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Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute

ON THE ETYMOLOGY OF THE WORD 'NDRA'


Author(s): Uma Chakravarty
Source: Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 76, No. 1/4 (1995), pp. 27-33
Published by: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41694367
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ON THE ETYMOLOGY

OF THE WORD ' NDRA'

By
Uma Chakravarty
0. An attemptto get theetymologyof the word indra would focus light
on the principal and basic aspect of his character,whichto us is thatof a
war god. Beforecomingto our pointof view in thisregardwe would like to
make a surveyof the opinionsof our predecessors- fromYska to Volker
Moller.1
1. Of the thirteenderivationsof the word indragivenby Yska,2 we pre*
fer the followingtwo : indatervaivaryakarmanah
/ indachatrnmdar<"
v
yit I drvayitv3 Or, the word is derivedfrom( the root ) ind, mean*
ing to be powerful,i. e. beingpowerfulhe tearsthe enemiesasunder, or puts
them to flight."1 YSska's last derivationof indra : darayit ca yajvanms
" Or, he honoursthesacrificers
"6 mightbe pointingto the growingimpor*
tance of sacrificein society. The Bfahaddevatdoes not say anythingdirect*
ly on the etymologyof indra. It speaks about the fouraspectsof his character. They are : ( i ) he is the god of waters,i. e. the rain god, ( ii ) killerof
of acts of strength,*( iii) as he lords over all, so he
Vjtra, and a performer
is Indra,8 and ( iv ) he is one of the twelve dityas.9 The Bfahaddevat
notesthatthefeatureof super-eminence
of Indra's laudationis his accomplish*
mentof everykindof featof strength.10The executionof featsof mightin
courseof timeentrustedhim withthehighestfunctionof rulingover all. The
inclusionof Indra among the twelve dityas belongsto a periodwhen the
of theVeda was moredevelopedand was in the processof taking
mythology
a definiteshape.
11. Thirteendifferent
of thewordindraexpressopinionson the etymology
ed by twenty-five
or more scholarsare reviewedbelow in a nutshell.
1 VolkerMolleris theauthor
" Die mythologie
ofthearticle,
dervedischen
und
Religion
inGtter
undMythen
des indischenSubkontinents
Hinduism,"
, ed. Hans Wilhelm
1984.
Haussing,
Stuttgart,
1 Hirukta( X. 8 ), ed.Lakshman
Sarup,PartIII, MotilalBanarsidass,
( 1sted. 1926)
reprint
1967,pp. 175-6.
* ibid. PartIII, p. 176.
* ibid,PartII, p. 156.
B ibid. PartIII, p. 176.
8 ibid.PartII, p. 156.
' Brhaddevatn
HOS vol.V ), p. 12.
( II. 6 ), ( ed.& tr.byA. A. Macdonell,
* ibid.II. 35,p. 14.
ibid.V. 146-48,pp.61-62.
10 ibid.II. 6.,p. 12.

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28

Annals BORI , LXXVi ( 1995 )

( i ) Roth and Bhllingkat the conclusionof theirarticleon Indra say


" Man wirdzu keiner
befriedigenden
Lsung des WortesKommen, so lange
mandas ^ als wurzelhaftbetrachted. Geht man dagegen von der Wurzel
aus, an welchersich das Suif. ? mittelsteines epenthischen
qr anfgt
Sinn : Bezwinger,Bewltiger
so ergibtsich der vollkommenzutreffende
, der
zu
as
consiweitererBesttigungvgl.
".n So long
Vermgende
;
^ is
dereda part of the root it is not possibleto arriveat a satisfactorysolution.
Contrarily,if one startswiththe root
^ and adds the suffix' to it aftej
the insertionof the epenthetic^ , then one reaches at the perfectlycorrect
'

