News from the seal studies/epigraphic group.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Sub: Sarasvati hieroglyphs, Decipherment of Indus Script
Excerpts from email exchanges
11 April 2007
Dear Massimo Bonasorte,
It is indeed a pleasure to hear from you again. Please do send me a copy of the publication which will contain my answers to your incisive questions. Wishing you all the best in your endeavors to unravel the mists of history and the mysteries related to the competence of our brilliant ancestors. Here are the answers to each of the 31 questions. Best regards, Kalyanaraman, Ph.D., Director, Sarasvati Research Centre. 11 April 2007 (Answers to questions raised on 29 March 2007).
Dr Kalyanaram which is exactly your field of studies?
I have published an 8-volume encyclopaedic work on River Sarasvati and civilization; Indian Alchemy: soma in the Veda (2006, Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal); set up a website with over 40,000 files on Sarasvati: http://www.hindunet.org/saraswati
. I have also published a comparative multi-lingual dictionary of 25 ancient Indian languages after working on for over 20 years. It is called 'Indian Lexicon' and can be accessed with search facilities on the internet:
also be downloaded from http://rapidshare.com/files/5736944/Indian_Lexicon.doc.html
Before focusing on your discovery, could we make a general picture of the Mohenjo Daro culture?
It is a maritime, riverine civilization with contacts over an extensive area ranging from the foothills of Himalayas (Ropar) to Tigris-Euphrates (Mesopotamian civilization). Remarkable findings relate to processing of alloys, working with s'ankha (turbinella pyrum or conch-shell) since 6500 Before Common Era (BCE), lapidary crafts, building of boats and structures such as the Dholavira rock-cut reservoir.
Who were they in reality and which were the major centres of that people?
They were ancestors of the present-day Indian people, Santali (or Austro-asiatic speakers) in particular. There were over 2000 archaeological settlements on the banks of Vedic River Sarasvati and about 600 on River Sindhu ( Indus). The creators of the writing system were the metalsmiths.
And, above all, were they indigenous or did they come to India from somewhere else?
They were indigenous to India. This is proved by the existence of a linguistic area on the river basin and along the ocean-rim (linguistic area is where people speaking various languages interact and absorb language features from one another and make them their own).
Why is mystery frequently involved when someone talks about Mohenjo Daro?
The mystery is involved because many attempts made at decipherment of over 4000 epigraphs have floundered assuming the script to be alphabetic or syllabic. In fact, the writing system was hieroglyphic, each glyph represented a word read rebus (similar sounding) to communicate substantive items such as the repertoire of a smithy and professions of artisans of artisan-guilds. Once the decipherment is emphatic as I have proved, the continuity of the Sarasvati civilization is seen in many cultural metaphors in present-day India: for example, continuum of s'ankha industry since 6500 BCE, use of s'ankha bangles, use of s'ivalinga, wearing of red vermilion on the parting of the hair by women, use of cire perdue (lost-wax) technique for making bronze statues, continuum of use of glyphs such as svastika, elephant, tiger, rhinoceros, rim of narrow-necked jar, zebu (brahmi) bull on punch-marked coins since 6 th century BCE all over India from Gandhara (Afghanistan) to Karur (South India) or on a pre-mauryan Sohgaura copper plate (which contains a line of Sarasvati hieroglyphs followed by an explanation in brahmi script of the facilities provided to metalsmiths and metal merchants during a period of drought at a junction of three roads)..
Let's focus on your discovery now: How did you find it out?
My 'Indian Lexicon' helped me identify the words from Indian languages which matched with the glyphs of the writing system and also conveyed through homonyms (similar-sounding words) the substantive meanings related to the repertoire of a smithy or mint or smith's workshop. There are over 230 copper plates with inscriptions apart from metal artifacts inscribed and two tin ingots inscribed with the glyphs (the ingots were discovered in a ship-wreck as far as Haifa, Israel).
How does the writing system of the seals work?
Simple. Each glyph is associated with a word to convey the image, for e.g. tiger with head turned backwards, antelope with head turned backwards, elephant, rhinoceros, alligatator, lizard, horned person ligatured to the back of a bull, rim of a narrow-necked jar, wide-mouthed pot, svastika, endless knot. The words related to these images have homonyms (similar sounding words in Indian languages); these words relate to smithy: for example, minerals, metals, alloys, types of furnaces, smith's workshops, fire-altars, smelters.
Which is the language used in the seals?
