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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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(Senior Research Assistant, Rajasthan Orintal Reserch Institute, Jodhpur .)


Late Dr. R. D. Banerjee, to whom goes the credit of discovering the site of Mohenjodaro, is known to have guessd that the Indus Valley Culture was probably of Vedic period. Scholars like Father Heras, Marshall and Mackay, however, proclaimed it to be definitely non-Vedic. There has, however, been a shift in the outlook of scholars on this point. After the excavation of some more sites of the so - called Indus Culture, Shri B.B. Lal, Director General of Archaeological Survey of India rightly remarked that the Indus Civilization "need no longer be regarded as confined to the Indus valley, for it is known now to have extended as far east as Alamgirpur in the Ganga-Yamuna Valley in Uttar Pradesh." Shri K.N. Sastri, an eminent Archaeologist, in his latest work entitled "New Light on the Indus Civilization" points out a lot of similarities between the Indus and Vedic cultures. Dr. Fatah Singh goes a step further and on the strength of his decipherment of the Indus script, comes to the conclusion that the so called Indus Culture is essentially the Vedic culture.

The script found on the seals of the Indus Valley attracted many scholars who have applied considerable amount of labour and ingenuity to the problem of its decipherment. Father Heras, probably the first to attempt, regarded it a pictorial writing of the Proto-Dravidians. Smith and Gadd were of the view that the script had syllabic signs and ideographs. In the beginning, scholars thought that the inscriptions found on the seals contained names of individuals who owned them and used them as stamp seals. Some others guessed that these names of men and women might be accompanied by their surnames and designations. On the analogy of Sumer , their guess was that these seals were probably used by traders to prepare clay sealing to serve as labels for protecting the bales of commodities dispatched from one place to another. Therefore, the seals were simultaneously supposed to include the names and nature of commodities put inside the bales. This idea, however did not find much favour with the scholars, as the clay sealing in Mohenjodaro and Harappa were not large enough to uphold this conjecture. Mackay, on the other hand, though that the seals had some religious significance and could be used as talisman or stamp seals, as well.

The decipherment of the Indus script by Dr. Fatah Singh of Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute, Jodhpur has not only confirmed the above mentioned view but has also put forward a new theory that the nature of the seals found at Mohenjodaro and Harappa clearly proves that they were used for printing books on Philosophy and Religion. It may not be very convincing to us, who are accustomed to believe that all fine things came to India from outside and that the culture of the Indus people was, after all, primitive in nature. Dr. Fatah Singh has nevertheless studied as many as 500 seals and inscriptions, declaring that they all bear symbolic pictures and writings containing ideas akin to those found in the Brahamanas and the Upanishads. The first installment of his researches based on this study appears in the first issue of the Swaha, the quarterly Journal of the Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute which is expected to serializes the entire writing of Dr. Fatah Singh on this subject in the coming two years or so. The idea is to publish the interpretation of all the seals discovered at Mohenjodaro, Harappa and Kalibanga.

The key to success of Dr. Fatah Singh lies in his extraordinary command over the Vedic literature and philosophy, besides his knowledge of other ancient cultures of the world. This seems to have given him an advantage over the pioneers in the field. Smith, Gadd, Langdon, Hunter, Pran Nath, Rajmohan Nath, Shankaranand and S.K. Ray tried to decipher the Indus script in their own way. There explanations look plausible at first, but not at the second, sight. Dr. Fatah Singh thinks that no less than four different scripts have been used in the seals. Out of the four, at least three proceeded from left to right and possibly one only   in the reverse order. Still, all the seals have yet to be deciphered satisfactorily.

His first article embodies the interpretation of about 500 seals ending with the transcript of the 241 inscriptions in the Devanagari script. The language employed in the seals is evidently Vedic Sanskrit and the mode of expression highly symbolic.

