’ and ‘Wales’.

But back to the word ‘god’. Here is a quote from the Readers’ Digest, Family Word Finder-

Our word ‘god’ goes back via Germanic to Indo-European, in which a corresponding ancestor form meant ‘invoked one’. The word’s only surviving non-Germanic relative is Sanskrit hu, invoke the gods, a form which appears in the Rig Veda, most ancient of Hindu scriptures: puru-hutas, “much invoked,” epithet of the rain-and-thunder god Indra.”
                                         – (From Reader’s Digest, Family Word Finder, page 351) (Originally published by The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville New York, Montreal; Copyright (C) 1975)

In his book ‘Some Missing Chapters of World History’, author P.N. Oak traces the etymology of the word ‘god’ in detail. P.N Oak was often dismissed for his so called Hindu-Centric revisionism’. But was there any substance to his claims or were they baseless?

Here is a quote from the above mentioned book. “Pagan is a mal-pronunciation of the Vedic term Bhagvan or the supreme deity…. the name Bhagvad as in Bhagvad Geeta came to be pronounced as ‘pagvad‘ thence leading to the French word ‘pagoda’ i.e. temple. Its last syllable ‘god’ came to signify the deity inside the temple. The term Baghdad, capital of Iraq is of the same derivation and was originally ‘Bhagvad Nagar’ – the city of God.”

Is the word ‘pagan’ a mal-pronunciation of ‘Bhagvan’ as P.N.Oak had argued? English etymological dictionaries give no convincing source of the word ‘pagan’ except that its meaning came to be associated with Latin paganus meaning ‘villager’ or ‘rustic’, which stems from from PIE root *pag’ meaning ‘fixed’ in reference to the conservative rustic villagers who did not give up their ancient beliefs  and gods for Christianity. Later, in Christian Latin ‘pagan’ became ‘heathen’ which referred to those who were not enrolled in the army of Christ.

But there is a problem with the view that ‘pagan’ stems from ‘paganus’ meaning villager, because at them time when the term ‘pagan’ was coined, it was the cities of the Roman Empire and not the rustic areas that were the centres of ‘paganism’. Besides ‘paganus’ acquired its meaning of being ‘uncultured’ or ‘backward’ or ‘villager’ much later in Church history rather than at the time of the first conversions.

Though it is not accepted that the word ‘pagan’ is a distortion of the Rig Vedic ‘bhagvan‘, it is accepted that the word ‘pagan’ changed to ‘heathen’. P.N.Oak of course says that ‘bhagvan’, ‘pagan’ and ‘heathen’ are the same word.

There is one argument that lends credit to his view. It is one of the 3 fundamental rules of sound shift in languages as they change over time (known as Grimm’s Law) that often the sound ‘bh’ changes to ‘b’ to ‘p’. Grimm’s law was the first non-trivial systematic sound change to be discovered in linguistics; its formulation was a turning point in the development of linguistics. Theis sound shift may be represented as follows:

bʰ > b > p > ɸ

It is evident from the rule above that the sound ‘bh’ in ‘bhagvan’ could have indeed changed to ‘p’ of ‘pagan’.

Mainline etymological dictionaries hold that ‘pagoda’ stems fromTamil ‘pagavadi‘ house belonging to a deity’, originally from Sanskrit ‘bhagavati’ (भगवती)   or ‘goddess’. ‘Pagode’ is indeed French for ‘temple’ as P.N. Oak has put forth.

And what is the ancient name of Baghdad. P.N. Oak states it was ‘Bhagvad’ Nagar. The name Baghdad is pre-Islam and is evident from the fact that the name ‘Baghdadu’ has been inscribed on Assyrian cuneiform and Babylonian records going back to at least 2000 BC. By the times of Nebuchadnezzar (600 BC) the name had changed to Bagh-dadu.

Though the name Baghvad Nagar does not appear on the maps of ancient Iraq (Sumerian/ Mesopotamian/ Babylonian Region) yet if the names of other ancient cities and towns is any indication, the name Bhagvad Nagar fits right in. 

Notice the names Kish, Lagash, Umma
and of course Sumer.

And though there is no Nagar in the region where Baghdad is located, an ancient tell (ancient settlement mound) now called Tell Brak, the largest ancient archaeological sites of Mesopotamia, in present day Syria was named ‘Nagar‘ in antiquity.

Nagar, an ancient archaeological Mesopotamian
site in present day Syria,
is now known as Tell Brak

Sumerian cities have names that have a remarkable resemblance to Sanskrit names. An example is ‘Eshnunna’, ‘Esha’ (ईश) means ‘powerful’, ‘Annuna’ (अनून) means ‘whole’ or ‘having full power’. One of the kings of Esnunna was ‘Naram-Suen’ or ‘Narem-Sin’ probably ‘Narsimha’ (नरसिंह) meaning the ‘Lion-Man’, another King was named ‘Ishar-Ramashshu’ which is close to ‘Isha Rama’ followed by a suffix’, and yet another ‘Asurawasu’, which is identical to ‘Asura-Vasu’ and so on.

Notice some more Sanskrit names in the following map.

Nippur, Anshan,  Subartu!
Subartu was also known as ‘Subartam’.

A name such as ‘Bagvad’ on these ancient maps would therefore be no big surprise. Hence, to dismiss the views presented by researcher P.N.Oak without undergoing a review of mainline history may be a little premature.


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