Mleccha, Meluhha. The writing system is mentioned by Vatsyayana in Vidyasamuddes'a (Kamasutra listing 64 arts) as mlecchita vikalpa, which means: writing system or cryptography of mleccha, copper workers. Mleccha-mukha in Sanskrit means 'copper'; so does milakku in Pali language. A Meluhha merchant is shown carrying a goat on a cylinder seal with cuneiform epigraph accompanied by a woman carrying a kamandalu (a jar of alchemists or smiths); the goat is read as: mr..eka; homonym read rebus: melukka 'the person from meluhha or coppersmith'.
Do we have other samples of this writing system on other materials?
Yes. Apart from seals and tablets, the writing appears on a huge advertisement board mounted on Dholavira fortification gate, on metal weapons such as daggers or axes or celts, on copper plates, on pottery, on potsherds, on bangles, even on gold ornaments such as a strip worn on forehead by eminent persons (patta) or worn as marriage-badge, on pure tin ingots. Seal impressions have also been found as sealings of packages with traded goods (thus, the writing system is like a bill of lading of metals and alloys traded and processes/furnaces used to produce the ingots.) The tin ingots show glyphs reading: ranku 'antelope'; ranku 'liquid measure'; substantive rebus: ranku 'tin'. Prof. Muhly provides an insight that metal technology necessitated this writing system. The writing system helped in trading commodities (metals, alloys, minerals) surplus to the needs of the makers of the products who were sea-faring merchants from Meluhha (mleccha). Mleccha is mentioned as the spoken language used by Yudhishthira while discussing with Vidura and Khanaka (a mine-worker) about shellack palace designed to destroy the Pandavas in Mahabharata epic. Mleccha is the ungrammatical lingua franca as distinct from the grammatical bhaasha such as proto-Sanskrit.
Which is your opinion about former theories that tried to interpret the seals?
Former theories assumed wrongly that the glyphs (signs in particular, as distinct from pictorial motifs or field symbols) were syllabic or alphabetic. The theories also ignored an interpretation of the pictorial motifs or field symbols which dominate the epigraphed objects. Only some theories have suggested that the symbols or motifs were 'totem' symbols without explaining how they were 'pronounced'. My decipherment is emphatic and treates all glyphs as words (all glyphs means all signs and all pictorial motifs). The method of reading the meaning of words is to cite homonyms (similar-sounding words) which relate to smithy or mine-working.
What is represented on the seals and which are the images that appear more frequently on them?
The most frequent images are: heifer (young bull with one horn and pannier); lathe-cum-portable furnace as a standard device often shown in front of the heifer, rim of a narrow-necked jar, zebu (brahmi) bull, short-horned bull, antelope, goat, ram, rhinoceros, elephant, tiger, woman ligatured to a tiger, svastika, dotted circle, fish, alligator.
In your opinion, Mohenjo Daro culture was just a stand-alone case or are there other cultures that can be linked to that enigmatic civilization?
There are cultures which can be linked to what I call Sarasvati Civilization. These cultures are present even today in India. These cultures had contacts with Mesopotamia across the Persian Gulf since the merchants were riverine, maritime people, sea-farers and boat-people. The rivers and coastline were the highways for these contacs over a distance of over 3000 kms.
Are you aware of the decoding work on the seals by Dr. Rchter Ushanas?
Is there any link between the seals and the secret writing system mlekkita vikalpa?
The writing system of Sarasvati civilization IS mlecchita vikalpa (writing system of mleccha or coppersmith). Vikalpa means 'alternative' or 'writing of spoken words'. Mlecchita means 'made by mleccha (meluhha)'. Milakku means 'copper'; mleccha-mukha means 'copper'. Mukha means 'face'; hence the human face is ligatured to a composite animal; the rebus homonym is mu~h 'ingot (metal)'.
Decoding the texts, which kind of script did you find? Syllabic, ideographic or�
Glyphs representing words. Hence, I find hieroglyphs which I call Sarasvati hieroglyphs since the majority of about 80% of the archaeological sites are on the banks of River Sarasvati in north-west India.
What is written in the texts?
Lists of minerals, metals, alloys, tools, furnace types, smelter types, workshops, smithy, forge, mint.
Are there any part of the texts or seals that remain a mystery?
Some glyphs are stylized like quotation marks, some fish have ligatures of fins, some are just dots. Such glyphs can be read only in context of the entire epigraph and comaparable epigraphs.
Did you find any link with the mesopotamic culture?
Yes. I found many Mesopotamian cylinder seals carrying the Sarasvati hieroglyphs. These seals have NOT so far been interpreted satisfactorily. It is possible that my decipherment may help in a fresh look at the pictorial motifs on may such cylinder seals. There is evidence that Meluhha people were living in Persian Gulf region who could have been intermediaries of trade since there is evidence for the use of similar weighing systems and finds of epigraphs containing Sarasvati hieroglyphs. Mesopotamia needed tin; Meluhhan sea-faring merchants provided this mineral together with other minerals, metals and metal alloys. Ayo means 'fish'; ayas means 'metal'.
