It’s all about loving your child
Yog Maya Singh explains what the different words used to address child/children really mean.
The Hindi word ‘beta’ should be given the award of being the most ‘alpha’ word in town. In India even if a stranger addresses you using the word ‘beta’ (beti or bete), you start feeling a little sense of warmth, a little sense of connectedness. I mean at least I do. You know that the person behind the word knows how to treat youngsters respectfully. The root word for beta/beti is vatu, which means Brahmachari. To be clear the word, Brahman here means expanded mind.
Brah (root word brihad or brihann meaning huge, expansive) + man (mind) + chari (chalne wala or the one who walks the path). So Brahmachari here means someone who walks in life with an expanded mind, a mind full of love and understanding for others.
Let’s take a look at a few other words that we use while addressing children, and know the meaning behind them, starting with my favourite word for child, i. e. Putra.
- Putra/ putri: Putra = put (purgatory) + tran (liberation/transcendance/mukti).
The word put is the Hindi word for purgatory (the region between heaven and hell or what is known as River Baitarni in Hinduism). The word putra or putri means someone who can help their parents cross this region/river after death. But this is only the symbolic meaning.
As they say, the child is the father of the man. An aware son or daughter will help their parents look inwards and find heaven while still alive. Questioning your parents’ views respectfully if they are not full of love towards anyone, is one way of doing this. While we are on the word put, how can we forget the word Rajput? A true Rajput thus is someone who helps large masses of people look inwards and find heaven on hearth. He protects those looking inwards because they are vulnerable while involved in the act of looking inwards.
So let us treat our children right, they are here to show us heaven on earth. Let us take good care of our young girls and boys and learn from them the matters of the mind while we teach them about the matters of the body.
The word putra vadhu as per Wikipedia comes from the Proto-Indian-European *wedʰ-úHs, from wed-h (“to bind, lead”). Do you see the connection between the English word wed and the Hindi word Vadhu ( more like wed who)? So a vadhu basically brings about – to use a corporate term – the merger of two families to strengthen them physically, mentally, emotionally and materialistically too and leads from the front while doing it. Like a good boss, she stays both polite and firm with everyone involved in the merger. Vadhu also means someone who brings unique skill-sets (vidha) or new ways of doing things (vidhi) to the new family. The word vidhwa (widow) is also an extension of the word vadhu. The word vidhu means lonely where the word vadhu denotes togetherness. In Bihar, daughters-in-law are to this day addressed as putahu.
And this is my interpretation, the vadh (killing) in the word vadhu might also signify that the new daughter-in-law kills old rigid beliefs that are not beneficial to her husband’s family anymore and brings about a newness in beliefs that are beneficial. But this can happen only if the daughter-in-law is an aware person and full of love.
- Santan: As per Wikipedia the word Santan comes from sam (together, unison, along with) + tan (to propagate, protract, perform, pull).
See tan here as the Hindi word ‘khichav‘ or pull (pronounced as the tan in chattan – a huge rock). So a santan is someone who is pulling the family towards liberation. So every time a child is born, hope is We have hope that this child will make the family and the world a better place by his/her existence, ideas, thoughts and feelings.
Also, every time I hear the word Santan (and this is my personal interpretation), I feel like it is made up of the words sant+aan or ‘a saint is coming’. I might not be very off the mark with that interpretation. Saints are as innocent as children. Though in children innocence is a given, saints have to work upon themselves to reach the stage of innocence. There is a Sanskrit word called Dwij, which means twice-born. The first time, the mother gives birth to the body, but the second time around a man or woman’s mind give birth to their true souls, souls full of the highest human qualities that flow out of
innocence, namely love, respect, compassion etc.
- Aulad: Comes from the word walad (or wald) which means one that is derived from the source or shoots forth from the source. This, in other words, means that the act of merely observing kids till they begin to have a separate identity of their own (age 7 mostly) and taking care of their physical needs in itself becomes an act of meditation, a way to connect again with the source energy, which refreshes and reinvigorates.
- Aatmajah (son) /Aatmajaa (daughter): Aatmaja is derived from the Sanskrit words Aatma meaning “soul, self” and Ja meaning “birth of a daughter”. Thereby, Aatmaja can be loosely translated as “daughter of the soul”.
It is said that aatma or jiva or life force or consciousness is the third factor required to build a human embryo apart from the union of the male and female body. Aatma is said to give us individuality, traits and characteristics particular to a person. It is what makes us unique in a sea of people.
