Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Identifying Harappan people - inputs from Mahabharata and Silappadhikaram..

Given below is a note by Dr S.Kalyanaraman on the need to take into account the cultural symbols and Indian sprachbund in the analysis of Harappan sites that can be aptly called as Indus- saraswathi civilization. He points out the Nausharo images with sindhur on the forehead, stones resembling linga and trefoil in the Indus images as some of the  items to prove the cultural identity of the Harappan people as Vedic.

On my part I wish to point out in brief that Harappan culture was indeed the post- Mahabharata culture that saw the growth of trade after Pandavas wrested control from Kauravas over Gandhara, - the main route to central Asia -  which was the maternal country of the Kauravas. This connection of Kauravas to Gandhara justifies the overt interest that their maternal uncle, Shakuni had in wiping out Pandavas from the political scene of that time. This also justifies why the entire Bharat including southerner Pandyas chose to fight on the side of Pandavas and Krishna though Sarangadwaja (the Pandyan king who fought on the side of Pandavas) had a personal grouse against Krishna.

The Indus - saraswathi settlements were a necessity of time as Arabian sea engulfed Dwaraka forcing the people to look for newer places to settle, after their protector Krisha exited from the world. Their previous abode in the Gangetic plain from where they left (18 clans according to Mahabharata) along with Krishna to escape trouble from Jarasandha was the last one in their mind for a place to live. Mahabharata tells that Arjuna guided them out of Dwaraka and settled them. Where were they settled is the question. Going towards Ganges was ruled out and the only option was to go north or north west of Dwaraka / Kutch. The route explained in Mahabharata precisely puts them in the now known Indus - Saraswathi region that includes Dwaraka bound Gujarat too. The map created based on the inputs from Mahabharata is shown below.

Now coming to the issue of the so-called scripts on the Indus seals, any analysis without taking into account the local or indigenous inputs can't give correct results. I wish to point out that there is reference at two places in Silappadhikaram on the bundles or trade goods that are stamped with seals that bear "KaNNEzhutthu" (கண்ணெழுத்து) - meaning, " letters by the eyes" which are signs or symbols that indicate the nature of goods, the trader etc which can be easily understood just by looking at it.

In one place this is being told in the context of goods that had reached Pumpukar. Another reference is to the goods sent by Satakarni (Gauthami putra Satakarni of the 1st century AD) to the Cheran king. These goods contained the wealth and goods of North India and bore Kannezhutthu - the letters by the eye. Those verses are reproduced below.


"வம்ப மாக்கள் தம் பெயர் பொறித்த

கண்ணெழுத்துப் படுத்த எண்ணுப் பல்பொதிக்

கடைமுக வாயில்.." (சிலப் – 5 – 111.113)


அடியார்க்கு நல்லார் தரும் பொருள்:-


வம்ப மாக்கள்- புதியோர்.

தம் பெயர் பொதித்த தம் பெயரெழுதிய

கண்ணெழுத்துப் படுத்த அடையாள எழுத்தினை இலச்சினையாக அமைத்த

எண்ணுப் பல் பொதி பலவாகிய எண்களை உடைய பொதிகள்

கடைமுக வாயில் பண்ட சாலை வாயில் (ஏற்றுமதி இறக்குமதிப் பொருள்கள் வந்து இறங்கியிருக்கும் பண்ட சாலை)


"எய்யா வடவளத்து இருபதினாயிரம்

கண்ணெழுத்துப் படுத்தன கைபுனை சகடமும்"

அனுப்புகிறான். ( சிலப்- 26 -135 & 136)


இதற்கு உரை எழுதும் அடியார்க்கு நல்லார், "வேறோரிடத்தும் கண்டறியாத வடதிசை வளங்களை உடையனவாயும், சரக்கின் பெயர், அளவு முதலியன பொறிக்கப்பட்ட பொதிகளை உடையனவாயும் அணி செய்யப்பெற்ற இருபதினாயிரம் வண்டிகளும்" என்கிறார்.


