Uplistsikhe literally, ‘the lord’s fortress’ is an ancient rock-hewn town located in eastern Georgia, some 10 kilometers east of the town of Gori located in the heartland of ancient kingdom of Kartli (also called Iberia). In the Vedic tradition Gori is the name of Goddess Parvati.

Not much is known about the origins of the name Shida Kartli but this region also consists of the districts of Kaspi, Kareli, Java and Khashuri. The name Kaspi is a close cognate of the Sanskrit ‘kashyap‘ the name of one of the greatest ancient  seers after whom the ancient lake Kashyap in Kashmir is named. In ancient Indian tradition the name of Caspian sea was also ‘Kashyap’. ‘Kareli’ may itself stem from the name ‘Keralam‘, a state in India’. ‘Keralam’  is first mentioned in the Rig Veda and later the Ramayana.

‘Java’ is probably a distortion of the Sanskrit ‘Yava‘,  a name of an island also mentioned in the Ramayana – identified as present day Java. There is also a town by the name Yava in Tajakistan.

The name ‘Khasuri’ may stem from the Sanskrit ‘kasara’ (कासार) meaning ‘lake’ or ‘pond’ or ‘water body’. Khasuri is located on a river by the name ‘Suramula’ – itself a Sanskrit compound – ‘mula’ (मूल ) means ‘root’ or ‘vein’; ‘sura’ (सुर) has many meanings including ‘sun’ or ‘divinity’.

Uplistsikhe is identified by archaeologists as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. Built on a high rocky left bank of the Kura also called Mtkvari, it contains various structures dating from the Early Iron Age and is notable for the unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures – the most ancient of them being pagan in style.

The cave temples of Uplistsikhe in Georgia
resemble the ancient cave temples of India

The Georgian name of the river Kura is Mt’k’vari and its roots are traced to the Georgian ‘good water’. That too has a Sanskrit connect, for ‘vaari’ (वारि) and ‘vaarii’ (वारी) both mean ‘water’ in Sanskrit.

The Mt’k’vari forms a ‘sangam’ of sorts with another river by the name ‘Araghave’. Mainline sources say that the name ‘Araghave’ originates from old Iranian Ragvi meaning ‘swift’. Once again compare this to the Sanskrit ‘raghu’ (रघु) meaning ‘rapid’ or even ‘raghav’ (राघव) meaning ‘sea’ or ‘ocean’. ‘Araghave’ is the Armenian version of the name ‘Raghave’.

The Aragvi (right) meets the Mtkvari at Mtskheta, one of the
oldest inhabited cities of the word. Aragvi, Mtkvari
and Mtskheta are names of Sanskrit origins.

As mentioned above the name of ‘Upalistsikhe’ translates from Georgian as ‘Lord’s fortress’. In Sanskrit ‘upalaksh’ (उपलक्ष्) means ‘distinguished’. Upa’ (उप) by itself means ‘above’ or ‘top’.


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