SV: River Krishna

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Fri Mar 19 22:23:47 UTC 1999

At 20:36 +0100 3/18/99, Lars Martin Fosse wrote:
>>there is a theory about a system of hydronyms related to Western
>Europe, supposedly going back to the period of the I-E "takeover" (about 2000
>+/- BCE). See e.g. Hans Krahe, "Indogermanisch und Alteuropäisch"
> Is there anything similar to such a hydronymic system in the Indo-Iranian

Yes, hydronomy is very conservative everywhere... (note Misssisspi,
Missouri, etc.)

But unfortunately, in the IIr and IA area, most river names have been named
freshly, translated or adapted to Vedic Sanskrit and only a few remnants of
the older designations have survived in NW. and N. South Asia (KubhA,
Krumu?, Sindhu?, ZutudrI, VipAz?,  GaGgA). The Sanskritization process
(note the discussion on KRSNa-veNI) is still going on in places like Nepal.
The situation gets better, as far as  *old* names are concerned,  as soon
as we enter eastern N.India (Audh, Bihar etc.: Munda, Tib.-Burm. names) and
the areas south of the Ganga, these with both Munda and Dravidian

(I have written on hydronomy and other names in a vol. ed. by J.Bronkhorst
& M.Deshpande, on Aryan & Non-Aryan, conf. at Ann Arbor 2 years ago. - The
book will come out this spring as vol. 3  of Harvard Oriental Series-Opera
Minora, to be had from South Asia Books, Columbia MO)

In Greater Iran, too, nearly all is "Aryanized": the Oxus (now Amu Darya)
< Vaxsh (Skt. vakS) > Epic/Puranic  VakSu/CakSu!/IkSu! , the Helmand <
*Setumant, Arachosia < Haraxvaiti < SarasvatI, Hare < Haroiiu < Sarayu
(Herat River),  etc., etc. -- Euphrates & Tigris of course are foreign
words in Old Persian, taken over from Mesopotamian languages.
But note the N.Iranian (Scythian) river names in the Ukraine/S. Russia: Don
~ Skt. daanu, Dnepr, Dnestr, Danube, etc. Not to forget the Volga, whose
older name in Greek sources is: Rha~ [RahA], N.Iran. for Avestan RanghA =
Skt. RasA, 2 mythical rivers  in Avesta/ Rgveda, and a small one in the N.
Indus area in RV.  ---

Nevertheless, we can discern a few pre-Aryan clusters even in
Gandhara/Panjab and, of course, in the less Aryanized areas.
Southern names have been avidly studied by South Indian scholars, however
all from the point of biew of Dravidian.
However, I still miss the tracing  of earlier  levels:  What is "aborigine"
(Nahali, Vedda, Nilgiri-Substrate, etc.), what is Munda, what is Dravidian
--- that is, what explainable as *real* designations, like here in the US :
"Red River", "Muddy Creek", "Charles River  < Massachusetts River" etc.,
and what is an adaptation of not understood, local names: Thames, Rhone,
Rhine, Danube, Missouri...

Linguistic comments welcome.

Michael Witzel                          Elect. Journ. of Vedic Studies
Harvard University        
my direct line (also for messages) :  617- 496 2990
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