Crossword puzzles cater to different age groups, tastes, and professions. Some are for beginners and others are so dense and difficult that they test your sanity. I usually head first to the daily puzzle in The Montreal Gazette, our local paper. Usually, it is pretty straight forward and poses no problem. Then I pick up the puzzle from the local weekly community newspaper The Suburban, which appears every Wednesday. Its puzzle is more challenging and I manage to solve it by Tuesday anticipating a fresh one the next day. The New York Times Crossword edited by Will Shortz (syndicated in The Gazette) is the last and which I approach with trepidation because it is so much more difficult defining complete solution on most days.
Although certain aspects of the elite culture, and most seals with motifs and pottery with Indus script on it, disappeared, the Indus culture itself was not lost. In the cities that sprung up in the Ganga and Yamuna river valleys between 600-300 BCE many of their cultural aspects can be traced to the earlier Indus culture. The technologies, artistic symbols, architectural styles, and aspects of the social organization in the cities of this time were continuous with those in operation in the Indus cities, an idea that is shared by many prominent archaeologists including Jonathan Marc Kenoyer, Jim Shaffer, and Colin Renfrew (see Tarini Carr). Ruins of the cities of this civilization were excavated (particularly at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in the province of Sindh in modern Pakistan) in the twentieth century indicating that it had a highly developed urban infrastructure. For over a century, the Indus script has remained an enigma to scholars, academics, archaeologists, and historians. Claims of decipherment number in hundreds, though none has found consensus or acceptance among scholars. In 1996, Gregory L. Poesshl, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, surveyed over thirty extant claims and concluded that the script is likely to remain undeciphered. But K did not share in Poesshl's pessimism. Back in 1822, Jean Francois Champollion had deciphered the Egyptian writing system (hieroglyphs) as a combination of phonetic and ideographic glyphs. Taking his cue from Champollion, K has attempted to decipher the Indus script using the same approach and method to read phonetic hieroglyphs of ancient India.
II Check small words containing 3, 4, or 5 letters
III Clues follow a pattern
A puzzle usually has a theme, either announced by the crossword's title or left for you to discover as you go. Sometimes that theme is a single long quote or well-known phrase split up over several long answers that interconnect the four (usually) sections. Since even easy puzzles are rarely solved the first time through, no need to get frustrated. Correctly determining the theme of the crossword gives an extra clue towards these pieces of the puzzle. K astutely [and correctly] reasoned that the theme of the Indus script puzzle lay in the trade and commercial activities of the people of the Sarasvati-Sindhu civilization. The people who produced the seals were mostly artisans of all sorts, from lapidaries (workers in gem stones), masons, miners, to smiths who worked on stones, ivory, shell, minerals, metals, and alloys of metals. They created the Indus writing system in order to record the details of their professional activities. They used a code and a code key (known as the rebus) to transform and transfer information and messages that were deliberately obscured so that the messages could not be read or understood even if they were intercepted. A 'cipher' is a secret language invented to conceal the meaning of a message. Artisans and traders of the Indus area created the cipher and included it with the goods that were shipped (like including a font that you may have used to generate a file?). Their trade associates in other parts of the world who received the messages were able to securely decipher the text of the coded message by performing an inverse substitution using the code keys (rebus).
The continuity of the Indus civilization is affirmed by the postulation of an Indian linguistic zone by a number of scholars including F. B. J. Kuiper (1967); Murray B. Emeneau (1980), and F. C. Southworth (2005). They hypothesized the ancient versions of Indian languages to be from the Indian linguistic zone (sprachbund) as it exists today. This meant that one or more of present-day languages are likely to retain memories of the glosses of pictographs and signs employed in the Indus writing system (p. 214). With this hypothesis as his starting point, K delineated the language/s that the artisans were likely to be familiar with using the pool of words drawn from a work that he had published earlier: The Indian Lexicon (Kalyanraman 1992). This move enabled him to provide the glosses for matching words with Indus script's glyptic elements and next identify homonyms which clarified and confirmed the message content of inscriptions. To K's utter surprise, the semantic clusters that emerged as well as the sets of homophones matching the pictures and signs used in the Indus script, related to the work of artisans—lapidary work (those working with precious stones) and metallurgical work (those working with minerals, metals, alloys, smithy, smelters, furnace types and forges)(p. 218).
