Tuesday, June 12, 2018

405. Bahn, bāhana and banḍi

 Haupt Bahnhof (Main Railway Station), entrance,Zurich, Switzerland

Linguists have recognized a number of common words in the apparently diverse language members of the Indo-European language families. These are considered to have been derived from common proto Indo-European root words. The Indo-European language family consists hundreds of languages of which about 445 languages are existing at present.
A few examples for the common root words recognized in the Indo-European languages:
1. Father (English): pitar (Sanskrit)/ pater (Ancient Greek), pater (Latin), fader(Gothic), pitar (Iranian). etc
2. Mother (English): mater (Sanskrit), mater (Latin), meter (Ancient Greek), matar (Iranian), mati/ matir (Slavic).etc
The concept of common derived words in different languages that can be grouped as a family is apparently attributed to Sir William Jones. In an address to the Asiatic Society in the year 1786, Sir William Jones, expressed that:
"The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure, more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists. There is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothick and the Celtick, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanscrit, and the old Persian might be added to this family, if this were the place for discussing any question concerning the antiquities of Persia."
(Sir William Jones, "The Third Anniversary Discourse, on the Hindus," Feb. 2, 1786)

Bāhn, bāhana and vāhan
In this post, we shall pursue a common German word bahn and trace its  direct or indirect relatives recognizable in the Indian languages.
Bahnhof  is a commonly used German word, referring to the contemporary railway stations in central Europe. In Germany, Austria  and Switzerland you shall find bahnhofs that facilitate people to travel around comfortably to appointed destinations. The word “bāhn” in the term bahnhof represents a train ( or simply, a vehicle).The German-austrian subway system introduced in 1938 is known as U-bahn (Untergrund bahn) or underground railway.

The nearest relative of the word bāhn in Indian languages appears to the bāhana in Bengali. The bāhana in Bengali means a vehicle. In our Puranic mythology, Indian Gods employ designated animal vehicles: Thus, bull (Nandi) is the vehicle of Lord Shiva. Similarly, lion or tiger is associated with mother goddess Durga,  swan with Saraswathi, eagle (Garuda) with Vishnu, peacock with Shanmukha, rat with Ganesha , crow with Shani and so on. There is a view that most of these  mythology were introduced after 1000 BC. In that case, we can estimate that the term bāhana is not less than about 1000 BC old.
In the study of the tribal cultures, we find tribes divided into various groups, were identified by a specific type of totems. Most of these totems were animal motifs, adapted by the tribes from the surrounding setting of the wilderness.
However, the term was refined to vāhana in Sanskrit, with b>v phonetic transition. The word vāhana has also been adapted  as such in languages like Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam etc. The closer phonetic affinity of the word bāhana with bāhn probably suggests that bāhana  was  the earlier Indian word variant in the relative time-space setting of the evolution of words.  Thus, the word vāhana, appears to be a further refined version of the word, bāhana.

Bāhini- vāhini
The German word bahn though now represents mostly the railway, train or tram, it has other allied shades of meanings such as route, trail, lane or orbit.(Wiktionary). Similar shades of meaning can also be found in the Indian cognates of the word.

The feminine version of the bāhana is bāhini or its equivalent vāhini, represents  something that moves or represents  flow,  stream ,  channel or river, army, procession or in modern times even a television channel.

Surprisingly, the root word bahn has a cousin in Dravidian languages, in the form of word banḍi (wherein, thepronounced as in English word dog). The original derivation of the word banḍi could have been phonetically: bahn+ḍi.  The word banḍi means a cart, a carriage or a vehicle and it does not represents any biological or animal vehicle. Note that suffix ḍi represents spatial or an inanimate entity in Dravidian and allied words, as discussed in our older posts.
However, in the Dravidian languages there are two different words phonetically sounding similar as banḍi:
1. banḍi= stomach, belly
2. banḍi2= vehicle, cart.

Apparently these two diverse meaning Dravidian words have been drawn or adapted  from two different lingual sources, considering the sharp distinction in their implications.

The Dravidian word,  banḍi1  has been modified into  variants in member languages: In Tulu, it is banji. In Tamil and Malayalam, it is panti or  pantam; in Pengo and Manḍa it is panj; in Kui it is panja or panji; in Kuwi it is banḍi and so on ( Dravida Etymological Dictionary).

Tulu, Kannada, Telugu, Kolami etc languages have retained the word banḍi2  for cart or vehicle, as such. Tamil (pandi, vandi) Malayalam (vanti) and other languages have slightly modified equivalents according to their native lingual characters.
From banḍi (the cart), banḍa (the material carted, the goods) has been derived. In Tulu and Kannada, the word banḍasāle, represented   the traditional store or the   storage for the merchandise.

The banḍi2 appears to be known in India since bronze age, as carts have been found associated with buried dead bodies in several ancient burial sites in India. In Tulu culture, during their annual festivities, there is the tradition of the Spirit deities  being carried in procession in  decorated carts (known as banḍi2 utsava or cart festival). The banḍi2 utsavas  later, appears to have been evolved into annual ratha utsavas’  (car or chariot festival) of Hindu Gods Goddesses.
The word banḍa  in turn has a distant cousin in Indo-European languages namely the bundle.


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Books for Reference

  • A Comparative Study of Tulu Dialects By Dr. Padmanabha Kekunnaya. Govinda Pai Reserach Centre, UDupi. 1994
  • Koti Chennaya: Janapadiya Adhyayana. By Dr. Vamana Nandavar. Hemanshu Prakashana ,Mangalore.2001.
  • Male kudiyaru. Dr B. A.Viveka Rai and D.Yadupathi Gowda, Mangalore University,1996.
  • Mogaveera Samskriti By Venkataraja Punimchattaya. Karnataka Sahitya Academy.1993.
  • Mugeraru:Jananga Janapada Adhyayana. By Dr Abhaya Kumar Kaukradi.Kannada & Culture Directorate,Bangalore & Karnataka Tulu Academy, Mangalore,1997.
  • Puttubalakeya Pad-danagalu. Ed: Dr B.A.Viveka Rai,Yadupati Gowda and Rajashri, Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Tulu Peeta. Mangalore University.2004
  • Se'erige. Ed:Dr K.Chinnapa Gowda.Madipu Prakashana,Mangalagangotri,2000.
  • Studies in Tuluva History and Culture.by Dr P Gururaja Bhat (1975).Milagres College,Kallinapur,Udupi.
  • Taulava Sanskriti by Dr.B.A.Viveka Rai, Sahyadri Prakashana,Mysore 1977
  • TuLu naaDu-nuDi By Dr.PalthaDi Ramakrishna Achar, Puttur.
  • TuLu NighanTu. (Editor in Chief: Dr U.P.Upadhyaya, Govinda Pai Research Centre,Udupi. Six volumes. 1988 to 1997
  • Tulu Patero-A Philology & Grammar of Tulu Language by Budhananda Shivalli.2004.Mandira Prakashana Mangalore. p.317. (The book is in Tulu Language using Kannada script)
  • TuLunadina ShasanagaLa Sanskritika Adhyayana. By Shaila T. Verma (2002) Jnanodaya Prakashana,Bangalore, p.304.(Kannada)
  • Tuluvala Baliyendre. Compiled by N.A.Sheenappa Hegde,Polali,Sri Devi Prakashana,Parkala,1929/1999

A Coastal estuary

A Coastal estuary
Holegadde near Honavar,Uttara Kannada dist, Karnataka

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