Wednesday, July 27

Looking For its Roots: Punjabi Language

Dr Muhammed A. Shahid

Punjabi is classed as one of the Indo-Aryan languages. Three theories are commonly held about the Indo-Aryan languages:
1) Sanskrit developed from the Vedic language, and its rules of grammar were formulated by Panini that maintained uniformity of its character. Spoken Sanskrit changed into Prakrit and Upbharnish and gave birth to modern Indo-Aryan languages; Punjabi in Punjab, Sindhi in Sindh, etc.
2) The Indo-Aryan languages sprung directly from the Vedic language.
3) Punjabi is a non-Aryan language.
Most experts uphold the first theory as Punjabi contains many words from both Vedic and Sanskrit. There are some who follow the pundits who preached this theory, while most western writers find this theory a matter of convenience.
The followers of the second theory also consider modern languages of the subcontinent as the Indo-Aryan languages with one difference that these languages directly emerged from the Vedic language. With the first theory raising serious questions, a big jump was made to connect modern languages of the subcontinent with the Vedic language. Moreover, the fact remains that Sanskrit does not share a common syntax with the modern languages of the subcontinent.
The third aspect specifically relates to the Punjabi language. Since Rig Veda came into being in Punjab, this group maintains, that the Vedic language gave birth to Punjabi, and not Sanskrit, whose origin is shrouded in uncertainty. The truth is that this group dare not challenge great Pundits of the subcontinent and European scholars but at the same time is not happy with their evidence.
The third group of scholars has carefully studied, questioned and analyzed writings and theories of earlier experts. These scholars are not impressed by big scholarly names or reputation of the Pundits and the European experts. Instead they draw their own conclusions from all the evidence available. They take their guidance from a host of solid leads, such as, archaeological findings at Swan, Harappa, Sara-i-Khola, etc., migration of the Austric and the Dravidians into Punjab, the numerous references to non-Aryan tribes in the Rig Veda, the abundance of non-Aryan words in Vedic and Sanskrit literature and languages, etc. The syntax of modern languages of the subcontinent has no relationship with that of Sanskrit. All this has not been carefully studied before.
Before we take up the issue whether or not Punjabi is an Aryan language, it is useful to consider some prevalent findings.
The most compelling evidence for the earlier scholars was the commonality of many words in modern languages of the subcontinent and Sanskrit. Thus they started with the Aryans and ended with the Aryans. To some extent they were justified in constructing such grand theories. They did not know that archaeologists would discover a civilization dating back to thousands of years before that of the Aryans. Although some scholars did talk about a non-Aryan civilization, in particular the Dravidian civilization, they were at best non-serious. Moreover, the enigma of the Brahvi language in Balochistan, could only be conveniently solved by making a passing remark on Dravidian language and culture.
During the third quarter of the twentieth century, the Harappa civilization spanning thousands of square miles was discovered. Archaeological findings and types of human remains discovered at Sara-i-Khola and Harappa (in Punjab), Moenjodaro (Sindh), Lothal (Gujrat Kathiawar), Kali Bangan (Rajasthan), Aamri and Nall (Balochistan), etc., are forcing experts to re-evaluate their earlier findings.
It is important that we keep all these new discoveries in the correct perspective and read the ancient history of the Punjab anew. In truth, in order to learn about the Punjabi language, first we must learn about the history of the Punjabis themselves.
Initially anthropologists speculated that the human race originated in Africa and spread out all over the world. As research progressed, skeletal remains of anthropoid apes and early humans were found, this theory began to be modified. Skulls and remains from Africa, China, Java, Central Asia and other places were dated to estimate their age and the history of mankind. American Philsam was dated at 10,000 years old, findings at Heidelberg were traced back to 100,000 years, and the age of those from Africa were set at 260,000 years. Recently Aris Poulianas, a Greek archaeologist, claimed a human skull found in the city of Petrelons in Solonika (Greece) was at least 700,000 years old.
The skull of an anthropoid ape like a human one known as Punjab Drypithicus found in Punjab is dated back to at least 15,000,000 years. Moreover, the human remains, known as Rama Pithicus, found in hilly areas of Punjab were dated to at least 14,000,000 years.
A French scholar, Henri V. Vallois, has concluded from his research at Swan that the first human being in its present shape and form lived in Punjab. While only scant, scattered, disjointed and piecemeal evidence of ape-like humanoids from Africa, China, Indonesia, Germany and Greece have been found, we find a continuous and unbroken sequence of human development in Punjab.
Unfortunately inscriptions found at Harappa have so far not been deciphered conclusively. Had this script been faithfully read, we would not be relying too much on speculations of anthropologists.
In Rig Veda we come across compound words such as 'Panj Jan', 'Panj Krushti', 'Panj Jaat', 'Panj Janih dash', and similarly, in Athar Veda we find 'Panj Krashteh', etc. The explanations of these compound words given by the older generation of scholars and pundits do not agree with those of modern scholars and pundits.
Sayann, in 'Madhoya Varti' and in Durga' commentary on 'Narikkut' has taken the 'Panj' (five) to mean Brahman, Khatri, Vesh, Shudar and Nishadh. Yasak in 'Nirakkut' and 'Aitaryah Brahman' takes 'Panj' to mean 'Gandhroo', 'Patar', 'Devtaa', 'Asur' and 'Rakashash'. He also mentions that according to Opamnayu, 'Panj' means four castes and Nishadh. But Sayan and Swami Daya Nand (Sathya Parakash) say that by 'Panj Jann', etc., is meant five tribes of 'Yado', 'Trosh', 'Drohya', 'Ano' and 'Por'.
There are also those scholars who maintain that the Vedic knowledge covers the whole world. According to them the 'Panj Jann' represent five race groups at the roots of all civilization the world over, namely, 'Indo-Aryan', 'Negorative', 'Mongol', 'Red Indians' and 'Malays'. But the 'five' could equally well mean 'Negorative', 'Dravidian', 'Aryans', 'Pani' and 'Asur', the race groups of Punjab.
This reminds us of those five types of skulls that have been found at Harappa. Anthropologists believe that these samples represent the five race groups who lived here. Some account of this can be found in 'Hindu Civilization' (Bombay, 1957) by Radha Mukerjee.
Even if we overlook many findings of Vedic experts and anthropologists, one aspect clearly comes to the forefront. That at least four or five race groups lived in Punjab before the Aryan descended on it. Therefore, whenever we research the language of this land, we cannot and should not ignore this fact. Moreover, whichever race group overpowered Punjab, it killed its inhabitants or forced them to flee. It was impossible to exterminate the whole population or force all to flee. That is why the conquerors and the conquered lived side by side using their respective languages and freely borrowing words from each other as they needed to fit their needs of coexistence. At the end the newcomers most often adopted the enriched local language as their own and almost forgot their own pure and original language.
There was a time when our history started from the Aryans. Scholars like Dr Santi Kumar Chatterji maintain that it is not probable that in India the modern man evolved from something like an anthropoid ape. Instead, waves of people of different races came at different times to settle here. Modern scholars assert that so called modern man has always lived in Punjab for the last several million years
(Dr. Muhammed A. Shahid is Pakistan based scholar and writer)

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