Saturday, April 4, 2020

A side-view of the two books of Dr S.Kalyanaraman on Indus writing system (review)

 1. Indus Script Primer -- karṇika 'scribes' convey wealth account ledgers (Dr.S.Kalyanaraman: 2020)

2. Indus Script, Rgveda, Susa connections -- Archaeology & Traditions (Dr.S.Kalyanaraman: 2020)

Dr. S.Kalyanaraman’s relentless pursuit of decipherment of the Indus script is well known to all. The recent two additions by this Director of Sarasvati Research Centre to the corpus of his publications promise to be newer milestones in his contribution to understanding the Indus script. Credited with the discovery of the ancient Tin route from South East Asia to Kaifa in Israel via India, Dr Kalyanaraman, the recipient of Dr, Hedgewar Prajna Samman has furthered his arguments in support of Indus cipher as accountant ledgers of the metal workers of the Sarasvati- Sindhu region by his comparative study of the Indus script found in Near East, Far East and along the Persian Gulf. With the availability of over 8000 inscriptions of the Indus script corpora Dr Kalyanaraman is of the opinion that they can be validated by any cryptography model.

His method of rebus reading finds resonance with a couple of references in the 2000 year old Tamil text called Silappadhikaram (5 – 111.113 and 26 -135 & 136). This text tells about the seals called “kaṇṇeɻutthu’’ on the bundles of rare items that arrived from North India. ‘Kaṇṇeɻutthu’ means the script that one can understand by looking at it. If it has to be understood by anybody from anywhere just by looking, then it must be pictorial and commonly understood, or in other words, rebus writing. In the words of the olden commentator Adiyārkku Nallār ‘kaṇṇeɻutthu’ reveals ‘the name of the good, the size or measurement of the good ’ and ‘the stamp of the trader and the numbers ’ of the goods that have been bundled. The origin of these goods in North India containing the wealth of that region unmistakably point out to the vast Indus region where manufacturing activities did continue even after the supposed decline of Indus culture.

The discovery of many broken seals in the Indus that were presumably tied around the bundles does match with this description in Silappadhikāram. McIntosh (2008:152) points out the nature of the sealings as being “attached to cords or sacking used to package bales of goods”. They bear the same kind of script, animals motifs as found in other seals and steatites of the Indus. From the hints of Silappadhikāram, it is deduced that the signs on the sealings were about the name of the goods, its numbers and its origins – the name or insignia of the manufacturer.

Silappadhikaram has a specific name for the makers of kaṇṇeɻutthu (rebus). It identifies them as “Kannul vinanjar” (கண்ணுள் வினைஞர்) and goes on to identify different types of these artisans. Some are associated with potters (who make rebus impressions in clay or steatite), some with metal workers and some with goldsmiths. This conveys that there were specific groups of persons skilled in making rebus forms on different media. It is not necessary that one will be skilled to make rebus on any medium. The famous copper plate inscription of Tiruvlangadu issued by Rajendra Chola I was engraved by one who came from Ovi community of the Indus region. All these go to prove that the Indus script is pictorial representation of goods, the numbers, the names of the makers etc. Needless to say that Dr. S Kalyanaraman’s research is going on these lines only. 

Dr.Kalyanaraman also brings in literary evidence of the presence of the guild, known as Sreni in ancient India which was inclusive of both art & crafts and soldiers as well. His quote on epigraphic evidence on Sreni of Velaikkara of Chola is reinforced by the reference to ‘Sainya Sārthi in Vikramanka Caritam. Sārthi is known as “Sātthu” (சாத்து) in Tamil, a word that appears in Sangam age Tamil[Perumpanatrup padai] where it is also mentioned that a tax (toll tax – ulhu) was collected en route. This further reinforces the presence of trade routes within India. Groups of merchants known as Vaniga Sātthu, while crossing different kingdoms en route were asked to pay toll tax. This makes me hypothesize that the great Mahabharata war was fought by two groups involving almost all of India to grab control over the trade routes crossing India from South East Asia to Middle East.

The timing of the Early Harappan phase that saw a fillip in trade and commerce coinciding with the traditional Mahabharata date (35 years before the Kali Yuga that started in 3101 BCE) cannot be a mere coincidence given the fact that most of the Sindhu region was under the control of the friends of Kauravas who lost the war. As was the practice in those days the losers had become Kṣatriya vratya-s– by giving up fighting and taking up Vaiśya-hood. There was no displacement of the losers. The same people had continued to live where they were but their major occupation happened to become manufacturing and trade. That is why we see continuity in all the Indus regions, but a sudden surge in trade activities some 200 to 300 years after the Mahabharata war.

