Anglicizing certain words distort their meanings completely. The literal English translation of many commonly used Sanskrit words do not preserve their meanings. Instead, the English equivalents are often based on Abrahamic notions and paints an incorrect picture. Here, I would like to take you through five most commonly used words that have twisted the meaning of our indigenous Indic cultural identity. Although these five words do not comprise an exhaustive list, but is indicative of the point I am trying to put forward.
The word ‘Dharma’ is not the same as the English equivalent ‘religion’. While dharma is a duty, a commitment and a way of life, Religion is a set of organized tenets, particularly in monotheistic religions that have a hierarchical structure. One may still be following his dharma if he doesn’t believe in any of the Hindu Devis or Devatas. For instance, Charvaka, a known ‘naastik’ was considered to be following his dharma despite rejecting the existence of Devis and Devatas. Ravana, on the other hand, despite being a devotee of Mahadeva, was not following his dharma.
A Mūrti is not the same as an idol. An idol is a mere representation of someone. On the other hand, Vigraha/Mūrti is a living entity in itself. All the Mūrtis have prāña. We worship a Mūrti/Vigraha only AFTER Prāña pratishthā has been done. While an idol is a representative piece of art, a Mūrti is a living entity. One can have an idol or statue (Hindi : Pratimā) of a king, politician or any human being, but the word Mūrti or Vigraha specifically represents a living entity.
They are not the same as the monotheistic equivalent ‘God’. The Abrahamic concept of a God who controls everything and must be feared is completely different from our Devis, Devatas and ब्रह्म (for the Advaita Vedantins).
4. Bhūmi Pūjan.
We should always use the words like bhūmi pūjan or ‘griha pravesh pūja’ in their original forms. It is NOT the same as ground breaking ceremony or house warming function in the western countries. While the western civilization treats land as a mere commodity, we worship the land and seek the permission of the mother earth to begin construction. Similarly, we do not just warm the house before entering. We pray to the Vaas devata, Sthaan devata and invite them to live with us forever.
5. Linga (Shivalinga).
The Linga is not the same as phallus/genital, as the translation would want you to believe. Linga means mark/characteristic. For example, the word streelinga (स्त्रीलिंग), denoting a feminine gender, does not mean the phallus of a lady (wouldn’t it be an oxymoron?). It means the mark/characteristics of being feminine.There are many more such words.
If the original Sanskrit words like Guru, Yoga, Karma, Avatar, etc. can be assimilated into the original English vocabulary with time, why should we not use the original Sanskrit words to maintain the distinction? To awaken a civilization, the distortion – deliberate or not – starts with wrong parallels that are drawn. These false narratives need to be corrected first. When we stop drawing parallels when none exist, we can go ahead in solving larger problems we face with narratives.
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