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I was reading a knowledge sheet where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was explaining about the violence in Afghanistan. He says that it is because of the incomplete understanding of the history and culture of Afghanistan. Afghanistan was once the center of Vedic culture since it was at a strategic location between the Middle and Far east. Something that caught my attention was the origin or meaning of the word Afghanistan. It seems it has a Sanskrit roots –  “ahi”, “gana”, and “sthan”, meaning the country of awakened people. A number of Hindu teachers and Buddhists monks of great reputation lived in Afghanistan and founded famous universities and schools of yoga and meditation there.

This got me researching on how many countries have Sanskrit roots and what they really meant. Here is what I found.

India – This is a European term derived from Greek ‘Indos’/’Indhu’ (which means the region beyond the Indus river) which in turn is taken from Persian ‘Hindu’ which is in turn taken from Sanskrit ‘Sindhu’. Other Sanskrit names for India are Bharat (Empire ruled by Bharata dynasty)/ Aryavarta (Land of Aryans).
China – This is a European term popularised by Marco polo 13th century. It is derived from Sanskrit ‘Cina’ referring to the Qin dynasty of China. The Chinese dont have a specific name for their country.It often changed with change in dynasty which ruled them.But they vaguely call it as Zhonguo (Middle Kingdom).

Indonesia – This is a European term derived from two Greek words ‘Indos’ taken from Sanskrit ‘Sindhu’ (referring to India) and ‘nesos’ (Island). Indonesia historically had a lot of Indian influence on them, hence the Europeans simply called it as ‘Indonesia’ (Indian Islands).

Malaysia – It is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Malay’/’Malayakolam’/Malayadwipa (Islands of Mountains). The Indians used to descibe the entire South East Asia as ‘Malay’.

Iran – From Old Persian ‘Ariya’ which in turn is derived from Sanskrit ‘Arya’ as in ‘Aryavarta’ (Sanskrit name for India).

SingaporeDerived from the Sanskrit term ‘Singhapura’ (Lion City).

Sri Lanka – Sanskrit for venerable Island.

Bangladesh – Sanskrit for Land of Bengalis.

Cambodia – derived from Khmer word “Kampuchea” which is in turn derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Kambujadesa’ (Land of Kambuja).

Thailand – European word derived from the Thai term ‘Ratcha Thai’ which is in turn derived from Sanskrit term ‘Raja Thai’ (Kingdom of Thai). Thailand’s other name is Siam derived from Sanskrit term ‘Suvarnabhoomi’.(Land of Gold).

Bhutan – Sanskrit for Highlands.

Brunei – Derived from Sanskrit word ‘Varunai’ (Seafarers). The word Borneo is also came from same origin.

Maldives – Derived from Sanskrit ‘Maladwipa’ ( Garland of Islands).

Nepal – From Sanskrit ‘Nepalaya’ ( foot of the Mountains) 

Interesting right? If you know any other names, post them in the comment section.