Update on 2015.05.19: I have revised my take on the meaning of “om”. The update is inline, and, for reasons of keeping some flow to the writing, it is not marked separately.
Etymology of “punashcha hari: om”:
The title of this post is in Sanskrit.
The individual words mean the following:
(i) “punaschcha” is obtained by joining “puna:” (where the colon stands for the “visarg” and is pronounced with a sharp and short “h_”) with “cha”. “puna:” means “again” and “cha” means “and.” The jointed word thus means: “and again.”
BTW, by the rules of Sanskrit grammar and pronunciation, the “h_”-like thingie for the “visarg” always matches the last sound preceding it. Thus, “namo namahaa” is actually improper even though you have always heard every Vedic “guruji” pronouncing Sanskrit only in that, wrong, way. The proper pronunciation instead would go: “namo namah_.” “h_” not “ha” and certainly not “haa.” [Do mark the distinction I make between “a” and “aa”; it applies throughout this post.] It also is totally unlike the more lyrical but careless intonations like “haa^aaa_aaa….” that you often hear on those very high decibel loudspeakers they put up at the time of any and every “satyanaaraayaNa pujaa” going on on the road-sides.
But coming back to “puna:”, if you are really interested, “pu” means “cleaning” or “purifying” and “na” means “no.” How does the combination of “pu” and “na” go on to acquire the meaning: “again”? I don’t know.
… I can take a guess, of course. I mean, after first assuming that these two words indeed are the proper elements of “puna:”. The purifying or cleaning indicated by the “pu” certainly refers to the consciousness or soul, and not to material objects. (This same “pu” lies at the root of the word “puNya”, i.e., good deed, or spiritual merit.) So, negating “pu,” “puna” should mean something like uncleanliness or an not-fully-purified state. How does this combination then transform to mean “again”? Here is a speculation no. 1: If the soul is not perfectly pure, then by the ancient Indian wisdom, it has to reincarnate. An imperfectly pure soul, thus, implies a sense of lives repeating. By extension and by emphasis on the repetition, “puna” then could have come to mean “again.” Speculation no. 2: Imagine the teacher-student scenario. The teacher teaches a verse, but the diction of the student isn’t clean enough. “puna:”—not clean—says the teacher and repeats the correct pronunciation; the student follows. By association, the student understands the word “puna:” to mean repetition with an improvement, i.e., to do something again and again. [Don’t rely on these speculations. These are just that—a guesswork, a happy guesswork perhaps, but certainly these come to you from someone who doesn’t really know Sanskrit. Ditto, for most anything else concerning Sanskrit that I write here in this post.]
Incidentally, people who don’t know how to pronounce “Na” right unwittingly end up turning the meaning of the name of my hometown upside down. While “puna” seems to mean the absence of cleanliness of soul or merit, “puNya” sure does mean good deeds or merit of the soul, and “puNe”—the name of my home town—is an abbreviated and corrupt form of the original Sanskrit “puNyanagari”, i.e., city of spiritual merit.
BTW, as far as cleanliness goes, for material objects, you won’t use “pu”. You would rather use a word like “swachchha.” This word, too, is interesting. It starts with “swa” which means “self,” “of own,” and also “of itself,” i.e., “of essence.” I have no idea what precise elements join together to yield the word: “swachchha.” [In this update, I removed some of too erroneous speculation which I had in the first version.] It could be “swa:” + “chha”. Now, “chha” does mean pure, clean (and also tumultuous, unsteady!) If “chha” already means clean, why attach the “swa” before it? I have no idea. Perhaps it is for emphasis. Cleaning up to the point of revealing the essence of the thing itself, perhaps?
BTW, I have a feel that “swa” itself should be a composite, but don’t have any clue about it.
Anyway, coming back to the main track, “punashcha” thus means: “and again.”
(ii) “hari” is a name of a God. Which God exactly? The tradition has differed from time to time, and also from place to place. These days “hari” is usually taken to be “vishNu,” the middle one of the Hindu trinity, the one who protects, and “har” is taken to stand for “shiva,” the destroyer.
One possible etymology for “hari” is: that which is derived from “har”. This assumption leads to something funny: “vishNu” the protector as the one who is derived from “har” or the destroyer! “har” sure means destroyer. It is composed of “h” + “r”. “h” stands for “removing” or “taking away” and “r” is an adjective that stands for “possessing” or “acquiring”. “har” is the remover of possessions, i.e. destroyer. (A close word is “haraNa” which means “taking away”.) The protector is derived from the destroyer, because the assumption here is that this is a destroyer of ignorance.
Now, “hari:” (pronounced with the sharp “hi”) is the modified form of “hari” which, by the rules of Sanskrit grammar, implies [and I am guessing again] that “hari” is the grammatical subject, i.e., the actual actor. When you say “hari:,” you expect some extra context, some extra information pertaining to “hari” to be there somewhere in the same sentence, usually (but not necessarily) in the following part.
(iii) You probably already know what “om” is taken to stand for: it is the auspicious, primordial, etc. sound, uttered at the beginning of recitation of any verse. I repeat. “om” is always uttered at the beginning, never at the end. (At the end, it is the recitation, three times, of “shanti:”, which means “calm”, “peace”, “serenity”.)
