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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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Some of the seals found at Kalibanga bear the figure of the mysterious Unicorn which is the most popular animal figure of the Indus Valley seals. C. R. Roy, writing in the ‘journal of the Sind Historical Society’[1] seems rightly to hold that ‘the physical characters of the Unicorn, such as general form, shape of the body, long tapering neck without dewlap, tufted tail, peculiar marking on the shoulder and the face,’ all point to show that the animal belongs to the Equidae or Horse Family which ‘comprises the ‘true’ horse and the Ass.’ He is also of the view that the Vedic Aśva is not horse, but the Ass[2]. As I have tried to show in article published in the Swaha[3], the Unicorn of the Indus seals is however, the Vedic Aja who is regarded by Maitrayani Samhita as the symbol of all animals including horse and man and can easily represent with various modifications in its decorations and markings, all the  aspects of Aja, the unborn human soul. My study of about 1000 inscriptions on the Unicorn seals which are being discussed in the next two issues of Swaha have convinced me that the peculiar object before the animal is the Ana-Anna symbol representing the human body which is otherwise represented by a tree in the Upaniśads as well as in the Indus seals[4]. It is this animal which in its dual form is known differently as the two Suparnas and the two Purusas associated with a mystic tree of Śvētāśvatara Upaniśad[5]. This again assumes the form of two Aśvins[6] and the two horses in the Vedic literature. The mark on its shoulder confining the two letters, namely m and e of the Indus script also suggests its identity with UM, a symbol of the human soul. The word Aśva forms part of several inscriptions on the Unicorn figure.


                                           THE COW AS UNICORN


The unicorn, at least on  five of the Harappan seals[7], assumes the form of a cow in as much as it has an udder with four nipples. This shows that the sacred cow, like the horse, was not unknown and dis-respected in the Indus Valley period . the terracotta figures of the bull found in the Kalibanga, as also the beautiful pictures of the Brāhmani bull frequently appearing on Indus seals go to prove that the high reverence shown by the Indus people to the progeny of the cow was  in no way less than that found in Vedic or post-Vedic literature. One of the inscriptions on the Cow-Unicorn (MFE. LXXXIII Seal no. 33) reads as “mek ekek ,sfXu, u vfXu, u izk.k/ksuq  which means “You are the mother Umā of Agni, not Agni, not Praņa Cow.” It clearly shows that here the Cow Unicorn is the symbol of mother goddess Umā who has been called UMĀ in so many other inscriptions of Mohenjodaro.


                                                THE MOTHER GODDESS


The pre-conference of Mother Goddess again has been used by John Marshall as an evidence to prove the non-Vedic character of the Indus Culture; for, according to his view shared by Dr. Mackay and others, the worship of the Mother Goddess is foreign to Vedic religion. This is , however, not the fact. Dr. Gyan Sahani has given in her book details of more than twenty goddesses occurring in the Ŗgveda alone and has shown convincingly how they represent the various aspects of Sakti called Vāk, parā or Rāśtrī in Vedic Samhitās. In the Kena Upaniśad, the Goddess Umā Haimavati acts as a kind of guru to Indra when he, at the instance of Gods, goes to know Yaksha appearing in the sky and tells him that it was Brahman itself. In fact, even among the Vedic Gods (devas), the object of worship is godliness or Devatā which, according to Dr. Sahani is the Parā Śakti or the Vāk inherent in every male God and ultimately in the Brahman, God of all Gods. From this stand-point, she explains how the Rāśtrī  of the Vāk Sūkta (RV 10, 123) is the same as the Mahatripursundari of the Ăgamas and Durgā or Jagadambā of the Puraņas.


