What does ‘Pothi’ mean?

One of the most common questions we get asked.

First let me clarify all that it does not mean or refer to.

‘Pothi’ has nothing to do with the name of the famous silk shop in Chennai called ‘Pothys’.

During the book festival we learned that ‘Pothi’ is a caste/surname in Kerala. Our use of Pothi has nothing to do with that either. We are not a Pothi matrimony site, rest assured.

And it also does not mean grand-daughter in hindi. That one is ‘Poti’ (पोती) and not ‘Pothi’ (पोथी).

Pothi means ‘a book’ in Hindi. It has come from the Sanskrit word ‘Pustak’ distorted through Apbhransh and other languages that developed in North India. ‘Pothi’ or some variation of it means ‘a book’ in many other North Indian languages too including Punjabi and Bengali.

The word is not used in day to day spoken Hindi though. It is an obscure word now and is sometimes used to refer to old manuscripts or scriptures. Sikhs use this word to refer to their religious book. If you have studied Hindi at some point of time in your life and still can not place the word, the following couplet from Kabir may come in handy

पोथी पढ़-पढ़ जग मुआ, पण्डित भया ना कोय,
ढाई आखर प्रेम का, पढ़े सो पण्डित होय।

Approximate Translation: Nobody becomes a learned person by reading lots of books. Those who just read the two and a half letters of love become the learned ones.

Although this couplet discounts the usefulness of books (and we don’t like that 🙂 ), but the reason I mention it here is that the word used for book in it is ‘Pothi’.

So next time you hear Pothi, think books – printed one at a time on demand just like the handwritten manuscripts of yore.

7 thoughts on “What does ‘Pothi’ mean?”

  1. You know… I’ve was looknig for the meaning of the word “Poti” use in portuguese in a child song… cause I’ve hearded children singing a song whitch has this word, likely “Pothi”… in that song they say “little butterfly is in a little house, making chocolate, to her uncle, “poti-poti”, wood-leg, glass-eye, and woodpecker nose..” I think now, It make sense for me now… thank U.

  2. I just realized how culturally different north and south india are. I couldn’t imagine any other meaning of pothi apart from a book.

  3. In Odisha State a specifi caste name Pothi. The Caste of Pothi are collect raw palm leaf from Palm trees by to prepare for Pothi, Jataka, Kusti of every body( detail read knowldged for future luck by Jotish) Mainly palmleaf for writting peom, song, Geeta, Bhagabat, Geetgovinda etc. Who are name in caste Pothi, they are in Schedule Caste community in Odisha State. Some Pothi Caste are under Schedule Tribe. This type of Pothi are covered all over Odisha where temples are situated. All Deity are required to worship through Bhogei ( Made of Palmleave) . Long ago Srikrishna has been expressed in pothi, Talapatra or Plamleaf is suitable for Humanlife to creat mankind, goodhealth,

    1. People of Palm leaf makers are call pothi caste under Schedule cate category in India south region.

    2. The meaning of pothi, all are known it is a book of Ramayan, Kumarsabhava of Kali Dash, Geet Govinda, Geeta, Bhagabata for use of Hindus. But Pothi is a caste under Schedule Caste a rare caste in Orissa state. Perhaps the people of caste collect Palm/Bhujapatra from specific some trees on climb. it is acceptable matter for all.

  4. I have encountered yet another meaning of ‘pothi’, that ‘pothi’ also means ‘spiritual sound current’ or ‘anhad bani’ / anhad shabd’ / akash bani’ vibrating at the third eye ( a manifestation of God ), which is heard by practitioners of ‘surat-shabd yoga ( spiritual meditation )’, and reference for this source of the meaning is from a famous book entitled ‘Sar Bachan’ poetic version by great saint ‘Soami Ji Maharaj of Agra (1818 -1878).

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