These verses clearly indicate what the seals convey. They being sent by Satakarni containing the wealth of North India do imply that they had been sent from Indus regions. The detailed article on this is written in Tamil in my Tamil blog. Read it here:

When we have cross-referential inputs like this from within India, it is matter of waste of time to look elsewhere or differently to decipher the Indus seals.

- Jayasree


After referring to the contributions made by many scholars to Harappan civilization (1921-2013), RS Bisht makes a passing mention that it as also known as Indus-Sarasvati civilization.

This is in Dr. YD Sharma Memorial Lectue delivered at Kokata on 31 August 2013 (Published in Puratattva 2013) which concludes after 18 pages: "Finally, comes up the most vexed problem of the identification of the people who built the Harappan civilization. In this case also diametrically opposite views are held by the scholars. Efforts have been made to identify with the Dravidians, the Proto-Elamites, the Mundas, the Aryans or even to a lost tribe. In this connection it is most pertinent to refer to the detailed anthropological studies carried out by a group of experts led by Hemphill, who hold that there are only two breaks in the anthropological records in the northwestern Indian subcontinent -- one occurs around 4500 BCE, in the beginning of the Chalcolithic era and the second around c. 800 BCE that falls in the Iron Age. The controversy will remain alive until and until the Harappan script is deciphered." (p.25)

The anthropological argument mentioned by Bisht is in the following citation:

Brian E. Hemphill, Alexander F. Christensen & S. I. Mustafakulov, "Trade or Travel: An Assessment of Interpopulational Dynamics among Bronze Age Indo-Iranian Populations," South Asian Archaeology, 1995, ed. Raymond Allchin & Bridget Allchin (New Delhi: Oxford & IBH Publishing, 1997), vol. 2, pp. 855-871. 

Hemphill's observation was that there was no trace of "demographic disruption" in the North-West of the subcontinent between 4500 and 800 BCE.

When this 'demographic' observation negated the possibility of any massive intrusion, of non-Harappans into India, why should there be a 'vexed' problem identifying Indians while evaluating the archaeological efforts of 92 years between 1992 to 2013? 

I wish Bisht had paused and deliberated on this identity problem a bit more to indicate pointers which could resolve the 'vexed' problem instead of merely using the non-decipherment of Indus writing as the crutch? 

Some hope that genetics will help resolve the problem of identity. Genetics may not help if one starts with the problematic assumption that the language and culture somehow follow the same set of evolutionary rules.

Semantics of language are cultural indicators. Replacing anthropological construct of 'democratic disruption', one can postulate continuity of cultural practices and using cultural indicators to affirm that there was no 'cultural' disruption between 4500 BCE and 800 BCE. 

This may be one approach to resolve the 'vexed' Indian identity problem in Indian civilization studies.

Indeed, it is commonsense to study culture for effective civilization studies not to have any vexatious theories about identity of people in the civilization continuum.

One tool for studying culture is language but more important is the discipline of semantics -- as distinct from study of phonetics or syntax. Mere glossary won't help but the glosses have to be explained with 'meaning' as the meaning evolved over time in socio-cultural interactions.

Semantics as the study of meaning postulates relation between signifiers, like wordsphrasessigns, and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotation (translation of a sign to its literal meaning). Denotation should be contrasted with  connotation, which translates a sign to meanings associated  with it.

Let us take some examples signifiers.

Signifier 1

The cultural practice of wearing characteristic marking sindhur (red vermilion mark) on the forehead or parting of the hair is a signifier of an Indian woman.

We have to terracotta figurines of Nausharo which show such signifiers.
Nausharo: female figurines. Wearing sindhur at the parting of the hair. Hair painted black, ornaments golden and sindhur red. Period 1B, 2800 – 2600 BCE. 11.6 x 30.9 cm.[After Fig. 2.19, Kenoyer, 1998].

Don't these two figurines provide a signifier which identifies Indians, say between 4500 BCE to 800 BCE on the assumption that this practice of wearing sindhur (red vermilion) continues even into the present times?

Signifier 2

The cultural practice of venerating linga, a polished pillar-like stone is a signifier of Indians from 4500 BCE to the present day.