K was not deterred by possible misdirections that abound in the data offered by the Indus inscriptions. After some pitfalls, he found that the set of glosses from the Indus linguistic area were crucial in the decipherment of the messages based on the repertoire of Indus artisans—lapidaries, miners, and smiths. The underlying language of the glosses which furnish the glyptic elements and concordant homonyms happened to be the lingua franca (Mleccha) that had received inputs from other major language groups in India: Munda, Sanskrit, and Dravidian.
Mleccha was distinct from the grammatically correct Sanskrit in which the Vedic canon and other sacred literature are preserved. The speakers of Mleccha are not generally described as belonging to one particular area or a social group, which suggests that they were spread all across the Indian cultural zone and constituted a substantial majority of the population of India. By profession they were traders, artisans, and metal workers. K also used evidence for the decipherment from the punch-marked coins a nd sculptural glyphs of the subsequent historical periods in India during which the glyphs of Indus script continued to be used (p. 40-41).
VII Do not give up
It is not unusual to get stumped for a particular answer. In that event it helps to deduce any of the letters of the word. The clue 'compass direction' can often be solved by process of elimination; enter 'ESE' or 'NNW' and see what it does for your cross-clues. One has to develop an eye for this sort of certitude. Still stumped? It helps to put the puzzle away and return to it later. Something will invariably jump off the page releasing an 'Aha!' moment. Often, getting that one answer can lead to a complete solution.
It looks as if the 'Aha' moment for K came when a possible answer to the enigma of the swastika motif found on some of the seals struck him. K believes that the swastika represents the quintessence of the form and purpose of Indus script inscriptions (p. 10). The two seals with the swastika motif appearing on the frontispiece of Indus script cipher are on display at the British Museum, London. There are about fifty such seals out of about 4000 total inscriptions. The swastika is a highly sacred and auspicious symbol in the Indian tradition. It is drawn on a site before constructing an altar or performing a religious service among Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains. The challenge to K was: Was there any additional meaning or significance to the swastika as per the artisans of the Sarasvati-Sindhu civilization? Why does the swastika motif appear with other glyphs—e.g., together with an endless-knot motif, as located between a tiger and an elephant, and in a series of five swastikas lining on a tablet with the obverse showing a drummer and a tiger? (See figure below). It has been found inscribed in this composite on over fifty inscriptions, on seals, molded tablets, metal objects, and copper plates (p. 10). K decoded the swastika motif as being connected with zinc ore (as sulfide or oxide), which when used in making the brass alloy, added luster and shine giving the brass its golden appearance. An appropriate linguistic gloss for the swastika motif is from the Hindi word sathiya, the Gujarati sathiyo, and the Prakrit satthia. The homonym sattiya (and variant phonetic forms in many Indian languages) means 'zinc ore' of the type found in Zawar mines of Rajasthan. K next provides its rebus interpretation as jasta (pewter) in Hindi and Marathi meaning zinc. Equivalent words are available in Jain Prakrit, yasada and in Sanskrit, trapu. Swastika thus refers to an object made of iron using zinc or pewter (trapudhatuvisesanirmitam) (p. 410-411). It is worth pointing out in this context that the first two persons who had the privilege of listening to the discourse of Siddhartha after he had become 'the awakened one' (The Buddha) happened to be two brothers named Trapusha and Bhallaka who were merchants and were passing through the forest where the Buddha has sat in meditation.
The tablet with two sides mentioned earlier features a drummer and a tiger with five swastika glyphs having alternating left-handed and right-handed arms on the top. In the Santali language, dhol means a drum beaten on one end by a stick and on the other by the hand and kol means the tiger. Dul means to 'cast in mold' and kol means an alloy. So using the homonymic word dhol as the rebus key, K interprets the seal to mean an alloy made of five metals (panchaloha). The alternating glyphs with right and left-handed arms of the swastika point to the zinc ore as sulfide and oxide to produce brass = ara kuta i.e. 'mixed' or 'joined' copper. Use of the swastika glyphs may also relate to the practice of using five parts of copper to four parts of zinc and one part of tin to create an alloy called bharan. In the Punjab, the mixed alloys were generally called bharat (5 copper + 4 zinc + 1 tin)(p. 178-179).
