Southern pronunciations ? (Re: INDOLOGY FAQ

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Mon Feb 15 18:50:48 UTC 2010

One should also keep in mind, in all these discussions about  
ವಾರಾಣಸಿ (the only pronunciation I have ever heard in  
Karnataka; note the short i at the end), बनारस,  
வாரணாசி, etc. etc., that old and famous cities tend to  
acquire new or altered names in speech areas far away from where those  
cities are.

Europe is full of such examples. In Dutch, Wien becomes 'Wenen', Paris  
becomes 'Parijs', Berlin is 'Berlijn'; Köln becomes 'Keulen' in Dutch  
and 'Cologne' in French and English. Dutch cities like Arnhem and  
Nijmegen become 'Arnheim' and 'Nimwegen' in German, and 's- 
Hertogenbosch and 's-Gravenhage become 'Bois-le-Duc' and 'The Hague'  
in English. München becomes 'Munich' in English and 'Monaco' in  
Italian (and the latest, Sanskrit name, which I would like to  
publicize here, is Munīśanagara).

The list goes on and on. The reasons for all these metamorphoses are  
manifold, and differ from language to language: some reasons are  
internal (general phonetic patterns of the language), some historical  
(e.g., the British using French names for whatever is just on the  
other side of the water).

Compared to what Europeans have been doing on their continent (or the  
British in India: Śrīraṅgapaṭṭaṇa > Seringapatam, Ēḻumpur  
 > Egmore), I find the Indian variations on Vārāṇasī quite modest.

As for the variations in Kannada: I suspect that 'vāraṇāsi' is a  
distorted form that may at first have been borrowed from Tamil, since  
it is Śiva's city, and much, though not all, Śaiva lore came to  
Karnataka from Tamilnadu (historical reason; note that the references  
in the Kittel dictionary are from the Basavapurāṇa, a Śaiva work;  
but the same text also contains 'vārāṇasi', and Kittel has also  
found 'varaṇasi'); and at some later time, so I imagine, it was  
realized that the proper pronunciation is 'vārāṇasī' (but  
Kannadigas always shorten the final ī in loan words: internal reason),  
which is why I have never heard anything else.


Prof. Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos
Department für Asienstudien - Institut für Indologie und Tibetologie
Universität München (i.e., Munich, Monaco, Munīśanagara)
Tel. (+49-89-) 2180-5782
Fax  (+49-89-) 2180-5827

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