It is also said that while the mother carries the body of the child in her womb, the father carries the soul of his child in his mind. It is said that physically a mother’s job is to take care of the front portion of a child’s body, basically ensuring that the child’s belly is full of food and his heart is full of love, while the father’s job is take care of the back portion of a child’s body, basically the It means that the child has someone to fall back on both financially and emotionally, someone has their back at all times. The mother is the gatekeeper of that part of a child’s mind that looks towards the future, while the father is the gatekeeper of that part of the child’s mind that looks towards the past. A mother supplies hope, a father supplies safety guidelines for whatever adventure/passion a child wants to partake in. I understand that gender roles are getting more and more fluid day by day, but at least till the time the mother is breastfeeding the baby, the father needs to have a strong spine to take care of both the mother and the child. Together the parents help the child get in touch with his/her own soul.
Child: From Proto-Indo-European gelt (“womb”). This is cognate with the Proto-Germanic kelpaz (womb,foetus), which is the root word for the English word ‘child’ . The Sanskrit root word for child is said to be jartu which means vulva.
The etymology of vulva is as follows: Till late 14th-century vulva was spelt as volva for female genitalia, which perhaps literally means ‘wrapper’. The word volva has its roots in volvere, which means to turn, twist, roll, revolve etc. either something physically or evolve (re-volve, see the word?) one particular thought for some time in the mind. Now that explains how we came up with the phrase ‘pregnant with thought’. If you want to delve deeper, the word volva came from the Proto-Indo-European root word ‘wel’ which means to ‘turn, revolve,’. It refers mainly to curved, enclosing objects. Also think of the Hindi word vansh-bel (the genealogical line or the heredi- tree. Well bel/lata strictly do not mean tree but rather come in the category of vines or climber plants that need other trees for support). Think of the word balak/ balika (bel-ak).
I would like to mention an important thing here. Do take a look at the word wrapper above that was used for vulva. On the surface using the word for a mother/woman’s body part as a wrapper for another human soul may sound vulgar, however, such words may also be used to reduce the ego so that the woman doesn’t get so attached to the baby that she stops him from having a life of his own.
The word mamta is made up of mama (mine) + ta (that). If not taken care of, mothering can easily turn into smothering. ‘That (child) is mine’ can easily become ‘that child is only mine’. So a mother would do well to remember Khalil Gibran’s famous poem ‘ On Children’ (The Prophet).
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and
He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
- 6. Nandan/ Nandini: Think of names like Anjani Nandan for Hanuman, Sumitra Nandan for Lakshman, Raghu Nandan for Ram and Devaki Nandan for Krishna, and you will agree that Nandan is an oft-used term to refer to the child. However, the origins of the word are fascinating.
“Nandana refers to a variety of mandapa (temple porches/halls basically) which lay just outside the garbha griha (the sanctum sanctorum or innermost part of a temple. Literally, the womb house) as per the Matasya Purana. Meditating in the mandapa would lead to strong family values as well as fertility and also psychological protection for the family it was believed.
In Natyashastra (theatrics and dramaturgy), Nandana (नन्दन, “joy”) refers to a term to be used by women in love addressing their beloved during amorous union. As per Natyashashtra, a treatise attributed to Bharat muni, “he who is high-born, patient, clever, kind, master of words and fit to be praised among women friends, is called ‘joy’ (nandana)”.
High-born here doesn’t mean belonging to a particular caste or lineage, but having parents who express the qualities of love, kindness, compassion and understanding continuously.
From the word nandan (that from which or whom joy is born) comes the word anand loosely translated as ‘come oh joy’ or ‘aao nandan‘.
One of the highest attainment in Hinduism is said to be Anand or joy or bliss. Enlightened people use the term swami as a prefix and ananda as a suffix. For e.g. Swami Vivekananda’s name would mean Swa (one’s own) + ami (possession) + Vivek (discernment) + anand (joy). Or I have found my own brand of distinct joy by walking the path of discernment or it is discernment which led me to joy or gave birth to my joy. If you want to be a good parent you have to try your best to keep giving birth to your distinct joy, whenever possible.
- Sujata: Sujata comes from Su (good) + jata (born of). So Sujata means a woman born from a good person and in the later stages of a woman’s life it means ‘a good daughter’, a woman who is able to take care of both sets of parents in their old age.
- Vatsa: It was perhaps one of our favorite words while we grew up in the late 80s-early 90s India watching mythological shows helmed by B.R. Chopra and Ramanand Sagar.
Vatsa (वत्स) is a Sanskrit word referring to a “calf”.
From the word vatsa comes the word vatsalya. Vatsalya is one the five bhāvas (feelings or attitudes) of bhakti (devotion). It is usually associated with Yashoda, that she found God by way of vatsalya bhakti (Bacche to bhagwan ka roop hote hain).
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children,” said Nelson Mandela. A person is a person, no matter how small. So the next time you call your child near you, do so with love. Let a child know its name is safe in your mouth and its identity is safe in your heart. And treat adults with love too, because, in the end, they are also kids in adult bodies.
(The writer has done extensive research over the years to figure out the etymological roots of the words. Etymology is one of her biggest passions and she loves wordplay in general.)