गणिका

Happu

Senior Member
German
I'm quite familiar with the word गणिका (gaNikaa) in the sense of prostitute, dancing-girl, courtesan etc. But it is also the name of a Jasmin-type of flower and as such a female first name; but I have not come across the name often.

My question is: For a native Hindi speaker, what would your first association with the word be? The first meaning or the latter? I guess not many people might be aware of its less wholesome meaning?

The word also exists in the Thai language (pronounced rather as kanika/kannika), and it also entails these two meanings; but for most people it would just be a female first name or a flower.
 
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  • littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    The first (and only) meaning that comes to my mind for गणिका is a serving girl in a place serving alcohol and/or food: she may not necessarily be a courtesan or prostitute. I did not know that the word could also mean a flower (but my vocabulary in flowers is limited, anyway).

    I have never heard गणिका as a name for girls in India. Kanika, on the other hand, is a much-found name for girls in India. But I don't think Kanika has to do with गणिका, for its male counterpart Kanak (related to seed of wheat, gold) also exists.
     

    Happu

    Senior Member
    German
    The first (and only) meaning that comes to my mind for गणिका is a serving girl in a place serving alcohol and/or food: she may not necessarily be a courtesan or prostitute. I did not know that the word could also mean a flower (but my vocabulary in flowers is limited, anyway).

    I have never heard गणिका as a name for girls in India. Kanika, on the other hand, is a much-found name for girls in India. But I don't think Kanika has to do with गणिका, for its male counterpart Kanak (related to seed of wheat, gold) also exists.
    Thanks, I didn't know about the serving girl connotation. One does find the name Ganika on the net (in Hindi and Marathi), in real life I may have come across it once or twice only. Yes, Ganika and Kanika probably won't be related, unless somewhere regionally there would be a consonant change - maybe not.

    In Bangkok there is a temple called Wat Kanikaphon (from Skt. gaNikaa-phala) = 'Temple made from prostitutes' earnings'. It was built in the 19th century by an ex-'madam' to atone for her prior exploitative source of income.
     

    aevynn

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, Hindustani
    it is also the name of a Jasmin-type of flower
    I did not know that the word could also mean a flower (but my vocabulary in flowers is limited, anyway).
    Just for the record: Monier-Williams says that Sanskrit gaṇikā, yūthikā, and yūthī all refer to Jasminum auriculatum --- and, according to Turner, it is from Sanskrit yūthī that the not-so-obscure Urdu-Hindi name for the same flower, juuhii, derives :)
     
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    Happu

    Senior Member
    German
    Is Sanskrit गणिका basically equivalent in meaning to Perso-Arabic तवायफ़?
    In a broader sense, I guess it can, but according to Benjamin Walker in his two-volume work 'Hindu World' (a treasure trove of information, in my opinion) there are over 330 synonyms for 'prostitute' in Sanskrit, expressing all kinds of nuances of her profession or status. I find the claim quite believable, given a South African Sanskritist has found over 2000 words for 'water'.

    At the core of गणिका lies गण (crowd, multitude) - just as in Ganesh - so a गणिका is someone liked/surrounded by many, a fairly benign or euphemistic description.

    Maybe a closer equivalent to तवायफ़ would be देवादासी, at least in the more 'fallen' aspect of a devadasi, where her religious duties have taken a backseat and she's simply entertaining patrons or kept as a concubine. This देवादासी system is still alive, if largely driven underground and far removed from the splendour and prosperity many devadasis enjoyed in days gone by (hints: Saundatti/Karnataka, Yellamma worship, devadasis, jogtis).
     
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    Alfaaz

    Senior Member
    English
    Happu said:
    desi4life said:
    Is Sanskrit गणिका basically equivalent in meaning to Perso-Arabic तवायफ़?
    At the core of गणिका lies गण (crowd, multitude) ...
    The relation to crowd, multitude is interesting and perhaps somewhat similar to taa'ifah (singular of tawaa'if).

    The Arabic root طوف - twf means going/travelling about, circumambulating, roaming, wandering; etc.

    • From this root, there is طائف - taa'if - ambulant, itinerant, wandering; one who preforms tawaaf; etc.
      • طائفہ - taa'ifah - troop, band, group; class; sect; nation; etc.
        • In Urdu, additionally: troupe, a group of performers (singers, dancers, etc.); a group of artists that represents a country (its culture, performing arts, etc.) in international festivals
      • The plural of طائفہ is طوائف - tawaa'if - groups, troops, bands; classes; sects; nations; etc.
        • In Urdu, additionally: (singular) a female dancer who also might be involved in prostitution*, courtesan
    * Note: In comparison to tawaa'if, رقاص - raqqaas (masculine) | رقاصہ - raqqaasah (feminine) wouldn't necessarily carry this connotation/meaning.

    Relevant thread:
    Urdu/Hindi: randee
     

    Happu

    Senior Member
    German
    I would assume the connection to 'crowd/multitude' stems from the fact that the prostitute is 'enjoyed by a multitude/many'. There's a word in Sanskrit, which expresses this thought clearly: बहुभोग्या (bahubhogyaa) = to be enjoyed my many. Another Sanskrit word for prostitute is quite unambiguous about her motives: वारवनिता (vaaravanitaa) = woman to gain profit/wealth (quite similar: vaaravadhu = slightly euphemistic: a bride/wife in return for payment).