One cannot dismiss the fact that the prominent Indus motifs were of the losers of the Mahabharata war. The highly recurring symbol of Varaha was the royal insignia of Jayadratha, the prominent loser who controlled the entire Sindhu region upto Afghanistan. The second highest symbol is the bull which was the emblem of Kripa who fought on the side of the Kauravas. The Harappan Bull seals have appeared outside India too, in Mesopotamia, Iran and Bactria.

It is noteworthy that a connection between Bactria and the Harappan is revealed by Dr Kalyanaraman in his book “Indus Script, Rgveda, Susa connections -- Archaeology & Traditions”  while deciphering the hieroglyphs of the Bactrian vase. Comparing the art we are able to see that the seated male drawn on the vase is similar to the “Priest King” of Harappa in many respects. This does not come as a surprise if we know that Bactria and the Sindhu region were connected with the Mahabharata characters.

Bactria known as Balkh region, a derivation from Vahlika was named as Madra after the founder Madra, the son of King Sibi. Pandu’s wife Madri belonged to that region. Close by was Gandhara which was the paternal home of Gandhari, the mother of the Kauravas. As long as the Kauravas were in power the trade route passing through Gandhara was under their control. This was wrested from them by the Pandavas whose chief advisor Krishna had his own trade interests along with 18 groups of Vrishinis who were keen on increasing their wealth. It was for this reason they decided to avoid confrontation with Jarasandha and moved to the newly formed city of Dvaraka.

Later after the exit of Krishna the families of slain Vrishinis and Andhakas were settled on the banks of River Sarasvati by Arjuna. It took seven months to complete this re-settlement (Srimad Bhagavatam: 1-14-7) While Dvaraka based people settled down in Saraswati basin, the losers of Mahabharata war continued to occupy Sindhu region. All of them had their central command in the royal house of Shakraprasta / Indraprasta. This is the input we get from Mahabharata.

Trade as the deciding factor in taking up sides in the war is deduced from the incident involving the Pandyan King who wanted to kill Krishna owing to a personal enmity with Krishna that he killed his father. But the Pandyan King was persuaded by Drishtadhyumna to join the side of Krishna. Commercial interest for the sake of his country is likely to have influenced the Pandyan king in making the difficult choice of not opposing the side Krishna favoured. Shells and pearls being the main wealth of the Pandyan country, he needed a friendly ally to ship his goods from Lothal.

The presence of metal workers reinforced by Dr Kalyanaraman in his decipherment finds another echo in Tamil Sangam poetry that states that Dvaraka was surrounded by copper wall! This must be a reference to copper plated walls. So far only Gola Dhoro (2500 – 2000 BCE) was found to have produced copper axes, copper spear heads and the like, but archaeologically it is found to be associated with shell works. Perhaps the site was producing copper ware earlier. Perhaps future excavations might solve the source of copper wall in Dvaraka. But what cannot be ignored is that the Harappan sites had coppersmiths. The discovery that copper was mined in Tuscany as early as 5000 years BP, the date close to the beginning of Early Harappan / Mahabharata date raises a possibility that coppersmiths had migrated to Tuscany and surrounding regions. This can be ascertained by genetic studies on specific  populations.

In this backdrop the reference made by the Indian Finance Minister Ms Nirmala Sitaraman in her Budget speech to the decipherment of the Indus script as related to trade and commerce words had not come a day late. Her perception that rebus script is the basis of Indus script has the backing of old Tamil texts pointed above. A rebus script may have multiple meanings and one may have differences with the decipherment made by Dr Kalyanaraman. But what cannot be ignored is that the script is rebus, something anyone from Makran coast to Pandyan coast was able to understand just by looking at it. That common pictograph is what we must strive to find out. Dr Kalyanaraman is already way ahead in that direction.


Unknown said...

Mam this blog was mind blowing but I have some questions first the kanneutthu word in silpadikaram u quoted can be identified with Indus seals but what about the fact that silpadikaram is only 2000year old where as Sindhu sarswati civilisations trading phase is 4500 year old and can u quote some references from the text or tradition that tells that the unicorn is a royal symbol of jayadrath.


jayasree said...

@ Unknown,

Reference to Kannelutthu in Silappadhikaram in the context of goods from North is proof of continuing trade practices until 2000 years ago. Even now parcels are tied with seals and sealings, but the material is different.

On your question on Unicorn symbol of Jayadratha, check Mahabharata.
Or read