[Advaita-l] Etymology of names of upanishad-s

Ananta Bhagwat ananta14 at yahoo.com
Sat Mar 22 00:26:24 CDT 2008

Namaste and dhanyavAdaH

Very interesting information! There are some questions still because I was also looking at their meaning.
Admittedly one can not go to the absolute root of all words since they are shrouded in obscurity because of their antiquity, still I believe following names beg answers:

(1) kaTha or kaThaka: does it mean a story or a parable or an edge (ref: some blogs which I surfed) or some other meaning? Since it is a name of Shakha as confirmed by you, last option looks more probable. Could you shed some light?

(2) mANDUkya: I believe it is in some way connected to frog. Any connection with three stages of frog in his life cycle and the subject of the upanishad?

(3) kaushitaki: Is it related to some word kutsitaH (skeptic or sarcastic)?. I understans Shankarananda (c. 16th century) had explained its etymology in Sanskrit but was not clear to me because of my inadequate Sanskrit knowledge.

One can ask similar questions in respect of other names, but since in those cases tangible object has been identified (i.e. sage or a bird or a singer, my curiosity is satisfied).


----- Original Message ----
From: Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
To: A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Sent: Saturday, March 22, 2008 5:34:11 AM
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Etymology of names of upanishad-s

 On  Fri,  21  Mar  2008,  Ananta  Bhagwat  wrote:

>  Namaste,
>  I  was  trying  to  trace  etymology  of  names  of  pramANa  upanishad-s:

Interesting  topic.

>  (1)  bRhadAraNyaka  (bRhat  =  great  upanishad)

The  last  kanda  of  the  Shatapatha  Brahmana  of  the  Shuklayajurveda  is  called 
Brhadaranyaka.   Some  sections  of  this  are  called  Upanishad  while  the  rest 
are  Aranyaka.

>  (2)  chAndogya  (chAndoga  is  the  singer  of  sAma)

Right,  because  this  upanishad  belongs  to  the  kauthuma  shakha  of 
the  samaveda.

>  (3)  taittirIya  (sage  tittira,  the  disciple  of  sage  vaiSaMpAyana)

Tittira  means  a  kind  of  bird  (I  have  seen  sparrow  or  partridge  as  English 
translations.)   When  Yajnavalkya  quarreled  with  Vaishampayana  who 
originally  learned  Yajurveda  from  Vedavyasa,  he  vommited  up  the  mantras  he 
had  learned  and  went  away.   The  other  shishyas  took  the  form  of  Tittiras 
and  took  it  up  again  founding  the  taittirIya  shakha  of  krshnayajurveda.

>  (4)  aitareya  (sage  aitareya  mahidAsa)

Yes.   It  is  part  of  the  aitereya  brahmana  of  the  bashkala  shakha  of  the 

>  (5)  kaTha  (or  kaThaka,  etymology  could  not  be  traced)

Katha  is  a  shakha  of  krshnayajurveda  that  this  upanishad  belongs  to.

>  (6)  ISa  (ISAvAsya  the  first  word  of  the  upanishad)

Yes.   It  is  the  last  chapter  of  the  Vajasaneyi  samhita  of  the 

>  (7)  kena  (kena,  the  first  word,  by  whom)

Yes.   This  upanishad  is  also  called  talavakara  upanishad  after  the  shakha 
of  samaveda  it  belongs  to.

>  (8)  muNDaka  (root  muND  =  to  shave  of  (Ignorance))

The  upanishad  of  the  shaven  ones.   This  upanishad  belongs  to 
atharvaveda.   According  to  Shankaracharya,  the  atharvavedis  had  a  vrata 
which  involved  shaving  their  heads.

>  (9)  praSna  (questions)

Yes.   Six  questions  are  asked  to  Pippalada  the  shishya  of  Vedavyas  who  was 
taught  atharvaveda.   According  to  Shankaracharya,  this  upanishad  is  also  a 
sort  of  commentary  on  the  mundaka  which  also  belongs  to  atharvaveda  as  we 
have  noted.

>  (10)  mANDUkya  (maNDUka  =  toad,  no  further  clarifications)

This  upanishad  belongs  to  mandukya  shakha  of  the  atharvaveda.

>  (11)  SvetASvetara  (sage  of  the  same  name)

And  the  shakha  of  krshnayajurveda  he  founded.

>  (12)  kaushitaki  (saMsArikam  sukham  yasya  kushitaH  eva  kushitakaH...)

It  is  part  of  the  kaushitaki  the  kaushitaki  brahmana  of  the  sakala  shakha 
of  rgveda.

Jaldhar  H.  Vyas  <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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