Ancient Rivers of khvaniratha and indology

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Tue Mar 14 17:19:08 UTC 2000

Dr. Kalyanaraman:
>Now to khvaniratha...
>I suggest the semantic correspondence as follows; sva_ni-ratha = sva_nad ratha
>(having a rattling chariot, RV; cf. Monier Williams) khvaniratha (German.
>schwan; Anglo Sax. swin).sva_n = making sound (RV 1.104.1); sva_nah = sound
>(RV 5.2.10; also name of one of the guards of the Soma (Taittiri_ya Sam.hita_
> sva_ni-ratha = rattling chariot.
>>But, svan = also meaning 'adorn' (Dha_tup. 1`9.62)

You have one ety. here which I also discuss in my forthc. paper, but
dismiss it. Note that already Bartholomae in 1904,  (Air.WB. column 1864)
dismissed his own similar one, from *svani 'beautiful', as there is lack of
epenthesis: in Avestan we would expect *xvaini-.

The word is to be analyzed differently. And,  PAROKSA, like many
etymologies. They are not always that obvious. And, one has to know some
historical linguistics.

In spite of the aversion/hatred by some on the list, evident again just a
few days ago, historical linguistics is as close as its gets in language
study to natural science (after all, we can move our mouth, tongue, lips,
teeth etc., in only so many ways...) Lack of knowledge or dismissal of this
aspect of linguistics by the very natural scientists who like to take the
high road on the list is indeed surprising.

We can of course let such items as the present  one pass by, and save, with
F.Staal, a lot of time (the favorite choice among my colleagues as their
thundering silence shows, and I can understand them).  But that would only
let the list denegerate further into a chat room where, in the postmodern
fashion of the past century, anything goes.

In the end, Xvaniratha is best derived from *sva-ni-ra-tha (verb ram 'to
stay somewhere with pleasure', as in mano-ra-tha). Zero grade formation, as
in seen niitha, uktha, tiirtha. Thus, "(a place) that has its own (sva)
particular (ni)  pleasure(s) (ratha) ... --  Long story, see the paper.

>sva_ni-ratha is a land where agni is the 'chariot' or vehicle.... The
>semantic expansion of svana- is more elaborate in the Vedic than in Avestan
>which seems to refer to this morpheme only in the context of Airyanem Vae_jah
>or Arya Vis'a, the land mass circumscribed by two rivers: Ranha_ and

Twice wrong <sorry> :
Bartholomae has also xvanaT.caxra (cf. svanad-ratha), xvaini-star at ta/u,
And Avestan vaEjah simply cannot be = Ved. vis'a (viz???), as Avestan j  =
Vedic j.  While Vedic s' (z) = Avestan s.

The items mentioned above can easily be looked up even in the old Avestan
Grammar by A.V.W. Jackson, of  1892 (!!), where he constantly compares Skt.
(and Whitney's Skt.  Grammar).

  Jackson, A. V. Williams, 1862-1937.
  An Avesta grammar; in comparison with Sanskrit.
  Stuttgart, W. Kohlhammer, 1892-

As everyone can see now,  G.Thompson was right after all.


>Dr. S. Kalyanaraman
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Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University
2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138

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