After observing that the swastika motif also appears on a number of punch-marked cast copper coins found at locations in Ramnagar, Lotapur, Mamdar, Singavaran and Ujjayini (p. 175), K explains that in ancient times, zinc ore was mined at Zawar in modern Rajastan (40 kms south of Udaipur) and zinc ore with lead was mined at Rajpura-Dariba and Rampura-Agucha also in Rajastan. At Prakashe in Karnataka (a Chalcolithic site dating from 2nd millennium BCE) two copper objects were found containing 25.86 % and 17.7% of zinc. Another object found at Taxila contained 34.34% of zinc. Other copper coins and bronze images contain 25% of zinc (p. 177). Early cementation process involved roasting zinc ore (oxide) and mixing it with copper fragments and charcoal (used as a reducing agent). The resultant mixture was heated in a sealed crucible to 1000 degrees C. The zinc vapor dissolved to yield a good quality of brass. Items of brass thus made containing 6.28 to 16.2 % of zinc were found in Lothal and Atranjikhera and that have been dated to 3rd or 2nd century BCE (p. 177).
K's conclusion is that the meaning of swastika as the glean and shine that zinc ore provided in the casting process to the artifacts such as vessels or goblets made of the brass alloy is as important as the traditional (and more well known) significance of auspiciousness accorded to the symbol of swastika (p. 11).
The challenge of a man seated in a yogic position
An Indus seal showing a horned male person seated in yoga like posture figures in many text books assigned to courses on Indian religions, history, and civilization. A three-leaved branch of the Pipal tree appears on his crown with a star on either side. Two stars adorn the curved buffalo horns of the seated person who wears a scarf on pigtail. Seven bangles are depicted on the left arm and six on the right, with the hands resting on the knees. The heels are pressed together under the groin and the feet project beyond the edge of the throne (see figure below). In the considered opinion of the scholarly community, the person in the seal represents (a) a yogi or an ascetic practicing meditation or engaged in austerities or penance; (b) a proto-Rudra/Shiva or (c) Agni, the god of fire.
Without disputing this line of interpretation, K suggests that the seal may have additional information to communicate in the field of metallurgy. The word in Prakrit for penance iskamandha, which is homonymous with the Tamil word kampattam meaning 'mint. The word for large horns with sweeping upward curve as applied to buffalos is dabe in Santali. The wordsdab, dhimba, dhombo meaning a lump (clot) are homonyms for dabe. The word for twig in the Atharvaveda (5:19.12) is kudi. A Santali word kuthi meaning 'smelting furnace' would be a homonym for kudi. Another Santali word kote meaning 'forged' [metal] is also relevant here. After analyzing other glyptic elements on the seal, K concludes that the person on the seal is a lapidary scribe working in a mint (p. 188 and personal communication from Dr K).
"Have references, will solve," is the motto of the puzzle solver. If you are truly at an impasse and the solution is beyond grasp then, by all means, consult a dictionary, atlas, encyclopedia or the Internet. Once, for the life of me, I could not figure out the answer to the clue 'Dakar's land.' I finally went to the library and got the answer from the Atlas: SENEGAL. The best part of solving a good crossword puzzle is coming away with more than you started with. Do not be afraid to seek help from anywhere you might think it will come. Having a fellow puzzler by your side can make solving the crossword puzzle an even more enjoyable experience. K did not hesitate to seek help from whatever quarter or corner he could find. He went through thousands of books and dictionaries for clues eventually coming up with a remarkably impressive book that professional archaeologists, historians of Indian religions, and cultural anthropologists cannot ignore.
Solace through giving
The joy of providing a correct answer to a solver, who is stuck on a clue, is out of this world. So would be K's joy if the readers confirm the tentative readings that K has supplied to the glyphs that remain to be validated by the cipher code key (including decipherment of inscriptions from other small sites). They may be found at http://sites.google.com/kalyan97/induswriting He has also made available on line The Indian lexicon, an etymological dictionary of south Asian languages at http://www.scribd.com/doc/2232617/lexicon (e-book). It lists cognate lexemes of more than twenty-five languages of India. A substrate dictionary with over 8000 semantic clusters including about 4000 etyma of the Dravidian Etymological Dictionary as well as hundreds of lexemes from the Munda language groups (Santali, Mundarica) compiled by K is thus available on line from which you can learn a lot.
