Ancient Rivers of khvaniratha and indology

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Tue Mar 14 06:26:08 UTC 2000

While I must confess that I have some difficulties in parsing the following

>Since indology (which recognizes only the science of Sanskrit) seems to be
>dealing with fan clubs started by Prof. Witzel and ancient rivers,

(who started fan clubs? moi??)  ((or moi + the ancient rivers, -- with the
last  I would agree, the river names  indeed  need more study)) ;  (((or
dealing with fan clubs  and ancient rivers?))),

the following one is correct:

>the following notes on Avestan and Puranic mythologies will be useful for the
>ongoing 101 on-line course on historical linguistics:

Certainly, and it would do some good to learn a few rules about sound
correspondences between Avestan and Vedic,
(and, incidentally,  also to get the name of the Avestan correspondent of
Sarasvatii right: not the antiquated spelling Haraqaiti, but: local
Arachosian Avestan Haraxvaitii,  with -i- epenthesis (a sort of umlaut),
and xv standing in for a consonant that  the stupid ASCII 7-bit encoding
does not allow to reproduce. The Old Persian form is Hara(h)uvatii and
normal Avestan would have been *Harangvhaitii, where  ngv is another
difficult consonant).

>Apart from Arang, Vanhvi_ da_itya_ (veh da_iti_, veh ro_d) [veh = an epithet,
>'good'] is a river mentioned in Avestan texts.

So, here it goes:

Arang is not Avestan but Middle Iranian (Pahlavi) and not mentioned as such
in Avesta , where it is Ranghaa  (ng = Ved. G).   = Ved. Rasaa  = N.Iranian
Rahaa (as in the Greek loan:  Rhaa designating the  Volga <sorry!!!!>,

while Vanghuuii Daaitiiaa is Avestan again,  and Veeh Root is Pahlavi again
(= Avest. Vangvhii = Vedic *vasvii daatyaa or dhaatyaa).

Two different rivers: *rasaa, *vasvii. And not clear at all that one or
both = Oxus (= Iran. VaxSu, modern VaxS, Sanskritized as VakSu, or  with
spelling mistake <sorry!!!> in several Puranas as CakSu, or even
reinterpreted as IkSU "sugar cane" <!!!>,  and  often mythical like the
Rasaa and Sarasvatii....

>Bundahisn, the Uniquely-created
>Bull lived on the bank of this river (GBd. I.a.12--BTA, 25); on the opposite
>bank stood Gayo_ maretan (mortal life), Pahlavi Gayo_mard, the mythical First
>Man. (GBd. I.1.13). It is also a mythical river on the eastern boundary of

The Bundahishn is only in Middle Iranian, a Pahlavi text.  Gayoo mar at tan
(@ = schwa)  is the counterpart of  the Vedic Aaditya god MaartaaNDa,
father of Manu (see K. Hoffmann, Aufsaetze zur Indoiranistik, Wiesbaden
1985-6, Engl. 1991)

More on Xvanira0a  (0 = Engl. th), and some of these rivers,  in a
forthcoming paper (Festschrift J. Narten). Acc. to this, the "eastern
boundary" does not fit the Oxus.

I do not see what the following sentence has to do with the preceding ones:

>Maha_bha_rata refers to an ancient river, veda_s'va_ ( Parva,
>Ch. 9, stanza 28); the people of Bha_rata drank the water of this river.

except for ve-   of Veeh Root... (??)
 As far as I see,  a bull is not a horse, in spite of what we had to read
on INDOLOGY in recent months.

Similar for :

>Daityadi_pa is mentioned as a son of Garud.a, in MBh. Udyoga Parva, Ch. 101,
>Stanza 11. Daityasena_ is a sister of Devasena_, wife of Subrahman.ya;
>Daityasena_ was married to an asura, Kes'i. Daityasena_
>was seen playing in Ma_nasa saras. (Vana Parva, ch. 223,224).

Again, no connection, except for Daitya, from Diti, --
which has nothing to do with Avestan Daaitiiaa, from Indo_Iran. *daata or
*dhaata. The -i- of Daaitiiaa is again epenthetic.
Here some Ling. 101  would indeed come handy.
Otherwise the comparisons  remain popular etymology, Kratylos/Nirukta style

Much or even most  of the stuff given above can be looked up easily enough in
Christian Bartholomae's Altiranisches Woerterbuch, 1904, repr. Berlin 1961.


Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University
2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138

ph. 617-496 2990 (also messages)
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