Two decorated bases and a lingam, Mohenjodaro. 
Lingam, grey sandstone in situ, Harappa, Trench Ai, Mound F, Pl. X (c) (After Vats). "In an earthenware jar, No. 12414, recovered from Mound F, Trench IV, Square I
Terracotta sivalinga, Kalibangan.

Signifier 3

A tre-foil is a signifier of some 'importance', something or someone venerated (say, an ancestor)

The trefoil signifiers appears in the civilization in the following examples:

Statue, Uruk (W.16017), c. 3000 B.C.; bull with trefoil inlays; shell mass with inlays of lapis lazuli; 5.3 cm. long; Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin; Parpola, 1994, p. 213.

Steatite statue fragment; Mohenjodaro (Sd 767); trefoil-decorated bull; traces of red pigment remain inside the trefoils. After Ardeleanu-Jansen 1989: 196, fig. 1; Parpola, 1994, p. 213.

Trefoils painted on steatite beads, Harappa (After Vats, Pl. CXXXIII, Fig.2)

Trefoil inlay decorated base (for linga icon?); smoothed, polished pedestal of dark red stone; National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi; After Mackay 1938: I, 411; II, pl. 107:35; Parpola, 1994, p. 218.

Statue (DK 1909), Mohenjodaro; four views; white steatite, with remnants of red paint inside the trefoils of the robe; height 17 cm.; National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi; After Marshall 1931a:pl.98; Parpola, 1994, p. 212.

What word in spoken language, was used to denote this signifier? Would it be not be a reasonable and useful exercise to trace such signifiers in the Indian sprachbund, on the assumption that the present-day words (from one or more languages of the Indians) contain such signifiers with the same denotation which was in vogue in the early days of the civilization?

History is all around us. Civilization continuum is a living reality. Why should we still treat it as a 'vexed' problem when we can look for signifiers in the archaeological record or even i the anthropological record, to identify Indians in the Indian civilization?

One wonders why the identity problem is looked upon as an intractable problem. The problem can be resolved, if only we look for signifiers -- like the three examples cited above -- which are already available instead of hoping for some new or high-tech genetic markers which may create more problems than they can really resolve.

What gloss connoted a trefoil in Indian sprachbund?

I find a word in Malayalam which may provide the word as a signifier which matches with trefoil as a 'symbol'.

These examples may provide signifiers of cloth, of someone of importance, or young animal as may be seen from these artifacts displaying the trefoil. 

These artifacts evoke the following glosses from Indian sprachbund with literal meanings of 'trefoil' signifiers:

Glosses (words and semantics): 

पोतृ pōt " Purifier " , Name of one of the 16 officiating priests at a sacrifice (the assistant of the Brahman (Rigveda)

போற்றி pōṟṟi , < id. n. 1. Praise, applause, commendation; புகழ்மொழி. (W.) 2.Brahman temple-priest of Malabar; கோயிற் பூசைசெய்யும் மலையாளநாட்டுப் பிராமணன். (W.) 3. See போத்தி, 1.--int. Exclamation of praise; துதிச்சொல்வகை. பொய்தீர் காட்சிப் புரையோய் போற்றி (சிலப். 13, 92).

potṛ.  pōtrá1 ʻ *cleaning instrument ʼ (ʻ the Potr̥'s soma vessel ʼ RV.). [√pū]

Bi. pot ʻ jeweller's polishing stone ʼ

பொத்தல் pottal n. < id. [K. poṭṭare, M. pottu, Tu. potre.] 1. Hole, orifice. 

pṓta, pōtalaka, pōtalikā young animal, heifer; pōāla -- m. ʻ child, bull ʼ

potṛā m. ʻ baby clothes ʼpotrẽ n. ʻ rag for smearing cowdung ʼ. pōta ʻ covering (?) ʼ RV., ʻ rough hempen cloth ʼ AV pusta --2 n. ʻ working in clay ʼ (prob. ← Drav., Tam. pūcu &c. Pkt. potta -- , °taga -- , °tia -- n. ʻ cotton cloth ʼ செம்பொத்தி cem-potti, n. prob. id. +. A kind of cloth.

