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Indus Valley Script Decipherment

Indus Valley Script

Vedic Basis of Indus Culture

Symbolism of Brahmanas and Upanishdas in Indus Valley Script

Critical view of decipherment of Indus script



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One may not totally agree with the late Pt. Bhagavad Datt to attribute conscious motives to Indologists, foreign or Indian but it must be accepted that opposite line of thinking, particularly in regard to the Indus culture, was completely murdered either by utter disregard or by active discouragement. Thus Dr. Ramchandran of the Archaeological survey of India who traced Vedic ideas in the Indus seals was treated with neglect. The same fate came to the theory propounded by Hrozny, a CzechosloVākian scholar, according to whom, on the evidence of the Indus seals in the light of his own decipherment, the Indus people and their two cities, Harappa and Mohenjodaro “were destroyed during an invasion of a foreign-people coming from north western India about 2000. B. C. The proud and rich Proto-India cities and economic centre of caravan routes coming from the west were uprooted and their population, as the finds of corpses prove, was mercilessly massacred. The cities were now resettled for some millenniums. The invaders who were responsible for the destruction of the ancient Indian culture were probably the Dravidians whose insignificant remnants have survived in Brahui population settled in the mountains of Baluchistan . From where these Dravidians came to India , it is difficult to say, though it was probably from the North West .”

In view of the ruthless criticism of scholars like Hrozny, very few people could dare contradict the popular view that the Indus Culture was of Dravidian origin. It is, therefore, really very bold on the part of Shri Krishna Rao (and I congratulate him) to declare last week in New Delhi that the Indus people were Aryans and that language of the Indus seals was Sanskrit. It is a welcome trend in Indology, reflecting a freedom of thought which remained smothered  for long under the heavy weight of popular belief that the Indus people were Dravidians, the dasas of Vedic Literature whom the Aryans destroyed or drove out from their northern habit to the jungles in the Sought. This is the theory which was enthusiastically propounded by most of the Indologists and which (Where  all of its protoganists intended it or not) became instrumental in spreading the racial prejudice, manifesting itself into the North-South prejudice in this country.

It was, however, a one-sided picture, highly exaggerated with a total disregard of the opposite view held by Vedic scholars like Dayanand, Ananda Coomarswamy, Aurobindo and Kapali Shastri who would never accept the theory that the word Dasa in the Ŗgveda signifies Dravidian or any other racial  group. Among the scholars of this camp, at least Ananda Coomaraswamy and Aurobindo were profound scholars not only of Vedic Sanskrit, but also of Latin, Greek and Tamil, with a good grounding in Comparative Religion, Comparative Mythology and Comparative philology. Referring to the modern theory that these Aryan races “were northern barbarians who broke in from their colder climes on the old & rich civilization of Mediterranean, Europe and Dravidian India ”, Shri Aurobindo[1] maintains that “the distinction between Aryan an non-Aryan mentioned in the Vedas indicated a cultural rather than a racial difference. It is argued that the Dasyus are decribed as black of skin and noseless, in opposition to the fair and high-nosed Aryans. But the former distinction is certainly applied to the Aryan gods and the Daasa powers in the sense of light and darkness, and the word anaasa does not mean noseless. Even if it did, it would be wholly inapplicable to the Dravidian races; for the southern nose can give as good an account of itself as any Aryan” proboscis  in the North”.

