Mainstream sources trace the origin of the name Canada to the word ‘kanata’, a Native American word used by the First Nations, meaning ‘settlement’, ‘village’, or ‘land’. ‘First Nations’ comprise of a group of Native American tribes that have been inhabiting the North American continent since antiquity).

Two theories have been put forth. It is said that either the word ‘Canada’ stems from the Mohawk word ‘kanata’ or from the Iroquoian word ‘canada’. The two words hold the same meaning in both the languages – ‘hut’, ‘village’ or ‘settlement’. Related translations include “land” or “city”, with successive terminology meaning “housing group” or “set of huts”.

The question that is being dealt with here is whether there is any link between the Sanskrit language and Native American languages? In 1909, a lady by the name of Mrs. Helen Troy, was initiated into the Onondaga Native American tribe. Mrs. Troy and her mentor, Mrs. Isaac Thomas – the daughter of a Mohawk chief, had “delved deeply into the fascinating mythology of the Indians, of which comparatively little is known.” Troy and Thomas were both reportedly working on “a dictionary of the languages of the Six (Iroquious) Nations.” Their compilation of Onondaga and Mohawk words was said to total 30,000. On completion of the manuscript, Mrs. Troy made this observation, “There exists no doubt that the mythology of the Iroquois antedates that of the Greeks and Romans, and in fact all other peoples just as their language does that of the Hebrews and all others.” She further claimed “that Onondaga, the mother of all the languages, mothered also Sanskrit.” She had indeed found Sanskrit and Onondago languages to be closely linked.

With that fact in mind here is a look at the word ‘kanata’ from which the name ‘Canada’ is said to be derived. The word Kana: ta’ means ‘city’ in Mohawk, and related words include ganataje and iennekanandaa in the Onondaga and Seneca languages, respectively. It is the Onondaga word ‘ganataje’ which decodes all the names above and establishes a link with Sanskrit.

Gana (गण) is Sanskrit for ‘group’, ‘tribe’ or ‘band’. It is this word that appears in the Onondaga ‘ganataje’, and it is this ‘gana’ that appears as distortions in the Mohawk word ‘Kanata’, and the Seneca ‘ienne-kanandaa’. As per Grimm’s Law, this shift in sounds is represented by the chain gʷʰ > gʷ > kʷ > xʷ.

In the Sanskrit names, the prefix ‘gana’ appears in words such ‘ganarajyaa’, meaning ‘republic’ and is visible in the Onondaga ‘ganataje’.

The name Quebec too seems to have Sanskritic links. The name Quebec, first bestowed on the city in 1608 and derived from an Algonquian word meaning “where the river narrows’. Quebec appears to have some links with the Sanskrit ‘kumbha (कुंभ) meaning ‘a lake’, ‘pool’ or ‘pond’. Kubha is also the name of a Rigvedic river.

The Sanskritic nuance to these names of the Quebec territory was not lost to Indologists such as Edward Moore who wrote in his book Oriental Fragments published in 1854, “”Maranon is the native name of the River Amazon – Madawaska, that of St. John’s – it runs through the finely named Tanaskwata lake before it loses itself into the Atlantic. Kamoursaka is the ancient native name of the country and river between Quebec and St. John’s: & thereabout is the town formerly called Michilimackinack. Trivial alteration in the vowel sounds of these names will convert them into Sanskrit looking and Sanskrit sounding and Sanskrit meaning words….”.

Here is a look at the name ‘Madawaska’ through the Sanskrit lens. ‘Mada’ (मदा) means both ‘river’ and ‘honey’ or ‘something that intoxicates’, ‘vaska’ (वस्क) is ‘motion’, ‘Madawaska’ is therefore ‘flowing water’ or ‘honey-river’ or ‘intoxicated river’. ‘Intoxicated river’ is the most apt for twice a day the river ‘reverses’ and flows backwards – the movement forced by the world’s highest tides from the Bay of Fundy!

The ‘Madavaska’ also called St. John’s River in
Quebec reverses its direction of flow during high tides. Madavaska is Sanskrit for ‘intoxicated waters’

The Madawaska River flows from lake Tamiscouta. ‘Tamaskwata’ as Edward Moor had spelt it, or ‘Temiscouta’ as it is spelt today is an interesting name. One may link the name to either ‘tapaskvata’ or ‘tamaskvata’ – ‘tapas’ (तपस) in the Vedic tradition has to do with ‘purification of the soul through asceticism’ or refers to something arduous or difficult to achieve – it is said that the extremely long lake was a difficult barrier for those trying to cross it. A nearby parish is called Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! Legend has it that ‘Ha Ha’ refers to the unexpected obstacles for those travelling across.

As for the word ‘tamas’, Tamasa was the river on the banks of which Sri Rama, his brother Lakshmana and Sita along with many other Ayodhyaites spent the first night of the 14-year forest exile. The suffix ‘kwata’ or ‘couta’ may either be derived from ‘kavan’ (कवन) ‘water’ or ‘kuvam’ (कुवम) sun’.

Temiscouta Lake may derive its
name from the Sanskrit ‘Tapas’ or ‘Tamas’.

‘Kamoursaka’ or ‘Kamourska’ is probably related to the Sanskrit word ‘Kumar’ (कुमार) which has to with a ‘young person’ or a ‘price’ and is even the name of the ‘God of War’ of the Vedic tradition.


Kumourska is the stretch of land between
Quebec and St. John’s.

In the Vedic tradition Kumārasū (कुमारसू) is an epithet of Godess Parvati. It is also the name of the river Ganges and an epithet of Agni.


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