Te. poṭṭi, poṭṭiya scorpion;
Tu. poṭṭè tender ear of corn; Pa. poṭ grain in embryonic stage.
Ta. poṭṭu chaff
Ta. poṭṭu drop, spot, round mark worn on forehead. Ma. poṭṭu, poṟṟu a circular mark on the forehead, mostly red. Ka. boṭṭu, baṭṭu drop, mark on the forehead. Koḍ. boṭṭï round mark worn on the forehead. Tu. boṭṭa a spot, mark, a drop; (B-K.) buṭṭe a dot. Te. boṭṭu a drop, the sectarian mark worn on the forehead. Kol. (SR.) boṭla drop. Pa. boṭ id. Ga. (P.)boṭu drop, spot. Konḍa boṭu drop of water, mark on forehead. Kuwi (F.) būttū, (Isr.) buṭu tattoo. 

Rebus readings:

pōta ʻ boat ʼ

H. pot m. ʻ glass bead ʼ, G. M. pot f.; -- Bi. pot ʻ jeweller's polishing stone ʼ; Pk. pottī -- f. ʻ glass ʼ; S. pūti f. ʻ glass bead ʼ, P. pot f.; N. pote ʻ long straight bar of jewelry ʼ; B. pot ʻ glass bead ʼ, putipũti ʻ small bead ʼ; Or. puti ʻ necklace of small glass beads ʼ

While it may be debated if a 'temple priest' of the civilization was called pōṟṟi as the gloss is used today in Malayalam, or pōt as the gloss is used today in the performance of a vedic yajñathere seems to be a substantial semantic evidence to relate to the other characteristics of the artifacts deploying the trefoil symbol: cloth, young animal. 

Both symbols -- cloth and young animal -- have pottu as word signifiers. If pōṟṟi or pottu is the word signifier, there is a rebus reading possible: pot 'boat' or pot 'bead' or pote 'long straight bar of jewelry'.

We seem to be looking at trefoil as a hieroglyph read rebus. 

1. Shown pota 'cloth' worn as a shawl by the important person, the trefoil hieroglyph can be read rebus as the homonymous word: pōtṛ 'temple priest'.

2. Shown on pota 'young animal or heifer', or on beads, the trefoil hieroglyph can be read either as pot'boat' or pote 'long straight bar of jewelry or bead'.

These three examples of signifiers have thus provided a framework for resolving the 'vexed' problem of identity.

A conclusion is drawn by rebus readings of hieroglyphs deployed on about 7000 inscribed objects, over an extensive area along the Persian Gulf and along the Tin Road into the Fertile Crescent.

The conclusion is that Meluhha was the spoken idiom the people who denotated these Meluhha hieroglyphs and their rebus readings, almost all in the context of lapidary or smithy or forge. A corollary conclusion is that the Meluhhans were from the Indian sprachbund.

The substantive road traveled is the cultural continuum of Indian civilization. Hence, we do not have to find alternative excuses of substitutes such as Harappan or Indus civilization. If locus has to be a signifier the civilization can be called Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization without any hesitation because the civilization lives on not only on these river basins but has left traces which can be found even today in many parts of Eurasia --signifiers such as Tocharian ancu 'iron' or Vedic amśu 'soma'; Kota language kole.l as signifier word for 'smithy' as well as 'temple'.

Would it be ok to venture a suggestion that the problem of identity calls for special efforts on the part of archaeologists to attempt to use the vernacular words to signify artifacts such as pots and pans discovered in the digs, instead of using ONLY English words as signifiers.

Go vernacular, is the lesson to resolve the 'vexed' problem.

S. Kalyanaraman
Sarasvati Research Center
January 28, 2014

S. Kalyanaraman



jayasree said...

