The Origins of OM or Omkar - A Hypothesis

sudheer birodkar sudheerbirodkar at YAHOO.COM
Wed Apr 1 10:15:44 UTC 1998

Dear List Members,

Given below is an extract from my webpage on Symbols and Symbolisms
from Ancient India. I seek the feedback of Indologists on this


Sudheer Birodkar

OM or Omkar is a religious syllable that occurs in every Hindu prayer.
Invocation to most Hindu gods begin with this syllable. For instance
we have Om Namaha Shivaya, Hari Om, Om Shanti etc. OM is also
pronounced as AUM.

But this term also occurs in various ancient and modem civilizations
in different form though. It exists Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.
In Arabic the first alphabet is pronounced as aliph. In Greek it is
alpha, in the Roman script it is A. Thus in many languages the first
letter in the alphabet has the syllable A, with which the word AUM or
OM begins. In the Greek alphabet the last letter is Omega which comes
very close to OM. Thus the significance of the syllable OM as the
beginning and end finds a parallel in many of the scripts associated
with ancient languages.

This indicates a possible link between the various symbols and perhaps
a common origin. Even in the English language the syllable �m occurs
in words having a similar meaning. for instance; Omniscience means
infinite knowledge, Omnipotent means having infinite powers Omnivorous
means eating or reading every thing. This syllable also occurs in
words such as Omen which means a sign of something that is to occur in
future, Ombudsman means a person having authority to pronounce a
verdict. Thus Om is also used to signify divinity and authority.

 The syllable OM is not specific to Indian culture. It has religious
significance in other religions also. The word Amen used among
Christians at the end of a prayer is also said to be derived from the
the syllable OM. Although OM is not given any specific definition and
is considered to be a cosmic sound, a primordial sound, the totality
of all sounds etc., Amen is said to mean 'May it be so'.

In Arabic a similar term 'Amin' has a religious significance.

 Thus the origin of the syllable OM is lost in the misty past. Its not
being specific to any one country or civilization is indicative of its
being an universally perceptible sound for the human race. This reason
for this universal perceptibility possibly lies in the fact that AAAH
is the most natural sound that issues from the human larynx. This is
evident when a man cries out naturally in extreme pain, anger or fear.
When emotions reach an extreme pitch the articulate sounds evolved by
man are not the ones that are heard, but the syllable natural to man
which is AAAH.

This sound it can be said would have been associated with man, in
absence of articulate speech, as are the various sounds of barking,
meowing, bellowing that we associate with different animals. This
perhaps is the reason why the syllable beginning with the letter 'A'
is the first one in most alphabets. And this perhaps is also the
reason for the Deification of the syllable AUM or OM.

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