meaning: the conqueror' themaster', thepowerful ". Withreference


to the above view Charpentierrefersto Jacobi, who observesthatone cannot
Una,i-nuand inv-aare derivedfrom
speak of a root like in ; all the formations
the root z'.12 We, however,would pointout that, the root inj im existsvery
muchin theSamhits. Many wordshave beenformedfromthisroot. Some of
I. 119.7b), invatu(RV I. 162,6d 12d ; IV. 53. 7d e
themare invathah
al ), invasi(RVV. 28. 2c ; VIII. 13. 32c et al ), invire( RV V. 6. 6c ). Only
a fewinstanceshave been quoted above. It is, however,to be noted that iti
the above examples the root in ( v ) has not been necessarilyused in the
sense of ' to conquer' or to overpower,* In some versesit means ' to cover' in others ' to go ' Our pointof view is thattheroot in ( v) has been
used by the Vedic Poets.
( ii ) Benfey13followinga very complicated process concludes that
Indrahas been formedfrom* sind + ra whichon its parthas beenoriginated
fromsyandmeaning' drop' RegardingBenfey'sopinionCharpentiercommnts: " allerdingsoriginal- aber ganz unannehmbar"14"by all means
"
originalbut not acceptable.
(iii)Max Mller holds, indrais exclusivelyan Indian word and is
derivedfromthesame root fromwhich' indu' drop * ' juice * has been formed.16 Max Mller remindsone of Yska : Indave dravail ti v / indau
ramataiti v ( X. 8 ) " he ruas forthesake of soma ( indu+ dra ), or he
takes delightin soma ( indu+ ram)
Muir, Macdonell, Fick, Kirsteshare
Max Mller's opinion.
11 St. Petersburg,
vol.I. p. 804.
Dictionary
M Le MondeOrientalvol.XXXV,nos.1-3.1931(Leipzig,OttoHarrassowitzpp.1-2:
),
Dazu bemerkte
JacobischonlngstmitRecht,manknnevoneiner
Wurzel
in - nicht
da nurPrsenbildungen
i~nu undt-nva alle natrtich
sprechen,
i-nat
einer
von,
Wujzel#-vorliegen
."
M Opinions
ofBenfey,
MaxMller,Muir,Macdonell,
Foy,Kirste,Grassmann,
BezzenandJacobihavebeencollected
from
article
berger,
mentioned
Charpentier's
above.
u op. oit. p. 2
16 op. cit.p. 2.

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hakravrty i On theEtymologyof thewordi ndra'

"
( iv ) Grassmann maintains, Die Ableitungist sehr unsicher. Das
ist wohl noch, da es wie indu, von der Wurzel iridh
wahrscheinlichste
stammtein dem der Nasal biswilen... eine Umwandlungder Aspirate in
die Media veranlasst."16 " The derivationis veryuncertain. Th highest
possibilitylies in that it as indu originatesfromthe root indh in which
the nasal causes an occasional change of aspirate in the middle". (Tr.
as has been already pointedout by
by us. ) In Grassmann's interpretation,
of Yska,
Charpentier,we observethatthe two of the thirteen
interpretations
i. e. indrahas been formedfromindu as well as fromindh9have been combined intoone. Bergaigne,Bollensenhold more or less the same opinion
as Grassmann.
( v ) Bezzenbergerputs Zend andra (indra), Pehl. andar and Slav.
indraon the same par. He opines that* ant = Skt. nad ( fromwhich indra
has been derived). But Bezzenbergesviewhas not been supported by any
otherscholar.17
( vi ) CharpentierfindsJacobi'sview( i-nr)18accepable, butat thesame
timeputsforwardhis own hypothesis:
"
aus alterem* in- ra zu erkl( vii) Also wre indramglicherweise
ren, was sich dann ist einwardfreimit avp,vSp- zusammenstellenliesse.
Auch der Bedeutuugwegenwre eine derartigeZusammenstellung
gut verwandbar, wus sich besondersdurch das abgeleiteteindriya-, Manneskraft
.beweisen lsst"19 Indra aiso could possibly be interpreted
to be formed
from
then
it
can
ba
with
in-ra,
satisfactorily grouped
vrjp,vSp-. For the
sake of meaningalso such a groupingis well-thoughtof which particularly
' derived fromit. " Tr.
lets itselfprove throughindriya c manlyvirility
by
(
us. ) Charpentierthinksmoreor less in the same light as Roth and Bhtunlikemanyscholars,thinksthatthe word indrais
lingk. That Charpentier,
originallynot Vedic and maybe linkedup withparallel Greek worksgivesit
a muchbroaderperspective.
( viii) Hermann Gntert20holds that the basis of indra lies in * old
'
4
meaning to swell and he also givesplausibleexplanationof n and r occurring in theword. R. N. Dandekar findsGilntert'sviewthe mostconvincing.21
18 op.oit. p. 3.
17 op,cit,pp.4-5.
19 op. cit. p. 5.
18 Already
reterred
to.
20 See Hermano
Gntert
: DerarischeWeltknig
undHeiland, Haale (Saale) 1923,
pp.13-14.
81 See R. N. Dandekar: VedioMythological
Tracts, Delhi,1979,p. 186#