The names of Vedic Gods like Agni, Indra and indu (soma) are of frequent  occurrence. For sacrifice, the Vedic word Yajna  as well as the Avestan word Yasna has been used. The Vedic God Varuņa is frequently mentioned and at least once it has been used in a compound along with India in such a way as to suggest the joint soverignty of the two Gods known to the Rigveda. Some technical words like Vaşat (o"kV~½( Ukhā(m[kk), Om (vkse~½ and pranava ¼iz.ko½ have also been found in several seals.

The concept of mother goddess already mentioned by Marshall and others is certainly there, but contrary to the views expressed by the previous scholars, here it has been proved to be Vedic. In support of this view, the author has found in the seals several names of the goddesses such as Umā ¼mek½] Idrā ¼bUnzk½ Sasantaprta ¼llarIrk½ and parā ¼ijk½ The goddess Umā mentioned in the Kathopanishad alongwith tad-vanam ¼rn~oue~½ seems to be have been alluded to in one of the Indus seals where the words Vana and Umā  occur in a small inscription along with several symbolic designs. It is the symbolic meaning that is really important. The mother-goddess in fact is the Parā-şakti of the Ātman. Both of them have been depicted as a human couple holding in their hands initial letters of their names vk and i-

Hitherto, scholars were at a loss to understand as to why most of the animal designs were shown facing to the right and only a few towards the left. Dr. Singh has solved this mystery by advancing considerable evidence to show that those facing to the right are the symbols of Divinity, while those facing to the left, that of Deviltry. In this connection, he has also explained the significance of the two kinds of Swastikas, one with its hands turning to the right and the other to the left. The two kinds of Swastikas and the cross which are all traceable in the Indus valley seals have been have found closely inter-related, having their common origin with the concept of ka, the name of the Vedic Prajapati.

Coming to the animal designs. Dr. Singh again corrects the previous scholars by disclosing that at least five figures of the cow are also traceable in the Indus seals, symbolizing the female powers of Creator. As regards the unicorn so abundantly fond on the Indus seals, he ventures to suggest, on the basis of Parallelism in the Vedic literature, that it is a peculiar kind of imaginary Aja ¼vt½ which was supposed to be a symbol of all animals including man. To corroborate his view, he points out the Vedic concept of bulls, cows and horses having only one horn. According to him, Vedic texts also speak of one-horned Agni, Indra and Soma. Very interesting explanations have been offered in respect of other animals like buffalo, elephant and the tiger.

The most revealing part of this thesis is the one which reads the names of the different parts of the country, suggesting the cultural integration of India from Himalaya to Ceylon and from Indus to Burma . In this respect he mentions two parts of the Northern India as Hindhu ¼fgU/kq½ the Western, and Ira ¼bjk½ the Eastern, confirming thereby Rigvedic divisions of the rivers an Sindhavah ¼fla/ko%½ and Irāvatih ¼bjkorh%½. The south, supposed to have been divided into several parts, is symbolized by the coconut tree, bearing the inscriptions like Sendra-vritra ¼lsUnz&o`=½; Vritra ¼o`=½, Aindra Maitra ¼,sanz eS=½. The other names like Andamā ¼vunek½ and vŗma  ¼o`e½ may be taken to denote the Andamans and Burama respectively. In several seals the ancient name of India as Bhāratra Rāştra ¼Hkkj=&jk"Vª½ is found and a special kind of symbolic design which Dr. Singh has named as the Samastivarņa is said to symbolize the entire country from Himalaya to Ceylon.

The language of the vast number of seals seems to have been a widespread medium of expression. We are face to face with those who not only discovered the are art of writing, but used it in a large and artistic way.

These seals might have been used for printing on birch, cloth or leather. This suggests that the Indus people were pioneers in the art of printing. At least, a piece of cloth bearing an impression of Indus seal is reported to have been recovered from a prehistory site in Iraq .

When all has been said, the book will offer infinite possibilities for interpreting the Mind of Man. This is, however. just a rapid survey of the few striking features of his thesis introduced in his article of about ninety pages, including sixty three blocks of seals, inscriptions and alphabets.