What may be more surprising is the fact that the Brāhmanas also, like the Indus inscription quoted above, regard cow as mother (     2, 2, 1, 21 ) and the Vāk as the cow (       18, 9, 21; S. 9, 1, 2, 17 ). Like the same Indus inscription, the concept of Prāna-cow (S. 4, 3, 4, 25; 7, 5, 2, 6) as also that of  vkXus; Gau (S. 7, 5, 2, 19) is also available in the Brāhmaņas. A very important concept of godesss in Indus Valley may be seen in what I read  as ‘Sasantaptā’ inscribed on a Mohenjodaro seal with a female figure[8] apparently riding on a tiger in such a way that the fore part and the head of the beast becomes merged with the body of the goddess. This may again be taken as the Vārtraghi Vāk or Cow (S. 3, 3, 1, 14) supposed to be the conqueror of the Vŗtra who often appears as a tiger in the Indus   culture. Similarly in two of the Harappan inscriptions on Cow-Unicorn (MEH pl. XXXV seal No 3 & 6) the following two headings suggest cow as the symbol of the Mother-goddess as well as of the Dhi (psychic power) of the heart:--

(1)   vUuka'k vEek mek ekek banz/kk ee

(2)   â /kh] u vi=; eA


                          INDUS CULTURE AS VEDIC CULTURE


Therefore, there seems to be no strong evidence against the identification of the Indus Culture with the Vedic Culture. Already Shri B. B. Lal[9], Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India speaks of over hundred sites, flung across the Indian sub continent from Rupar in Punjab on the North to Bhagatrav in Gujrat on the South, and up to Alamgirpur in Uttar Pradesh on the East,” and goes to remark that “Indeed the last-named site, situated in the Ganga Valley, sets one re-thinking about the appropriateness of the very nomenclature, viz, the “Indus civilization.” I would therefore, suggest that this culture may henceforth be called the Vedic Culture or alternatively the Sangama Culture of integrated India .


                                              ARYA AND DRAVIDA


When I suggest this nomenclature for the Indus culture, I do not mean any affront to what is generally known as the Dravidian race, because as stated by Dr. Śaśānka Sekhar Sarkar[10] the terms ‘Aryan’ and ‘Dravidians’ do not refer to racial groups though ‘they have been often used, and are still being used, in the ethnic sense.’ In the words of  K. A. Nilakantha Shastri[11], “the use of Aryan and Dravidian as racial terms is unknown to scientific students of Anthropology.” Moreover, so far as culture is concerned, it has no race, particularly in our country where I find the same Vedic culture extending from the Himalayas in the North to the Indian ocean in the South, even in the pre-Buddhist India . I have found ample evidence in Indus seals to show that even at that remote period of your history, the whole of this vast country was culturally one and the present Andhra Pradesh was probably known as Aindra and Madras [12] as Maitrah. There  is a seal with a picture of the coconut tree, with five vertical strokes, inscribed at its stem, suggesting that probably the land of the coconut trees was characterized with a concept similar to Pancha-Dravidas in later literature. I have cogent reasons to hold that the word Dravida is a derivative of the term Indramitra obtained by dropping the initial syllable ‘In ‘ from the letter, and that this word, unlike the term Arya, stood for the harmony (Sangama) between the spirit and the body, Aham and Idam. This sangam also seems to be the basis of the legend behind the ancient Sangam literature of the Tamils and can well be compared with the concept of Sangama in the Ŗgveda.


I,  therefore, have no doubt in my mind that the Indus culture expressed in the inscriptions and the pictures on the seals is the culture of the indivisible mankind, the eternal and universal man common to all groups, characterized by race, colour, clime and language. This is true not only with  reference to the diversity of the Indian people, but also with reference to the people of  the word. This is proved not only by the obvious resemblance of this culture with that of  Egypt  and  Mesopotamia already noticed by scholars in many ways, but also by the Indus script which, according  to my findings, includes characters resembling Brahmi, Arabic and Armaic letters, the last being the source of the Roman script.


I, therefore, conclude with an appeal to the orientalists of the world to study not only the Indus culture in this light but also all the ancient cultures of the word. There has been too much emphasis on the differences among the men and their groups, but here is a culture that has tried to lay stress upon the unity of man, the indivisible personality of ‘World Man’ –a concept found only in the Ŗgveda.




Some Select Opinions on


                                     DR. FATAH SINGH’S FINDINGS



“I am happy to learn that you have been able to decipher the Indus script. This script has long been eluding decipherment. It is good that you have been able to achieve success where many a scholar has given it up in despair. I send you my hearty congratulations.”