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Annals BORI, LXXVI ( 1995 )

(ix) Hillebrandtrefersto the opinionsof severalscholarsin thisregard


but prefersnot to give any of his own : " Mythologischhat all dies wenig
Wert. Indras Name ist der Inbegriffaller Kraft."22 " Myhologicallyall
99
thesehave littlevalue. Indra's name is the embodimentof all strength
. ( Tr.
us.
)
by
"
( X) For Benveniste'sview we quote Keith : Benvenistesuggestswith
Kretschmerthat the name of Indra is borrowedfrom Hittiteor Luwi, but
asserts thatthereis no proof that Innara* in Hittitewas a divine name."23
Keith refusesto accept Benveniste'sview and comments," If the base of
Indra is Indo-European, it seems whollyunnecessaryto find in it a Hittite
loan-word."24
( xi ) L. A. Waddel observes a link between SumerianKing In-Dar *
ln-Duru or In-Dur withthe Vedic Indra. u His ( i. e. King's ) personalname
was Dur or Tur withthe prefixof ' King or ' Lord * ( In
in Sumerian
or Ash or An), it was In-Dar, In-Duru or In-Tur i. e. the King Dar, King
Dur or Tur. "25
aa Alfred
Hillebrandt
: VedischeMythologie
II, Breslau,
1902,p. 148.
" ( Indian Culturevol. 193483 ForBenveniste's
viewA. B. Keith's" IndraandVrtra
,
1,
5 ) hasbeenconsulted.
u op.cit.p. 463
thatthedifferent
Benveniste's
opinion
suggests
peoplesof thearchaicworld- the
theSumerians,
theMittannis,
theIndo-Europeans
etc.- werenot estranged
Hittites,
there
wasinter-trafficking
eachother
between
thesepeoples.
from
but,on thecontrary,
boundtobesurprised
andsimultaneously
Oneis, however,
to be drawn
tempted
thattheHittiteInnarandIndianIndra havelinguistically
theconclusion
towards
a
base. But,oneis definitely
barredfromdrawing
sucha conclusion
as so far
common
evidence
hasbeenfound
initsfavour.
WequotebelowAnnalies
nolinguistic
Kammen= KALAdifferent
to theHittiteinnorauutar
whowhileclassifying
huber
godsrelated
GottIndra(R HA 46.118) ist mitgutemRecht
TAR observes:" Der indische
verbannt
worden,Mnchener
Studiumzur Sprachwissens
aus derDiskussion
, Heft3, 1953,1958,p. 28 " "TheIndiangodIndra( R H A 46. 118) has been
chaft
thisdiscusin.(Tr. byus.)
from
excluded
rightly
AlsoseeEdwardDietz Otto: Reallexikonder Assyriologieund Vorderasia
tischenArchologie
( vol.V,NewYork,Berlin,
1976-80,
p. 96). FromJaanPuhvel's
HittiteEtymological
Dictionary( vol.I, MoutonPublishers,
Berlin,NewYork,
1984) is shownbelowthesimilarity
ofmeaning
andsoundeffect
between
Amsterdam,
derivatives
andIndianIndra;
Innarinitsdifferent
Hittite
" explicitly,
on one's own( account
Innara
willfully,
purposely,
), of
" 366.
one'sownaccord
p.
" makestrong,
strengthen " p. 367
In(n)arah(h)~
"
?
be
or
innarawai
Innarai-(?)
( )
strong "p. 367
strengthen " p. 370
Innarauwah(h)- " makestrong,
seemstomean" sexually
Innarawant
potent " p. 372
85 L. A. Waddel,TheMakersof Civilisationin Bace and History(S. Chand&Co
1968,p. 79).

