Maamsam and Hamsam: Sanskrit Wordplay!(Post No.3166)



Compiled  by London swaminathan

Date: 18 September 2016

Time uploaded in London:16-34

Post No.3166

Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.


Sanskrit language is very rich with lot of riddles and puzzles. Manu in his smrti (Law book) deals with one or two things. He explains why MEAT (maamsam) is called Meat. He also tells us why NARAYANA is called Narayana. This shows his interest in languages and Linguistics. Elsewhere others explain the significance of the word HAMSAM (swan) and why great saints are called PARAMAHAMSA. Let us look at these interesting explanations: –


He whose “MEAT” in this world do I eat will in the other world “ME EAT”. Wise men say that this is why meat is called meat – Manu 5-55

The translation of this much quoted verse is based on  that of Charles Lanman, who attempted to recapture the Sanskrit pun: Meat is called Maamsa because he ( sa) eats  me (Maam) in the other world if I eat him now.

Sa = he

Maam = me




HAMSA (swan)

A similar pun is made in the Vedantic  texts on the metaphor for the soul, the swan (hamsa), said to express the identity of the individual soul (aatman) and the world-soul (brahman): I AM HE (aham sa)

Aham = I (jeevaatman)

Sa = he (Paramaatman)

One who realised this truth is Parama Hamasa as in Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Paramahamsa Yogananda.




Meaning of Narayana

Narayana was the creator of Brahma, who, according to Manu, was so called beacause the wters (nara; Neer in Tamil) were his first ayana or place of motion. Water is always used as plural in Sanskrit).

The name is found for the first time in the Satapata Brahmana. Narayana is another name of Vishnu.


Aapo naaraa iti proktaa apau vai narasuunava:

Taa yadasyaayanam puurvam tena naaraayanah smrutah

Manu 1-10


The waters are born of man, so it is said; indeed the waters are the children of the primordial. And since they were his resting place in ancient time, therefore he is traditionally known as Narayana. (Manu 1-10)



Following is from my article posted on Tamil or Sanskrit: Which is older? posted on 16 July 2014.


Is NEER a Tamil word or Sanskrit word?

Regarding Tamil words in Sanskrit:

No language is pure in the world. Our forefathers were NOT language fanatics. They freely used Sanskrit words in Sangam literature and later Tirukkural. In the same way Tamil words are in later classical Sanskrit. But I doubt about it in Vedic Sanskrit. I have shown that even great linguists like Suneet Kumar Chatterji are wrong to claim that ‘Neer’ (water) in Rig Veda is Tamil. I have shown that it is in the oldest Greek mythology (Nereids=Water Nymphs). When a word is found in other Indo European languages it is not counted as Dravidian even in etymological dictionaries. But old linguists misled many others and so ‘Neer’ is shown as Dravidian. I have also shown that Kapi and Tuki in the Bible are Sanskrit words. Please read my article “Sanskrit in The Bible”.

In this context, my pet theory is Tamil and Sanskrit originated from a common source on the Indian soil. This is what saints like Paranjothy Munivar and others believed 300 years ago. If we believe our Puranas and Tamil commentators, we accept that Agastya from the north came to South India and codified grammar for Tamil. He was sent by Shiva to balance the population (Please read my article “Population Explosion: Oldest Reference is in Hindu Scriptures”; posted on 2nd February 2013). Naturally Agastya would have done it on the basis of Sanskrit grammar. But even Shiva accepted Tamil as a separate language and entrusted the grammar work to great Agastya. Even Lord Shiva recognised the greatness and uniqueness of Tamil. Do we need any other certificate?