The excavations have only begun on the 25 acre megalithic site of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. In a predictable routine matter mainstream archaeologists have presented the view that Gobekli Tepe was either a religious centre or a burial site.

Megalithic slab with animal carvings
Gobekli Tepe

However, the precisely arranged rocky megalithic T-shaped slabs placed in several circular enclosures here tell an entirely and an amazingly different story.

Alternate archaeologists have stated that the site at Gobekli Tepe is most definitely related to the position of star constellations in the skies at the time when the site was being constructed. The animal carvings on the T-shaped megalithic slabs at Gobekli Tepe, just as at Nazca, represent the cosmos and constellations. Constellations even today as in the past are named after animals and birds – such as Scorpius (Scorpio) or the Cygnus (Swan).

In this context it is surprising that the name Gobekli Tepe is almost always translated as ‘Potbellied Hill’ from the Turkish language. The word ‘gobek’ is ‘belly’ in Turkish. Tepe means mound but Gobekli was not a hilly mound when it was constructed. The structure it is said was intentionally covered with mud later which gave it the shape of a mound. The actual name of the site which is dated to 10000 BC is of course lost but if by some quirk of fate the remnants of its original name are retained in the word ‘gobekli’ then one might look at some other cognates of the word ‘gobekli’ in Turkish whose meanings do greater justice to the name of this site.

For example, the Turkish words ‘gok’, ‘gokada’ and ‘gezegen’ mean ‘sky’, ‘galaxy’ and ‘observe’ respectively. ‘Goc’ is ‘migration’ or ‘roaming’. It seems here therefore that the sound ‘go’ in Turkish has to do with the ‘sky’, the ‘universe’ and ‘movement’. Just as it is so in Sanskrit.

‘Go’ in Sanskrit means ‘Sun’, ‘Moon’ or ‘ Stars’

‘Tepe’ means Study or Meditation.

Gobekli Tepe might have been an Observatory.

‘Go’ (गो), for example, has many meanings in Sanskrit including ‘sun’, ‘stars’, ‘ray of the sun’, ‘moon’, ‘earth’ and ‘thunderbolt’. ‘Go’ (गो) of course also means ‘cow’, ‘cattle’, ‘ox’ or ‘cowherd’ and the ‘sun sign Taurus’. ‘Go’ is also related to Goddess Saraswati who is linked to the Cygnus constellation. And ‘go’ (गो) also means ‘migration’ or ‘transit’ or ‘to roam’.

The word ‘tepe’ in Goebkli Tepe is almost certainly a distortion of ‘tapa’ (तप), which has the 
meaning ‘sun’, ‘temperature’ or ‘heat’ in Sanskrit. In the Vedic context ‘tapa’ signifies ‘religious austerity, asceticism and penance’. It also means ‘meditate’ or ‘study with devotion’. The word ‘tepe’ also has the meaning ‘mound’ in Sanskrit which appears in its more familiar form as ‘stuup’ (स्तूप्). With time the word ‘stuup’ got associated with the stupas – the blunt, mound shaped Buddhist shrines. In Turkish the word for ‘temple’ is ‘tapinak’ – certainly derived from the Sanskrit ‘tapa’. 

As per its Sanskrit and Turkish meanings, ‘Gobekli Tepe’ seems most certainly to be an astronomical observatory. Says researcher Gene Matlock, “The ancient Indians and the Nahuatl speaking tribes in the Americas shared the same word for ‘Hill or Mountain’ – the Sanskrit “Tapa (तप्) and the Nahuatl, Tepetl or Tepec”. In the Vedic context since all study and meditations were done on mountains, the word ‘Tapa’ is linked to mediation and mountains both. 

Dr. B. G. Sidharth, Director General of the B.M. Birla Science Centre, Hyderabad states in one of his research papers, that at Gobekli Tepe and Nevali Cori (another archaeological site in Turkey) there is archaeological evidence of what is stated in the Vedas. He says, “….there are several pillars and structures with all the astronomical motifs that could be found in the Rig Veda and indicative of a high degree of artistry. Most importantly, the latitude of this place is the same 37 degrees North alluded to earlier. Undoubtedly both these structures represented perhaps the oldest astronomical observation Centre in history”.
 The design of the pillars and other structures is a reflection of the cosmos at the time the structures were built. It has been suggested that the builders of Gobekli Tepe were aware of precession. The structures correspond to the Orion-Taurus-Pleiades constellations which were visible before dawn on vernal equinoxes from the direction of the T-shape pillars at the centre of each enclosure. Gobekli Tepe and two other ancient sites Karahan Tepe and Nevali Cori are all located at around 37 degrees north.

At Gobekli Tepe, he adds, “.. in enclosure D there are 12 obelisks or pillars, one for each month. These pillars show the figure of a fox or wolf (Vrika)”. The Vrika is a symbol of the moon. The Sanskrit Vrika (वृक्) has the meanings both of ‘fox’ or ‘wolf’ and ‘moon’.

To elaborate this point Dr Sidharth quotes the Rig Vedic Hymn 1.105.18. which goes as follows:

अरुणो मा सक्र्द वर्कः पथा यन्तं ददर्श हि |

उज्जिहीते निचाय्या तष्टेव पर्ष्ट्यामयी वित्तं मे अस्य रोदसी || 

aruNo mA sakradvRkah patha yantaM dadarsha hi
uj jihIte nicAyya taSTeva prSTyAmayI vittam me asya rodasi

This verse is commonly translated as : ‘A ruddy wolf beheld me once, as I was faring on my path. He, like a carpenter whose back is aching crouched and slunk away. Mark this, my woe, ye Earth and Heaven’.

The word ‘vRkah’ is translated as ‘wolf’. But, if one were to refer to a Sanskrit dictionary, we find that the word ‘vRkah’ has the meaning of wolf and moon both. Sidharth clarifies further. He quotes the scholar Yaska of Nirkuta fame. Yaska had defined the property of the word ‘vRkah’ saying that it indicates an object whose ‘light increases and decreases’. That is a property of the object moon.

Sidharth splits the next two words as ‘masa krita’ or ‘creator of months’ and the meaning of the verse changes to, “Moon, the creator of the months, passes through the houses (asterisms)”.

He also says that the motifs on the pillars can be understood on the basis of the symbols of Rig Vedic Astronomy. In the Rig Vedic Culture animals were assigned as symbols to star constellations. At Nevali Cori, a sculpture of a human head, clean shaven with a Vedic shikha much like Hindu priests of antiquity and present day has lead to speculation that these sites were centres of Vedic learning.

Sculpture of clean shaven human head with
Vedic shikha or ponytail
excavvated at Nevali Cori, Turkey,

It is therefore far more likely that ‘Gobekli Tepe’ was an observatory than just a mound where the shepherds grazed their cattle and buried their dead. In fact ,it is in the modern era that Gobekli Tepe was being used for grazing cattle until excavations began on the site.

Suggested Links:
1. For a detailed discussion on the Etymology of the word ‘Tepe’, Click Here.
2. Was Gobekli Tepe an Observatory? Here’s why! Gobekli Tepe Constellations
3. Why Study Sanskrit? Click Here
4. Gobekli Tepe and Nevali Cori – Astronomy
2. Ancient Places in Asia: Nevali Cori


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