From: kalyan
Date: Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 3:42 PM
Subject: Identifying Harappan people - inputs from Mahabharata and Silappadhikaram..
To: Jayasree Saranathan

Brilliant, Smt. Jayasree.
Two points:

kaṇ eye, aperture, orifice, star of a peacock's tail. (Tamil)(DEDR 1159a) Rebus ‘brazier, bell-metal worker’: கன்னான் kaṉṉāṉ , n. < கன்¹. [M. kannān.] Brazier, bell-metal worker, one of the divisions of the Kammāḷa caste; செம்புகொட்டி. (திவா.) Ta. kaṉ copper work, copper, workmanship (Tamil)

When Dwaraka got submerged (Mausala paran), people also went south of Prabhas patan (Somnath). Sangam literature (cf. Patir-r-uppattu) refers to cera kings descent from 49 generations from Dwaraka (Tuvarai mentioned in Patirruppattu.

We have to explain the ashur in the Tin road linking to Kanesh (Kultepe, Anatolia) the region of Mitanni treaties.


jayasree said...

Dear Sri Kalyanji.

Thank you.
Some food for thought.

// kaṇ eye, aperture, orifice, star of a peacock's tail. (Tamil)(DEDR 1159a) Rebus ‘brazier, bell-metal worker’: கன்னான் kaṉṉāṉ , n. < கன்¹. [M. kannān.] Brazier, bell-metal worker, one of the divisions of the Kammāḷa caste; செம்புகொட்டி. (திவா.) Ta. kaṉ copper work, copper, workmanship (Tamil)//

The Kammiyar / kamma etc comes from the word "Karma" of Viswa karma. There is Visuva kammiyar - derived from Viswa karma.

For Kannaan, the root word perhaps is kaN கண் -eye
May I add a leaf from Nacchinaarkkinyaar on kaN கண் as in KannuL vinainjar?

சுவர்களிலும், ஆடைகளிலும், கேடயங்கள் மீதும், மண்டபக்கூரைகளிலும் கண் கவர் ஓவியத்தை வரைபவர்களைக் கண்ணுள் வினைஞர் என்று மதுரைக் காஞ்சி கூறுகிறது. இதற்கு உரை எழுதும் நச்சினார்க்கினியர் “கண்ணுள் வினைஞர் – நோக்கினார் கண்ணிடத்தே தம் தொழிலை நிறுத்துவோர்” என்கிறார். அதாவது தான் எதைச் சொல்ல, அல்லது காட்ட விரும்புகிறாரோ அதைக் கண்ணால் பார்த்த மட்டிலேயே புரிந்து கொள்ளும்படி செய்பவர் ஆதலால் அவருக்குக் கண்ணுள் வினைஞர் என்ற பெயர் ஏற்பட்டது. இதனால் பார்ப்பவர்க்குப் படிப்பறிவோ அல்லது சொல்லப்படும் பொருளைப் பற்றிய அறிவோ தேவையில்லை. வடிவத்தைப் பார்த்த மாத்திரத்திலேயே என்ன சொல்ல வருகிறார் என்பதைப் புரிந்துக் கொள்ள முடியும். அப்படிப்பட்ட வடிவங்களை வடிப்பவர் கண்ணுள் வினைஞர் ஆவார். இங்கு சித்திரங்களை வடிப்பவரைப் பற்றிச் சொல்லப்பட்டுள்ளது.

இதே சொல்லை சிலப்பதிகாரமும், “கண்ணுள் வினைஞரும், மண்ணீட்டாளரும்” (5-30) என்று கூறுகையில் மண்ணால் உருவங்களை உருவாக்குபவர்களையொட்டிக் கூறுவதால், மண்ணால் உண்டாக்கப்படும் பொருள்களில், கண்ணால் பார்த்த மாத்திரத்திலேயே புரிந்து கொள்ளக்கூடிய சித்திரங்களை வரைபவர் அல்லது செதுக்குபவர் என்பது புலனாகிறது.