In your opinion, your discovery could change the understanding of ancient cultures?
Yes. The received wisdom of evolution and development metallurgical technology has to be reviewed. It appears that the transition from lithic (stone) to chalcolithic (copper-stone) to meals phases was one leap since both bronze and iron metals were worked on in the second millennium Before Common Era (on Sarasvati and Ganga river valleys).
Did you get any information unknown before from the texts?
Yes. I got information on the remarkable explorations which resulted in the finds of many minerals and working to create many alloys and the use of special types of furnaces for special types of products ( e.g., pottery furnace, copper furnace, iron-smelting furnace, bangle-making furnace).
Why did you theorize a link between the seals, sumeric script and Brahmi?
I did NOT theorize any link of this kind. I noted however the presence of some Sumerian words which are said to relate to a pre-sumerian substrate language; words such as: sanga 'priest', tibira 'merchant'; cognates are: sanghvi 'priest' (Gujarati); tambra 'copper' (Sanskrit).
What do you think of the Asko Parpola Hypothesis?
Asko Parpola assumes that the script is logosyllabic and that the underlying language is Dravidian. I reject both assumptions. The 'script' or 'writing system' is hieroglyphic; the underlying language is mleccha (meluhha), the vernacular of Indian linguistic area.
Is there any kind of relationship between Sumeric and Brahmi?
I do not know.
Could you tell us about the images on the seal DK 6847, now in the National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi? The 7 women carved on it really represent the 7 Pleiads?
Yes, yes. The word for the seven women are: bahula 'pleiades' (Sanskrit); read rebus: bangala 'gold furnace' (Telugu).
How could they observe the Pleiads with naked eyes at that time?
The ancient astronomy texts of India do refer to the sapta rishi mandala (constellation of seven sages). The Pleiades are a clearly recognizable structure of seven stars on a clear sky. These are also called krittikaa which rise in the east as mentioned in a 25 th century Before Common Era text called Kaus'itaki Brahmana. See: http://www.ejvs.laurasianacademy.com/ejvs0602/ejvs0602.txtArticle by Prof. Narahari Achar.
In Mesopotamia too they have a similar seal with 7 stars and a 12th planet. In your opinion, is there any relationship between those two seals?
I do not know.
Which is the link between the fish symbol and stars and planets?
I do not know the links with the planets. I think the fish symbol used with a number of variants can be read as fish species such as ayo, kola and related rebus to 'metal' or 'alloy of five metals (pancaloha)' respectively. See more at: http://sarasvati95.googlepages.com/fish.doc http://sarasvati95.googlepages.com/fish2.docDecipherment
of fish glyphs on epigraphs: fish as Sarasvati hieroglyph (in two parts)
What do you think about Steve Farmer's studies on the evolution of thought and neurobiology?
It is mere speculation. Any evolutionary theory of thought can be read into the epigraphs, but every glyph has to be explained in a total schema. Just focusing on 'signs' without referring to and explaining the pictorial motifs such as the animals and anthropomorphs or ligatured animals or ligatured signs will turn out to be half-hearted conjectures, hence non-falsifiable.
How do you explain the similarities between the Mohenjo Daro seals and Rongo Rongo script from Easter Island?
I think Rongo-rongo script from Easter Island uses many glyphs comparable to Sarasvati hieroglyphs. This script may also be a list of property items of the community. Rongo-rongo itself is a mleccha word.
How does this kind of script work?
By the rebus principle. For example, to denote tin mineral, represented by the word 'ranku' in mleccha, the picture of an antelope (ranku) or liquid measure (ranku) is incised on the tin ingots. This glyph is followed by an X glyph which is read as: datu 'crossing'; Read rebus, this means, dhatu 'mineral'. Thus the two glyphs together read as: tin mineral that is, ranku dhatu.
Finally, Dr. Kalyanaram, on what are you working lately?
I am working on the evolution and formation of jaati bhaasha (lingua franca) in India. To start with, a methodological framework has been laid out. See: http://protovedic.blogspot.com/
This is tested in a monograph. See ebook to be downloaded from: http://rapidshare.com/files/1247326/bharatiyalanguages.pdf.html
This work is preparatory to the writing of the socio-cultural-economic history of Bharatam Janam (the nation of the people of Bharata or India) based on contributions made by jaati and janajaati to hindu civilization ethos, traditions and sanatana dharma (esha dhammo sanantano).
