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The village of wild plum trees

india Updated: Feb 26, 2011 23:44 IST
Renuka Narayanan
Renuka Narayanan
Hindustan Times
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As a respite from all the name-calling going on around the world, why don’t we think for a spell of pleasant names and their positive resonances? One of my frequent flier friends calls it her airport mantra. She finds it exhilarating to see the electronic flight status roll. “Such amazing city names, that’s the romance of travel, of being part of a great flow,” she says, for all that she’s a canny corporate type not given to undue sentiment.

I don’t care about being blasé on flights either; I am too unabashedly delighted though I tend to pray like mad to Pavanputra Hanuman when we hit an airpocket. Central Europeans and Turks applaud when the flight lands, which shows appreciation: for the pilot’s skill, for the miracle of invention and for the laws of aerodynamics and gravity. And surely, appreciation to Whom It May Concern, whatever Name you call ‘That’, for having made it safely back to terra firma one more time?

For three luscious presences in a row, take the Air India morning flight from Bangkok to Delhi. You soar over three great rivers: the Mekong (Ma Ganga), the Irawaddy (Iravati) and the Ganga. Notice how the Irawaddy has curious dark rims seen from above, like kohl-rimmed eyes?

‘Bangkok’ itself began as a small trading centre on the Chao Phraya River called ‘Bang Makok’, meaning “the village of wild plum trees”, serving Ayutthaya (Ayodhya), then the capital of Siam, until Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese in 1767. A new capital gradually came up around Bangkok, on both sides of the river. In 1782, King Rama I named his new city ‘Krung Thep’ (City of Celestials, ‘thep’ is ‘dev’). Thais call it Krung Thep, not Bangkok, like we say Bharat, not India, amongst ourselves.

Many of you know this, but just to enjoy its flow together, here’s Bangkok’s full name: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchadhani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.

Which means: “The city of celestials, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of Lord Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in a grand royal palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the incarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Visnukarn (Viswakarma).” Luscious, isn’t it, in rather a different dimension?

Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture