There is a debate on the etymology of the country name ‘Croatia’ which is officially knowns as the Republika Hrvatska. Some theorists who have researched the source of the name ‘Hrvatska’ say that the name is probably related to Russian ‘khrebet’ or ‘mountain chain’. ‘ The Russian word ‘khrebet’ has its origins in Sanskrit ‘parvat’ or ‘mountain’. But that does not tell the entire story.

Others scholars have put forth the view that the present day name Croatia, which is a distortion of Hrvatska, itself is a derivation of the native ethnonym, Xъrvatъ or Xrvat, pronounced Shravat.

So what is the source of the name Xrvat or Shravat? The first attestation of the term is contained in the ‘Latin Charter of Duke Trpimir’ dated 852 AD. Trpimir was the Duke of Croatia from 845 to 864 AD.

The oldest stone inscription with the engraving of this name is in the ‘Latin Branimir Inscription’, found in Sopot near Benkovac in Croatia, where Duke Branimir reigned from 879 to 892 AD. The earliest written monument in Croatian language, containing the ethnonym Xrvat is the ‘Baska Tablet’ dated 1100 AD.

The exact origin and meaning of the ethnonym Hrvat is not known. Common theories from the 20th century derive it from an Iranian origin, postulated by scholars such as Ranko Matasovic who discussed the subject in his ‘A Comparative and Historical Grammar of Croatian’ (2008). He states that the root word for Hrvat is a shortened distortion of the name Khoroathos or Khoroathos which derive from the Middle Persian, ‘Xwarasan’.

‘Xwarasan’ itself had its roots in Old Persian ‘xaraxwat’. attested by the toponym, (i.e. a name derived from the topography of a region), Harahvait, the native name of what appears in Greek texts as Arachosia. Harahvit or Archosia, the texts say, lay geographically between the region of India and Iran. In Old Persian inscriptions, the region is referred to as Harahuvatis.

Croatian Linguist, Indo-Europeanist and Indologist, Radoslav Katicic states that Harahuvatis in Indo Iranian actually means “one that pours into ponds”, which derives from the name of the Sarasvati River of the Rig Veda.

In Avestan and Persian the ‘s’ distorts to ‘h’ and words such as ‘soma’ (elixir) changed to ‘homa’ and therefore the first distortion of the word ‘Sarasvati’ would be akin to ‘Harahvati’ leading to Harahuavati.

To sum it up the name Croatia, officially calle Hrvatska derives from the name Sarasvati. Croatia’s native name was Xъrvatъ or Xrvat, pronounced Shravat, derived from Persian ‘xaraxwat’ ultimately from ‘Saraswati’. The Sanskrit meaning of the compound word Sarasvati is: sara ‘a water body’ and ‘vati’, ‘that which is endowed with’. In other words Sarasvati means ‘that which has water aplenty’. 

The Indo-Iranian or Avestan equivalent for Harahuvatis, Hrvatska should therefore be ‘that which has water aplenty’, rather than the generally accepted ‘that which flows into many ponds’.

It is not only Sarasvati that exists in the Croatian culture, the river names are all Sanskritic with appropriate and relevant meanings. There is the Sava, the Drava, the Kupa, the Danube, the Sutla and Una. Sava is Sanskrit ‘Srava’ (स्राव) or ‘that which oozes’, Drava is ‘drava’ (द्रव) meaning ‘liquid’, and Kupa is ‘kupa’ (कूप) or ‘water-well’.

About the river names Sava and Sutla it is accepted that the names are related. It is also said that these names have an Indo-European root. Some state that source word might be the Sanskrit ‘sukara’. But that means ‘swine’ and is highly inappropriate. The root word for Sutla is more likely ‘su’ (सु) or ‘good’ and ‘tala’ or ‘surface’. Or the name may derive from the ‘sutla’ (सुतल ) meaning ‘great depth’.

The name ‘Danube’ is said to derive from Proto-Indo-European, a language reconstructed from European & Indic languages. In Sanskrit, the word ‘Danu” (दानु) has many meanings. It means ‘dew, dew drops, fluid, valiant and courageous’. 

The name ‘Una’ also has Sanskritic origins. The root word ‘und’ means flow and words such as ‘unatti’ (उनत्ति) that derive from the root ‘und’ mean ‘flow’ or ‘spring’ or ‘issue out’ or ‘bathe’, all related to water.


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