AGAIN: Puujaa

Mon Oct 16 05:22:21 UTC 1995

By now we have seen a lot of discussion on the (im)possible and probable 
etymologies of this important word and the ROOT  puuj.

Nevertheless some  clarification is in order, I believe.

1. etymologies usually have two aspects:

-- the sounds/ form of the word in question 

      unless a loan word,

      (such as the recent disc. of "orange" -- all relevant info in 
      Manfred Mayrhofer, KEWA -- in German AND English, or now,in his  
      Etymologisches Woerterbuch des Altindischen) 

      the sounds of the word must conform to well-established rules of 
      sound shift (from Indo-aryan to Vedic, to Prakrit etc.)  

      Secondary loans (back) from Prakrit to Sanskrit usually are easily 
      detectable due to the shape of the word
      (remember aksauhinii form 1st year lesson of Nala? see Mayrhofer!) 

      Loans from Dravidian or other non-Indo-aryan languages also are 
      frequently easily detectable due to the shape of teh root 
      syllable or of the whole word.     

      ( Cf. the list in Kuiper, Aryans in the Rgveda; for ex.,
      pra-maganda  in RV  has, in spite of "Vedic" pra-  an non-IA shape : 
      there is no root/suffix which may explain the word maganda in IA/Skt)
<<And in spite of the omni-comparativistic combinations made by some on this 
list in the discussion of etymologies: e.g. Greek theos and Aztek 
<Nahuatl> teo look similar and mean "god" -- but there is no linguistic 
connection... -- On the other hand, Skt. vaiDuurya and German 'Brille' 
"spectacles/glasses" don't look very similar and do not really mean the 
same thing, but the German word is an indirect loan from Skt., see 
Mayrhofer,-- however, as can be established easily due to the rules of sound 
shift, NOT inherited from a common Indo_european word from which both words
might derive. Similarity in sounds alone doesn't do it, and similarity in 
meaning certainly isn't enough.... The case of Tulu mentioned recently is 
a perfect example. This is not new, rather:  Wing Commander XY of the Indian 
Air Force has published this years ago in the Indian press:
Heading: Tulu is the mother of English. Proof: Tulu, just like English, does 
not have the sound "f" (??!! anybody listening to TV would 
strongly diagree!) and 2nd: Tulu hekkatte "hickup" clinches it! This, in 
four columns in the Hindustan Times some 5 years ago...>>>

 --  the MEANING of the word and the ones compared in other languages.
      This usually is the tricky part.
      While we may get curious developments in two closely related 
      languages  such as 
        English  dog   :: German  Dogge "blood hound"
        English  hound :: German  Hund "dog"

     Things usually are not that easy...The connection between the 
     meanings in two languages may be close to the meaning in one language 
     or very, VERY distant due to a missing link we do not know  or cannot 
     see anymore.   

      A typical case is Vedic / Skt. deva "god" :: Iranian (Avesta) 
      daeva "demon".This "contradiction"is, of course as, is well known, 
      due to Zoroaster's reform.

Which brings us back to PUUJAA

A good etymology is not in sight:

(a.) the root is first attested in the Rgveda. Exact meaning unknown.
the same applies to the few attestations (all names!)  before the Sutras.
(List in my article in WZKS)
Then, it is clear that it means "honoring". 

(b.) How to honor someone in (Vedic!/proto-Dravidian, Proto-Munda!!)  India 
is a question that must be investigated separately , --- beginning, of 
course,  with our oldest sources: 
Rgveda, Vedic texts, early Pali texts, Mahabharata (date?)...

One cannot simply compare Rgvedic -puujana- with modern or medieval 
worhip of trees, gods, guests. That is precisely why I apodictically wrote 
that one does not smear one's teacher or guest-- at least not in (vedic) India.

S'lesha apart, this is precisely what is NOT done, according to the texts.

You wash the feet, give a madhuparka, slaughter a sheep or a cow, give a 
gift,  etc. etc. -- all well detailed in the Grhyasutras.. -- 
But you do not smear one's forehead with red color or blood nor does one 
perform an abhisheka:  that is done at other occasions, all linked to 
nobility and the installation of a chieftain or a king ( collection of 
materials in Witzel, The coronation rituals of Nepal... in:Niels Gutschow 
and  Axel Michaels, Heritage of teh Kathmandu Valley, St., Augustin 1987: 
includes Vedic materials)..