Discussing the division of the Indian nation into Aryan and Dravidian races, Shri Aurobindo points out,[2] “The philologists have, for instances, split up, on the strength of linguistic differences the Indian nationality into the Northern Aryan Race and the Southern Dravidian, but sound observation shows a single physical type with minor variations pervading the whole of India from Cape Comorin to Afghanistan. Language is therefore discredited as an ethnological factor. The races of India may be all pure Dravidians, if indeed such an entity as a Dravidian races exists or ever existed, or they may be pure Aryans, if any Aryan races exists or ever existed, or they may be a mixed race with one predominant strain, but in any case, the linguistic division of the tongues of India into the Sanskrit and Tamilic counts for nothing in that problem, yet so great is the force of attractive generalizations and widely popularized errors that all the world goes on perpetuating the blunder taking of Indo-European races, claiming or disclaiming Aryan kinship and building on that basis of falsehood the most far reaching political, social or pseudo-scientific conclusions.” Proceeding further, he discusses the alleged kinship of Sanskrit with European languages on the one hand and its dissonance with Tamil or Telugu on the other. In this respect, he poses some very cogent questions. “If it were not the old Sanskrit writing, if only the ordinary Sanskrit colloquial vocables had survived, who could be certain of this connection? Or who could confidently  affiliate colloquial Bengali with its ordinary domestic terms to Latin any more certainly than Telugu or Tamil? How then are we to be sure that the dissonance  of Tamil itself with the Aryan tongues is not due to an early separation and an extensive change of its vocabulary during its preliterary ages? I shall be able, at a later stage of this inquiry to an early afford some ground for supposing the Tamil numerals to be early Aryan denominatives of which traces still remain in the ancient tongues. I shall be able to show also that large families of words supposed to be pure Tamil are identical in the mass, though not in their units with the Aryans family. But then we are logically driven towards this conclusion that absence of a common vocabulary for common ideas and objects is not necessarily a proof of diverse origin. Diversity of grammatical forms? But are we certain that the Tamil forms are not equally Old Aryan forms corrupted but preserved by the early deliquescence of the Tamilic dialect? Some of them are common to modern Aryan vernaculars, but unknown to Sanskrit, and it has even been thence concluded by some that the Aryan vernaculars were originally non-Aryan tongues linguistically overpowered by the foreign invader. But if so, then into what quagmire  of uncertainty do we not descend.”[3]

After my disappointment with the so-called scientific method of Vedic interpretation and later with the journey to Western Asia for the decipherment, the above views appealed me most, and I was tempted to try Langdon's’ advice to Sanskrit scholars in the light of Shri Aurobindo’s remarks, free from the prejudices created by many scholars in the field of Indian pre-history. And to my great surprise, the result was very encouraging. Now the effort in deciphering Indus Script appeared to me more fruitful and convincing than those made in the wake of Father Heras and others. The names of Indra, Vŗtra, Agni, Indu, Varuņa, Mitra and the like emerged naturally out of the Indus script, and what is more surprising, they all seemed to confirm ‘the psychological interpretation’, without any support to the so-called’ ‘scientific interpretation’ of these Vedic terms. As I proceeded on, the more and more, ideas of Upanisads and the Brahmanas were found expressed in the Indus inscriptions and the pictorial symbols accompanying them. The Indus script was no more an enigma or a riddle. But, then I had to say with the great saint Shri Aurobindo–I exclude, therefore, and exclude highly from the domain of Philology, as I conceive it, all ethnological conclusions, all inferences from words to the culture and civilization of the men or races who used them, however alluring may be those speculations, however attractive, interesting and probable may be the inferences which we are tempted to draw in the course of our study. Philology has nothing to do with ethnology. The Philologist has nothing to do with sociology, Anthropology and Archaeology. Yes, I must say so; for it was the Philologist who created two ethnological concepts namely, Aryan and the Dravidian to play havoc, not only in the sociopolitical life of mankind, but also in the domain of pre-History, specially that of the Indus Valley. It was the racial prejudice caused by the frequent and wide-spread use of those misconceived terms that the truth about the script and the language remains hidden for such along time. Thank God that the veil of darkness is lifted and there appears on the horizon, a ray of light which may reveal to the mankind the futility of racialism not only in the domain of pre-History or Human History in general, but also in the entire field or human activity, social, political, economic or religious,                                       






Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,

               Yesterday, I placed before you a  brief history of the quest into the mystery of Indus Civilization. Today, I would briefly discuss the remains of this culture as found from the excavations  of Kalibanga which I visited in the month of February.