(Supplementary answer given on April 14, 2007)
Kindly include this in the answer related to Question 3. Regards, kalyan
I am basing this on the following evidences:
Bhaashaa is vernacular as distinct from chandas of Vedic mantra, but both are based on a proto-vedic continuum of language evolution. The Indian Lexicon provides evidence for the semantic unity among Bharatiya languages in a 'linguistic area' where people absorbed features from languages and made them their own.
1. Reference by Vatsyayana in Vidyasamuddes'a to mlecchita vikalpa as one of the 64 arts (together with des'a bhaashaa jnaana, akshara mushtika kathanam). I read mlecchita vikalpa as an alternative,a writing system made by mleccha, 'copper workers'.
2. References in Mahabharata attesting to use of mleccha as the lingua france in discussions between Yudhishthira and Khanaka (mine worker) and between Yudhishthira and Vidura in the context of the shadyantra by Duryodhana to kill Pandava in jaatugriha.
3. Users of mlecccha vaacas and aarya vaacas are dasyu. Mleccha is the vernacular; aarya is the grammatically correct version. The idea of para-munda is irrelevant. There are many austro-asiatic words in Rigveda. Indo-aryan, dravidian and austro-asiatic were all part of the linguistic area with people interacting with one another. Many words related to metallurgy which occur in Santali also occur in many bharatiya languages -- mleccha vaacas. I deny the need for IEL to unravel the formation and evolution of bharatiya languages and hence, the categories of indo-aryan, dravidian or austro-asiatic are irrelevant in relation to semantics of words, thousands of them with cognates in all bharatiya languages which could have happened only with a common cultural foundation, such as the invention of alloys and types of furnaces or smelters in a smith's workshop. People of hindu civilization exemplified by Sarasvati epigraphs are people who wore sindhur at manga, adored s'ivalinga, used s'ankha since 6500 BCE for bangles and for offering abhishekam, built pushkarini and gave the metaphors which continued on punch-marked coins as devices, devices such as svastika, rim of short-necked jar, zebu or brahmi bull, heifer, ox, elephant, tiger, rhinoceros or a person seated in penance -- kamad.ha read rebus: kampat.t.a 'mint'. The linguistic area of mleccha speakers is noted in the remarkable concordance between occurrence of minerals and occurrence of austro-asiatic speech continuum, a continuum from mleccha. (See slide with two maps attached).
� Manu notes ( 10.45): mukhaba_hu_rupajja_na_m ya_ loke ja_tayo bahih � mlecchava_cas' ca_ryava_cas te sarve dasyuvah smr.ta_h
� 'All those people in this world who are excluded from those born from the mouth, the arms, the thighs and the feet (of Brahma) are called Dasyus, whether they speak the language of the mleccha-s or that of the a_rya-s .'
� S'Br. 220.127.116.11: upajigya_sya_m sa mlecchas tasma_n na bra_hman.o mlecched asurya_ hais.a_ va_g evam trans. 'he [who speaks thus] is a mleccha, hence let no bra_hman.a speak ungrammatical � mlecched -- language since such is the speech of Asuras'
� A Pali text, Uttara_dhyayana Sutra 10.16 notes: ladhdhan.a vi maanusattan.am aariattam pun.raavi dullaham bahave dasyoo milakkhuyaa; trans. 'though one be born as a man, it is rare chance to be an aarya, for many are the dasyu and milakkhu'. Milakkhu and dasyu constitute the majority, they are the many. Dasyu are milakkhu (mleccha speakers). Dasyu are also aarya vaacas (Manu 10.45), that is, speakers of Sanskrit. Both aarya vaacas and mleccha vaacas are bharatiya, dasyu, people. Mahabharata alludes to 'thousands of mlecchas', a numerical superiority equaled by their valour and courage in battle which enhances the invincibility of Pandava (MBh. 7.69.30; 95.36).
� Na_t.yas'a_stra XVII.29-30 ): dvividha_ ja_tibha_s.a_ ca prayoge samuda_hr.ta_ mlecchas'abdopaca_ra_ ca bha_ratam vars.am as'rita_ 'The ja_tibha_s.a_ (common language), prescribed for use (on the stage) has various forms. It contains words of mleccha origin and is spoken in Bha_ratavars.a only...
The mlecchaspeakers.ppt attached to this note can be found at
The questions were raised by Massimo Bonasorte on March 29, 2007:
Dear DR. Kalyanaraman, I am Dr. Massimo Bonasorte, we met some months ago for the mlekkita vikalpa language, finally I can publish the interview about the seals of the Indus Valley, i hope that you have time to answer me, because your interview will publish with the other interview of Dr. Ushanas, that have discovered the secret message of the seal, but i want to know also your opinion about the seal oh mohenjo daro and harappa. These are the questions (March 29, 2007)