“om” is very often supposed to mean a combination of the three sounds “a” + “u” + “m”. There is a lot of literature about such a supposed etymology for this supposedly ancient (“sanaatana”) word.
Very ancient, “om” is not. In the entire “rigveda”, I have been told, there is not a single mention of the word “om”. It probably made inroads into the Vedic literature about 2 millennia ago, whereas “rigveda” has been dated to many, many millennia before that time.
[Indeed, all the following made inroads roughly around the same time: the God “gaNapati”, the word “praNava”, and the syllable “om”. In the ancient Vedic times, they would niether invoke “om” before recitations nor would they pray to the God “gaNesha” before beginning any other prayers to any other God(s). The God “shiva” certainly is much more ancient. It’s no accident that the “mantra” “om nama: shivaaya” is called a “panchaakshari”, i.e. made up of five syllables. Not six. Both the “mantra” and its description as the “panchaakshari” has been in use since before the times when the preceding “om” got attached to it.]
Still, pursuing the supposition that “om” breaks down to “a” + “u” + “m”: While in Sanskrit the modifier “a” sure means negation, the meanings of “u” and “m” are not equally clear. “m” seems to variously mean: moon, water, time, happiness, well-being, and then, also poison! [This clearly indicates that the root had to be interpreted by the tone of utterance.] Suppose it means happiness here. So, “om” would then stand for negation of something that stands for “u”, and happiness (or something else in the aforementioned list!) I am unable to wrap my head around it. … Can you give it a try? …
Let me take a wild guess again. Does “u” mean throwing out, or exhaling, or expelling? If so, then “a” + “u” + “m” would mean: not throwing out happiness, i.e., retaining in happiness. But it all depends on two crucial presuppositions: (i) that “a” + “u” + “m” really are the roots, and (ii) that “u” really stands for throwing out something.
There is another etymological route that is possible. Here, the presupposition is that “om” is composed out of just “o” + “m”. This etymology makes sense, too: “o” means both exclamation as well as the action of calling. So, in this case, “om” then becomes: a call to happiness. Or may be, a call to something that leads to happiness. May be.
The reason the second etymology for “om” makes sense is this: “a”, “u”, “o” (and “au” etc.) are all “swara”s in Sanskrit (roughly, they are the vowels). The other category of syllables is “vyanjana”s, like “ka”, “kha” etc. (roughly, the consonants). The word “swar” itself splits into “swa” + “r”. You know the meanings of both these roots by now. “swar” therefore means: that which holds all by itself. An independent syllable. In contrast, a “vyanjana” is a combination of an elemental sound plus a “swara”. For example,”ka” actually is “k_” + “a”. Now, the “k_” part doesn’t have an independent existence (it can’t be pronounced fully). To make it fully pronounceable, you have to add the “a” to it. This distinction of the “swara”s and “vyanjana”s is very basic, and very important to our context. If you know linear algebra, the Sankrit “swara”s can be taken to form a linearly independent set. Just the way in vector algebra you cannot express via a linear combination of and , similarly, no Sanskrit “swara” can be taken as a combination of the other Sanskrit “swara”s. Each stands completely on its own. Ergo, “o” cannot be taken to be composed of “a” + “u”. The idea is grammatically untenable at a very basic level.
Thus, “om” can only be taken as the calling (or mental recalling) to (or of) happiness (or something that “m” stands for).
That’s what this word of much recent origin probably means. Logically speaking, it cannot be taken to mean “aum”.
Putting it together:
In the current formulation (“hari: om”), curiously, the action that “hari” takes or any other of attribute related to him, is left completely unspecified. Instead, immediately after “hari:” comes the third word: “om.”
Since, “om” is invariably pronounced at the beginning of a statement/verse, its usage always indicates that some new statement is coming up. Yet, the part just before “om” viz. “hari:” itself also indicates some sort of a beginning. By way of its grammatical form, it indicates an incomplete statement. The “visarg” is not a “poorNaviraama” (full-stop); it emphatically is a pause. You therefore expect, e.g., a word or a line or an attribute indicating what “hari” does, or some other kind of attribute that applies to him. Instead, suddenly, the action is all yours and not that of “hari”: you yourself utter “om” and thereby embark on a new beginning. The abruptness of the break between “hari:” and “om” is, thus, unmistakable. [In Marathi, they omit the “visarga” i.e the colon (“:”) after “hari”, but in Sanskrit proper, I think, the “visarga” does come in.]
Putting the three words together, what the phrase “punashcha hari: om” literally means is:
“and again, the protector God as the doer — [abrupt break rather than just a pause] — the sound recited for an auspicious beginning.”
Approximately, it means: “[remember] the Protector as the Doer. Abrupt break. And again, you begin to repeat [same] task.” That’s what the meaning of the phrase loosely goes like.
