The migration of human tribes from Africa to Asia, India ( and other countries ) since ca. 50,000 years ago and later have been confirmed by genetic studies. Along with the migrating tribes many primitive words have migrated to different countries. We have shown in some of the past posts, the existence of several African words remaining as obscure and strange remnants in the place names in Tulunadu.
Yet, the concept of migration of words from African to Dravidian and other Indian languages during the historical period appear strange and unbelievable to many. The skeptics point out that the languages of Africa and India are distinctly different. It is true that the languages were different. However, the fact is that the words, only the words, have been absorbed by the recipient land and not the language. The languages have grown in the land according to a destined pattern determined by the dominant majority of the population. The migrating people being in smaller number have not been able to impose their language patterns on the recipient land, but strange foreign words introduced by them have been seamlessly absorbed, in some cases temporarily, by the recipient language. Strangely, our place names have faithfully preserved some of the temporarily accepted foreign words. These words can be considered ‘temporary’ absorption because we have lost the meaning of those words due to disuse.
For the benefit of skeptics, we shall give a glowing example that has been entrenched in many of the Indian languages and epics.
The mountain of Meru (or ‘Sumeru’) has been a prominent geographic feature in several Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythologies. The ‘Meru Parvat’ is considered to be the centre of ‘Jambu dwipa’(peninsula) and abode of Brahma and other Gods. Ancient Indian texts described to be about 84,000 ‘yojana’ high or so.
Mt. Meru, is a conical shaped volcanic mountain, 4,566 m high, located in Tanzania at the border of Kenya, Africa. It is located on the equator, which compares well with the Indian descriptions of ‘centre of the Jambu-dwipa’!. Even though now it is considered as the fourth highest mountain in Africa geological studies have shown that it was about 6000m during the ice ages (period of glaciation) and the height was reduced subsequently on account of erosion. Volcanic mountains are generally conical in shape being wide at base with a narrow summit. Indian texts describe the Meru mountain precisely as wide at base and narrow at top.
The word ‘Meru’ in Sanskrit means ‘high’, possibly after the Meru mountain.
Why an African mountain finds respectful mention in ancient Indian epics?
It can only mean that people from Africa were frequenting India during the period ca 1700 BC to 500 CE when most of the Indian scriptures and epics were considered to have been composed. Either the composers of these epics had first- hand knowledge about these African places or they envisaged the features based on the descriptions of the immigrants.
Mt. Meru was considered as abode of Gods by African tribes. Even the origin of African God ‘Murunga’ has been traced to the Mt. Meru. The ancient cult of African God Murunga has entered south Indian theology as Muruga!
The word ‘Meru’ has entered Indian languages as an expression of greatness. In Kannada, the phrase ‘meru nata’ means a great actor.
Mt. Kenya is another African mountain. Kenya is also the name of an East African State, bordering Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania. The African (Kikuyu) word ‘Kenya’ means the abode of Gods. Several districts and regions within Kenya have been named after Meru. In Tulunadu, there are at least two places known as ‘Kenya’ (Sullia Taluk) or ‘Kinya’ (Mangalore Taluk). However, the local people have lost the original meaning and significance of these place names after the passage of time.
And many now unknowingly resort to misinterpretation of these toponyms as ‘small’ (=‘kinya’) or ‘listen’(=‘kenya’)!
Meru Peak in Gharwal Himalayas
An anonymous recent comment has provided information on the Meru Peak in Gharwal Himalayas, Uttar Khand State,India.This information is likely to have disputes with the data discussed in this post.
However we find several African place names repeated in Indian subcontinent.
We shall discuss these things more in the forthcoming blog posts.