bhakti- etc

Yaroslav V. Vassilkov yavass at YV1041.SPB.EDU
Sat Apr 10 07:33:43 UTC 1999

>From yavass Sat Apr 10 11:11:00 MSD 1999
Dear colleagues,
        at last I have an opportunity to express my belated but heartfelt
thanks to Ferenz Ruzsa, Harry Spier, K.S.Arjunwadkar, C.R.Selvakumar,
Christian Lee Novetzke, Naseem Hines, N.Ganesan and Luis Gonzales-Reimann
(who addressed me privately) - for useful information and comments on
the historical semantics of *bhaga*, *bhagavat*, *bhakti* and *bhakta*.
        N.Ganesan (30 Mar) asks: "Does Bhaga have cognates with Old Iranian
and/or IE"?
        There are many cognates of *bhaga* in Iranian languages:
avest. bag- 'to be fixed as a share', bahsh 'to take as a share', 'to taste',
'to partake', 'to eat' (cf. Skt. bhakS-), avest. bahta- 'recieved as a share',
'lot', 'happiness' and also "god as giver of a share/lot/destiny"; avest. baga-
n. 'lot, share', m. 'god'; New Persian bag- 'god'. The element representing
the form *bahta- has been found in some Scythian names from North Pontic
Steppes. Russian and even common Pra-Slavic *bog "(happy) lot", "share",
"destiny", "god", "God" - is most probably a loanword from an Iranian
(*Indo-Iranian?) source (formally and semantically it is the closest parallel
to Skt bhaga/Bhaga and Av. baga-). The same word, but in its Indo-Iranian
form *bhaga-s, was borrowed by the Volga Finns (Mordovian-Erzja *paz*, *pas*
'god' Mordovian-Moksha *pavas* 'god', 'good luck', 'happiness').
        Contrary to the opinion of many linguists who think the Old Russian
term *bogatyr* "rich man; lucky man; the epic hero" is of Turco-Mongolian
origin, I suppose it is an Old Russian word meaning "one whose share is great"
(*bog* - "share, lot" - *-at* - a suffix, cf. *bogat*, *bogaty* "rich, lucky"
+ *yr'* - another suffix)  which provides the closest parallel both to
Skt *bhagavat* and Skt Epic *mahAbhAga- 'one whose share is great'.
        By the way, some of the "Mitanni names" contain the element *bhag-*:
*Bagarriti*, *Bagbartu*.
        Possibly relevant are Kafiri theonym *Bagisht* and Dardic (Kalash)
*Bagorai* (<Bhaga-rAjA?).
        A lot can be said on the subject. To sum up: *bhaga- 'lot, share'
and 'god as dispenser of the shares' - is surely a word of Indo-Iranian
origin. As for IE, there is the verb *bhag- "to eat, consume, devour; to
divide, to fix as a share; to take/eat as a share; to partake" - whose
sphere of meaning reveals probably its connection with the institution of
the "sacred feast".
        But at the same time I think that the interrelation of Skt *bhaga*,
*bhagavat*, *bhakti* and Tamil *paku*, *vaku*, *pakavan*, *patti* (see
contributions by C.R.Selvakumar and N.Ganesan) forms an
interesting problem and deserves investigation.
        Best regards,

                                                Yaroslav Vassilkov

Yaroslav V.Vassilkov, Ph.D.
Department of South and SE Asian Studies
Institute of Oriental Studies
Dvortsovaya nab., 18,
St Petersburg, 191186,

Home address: Fontanka, 2,
kv. 617, St Petersburg,
191187, Russia
tel. +7 (812) 275 8179
e-mail: yavass at
        vassilkov at

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