This Sanskrit phrase is also often used in Marathi, in fact even in the daily usage. Usually, in Marathi, the phrase is taken to mean: “Getting going once again,” with the emphasis on “once again.” It is used especially after something hasn’t worked out the first time, or after something has gone kaput, and you have to go through the entire cycle of rebuilding it once again.
For instance, as in re-writing all programs, documentation, and notes once again, after an HDD crash.
… So, you finally know what I am getting at, in this post.
What this post is really about:
My HDD crashed.
My HDD crashed.
My HDD crashed.
My HDD crashed!
Yes. It did. Mechanical failure. Irretrievable data loss.
Backups were intermittent, and they were especially rarer over the past one-and-a-half years, because I often traveled to Pune from Mumbai on week-ends, and a big work-load (14 hours of teaching to UG classes of 90+ students + that much load of paper checking during vacations) + hectic travel schedule on a majority of week-ends meant that I tended to forget taking timely backups. I did sometimes take backups. But not always, and not very comprehensively. I tended to postpone backing up the on-going research notes and programs, because I tended to wait for them to come up to some “backup-able” form. But the rare times when they did reach such an intermediate stage, due to my hectic running around, I mostly forgot to take comprehensive backups. [There was no institutional support at the college for centralized backups of research data; research was all out of my own personal drive; so it remained on my personal drive.]
So, virtually all my research and other work (notes etc.) since I went to Mumbai in January 2014 is gone.
The data is electromagnetically still there sitting on the HDD, but the disk gives a distinct and loud “kwuin, kwuin” sound. Yes, the sound repeats. “punashcha” “kwuin”, “punashcha” “kwuin,” “punashcha” “kwuin,” “punashcha” “kwuin”…
It means it already has made deep mechanical grooves on the “cylinder” surface. … The best pro in the business threw his hands up (and not just an official Dell service team (to whom I went only after going to the pro, because if they were try their hand at it earlier, I was sure, it would lead to even more grooves)). As the pro beamed up a mixed frowny (mostly) + a smiley (some) at me, I was left wondering what kind of music would come out if I break open the HDD and put the “pin” of an old record player on that goddamn surface. A somewhat soothing thought it nevertheless was. Music is soothing. … Even a thought of music by itself is soothing. … Even if only temporarily…. That goddamn HDD!
So what it means is that I have to run some 2–3 weeks of OpenFOAM simulations once again.
No, you didn’t get it right. By “2–3 weeks of OpenFOAM simulations,” I don’t mean the simulations I tried over a period of 2–3 weeks. It means about 2–3 weeks of the OpenFOAM program execution time. Yes, the run-time. Go figure what that means. [In case you don’t know about OpenFOAM, it means, it will generate at least 200 GB (possibly 400 GB) of raw simulation data, apart from the visualization movie data secondarily generated from it.] And, before that, I have to re-write all the case files for all the variations. Before that, I have to check up my notes on how to write the case files. Before that, I have to locate these notes… Not possible. Those notes are gone.
I also have to write purely from memory early drafts of several (3+) papers. My FEA notes for the Mumbai University BE course are gone. All the assignments and unit test papers I designed for FEA, Heat Transfer, Materials Technology, and parts of Thermodynamics are all gone. Also the notes on Fluid Mechanics that I had written for my self-study (even if I was not teaching a course on it). Also all my toy programs like the molecular dynamics programs and their simulation results. Also all my Tomboy notes. Also all my notes on CFD for the upcoming semester. All my Python programs. They all have gone.
Instead, what I now have is a mostly clean 1 TB disk. (I am writing this post using the new HDD.) And, thankfully, I do have my past papers and PhD thesis (complete with LaTeX sources and image files) well backed up.
But, of course, my latest resume is gone. I mean, its LaTeX source. I have to rewrite it. Before getting going on that, I had to download MikTeX (on Windows). That’s because, my Idea NetSetter has stopped working on the Ubuntu 14.04.02 which I installed completely afresh. That’s another challenge. Some time back, I had enthusiastically written a post on making NetSetter work even on Ubuntu 14.04, here [^]. But those steps don’t work. It seems that there was something more to it which I had done, possibly right on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, before upgrading it to 14.04 LTS. And, as usual, I don’t fully or exactly remember what I had done. One thing that might help make NetSetter work on Ubuntu 14.04 is to replace the ugly Unity by the classical Gnome or MATE. But to do that, I still have to download these packages, and to do that, in turn, I need NetSetter. … Circles in the sand, round and round… Music is soothing…. At least temporarily … That goddamn NetSetter…
But Ubuntu can wait. I have to first rush to re-writing my CFD notes and the accompanying Python programs. These are urgent. And before them, I have to write the LaTeX source for my resume (from the PDF retrieved from my Web mails).
“punashcha hari: om!”
[… Can it be taken to mean that God is in trying afresh? I don’t know… I don’t know Sanskrit well enough to judge it. …]
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A Song I Like:
(Marathi) “hari om, hari om, praNav omkaar shivaa”
Singer: Ramdas Kamat
Music: Bhanukant Luktuke
Lyrics: Gurunath Shenaee
[I told you, “hari” is not always taken to mean “vishNu;” here the reference is to “shiva.” … We the Indians…]