The Vedic, Proto-Dravidian speakers, Indus people, Proto-Munda speakers may 
have done all of this : but where is the EARLY TEXT that says so?
Even if, say, the Mahabharata (date??) or a Pali text has an exact 
description of the practice (Caitya trees in Pali!) we are many centuries
too late. By that time things can have changed several times over since 
the Indus seals or the Rgveda...

Thus : even in that case, there might be, if well investigated,  
probablility --  but not: certainty!

HOWEVER, there are indeed interesting hints which I did not want to 
mention last time as the materials are incomplete. Some 5 years ago I 
made a quick investigation of the word tilaka (Nepali: tiikaa etc., 
Turner's (5458 Tilla, Tillaka, 5827 tila (< Munda?) "sesame" (Atharvaveda 
++), 5828 tila "mole on the skin" etc., and still:  "caste mark" (!).

The older Skt. sources are very scarce indeed. Tilaka mostly refers to a 
tree... not the mark on the forehead.

However, even a late texts such as the Kashmirian Jonaraja's Rajatarangini 
(1450 AD) still refers to smearing the blood of one's slain enemy on one's 
forehead ... certainly not my  preferred method of "honoring/worshipping" 
my enemies, but reminding of the much more wide-spread custom in cases 
of  other types of slaughter: 
Muslims in Turkey do so when they slaughter a sheep every fall, and 
("Christian") English hunters do so -- nowadays...

Therefore I agree -partly- with Asko -- we discussed the matter some 
years ago -- when he writes:

> smearing (implied by the Dravidian etymology from 
> puucu 'to smear') constitutes an integral part of the early worship of 
> trees.... The red-coloured powders surely are substitutes for the blood 
> of  sacrificed victims   <<<<<<see ABOVE!!>>> 
> which continues being smeared on cult idols or trees in 
> connection with bloody offerings. Red powder/blood is applied also on the 
> forehead of human beings on such ritual occasions - this is the origin of 
> the forehead mark (Dravidian poTTu, Sanskrit tilaka, Tiikaa / Tikaa < 
> lalaaTikaa). The antiquity of the forehead mark and its Harappan / 
> Dravidian origin in India is discussed extensively in my book 'Deciphering 
> the Indus script' (1994), page 261...

Note also that, instead of red powder/blood,the ash from a Vedic ritual 
is used as "tilaka" at the end of such rituals. (Catholics may 
remember Ash Wednesday -- with another itihaasa/arthavaada, of course).)

At any rate, smearing blood on someone/something, however, is neither typically 
Dravidian nor Indo-aryan (see above!).
Theoretically the CUSTOM  can have been low-class/popular/specialized 
(hunters?) in both linguistic groups and the WORD  can stem from just one 
of them... Even the RV has some 300  loans (see KUIPER).

Whether "(red) forehead thing" (lalaaT-ika) is the correct (Skt.) etymology 
remains to be seen, as the typical thing is the mixture with tilaka and 
other seeds (still evident in modern Nepal). Again, we do not know how 
old THAT is...

In short: many interesting links -- but we MISS the Vedic/ Indus text 
which tells us "you take blood/red powder  and smear it on 
someone/something" to honor..." Art would be another source, but how 
clear is that? (Remember the "proto-Shiva" on Indus seals?)

Lastly, question: if puuj(aa) is indeed linked to <reconstructed!> 
Drav. *puucu/poTTu, what is the phonetic development due to???


            durjanasya ca sarpasya varam sarpo na durjanah |

            sarpo dazati kaalena durjanas tu pade-pade    ||


Michael Witzel                              Department of Sanskrit
Wales Professor of Sanskrit                 and Indian Studies
Chair, Committee on South Asian Studies     53 Church Street
Harvard University                          Cambridge MA 02138, USA
phones: - 1- 617 - 495 3295 (messages)      Electronic Journal of
                   496 8570                 Vedic Studies
fax:               496 8571                 EJVS-list at arcadiax1.arcadia.
email:  witzel at   

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