The Names of Rivers (Sanskrit-Tibetan-Mongolian) by Natalia S. Yakhontova
These rivers are the veins and channels on the Body of Mother Earth, just as the mountans are her limbs, the forests are her Hair, and the cities and town scattered about the country her organs of sense.
The gairika or red sediment carried from the hills which periodically gives certain rivers a reddish hue is regarded as her menstrual flow.” [The Hindu World, 1968, vol. II, p. 303]. Most rivers are regarded female.
The first one - lexicons:
Lexicons are special kinds of dictionaries which being examples of poetical pieces themselves aim to be a source of inspiration and a kind of poetical reference book for other poets.
And some rivers.
In Amarakosha first comes
These two dictionaries represent the Induist tradition.
So this list is different from the Amarakosha one.
As for the second tradition I can refer to any Tibetan dictionary (Das, Nitartha on-line, etc.) where four rivers (Gaïgā, Sindhu, Paksu Sitā) are called dag byed bzhi ‘four holy rivers’ or ‘four purifing rivers’.
And I’m going to show how these two traditions were combined in Tibetan lexicography, actually in one dictionary. And I can’t help mentioning some minor transformations made on the way of translation.
So the Amarakosha is for Sanskrit and Tibetan, The Decoration of the Wise Men’s Ears - for Tibetan (I’ll refer to it as “The Tibetan dictionary”) and occasionaly the Tibetan-Mongolian dictionary by Sumatiratna (late 19th century) for Mongolian examples.
The Tibetan dictionary under consideration is “The Decoration of Wise Men’s Ears” (its full title is mngon brjod kyi bstan bcos mkhas pa'i rna rgyan zhes bya ba bshugs so ). Tib. mngon brjod ‘synonim’ specifies the type of the dictionary.
It was composed by dga-dbang ’jig-rten dbang-phyug grags-pa’i rdo-rje in Tibetan in the 16th century following the Indian tradition of the Sanskrit lexicons and borrowing a lot from them (namely Amarakosha).
But at the same time it was influenced by Buddhism of Vajrayana (it begins from epithets for Vajra-dhara, Kalachakra, Hevajra). Some other Buddhist characters, for example, Maitreya, Avalokiteshvara, Manzhushri, Tara, are added as well. But the list of other referents follows that of the Amarakosha.
Now back to rivers.
As for other rivers, that are really existing (or existed) rivers, we’ll follow the Amarakosha and start from Yamunā. In the Tibetan dictionary the first set of epithets is that of Yamuna (it is introduced as “the names of the Yamuna-river”), but at the end of the list the name Pakshu) is added with a commentary that it flows from the West. Not a trace of any Pakshu in AK.
So the first river - Yamunā . Yamunā is the modern Jamna, it flows from the Himalayas and is one of the main tributaries of Gannga. At the same time it is a goddess, she is the daughter of Sūrya and she is called
2. Skr. Kālindī ‘coming from Kalinda’, Tib. ka li nda’i bu mo ‘the daughter of Kalinda’ (Kalinda is the name of a mountan). The other translation of this Epithet is Tib. rtsod can ‘with quarell’, the reason for such translation is that Skr. kali means ‘quarell’.
The Tibetan dictionary (“Decoration of Wise Men’s Ears”) has an explanation that “the river is called so because many years ago people argued where this river flows to. Now we know that it flows to the Vindhya mountains”.
3. Another Epithet is Skr. tapana-sutā ‘the daughter of Sun’ (tapana ‘burning, causing pain’ is one of the Sun’s epithets), Tib. gdung byed ma ‘she, who causes Suffering’, Mong. enelgegči em-e ‘mother who causes Suffering’, which is far from the original meaning. The referent in SR is Yamuna.
The Tibetan commentary says that Yamuna is a sister of zhi ba, who is the one who made Yama flee (it might be any from the list, most probably Buddha) but it is not the original meaning of this Epithet.
Its epithets are properly translated into Tibetan in the Tibetan dictionary but the referent is not Narmada, but Sindhu (and in SR as well). In the Tib. dict. before the list there is a phrase “the names of the Sindhu river”.
The beginning of the list (first four names) in the Tib.dict. and in AK are the same:
5. Skr. pūrva-gaïgā ‘the Easten Gangga’, Tib. sngon gyi ga nggā ‘the ancient Gangga’, Mong. erten-ü γangγa id. One of the meanings of the Skr. word pūrva is “ancient” which was chosen for the translation.
6. Skr. bāhu-dā ‘giving a lot’, Tib. mang po byin id., Mong. olon-i öggügči id. The last name is the name of another river Arjuna, whose epithets are given in AK below. The Tibetan translator read bahu ‘a lot’ instead of bāhu ‘an arm’.
In AK after Narmada (or Sindhu according to the Tibetan dictionary) there are names of five rivers with their epithets but all of them are united as epithets of the Sita river in the Tibetan dictionary.
The legend has it, that it “Originated from the water poured into the hand of Shiva at his marriage with Parvati and thrown by him on the ground.” The same legend is repeated in a Tibetan commentary in the Tib.dict.
4. Another name of Arjuni is Skr. bāhu-dā lit. ‘a giving arm’, Tib. dpung pa byin id. The same Skt. bāhu-dā was translated as Tib. dbyig gi dpung pa ‘an arm of wealth’, Mong. erdeni-yin ömög ‘a precious army’. (Tib. dpung has both meanings “arm” and “army”).
The translators tried to make this name sound better. In the list of names in the Dict. by Das there is dbyig gi khu ba ‘сок богатства’. Tib. Khu ba resembles Tib. dpung ba and the meaning suites the name of river much better.
In the SR’s dictionary the Tibetan version was a little bit transformed: Tib. zhag sa grol ‘a free place for a night rest’, Mong. translation is γajar getelkü ‘freeing the land’. Rather far from the original meaning.
It is the modern Sutlej. The legend has it that rishi Vasishtha decided to commit a suicide (again, on a different occasion) tied a stone to his belly and threw himself into the river, the latter being afraid of his Power devided its stream into a hundred smaller ones.
This legend is reproduced in the Tib.dict. as well.
8. River Shona Skr. śoÂa lit. ‘red’. Tib. khrag ‘bab ‘blood flow’, Mong. čisun-iyar urusuγči id. There is one more Epithet of the Shona river Skr. hiraÂya-vāha ‘carrying gold’, Tib. gser lag ‘a golden hand’ is not included into the Tib.dict.