Anagrams and Phonetic Wordplay

Anil Gupta sristi at AD1.VSNL.NET.IN
Thu Dec 11 16:02:11 UTC 1997

I have received an interesting response from a young boy, Gaurav who
obviously knows more than I do on this subject


The messge you forwarded was interesting.  I remember hearing or reading
Hindu myth where an anagram is used cleverly by someone.  It might have
been in some philosophy of Hinduism- I can't quite remember.  However, I
read a short book about Hanumanji where he uses a play on words.  At the
of the battle in the Ramayana, after the death of Kumbhakarna, Ravana
a Chandi Yagya to Durga Devi in order to gain a boon.  Hanuman dressed up
as a
Brahman stident and served the learned Brahmans that were to chant the
for Ravana.  Pleased with Hanuman, the Brahmans granted him a boon.
asked for one change in one of the mantras, which read:

"Jai twam Devi Chamunde,
    Jai bhoootardiharini
Jai sarvagate devi
    Kalaratri namostute!"

According to the book, Hanuman asked to replace the syllable "ha" with
changing the meaning of the second line from "Hail the remover of all evil
spirits" to "Hail the creator of all evil spirits."  Thus the goddess
hostile towards Ravan and helped to bring about his defeat.  I found that
interesting and similar to what the forwarded message was about.  Would
play on words be called an "anagram"?

Varuag at

> From: George Thompson <thompson at JLC.NET>
> Subject: Re: Anagrams and Phonetic Wordplay
> Date: Sunday, December 07, 1997 07:40
> >I seem to vaguely remember a study on wordplay and anagrams--possibily
> >even phonetic ones--in Vedic lit.  Does anyone know of such an entity?
> >
> >
> >~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> >John Robert Gardner      Obermann Center
> >School of Religion         for Advanced Studies
> >University of Iowa       University of Iowa
> >319-335-2164             319-335-4034
> >
> >~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> John,
> There is actually quite a lot on wordplay and anagrams. For the RV,
> discussion of these phenomena has been ongoing for a long time. Saussure
> long time ago noticed such things in his notebooks published posthumously
> by Starobinski. You will find there Saussure's interesting analysis of
> vibhakti-play on the name of Agni in RV 1.1, as well as the play on the
> names *agni* and *aGgiras*.
> Geldner was certainly aware of these phenomena. There are references to
> them scattered throughout his translation and commentary. Likewise,
> references to such things can be found quite often in Renou's EVP. See
> Thieme on 'Sprachmalerei' and Elizarenkova's 1995 book as well. I recall
> article by Saverio Sani as well, and no doubt Gonda has written about
> things somewhere. Why, I think that I also have mentioned this sort of
> thing somewhere, although for the life of me I can't remember where. I'm
> sure that there are other references that have slipped my mind, or that I
> just have not run across. Perhaps others can supply more references.
> Indo-Europeanists like Toporov and Watkins have also called attention to
> anagrams, etc., in the RV. And Martin Schwartz has discovered elaborate
> wordplay in the Gathas of Zarathustra, which would confirm that such
> practices were surely a prominent feature of proto-Indo-Iranian poetics,
> and apparently an IE phenomenon as well.
> I'm sorry not to give detailed bibliographic references right now [it is
> the end of the present semester, of course]. I can track these down for
> if needed. I send this quick note just to assure you that you are right
> pursue an interest in such things. They are an important feature of Vedic
> poetics
> Best wishes,
> George Thompson

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