(Russian readers can find the Russian translation of this post  here courtesy of  vedic.su)

Dr. Weer Rajendra Rishi (1917 – 2002) was a well known Indian linguist. He was fluent in Russian and worked in the Indian Embassy in Moscow between 1950—1952. Dr. Rishi was the author of (1) Russian-Hindi Dictionary (foreword by the late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru), (2) Russian Grammar in Hindi, (3) Russian Folklore in Hindi (4) Hindi translation of Pushkin’s poem ‘Gypsy‘, (5) Marriages of the Orient, (6) Roma—The Punjabi Emigrants in Europe, the USSR, the Americas etc. (7) Romani-Punjabi-English Conversation Book, (8) Romani-Punjabi-English Dictionary and (9) Multi-Lingual Romani Dictionary (Romani Hindi English French Russian).

One of his last works was a book India & Russia – Linguistic & Cultural Affinity. This book is now very rare and it is undeservingly forgotten so I would like to bring it back as a tribute to Dr. Weer Rajendra Rishi.

The book has XIII chapters but it is Chapter II Affinity in Language which is, in my view, the most interesting part of the book. These are some excerpts from this chapter:

“As mentioned in the preceding chapter both Russian and Sanskrit belong to the satem group of the Indo-European family of languages. This, however, creates one mis-understanding in one’s mind that the relation between Sanskrit and Russian is as distant one as that between Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages. As will be explained in this chapter, the relation between these two languages is very close and correspondence between these two languages is so minute that, to use Dr. Sidheshwar Varma’s words, it cannot be a mere chance*. The facts unfolded in this chapter are compulsory enough to lead us to conclude that during some period of history, the speakers of Sanskrit and Russian have lived close together. This will be elucidated in Chapters V onwards.

(* Dr. Rishi refers here to the Foreword (Appreciation) to the book by Dr. Siddheshwar Verma, Honory Academic Adviser of the Vishveshwaranand Vedic Research Institute: “The data placed by this work definitely establish the fact that with the resemblance even in some minutest details, such analogies would never be a chance, and that, therefore, the speakers of these languages must have lived together in some periods of antiquity“)

Compare this assertion with the results with the conclusion draw by other linguists: “before the primitive Aryans left their European homeland, Indo-Iranian and the prototypes of Baltic and Slavonic must have existed as close neighbours for a considerable period of time.  (Burrow, T. The Sanskrit Language. Faber & Faber1955, p.23.)

“In the sphere of vocabulary, there is such a large number of words which are common to these two languages that it has not been possible to mention all of them in this chapter. Only a list of basic words common to both these two languages has been given. Moreover, as explained in the succeeding paragraphs of this chapter many of the grammatical rules are common to both these languages and the number of words common to these two languages formed after the application of such common grammar rules could be further multiplied. This is not so when we compare Sanskrit with any other language belonging to the Indo-European group, leaving aside Iranian and Persian.“(p.14)

“In the previous chapter, we have already referred to the statement made by Sir Jones saying that “the Sanskrit language is of a wonder structure; more perfect than the Greek, mere copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either”. The very name ‘Sanskrit’ means ‘carefully constructed’, ‘systematically formed’, ‘polished and refined’. Same can be said of the Russian language. In addition to the strong common grammatical base which we will discuss later in this chapter, it is the pleasingness of the mere sound of the language which is common to both Russian and Sanskrit.“ (p.15)

“That the melodiousness of the rhythm of the Russian folklore and the Sanskrit verse synchronises with each other is confirmed by a news item published in the Soviet Land (No. 2 of January 1968) published by the Information Services of the Embassy of the USSR in India, New Delhi. It is stated that the style of the verse of Russian folk legends and Puskin’s tales is closer to the rhythm of Sanskrit verse. Professor Smirnov (1892— 1967), the reputed Sanskritologist of the Soviet Union has translated Mahābhārata into Russian in this type of verse. Professor Smirnov had with him a recording of an extract from the Mahābhārata read in Sanskrit original by Professor Nirmal Chandra Maitra of India to the accompaniment of Indian instruments. When after playing the recording of the Sanskrit version, Professor Smirnov read his Russian translation, the enchanting melody of the rhythm was found to be very much like that of the Sanskrit original as read by Professor Nirmal Chandra Maitra and sounded in unison.“(p.16)

On the following pages Dr. Rishi gave some interesting comparisons of Russian and Sanskrit noun declension, verbs, prefixes and suffixes, prepositions concluding the chapter by an impressive list of Russian- Sanskrit common words. The full text can be found here.    Most of the words in this list are indeed cognates although I would  not agree with Dr. Rishi in a few cases. For example  the Rus.  pa ‘step, dance figure’  is a  French loan so it would not be justified to include it here as a cognate of Skr. pada  ‘foot’, although ultimately they do share the same ancient root. There  are other Rus. cognate words e.g. pod ‘ under, the bottom part’  which would be more appropriate in this case.  These small mistakes, however, do not diminish the importance of Dr. Rishi’s work. Most of the cognate pairs listed in his book are included into my Dictionary. See, for example the list of cognate verbs  and  nouns.


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