Nowadays, there is a national debate going on in Nepal on the word Om (ॐ). Some experts believe that there is no such word, so it should be removed from the dictionary. The Supreme Court of Nepal has recommended the appointment of an amicus curiae on this subject. The history of the controversy that arose in Nepal over the existence or not of the word ‘Om’ is not new. In the year 2012, a ministerial decision was taken by the then Education Minister Dinanath Sharma, in which the order to remove combined words like Om and Shri was passed. There was debate for and against this idea and finally the matter reached the Supreme Court of Nepal.
Advocate Swagat Nepal, who raised the issue, says, ‘Can it be possible that when you feel like it, you should use words like Om or Shri and if you don’t feel like it, don’t use them.’ Reaching the court regarding some words and taking cognizance of the court may be an internal issue of Nepal, but as far as this dispute is concerned, it easily extends to India. Nepal and India share similar history, language and culture to an extent for centuries. Especially the dimensions of religious and cultural meanings of the words Om and Shri influence both the countries. Scholars of both India and Nepal believe that Om is a monosyllabic Vedic word made up of three sounds A, U, M and there is a rule that Om should be spoken first in the pronunciation of every mantra. Its other names in Sanskrit are Omkar (ओंकार), Pranav and Prasar. Omkar means the sound of Om. ‘Pranav’ has Pra prefix. Om is also called ‘Praswar’ because its sound is said by stretching it to three degrees. That’s why the spelling of Om is seen as Oim at some places. Because it is a word of one letter, it is also called ‘Shabdakshar’ and because of its fixed pronunciation, it is also called ‘Sthirakshar’.
According to Sanskrit grammar, the derivation of ‘Om’ is Av+√Man+Ooth. Om becomes a quality from Uth. Its dictionary meaning is – sacred sound. Om is also an अव्याय and as an अव्या it is used for affirmation, acceptance, acceptance, giving order etc. and also in the meaning of evamastu, tathastu. Om has special significance in all Indian religions and sects. In Vedic Yagyas and later in Sanatan rituals, worship, mantras, recitation etc., Om has the utmost importance. Om has been defined in many ways by commentators, interpreters, acharyas and word writers. It is said that Om is both the controller of life force (Pran) and the giver of life (Prana communicator). Krishna says in Srimad Bhagavad Gita – ‘Omityekaksharam Brahma Om’, this one letter is Brahma.
Om is a sacred symbol of various religions including Hinduism. In religions like Hindu (Vaishnav, Shaiva, Shakta, Tantric etc.), Jain, Buddhist, Sikh, the sound of Om or Om or Omkar is considered sacred. Om is considered a symbol of peace. This word is inside our mind and also outside in the sky. ‘Ek Omkar’ symbolizes the basic philosophy of Sikhism. ‘Om’ is also a sacred chant among Jain followers. In Buddhist Tantrayana, mantras start with Om and end with Swaha. Shaktas also consider Om important in mantra worship or tantric accomplishment etc. In the yoga tradition, Om is the most sacred word, the supreme mantra. Om is called the word Brahma – He is God in the form of sound/vibration. According to Yoga Siddhanta, the universe originated from this primordial sound of God. Many saints and mahatmas have also considered the phonetic form of ‘Om’ as Brahma and have also called ‘Om’ as ‘Shabd Brahma’. Any meaningful sound group made up of sounds used in language is called a word. ‘Om’ is also a meaningful group of three sounds, it has a definite meaning and can also be expressed through script. This is enough to include it in a dictionary. There is no question of removing the word ‘Om’, which has such a deep and wide meaning and is widely used, from Nepali or Indian dictionaries.
(These are the personal views of the author.)