Kalibanga, situated in Sriganganagar district of Rajasthan is at a distance of about five miles from the Pilibanga Railway Station , and about 35 miles from the district headquarters. The site of the ancient Indus Culture at this place comprised two parts; the one mound existing on the Western side may as usual be called the ruins of the acropolis, while the other (bigger than the former)  lying on the eastern side is the place of the township proper. Excavation have so far revealed the existence of two strata of the settlement, Harappan and the pre-Harappan. Here we find rows of well-laid out houses, with the usual cross street pattern. There is evidence to show that the doors of the houses opened into the narrow lanes and that they had only one shutter each, whereas the doors of the bigger size opened into the broad streets and lead probably the vehicles and cattle to the courtyard attached to the houses. The entire town was surrounded by a massive thick wall made of kaccha bricks of big size, while the walls were quite thin and the bricks used in building these walls were smaller in size, though unburnt as before.


The people of Kalibanga, like those of Harappa & Mohenjodaro did use kilns. Burnt bricks of mud have been used in the construction of wells, cisterns and drains. There are a number of wells, at least some of which seem to have been connected with cisterns by means of water channels. In the neighborhood of the wells are several terraces where probably people used to assemble for ceremonial baths, including the post-cremation baths by the mourners of the dead when back from the cemetery situated at the distance of nearly two furlongs from these wells. Besides the use of bricks, there are other evidences to indicate that kiln and baking were popular. Terracotta objects like figures of man and animal, seals, toy, beads, as also the pottery of different size and descriptions have been unearthed at Kalibanga, and they all bear the stamp of Harappan Culture. A special reference may be made here to the Kalibanga human head which is exactly the same as found at Mohenjodaro.


                                                    THE SCRIPT


The surest proof of identity between Kalibanga and other Harappan sites may be found in the use of Indus script which as deciphered by me is given here. Several potsherds and seals bearing inscriptions in this script have been excavated earlier at various other sites also of the Indus Valley Culture.


After deciphering about 2000 Indus seals by now, I  can say with reasonable certainty that I am proceeding on the right lines and the language of  these inscriptions is definitely Vedic Sanskrit. On my visit to Kalibanga, I found on a  potsherd the word Vritra instead of  Vritra-haa in Mohenjodaro. This shows how the l’sa’ of Kalibanga was  pronounced as g’ha’ in the Indus Valley . There I was shown some potsherds with the word ‘Anna’ meaning food inscribed on them, and it is interesting to note that they were the potsherds of some big storage jars of food grains.


Here it may be added that the Vedic words like Anna, Vritra, Indra, Agni, Mana, Ana, Varuņa, Mitra and Savitri, occur very frequently in the inscriptions on the seals found at Mohenjodaro and Harappa . Therefore, there should be no doubt that the authors of the Indus culture spoke Vedic Sanskrit.


                        THE SYMBOLISM OF THE INDUS SCRIPT

The most striking feature of the Indus script is the symbolic use to which it has been put by its authors. When I speak of symbolism, I do not mean to suggest any Tantric element in Indus Culture as Swami Shankaranand and Shri Raj Mohan Nath have advocated. Here I must confess that I have not so far been able to consider Indus script from that angle. Indus seals themselves suggest a symbolism which seems to have been popular among those ancient people. Here I particularly refer to the symbolism based on the first letter of the Indus alphabet.


The first letter representing the v’a’ sound is found inscribed[4] in three ways, that is (1) a vertical straight line (2) a vertical coconut figure  and (3) a circle. Of these three, the first imitates the straight line between the two lips just before actual pronunciation, and the other two imitating the joint curves of the two lips during the process of pronouncing the v aa’ sound. These three letters are also taken to stand for the three stages of human ‘self’’; its fourth stage, the unmanifested one is represented by zero, the anusvara which is considered to be the ultimate

[1] On the Veda, pp. 30-31-ff.

[2] ibid pp. 640-641.

[3] ibid. p. 647-48

[4] . see, Varņa mala, plate 1, swaha, Dec., 68




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