World languages seem related to some extent. It is to be seen or understood by virtue of words in them. Vindication of this statement surfaces suddenly in the course of our knowledge-gathering. We have had touched this aspect in some of our articles elsewhere in this Blog, say on place name stems ‘Al or Ala’, ‘kuppe’, etc.
Here is one more example.
“Word of the Day” in Dictionary.com of 5th March has sprung a surprise to me. The word is ‘peculate’. It means: (1) to steal or take dishonestly (money, especially public funds or properties entrusted to one’s care), (2) embezzle. Other synonyms are: misappropriate, forge, loot, defalcate, misuse and so on.
The word ‘peculate’ is derived from ‘peculatus’, which is, in turn, is derived from ‘peculatium’. It means ‘wealth in cattle’. The root noun is ‘pecu’. It is pronounced as ‘peku’ (‘c’ is pronounced as ‘k’), meaning cattle and large cattle, domestic animals. The word entered English in 18th Century, sometime in 1740-50.
Pecu versus Pashu
A thought has crept into my mind that this word has connection to Indian languages.
From this ‘pecu’, we get words, like:
Pecus: Mindless group of people, cattle, sheep, rabble, mob
Pecuarius = Sheep, Cattle
Pecunia = movable property, riches, wealth, money.
Pecuniary = relating to money, monetary
Peculiar = particular, strange, abnormal, atypical, private (property)
‘Pecu’ Cognates in world languages
Latin ‘Pecu’ comes all but unchanged from Proto-Indo-European ‘Pek’, ‘peku’, having the meaning of wealth, livestock, and movable property. It cognates with:
Sanskrit: Pashu (पशु) (Meaning Dhan = Wealth)
Proto-Germanic: Fehu or fehe
Germanic: Vieh (In German ’V’ has the sound of ‘F’ (Valve is pronounced as Falfe – as understood from German technicians who came for start-up of Plant of the company where I was working some time in 1969-70 and from some initial learning of German in late 1970s but not kept up).
Low German: Veeh
Old Norse and Danish: Fae
Armenian: ‘wunl’ (Asa) = fleece, wool
Old English: Feoh (meaning cattle, goods, money)
[Source: Dictionary.com, Collins English Dictionary, Pecu – Wiktinary, quoting from sources, like Charles T. Lewis & Charles Short (1879) – A Latin Dictionary, Oxford, Claredon Press & Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York, Harper & Brothers, pecu from Gaffiot, Felix (1934)]
Prakrit: Pasu and Basu from Vasu = Treasure of wealth
Kannada: Pashu, Pasu (Old Kannada), Hasu (new Kannada), Dana (Compare dana (cow) with dhana (cash, wealth)
Tulu: Pasu (ಪಸು), Petta (ಪೆತ್ತ – ‘Pe’as in ‘Pen’, ‘tta’ in Sanskrit ‘vitta’ (वित्ता = Finance, Money). Cow or Petta is normally used for female cow. ‘’Pasu’ also means a docile and calm person or a great or respected person.
Cow as symbol of wealth
Cow has been a symbol of wealth and holiness, even before the Vedic age. Cowherds became kings because of their cow-wealth. One who fought and won battle for ownership of cows was called a ‘Dhananjaya’.
There were groups of traders, known as ‘Phanis’. They were mentioned as enemies of Devas in Sanskrit scriptures (say Rig-Veda) as they were stealing cows of Brahmins.
Donation of cow with calves is considered as a donation of the highest order. Kings used to donate cows to hermitages of rishis.
In the Epic Mahabharata, we have the story of ‘gograhana yuddha’ (गोग्राहण युद्धा). By the ruse of ‘gograhana’, Kauravas wanted to find out the place of hiding of Pandavas during the last one year of their living in incognito as one of the conditions of punishment for losing the Game of Dice with Kauravas. On the last day of their secret stay in the Kingdom of Virata, Arjuna, remaining incognito in the guise of Brihannala (a eunuch who taught art of dancing to Uttara Kumari), fought the Kauravas and won the battle for Uttara Kumar, son of Virata. This highlights significance of a cattle wealth in a kingdom.
Story of Madhavi in Udyoga Parva of Mahabharata also highlights the significance of domesticated horses as ‘property’. She was the beautiful daughter of Yayati, King of Lunar clan, from Urvashi, an Apsara (Celestial woman). Madhavi was blessed by a sage that she would always remain virgin and sacred even after giving birth to powerful sons. How she was traded by Galava, the disciple of Sage Vishwamitra, a King turned ascetic in search of ‘Brahmajnana’, is a strange story (morality of which is to be judged from the customs of those days). Hence Vishwamitra is called a ‘Mahabrahmana’. On insistence of Galava, Vishwamitra ordered him to give 800 snow-white horses, each one having one black-coloured ear, as Guru Dakshina (Fee given to Guru at the end of studies). Galava approached (on the advice of Garuda) King Yayati, who did not have horses, fitting the description. So, King offered his daughter with divine power of regaining virginity after bearing sons only, to be pledged for collecting horses from other kings. Galava got 200 horses from Ayodhya King Haryaswa of Ikshuvaaku Dynasty, who was not having a son. Madhavi advised Galava to offer her to the King for 200 horses and take her back after she bore a son (Vasuprada or Vasumanas) for the King. This way, Galava took further 200 horses each from Devodasa, King of Kashi, who got a son named Pratadana) and King Ushinara of Bhojanagari. Living with him for a year she gave birth to a son, who was named Shibi. Shibi was a generous King and was famous for his steadfastness in upholding truth and justice. Unable to procure remaining 200 horses of special kind, he returned to Vishwamitra and begged him to take Madhavi in lieu of the remaining horses. From Madhavi, Vishwamitra got a powerful son Ashtaka. When Madhavi was free after fulfilling the wish of her father of helping Galava, she chose to remain an ascetic, living in woods like a deer.
Is such word-comparison at random a truth or a myth? Or is it a mere coincidence? We feel that such likeness or image is an essential truth, masked by time and distance.
Harmony between man and Nature with animals is the corner-stone of ecological balance. Nature is evergreen, as the story of Madhavi symbolises. Madhavi means Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and spouse of Lord Vishnu and ever-beautiful like a creeper with fragrant flower having honey. Cattle wealth is replaced by artificial goods now. Man’s unbridled greed has spoiled the atmosphere and water sources, threatening all types of lives of this world.
Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune