Gold is said to be the first metal known to human beings, who got attracted for its brilliant sheen in river sands. The placer gold mining, hence, is considered older than gold mining from the rocks. Antiquity of gold is reflected by its mention in ancient Hindu scriptures viz. Ramayana, Vedas, Mahabharata, Puranas, etc. Extraction of gold by washing or panning from river sands is described in Vedas and later texts. In Rig-Veda Indus or Sindhu River is stated as hirnyamayobhayakula which means it’s both banks bear gold. The gold names or nomenclatures as per Nighantu, the Vedic dictionary, (Anon., 2000) include Ayya, Amritum, Bharmam, Chandram, Datram, Hema, Hiranyam, Jatrupam, Kanakam, Kanchanam, Krshnam, Loham, Maruta, Pesha, Rukmam, and Suvarna. Coining of the gold nomenclatures during Vedic period seems to be based primarily on rivers from where gold was obtained or brought. Consultation of literature brought out many rivers, which have placer gold in their sands, and also their names matching with Vedic gold nomenclature; thus, bringing out a riverine connection to the Vedic gold nomenclatures.
Vedic gold nomenclature Ayya seems to be coming from Ayyad or Ahar River flowing in south Rajasthan. Udaipur town is developed over ancient Tamba Nagari of Ayyad or Ahar culture (2580 BC to 1500 BC). It is possible that gold was obtained from copper as indicated by gold names of Tamras (after tamra-ras or extract of cooper). It is also possible that this gold was coming from Ayya River, a tributary of Kolva River, in Russia. Vedic Amritum gold was the one obtained from Amrita River of Plakshdweep, which has been correlated with Asia Minor located between Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea (Ali, 1966); specifically NW Turkey. Placer gold is mined there since ancient past; and the aboriginals ‘Hatti’ followed a religion-concept similar to Vedic culture (William et al., 2017).
The Chandram (Chandra) was the gold obtained from the Himalayan Chandra River in Himachal Pradesh. It might be the gold coming from the rivers of Chandra Parbat in Uttarakhand Himalaya. Vedic gold name Datram seems to be after Datram River, a tributary of Kanhar River originating from Jashpur area, well-known for past gold panning in Chhattisgarh. Harit gold was named for its greenish tinge. Hema gold seems to be the obtained from gold bearing Hemavati (means ‘gold bearing’) River of Karnataka.
Vedic gold nomenclature Hiranya seems to be after Hiranya River still flowing near Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, which has gold in its sands; Another Hiranya River flows near Somnath in Saurashtra. Hiran River flowing near Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh; and in south Rajasthan and north Gujarat seems to be variants of ‘Hiranya’. In addition many rivers were called Hiranyavati or Hiranyavahini, which means ‘bearer of gold’ e.g. Indus or Sindhu River (Dube, 2012); Son River of central India was earlier known as Hiranyavaha.
Vedic Jatrupa name of gold might be related to gold bearing ‘Jatra Gora’ River in Jharkhand. The Kaachnam gold, a variant of Kanchan; was obtained from Kanchan Ganga River near Badrinath in Himalaya or from the Kanchan River flowing between Ganga and Son rivers, north of Sasaram, Bihar. Kanchi River, having gold in its sands, is a tributary of Subarnarekha River in Jharkhand (Singh and Giri, 2018). The Patakancha (means descending/ flowing gold; could be after patra-Kanchan for flakes of gold) River is located in Peru (Anon., 2020). The Vedic gold Karbur (‘ka_rbu_ra’ in Tibetan) might be the gold obtained from rivers of Kharbu villages in Ladakh where gold bearing streams still exist (Knight, 1896).
Vedic gold Krshnam indicates it coming from Krishna River, which still flows between goldfields of Hutti and Mukangavi in Karnataka. Vedic Loham term for gold probably used to come from ancient Lohitya kingdom around Brahmaputra River and its tributaries of Subansiri and Lohit River, which bear gold in their sands (Maclaren, 1904). Lojhara, a known gold placer site in Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh, could also be its source.
Vedic Marut gold must be that, which was brought by ‘Marut’ people, still known as expert gold washers in Ladakh and Kashmir including POK (Vernier, 2020). It might be coming from Markanda (after Marut and Kan for gold particles) River of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana known for placer gold (COI, 2011). Marut gold may be of Maru River, flowing through gold deposits in Maharashtra, whose sands are still washed by locals for gold (Rao, 1996). Manmaru placer gold locality in Jharkhand might be another source of Marut gold. For Vedic gold name Pesha, like Ayya, is interesting. It seems to be obtained from Pesha River of Komi republic in NW Russia; it is known for placer gold.
For Rukmam gold no link to river is found except the Rukmini Island situated within Brahmaputra River, which carries at places gold in its sands. Vedic gold name Satkumbha in old texts is meant a river as well as a mountain; but their location is not defined. However, Satkumbha pilgrimage place is located near Sonipat in Haryana, where Himalayan Yamuna River flowed in its past, and might have carried gold, in a way similar to Markanda River. Vedic gold Suvarna (su-varna for good colour) seems to be obtained from Subarnarekha River flowing in Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha (Singh and Giri, 2018); and/ or Subansiri River in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, all known for placer gold. One Swarnamukhi River is also in Andhra Pradesh.
From the above details it is clear that most Vedic gold nomenclature indicating rivers were located in Indian Territory. However, some of these rivers are found in far-off countries i.e. in Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia, which indicate their past link with the Vedic culture. Placer gold bearing rivers Ayya, Pesha, Chandalash (after Chandra), Marakan (after Marut-kan) and Krasnaya (after Krshnam) are located in Russia; Hamdah (after Hema) in Arabia, etc.. Suvarnabhumi and Suvarnadwip were famous lands of gold in Southeast Asia. Several Sanskrit root words are identified in the names of rivers, lakes and towns of some countries in the world, which also indicate a global Vedic link.. The ancient Indian connection with African lands and gold mining is well known since ancient past (Moor, 1884; Anantharamu et al., 1992).
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- William, E. Brooks, Hüseyin, O. and Cansu, Z. (2017): Amalgamation and Small-Scale Gold Mining at Ancient Sardis, Turkey. Archaeological Discovery, V. 5, pp 42-59
- Vernier, M. (2020): Notes on some ancient open-air gold mining sites in Ladakh/ Études mongoles et sibériennes, centrasiatiques et tibétaines (online), 51
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