Many glosses in the Indus Script Cipher come from Marathi, my mother tongue. K uses the Marathi term sangada to designate the portable furnace or lathe which appears as a standard device placed in front of a single-horned heifer (unicorn) on many seals (p.108). I was familiar with the meaning of sangada as skeleton and its possible link to Sanskrit sanghata used to designate the human body as a congregation of different parts held together over a specific period of time in Ayurvedic, Buddhist, and Vedanta texts. It was an added joy to find a technical nuance associated with it. So whatever your mother tongue, you will come away richer after reading K's latest book. Additionally, you might help K in completing his work by suggesting possible glosses and homonyms to the pictures and signs on Indus seals and inscriptions that still remain undeciphered. There is also scope for improving the extant material given the tentativeness of some of the matches made between pictures/signs on the seals and words as well as in the selection of homonyms. This is in part because K had to do with the evidence of glosses as it is available from extant Indian language dictionaries. He did NOT attempt to reconstruct older forms of any of these glosses. He had no way of knowing which gloss (for a given semantic cluster) out of the available languages is the older phonetic form. He therefore paired such available semantic forms, one conveying the image of the glyptic from the seal and the other conveying the crypt message from the repertoire of artisans, stone-workers, and lapidaries (personal communication from Dr K received on Sept. 5, 2010).
I wrote back to Dr Kalyanraman suggesting that he should hold week-end karyashalas (workshops) in India, Europe, and North America on reading and interpretation of the data provided by the Indus seals and inscriptions. This would also provide an occasion to exchange notes and increase awareness among Indians and others about securing for the Sarasvati-Sindhu civilization its rightful place in the world's heritage. He has welcomed the idea in principle and let us hope it materializes soon. If you would like to organize such a workshop in your city, please contact Dr Kalyanraman at <email@example.com>
Archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians of Indian religions and civilization have tended to concentrate on the mysterious and religious dimensions of the Indus Valley Civilization. Their methodology is predicated upon the colonial and orientalist discourse which was framed within the category of difference: We versus them, European versus Indian. The Indian was not simply different from the European, but his exact inverse. The Indian is magical, mystical, and mythical; whereas the European is rational, scientific, and ethical. Indologists of today therefore hesitate to visualize or to consider the possibility that a highly developed component of science and technology in the ancient civilization of India, such as Dr Kalyanraman's work suggests, could have existed in ancient India. Jonathan Marc Kenoyer has recreated many of the craft technologies used by the people of Harappa, including an ancient process of creating faience ceramics, which is very complex and technical requiring the grinding and partial melting of quartz using a consistently high temperature of 940 Celsius. The result was similar to that of the artifacts recovered from Harappa (see Tarini Carr). In his review of Indus script cipher, Professor Narahari Achar notes that the evidence for the existence of a very advanced culture of materials science and technology in ancient India comes from the work of Dr. C. S. R. Prabhu from Hyderabad. In January 2010, I attended in Pune, the 2nd Vedic Science Day & Workshop on Synthesis of Indian Knowledge Systems & Modern Science at which Dr Prabhu (Deputy Director-General, National Information Center, Hyderabad) was the keynote speaker. During his talk Dr. Prabhu indeed circulated samples of an alloy of copper harder than steel, an alloy of copper resistant to sea water, and a light-absorbing alloy for observation by the audience. The alloys were produced (informed Dr Prabhu to the audience) following the instructions provided in Bharadvaja muni's manual on aeronautics (Vimanashastra). The experiments of Professor Kenoyer and Dr Prabhu thus seem to support Dr Kalyanraman's thesis.
Carr, Tarini J. The Harappan Civilization. Archaeology on Line. Accessed on August 28, 2010.
Emeneau, Murray B. 1956. India as a linguistic area. Language vol. 32 (1956): 3-16.
Kenoyer, Jonathan. (July 2003). Uncovering the keys to lost Indus cities. Scientific American(July 2003:
Kenoyer, Jonathan (1998: 19). Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Oxford, New York. Oxford
Kuiper, F. B. J. 1967. The genesis of a linguistic area. Indo Iranian Journal vol 10 (1967): 81-102.
Possehl, Gregory L. 1996. The Indus Age: The Writing System.
Southworth, F. C. 2005. Linguistic archaeology of South Asia. London: Routeledge-Curzon.