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Chakravrty s On theEtymologyof theword' ndra '

31

9
'
( xii) Mayrhoferthinksthat ndra is originallyan adjective meaning
'
'
strong,powerful and linksit up withthe serbocroatjedar *full, powerful,
'
"
strong
Wegen indriyamund indra in der Bedeutung,,Frst, Erster
scheint Indrah ein altes Adejektivumfr... stark, mchting" zu sein,
weshalbsich Zusammestellung
mitserbokroatjedar voll,krftig,
stark( aksL
"
*
jedr < * indro- s ? > empfielt. 26
( xiii) VolkerMoller says thatindraoriginallymeans ' strong,power*
ful and has been derivedfrominoti stimulating,overpoweing' He also
observesthatthe basic natureof Indra is thatof a war god ' " Indra ( urspr.
"
wohl, " starkmchtig auch von inoti " treibend" " bewltigend
abgeleitet). Der hervorragendste
Gott der vedischenZeit ; in seinerursprnglichen
wie auch als Gott der Kriegerist er GegenstandeinerVielfalt
Naturbedeutung
von Mythenund wirdin uber 250 Hymmendes RV gepriesen."27
III. 0. Of the thirteenopinionson the etymologyof the word indra, six
are in favourof establishingthattheroot fromwhich indra has been derived
has themeaningto infusestrength,invigorate' and thelike. We can mentionthenames of Roth-Bhthingk,Charpentier,Mayrhofer,and Moller in
thisconnection. HermmanGntertand R. N. Dandekar also observe that
99
from the root id-*oid> to swell9, indra " swelling( manly virility
) has
been formed.
III. I. Our conjectureis, ndra has been formedfromthe root in(y)with
the suffixra and with the epentheticd (in + d + ra). Such linguistic
and is probablycommon
phenomenonis not rare in the Vedic literature38^
36 Mayrhofer,
Wrterbuch
des AltindisohenB^nt1i
Kurzgefasstes
etymologisches
Heidelbeeg,
1956,p. 88.
' andIndra'
'*Because4indryam
" itislikely
" theleader" " theforemost
signify
"
" strong,
thatIndrahis an old adjective
t
meaning
powerfuland so its classificado
" ( aksl.*
withSerbocroat.
edar" full,
< * indro- s ? ) is recompowerful,
j
strong
jedr
"
mended,
(Tr. byus.).
op.cit. p. 112.
88 NotonlyintheVediclanguage,
thisis rather
a common
obser
linguistic
phenomenon,
vedlongbefore
Bloomfield
inhisworkLanguage( GeorgeAllen& Unwin
byLeonard
in thechapterentitled
Ltd., London,1957: 1sted.1933). He observes
"Typesof
" on 383; " In a
Phonetic
Change
p.
good manylanguageswefindan intermediate
ina cluster.A Primitive
consonant
arising
Indo-European
( sr) appearsas ( str) in
Germanic
andinSlavic; thus,Primitive
*(srow)
Indo-European
(compareSanskrit
'
'
inPrimitive
Germanic
[ ' sravati] ' itflows) is reflected
[ 4Strawmaz
] stream old
Norse( strawmrl
Old
stream
and
in
old
).
English
(
Bulgarian
( struja
'
),
) stream
atmorethanone time,has inserted
a [ d ] inthegroups
of ( nr,nl) and a
English,
; Old English
[b] inthegroups(mr.ml): old English(40uarian> (to) thunder
case> alder
( aire) ( accusative

