Post No. 10,773

Date uploaded in London – –    23 MARCH   2022         

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The word for cotton in Sanskrit is KARPAASA. It is found in Greek, Hebrew and Latin. The botanical term Gossypium is also derived from the Sanskrit word. There are two more ancient words for cotton – katn in Arabic and a few other old languages. Tamil which is spoken for at least 2000 years, has PANJI and PARUTHTHI.

We don’t find Tamil word anywhere else in the ancient world; but Sanskrit Karpasa is in many parts of the world.

In Egypt cotton has been used for at least for 2000 years. Warwick university analysed 1600 year old cotton seeds in Sudan and found out they are different from Indian variety. Now Egyptian cotton is known for its strength and length. In south America another variety was used by ancient people.

But India has the oldest cotton material in the world. It is found in Harappan sites. The Sanskrit word Karpasa travelled round the world than other words. Moreover Indian climate, like Egypt, suits better than sub-tropical or temporal countries.

Greek cannot be the origin of the word or the plant. They wrote funny stories about cotton ‘TREES’. Even Virgil thought it was a ‘tree’. They thought sheep giving it to some plants.

Greeks borrowed the Sanskrit word Karpaasa .


One must look at Tamil or Sanskrit sources for literary evidence. Here is what Satya Swarup Misra says in his book, ‘The Aryan Problem, A Linguistic Approach’ says,

“Evidence of cotton cloth is found in several sites of the Indus Valley civilization,viz. Mohenjo daro , Lothal etc, Wheeler considered this to be the earliest evidence for cotton. K D Sethna shown that the word ‘karpaasas’ does not occur in the main Vedic literature and is first of all found in Gautama Dharma sutra. Therefore, the Vedic literature must antiquate the Indus civilization. Since Indus civilization starts from 2500 BCE, Sethna proposes the date of Rig Veda to be at least 3500 BCE, allowing 1000 years for the development of Vedic literature in several stages (Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka, Upanishads).

The date of Rigveda proposed as 5000 BCE on linguistic evidence is not contradicted by this. Now excavations on the Bolan river in Central Baluchistan  have uncovered a series of agricultural settlements more than 3000 years older than Harappan sites, where cotton seeds are found.


Parsi Evidence

One must take into account the cotton sacred thread worn by millions of Brahmins (Punul in Tamil; janenu; yajnopaveetha) until this day. Like Brahmins, Parsis (Zoroastrians) also wear pure white Kushti and Sudre made up of cotton. I will consider this as more ancient evidence than the literary evidence. Brahmins make this sacred thread only from cotton. So do Parsis.


Tamil Evidence

The words for cotton in Tamil Panju/ Panchi and Paruththi (பருத்தி, பஞ்சு ) also provide evidence for at least 2000 years.

Like Rigveda , we see women spinning  thread in Tamil homes.

Tamils wore cotton dress because of hot weather. More than 15 references are available in ancient Tamil literature. But it is not in the oldest book must remember both are not botany books.


Tags- cotton, Karpasa, Paruthi, Tamil, Sanskrit, Parsi, evidence, Punul, Kushti, Sudre

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