l.m.fosse at l.m.fosse at
Sat May 18 11:54:59 UTC 1996

Girish Beeharry wrote:
>In a lighter vein and to continue on another trend, I have been told that
>Pythagoras was known as 'pitha(pita?) guru' in India! :-) I have no clue as to
>what the word pitha stands for.

If this is correct, it is very interesting. It would mean that the Greek
name Pythagoras was pronounced Pithaguru in India (Obviously, the last part
of the word was considered to be guru, a word well known to Indians). Now,
compare the Greek form Sandrakottos (<= Candragutta, obviously a Prakrit
version of Candragupta). Notice that the Indic u is given as o in Greek.
These two sounds must have sounded similar to contemporaries. The i in
Pithaguru/Pythagoras would indicate that Greek y (ypsilon) was pronounced i
(like English ee in teeth if long and like i in kick when short) by the
time the name reached India. (This development happens to several Greek
vowels, we speek of iotacism). In other words, Indians learned the name of
Pythagoras by the time that Greek y was pronounced i, which seem to have
happened in the Hellenistic period, if I remember correctly. Thus we may
have a terminus post quem for the migration of the name Pythagoras to
India: It would have happened sometime after 300 B.C.E.

It would be very interesting to get a reference to the sources where the
name of Pythagoras is mentioned!

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Lars Martin Fosse
Research Fellow
Department of East European
and Oriental Studies
P. O. Box 1030, Blindern
N-0315 OSLO Norway

Tel: +47 22 85 68 48
Fax: +47 22 85 41 40

E-mail: l.m.fosse at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list