In his book ,’Modern Geography: A Description of the Empires, Kingdoms, States, and Colonies, John Pinkerton states, “The large fertile island of Ireland, being situated to the west of Great Britain, was discovered by the Phoenicians.. and it appears that the island was known to the Greeks by the name Juverna about two centuries before the birth of Christ.”

The name Juverna appears in the writings of Pomponius Mela, the earliest known Roman geographer who wrote in the year about 43 AD. Leveson Venables V. Harcourt traces the source of the name Juverna to Suvarna in his book ‘The Doctrine of the Deluge’. He says that the Celtics who were the first inhabitants of all British Islands were undoubtedly of Eastern Origin and they had a close affinity to the people living as far off as the banks of the Indus as well as the shores of the Mediterranean. He says the above has been “…un-answerably concluded from an accurate examination and analyses of these languages…”. Harcourt quotes Captain Francis Wilford who did extensive research in India and published his work in the ‘Asiatic Researches’, “…Accordingly Mr Wilford was assured by the Brahmins, that a great intercourse anciently subsisted between India and the countries in the West; that the British Isles are described in the Puranas, one of them being called Breta-sthan, or the place of Religious Duty, but the general name was Tricatachal, or the Mountains with the Three Peaks, which were Suvarnacuta, Rajatcuta and Ayacuta;… and the three peaks of the Indian Ararat were, therefore readily transferred in imagination to all islands.” These mountains are also reffered to as Svaranachal, Rajatkuta and Lohakuta in Indian texts.

Some have questioned  the credibility of evidence that the Brahmans may have presented to Francis Wilford about the view that Ireland was ever known as Tricatachal, but there is some relevant evidence in Irish records which is stated in the following passage.

In the ‘Monthly Review’ published in 1799 by Ralph Griffiths and George Edward Griffiths an article by the heading “The Ancient History of Ireland, proved by the Sanscrit Brahmins of India”, written by a General Vallency states,” ….assuming it as proved that the Suvornanchal or golden mountain (the other are of silver and iron) was no other than Ireland, it remained only to explain a legend respecting a pious monarch of the country, contained in a real extract from Bramhanda Purana, accurately translated by Captain Wilford. His name was Cracacheshwara. Now there is a mention made in Irish records of King Crach,  who attempted to kill St. Patrick…”.

St. Patrick brings us to the cult of the Nagas in Ireland. But before that, a note from the writings of Ptolemy (100-170 AD) , a Greco-Egyptian writer, known as a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer and poet who lived in the then Roman colony of Egypt.

In his treatise ‘Geographica’, the chief tribes mentioned by Ptolemy are the Darni upon the north-east, the Vencini and Robogdii on the north-west. Beneath them were the Nagnati, Auteri and Gangani on the west, the Erdini in the centre and the Voluntii, Eblani and Cauci on the east. Two names stand out in the Sanskrit-Vedic context , the Nagnati and the Gangani. Here is Ptolemy’s map of Ireland that he presented in the ‘Geographica’.

Ptolemy’s Roman Era Map of Ireland
There are regions named Gangani and Nagnata

Of the name Nanganati, (Sanskrit ‘naga’ (नाग) or serpent), one might say that no country in Europe is so associated with the serpent as Ireland, and none has so many myths and legends connected with the same. “The serpent has furnished many religious stories in the East, and as the ancient faiths of Asia and Egypt abound in references to it one may reasonably look for some similarity in the ideas of worship between Orientals and the Irish”. 

Across Ireland there are hundreds of crosses of which many are entwined with images of serpents. The Druid serpent of Ireland is portrayed in the Tara brooch. Universal tradition in Ireland declares that St. Patrick drove the serpents into the sea however since there were no serpents in nature in Ireland, the serpents that were driven out were probably the symbolical snakes of naga-worship, and it was the Apostle of Christianity which gained over the serpents or nagas of Ireland. It may then have been a Naga worshipping King Cracacheshwara who attempted to rise against the missionary St. Patrick in his bid to save the pagan beliefs of the time.

An Irish Double-Snake Goddess
St. Patrick casting out the symbolical serpents.

The serpent was the symbol of snake-worship of the Druids and Celts

The name Gangani of course reminds one of the Ganges or the Ganga. Of this race it is said that the Gangani were a sea-mobile tribe. They had a tendency to travel by water.The Gangani tribe was connected with an Irish tribe the Concani who occupied the region now known as Leinster . But more about the Gangani in a later post.

The presence of names such as Ganagani and Nagnati on the maps of ancient Ireland from different sources suggests that there indeed was some link between the peoples and practice of the Indus and Irsih civilization.

Ireland was known to the Romans as Hybernia which is similar to Pomponius Mela’s Juverna and Harcourt’s Suverna or Suverneya. Says Harcourt,” …. Suvernaya may become Hybernia, by a change no greater than that converts Hule into Silva and Hus into Sus….”.*

*(Note: The etymology of Silva is traced to Proto-Indo-European *sel-, *swel- ‎(“beam, board, frame, threshold”) and Silva is accepted as cognate with Ancient Greek ὕλη ‎(húlē, “wood, timber”). The Latin for pig is ‘sus’ and changes in Greek to ‘hus’. In fact the Latin sus is also traced to the sanskrit ‘sukarah’ and Avestan ‘hu’.with the same meaning). 

By the same token the Herpeditani on Ptolemy’s map may have been Serpeditani, sarpa (सर्प) is serpant in Sanskrit which would link this name to the serpant worship tradition in Ireland. The Brigantes or Brit-Magnate on Ptolemy’s map may have been the Breta-sthana that Wilford mentioned in his research and there might have been a valid basis to what Wilford had found in Indian texts about the history of Ireland.

Ireland was known to the Romans as Hibernia, derived from their word for winter

Ireland was known to the Romans as Hibernia, derived from their word for winter. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons chewy chose not to invade.

Suggested Readings: 

1.British Critic and Quarterly Theological Review Vol II
2.. The Doctrine of the Deluge: Vindicating the Scriptural Account by Leveson Venables V. Harcourt
3. Map of Ireland dated 140 AD
4. Serpent Faith
5. Celtic Tribes
6. Serpent Worship

7. Modern Geography, A Description of the Empires, Kingdoms, States and Colonies by John Pinkerton


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