BITS and Pieces

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Aramaic

If the mesmerizing verses “Kandisa Alahaye, Kandisa Esana” seem to ring a bell you are in all likelihood a fan of the Indian rock band “Indian Ocean”, if not just an aficionado of archaic languages. But did any of you trivia-nerds know that apart from this much applauded song, ‘Kandisa’ is actually an ancient prayer in Aramaic, a mysterious Middle-Eastern language that dates back to 600 BCE and is even believed to be spoken by Jesus Christ? Want to know more? Well, let’s find out.

Aramaic – What’s that?

Originally the language of the Aramaeans (people from modern-day Syria and South-east Turkey), this ancient language belongs to the Semitic family, which includes the Assyrians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Arameans, Hebrews, and Arabs. While its alphabet is ancestral to Hebrew, Syriac and Arabic, it became extremely widespread between 1000 and 600 BCE, and was essentially the lingua franca of the Middle East, not to mention Palmyra, Bahraini people in Eastern Arabia and the Mandeans. Today, Aramaic is spoken by extremely small, and often isolated communities of various Christian, Jewish, and Mandean ethnic groups around West Asia.

As for the fun facts

Considered to be the English of its time, Aramaic united a large number of distinct people across a vast region and was prevalent right from Greece to Egypt, from Mesopotamia to Persia, and up to India and possibly even China. Since it used to be a key language in Israel from 539 BC to 70 AD, experts believe that one of its dialects was spoken by Jesus Christ owing to the fact that he was raised in Galilee and Aramaic was the most common language of the people there.

Tracing back the links

The term “Aramaic” by itself means ‘the language of the Aramean people’, and modern Eastern Aramaic has sixteen dialects, spoken mostly by Christians and Jews. Back in the day, it was used for trade, government and divine worship all across the Gulf. Another interesting fact is that many grave inscriptions found around Jerusalem are surprisingly in Aramaic, and not Hebrew.

Factor in Globalisation

It is a known fact that Aramaic languages are definitely endangered today, and people are making an effort to save it using electronic media, as the plummeting number of speakers is quite visible. About four hundred thousand people Aramaic speakers are known to exist as of today, and they mostly comprise Jews, Christians, Muslims and Mandaeans, living either in remote areas, or certain Eastern Christian churches. Its extensive literature is certainly used by different religious communities.

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Alifya Thingna - Associate Director | Key Accounts Having grown up around the Middle East and India, Alifya is a shy, yet friendly and colourful personality with a keen interest in human psychology, ethnology and contemporary dance forms. An aesthete by nature, she is extremely passionate about getting to know new people, immersing herself in new cultures, writing and doing the 'little things' that make this world a better place to live in. She also has a Masters degree in French literature, enjoys biking and is the modern definition of a logophile and an equalist.