Rama is one of the indigenous languages of the Chibchan family spoken by the Rama people on the island of Rama Cay and south of lake Bluefields on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Not much is known about the culture of the Rama people. The most ancient records only date up to the times of the Spanish invaders and the travels of Chrstopher Columbus and other European explorers.

The interaction with the outside world was limited. In his paper ‘Origin of the name America’, dated 1875, Jules Marcou mentions a bit about the Carcas and Rama Indians and states, “..the Carcas and Ramas Indians have always resisted all attempts at civilization; most of them, especially the Ramas are totally savage and allow no one to penetrate into their country; they have remained the same as they were when Colombo visited them in 1502.” However, the assumption that the Ramas tribe was uncivilized is incorrect for a study of their language indicates that they had links to the outside world in ancient past and had a robust culture at some point of time. Their language reveals links to India of Vedic times.

About the Ramas country, Marcou states, “..the Ramas call their mountains by the same word to-day as they did in 1502, when Colombo visited them, Amerrique, Amerique, or Americ. These mountains are aurif crous; at their foot lie the gold mines of Libertad and Santo Domingo, and further, the gold of the alluvium or the placers is entirely exhausted, which can only be explained through a previous washing by the Indians themselves; at present the gold is to be found only in the veins of quartz rock”.

One derives that the word Amerrique, Amerique or Americ may therefore have something to do with gold. English geologist and naturalist Thomas Belt, in his book The Naturalist in Nicaragua (1874), indicated that the etymology of America came from the Amerrisque range—an important source of gold in the early 16th century. 

The word for ‘gold’ in the Rama language is unfortunately forgotten, yet there are many indicators that with the first syllable ‘a’ dropped, merrique can be explained by the Sanskrit ‘meru’ which was the name of the Rig Vedic mountain of gold. In the Rig Veda the heavenly summit of Mt. Meru is described as filled with gold. At times it is also described as a mountain made completely of gold. For more on the Sanskrit connect to the name Amerrique click here.

The Sanskrit word ‘marut’ (मरुत् ) meaning ‘gold’ is itself intertwined with the name of the Rig Vedic golden mountain ‘Meru’. It is therefore not surprising that the gold filled mountains of Hondurus bear the name Amerrique. As Marcou has remarked, “.. it is possible that the name Amerrique was then spoken of as a tribe of Indians, and a country rich in gold, for it is the only gold area of that part of the coast of Hondurus.”

Amerrique is not the only word in the Rama dictionary that can be decoded with the help of Sanskrit. Just like Amerrique can be decoded with Sanskrit by dropping the first syllable ‘a’, many other Rama words that appear to be cognates of Sanskrit words, can be explained with Sanskrit by dropping the first syllable or the first few letters from the original Rama word. Others are close cognates just by themselves.  Take a look:

Rama language            Sanskrit
abiisa – new                  abhi or abhinav now, new
tataata – big                  taata – big
abung – fire                   abhyus – burn or fire
kaat -stick, wood          kashtha- stick काष्ठ, wood
aikat – cane                   utkat – sugarcane
                                       kata – sugarcane
alauk – burn                  olati – burn, root word ‘ul’

alangkiing – hang         alamb – hang down 

                                      aalind – terrace

alautik – scratch          ullikh – scratch
yuwa – old                    yuva – young
almuumu- joined         yamun – twin
alan-gaangima-float    ganga – flow
aln-gais – tied               grarthat – tied
aln-gatik – cut               ghatak – deadly
alangiaa – hold on        alingan – hold on, clasp, embrace
alan-gwu – drink           gilati – drink
al-paaya – buy or sell   paanya – buy or sell or trade
al-patang – fall             patan – fall
al-pulk – gather            pul or pulyati – gather
al-pungul – to bear fruit phal – fruit phalagra – to bear fruit

al-kwis – talk                kath – tell, say 

almain- invite              amantran – invite

al-tawa – fear               trasa- fear
al-trak – split                trut or trotyati- tear or split
ang-suk – clean           suchi – clean
arii – liquid, juice        aari – flow over, pour
ariisba – empty           rikhta – empty
a-rangut – bit              rad, radati, aradat – bite, bitten
atkul – end                  antakal – at the end
auk – roast,cook,burn aukhya – boiled or being in                                                     cauldron औख्य
tara – big                     tara – high, tata – spread tat- father
awas – light                 avi – sun. aavis – in view
tungul – climb, ascend tunga – mountain, height, top तुङ्ग
ma- not                      na-not ma- not
maal – smell              mal – dirt
malangka – old          mahallaka – old (महल्लक)
maling – kill               mrnati – kill मृणति
ikar – want                 iccha- want
ka – from, at              kutah – from where
at-suk- wash            sudh – wash
ngwu – drink            nigala – drink, swallow
ngaang – bed           paryang – bed
kath – leg of bed      kath – wood stick
uruk- top                  ucca- top
ng-aaarak – plenty   aakra-plenty
ngabuk – blister       budbuda- blister
na-galaali -honey    gaulya – syrup
ngurii – hole             garta – hole
paaya – buy or sell  paanya- buy or sell
saaba-wet                snaana – wet
uula – mud               avila – muddy
uuli – turtle               duli – turtle
tata – father              tata -father
ubusup – sprout      uparuh – sprout
uhuting – cough       utkas – cough
upu-lip- smear         lepa-smear

Suggested Readings:

1.A Dictionary of Rama Language
2. Origin of the name America


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