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ArmaisBORI, LXXVI ( 1993 )

32

among the NIA languagesalso19). In- this connectionwe would cite candra
98 a parallel example. It occurs many a time in the Vedic literature,
Candrabas been formedfromtheroot can meaning" to delightin '' ( MonierWilliamss Sanskrit-EnglishDictionary), " sich einer Sache freuen" ( St.
Petersburg Dictionaty), with the suffixra and the epentheticd; tandra
St. Petersburg Dictionary) is also an example to quote in
(von
this regard ( cf. Ait. Br. vii. 15 sryasya paya remanam yo no tandra-

yate caran, also see . Br. 8. 5. 2. 6 ). We would furtheradd that mantra,


tantra,yantra30etc. lso have been formedfollowingmore or less the same
process. We get support in arrivingat such a conclusionfromRoth-Bth
lingk,Charpentierand VolkerMoller.1

According to Monier-Williamsthe root in ( v ), inv or the root In {


inotlmeans " to advance upon, press upon, drive; to infuse strength,invi
"
gorate; to use force...," and on theword ina he has : able, strong,energetic
...bold, ... mighty;RV, a lord,master,a king". The wordsina, inasya,inatama occur nineteen times in the #V.3'2 And, of these ten times (or
elevenI. 155. 4 Indra or Visgu ?) theyhave been used by thepoets of th RV
to denote Indra. In thisconnectionit maybe apt to quote RV III. 49. 2 ( a
hymnto Indra ) j
a.
b.
c.
d.

ydm n nki/iprtansu svarajam


dvit trati nrtamamharisihm/
intamah sttvabhiry ha sih
prthujryamind Syur dsyoh//33

18 See,forexample,
thefollowing
:
OIA
NIA
vHnara> vendara(HindiandmanyotherIndianlanguages)
tu-nara> sundara( Hindiandmanyother
Indianlanguages
)
> ( *tHmbra
tJitnra
) > tmbda( Marathi
)
Bmia > ( *Umbda

) > atnbat(
)
"
See St. Petersburg
: '' V?S{ ( von )," " ^ ( von
ZFH
Dictionary
"
(von PH).
81 S. D. Laddu( Bhandarkar
Oriental
Rerearch
Pune) alsohas beenthinking
Institute,
forlong,hetellsme,alongexactly
thesamelines.
W I. 53.2 ; 149.1 ; 164.21; II. 20.2 ; VII. 20.5. ; 36.2 ; VIII. 2. 35; 33.5 ; X. 3. 1 ; 26.7 !
44.4; 50.2:115.2.
L 149.1 ; 155.4 ; IX. 77.4 ; X,23.6.
III. 49.2 ; X.120.6.
83 " Whomtheself-ruler,
thebestofmen,riding
inthe battleHaris,nobodysupersedes
lordaccompanied
field,thehighest
by ( his) fierce( people), traverses
longdistance
thelifeofhisenemy
anddevastates
( dasyu)." (Tr. byus.)

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Chakravrty : On theEtymologyof the word' ndra '

33

indtamahoccurringin c in the above verse has been translatedby Wilsonas


" supremein sway
as " the most vigorous" and by Geldneras
by Griffith
" der der hchsteGebieterist " he who is the
highestmaster
The word ndrawas initiallyan adjective, a veryapt epithetfor the
leader of the Vedic Aryans,a leader who vanquishedenemiesand released
all thedire necessitiesof lifeof his people.
waters,precisely,one who fulfilled
the
into his
Later,
epithet,followinga very normalcourse, was transformed
name.34 Such a phenomenonis not unusual in life. The veryetymologyof
the wordndrahintsat the historicalbackgroundthe Vedic Aryansand their
leader passed through.

81 Krsna,we presume,
was initially
so calledbecauseof hitdarkskin,and latertbat
becamehisname.
5 Annals[ BORI]

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