As the current issue is dedicated to ‘the Nature’, we chose the Sanskrit word पृथिवी pṛthivī for the word of the month series. This word in its root sense refers to anything that is vast or large.
The word पृथिवी pṛthivī (also spelt as पृथ्वी pṛthvī) in Sanskrit refers to the earth. This is not the only word in Sanskrit for the earth. Sanskrit, in fact, has more than two hundred words for the earth, each one expressing a particular quality of the earth. The word पृथिवी pṛthivī amongst all other words, is the most popular one. Have you ever wondered, why the earth is called पृथिवी
pṛthivī? What quality of the earth that it represents? For this we need to know the root-sound from which the word पृथिवी
pṛthivī has been derived. The root-sound of the word पृथिवी
pṛthivī is प्रथ् prath which means ‘to spread, extend, become larger or wider, increase etc.’ Eexpansion, extension, widening, broadening, enlargement etc. are the root sense of प्रथ् prath. There exists the root पृथ् pṛth also in the same sense. The words like प्रथा prathā meaning ‘the extended or continued tradition’, पृथुल pṛthula meaning ‘fat or large’, पृथुक pṛthuka meaning ‘the rice which is flattened’, प्रथित prathita meaning ‘extended’, पृथक् pṛthak meaning ‘wide apart’ etc. are derived from this root. The earth is called पृथिवी pṛthivī because of its vast stretch of expansion. The word पार्थ pārtha derived from पृथा pṛthā means the child of vastness. पृथा pṛthā is a feminine form of the word पृथ pṛtha which means the stretch of the palm of the hand. Because of this expansion the earth is the foundation, the basis of life and out of which emerges all that exists and on which everything rests. Anything that belongs to the earth is पार्थिव pārthiva or earthly, born from or related to the earth. Man is also पार्थिव pārthiva earthly or of the earth. Earth is not simply nature, is not merely geographical or material; it is part of man himself, so that man can no more live without the earth than he can live without a body. It is the earth that is the foundation for the man to exist. The earth is perhaps the only element in which all other elements (the air, the ether, the water and the fire) exist. The limitless earth is the bearer of all things, the hoard of all treasures, and the sustaining mother of all. To this पृथिवी pṛthivī, the vast and unlimited one, the seers and sages of the past hymned for blessing the humanity with abundance. The भूमिसूक्त bhūmisūkta of the Atharva Veda (12.1) is one of the finest hymns in which one finds the utmost respect that is given to the Earth. It is from this hymn that we have the famous line: माता भूमिः पुत्रोऽहं पृथिव्याः mātā bhūmiḥ putro'haṁ pṛthivyāḥ
The earth is the mother and I am the child of that vast stretch of expansion.