The picture “Friends the Mitra” caught my attention at an Art Exhibition that I attended two weeks ago. I love the picture and also the name because my youngest brother’s name is Mitra.
The artist is Shital Christy whose country of origin is India. I asked to take this photo and for an explanation of the reason for the name. She said that when the idea for the painting came to her, she was thinking of friends and their life-long bonding. The village ladies are fetching water from the well but they share their thoughts, problems, happiness, and their daily routines with each other as they fetch water. This daily routine creates a bond between them. She also told me that the name Mitra in Sanskrit means “friend.”
Further research on this name came up with the following:
The names Mitra, Mithra and Mithras all derive from the Indo-European root “Mihr,” which translates both as “friend” and as “contract.” While both translations are correct, however, neither gives a full account of the word. “Mihr” itself derives from “mei,” an Indo-European root meaning “exchange.” But Aryan society did not use the word “exchange” to describe a transaction.
Ancient societies were hierarchical. Neither the concept of an exchange between equals after which a relationship ended (our meaning of contract), nor the concept of an open-ended exchange between equals (our meaning of friendship) were contained in the original meaning of the word “Mihr” or “Mei.” (For our concept of friendship, the Rg Veda uses the word “sakhi.”) The friendship or contract offered by Mihr, or Mitra as he became known, was an exchange between unequal partners with Mitra as a just lord. Like any feudal relationship, this “friendship” imposed certain obligations on both sides. Mitra oversaw the affairs of his worshippers. He established justice for them. In return, his worshippers had to be upright in their dealings with others. Mitra was thus “lord of the contract” (a title frequently applied to him)…
It’s very interesting to find out about this name since my brother, Mitra and I, are good friends. The other photos in this collage were taken by me in Little India because I saw that the women in “Friends the Mitra” were wearing jewelry. I’m grateful to the artist for doing this picture and giving it this name. It has given me the opportunity to appreciate both the painting and the name “Mitra.” Enjoy “Friends the Mitra.”
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