    In your example of tawaa'if and the connotation of wandering about or being a dancer, it's easy to see how a woman could be seen as a prostitute or in fact become one. Unfortunately, I don't know all 330 words for 'prostitute'; the closest I could get to the aspect of wandering about would be हट्टविलासिनी (haTTavilaasinii) = a pleasure woman (out and about) in the market-place / public places. The dancing aspect of course is covered by the term devaadaasii, though the dancing was only meant for the entertainment of the deity.
     
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    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    देवादासी

    देवदासी usually in Hindi.

    From Dasa:

    देवदासी dēvadāsī

    संज्ञा स्त्री॰ [सं॰]

    १. वेश्या । २. मंदिरों की दासी य़ा नर्तकी । ३. जंगली बिड़ौरा नीबू । बिजौरा नीबू ।
     

    Au101

    Senior Member
    England, English (UK)
    देवदासी usually in Hindi.

    From Dasa:

    देवदासी dēvadāsī

    संज्ञा स्त्री॰ [सं॰]

    १. वेश्या । २. मंदिरों की दासी य़ा नर्तकी । ३. जंगली बिड़ौरा नीबू । बिजौरा नीबू ।
    Likewise in Sanskrit it is देवदासी, although of course in Sanskrit the a (devadāsī) is pronounced whereas it is typical to delete it in Hindi.

    In a broader sense, I guess it can, but according to Benjamin Walker in his two-volume work 'Hindu World' (a treasure trove of information, in my opinion) there are over 330 synonyms for 'prostitute' in Sanskrit, expressing all kinds of nuances of her profession or status. I find the claim quite believable, given a South African Sanskritist has found over 2000 words for 'water'.

    At the core of गणिका lies गण (crowd, multitude) - just as in Ganesh - so a गणिका is someone liked/surrounded by many, a fairly benign or euphemistic description.

    Maybe a closer equivalent to तवायफ़ would be देवादासी, at least in the more 'fallen' aspect of a devadasi, where her religious duties have taken a backseat and she's simply entertaining patrons or kept as a concubine. This देवादासी system is still alive, if largely driven underground and far removed from the splendour and prosperity many devadasis enjoyed in days gone by (hints: Saundatti/Karnataka, Yellamma worship, devadasis, jogtis).

    There's some very good information here otherwise, though. Although a word of caution, there are plenty of examples of Sanskrit words (or particular meanings of words) which are to be found only in Sanskrit dictionaries and word lists (accepting of course that not every word of Sanskrit ever written has survived to this day). And plenty of words (or particular meanings of words) find only very occasional use. So I would personally take lists of Sanskrit words meaning x, y or z with a pinch of salt.

    All the same, there is the old joke, much beloved of scholars, which goes: every Sanskrit word has at least three meanings: its normal, primary meaning; the opposite of its normal, primary meaning; and it's one of the words for 'elephant'.

    (I myself have never been particularly struck by the number of words that mean 'elephant', nor have I ever really noticed an abundance of words which can be their own opposites, but still it gets the point across :p )
     
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    Happu

    Senior Member
    German
    देवदासी usually in Hindi.

    From Dasa:

    देवदासी dēvadāsī

    संज्ञा स्त्री॰ [सं॰]

    १. वेश्या । २. मंदिरों की दासी य़ा नर्तकी । ३. जंगली बिड़ौरा नीबू । बिजौरा नीबू ।

    Yes, the version devaa- is less common in Hindi. From a book:

    सामाजिक पाखंडों व धार्मिक अन्धविश्वास की आड़ में चल रहे दुराचार पर पैने सवाल उठाते हुए शशिकला ने देवादासी प्रथा की हकीकत को की ...
    https://books.google.co.th/books?id...=2ahUKEwjt2cCshO_zAhUUH7cAHfa1D_gQuwV6BAgHEAk
     

    Happu

    Senior Member
    German
    Likewise in Sanskrit it is देवदासी, although of course in Sanskrit the a (devadāsī) is pronounced whereas it is typical to delete it in Hindi.



    There's some very good information here otherwise, though. Although a word of caution, there are plenty of examples of Sanskrit words (or particular meanings of words) which are to be found only in Sanskrit dictionaries and word lists (accepting of course that not every word of Sanskrit ever written has survived to this day). And plenty of words (or particular meanings of words) find only very occasional use. So I would personally take lists of Sanskrit words meaning x, y or z with a pinch of salt.

    All the same, there is the old joke, much beloved of scholars, which goes: every Sanskrit word has at least three meanings: its normal, primary meaning; the opposite of its normal, primary meaning; and it's one of the words for 'elephant'.

    (I myself have never been particularly struck by the number of words that mean 'elephant', nor have I ever really noticed an abundance of words which can be their own opposites, but still it gets the point across :p )

    Yes, many of those words may have been found only once or twice in literature. Few men would have gone to the length to say 'I'm going to see the pleasure woman in the market-place today'. But a word like हट्टविलासिनी, in the mind of the reader, creates a vivid scene akin to a snippet from a movie. That's the beauty of language.
     

    Happu

    Senior Member
    German
    All the same, there is the old joke, much beloved of scholars, which goes: every Sanskrit word has at least three meanings: its normal, primary meaning; the opposite of its normal, primary meaning; and it's one of the words for 'elephant'.

    (I myself have never been particularly struck by the number of words that mean 'elephant', nor have I ever really noticed an abundance of words which can be their own opposites, but still it gets the point across :p )
    If I'm not mistaken, the word पर्याप्त in Sanskrit (paryaapta) can mean 'sufficient' and 'plenty', but also 'lacking' and 'not good enough'. It comes up in some scripture (Gita?), and so the relevant verse can be interpreted in opposing ways.
     
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