Monday, February 25, 2008


In response to my query regarding this word, Professor Dr. Rahul Peter Das of the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, in Germany, has sent me a personal e-mail which he has kindly allowed me to quote:
"The most common meaning (in Hindi and Bengali, and I suppose in other South Asian languages too) is 'moneylender, banker' (apart from 'great person'). However, in Sanskrit 'mahâjana' is actually found in the sense of 'mass of the populace'. It is, of course, common practice for modern South Asian languages to borrow from Sanskrit, and thus there is theoretically no bar to using 'mahâjan' in the meaning which the Sanskrit expression can have. Whether that is in accord with the nature of the word in the modern languages is another matter. I would very much doubt whether a modern speaker confronted with "mahâjan" would even know the meaning "mass of the populace", unless he be quite learned." Sphere: Related Content

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