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NAKSHETRA - A POSSIBLE INSPIRATION for the MARINER'S COMPASS
By Deepak Bhattacharya 1 & P. C. Naik
Edited by Christopher F. Ash

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Kalingans and Rik Vedic Culture

It was Panini, the grammarian of yore, who opined, "Mlechha desa Kalinga." Assuming he was not parochial or biased for reasons unknown, his opinion is in consort with our own view; that Kalingans were maritime professionals who made their living on the water as fishermen or boatmen - hence "Mlecchas."

When it comes to maritime nomenclature, it is abundantly clear that the terms that have stuck are uniquely Kalingan in origin. For example, the Yantra (pronounced as "Jantra") never once is mentioned as Tara Yantra or Nakshetra Yantra. Similarly, Rik's internal evidence indicates no Kalingan terms.

Whatever the explanation, we give selective mention to all these corroborative historical and literary, peripheral items, merely to make this paper holistic. This is an interesting area but one where information is difficult to distill from the various travel treaties and oral traditions. Great expertise in philology and literature is required.

As for the term Nakshetra, it is indeed mentioned in the Rik Veda but, while this paper applies the term to refer to the nine zones, the Rik means, and exclusively uses the term to denote, "Star" (tara) -- not "nine zones."10 In fact, the Rik does not have any term for "Constellation." Its characterization of the members of the night revolves around Tara.

Was the inspiration "pre," "post," or concurrent-with, the Vedic civilization? What of the evolution of the nomenclature? Whatever it is, Tara and Nakshetra seem inseparable; the Yantra, like Rik's Tara, indeed stands apart. The terms cannot be amalgamated or swapped.

Prima facie it appears that Kalingan civilization, if at all, was separate and had little to do with Vedic culture. It had its own terms and phrases. One lived off the land and the other off the water. Did this mean there was no conflict between each culture and that both might have thus survived? Perhaps.

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Footnotes:

  1. A Guha and B Guha; Rik Veda O Nakshetra.

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