Q: intervocalic -k- preserved as intervocalic -g-

RM.Krishnan poo at GIASMD01.VSNL.NET.IN
Tue Oct 19 13:12:18 UTC 1999

Dear Dr.Koenraad Elst,

At 10/18/99 10:44:00 AM, you wrote:
>Dear Dr. N. Ganesan,
>Are you sure agasti is derived from Drav. akatti?  Rather tan the reverse or
>both from a third language?  As for the seemingly derived name Agastya, Eric
>Pirart (Les forces du mal dans la Rgvedasamhita, Journal Asiatique 1998/2,
>if I'm not mistaken) explains it as a loan from Iranian, a-gast-, "without
>foul smell, without sin, impeccable".
>Yours sincerely,
>Koenraad Elst

This is a lengthy posting {regarding the intervocalic 'k' originally addressed to N.GanEsan}. Since this was a subject
of interest to me, I have attempted to reply in two parts. I would welcome the comments from the members and
especially you.

Before we discuss about the etymology of the name 'Agaththiyar', we need to understand few things:

Whom are we talking about?

According to Sanskrit works, the sage 'Agastya' keeps cropping up during various periods of ancient Indian history and
myths at various regions. He appears to be omnipresent and omnipotent. One is not able to make head and tail out of a
personage who seems to have existed, as per these works, for more than 1000 years.

Fortunately, Pargiter, one of the earlist authorities on Ancient Indian Historical tradition gave an illuminating

He said: AgastyAs, VasisthAs, and VisvaAmitrAs mentioned in the Sanskrit works, were not each one man (baffling
the reader by appearing and re-appearing in every age from that of IksvAku to that of Sri Krishna,) but were a series
of men, their names being family names and not personal names. This idea reduces the chaos to order. [In fact many
such names eventually became the gothra names for brahmins. In the modern times, many brahmins have these gothra
names as the last names (like BharatvAj, Kaundinya etc.)].  The Agastya appearing in the vedic period is far removed
in time to the Agastya mentioned in the puraNas and who in turn is far removed from the Agastya mentioned in the
epic period.

The standard sanskrit etymolgy attributed to Agstya is supposed to be obtained by splitting the word into many
syllables,viz., a-ga-as-tya

Here, 'a' is a prefix meaning 'not'; 'ga'-means 'go', So 'aga' would mean one that does not move (hence mountain or
hill); Finally 'as' - meaning 'throw'. Adding all these pieces, Agastya is supposed to mean one who has subdued the
mountain. The mountain ascribed by the myths is said to be the Vindya ranges. Unfortunately the suggested
etymology, if it had been significant, does not appear to fit the personage described in the vedic period, since
the myth of crossing the Vindyas is not at all mentioned in the Rig Veda. (His slokas appear in the sUktas 165-191,
first mandala)

The vedic description of the first Agastya is that he is the son of Mitra -VaruNa and brother of Vashista. His wife
was said to be 'Lopamutra', daughter of a Vidharba King. Even the supposed fact of Vashista being the brother of
Agastya is doubted by Rakula SAnkruthyAya in his book, 'Rigvedic Aryas,' since Agastya, in his slokas, does not
mention about the principal war (i.e.the one most prominently mentioned in the Rig Veda) fought by Sudas against
 the Ten Dasyu princes with exhortation and participation of Vasistha.

Subsequent Agastya descendents appear to have become pro-sukras (meaning they were helping Asuras/Dasyus;
sukra is an asura teacher) and anti-Brhaspathi (i.e. brahmin rishis who were helping dEvAs; Brhaspathi is a dEvA
teacher). This split has been surmised by an earlier historian P.T.Srinivas Iyengar (History of Tamils from the earliest
 times to 600AD), and emphasized by a modern historian Prof.N.Subrahmanian (The Brahmin in the Tamil Country).
Even Prof. Asko Parpolo in his magnum opus "Indus script' has suggested that two batches of migrations of Aryans
may have come into India. The first one, being of very small scale, might have got merged with the native population
 of the present day Afganistan, Pakistan and North India. As per him, this first wave of Aryans (who got submerged
with the natives) were called Dasyus/PaNis/Asuras. The second wave of Aryans were the sOma-Aryans. There was
continous conflict between the  two batches. The second batch who resisted integration with the natives were fighting
principally with their earlier  batch (i.e. those who got submerged with the native population), and occasionally with
the natives.

I tend to find some truth in this proposition, because a similar antogonism was also presumed to have prevailed
in the south when a few Bramins moved into south few centuries later. Here also, there were two batches. When the
pro-Brhaspathi aryans could win against the pro-sukra aryans and started to descend from Afganistan into sapta-sindu
and then to gangetic valley, the pro-sukra brahmins, who were the teachers to kings and nobles, also gradually moved
further into south crossing the Vindyas. (This is how the agastya crossing myth might have got originated.) They found
receptive Southern kings, especially in Tamil nadu. These pro-sukra Brahmins practiced a modified form of vedic
yagnas. They also included many native practices including that of Agamas originating in the south. These people
were called Brihacharanas. They settled first around Thiru ANNamalai, about 125 kilometres from the present
CheNNai. Subsequently, when Buddism and Jainism became popular in the Magath kingdom (600BC-200Bc) and
perhaps the entire north and northeast India, quite a number of pro-Brhaspathi Brahmins, especially from Kashi
(BeNAras), also moved into the south and further into Tamilnadu. They were called the vadamAs (northeners). Even
today, philosophically there are differences between the two groups and marriages are entered into reluctantly. There
is now a gradual assimilation between the two groups, due to modern influences.

So the myth of crossing the Vindyas must have originated in the puraNic period (1200BC-600BC); hence it must
have referred to a later Agastya (who could be a pro-sukra). One can not name an earlier vedic personage through
a myth supposed to have happenned during the later generations. So the name 'Agastya' must have preceeded the
supposed fact of crossing the mountain.

We will continue in the next posting.

With regards,

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