hamsa, goose and swan

Frits Staal jfstaal at SOCRATES.BERKELEY.EDU
Sun Feb 10 17:43:25 UTC 2002

Yes, I am sorry that it throws no light on sun and breath but I do agree
that Dominik should please ask Julia to enlighten us but not without paying
pranams to my late countryman J.Ph.Vogel (= bird) who planted in my brain
the idea that hamsa, apart from the etymology, also means "goose". Or so I
recall, perhaps erroneously since I cannot now find his monograph "The
goose in Indian literature and art" of 1962 (Leiden: Brill).

At 08:06 AM 2/10/02 -0800, you wrote:
>It does not help me much in my search for the
>link between praa.na and the sun, but: Yes,
>etymologically hamsa is indeed ghansa (cf.
>Mayrhofer) whereas swan, the singing bird (?),
>has perhaps something to do with svánati and
>latin sonare (at least acc. to Duden
>Herkunfstwoerterbuch s.v. Schwan; unfortunately
>the online indo-european dictionary is still only
>starting up and I could not find a suitable lemma
>for swan/zwaan/Schwan at
>Please, Dominik, request Julia to enlighten us on
>the overlap between hamsa and swan.
>Best, Jan
>--- Dominik Wujastyk <ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK> wrote:
>> On Fri, 8 Feb 2002, Frits Staal wrote:
>> > I have not followed this discussion but only
>> a detail re. #6: hamsa does
>> > not mean swan but goose - obvious also for
>> semantic reasons unlike swan
>> > which is a typically European-Romantic
>> (Wordsworth?) bird.
>> Ahh, Frits.  According to received Indological
>> opinion, you would be
>> absolutely right, but Julia has been
>> re-examining the identity of the
>> hamsa, and would not agree with what you say, I
>> think.  I'll leave it to
>> her to state her view on this, if she wishes.
>> She has gone into a lot of
>> detail, and has sophisticated ornithological
>> knowledge as well as the
>> Indological background.  As far as I can
>> gather, "swan" is correct *in
>> some circumstances*.  But I must leave it to
>> Julia to say any more.
>> Best,
>> Dominik
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Frits Staal


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