Q: mAyA

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 14 16:29:57 UTC 1999

But if we accept the Gathic form as related to Skt. mAyA, yes, it is
very much possible that it could have been borrowed from Indic. The
fact that the Avestan forms humAiiA and humaiiaka appear to be proper
names may support the case for borrowing from Indic, since proper
names do migrate easily. In one case the person named is an enemy of
the religion of MazdA, but in the other case it is the name of a
daughter of a Zoroastrian. Unfortunately, here again the evidence is
not clear-cut.

In general, Ganesan, I do not think that your view is incompatible
with Michael Witzel's [who does concede the possiblity of borrowing
from Dravidian, though at an early date which is problematic from MW's
point of view].  The only point that I would add is that mAyA [and
mAyin] in the RV has strong associations with magic [and magician]. Is
there a similar association in Dravidian?  If we fail to deal with
this association of mAyA and magic, we will not do justice to the RV

  For mAyA and magic associations in Dravidian, pl. look into
the Tamil root verb, mAy-. Both mAy-tal and mAy-ttal mean
"to hide as in magic, to vanish, to make things disppear, to destroy".

P. T. Srinivasa Aiyangar, Pre-Aryan Tamil culture, 1926, p. 29:
(This is reprinted also by AES, Delhi, 1985)
  "MAyA is a word which occurs in the Vedic mantras; there it does
not possess the meaning of MUlaprakRiti, chaotic matter, that which
is not sat, not asat. In the mantras it merely means the
woder-working power exhibited by Indra and other gods. Gradually
MAyA came to be specially associated with ViSNu;in the Bhagavad Gita,
Krishna,the incarnate Vishnu, speaks of mama maayaa duratyayaa,'my
MAyA difficult to transcend.' So MAyA came to mean the power, the
magic might wielded by the Supreme Vishnu in creating, and substaining
the universe and this is still the meaning of MAyA in Vaishnava
tradition. In the zaiva schools MAyA became the wife of ziva,
the mighty mother of the universe, being Izvara's power embodied in
manifested matter. In the Advaita schools , she became identified with
PrakRiti, matter, which is a reality to embodied beings and vanishes
without leaving a trace behind before the vision of him who has seen
the light of AtmA. Hence Advaitiis explain it by the jingle, yaa maa
saa maayaa, who is not, she is mAyA; this ingenious and impossible
derivation could have been invented only, after that incomparable
philosopher, zaGkarAchArya, definitely and finally connected the
word with that which exists as a phenomenon but does not exist
as a noumenon. The older meaning of the word, from which this meaning
has arisen, was wonder, astonishment, *power of magic*, cannot be
derived from any Sanskrit root; but Tamil possesses a root that
exactly suits the word and that is *mAy*, to be astonished, to vanish
from sight. I am sure that on a careful study conducted according to
the fundamental principles of modern etymological science, many
Sanskrit words will be found to be borrowed from those of the
languages which prevailed in India in the early Iron age."

N. Ganesan

Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list