Vrka in Rig Veda, Viruhu in Tamil and Vrka in Panini- A study (Post.9604)


Post No. 9604

Date uploaded in London – –14 May   2021           

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After reading Panini’s Ashtadhyayi, I thought the Rig Vedic translation of the word ‘Vrka is wrong at least in some places. Ancient Hindus used animal totems, or they had animals on their flags. We know that Arjuna had monkey flag and Duryodhana had snake on his flag. We also read Vanara/ monkey tribe, Jatayu, the Eagle rtribe, Jambhavan, the Bear tribe in Ramayana. All the rishis have animal or bird names. Just a few examples Kausika Visvamitra means Owl, Bharadvaja means Crow and Kashyapa means Tortoise. These totem symbols are in later Mahabharata as well. We read about Matsya/ Fish kingdom and Naga/ snake loka or kingdom.

To cut it short,  over hundred kings, seers and persons are named after plants, birds and animals. It is even in Vedic literature like Pippalada/ peepul tree, Mesha/ sheep for Indra. Aja means goat and many kings and Brahma were called Aja.

Vrka is found in Rigveda in several places. The Vedic Index of Keith and Macdonell gives two meanings. Strangely not connected to one another. A wolf or a plough. I read one or two hymns where the word Vrka occurred. The people who read Vedas forget completely the greatest grammarian Panini. Nobody explained why Panini gives the meanings of  words or usage In Chandas/ Vedas and Bhasha/ Sanskrit. Scholars like Goldstucker only pointed out that he was very close to the end of the Vedic period.

So let us look at some interesting details about Vrka in Panini and also Viruhu in Tamil


Panini’s Vrka is explained in detail by M S Agrawala in his doctoral research thesis and published later with the title ‘India As Known to Panini’.

Here is the gist from the book:

Vrikas is an Aayudha jiivi Sangha, a community that lived by the profession of arms. The whole tribe was called Vrikaah. The Vrikas thus appears to be a section of the war like Saka tribes.

Vrka, Sutra 5-3-115

An individual member of this Sangha was called Vaarkenya and the whole Sangha Vrika. This name standing alone in the sutra with a suffix peculiar from the rest is hither to untraced. It is stated to be Aayudha jiivin, but not necessarily associated with Vaahiika.

It should probably be identified with Varkana, the Old Persian form in the Behitsun inscription of Darius, mentioned along with Paarthava or the Paarthians.

There is a striking similarity between the Sanskrit and old Persian forms of the name,e.g.Vaarkenya equal to Vaarkana in the singular number, and Vrikaah equal to Varkaa in the plural as in the expression Sakaa Hauma Varkaa.

The country of the Vrikas s seems to have been the same as Hyreania lying to the north of Paarthia and on the Eastern corner of Caspian.

Modern Persian Gurgan from Vrika= gurg, in the valley of the river with that name in fertile district of Astarabad.

The Persians distinguished the Varkas and in fact all the northern warlike equestrian people as Sacas.

The name Vrika is known throughout the north west as shown by by its derivatives found in several languages near by Paninis homeland


Iskashmi- Verk

Yidghaa – work, wurg

The title Bakanapati or Barkanapati, the Chief of the Varkanas, is applied to a governor of Mathuraa who was associated with the foundation and repair of Devakula of Vima kadphises, whom Jayaswal identifed a sa Hycranian Saka.

The Sakas were a very ancient race referred to in old Persian inscriptions of Darius and settled both in the Sakasthana. Katyayana also has the expression Saka- Parthava in a Varttika showing that he knew about them in the fourth century BCE.


Vrika in Vedic Index

Vrka, wolf, is mentioned frequently in the Rigveda and also later. It was an enemy of sheep and of calves, being dangerous even to men. Its colour is stated to be reddish/aruna. The she wolf is Vrki ; several times mentioned in the Rigveda.

Second meaning:

Vrka in two passages of the Rigveda denotes ‘plough’.

Another word next to it is Vrka-dvaras, found in only one place in the Rigveda. It is interpreted differently by Ludwig, Roth, Oldenberg and Hillebrandt.

King of the Sandikas. Hillebrandt says it has Iranian connection.


Viruhu (Dhole)  in Tamil

In Tamil, Viruhu is forest Red dog.

It is like Dingoes of Australia. They circle the prey and attack together.


My Comments

Matsya tribe is found in the Puranas and Mahabharata. It means Fish tribe. In our own time we saw Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka attacking Sinhalese. The newspapers simply called them ‘tigers’. Those who were familiar with the Sri Lankan politics know they were fighters against the government .

In the same way, Vrka were wolf people. They attacked others and made a life out of it. But in the Rig Vedic translations we find only wolves. It may be right in some places, but not in other places. So we have to reconsider the old translations.

And strangely Tamils also has this word. Many Rig Vedic words are used in day today conversations. Like Rig Vedic Aruna/ Red wolf we have Sen Naay, Red Dogs of the wild, the common name of which is Viruhu/dhole. There is even a proverb. He blinks like a viruhu; it also means the face of a thief. Because they steal goats and sheep.

So Vrka is not just Wolf. It may be Armed Vrka tribe or Red Dog, Dingoes of Tamil Nadu or plough.

Another interesting point is its Iranian connection. Since Tamils also have the word we are pretty sure the word travelled from India to Iran and not vice versa.

One more interesting  point is Gurg. We have to see whether there is any connection with the Gurkas of Nepal.

The word Gurg is used even in Karnataka where the River Kaveri originates.

We see wolf and sheep even in Aesop fables who copied all the Hindu stories. Vrka gives the word Wolf in English is known to linguists.


 tags- Vrka, wolf, Armed tribe, Dhole, Dingo, Plough, Rig Veda

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