இதே சொல்லை கோவலன் சந்தித்த பொற்கொல்லனைத் தொடர்ந்து வரும் மக்களில் ஒருவராகச் சிலப்பதிகாரம் கூறுகிறது. “கண்ணுள் வினைஞர் கைவினை முற்றிய நுண்வினைக் கொல்லர் நூற்றுவர் பின்வர” (16- 105). இங்கு அந்தச் சொல் பொன் வேலை செய்பவர்களில், கண்ணால் பார்த்த மாத்திரத்தில் புரிந்து கொள்ளத்தக்கவாறு வடிவங்களை பொன்னில் தட்டி உருவாக்குபவர் என்ற பொருள் கொண்டதாகிறது. இந்த இடத்தில் கண்ணுள் வினைஞரை ‘உருக்குத் தட்டார்’ என்று உரையாசிரியர் கூறுகிறார்.

கண்ணால் பார்த்துப் புரிந்து கொள்ளும் இடங்களில் இந்தக் ‘கண்’ என்னும் சொல் வருகிறது. உதாரணமாக ”கண்ணுளாளர் கருவிக் குயிலுவர்” (சில- 5-184) என்னுமிடத்தில் இசைக் கருவிகள் வாசிப்பவர்களுடன் சொல்லப்படுவதால், கண்ணுளாளர் என்பவர் ஆடும் கூத்தர் எனப்படுகிறார். சொல்ல வரும் கருத்தை கூத்தின் அசைவுகளால், பார்ப்பவருக்குப் புரியும் வண்ணம் செய்வதால் அவர் கண்ணுளாளர் ஆகிறார்.

அது போல அரசன் கேட்ட விவரத்தை மடலில் எழுதி முத்திரை இலச்சினையைப் பொறித்துத் தருபவரைக் ‘கண்ணெழுத்தாளர்’ என்றும் சிலப்பதிகாரம் கூறுகிறது. (26-170). எழுத்துகளை மட்டும் எழுதியிருந்தால் அவர் எழுத்தாளர் ஆவார். ஆனால் இலச்சினையை வரைந்ததால், அந்த மடல் யார் பெயரில், எவரிடமிருந்து வருகிறது என்று பார்த்த மாத்திரத்திலேயே தெரிந்து விடும். அப்படித் தெரியக் கூடிய இடங்களில் ‘கண்’ என்னும் சொல்லைச் சேர்த்தே தமிழில் வழங்கியுள்ளார்கள்.

அப்படிச் சொல்லப்பட்ட ஒரு விவரம்தான் ‘கண்ணெழுத்து’ என்பது. இது ஒரு மொழியின் எழுத்தல்ல. எந்த மொழியை அறிந்தவர் அல்லது அறியாதவராக இருந்தாலும், கவலையில்லை. கண்ணால் பார்த்தவுடனேயே புரிந்து கொள்ளக்கூடிய வடிவத்தை உடையது கண்ணெழுத்து ஆகும்.


jayasree said...

// When Dwaraka got submerged (Mausala paran), people also went south of Prabhas patan (Somnath). Sangam literature (cf. Patir-r-uppattu) refers to cera kings descent from 49 generations from Dwaraka (Tuvarai mentioned in Patirruppattu.//

This migration did not happen at Arjuna's time (Musala Parvam). Calculate the years for 49 generations. A the rate of minimum 3 generations per century, it comes to 15 to 16 centuries at the time of Kapila who sang that verse. Taking Kapila's time as 2000 yrs BP, the 49 generations start around 3500 years BP. This is the date of Byt Dwaraka unearthed by S.R. Rao. This is not the date of Krishna's end that was followed by Dwaraka submergence and Arjuna taking people. This is the date of end of Indus civilization that coincided with many floods globally - eg Pandyan's last Oozhi and end of 2nd sangam age and start of Mykenian and cyclopian presence in Greece. Musala parvam migration took the people Northward. 15th century BCE migration was headed by Agasthya and took them south ward.

// We have to explain the ashur in the Tin road linking to Kanesh (Kultepe, Anatolia) the region of Mitanni treaties.//

On Ashur I have some other explanation but not the metal worker of Chandigarh. I will write it in an article and send you.


Saranathan TG said...

I also support smt.Jayasree that one need not struggle to look for evidences outside India when abundant material is available in Sanskrit and Tamil as also other vernacular, literature within our country.