                                                                           HON ! B. S. Murthy

                                                                       Minister of state for Health, family                                                                                   Planning, Works, Housing & Urban Development.                                                                                                                                 India .

vkius ,d cgqr gh xgu fo"k; ij dye mBkbZ gSA bles lansg ugha fd vkidk iz;Ru LrqR; gSA


                                                                                MkW  eksrhpUn


                                                                       Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay .



“I am proud of your eminent scholarship and research in the deciphering of the script etc. It is an honour to India .”

                                                                                                        P. Veeraghavan                                                                                Member, Madras University Senate.


“It is really a remarkable achievement that you have successfully deciphered the Sindhu Valley Script. Your opinion counts, as you have taken pains to solve these intricate problems. India should be proud of you.”


                                                                                                              J. D. Akhtar

                                                                                              Editor, Savera,, Delhi .


“Your views on the subject, I need hardly say, will be of special interest to our readers all over India .”


                                                                                                              Joseph John

                                                                                                  Editor, Alpha

                                                                        Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Bombay .



“Dr. Fatah Singh’s long articles on symbolisms of the Brahamanas and the Upanishads on the seals of Mohenjodaro in the December issue of the Swaha is an original research and seems to supply a key to the decipherment and interpretation of the seals which had hitherto baffled all attempts of scholars-Indian and foreign-to explain them. Dr. Fatah Singh is a deep scholar of the Vedic literature and possesses a good knowledge of epigraphy. His close study of the  seals and the Brahmanas and the Upanishads has enabled him to propound a very plausible theory that  the script of the seals is the ancestral form of Brahmi and the letters and words of the seals represent such philosophical symbols of the later Vedic literature as were quite popular at that time.


This theory is in conflict with the generally accepted Vedic chronology and, if finally established, will necessitate a drastic revision of several orthodox views which at present hold the field.


But it is evident that Dr. Fatah Singh has advanced an unprecedented and unpredictable theory about the Mohenjodaro seals and culture, which deserves a serious consideration by epigraphists and indologists.”

                                                                                                  Dr. M. L. Sharma

Professor Emeritus of History

  University of Rajasthan , Jaipur.


“Dr. Fatah Singh is a well-known orientalist.  He has made a comparative study of the various scripts and has worked on etymology, mythology, religion, philosophy and sociology. He found previous approaches unworkable and hence devised his new technique which has enabled him to read and interpret the largest number of seals and inscriptions, viz. more than 2,000. No other scholar is known to have read such a vast number. This achievement is a sufficient proof of the admissibility of his technique, approach, hypothesis and findings.”

                                                                                                         Dr. S. K. Gupta

    Reader in Sanskrit, Rajasthan University ,.                                                                                                                         Jaipur. 

^^jktLFkku izkP;fo|k izfr"Bku ds funs'kd vkSj fla/kq?kkkVh dh fyfi dks lQyrkiwoZd i<+us okys MkW- Q+rgfalag djhc rhl o"kksZa ls bl 'kks/kZ&dk;Z esa yxs gq, gSaA mudh Li"V ekU;rk gS fd iwokZxzgksa ls eqDr gq, fcuk flaU/kq?kkVh&lH;rk dk lzksr tkuuk lEHko ugha gSA fonsf'k;ksa }kjk vkjksfir izR;sd ckr lR; dh rjg Lohdkj ysuk Hkh vuqfpr gSA flU/kq?kkVh&lH;rk dk jgL; mlds eqnzk ^fp=ksa ij vafdr fyfi esa Nqik gqvk gSA muds v/;;u dh iz.kkyh oSKkfud o rdkZfJr gS**A

lkIrkfgd fnueku] ubZ fnYyh] 16 ekpZ 1969a      


[1] Vol. VIII No.1 June 1946, p.40.

[2] Ibid p.40

[3] Dec., 68

[4] This point has already been discussed by me in the Swaha of Dec. 68(pp.20-40)

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

[7] Two of them appear on the cover page of ‘Swaha’, Dec. 68

[8] MFEM., Plate LXXXIX. 347

[9] B.B.Lal, Indian Archaeology since Independence , p.17.

[10] Race and Race Movements in India , ‘The Cultural Heritage of India’ Vol.1 p.17.

[11] Cultural contacts between Aryans and Dravidians p.2.

[12] Compare Madras with Madrast of old Greek records. See also ‘Swaha’, Dec. 68.


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